In our increasingly digital age, it is more important than ever to make sure we are using our words to affirm and guide our children. In a world that tries to tell them who they are and what is important, it is our job as parents to encourage them toward virtue and faith. I am so pleased to bring you this conversation with Sally Clarkson. Through book writing, podcasting, and speaking, Sally uses her words to mentor a generation of young moms who want to give their children a life full of beauty, creativity, faith, and family. May you come away from this conversation with a renewed vigor for creating a verbal home that breathes life into the hearts of your children.
In this episode, we cover:
- What it means to have a verbal home and why it matters in this day and age
- How you can appoint times throughout your day, week, year to intentionally affirm your children
- Going beyond what we say and examining what is in our hearts
- Strategies for being truly present with your children and not getting sucked into distraction
- Protecting your family’s time in order to maximize opportunities for lifegiving conversation
- How prioritizing words can knit your family’s hearts together
- Considering boundaries around creating solely for your family’s benefit vs. creating to share with the world
- The importance of keeping work in its rightful place
- Getting on the same page as your spouse about the direction of your family
Thank you to our sponsors!
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Sally Clarkson is a best-selling author, world renowned speaker, prolific podcaster, (At Home With Sally) and beloved figure who has dedicated her life to supporting and inspiring countless women to live into the story God has for them to tell.
Sally has been married to her husband Clay for forty-one years and together they founded and run Whole Heart Ministries, an international ministry seeking to support families in raising faithful, healthy, and loving children in an increasingly difficult culture.
Sally has four children, Sarah, Joel, Nathan, and Joy, each excelling in their own fields as academics, authors, actors, musicians, filmmakers, and speakers.
Sally lives between the Mountains of Colorado and the rolling fields of England and can usually be found with a cup of tea in her hands.
Giving Your Words by Sally Clarkson
Check out the rest of Sally Clarkson’s books
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Lisa Bass Welcome back to the Simple Farmhouse Life podcast. Today I have someone really exciting coming on the podcast. Sally Clarkson is the author of I believe she said 27 books. I know I’ve personally read four of them. She has a brand new book coming out in October that I’ve had the privilege to read about halfway through at this point, because it still hasn’t come out, but I have a copy. And we are going to be talking about creating a verbal home which means exchanging words with your kids, which sounds like, well, duh. But this is actually something that I struggle with in the way that will be productive and knitting my children’s hearts to mind and creating this relationship. Not only that, we’re going to talk about unique struggles that moms today face with social media, with the pull to constantly share, constantly build something, and create beauty for the outside world. This is at least something that I struggle with. I am going to be talking to her about that as well. So let’s dive in. This is a really great conversation.
Lisa Bass My name is Lisa, mother of seven and creator of the blog and YouTube channel Farmhouse on Boone. Join me as I share with you my love for creating a handmade home, from-scratch cooking, and a little mom and entrepreneur life along the way.
Lisa Bass Hi, Sally. Thank you so much for agreeing to come on the podcast. I’ve been listening to your podcast to catch up on where you are, and I know that you’ve been back and forth and there’s been some issues getting you— where your living situation and all of that. So for those of you who don’t know you, I’ll give a brief introduction, and then you can tell us a little bit about you as well. But you are a mentor to Christian moms in our generation. I have many friends who when I told them you were going to come on my podcast were very excited. So you’re a huge inspiration to me personally. I’m currently reading your new book, which we can talk about, Giving Your Words. I’ve read some of your other books as well. So let’s talk about that. Can you introduce yourself, your family, and your new book?
Sally Clarkson I will. And I’m just so happy to be with you and to finally be able to connect. Since we’re in a new house, as a lot of people know, with a flood, with a questionable Internet, and we made it happen. But it’s so much fun for me to be here with you. I love watching what you do. It’s just amazing.
Lisa Bass Well, thank you.
I am 69. I’m a grandma of three grandchildren. And actually, I live in Oxford for most of the year where I work with a church to mentor young women. And it just happens that this year, my son Joel, who’s finishing his PhD in Scotland, my daughter Joy, who finished her PhD in Scotland and is working here, and my daughter Sarah and her husband, who attended Oxford live here. And then my other son Nathan lives in New York City and is a film producer there. And so it’s a crazy, crazy time, but I absolutely love getting to do what I do. This book, I actually—about a year ago—had to have an emergency hip surgery because I had literally— I walk a lot, and I had walked all the cartilage off my hip.
Lisa Bass Oh, wow.
Sally Clarkson And so I was talking to my husband, Clay, and we’ve written a lot of books and done our ministry together forever. And I said, “How would you like to write this book?” Because I had a deadline with the publisher. And not many people can say to their husbands or wives, “Will you write my book for me?” So we literally sat out on our deck in Colorado every night and we would talk about why— we really were verbally processing family, verbal processing. And Clay and I look back— people are always saying, “How did you do what you did with your children?” And I think that we narrated their story. I believe God has a story for you to live, a story for you to tell. These are the truths that I’ve learned in my own life. We narrated stories and people and history and faith and virtue, and we were never not talking. And I think a lot of times people are saying, “What is the right curriculum or what activities should my children have?” But we are people who are made for words. And so we believed that early and we are still— we gather around our family table and no one stops talking. But I really think that what prepared all of my kids to study theology and writing and all these things that they do, it was just the relationship, the love that we had for them, and talking about every possible thing in the world. Morning, noon and night.
