Spending the season of Advent cultivating an atmosphere of Savior-centered conversation is a goal many of us mamas have, which can honestly feel a little counter-cultural during the weeks before Christmas when the world around us is spinning with gharish decorations and messages of materialism under the guise of incredible sales your holiday can’t exist without. In Cindy Rollins’ book Hallelujah: Cultivating Advent Traditions With Handel’s Messiah, we are encouraged to keep things simple, humble, doable. She writes, “I highly recommend that you do not complicate it too much… Advent is a time of anticipation and joy. What I love most about using Messiah as an outline for the season is that it is just so simple.”
For this paideia conversation, Melissa and Jenn get to visit with Cindy Rollins to talk about the changing dynamics of life seasons from year to year while seeking to cultivate the foundation of a family culture which fosters familiarity, community, and anchors us in Christ. Cindy encourages us that “we do all these things, and we want to be faithful, but it’s Christ that gives the increase.”
While you are wrapping Christmas gifts or taking a walk on a crisp Advent morning, listen in and be encouraged. As Cindy said, “the plodding along as a mom with a family is more important than the actual accomplishing of some great feat of getting it all in during the holidays.”
Links to Resources
Hallelujah: Cultivating Advent Traditions With Handel’s Messiah by Cindy Rollins
Behold the Lamb by Andrew Peterson
Waiting on the Word by Malcolm Guite
Love Came Down at Christmas by Sinclair Ferguson
The Dawn of Redeeming Grace by Sinclair Ferguson
Bright Evening Star by Madeleine L’Engle
Christmas at Thompson Hall by Anthony Trollope
Cindy’s Website, Morning Time for Moms
Melissa: joining me today for this paideia conversation is my cohost Jenn Discher from Paideia Southeast, and our guest today is Cindy Rollins. We invite you into this conversation with us we continue to practice, pursue, and implement paideia.
From Day 1: Isaiah 40:1-5 “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.”
And from Day 25: Revelation 5:12-13 “Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.”
My friends, these are words of the Lord and we give thanks to God.
Today as we get to visit with Cindy Rollins, the author of Hallelujah: Cultivating Advent Traditions With Handel’s Messiah, this is the reason, this is the point. In her book, Cindy says, “this is one thing I appreciate about the liturgical year. When it becomes a part of your family culture, it can have a stabilizing effect. As life swirls around us, we have the familiarity of the same activities, traditions, smells, sounds, and words to keep us anchored. And what better to be anchored to than the Church, the Bride of Christ, and as the Bride of Christ, to Christ Himself.” She also says, “we will straggle through the week after Christmas, celebrating one birthday and the new year, but the major festival of the year is now over. I enjoy a couple weeks of recovery by reading, reading, and reading. We are then all ready to return to normalcy. But not without the memory that we are a Christian family, and we have a Messiah.” I’m delighted to introduce to you today my friend, my mentor, Cindy Rollins.
Cindy, have you met Jenn?
Cindy: have we met, Jenn?
Jenn: you know, we actually did. A few years ago at a CiRCE conference in North Carolina. It was a long time ago.
Cindy: oh okay, I know your name, and I know you’re familiar. But I’m, I have a hard time keeping up with that kind of thing.
Melissa: so, Jenn is working with Heather Tully and some other friends down north of Atlanta doing the Paideia Southeast stuff. So…
Cindy: I know! Okay. That’s awesome.
Melissa: so it’s really fun. And Jenn has been so gracious and we’ve had a lot of fun chatting with some people on this sort of medium. But yeah, you look beautiful, by the way, Cindy.
Cindy: oh, thank you, I need to hear that because I’m having a big birthday this week.
Jenn: that’s right! It’s the sixth! Because I just read it in the book yesterday!
Cindy: yes, I’ve announced it to the whole world.
Melissa: St. Nicholas, right, yeah?
Cindy: yeah, St. Nicholas’ Day.
Melissa: so what are you doing for your birthday?
Cindy: oh I don’t know. I’m just gonna go… well we’re going out to eat somewhere. And we’re having like a birthday here and a birthday there. Just different people, college boys coming home.
Cindy: but some people not. So, my husband’s going to celebrate with me on Monday, and then with my daughter and my mother, and then when the college kids come home we’ll do something with them.
Melissa: yeah! Oh fun! Well, it’s nice to see sunshine in both of your…
Melissa: …both of your rooms. Because I mean, here it’s still dark. And I’m in my closet with my closet door closed.
Melissa: it’s gray, right? It’s the darkest time of the year, and here up north I feel like it’s darker than where you are.
Cindy: yeah, definitely.
