What a wondrous thing it is, to arrive where someone has prepared for your coming.
And I had such a privilege last Thursday, when I wakened after only a couple hours of sleep to board a plane and take off for a wonderful weekend at the home of one of my very favorite people in all the world, Sally Clarkson.
Sally and her husband, Clay are long-time ministers of the gospel. And I mean that in the most full sense of the word imaginable. When I am with them, I’m reminded that the gospel is good news! That it’s all about God reaching down to us, tearing down the dividing wall of sin, drawing us near His heart, and then expanding our lives until they are full to bursting with beauty and richness and life that could only come from Him.
I was first introduced to the Clarksons many years ago, when I picked up a copy of their book, Educating the Wholehearted Child. An expansive tome on almost everything you could possibly wonder about how to homeschool, it was so inspiring it made me want to implement everything they mentioned immediately. The best part, actually, was the freedom I felt about education being part of life, and not something I was supposed to “do” to my children. A rich picture was painted of what was possible.
Many years have gone by since then, and I’ve gained much wisdom from reading Sally’s books (available at www.momheart.org ) as well as attending her conferences. When asked by Clay at one point when her children were young what she truly needed to be able to keep going, she told him she just wished she could go somewhere with clean sheets, and pretty china, and definitely some chocolate, and listen to someone who didn’t leave her feeling guilty about her inadequacies as a mom! As with many other dreams, they discovered that they’d have to create what they were longing for, and so the Wholehearted Mother Conferences were born. Sitting and listening to her, I’ve always felt like my cup was being filled as she poured out of what she’d learned from the Lord. Her family always joins her at the conferences, registering attendees, selling books and speaking. Clay is a wonderful worship leader, too, and his guitar and singing always lend a sweet spirit to our time together.
When the first opportunity to spend time with the Clarksons was announced at Sally’s blog last spring, I jumped at the chance. Bless the Lord for a supportive husband who knows I need time away! I attended the first MomHeartLeadershipIntensive Training in 2010 along with fourty-some other lovely women. Never before have I been in a group of such like-minded ladies! We drank tea, listened to Sally share her heart, and had the deepest conversations imaginable around lovely tables of delicious, nourishing meals. Several of us made friends we have stayed in touch with ever since. And when the announcement for a second Intensive came, my sweet husband again sent me along on my way.
This weekend was truly another highlight of my life, and I don’t say that lightly. A summer full of obligations and busy-ness, disappointments and unfinished projects, along with a back-to-school season that I felt way less prepared for than I’d like, left my spirit in a bit of a knot, I’m afraid. After a long day of flying, locating our rental car and finding our way to several stores and then the hotel, I hit my room needing a nap! But it was almost time to head out to Sally’s house. And I was so glad I did …
We shared a lovely dinner and great conversation and then Sally spoke on being created for God’s pleasure. Later sessions (and there were ten! Count ’em, ten! all together) described our being created in God’s image, for family and marriage and purpose, for artistry and beauty and mission … it was just amazing. And in between sessions, we ate. And prayed. And shared our hearts. Sally’s dear friend, Deb Weakley, hostessed us too, in the mornings and afternoons. The girls’ daughters, Christy and Joy, made some wonderful remarks about their own understanding of the Biblical idea of home and the beauty of God’s design for reaching the world through our homes. We had several meals outside …
It is a beautiful thing to be in a place where you’ve been prepared for. And a rare one, too. The group of friends surrounding this family worked incredibly hard to make sure we enjoyed ourselves and were able to pay full attention to all Sally was trying to impart. It was wonderful to meet them all and watch them work together to accomplish something none could have accomplished alone. And as Sally shared with us, there was much more to be prepared than tables and food, rides and microphones. Teachers can only teach what they know. You can grab some curriculum and try to present it to your student, and they may learn a little. But Jesus is our model Teacher, and He did more than present just words or theology … He showed us the incarnate picture of what God is like. He poured out of who He was, and His disciples soaked it up and changed the world. The reason we all learned so much from Sally is that she has prepared her *life.*
Truth is, I told the ladies on Saturday night as we shared what we’d learned that weekend, coming to Sally’s home was a little bit like opening the wardrobe and finding Narnia was really there! My heart always longed for a life-giving home, where people were nurtured and God was honored and vision was set forth and children were intentionally encouraged to dream God’s dreams and pursue them and bring His kingdom to bear in every arena of culture. The only problem was, I’d never really seen such a place. I often feel like I’m trying to create something I only know in my heart. Coming to Sally’s was, in many ways, like coming home. And perhaps a little like I think it will be in heaven … coming “HOME,” to the One who is also “preparing a place for us.” Amen!
There will be more to come, as you can probably imagine, on all I learned at Sally’s this weekend. Just wanted to give you a quick peek into our lovely time, and encourage everyone to find one of the Clarkson’s yearly conferences near you (or not near you–that’s what cars, trains and planes are for!) that you can attend next spring! Have a blessed day!