Monday, July 29, 2013

Seasons of a Mother's Heart, by Sally Clarkson

When Amy suggested a book club specific for reading Seasons of a Mother's Heart over the summer months, I thought that was a fine idea. I'd read it once before (with another group of women) and figured I could stand a re-read seeing as how I am now an official home schooling mother. Amy suggested a reading plan which I thought sounded good and with every good intent and purpose I sat down to read this book alongside Amy and others. And then I remembered that I am absolutely no good at reading a book in chapter spurts. I am a sit-down-and-read-it-all-the-way-through type of gal and so as much as I tried to linger over the pages and the chapters it just wasn't happening. I eventually gave up, read the whole thing straight through and will write down my summary of thoughts.

First, I should tell you that I have never been a huge Sally Clarkson fan. I do not dislike her, I've just had a hard time connecting to her style. Still, I've never dismissed her because my friend who I greatly admire, and who is further along in the parenting journey than I, initially recommended Clarkson to me. Therefore I have always believed that there is something to be gleaned, regardless of whether or not I click with Clarkson, personally. My friend (who is no doubt reading this post) can now laugh at me because during this particular reading of Seasons of a Mother's Heart I felt like I clicked with Clarkson completely. Quite simply, I ate this book up. It fit me well  and I'm glad for Amy's book club suggestion.

I have so many pages and passages marked as being particularly meaningful or thought-provoking that it is hard to know where to start when documenting my thoughts concerning this particular reading. If you are unfamiliar with this title, Seasons of a Mother's Heart is written specifically to and for home schooling mothers. It is Clarkson's stated purpose and desire to encourage and build-up home schooling mothers, infusing them with Biblical counsel and encouragement to keep pressing on in their mission to raise and train their children.

"When I have tried to do in this book is acknowledge the burdens and difficulties of being a homeschooling mother, but even more to point you to what the Bible says about how to do God's will with confidence and joy. That, to me, is the real challenge of the homeschooling lifestyle - to maintain a living and vibrant faith in the power of the Holy Spirit." (Introduction, page 15)

What I'll do is share two particular points which I took away from my time in this book:

1. God gave each of my children their personalities with a purpose in mind!

"Believe it or not, God did not give your child that personality just to help you grow! He gave it because He has a purpose for that child to fulfill, and He needs your child's personality strengths. God did not make a mistake in giving your child his or her personality, so don't make the mistake of being critical of it. Learn to appreciate God's handiwork in each of your children." (Chapter 7, A Touch of Sympathy, page 139)

I struggle sometimes with the way that my children are different than me. Reading these few sentences made me laugh at myself for my unreasonable expectations that my children think exactly the way I do and say the things I do in the way that I want them to. They are their own people, created with specific personalities for specific purposes and God is working just as well in them as He is in me. Trusting His plan seems the thing to do and encouraging my children to continue to know the Lord is all that I need to do.

Yes, it is true that being around someone 24/7 will present a trial or two as you learn to adapt to their individual communication styles and personality "quirks" but that is not a bad thing. I don't know how else to explain it except to say that when I read those few sentences I exhaled. My children's innate personalities serve a purpose. Accepting and loving that fact has been doing me a great deal of good of late.

2. The job of homeschooling our kids falls to Jonathan (my husband) and myself. The responsibility belongs to no one else.

"Just by making the decision to homeschool we already face a bevy of critics - other parents who vocally defend public schools for their children, church members who think we're overprotective, family members who think we've gone off the deep end, and neighbors who suspect us of something weird but they're just not sure what. And, as if that weren't enough, we add our own voices to the critics' chorus, berating ourselves that we aren't doing enough and feeling like failures because we don't live up to the unreasonable demands we've placed on ourselves.
. . . [M]y desire is that you would find freedom in the Spirit to follow Christ - freedom to do God's will your way in your home. I have in the past wrongly wanted others to do God's will my way, or I have judged others harshly by my own idealistic standards. Thankfully, God has humbled me and renewed my thinking. The more I discover the grace and freedom of Christ as a homeschooling mother, the more I want to offer it to others. The more I find freedom to love Him and serve Him in my home, the more I want to encourage others to do the same." (Chapter 8, Freedom from Guilt, page 160)

Boy do I identify with that! It doesn't seem to matter what direction I turn in this homeschooling journey, I'm met with critics. I'm doing too much with my kids. I'm doing too little. I'm overexposing them to information they aren't ready for. I'm not exposing them enough. I do too much outside of the house with them. I do too little. I expect too much from them behavior-wise. I don't expect enough. I'm too strict. I'm entirely too lenient. I read the right books to them. I read the wrong books too often. They watch too many movies. They haven't seen as many as other children. I push them too hard. I don't push them hard enough. The way we feed them is weird.

And on. And on. And on.

No doubt you've experienced this as well. As I move along through life I hit moments where I feel less than capable of parenting. Then there are times when I am extremely confident (some might say overconfident). It's the ebb and flow of life. I love Clarkson's permission to do things our way as our own family. I appreciate (would appreciate?) the ability to just let things be in a manner that works for us and blesses our family. Let the critics say what they will, we need to know what works for us and what God requires of us and do that. Period. The end.

That is not to say I am not always learning. That is not to say that we will not change our mind about what we do and the way we go about doing things as seasons change and our children's needs develop, grow and change. Change happens and it's our responsibility and duty to keep our eyes on Christ and follow hard after Him as individuals and as our own family. We will do our best and can promise that and no more. It's the best we can promise to anyone.

Anyway, it was so helpful to receive that encouragement from reading this book. Taking time out to read this book was also helpful as it just fed my soul and allowed me to sit and ponder my role as a mother. I love being a wife and a mother and I want to do these jobs well. As Clarkson said, in order to do so, we mothers need a lot of encouragement and she succeeded in giving some to me and for that reason alone I appreciate this book.

I highly recommend it to you if you've not read it. Also, if you'd like, please follow along with the continuing discussion of this book over at Hope is the Word. I have linked to Amy's individual chapter discussions below:

Chapter 1: Celebrating Life
Chapter 2: Changing My Will
Chapter 3: Beside Still Waters
Chapter 4: Building Your House
Chapter 5: Planning to Live
Chapter 6: Surprised by Joy

My apologies for not reading it more slowly. But at least I read it! That has to count for something, right?!


Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

It absolutely counts for something! I'm SO glad you read it! You know, it's only lately that I've really come to appreciate Sally Clarkson. I think I needed to be further along in the parenting journey to really "get" her counsel. The two points you mention here are big ones or me, too, and I so appreciate Sally's wisdom and encouragement in these areas.

This summer through this bookclub and the Hidden Art bookclub, I have come to realize how beneficial it s or mme to read thoughtful nonfiction slowly.

Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

Oh--another thing that helped me really come to love Sally is hearing her speak in person.

Barbara H. said...

I haven't read a whole book of Sally's yet, but I've had that same "not clicking" feeling in the blog posts and quotes I've read. I've wanted to read one of her books just to see what she's all about, but it is a little hard to get motivated since I'm on the other end of raising children. I'd still like to some time.

I do agree very much with being at ease with the fact that God gave each child a different personality for different reasons, and with the fact that each family has to find God's will and follow it for themselves, and that won't look exactly alike in every family.

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