Melissa: well thanks for taking some time just to – it’s so nice to see your beautiful smile, but then just to chat for a few minutes this Advent season. So both Jenn and I have been encouraged by your book Hallelujah. I have the, I have this one, but then I also, I realized I still have this one too – oh look at that, Jenn and I have both of them right here. [laughter]
Cindy: I have both too.
Melissa: nice! So, was it just last year in 2020 that the second one came out?
Cindy: yes, it was. We redid it last year. Blue Sky Daisies. And they did a fantastic job on it. I got to upgrade some of the essays, which I’m very pleased about. Got a poem from Thomas Banks, that was really fun. And I just love the new, the new one.
Melissa: yeah, it’s beautiful. It’s beautiful. Well, Cindy, could you take just a moment to briefly introduce yourself and maybe tell us why you wrote this?
Cindy: okay. Well, I’m Cindy Rollins. I’m a mother to, I have nine children who are all grown up. And just about to have fifteen grandchildren, so I’m excited about that. And I wrote Hallelujah because I love the whole Christmas season, and when I first wrote it – when I first started celebrating Christmas with my family, I was coming off Christmas traditions with my, you know, my family of origin where I came from. But I didn’t really know anything about this idea of Advent. But slowly as I read and was thinking and really reading cookbooks, I started to realize that there was a different time of year called Advent that led into Christmas. And I just loved that idea. And I had a little book called, a Lutheran Advent book, that I used, I loved it, I picked it up on some table somewhere. And I used it for years. It was just this little family, it was not that dissimilar to Hallelujah. And we had done that for years. So then you know, I decided, as I was… I don’t know if you’re asking me about the book, or about actually Hallelujah the Messiah and all, the whole shibang, but…
Melissa: well, we can get to the whole shibang, yeah.
Cindy: okay, yeah, so then I just decide, I had made up a little, you know, Hallelujah, Messiah, schedule for my family and we used it every year. And then one day I realized, well, I love this idea of putting this in a book like the little book I used, and I’d like to do that too. So that’s sort of how the book was born.
Melissa: yeah, I love that. Jenn, do you want to ask her about how she’s cultivating – how she did it differently as a mother versus a grandmother?
Jenn: yeah! What does that look like now, Cindy? Do you have any opportunities to cultivate Advent traditions with your grandkids? I don’t know how close you live to some of them. Like how has that transition looked now with most of your kids being out of the house?
Cindy: right. No, not really. I mean, with my grandkids, I gave a few of them a copy of Hallelujah, the older ones, when it came out, the new one. I gave them a copy of it so they could kind of remember it. You know, maybe have that – I signed it just particularly for that child. And I don’t see my grandkids a lot during the holidays. I usually see them either, you know, a couple weeks before or a week after, and, or I visit them. But yeah. I still have college kids that come home for Christmas, so my husband and I just don’t pick up and go. And our house is small. And I wish it was, I wish we had gotten a bigger house. I love my house. But I wish I had a bigger house in a way, because then it would make it more conducive. Now if we all want to get together, we really just basically have to rent something somewhere. So we concentrate a lot on Thanksgiving and then everybody kind of does their own Christmas things. But I do, I do have books and stories, I send them Christmas stuff, I send them Christmas packages, and that sort of thing. And I send them cookies because…
Jenn: aww, well… cookies! That’s great.
Cindy: yes, my love language has always been cookies.
Jenn: that’s awesome.
Cindy: and that’s one way I can… I love that. A couple years ago, one of my grandsons said, oh Cece, you make the best cookies! So I feel like I wear that badge very proudly.
Jenn: oh that’s great. See, I love hearing that the book, the Hallelujah book, was born out of a tradition that you were already doing and sort of compiling on your own. I didn’t know that, and I love that.
Cindy: oh yeah, definitely.
Jenn: do you remember what specifically, what kind of grabbed you and led you to do the Messiah in the first place?
Cindy: I do. I remember that very well because, and it, years and years and years we did it before I even thought of turning it into something to sell to other people. And I love that… the thing is, like, I got up this morning and did the Hallelujah, I did my Hallelujah devotions. And I used, I had to pick up the book and think, what day are we in? As a matter of fact, I was a day behind. So I had to do two parts today which was fine because I had time to do that. But that’s one reason I love it so much. It’s not something that gets you behind. You don’t feel stressed or worried. But we, I one day – it was… so we had all these Christmas devotions that we would do in our family. Morning Time during the whole month of December was always all Christmas the whole time. Reading aloud Christmas books, reading Christmas passages in the Bible. And I would use different Advent materials and they would always be focused on the prophecies concerning the coming of Christ in the future. And as I was listening to Messiah one day, well, I bought a CD of the Messiah which is the St-Martin-in-the-Fields Messiah, and Blue Sky Daisies has a resource page for Hallelujah, so if you’re wondering what Messiah to use, I won’t go into that here because it’s confusing, but go to Blue Sky Daisies, go to their resource page, hit Hallelujah, and you can find that there.