Lisa Bass Yeah. So you and Clay, from what I read in your book, The Lifegiving Home, you talk about—and I believe in this book as well—how you set out with intention to create a home that was rich with beauty, traditions, connection, conversation. Did you set out any specific boundaries up front or priorities or non-negotiables or, I don’t know, how did you—we’ll get more into this, I guess—but how did you have the foresight to know what all— I feel like a lot of people are kind of, along the way, we’re not even sure what our priorities and non-negotiables are. How did you all set this out from the beginning?
Sally Clarkson Do you know, as we look back, both of us became believers in kind of the Jesus movement in the 70s. Someone knocked on my 10th floor dorm room, and I was at one university, he was at another, and we didn’t even realize it. But when we looked back at the time, someone came around us, really spent years helping us learn. They discipled us, they mentored us, they taught us, they gave us opportunities to live out our faith. I was in missions early. Clay was one of my supporters, and he’s still supporting me. That’s the old joke. But I feel like Clay and I were blessed to know things. We knew how to be strategic in planning what really mattered. To know truths that— we wrote this book called The 24 Family Ways. These are kind of the truths, the foundational points upon which our children knew our family values were based. And we never knew at the time— you never know at the time that what you’re what you’re being given is unusual, but we look back now and we think what a gift it was to have people come along beside us and teach us how to think, how to be intentional, how to be purposeful. And I think part of the reason that we love to write and do podcasts is that—in the same way that we were companions in how to make goals, how to be focused, how to love well by the people who trained us—we wanted to do that through our ministry to be able to encourage and equip and help other parents who longed to really have that legacy of faith in their children’s lives that maybe no one had ever really shown them how. And there’s so many voices, as you know, in culture today, that I think oftentimes people are confused. And I’ve said this many times before, but in the absence of biblical conviction, people will go the way of culture, whether it’s a church culture, a neighborhood culture, a secular culture. People will tend to follow ideas if they don’t have a biblical solid foundation.
Lisa Bass Yeah. That definitely makes sense. And we’ll get more into that too, because I think we have some unique challenges with being parents in this day and age that I’d love to have your take on. So can you explain— this book is about having a verbal home. Can you explain what it means to have a verbal home? I realize that this probably wasn’t— like you didn’t need to explain this hundreds of years ago, but today we have so many outside influences that we can invite in just so easily all day long. We can invite in other people speaking and having an influence. So what does it mean for a family to have a verbal home?
Sally Clarkson I think that Jesus himself was called the Word, the Message. That’s pretty important that that’s how scripture refers to him. We are people who establish our understanding of the world through words. And we have words that guide, that inspire. Words can also be detrimental. But even as we look at even God in the way that he ruled over Christ, as Jesus was being baptized, he said, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” And so Clay and I would read these stories and we would say, “I think we need to verbally affirm our children.” You are wonderful to me. I’m so happy that you’re mine. You know, Jesus called Peter “the Rock” and he said, “Thomas, you’re a man in whom there is no guile.” And so as we began kind of patterning ourselves after what we learned, we saw that in a culture where everybody is dependent on their phone, looking at the Internet, not looking in the eyes of their children, we wrote this book because we wanted to say, “No, no, stop.” People are relational and words are the oxygen to their soul and their mind. And so whatever you want to shape for them in the area of inspiration, virtue, faith, whatever, you have to verbalize it, ask questions, engage. And so we just started kind of writing down what were some of the things that we could do to engage our children, to give them memories of words that they heard their whole life?
Lisa Bass Yeah. So you set out—
Sally Clarkson Does that make sense?
Lisa Bass Yeah, it does. I mean, you even talk about going into specific traditions like birthday traditions and dinner traditions, and a lot of it centers around food and beauty. You guys actually created sort of several things that you would want to be as part of your family traditions, that you could come up with times where it was natural to share these words. Because I feel like without doing that, it might sound kind of vague and you’re not even sure exactly.
Sally Clarkson That’s really true.
Lisa Bass Yeah, and it’s not natural for everyone. I’m not a person—even though I have a podcast—I’m really not a person of a lot of words. I’m really not. And so for me to say certain things— I might observe certain things in my home, “Oh, that was really great.” I might not actually ever say it. And maybe I need reminders around certain times to say things.
Sally Clarkson That’s a good point. Well, they say that adults remember the messages they were given their whole lives. Voices still speak in their head when they’re 60, 70, 80. And so some of the things that we were intentional about is, first of all, we kind of had a good night blessing. We kissed them a million times because—as you might know, if you’ve read this—kissing children helps their brains develop. I learned that with my granddaughter.
Lisa Bass I figured there had to be a reason why. Whenever you have a newborn, it’s like a magnet. You’re just like, “Why am I kissing you thousands of times a day?”
