“…And that’s why I never read parenting books anymore.” – Recently spoken by a dear friend and mother of four.
We had been discussing the particular challenges we were facing raising teenagers. My friend is a diligent mom who takes seriously the calling of raising children. Why had she sworn off reading books that promise healthier, well-adjusted and happy children? I knew the answer without further probing. I felt similarly. After two decades of parenting, I know I should be more ______ (you fill in the blank with your “should be;” patient or demanding, laid-back or scheduled, creative and fun or thoughtful and serious), but at the end of the day, regardless of the books I’ve read and the podcasts I’ve listened to, I’m still stuck with me. Which often feels defeating. Which is why my friend doesn’t read parenting books anymore. She’s tired of feeling defeated.
For those of us who face similar challenges in parenting, how do we seek parenting advice that is timeless and life-giving, not trendy and guilt-inducing? Our generation of parents, unlike any who’ve come before us, gorges on endless information, yet we’re starving for wisdom. Artist Makoto Fujimura, when discussing the difference between works of art that last for centuries versus those that are popular for a brief period of time, poses the five-hundred-year question: “What is the five-hundred-year question? Well, it’s a historical look at the reality of our cultures, and asking what ideas, what art, what vision affects humanity for over five hundred years. It’s the opposite of the Warholian 15 seconds of fame.”
Perhaps the same question should be asked of raising children. A multitude of blogs and books and parenting podcasts are reminiscent of Warhol’s 15 seconds of fame. The messaging is bright and shiny and “all the cool (adult) kids” are quoting them. But what is the parental wisdom parallel to those works of art which impact the far-reaching future? Is it possible to sit under the teaching of someone who speaks words which are hopeful and eternal? Teaching that inspires rather than leaves us feeling defeated?
I’m grateful to say that Clay and Sally Clarkson’s latest book, The Lifegiving Parent, is an affirmative answer to the five-hundred-year question. The wisdom and principles examined are rooted in eternal truths.
How do we seek parenting advice that is timeless and life-giving, not trendy and guilt-inducing? Julie Silander
The Lifegiving Parent is the third book in the Clarksons’ “Lifegiving” trilogy. The common thread woven throughout all three books is a winsome, hopeful, scripture-based invitation to create a home that offers life to all who enter. The first two books address the heart of the home and the ministry of gathering around the family table. Both books inspire. Both books give practical advice. This third book is no exception. However, The Lifegiving Parent is more devotional than conversational. I’d recommend reading with a journal and a pen in hand to take notes for further reflection. It’s a book seasoned with deep theological truths that are best savored in small bites.
Perhaps this statement in the introduction of The Lifegiving Parent best sums up the heart of the book:
“At the core, lifegiving parenting is less about what you do and more about who you are—a child of the living God who is connected with Him and is ready to share that life with your children so that they may know Him too.”
Each chapter focuses on a different aspect of parenting, including Numbering Your Child’s Days, Nurturing Your Child’s Spirit, Guarding Your Child’s Heart, Renewing Your Child’s Mind, Strengthening Your Child’s Faith, Shaping Your Child’s Will, Cultivating Your Child’s Character, and Forming Your Child’s Imagination. Clay explores the theological basis and practical application for each topic, then Sally shares a personal reflection of how that particular element played out in their family.
I was fortunate enough to encounter the Clarksons’ writing when my children were very young. It’s not hyperbole to say that they’ve had an indelible impact on the shaping of our family. Although our older two children are grown and our youngest three are teenagers, the wisdom that Clay and Sally share is no less significant when relating to our adult children than it was when we were parenting toddlers. I’m confident that the truth, grace, and practical advice offered will be just as relevant when our children—and our grandchildren—become parents. To answer Mako’s “five-hundred-year question,” The Lifegiving Parent has the potential to impact families, and in turn the cultures in which they live, far into the future.
Parenting is a joy and a privilege. It can also be depleting and disheartening—particularly when I’ve exhausted all my resources and still feel inadequate. However, The Lifegiving Parent reminds us that coming to the end of ourselves is where true life begins. As we rediscover the one source of joy, wisdom and life, we are renewed and able to offer that life to our children. The Clarksons remind us that the essence of parenting is, indeed, “One beggar showing another beggar where to find bread.”