Melissa: I will link that to make it easy.
Cindy: yes. My Messiah had a libretto of the words each day, I mean, it wasn’t days, it was just, this is, this one, this one, this one, this one. And every year I’d be looking over that, and then one day it just clicked with me, well these are the prophecies that we’re doing in these devotions. What if we just did these devotions with the CD? And so I started to just read the Bible passages and play the CD. And of course then the CD became, you know, an Mp3, and then it became a streaming. You can find it all over the place, but it was just – it was just a no-brainer at that point. And really, I just feel like it was the Holy Spirit just bringing a bunch of things together that kind of, in a way that I don’t know, it just kind of all came together and I was just, duh. Well this is, you know, this has already been done by Handel, putting these verses together. And what I also love about Messiah – some people use it for Easter. I mean, you can listen to it all year round.
Cindy: but I like the idea of remembrance. So we remember the things in the past. The prophecies that concern the coming, the first coming of Christ, but Messiah takes us beyond that to remember that we have a future hope in Christ. We’re gonna have a second coming, and it ties us both together so beautifully that Christmas really is a wild celebration of this coming of Christ. Not just that He came, but that He is coming again.
Jenn: I love that!
Melissa: I love that!
Jenn: me too! I did not grow up with Advent at all, and I think the things that I’m most attracted to use for my family are the things that do that: putting Christmas in a broader context of, okay, the past and then His coming, and then the future. So like the Jesse Tree and even Andrew Peterson’s Behold the Lamb, that music, seems kind of in the same family.
Cindy: yeah. Right, and that is – those were some of the resources I was using before. Especially the Jesse Tree stuff, I was using some of that. And then, it was like, oh, this Messiah really fits perfectly in with those ideas.
Melissa: so something you say in Hallelujah… you say, “our family has done this year after year after year so that Messiah is part of our hearts and minds. In addition to this simple method [that you use in the book], I sometimes have the whole oratorio in the background just as a remembrance.” So there’s that word again: remembering. And I love that because it does, it’s just a beautiful way to hold those words and the tune as well in our hearts, in our mind, and have it playing in the background and in the forefront. But you say, “Advent is a time of anticipation and joy. What I love most about using Messiah as an outline for this season is that it is just so simple.”
Melissa: and it’s true! It is. It’s so simple. It’s available everywhere. It is Scripture. It’s familiar and yet when we spend the time to meditate on it, to focus on these details that this book helps us walk through, it’s also profound.
Melissa: but I love that balance of simplicity with the profound. It’s so encouraging.
Cindy: a couple things happen. First of all, music touches our emotions as well as our, you know, the Scripture touches our mind in a way, and the music touches our emotions, and it kind of brings it all together in a very, very simple way so that, you know, we’re not… sometimes we get these devotions for our families and we’re reading these long passages and then, then we’re, you know… the kids, it’s just like, the kids are just uhh, they’re just tuned out. But this is something ongoing so that each year as they’re hearing this same music over and over and over again, and it’s becoming instilled in their hearts, and hopefully it will be tied to some of the joy of Christmas that you have in your family, because joy is a very compelling testimony…
Jenn: I love that there’s a musical element. It is music. But that helps so much with the remembrance. The remembering versus memorizing kind of concept is, I fee like this is more on the remembering – the remembrance end of that. Or not requiring the kids to memorize the songs. We’re just playing them. And we’re doing it year after year, and they throughout the year will sit around chanting all we like sheep, we like sheep! [laughter] Even in the… it just happens… even in the Shakespeare, I mean, other things besides the Messiah that you’ve included in the book, will come to mind for my kids throughout the year.
Cindy: right, right.
Jenn: And I’m not requiring that they memorize any of that. I love that they are. But it’s just this very gentle kind of repetition over that week and then you move on to something else. But then year after year, it builds.
Cindy: amen. And really, that’s the point of memory. The point of memorizing is not so that we get these facts down or we get this word perfect ideas, but that we have something in our heart that flows through and comes out appropriately. And I like to say that it’s available to the Holy Spirit also in the lives of our children to use when needed. We don’t know when that is, and it’s so much more important than, I’ve gotta memorize this passage, you know. We want the passage in our hearts in love, not, oh yeah I remember that time my mom beat me so that [laughter] I could remember this Bible verse.
Melissa: you say in here actually just echoing what Jenn just said. The entire Advent season is one of remembrance. We are remembering the birth of Christ, but we are also remembering that His birth was foretold over and over again in the Old Testament.” And so that’s where you go back to the prophecies. In Isaiah, and I’m trying to think… obviously Isaiah, but is it Micah and…?