Sally Clarkson I know. And anyway, that was interesting. My son-in-law actually told me this. So we would kiss them and hug them and say we would put to rest anything that had happened that day, to say I’m sorry or “Let’s pray to Jesus and ask him for his blessing.” But then we would physically touch our child, kiss them and say, “You are such a gift to me. I am so grateful that God allowed you to be in our family.” And we would try to leave them every evening before they went to sleep with a sense that you are loved, you are forgiven, you are secure, you are— you know, in appropriate places. Sometimes when I say things, people think, “Did you do that 100% of the time?” You know, you have to be sensitive to whatever is going on. But in general, to have a habit of blessing our children at night and first thing in the morning. “Hi, buddy. How are you? I’m just so happy that you’re with me today.” That may seem funny, but when children replay the voices that are in their heads, it’s our voice that they hear. We’re a tool of the Lord, I think. Birthday breakfasts were absolutely amazing, I guess, because all of our children talk about it. But we would always, no matter what, have a birthday breakfast, cinnamon rolls and scrambled eggs or whatever. And then we would have everyone in the family go around the table—this is still happening in our family—and really articulate to the birthday child something they appreciated, something they’d seen them grow in, how they loved them. And then all of us would spend time together praying for the birthday child. And you might think, “Oh, my children will never sit still for this,” or whatever, but they were very serious. “Sarah, you’re just the most amazing storyteller. And I really appreciate that you read me books this year and you’re just such a loving sister.” And they would say these loving things. You had to say something loving. You couldn’t say something that was insulting. And it just became their habit. And so over every birthday, every year—and we’ve done this for strangers, too, when they’re at our house for their birthday—but we would say, you know, it’s important for us as people to learn to invest life into the people we love. And then we would do the birthday breakfast and then pray for the person. And the kids have talked many times about the fact that their little hearts would just swell up with, wow, they really like me. They really love who I am. So we had a lot of things like that. I think we talk about it in the book. We had a graduation. We had a 13-year-old kind of entering into adulthood sort of time. But we kind of took the time because when you’re busy or maybe you’re irritated that day or whatever, if you have scripts in your head prepared because you believe that words matter, then you’re able to really leave a lifegiving legacy in the form of the messages they remember. And Jesus came to teach, to give words, to lead, to show them how to live. And so we just would try as much as possible to include scripture, to memorize scripture, to memorize poems. That words we believed gave real life to the direction of our children’s eventual decisions.
Lisa Bass Yeah, I like that you have these moments throughout the day and the year that you can be intentional with because to make it a habit, you almost need some reminders along the way. And I like a lot of the ideas you talked about in the book. You also talk about how the words must be first on our hearts. Because we have so many things. Like my kids have— we do AWANAs twice a week. We do Sunday school.
Sally Clarkson We do, too.
Lisa Bass We go to church and all that kind of stuff. And we put good resources— like they have certain audiobooks that have a messaging that, you know— but you talk about how they need to be on our hearts and come from our interpretation of them, from the indwelling Holy Spirit. So how does what we do as moms with our personal time affect how we interact and speak with our kids whenever they’re not around us? Which is tricky because sometimes, with kids, you’re on all day long and you’re like, “Okay, I’m just going to sit here and like watch TV now that they’re asleep for 20 minutes.”
Sally Clarkson Fall apart. Yeah. Well, I think it came from Deuteronomy. We oftentimes in the Christian world talk about, “Hear, O Israel. Hear the Lord is God.” It’s called the Shema in Jewish culture. And it basically starts out with “You shall have the Lord your God with all your heart,” so on and so forth. And then people oftentimes read the passage where it says, “Speak to your children in the morning and at noon and at bedtime and all the times in between.” But they forget that one little phrase where God said, “and these words are to be on your heart.” And whatever we rehearse inside of ourselves is what our children are drawing from. Whatever we invest in our souls is— you know, I feel like if you look at a pitcher of water or whatever, once it’s all poured out, it’s gone. And I realized over the years that in order for me to have God’s word in my heart, so that when the kids come to me, it’s right there for them to draw from, just little by little, I have to be storing up the Word of God in my heart. I need to be contemplating it. I’ve been in a couple of situations lately where I’ve thought, “Somebody is really irritating to me.” And so I went to the word of God and it talks about forgiving 70 times 7, and let your conversation be seasoned, as it were, with salt, so that you may add grace to the hearer. And so as we would be talking to our kids, I would say, I am so irritated at this situation, but I was reading today, and I saw these words and I thought, “What does it mean to always give grace to someone? What do you think that means?” And so it would be a part of my heart, but it would also be on my heart so that I would have something to share with my child about a very relevant situation that they were really well aware of. So it’s more of an organic process. But God did say, “Let my words be on your heart.” It says in—we all know this verse, but “Thy word have I hid in my heart that I may not sin against Thee.” So think that these living words that we—even if you just do five minutes a day—they store up over many years and it gives you ways to address whatever’s happening in life.
Lisa Bass Right. So I like that you said, “I’m irritated with this person, but—” and then you have something to go along with it because so many times it for me, it stops at, “I’m irritated.”
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Lisa Bass Well, that leads me to talk about distraction, because this requires that you are present with your children. Even with being a homeschool mom, you can be present without actually being present. I think that’s what our generation struggles with the most. It’s hard to actually exchange words even if there aren’t activities and plans. We’ve been very intentional about keeping all of our schedules clear so that way we have this time together. What would you tell moms struggling with the use of technology? I mean, without— I mean, you could just say, “You need to really cut down on that.” But are there any— I don’t know. It’s such a struggle for moms these days because it’s just right there and it’s so easy to get sucked in.
Sally Clarkson You know, I think if you can schedule it in— I know that may seem funny, but like if you can have, you know, at the bottom of the hour, I’m going to take three minutes or whatever. Instead of doing it all the time.
Lisa Bass Yeah.
