Sally, Sarah, and Joy Clarkson are remarkable women who share a remarkable friendship. Sally has spent her life investing the hearts of women through writing and speaking, pouring love and wisdom even as she pours a cup of her favourite Yorkshire Gold tea. Sally always believed that friendship was the foundation of growth, influence, and healing in our lives. It was that love and intentionality that Sally longed to pass to her daughters. Now that Sarah and Joy have emerged as women in their own right— writing, speaking and studying at Oxford University—they have come together to write a book about the beauty, depth, and importance of investing in soul-shaping heart satisfying friendships. It’s a grace to welcome them to the farm’s front porch today…
We were in Prince Edward Island, the home of one of our favorite literary heroes: Anne of Green Gables.
That morning, we had eaten our fill of the bed-and-breakfast’s delectable spread and made plans to visit the White Sands Hotel (which features prominently in the Avonlea stories). We thought we might walk there for an early lunch, so we finished our breakfast and headed to the concierge.
“How far is it to the White Sands Hotel?” we asked.
“Oh! It’s not too far,” answered the kind Canadian concierge, “Just four kilometers or so.”
We were well fed and ready for a jaunt, so four kilometers sounded like nothing. The concierge pointed us in the right direction, and we set off.
Oh, it was beautiful. It was June, and wildflowers were thick in every ditch. The sky was blue that day, but it was never too warm. The air that day was cool and pungent, with the fragrance of burgeoning life in every nook and cranny of the earth. We chatted and chirped as we marched on our way, taking in the fresh loveliness of it all.
We were having such a good time that we hardly bothered to wonder how long we had been walking, when suddenly it occurred to us that we’d been on our feet for quite some time.
We stopped the next people we passed on the trail and asked if we’d missed the turn.
“Oh, no!” said the wife. “It’s about four kilometers up that way,” her husband added. We thanked them and kept walking.
Four kilometers to go? It was only supposed to be four kilometers total!
At least we had a beautiful view, Sarah remarked. And she was right . . . for a while.
Ten minutes later the trail disappeared, and we found ourselves on a small path of pebbles next to a two-way highway.
We walked in a single-file line. Every few minutes, a car would rush by, sending our hair into a panic as the wind tossed it around. We tried to talk, shouting back and forth in our little queue. But then one person wouldn’t hear, and we’d have to shout it four times for the other person to catch it, replacing the initial delight of sharing with an objectless annoyance.
So eventually we fell into silence.
Then, it came: hanger. My face was hot, and my footsteps were heavy.
“How long are we going to walk?” I demanded.
“I’m so sorry, honey. I think the man at the desk must have gotten his directions wrong,” my mother said, genuine sympathy on her face.
“Well, I guess so!” I dramatically stomped my foot, causing a cloud of dust to emerge from the gravel. “I just can’t walk much longer! I’m hungry and tired, and I think I’m getting a sunburn.”
My mother’s face softened. “I wish I could change this, but I can’t. But you know what? I think you have it in you to be brave and strong.”
In my present purposeless rage, all this talk sounded like pacification. I was not pleased.
Sarah chimed in, “You’re like Anne of Green Gables. You’ve got an adventurous spirit.”
I would have done anything to please Anne . . .
“Do you think you can walk a little further with me?” my mother said.
I supposed I could.
We walked 12 miles that day.
Just like that day, I’ve found that life usually requires more of us than we expect.
More effort, more tears, more bravery, more endurance, more ingenuity than we knew we had in our capacity.
But I’ve also learned that I am stronger than I think, that there are reserves of energy and endurance that I can access if I just decide not to give up.
When my mother looked into my eyes that day and told me she knew I could walk a little farther, she set a tone for my life.
You are capable of more than you know.
You are the right one to handle your life.
You are never alone in the journey.
You have your Girls’ Club around you, and more fundamentally than that, you have God.
I think you have it in you to go a little bit farther.
She spoke that same message to me this year.
I started my PhD last September. Just like the walk to the White Sands, it seemed like a challenge but a manageable one.
What I couldn’t have bargained for was the onslaught of loneliness after my three best friends moved away, the awkwardness of trying to figure out if I was doing this doctoral research right, the unexpected injury of my mom’s eye, the wondrous interruption of my niece Lilian’s birth.
All of it left me dizzy, tired, overwhelmed.
Up to that point in my life I had worked hard, but I had never encountered anything that seemed insurmountable.
But in that moment, I genuinely wondered: Can I do this? Am I enough?
I poured out my heart to my mom on the phone. She listened. She empathized. And then she said, “Joy. You have borne so much. I’m so sorry this year has been difficult. But I’m not worried about you. The Lord will take care of you. I see your roots growing deep. If you press into this season, trust God, and keep going, I think you will see the fruit of it.”
In other words, she said again: I think you have it in you to go a little bit farther.
And I did.
One of the greatest gifts of friendship in my life has been that women have called out the strength in me that I didn’t know I possessed and helped me rise to the occasion of life.
Female friendship has been at the core of all societies for this very reason.
There is a fierceness and a flexibility in womanhood, an ability to overcome despite insurmountable odds.
Patient, clever eyes, looking for a way to make things work, to stitch life together like a colorful quilt made out of scraps.
We are stronger together.
Together, we can go a little bit farther.
Told through stories and encouragement based on the authors’ experiences—Sally, a seasoned mother and well beloved author; her daughter Sarah, an Oxford scholar and new mother; and her youngest daughter Joy, a professional young woman pursuing her doctorate— Girls’ Club: Cultivating Lasting Friendship in a Lonely World will speak to the importance of cultivating deep and lasting friendship at every stage in life. Join Sally, Sarah, and Joy as they explore the power, difficulties, potential, beauty, and satisfaction of friendships that help us live purposeful, Godly lives and that satisfy our longing for meaningful and intimate companionship.
Joy Clarkson is a lover of God and people, a crafter of words, and a dedicated evangelist for the soul-enriching benefits of teatime. She is currently working on her doctorate in theology, imagination, and the arts at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, where she enjoys long walks on the shore of the North Sea and visits to tiny fishing villages.
Sarah Clarkson loves books, beauty, and imagination, and thinks everyone else should too. She’s a published author and recent graduate of Oxford University, where she studied theology at Wycliffe Hall.
Sally Clarkson is the beloved author of multiple bestselling books. As a mother of four, she has inspired thousands of women through conferences, resources, and books with Whole Heart Ministries (www.wholeheart.org). Discipleship and mentoring women to understand how to love God in a more personal way and how to live a satisfying Christian life are threads through all of her messages. Her popular podcast, At Home with Sally Clarkson and Friends, with over a million downloads, can be found on iTunes and Stitcher.
In a time when many women feel lonely and isolated, Girls’ Club calls us to embrace the delight and comfort that can be found in life-giving friendships with women— and to cultivate relationships that not only offer emotional affirmation and acceptance, but also inspire, educate, and stretch us to live out our God-given potential.
[ Our humble thanks to Tyndale for their partnership in today’s devotion ]