How to Make a Life-Giving Home

No one has mentored me quite like this womanSally Clarkson has poured me tea, has poured into me, has poured from a depth of rich wisdom and life well-lived and she loves from the deepest places. She’s walked me through  hard parenting seasons. She’s prayed me through mama-crisis. She’s been real, she’s been warm, she’s been wise — and I love her wildly. Thirty-one years ago, Sally Clarkson had her first child at the age of 31. Having never changed a diaper or spent one day babysitting, she had no idea of what it meant to be a mother or to build a home. As she raised 4 children, she discovered that motherhood was one of the greatest missions of all, and that establishing a life-giving home was one of the most profound ministries of her life. Sally has shown me the art of  educating Wholehearted Childrenmaybe one of the very best educating/parenting books I’ve ever read, as she taught me that parenting is about discipleship. I trust this woman at a deep level & hold her in the highest esteem, because she walks with rare integrity and Gospel wisdom and  because most of her years as a mother were lived with little outside help or support, Sally does not want other sweet mamas to do life alone, but to have inspiration and encouragement and tried-and-true wisdom each step of the way. A grace to welcome Sally to the farm’s front porch today…

“No moment is useless, no day void, when shaped by the creative power of love.”

guest post by Sally Clarkson

As I glanced out the kitchen window, the shadows that were overtaking the mountain told me that the sun was just about to set.

Clay, my husband, had proposed a rare and much-needed dinner date for just the two of us.

Lots of issues in our life needed our focused attention—ministry conferences, book deadlines, taxes, a possible move, new staff for our ministry, a health problem with one of our children, a relationship problem at church—plus, we just needed some time together alone to be friends.

It was ten minutes before six, the time Clay had told me to be ready. I was still in the kitchen washing dishes, trying to get the kitchen clean before we left.

Eleven-year-old Nathan, my bubbling, energetic extrovert, kept running into the kitchen demanding that I come immediately to look at something.

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“Mama, I have something to show you! It will take just a few minutes, but you have to come now.”

“Not now,” I almost told him. “I promise I’ll spend some time with you when I get home, but I have to finish the dishes now before Daddy takes me out to dinner. This way you kids won’t have to clean anything up!”

I almost said that, but I didn’t. After a brief mental battle, I put the greasy pan back in the sudsy water and dried my hands.

“Nathan, where are you?” I called. “I’m ready to see your surprise.”

“I didn’t think you were ever going to come,” he moaned as he appeared from the den. “I hope we’re not too late.”

He led me into the narrow laundry room, then stopped, looked me in the eye, and commanded in his high-pitched, most authoritative little boy voice he could manage, “I want you to follow me up to the mountain, but you have to hold my hand and keep your eyes closed. I promise I won’t let you fall.”

I obediently followed him out the back door, which opened to a tiny block of cement patio at the base of a steep hillside bordering the national forest on the slopes of the Rocky Mountains.

This was my own private hill, where I ended my early morning walk on the mountains each day. Its slope was covered with gigantic red boulders, sandy hillside, and pine trees.

Holding my hand tightly in his pudgy little one, Nathan now led me up the steep hillside. Eyes shut, I followed the best I could.

Then he stopped. “Mama, there’s a real big rock here. If you put your hand right here, I can help you climb up on top of it, and we can sit there together. But you have to promise not to look up yet. Just look at your feet.”

I submitted to his commands and finally, tentatively, eased my way on my stomach to the top of a boulder about the size of a small shed.

“Okay. Now turn around and sit without looking up, and I will tell you when to look!” Nathan insisted.

As I settled down beside his sweaty boy body, Nathan’s small arm fell snugly across my shoulders in an affectionate embrace. “Just in time,” he said excitedly. “Now you can look.”

I looked and gasped as I beheld one of the most exquisite sunsets I had ever experienced.

Soft reds, vibrant golds, shimmering orange gleamed in fire-brightness before our eyes, filling the expanse of the sky with splendor. A symphony of colors seemed to sing in the evening sky.

Then, slowly, the colors began to fade. The sun gave a final flourish, and a majestic wave of dark reds and purples seemed to spill out from the mountaintop, reflecting the last rays of burnished light.

It was as though God Himself was providing a sparkling celebration just for us to document the importance of the moment.

Nathan beamed at me, his smile cheek-to-cheek as he looked contentedly into my eyes. “Thanks for coming with me, Mama,” he whispered almost reverently.

“I wanted to show you my secret place. I saw the sunset here yesterday, and I knew you would like it, so I wanted to surprise you and bring you here. I’m glad you and I are such close friends. I’ll remember sharing this sunset with you for the rest of my life.

And yes, in his little boy, dramatic way, he actually said that!

Making a home is a function of making time to love. 

Now, my little boy grown up, lives in New York City, thousands of miles away from my Colorado home.

This past Christmas, eleven years later, Nathan put his arm around my shoulders as we sat close together in our living room, catching up on life.

“Mama, you know, I have never forgotten that you made time for me that time on the mountain at our very own special sunset.

I think we are close friends to this day —

because I always knew you would make time for love, to take time to be my friend.”


Sally Clarkson is co-founder of Whole Heart Ministries (with her husband, Clay) and serves as its women’s ministry director. She’s the author of many popular books, including Own Your Life and her newest book, The Life-giving Home: Creating a Place of Belonging and Becoming, authored with her oldest daughter, Sarah. As a mother of four, she has inspired thousands of mothers since 1998 through her Mom Heart Conferences and small groups.

“Creating Home” and crafting a place where friends, children, strangers could come and feel they belonged has captured the imagination of Sally Clarkson for 35 years. Through 17 moves, 6 times internationally, raising four children to adulthood, she learned that home was more about cultivating a heart for people than having a physical dwelling. If I could, I’d hand every woman I know a copy of The Life-giving Home: Creating a Place of Belonging and Becoming

[Our humble thanks to Tyndale for their partnership in today’s devotion ]