Sally Clarkson Or have your own system, whatever that is. But I feel like they did this study where they had this little baby, probably a toddler or something, but they held the toddler and they walked through a grocery store and they said, “We don’t want anyone to look at the toddler. No matter what, don’t make eye contact.” And literally within three minutes, the negative hormones were starting to rise in the baby’s little heart. And the baby started crying. And the baby started getting agitated and upset. And there are many studies on this now. It’s really fun to explore some of these things. But children— we have eyes for a reason. Children don’t just respond to a voice. They respond to your eyes. I think that when I want my husband to pay attention or when I want a friend to pay attention or my adult children who are my best friends now, if they’re kind of going, “Uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh,” but they’re looking at their phone. I feel totally ignored. And I think that if we understood and believed—which I think is so true—that to really have an impact on someone, they have to feel loved, they have to feel seen, they have to feel heard. And the ways that we really pass on— if we want to pass on values or faith, we can’t ignore the fact that children want us to touch them, to look in their eyes, to articulate affirmation. So I think it’s not so much— and this is kind of my philosophy in parenting, too. Sometimes if you say, “Don’t do that” to a child, it doesn’t work. But if you say, “We’re going to do this,” or in other words, if you focus on what can I do? Like if you could say, “I may not be able to break my total habit, but three times an hour I’m going to touch my child or look at their eyes or say, ‘How are you doing on that project,’ or ‘That looks so interesting. Are you enjoying it?'” If we would just say—even three to five times an hour—ask a question, speak to them, look in their eyes, touch them. In other words, don’t be legalistic because that makes you feel like a failure when you can’t totally follow that. In other words, make a plan forward. What are three or four or five things you can do an hour? And then when you practice those things, it becomes a relational habit for you even— a lot of moms say, “My parents didn’t parent me this way. I don’t know how to do it.” And so having doable goals really, really helps accomplish the values that you want to have. So just make goals that are.
Lisa Bass Yeah. Stuff to do as opposed to stuff to like take away, like I’m going to— because even if, like, for example, last fall I got rid of my smartphone for five months.
Sally Clarkson Wow.
Lisa Bass Which was great, but when I’m at home, I have a laptop. So even though I got rid of my smartphone, that did not mean that I was doing the things I wanted to do with my time. And that’s ultimately why I decided to get it back. So I’m like, okay, I still have to put in place some habits because just removing the smartphone didn’t really make any difference for me. I needed to put some healthier habits in its place because I have a laptop which is just a really big smartphone. And so, yeah, I think putting in things that you want to actually do is a lot more of a profitable way to do it.
Sally Clarkson It’s kind of like in football, you know, they say the best defense is an offense. I don’t know why that came to my mind because it’s absent in my life over here.
Lisa Bass Yeah, it makes.
Sally Clarkson If you can say I’m going to do— you can do three things or you can do five things. It’s just that you may not be able to say, “Absolutely not” when your phone is dinging or you know somebody is supposed to call or there’s— whatever it is. But if you add little things, little steps, they become habits.
Lisa Bass Yeah, that makes sense. I think in your book, you said that you were— were you raised this way, but Clay wasn’t? I think that’s what I read.
Sally Clarkson Not really. Neither of us were raised this way. I do have a memory of my mom sitting me down once in my life. I’m sure she did it more than once. We’re so hard on our parents, aren’t we?
Lisa Bass Oh my gosh, I know. I hope my kids aren’t half as hard, right?
Sally Clarkson Oh, my kids have been occasionally hard. I do remember a couple of things that she told me that she was so serious about it and she didn’t normally do that. So I do remember a couple of things that she said. But in general, Clay and I feel like words give leadership. They give children a confidence of where they’re going and how to get there. And oftentimes we leave our children without leadership. In other words, when I had my hip surgery done, if the surgeon had said to me, “Sally, I am going to nail a tent peg into your leg, and it’s going to hurt a lot. It’s going to hurt for 12 weeks, and it’s going to be hard for you to walk. And this is what you should expect.” You know, it would have helped me. But instead, he just said, “Ah, it’ll be no time till you’re walking.” Well. I’m kind of a neurotic person, so I thought “no time” was like at the end of the week. He didn’t tell me, “This is what’s going to happen. This is where you’re going, and this is how we’re going to get there.” And I think a lot of times we just assume our children should know things. But what they really need is for us to contemplate, “How do I show them where we’re going and the steps it’s going to take to get there so that I’m not just nagging them for not knowing and reading my mind for things I’ve never told them?”
Lisa Bass Right. Yeah. That can be applied with marital relationships as well. Probably even more so.
Sally Clarkson Yeah.
Lisa Bass So in your book, you talk a lot about RVEs, which stands for Reductionist Verbal Encounters, which is basically the only interaction or verbal interactions between families being logistical, which I took to mean like, “You need to be ready with your jersey at 5:00. Grab your shoes. Go to bed. Grab your plate. Put your plate in the sink.” Those, like, logistical things. It happens with schedules that are too packed, whether it be from obligations inside the home or outside the home. How did you all balance activities whenever your kids were young?
