A few weeks ago, we had the great honour of having Sally Clarkson to stay with us, and to hear her talk at our home ed group. It seemed such a significant and much anticipated event, that it’s taken me a few weeks to process, and thus write about it. I’m going to cover it in two posts; the first about the time we were able to spend with her, and the second about the talks she gave.
I’ll begin with a link to Sally’s website, for those who’ve not come across her ministry yet. It’s sallyclarkson.com . I first came across her writings a few years ago, and so much resonated with me. I would have loved to have had that encouragement at an earlier stage in my mothering/home ed journey. I think it would have given me more confidence that the way we are walking in is a good one, and we are not alone in it.
The week before her visit, was, predictably, a particularly hectic one, and in my books, overbusyness is one of the worst antagonists to a happy family and a peaceful home!
On the morning of the day we collected Sally from the station, I had to take one of the children to an outpatient appointment in a hospital about an hour away. We arrived with one child having only one shoe, and another clinging onto a bucket as, having been sick a few times over the summer, she had developed an anxiety about it, so the bucket went everywhere. A stereotypical UK homeschool family….! By the afternoon, I was feeling the worst mother on the planet, and couldn’t understand why Sally had so graciously agreed to come and stay with us!
Fortunately she is amazingly kind and realistic about the parenting journey, and we had a wonderful time with her. The girls were almost as excited as me. We had fun preparing her room, and they came with me to the station, so we got to briefly meet her cute granddaughter and lovely daughter. For weeks before, Sparkly Eyes had been telling everyone we met “Sally Clarkson is coming to stay and she loves children!”
For us, Friday nights are pizza and movie nights. It’s the only evening we don’t all sit at the table and eat. I resisted the temptation of changing this, as I wanted Sally to see us as we are, and over three days you have to be real! So, while we met her at the station, the boys put toppings on the pizza. Then, while the the children had their usual movie dinner, I lit the candles, put on some music, poured the wine, and we were able to have a more peaceful meal with the opportunity to talk. She was interested to know what we felt are the issues for parents/home school families in the UK, and we were fascinated to hear some more of her story.
On Saturday mornings we always have porridge cooked by HWH, and eat it while listening to an audible book. We are currently listening to “Cold Case Christianity” by J Warner Wallace. It’s prefaced by Lee Strobel who Sally knows. We didn’t inflict the listening on her, but she did eat the porridge. We spent the morning preparing, and then set off for her speaking event. More on that in the next post…..
I thought she might be tired after speaking and travelling, but she was so gracious always. As I’d been out most of the day, I’d left instructions about supper, and HWH had galvanised the children to finish off the meal I’d part prepared…including digging up some potatoes for shepherds pie and picking blackberries for a crumble. Lanky Dude had also spent a fair amount of time trying to secure the fencing to prevent one of the chickens constantly escaping and munching her way through our veg.
They had laid table, lit the candles and put some music on. I wouldn’t want anyone to think our family is always like this, but on this occasion they worked so well together and I was grateful and proud of them. We were again able to chat round the table, and I was so glad the boys could be part of our conversations. I think we put on some of the music of “Last night of the Proms”; a British experience!
The following day we’d decided to do a tour of some of the spiritually significant locations near us…HWH is pretty knowledgeable about history, and loves showing visitors around our country. We began by climbing a small hill with an old church at the top, great for panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. Sally, not surprisingly, has a great eye for good photo composition. We then visited the site where King Alfred won a significant battle of the Danes; we even had some Viking looking cows thrown in! We cookeded lunch in our van (my very average cooking always tastes better outside, and it’s a way we all enjoy eating), and then I had the treat of wandering around Glastonbury Abbey with her. HWH took the children to find ice creams, so we were able to walk peacefully within those ancient ruins, bathed in Autumn sunshine, reflecting on the spirituality we found there. It was one of those precious moments I would have liked to capture in a bottle and keep.
Our next stop was the Medieval city of Wells. We visited both the Bishop’s Palace, with its gracious gardens, and the Cathedral. The choir were practicing for evensong and we were able to soak up the beauty of the music, as we sat surrounded by those ancient walls, vast buttresses and soaring ceilings. So many people’s stories have been played out there over the centuries; I love the continuity with the past which we find in these beautiful, historic places.
Then back to the present, and we ended our day round the fire at home, for our weekly family prayer time, a privilege to share with Sally. A funny aside…I often listen to her podcast on a Sunday evening while I prepare tea, but I didn’t need to, as we had Sally in person!
The following day, we met up with two special home school friends and their daughters. (We were the team who did our best to organise the talks on Saturday). We ate bacon butties and chatted. And then it was time to take Sally to the station. As we hugged and said goodbye, I felt quite teary.
It was an amazing opportunity to spend time with such a woman of faith, who has been a pioneer in her God given ministry. I feel so grateful she took the step of faith to come to us (I felt a little like the man from Caesarea calling Peter across the waters to come and teach him God’s life giving truths. Acts 10). Her visit meant such a lot to me, and gave me so much to ponder and continue to pray into. We all felt so blessed by her visit and it meant more to me than she’ll ever know!