A friend came to visit this weekend. She picked an interesting weekend to show up – snowstorms pelted the gardens, a power outage rendered my simple weekend routine useless, and cold temps forced all to gather round the woodstove with projects and playthings in hand. I could have been slogged under with frustrations and irritations at the laundry piling up and the recesses of the house curling up from cold, but my friend came to serve and to share, not to take. You see, my friend came delivered in the postbox, wrapped between the covers of her latest book. Sally Clarkson’s Dancing with My Father arrived on a cold and powerless Friday and set about warming me up from the inside out.
Whenever a friend comes to visit, announced or unannounced, I like to prepare something special. If my visitor drives down the drive on a lark, I pop on the ever-ready kettle and rustle up a nibble of nourishment (sometimes as simple as a slice of bread dressed with fresh butter and a thin shaving of cheese placed on sprigged china). For those who call in a “reservation” I have spates of time smoothed before us filled with lavender-scented linens, welcoming roses in a vase, delicious meals all planned out with sweet desserts to cap off our time of lingering togetherness. Our stay-at-home-work-from-home lifestyle (abruptly required with the birth of my “special” twins so looooong ago – one of many blessings in disguise) furnishes the freedom to throw wide my arms and embrace the gift of togetherness when it blossoms unexpectedly. And so I do . . .
With Sally’s arrival on Friday I quickly introduced her to my stack of “friends” piled up near my favorite reading chair. I had so many little tasks to tackle while I juggled our family needs into segmented spates of time when the generator would hum and the machinery would spring to life, that I entrusted her to the company of poets, monks, and children on exciting adventures, all piled up neatly near the floral refuge.
And so I scurried away putting pots of soup on to simmer, placing eggs and butter and other cool-requiring goodies near the chilly windowsill, all the while thanking the Lord that I had baked four fresh loaves of whole-wheat bread just the day before. Gary and the girls kept the homes fires bright (I avoid wood-hauling with this delicate elbow), while Matthew adjusted his ever-compulsive tendencies to compensate for the loss of his music, computer, and video buddies which he regularly calls on throughout the day. As I fretted a bit over how to explain “no power” to a young man who often finds words a jungle of noise and confusion, I noticed that a greater degree of maturity had set in since the last “outage episode” as I witnessed Matthew regularly checking the light switch in his “office” as an indicator of computer availability. He remained calm and complacent in the necessarily quiet surrounds. Praise the Lord!
With meal prep doubled to last beyond today and children all engaged in reading, practicing, and working with the natural light of day, I felt free to ignore the laundry and vacuuming in lieu of a visit with Sally. I manually lit the gas ring (those assisting clickers need power) and set out the cups and saucers – oh wait! I only need one, don’t I? The kettle sang sweetly as I chose a robust Assam tea, knowing from previous bookish visits that Sally prefers a strong dark tea. With tea steeped and steady snowfall reflecting a generous amount of light into my favorite reading spot, I settled down and gently opened our visit.
Time always flies as we “catch up.” I have read all of Sally’s previous books (they sit upon my shelf inviting rereads while waiting for the day she is welcomed by my daughters as they seek to enjoy a mentoring visit along The Mom Walk or The Mission of Motherhood in the Seasons of a Mother' Heart). I “met” Sally through another “bookish” friend, Tina Farewell, who published a most delightful catalog, Lifetime Books and Gifts (sadly out of print these days), that read like a book of books and gushed with introductions to other like-minded folks reaching out to encourage those of us along the pathways of home education and home dedication to our Lord in a tumultuous time in our world.
Long ago Sally arrived on my doorstep all bundled up in a Whole-Hearted manual of educational ideas, tips, and inspiration that set my heart to racing. A kindred! Just like the big sister I always dreamed about! And she arrived just in the nick of time to help a faltering sister see the light through the exhaustion, frustration, and sheer sorrow-filled clouds that had overtaken my sunny approach to life and learning in our own Willow Cottage. Multiple closely-spaced kids (including twins with multiple handicaps), a husband working round the clock to find a successful source of support for his family, conflicted family members who just didn’t understand our choices, nosy neighbors who believed children should go off to school, and a host of burdens I carried from a difficult childhood threatened to sink my Good Ship Lollypop.
Enter Sally . . . one who has walked many of the same shadowed valleys, encountering similar ruts and pitfalls, yet hearing the same calling. A bit further along the road, she called back to me, “All is well! Grab God’s hand and follow! I’m here with God; it’s still dark, a bit scary, and pretty difficult, BUT God’s faithful. KEEP COMING!”
That first Sally Book served me well as I read it with pleasure, cried onto its pages when I needed a refreshing nudge to keep going, and always found a friend when I came to call.
A few years later, Seasons of a Mother's Heart arrived as I juggled five kids, incredible routines and therapies, our own business, and external family breakdowns. Once again I saw that I was not alone. Sally’s honest voice and keen eye for beauty found in the simplest things of life felt like a warm kindred hug. I read through the book in pieces at a café near my daughter’s ballet studio. While Elizabeth stretched and danced, I sipped tea and slipped through the chapters; hearing once again that I did not stand all alone in a lonely meadow – others have passed this way before and survived in love and with joy.
Years flew. I moved. She moved. Life jaunted along and new books arrived from Sally’s pen. Emails went back and forth now and again (like the sweet note of love and encouragement Sally sent when I reached out in a time of grief following my son’s death) and the era of blogging dawned. I read Sally’s blog and even comment on occasion, but I cannot say that she even knows who I am . . . but that doesn’t seem to matter when a new book-bound missive arrives. Her open-hearted style pours forth the truth of a life lived in earnest for the Lord. Her kindred joys and triumphs mirror my heart. I’ve grown up with Sally as one of those blessed beacons around the shoals of time. She joins Edith Schaeffer, Amy Carmichael, Susan Schaeffer McCaulay, and a host of other caring sharing women who have mentored me along life’s path as I dance, tumble, stumble, regain, and dance again. It’s not a club . . . it’s a gift of friendship in print that I praise the Lord for.
And so this latest chronicle of Sally’s journey to live joyfully inspires me with each page turn. As a regular reader of her blog I have had the pleasure of praying for some of the very miracles and joyous occasions she recounts. Building upon her past sharing, Sally fleshes out even more of her precious person in this latest book, causing me to keep alive that flame of a dream that some day she and I will meet in person over a fragrant cup of tea and I will actually look into those blue eyes of hers and tell her how much she has meant to me in tough times and happy, as I thank her for the honest hand she extended in those pages she prayed over and labored to produce just for me . . . and so many more.
I’m happy to report that after about 38 hours of power-free living, our trusty lights sprung back to life. The laundry tumbles away and the vacuum roars to life, but I still manage to find snippets of time to carry on my “visit” with Sally. Though tempted to devour the book in one gulp, I have measured out the chapters in order to spread our time together over a slower, gentler space. I ponder her words, God’s Word, and my thoughts in journal. I remain “unplugged” from stress as I continue this weekend visit with my dear bookish friend.
I encourage you to get to know my friend Sally in your own special chair with your own cup of tea. For now, you’ll have to excuse me as I see her over there waiting patiently for me to close up this laptop so we can resume our dance of joy. I can hardly wait! I just love Dancing with My Father . . . and my friends. Take joy!
Visit Sally's Blog
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I found this waiting for me in my email box this afternoon:
What a fun, sweet post. I feel so honored. I so appreciate your reviews of me and my books and it encourages me to keep going. May the Lord continue blessing your ministry of writing life-giving words. I appreciate you.
Fondly, and blessings of His grace and peace,