Sally Clarkson You learn the hard way, don’t you? I remember we had moved to this little place in Texas, and every single person that we knew had their children in a basketball team. It was basketball season. And, I mean, my children were really young: three, five and seven or something like that. And so what we found out is that basketball was Monday and Wednesday for this age, Tuesday and Thursday for this age, Wednesday and Friday for this age. And so it lasted about, oh, I don’t know, maybe five days, because then the kids all got chickenpox and then they all got encephalitis, and then they all had burst eardrums. I mean, it was kind of one of those crazy— I thought, “I am never doing sports again.” It wasn’t that I was against the sports, but I had too many kids to do all the things. And so we decided as a family, every child could pick one activity to be involved in, and that was it. For a period of time when they were little. And so an automatic— and it was great if the activities that they chose were the same one, like a choir or class or whatever. And obviously that wasn’t a legalistic thing, but I felt like the amount of distraction that I had in my life from having to get the things together and the lessons together and get there on time and get them in the classes. I just thought, I don’t want to spend my whole life going, “Hurry up, hurry up, hurry up.”
Lisa Bass Right.
Sally Clarkson You know, and it’s different at different ages. You know, if your kid is in AWANA— we did our kids in AWANA until— I know we did each of them two years. And so then we went on to something else. But I do think that the biggest impact we had on our children was in the day-to-day routines, the day-to-day rhythms, the morning devotion, the evening blessing, the read-aloud times right after breakfast, the chores that they had to do that we kind of had instilled in them. And any activity that totally disrupts your life—or if you have too many days in a row of disruption—automatically means that you lose the benefit of training them through the rituals of daily life. Does that make sense?
Lisa Bass Oh, yeah, that makes sense. Since it’s been fall, we’ve had so many activities just pile on. You’re not even sure which one you should get rid of. But we don’t even have any normal evenings anymore. You know, we had them. But then now all of a sudden, there’s something going on just about every evening. And that erases that. Any routine you had for the evening is now going to have to be gone till the next season. So it’s a hard one to try to figure out what to prioritize.
Sally Clarkson Well and I don’t want to put any legalism on people, because obviously when your kids get older— and then what’s really hard is when you have older ones and the younger ones because you realize—
Lisa Bass That’s where we are. Yeah.
Sally Clarkson That the younger ones are never going to get the same raising that the older ones did.
Lisa Bass Yeah. In a lot of ways.
Sally Clarkson Yeah. And so, you adjust. You try to be idealistic. You do the best thing you can. But I think when you have a family-centered life and you really work on that and you work on your— like for us, a key thing was mealtime every night. You know, that we were— mostly except for exceptional— we didn’t have a lot of evening activities, just AWANA. But if you have meals together every night, you’re creating a verbal environment. An environment of friendship, of relationship, of spirituality. And also we had Sunday morning, we called them Sunday morning feasts. We wanted our children to like going to church because it was sometimes hard for us to find an adequate church. And so I would always make— like somebody asked my daughter, Sarah, “Why are you all believers?” And she said, “I think it was because of the French toast and butter pecans.”
Lisa Bass I put that quote in a YouTube video and a reel, that quote from your book, your daughter saying that, yeah.
Sally Clarkson And now our boys, you know, when they were all wide over the world— which they still are, but they would all say, “I can’t wait to come home.” And we’d say, “What do you want to come home to?” And they said, “It’s all sitting around the table and eating and talking forever as friends.” And so I think that there’s something about meals and lighting the candles and laughing and giggling and talking that really does knit hearts together. But it’s also that verbal environment, asking questions. “Have you seen a good movie? What did you think of that? I don’t know if I liked it.” You know, I mean, really asking for their opinions, asking what they thought about a world issue, what they thought about— you know, what do they think about the scripture? But just it kind of communicates to them, “I like who you are. I like how you think. I value your opinion. And let’s eat some more.” We are all hobbits. We eat all the time.
Lisa Bass Yeah. I love cooking. I love eating. Thankfully, I love it because I have seven kids and I do cooking for my business. So it’s kind of good that I actually enjoy it.
Sally Clarkson I love that you do. I love to watch you.
Lisa Bass Thanks. Yeah. Well, that actually brings me to the next thing I want to ask you about, which is this day and age— I think I’m a millennial mom. I’m pretty sure that my age falls in that. I don’t know. I was born in ’85. But we have a problem that I don’t feel like is addressed very much. And maybe it’s just— I don’t think it’s unique to just content creators. I think it’s unique to everybody. But when we create anything beautiful, we feel that we have to share it with the world. And I’m sure that you remember a day when you created a beautiful table setting or cut flower arrangement, candles, elaborate meal that you just shared it with your family as opposed to feeling like you had to put it out on Facebook or Instagram. I don’t even know what I’m exactly asking, just except for like, do you feel like there are boundaries that young moms should put into place for things that are sacred and private or is— you know, like is that— I feel guilty sometimes about— and I cook plenty of times without showing anything and I’m doing it more and more intentionally. But something about doing this for other people almost makes me feel like it’s not being done—or in my kids’ eyes—not being done just for them. Because well, I’m killing two birds with one stone.
Sally Clarkson It’s such a good question. And again I don’t want to give any kind of a legalistic answer, but even all my adult kids now, they don’t want me to take any pictures of the grandkids. They even say, “I don’t want to be on your podcast. I don’t want to be on your Instagram.” I mean, there are 1.2 of my children that do like it depending on the day. But I do think that, again, setting limits and saying, “I only need this many pictures, and I’m going to make this time to do it. I’m not going to make every event,” because your children will grow up to resent it. You know, I had to be so careful, and even now I don’t talk about what I do with my kids. None of us do. We’re all writers, and there’s no way we read each other’s books. I mean, we would just have to be sitting and reading all the time.
Lisa Bass Really?
Sally Clarkson Yeah.
