“I wanted to show you my secret place.”

Several years ago when I was a new mom, my dear mentor and friend casually slid me a book by Sally Clarkson. I didn’t know when I started reading that I might find another mentor within the pages, teaching me through her words on paper. Sally has encouraged women all across the world in seeking God’s vision for their home and family. Including me. (And, yes, even as an adoptive mama with unique dynamics and challenges to our home. Especially as an adoptive mama with unique dynamics to our home). It is a sweet privilege to host her in this little space here, today, from the pages of yet another golden book that she’s written (and this one, with her daughter!). I’m only a few chapters in, and already scratching down notes and asking Him to breathe on the new pieces He has in there for me. {Read on for a taste and I suspect you’ll be buying the book yourself after you read.}

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 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.

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. And eleven-year-old Nathan, my bubbling, energetic extrovert, kept run- ning into the kitchen demanding that I come look at something.

“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 yelled. “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.”

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He led me into the narrow laundry room, then stopped, looked me in the eye, and commanded in his high-pitched boy voice, “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 large 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 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.”

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I submitted 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.

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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!

As I reflect back on all of the years of our family’s life together, what I remember best is not the mountains of dirty dishes and pots and pans and socks left on the floor and piles of laundry. I reflect instead on precious times shared with Clay, the kids, and those we welcomed into our home—snuggling on the couch together, nursing babies and rocking them to sleep, sharing movies and huge bowls of popcorn, comforting children after a nightmare, and all those heartfelt kisses and cards that said “I love you!”

So many other memories come to mind. Friends piled around the dinner table, candles lit, telling stories about our lives, building bridges of love to one another’s hearts. Bible studies and cups of tea shared as the light of God’s goodness dawned and hearts were forged together forever because of our common bond to His love. Times of grief filled with tears but also with the sweet comfort of friendship and of not bearing burdens alone. Illnesses, some months long, that tried everyone’s patience yet created some of the most indelible memories—tents built, stories read aloud, soothing music easing an ear infection, one more Winnie-the-Pooh cartoon, a hand to hold during the painful and fearful moments.

To me, all these memories of love given and loved received glue the years together into a deeply satisfying collage. I am so grateful for the opportunities we took to say to each other, “You are important to me. Making time to share love, intimacy, and memories is so much more important that any task that would steal my time from you.” Yet feelings of regret also occupy my mind as I realize how quickly the years have flown. I find myself thinking, I wish I had spent more time enjoying these ones I love and less time fretting about all the details that have faded in my memory.

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Photos compliments of Cherish Andrea Photography.

Get the rest of the story on the book right here.

Sarah and mamaSally Clarkson is the beloved author of multiple bestselling books, including Own Your Life and Desperate(with Sarah Mae). As a mother of four, she has inspired thousands of mothers through Whole Heart Ministries (www.wholeheart.org), which she founded with her husband, Clay, in 1998. Since then, she has advocated relentlessly for the power of motherhood and the influence of home through her Mom Heart conferences (www.momheart.org), speaking to audiences on several continents. Sally encourages many through her blogs and websites—www.sallyclarkson.com and www.lifegivinghome.com (the companion site to this book)—as well as through her e-books and live webinars.

Sarah Clarkson loves good books, beauty, and imagination, and thinks everyone else should too. She explores the intersection of literature, faith, and wonder at thoroughlyalive.com and is at very slow work on a novel. She currently hails from Oxford, where she keeps good company with the ghosts of Tolkien and Lewis and also studies theology.

 

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