Joy in Disguise


I sauntered into church today on this chilly, snowy morning to join with my church community in celebrating the third Sunday of Advent. Also called Gaudete Sunday, it is the Sunday of Joy (Gaudete means, “Rejoice” in Latin). We are glad because Christmas in near! 

Advent is a season of preparing for Christ’s birth, and of longing for His ultimate return when all things will be made new. I long for more time in meaningful relationships, for all the wrong in the world to be made right…and for the not-so-friendly neighborhood woodpecker to stop drilling holes through our siding!

Most years, we make plans to simplify life, to slow down to help us remember that at our core we are His children. And we need daily reminders that we were made to long for Him.

Sadly, this December, I didn’t have to purpose to slow down or make myself stop working. All my children and I got sick, terribly sick. I’m typically the kind of person who pushes through colds and just keeps going. Well, not this time. We caught a terrible virus that halted normal, daily activities. For a few days, it seemed a feat just to get all the dirty dishes into the sink. It took us all down— except my sweet husband. And, well, he spent many hours sacrificing his down time to serve and love us through it.

It seems easier to connect to the longing in our hearts when we come face to face with a physical or emotional challenge. When I’m physically not well and cannot seem to muster up enough strength on my own, my fragility is a light in the darkness revealing my need for Him. 

I know for some of you, a weeklong sickness is nothing compared to what you are living through. I’m aware of those who are struggling with cancer and hope to live another year. Or those who are grieving the loss of a child or spouse and are keenly aware of the deep, heart-wrenching sadness they feel daily. Much of our longing will never be fulfilled on this earth. And yet, Jesus has come to bring us joy in the midst of pain and sadness. Our struggle itself can be the carrier of joy, albeit joy in disguise.

In the midst of my own pain, I’ve neglected to do some of the new family practices I had had in mind for this year.

Nevertheless, after a handful of Advent devotionals (Glenn has powered through in doing this with the kids sans me), a few colored Jesse tree ornaments, and a reading of a St. Nicholas book, I hope to dive in a bit more in the upcoming week. I hope to read many more picture books with kids, sit by several crackling fires, listen to Advent music, and sip a hot drink. Hopefully not just hot water and lemon!

Speaking of music, I can’t sign off without giving a couple ideas of what you might listen to this season:

Advent Music Playlist from Spotify (from our friends at

Mid-Winter Carols by Joel Clarkson

The Lifegiving Home: A Review of Sally and Sarah Clarkson’s New Book



“Every rhythm and atom of existence are spaces in which the kingdom can come, in which the story of God’s love can be told anew, in which the stuff of life can be turned marvelously into love.” Sarah Clarkson

We only need bare essentials to survive, but home was intended to be a place filled with so much more. Sometimes, though, it’s difficult to envision what a home can be. Sally and Sarah Clarkson have just released a book filled with ideas on how to grow, belong, and flourish in a ‘lifegiving home’. They give us vision for how to create a space that gives life to body, soul, and spirit.

The Clarkson’s home has been filled with tea times, books and stories, traditions, spiritual rhythms and practices, feasting, and a focus on beauty. My family and I have been in the Clarkson home numerous times over the past decade and have been a witness to their hospitality through Bible studies, feasts, Christmas parties, teas and more. Sally lives a full life with her family at home and maintains a robust travel schedule. But she has continued to create a welcoming environment in her home in the midst of it all (usually a delicious candlelit breakfast by the window with tea when I stop over). Sally and Sarah speak extensively in their book about all the people they opened their home to over the course of Sarah’s growing up. They also refer to seasons of difficulty— like a church split, or the abandonment of friends, or the passing away of relatives— when they needed to close their doors for a time.

The LifeGiving Home book is an inspiration to open your home and to be hospitable to your family and others within the limits of your personality and God’s timing. Sally and Sarah share their stories to encourage us to be intentional with what our families and home might look like in our own unique ways.

My family has some things in the common with the Clarksons— our love for music, books and art to name a few. But we also love to play sports and watch them (by ‘we’, and I mean my husband and son!). God created all of our families with unique interests and desires— and all of them can be a springboard for bringing vision in the cultivation of a life-giving home.

How might our homes become welcoming, orderly, lovely, and laughter-filled places where memories are made and shared? I encourage you to pray and ask the Lord to show you what it looks like for you with your life to take a step toward making your home a life-giving one. This new book from Sally and Sarah will a go a long way toward helping your imagination.

Please check out these sites to purchase the book and other resources.

The Lifegiving Home:  Creating a Place of Belonging and Becoming

The Lifegiving Home Experience: A 12-Month Guided Journey Links and lists for books to read, movies to watch, resources, and ideas for things to do with your family.

My Favorite Books…on Parenting

Packiam-23I’ve been thinking recently about how grateful I am for a wonderful mother and for other women who have discipled and poured into me over the years. I was recently at an event where I ran into one of these women who is now in her seventies. She took me under her wing over ten years ago when I was newly in ministry and then a new mother. I’ll never forget the core lesson she taught me: Discipleship is all about training and educating. 

Isn’t parenting at its core about discipleship? It’s really about relationship just as the Biblical narrative is about God’s relationship with us. More than correcting the behavior, discipleship is about helping our kids to walk on God’s path for life. Many books tell you what you should do because we yearn for a model or paradigm to follow. We wish someone could tell us what to do so everything will turn out well for our children. It’s much easier to follow a rule book than to trust God.

In poring over parenting books for many years, these are some of the ones that I’ve found most helpful with the goal of creating a loving, nurturing, grace-filled home. We’re far from having mastered the messages in these books– as anyone who knows us or our children can attest!– but many of these themes are ones we return to over and over again. Oh…and of course, the list is not exhaustive…and there are probably some I’m forgetting…but this should be a good start:

How to Really Love Your Child – D. Ross Campbell

Grace-Based Parenting – Tim Kimmel

The Mission of Motherhood – Sally Clarkson

Heartfelt Discipline – Clay Clarkson

Say Goodbye to Whining, Complaining, and Bad Attitudes in Your Kids – Scott Turansky

Motivate Your Child:  A Christian Parent’s Guide to Raising Kids Who Do What They Need to Do Without Being Told – Scott Turansky

The Five Love Languages of Children – Gary D. Chapman