Lisa Bass I guess there’s so many of them, but that’s surprising to me, I guess. I don’t know. It’s a unique situation you’re in. I don’t have any way to compare it to know.
Sally Clarkson Well, I think my kids just wanted me to be me. They wanted me to be normal mama who sat on the floor and played Legos. And I often think of this verse, “What does it profit a man to gain the world and lose his soul?” And you know, I don’t know how old your children are, but children will become teenagers, and there is a very difficult time period when kids are trying to figure out this secular world and there are a lot of nagging voices that come in, and opinions that we don’t want them to have. And it’s one thing to try to put your children off or control them when they’re little. It’s another thing to realize that they are going to become young adults and they want you. They want authentic you. They don’t want famous you.
Lisa Bass That makes sense. Yeah.
Sally Clarkson And they’re not going to care a whit about famous you when they’re a little bit older. You know, my kids they don’t care about did you get a book contract? They don’t care. We don’t talk about it. We don’t even promote it. And so I, kind of for myself—everybody has a different life—but I’ve given up a lot of what I could do. There’s a few things I do, and my assistants do it for me most of the time, because I just thought, “I want my life to be more about”—I mean, over a period of many years—”I want to have had authenticity. I want to have considered them as human beings that I was shaping, I was shaping for eternity. I wanted to be sure that I made my priorities my priorities, which was I wanted to reach their heart with a biblical worldview, with the organic sense of the creativity and love of Christ.” And that required so much time and attention. And then when they were teenagers, they just wanted to talk for hours and hours before the toddler got up at 5:00. And so I think that, again, planning your little escapes and letting everybody know it, “This is my time,” you know, but not making everything in your life about you. Because if they don’t get the attention from you that they long for, they will seek it out wherever they can find it.
Lisa Bass Right. Yep.
Sally Clarkson And that’s just a reality that we learned with all of our teenagers. You know, that there’s no substitute. We would like to think there is, but there’s no substitute for present relationships. So you can do things, just schedule it in, and only do that. Resist taking a picture of everything. My husband says, “Why do you take a picture of every single thing we eat?” And then I’ll go, “Oh okay, I’ve been doing too much.”
Lisa Bass If you are listening to this podcast, you likely are interested in self-sufficiency and old fashioned skills for a country lifestyle like we’re talking about here. If that is the case, I want to introduce you to the School of Traditional Skills. This is something that I have the opportunity to be a part of. Last April, a camera crew came here to our farmhouse and shot an entire class on fermenting vegetables. That same camera crew led by the Homesteading Family—so, Josh and Carolyn from the Homesteading Family—went on to film with Joel Salatin to talk about reclaiming pasture, talked about meat chickens with Justin Rhodes, gardening, pork curing, keeping milk goats, all different types of topics when it comes to gardening, from raised beds to extending the season. You can find all of this over at the School of Traditional Skills by using my link bit.ly/FarmhouseSkills. This is a membership based school where you can access all of these classes, and they’re going to continue adding classes. They have, I think—I forget how many they have planned per year—but they’re going to continue to add experts and new skills that you will have access to. So everything you need to know, they are deep dives. So when they came over, we went deep into fermenting vegetables, into troubleshooting. The benefits, the tools, the problems you may have, everything. And all of the rest of the classes have that same level of deep dive and then also very high production level. I’ve never had this many cameras and lights in my kitchen, so they’re very beautifully done classes that are packed full of information. Again, you can go over to the School of Traditional Skills by visiting bit.ly/FarmhouseSkills and check out the very impressive list of classes, everything from Sally Fallon Morrell, who founded the Weston A. Price Foundation who wrote Nourishing Traditions to Joel Salatin and Melissa Norris, Anne from Anne of All Trades. There are so many experts that are already over there that you can learn from in these very high quality classes. I will love to see you over there.
Lisa Bass Yeah, I have started that this year. Actually my husband and I sat down and we had a little meeting about how we were going to structure this whole upcoming school year, which we’re currently in obviously. We have four kids who are technically school age, and then we have three younger ones. And we made it to where I have office hours, and I’ve already found the temptation of like— like this morning I made a breakfast pizza with sourdough and just it had a lot of— it just looked good, you know, it’s a good thing that I could have shared with my Instagram and I was like, “No, I’m not doing. It is not my work time.”
Sally Clarkson We all understand this.
Lisa Bass Yeah. And it just seems so innocent because I could quickly take a photo or video of it and then I would have something to put out on my stories or my reels today. But I just don’t want them to think that everything I did— because I made the pizza without thinking about Instagram. It was only after the fact that I was like, “Oh, I should put this on Instagram.” But then to them, are they going to think that literally everything I did was for the Internet, but then they happened to be there to get to enjoy it afterwards. And that’s not what I want to do because for me it’s usually the opposite of that, but they don’t know that. And yeah, we’re coming into the teen years now. We have one teenager and we have six more on deck. So we’re going to be in it for a long time.
Sally Clarkson Well, and have you ever found that while you’re taking that picture of the pizza, by the time you’re through, somebody has spilled this, done that, they’re in a fight.
Lisa Bass They’re loud and it’s supposed to be a nice little shot that doesn’t have— yeah.
Sally Clarkson But I do think that a lot of times what young moms don’t understand is someday it will come back to bite them.
Lisa Bass Yeah. Okay.
