Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Mission of Motherhood: Part 3

This is the conclusion of my series on Sally Clarkson's The Mission of Motherhood.

Part One
Part Two

The last part of Clarkson's book is titled "A Mother's Heart for her Children." She touches on being available for your kids, showing them unconditional love, and giving them affirmation and encouragement. But the part I liked the most was on giving them grace. This is kind of a trendy topic lately, and something my friends and I have talked a lot about. I have this book in my (virtual) "to read" pile:

Anyway, Clarkson wrote her book before this concept was trendy and I loved what she had to say. This was my favorite part, and so eye opening for me:
"One day, when my children were young, I was more frustrated than usual with the chronic messes around the house. I said to Clay, 'It seems like our training makes no difference . . . How many times am I going to have to tell them to pick up after themselves?' Clay gently responded, 'Honey, how old were you when you quit sinning? That's how old they will be when they learn to obey us perfectly!'" (133-134) 

I also loved her ideas for showing our children how to build loving relationships.
"Relational training involves teaching our children the value of honor - giving worth to another person . . . It often involves learning to reach out to others in practical, thoughtful ways and teaching them to be good friends. I have often said to my children, 'It is natural to be selfish, but it is supernatural to be kind and loving.'" (135)
Clarkson gives a bunch of ideas for how to practically show love to those around us - from our own family members to the homeless guy on the street. She points out that "Every day offers countless opportunities to teach thoughtfulness and compassion." (135)

On the topic of service, I enjoyed this passage:
"The home is a natural place to teach habits of seeing and serving. Encouraging a small child to take a cold drink to Dad when he is moving the lawn on a hot day is helping to establish a pattern of thinking about the needs of others and responding." (206) 
This is such an important skill that has been modeled for me thousands of time by my servant-hearted dad, but something I think most kids today don't see very often. Clarkson goes on to say, "Our children need to see us reaching out in love, and they need to be included in our acts of service." (207) Again, she gives many examples of how we can serve as families - including the ever controversial giving money to the homeless. Clarkson admits that it is important to have discretion, but she also says "I believe we will be judged more by our compassion and our willingness to give than by our caution and circumspection." (211) And she adds, "I would rather my children see me err in giving too much than to let caution be an excuse for callousness." (211) Such a convicting reminder. [Interestingly enough, I just read about generosity in my devotions a couple nights ago. (Proverbs 11:24-26)]

One part that was especially convicting to me came toward the end. Clarkson talks about how children learn about service and relationships by watching what their parents model. This can be a good thing, but it can also draw attention to the hypocrisy in our hearts. This story really resonated with me:
"We go to church as a family and listen to a sermon. On the way home from church we might comment to the kids, 'That was a great sermon . . . God really has called us to share our faith.' Often the parent fails to take the initiative to share his faith . . . or do whatever the pastor was recommending. The children then learn from their parents that it doesn't really matter if you obey God by actually doing good works. It only matters if you can articulate what you should do." (203)
Ouch. This is something I tend to be guilty of. In my quest to constantly be talking about the Bible and God and taking advantage of those "teachable moments" I worry my walk doesn't always match my talk. And Lucy's bound to notice soon!

Clarkson includes a few chapters on exposing our kids to culture, to good art and music and the joys of nature. I didn't identify as strongly with those chapters. Haha. Call me a country bumpkin, but I don't think it's spiritually pressing that our kids travel the world or listen to Beethoven. I was also a little bit irritated by her suggestion that it's financially feasible for the average Joe. There are countless stories throughout this book about their family road trips and their cross-country moves. She and her husband are both writers and speakers, so that works well for their lifestyles. Justin gets 2 weeks of vacation and we barely make enough money to pay our bills every month. We can't go jetting off across the nation to expose our kids to the wonders of the world. Maybe we'll just check some books out from the library about exciting places and historical monuments. Haha.

Anyway, she wraps up the book with an admonition for mothers to keep pressing on and to remember that "His strength is perfected in my weakness." I think I'm going to print that verse somewhere to place visibly as a reminder in my house. I was also encouraged by this passage:
"The Lord would encourage me to trust him, to wait on him and give him time to work, to hold on to his promises, to not compromise my convictions, to persist in my love and my prayers for the little ones he entrusted to my care." (228)
And, she cautions us, it's important to remember what we're fighting for. "When we understand Satan's plan to steal what belongs to God, we can recognize that one of our greatest tasks in regard to our children is to be a spiritual warrior for their souls." (229)

At the beginning of the book, Clarkson called mothers to "intentional parenting." She closes it by reminding us to hold onto the vision we have for our children - the vision we have for ourselves as mothers. To remember the reason we strive to be selfless, the reason we work so hard to point them to Jesus, the reason we don't just let them watch TV all day or tear each other's hair out instead of intervening in their arguments.
"In my own life, I know that what kept me going through thick and thin (besides God's grace) was this clear picture in my heart of what I wanted to attain. I nurtured this vision in my heart. I read books that undergirded it. I prayed through Scripture that encouraged me in my conviction. Whenever possible, I shared it with others, and I found that the act of passing along my vision helped solidify it in my heart." (225)
That last sentence is the reason I did this whole series on my reaction to her book. The more I study it and think about it and try to regurgitate it in a way that makes sense to others who haven't read it, the more I "solidify it in my heart."

A short word of caution if you're thinking about buying this book for yourself: I found Sally a little cheesy. I had a hard time relating to some of her stories about her kids because they seemed so perfect and scripted. Maybe that's how other families interact. I just can't imagine that ever happening in my life. Haha. She's obsessed with tea time and back rubs and sweet little notes - things that just seem cheesy to me. But aside from that, the book is full of useful ideas, practical applications, and scriptural wisdom. I highly recommend it! Thanks for sticking with me through my long-windedness to the end of my review!

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