Sally Clarkson I hate to say that, but I really had to realize that I needed to listen to my teens. I needed to— and my kids now as adults— what I do and how I work is just for me, and Clay and I talk about it because we work together, but we don’t ever talk about it at home because they want me, they don’t want famous me or— you know, not that I’m famous. But you know what I mean.
Lisa Bass Yeah, no. Yeah that makes a lot of sense to me, and it’s relatable to me.
Sally Clarkson And your little ones really do need constant, “You may never use your hand for hitting,” you know, like, “Come here, look at mommy’s eyes.” You know, they just need that constant training so that when they’re older, you’ve already got their heart. There’s no time like the present.
Lisa Bass Yeah. Yeah.
Sally Clarkson I hope that doesn’t sound too hard, but I didn’t have anybody around telling me.
Lisa Bass No, no, it’s something that personally I’ve already been convicted of. It’s just sometimes we need other people to confirm what seems like something that’s innocent enough. But you already know it. You’ve already thought those things. And so for me, having— we already did this, we set out these office hours, and that was to be no photos or videos taken outside of those, which is not what I’m used to doing. I’m used to sharing a lot of things in real time. So it’s already something that’s on my radar, but it’s tricky. And with you, with your work, you wrote books while your kids were like younger, right?
Sally Clarkson Oh, yeah. I actually didn’t start writing my books till I was 44.
Lisa Bass Okay. Yeah.
Sally Clarkson And I mean, I got married older, and then I had three children, three miscarriages, and then I had Joy at 42.
Lisa Bass Okay.
Sally Clarkson Yeah. So I actually wrote my books— I hate to tell you this, but I would get up at 4:30 in the morning, sometimes 5:00, and I would write for an hour or two, and then Clay would make the breakfast, get the kids up, kiss them, do whatever. And then I would be available from 7:45 on. So I separated when I wrote my books from the rest of the day, it kind of gave me a good separation. I even went to this little French cafe that had little flowers and candlelight. And so for an hour and 15 minutes, I had the most civilized time. It was really fun. Best coffee in the world. And then, of course, when a lot of other women were going out with her friends on Saturday morning, he would take the kids out somewhere, and I would have a couple of hours. So I was working when maybe other people were getting together. And it’s not that I didn’t get together with friends, but I had to be very disciplined to separate my work life. That was just me. There are so many ways that God allows us to have freedoms, but there’s also wisdom. And if you don’t apply wisdom first, then their— the thing is, the older kids get, the more they will tell you what you’ve done. At least for me.
Lisa Bass Oh, man. Yep. I know that moms always tell you when you have little toddlers that the teenage years and all of those years are challenging in their own ways. And I 100% already believe and know that because when they were little, you just take them along with you. You just put them in the car, you go. And nobody has any opinions. They might fight, but that’s about as bad as it’s going to get.
Sally Clarkson They think you’re perfect and queen. You know, they follow you.
Lisa Bass Yeah. No, that’s all very good, just maybe hard for some people to hear. But also I think that in the long run, just what we need to hear because it’s a unique challenge that we all have. I think almost— I don’t even know what percent, but a lot of people my age are trying to build something from their home because you can. It’s just possible for everyone to do that. And in a lot of ways, it’s good if you know where to stop it. So I’m at this place where I can fit all of my work in some nice little naptime hours throughout the week. It’s just a matter of how much more do I selfishly go for?
Sally Clarkson There’s always more you could do. And it’s more interesting than washing one more dish. It is just more interesting.
Lisa Bass Yeah, it is. And it depends on personality. You know, I have a very driven personality, and so it takes some restraint—
Sally Clarkson Yeah, I do too.
Lisa Bass Yeah, I know you do—to just realize there’s more I could do in the world’s eyes, but what good is it going to be? You know, what will this profit me?
Sally Clarkson I feel like, even as I look back, I gave up many years of when I could have been more influential. Because I think one thing that somehow the Lord kept me going on, but keep your eye on the prize. Define it. What is it you’re trying to do? What is the most important thing? What do you spend your heart thinking about? What do you spend your life thinking about? Because I look at Christ, and he came with no stately form or majesty that we should look upon him. I mean, he didn’t even come as a leader or as a politician or as a wealthy person.
Lisa Bass Influencer.
Sally Clarkson Yeah, exactly. And he’s the God of the whole universe. And he decided, this is what I want to model to people. I am humble and meek. Learn from me, and I am all about being personal and being present and loving the people that I’m with. And so even in that, I would have one more quiet time, then I’d be convicted and I’d go, “What does it look like to be personal today because I want to have these kids forever?” So I think just keeping your goal in front of you.
Lisa Bass Right. That sounds so simple, but it’s so important. And I love that in your books, you talk about putting a lot of that creative energy and that ambition into your family. So it wasn’t like you just— you know, this meant that you were always on the floor playing Legos, but you were making a beautiful meal or creating a tablescape or maybe sewing some clothes. Like that’s something that I used to do a lot—before I shared it with the internet—was sew. And now I don’t really have a lot of time for that, like sewing my daughters’ dresses. And they still wish I did, but I’m doing other things.
Sally Clarkson Yeah, you are.
Lisa Bass You can still put all of that creative energy into that without having to always share it.
Sally Clarkson Yeah. And also everything has a cost. Everything that you do has a cost. And I always kept thinking over the years, eventually just make sure that the priorities that you do choose are the priorities that matter. Because there is a point at which I realize I can’t do everything. Everything has gotten so big, including 60 hours of driving with each child so they could get a license. You know, there are things that add to your life, and so it’s just kind of a constant reevaluating, praying, thinking. And nobody’s perfect. Nobody does it perfectly, but just continuously reviewing your ideals and how to make it work this season and how to make it work next season.
Lisa Bass Yeah, and that’s actually one of the questions I was going to ask you, and I think we’re going to have to skip a few questions because I’m obviously just going to talk your ear off. But whenever you were a younger mom and each season, like you mentioned, things change with activities or with new babies or one child needing to do driving practice, like you said. Did you and Clay sit down and have meetings on a regular basis, like where you set out new expectations and new plans and the goals that you’re going to have?
Sally Clarkson You know, every marriage is so different. Like I did the lion’s share of all the home education, the books, everything like that. But he would share devotions at night or on the weekend or, you know, he did his own things. But we did about every six months, we would go out for a day, get somebody to help with the kids, and we would look at our schedule, our plans, our goals, our work and try to come up with a livable plan because we had a pretty complex life, but it helped for us to be on the same page because it taxed both of us. I mean, our lives and our ideals was something that both of us had to be committed to. And so that would give me a chance to tell him what was working for me or how I was feeling or whatever. But it did help to have regular planning times every six months or so, like January and September.
Lisa Bass Mhm. Yeah. That’s about when we feel like we need it to. Although I feel like we’re already ready to revisit a few things even though it’s been I think a month. It was about August that we had like a— we planned it. We’re having a serious sit down, like this whole summer has gotten out of control. We’re going in a million different directions. We need to rein everything in. We don’t know who’s doing what and we need to figure this out. And so we came with our notebooks ready. And we’re still doing well, but I feel like we need a little check-in maybe once a month, just like a mini meeting would be really helpful for us.
Sally Clarkson Oh, we did that, too. We did that, too. But, you know, I think some seasons are just harder than others, and you have to keep adjusting because the older your children get, the more they will have things that they have to do outside. And then your little ones still want you to do all the little things. So I think you’re in a really hard season, so you’re probably doing a lot better than you think.
Lisa Bass Well, and sometimes, though, I wonder, is this really a hard season or am I overcomplicating things that shouldn’t be? You know, I do think we are in a hard season since we do have seven kids and all that good stuff. But I don’t know if that’s just going to be like a forever hard season.
Sally Clarkson Yeah. I’m still waiting for it to be over, but anyway.
Lisa Bass But yeah, there’s ways to make it not as hard.
Sally Clarkson No, I’m really not. I’m loving it. But I thought that my mentoring would be over. And there’s so few people to support my children’s values in their world, and they’re all in secular arenas. And so I feel like I’m—even now—
Lisa Bass You’re as on as you ever were.
Sally Clarkson Yeah, I need to be the voice. I bribe them and then I’m the voice. You know, “Do you want to go out to dinner? Because I have something to tell you.” I’m kind of teasing, but they do long for that close relationship that you spent your whole life developing, and they do become your best friends, which has really been a blessing to me.
Lisa Bass Yeah, I’m really planning on it. I was telling my sister— we both have a lot of boys. We have ten boys between the two of us.
Sally Clarkson Wow, that’s a lot of boys.
Lisa Bass Yeah. In a row. We had girls first, and then we had all boys. So we’re trying to figure out how we’re going to get them to come around all the time. And we figured food was going to be the best way to do it—with their wives.
Sally Clarkson Food and competition or a game or something. I don’t know.
Lisa Bass That’s true. That would definitely work. Competition of some kind. All right. So the book is Giving Your Words. This is officially out now, correct?
Sally Clarkson It’s really funny because they printed it more quickly than they thought. Usually a book doesn’t come out until its launch date, which is October 18th or something.
Lisa Bass Okay.
Sally Clarkson But there are some places, oddly, that carry it. And so it’s not supposed to be out.
Lisa Bass Okay.
Sally Clarkson But a number of people have it. I sent it to you and a few other friends and stuff, but it’s really not supposed to be out yet. But you can order it. And some places send it early. I don’t know why.
Lisa Bass Oh, cool. Yeah, good.
Sally Clarkson First time it’s ever happened in 27 books.
Lisa Bass Yeah, yeah. And I can highly recommend many of your other books. We’ve read Awakening Wonder, Wholehearted Child. I love the Lifegiving Home. So make sure to go check out Sally Clarkson. All you have to do is just Google her name, and you’ll find her books. And again, thank you so much for joining me. This has been very encouraging and it’s just been a great conversation. So thanks again.
Sally Clarkson Well, I just loved being with you, and I just love watching you online. It’s just so much fun because I used to cook like you cooked. And now that there’s one or two people at home at night, it’s just a whole different thing. So I taste through what you do.
Lisa Bass Well, thank you.
Sally Clarkson Thanks for having me.
Lisa Bass All right. Well, thank you for listening to this episode of the Simple Farmhouse Life podcast. I loved talking with Sally. I found this interview so encouraging, so much that I want to take away and almost relisten to this again in a few months whenever things wear off and you forget why you set out with intention for the goals that you originally set out. And she shared so much wisdom from someone who is on the other side of what a lot of us are currently going through. And just she has so much wisdom to share. And I felt like that was a really good interview. All right. Well, thanks for listening, and I’ll see you in the next episode of the Simple Farmhouse Life podcast.