Melissa: yeah, Malachi.
Cindy: almost all of the prophets, the psalms, all of Scripture from beginning to end we have… I mean, the entire Old Testament is filled with foreshadowings of Christ and Messiah captures a good portion of that.
Melissa: yeah. Well I was gonna say, the idea of that liturgical year, the Church year – this is the beginning of the year. This is, Happy New Year, Church!
Melissa: but not having grown up with a liturgical aspect, right, to that calendar, to that thinking of this is new year, this is the beginning and yet this is looking forward… What has that looked like to cultivate that for you, not even necessarily in your motherhood, but just as an individual? What’s that like to have that perspective now?
Cindy: well it’s become more and more important to me the older I get. And one of the reasons I believe it’s so important is it ties us to the worldwide church of Christ. That we don’t stand alone. You know, we’re not the last man standing, as you know, Jesus said, God said to Elijah… was it Elijah… when he said, I’m alone left on the earth. The liturgy reminds us that there are people all over the world that follow these traditions and follow this calendar, and that our reading these verses and our, you know, singing these songs at the same time that we are, and we belong to Christ – all of us who call upon the name of Jesus – belong to Christ! And the church calendar just ties us together a little bit, it just gives us a little solidarity. And I love that it does that, and it increasingly important for me. it gives me so much joy. If I get out like the Book of Common Prayer, and I’m reading for the day those verses, to think, I’m not reading these by myself, I’m reading these with other people in the world that are reading these verses today. So there’s – that is one aspect of it. And I think it brings some majesty and some, the idea of worship that, to our lives. I think the church calendar reminds us that it’s not about us, it’s about something far bigger than us. And that, I like it for that reason. Just as I grow older, and -like you- I didn’t come from a tradition that even knew what the church calendar was. I genuinely was reading a cookbook when I, she had all these feast days, and do this do this do this… and that appealed to my heart in some ways. And we see that God has made that in the Bible. He set up this idea that there are days for feasting and there are days for fasting. And those all… because as humans, He’s made us this way, in His image, so I think this very much appeals to our spirits.
Melissa: I like how you remind that there’s the time for both feasting and fasting in Scripture. And I know reading about, sort of the history of Advent, I think you talk about that in the book – how in some traditions, or in some families even – there’s more of a penitential side to Advent. More in line with what a lot of people do with Lent leading up to Easter, Advent can be more of a penitential season of fasting and pondering and putting off the celebration until Christmas Eve. And then focusing on those those twelve days of Christmas. I love that it’s not prescribed, right? That we can use the book Hallelujah in a different way depending on your family, depending on how the Lord is leading that particular household to honor and set aside and make these days special in remembrance. So I love that too. That it can be used in different ways. I happen to use it the same way you do, but I know not everybody does.
Cindy: no. It can be used in different ways, and I, I truly believe that the more simple your traditions are, the more likely they are to get repeated. And that’s gonna give them way more power. The way we complicate it, the less powerful they become because, for one thing, we’re stressed out and worried and we’re trying to get these things in that we can’t. You know, the family things are going to happen to interrupt things. That’s why, it’s – there’s nothing wrong with finishing… like if you get to Christmas and you’re only halfway through, why not just keep going? You can go into January. Excuse me, you can go into February if you want! You know, I think the plodding along as a mom with a family is more important than the actual accomplishing some great feat of, you know, getting it all in during the holidays.
Jenn: well, kind of on somewhat related… Cindy, how do you – how did your Advent celebrations sort of change over the years as you, as your kids started, you know, getting older, leaving home, and maybe kind of like any tips or perspective you might offer in kind of rolling with those changes and the flexibility that’s needed there?
Cindy: yeah. Rolling with change is – I always say: adapting to change is really a key to happiness in life. If you can’t adapt to change, you’re not going to enjoy life at all. Especially as a woman. Because our lives, I believe that in the lives – women’s lives change more drastically often than men’s lives. Men, you know: a man goes and gets a career and spends his life doing it, then he retires and that’s a major change for him. But a woman. You know, she’s nursing, I mean she’s pregnant first, she’s nursing, she’s having children. You know, she’s building a home in the early years and then just about the time she gets that home all perfect and the way she wants it and she’s got Advent going the right way… somebody grows up! And then it has to change again, because it’s a drastic change to lose even one member of a family because everybody’s role changes. And then that person, you know, everybody settles back and then boom! there it is again. And Mom is in the center of all this change. And then she’s caring for her parents and maybe even her husband’s parents, and all these things, and she’s a grandmother. This is just massive change. And sometimes we can feel like there’s something wrong… change often feels wrong to us, because it’s a change, it’s different, and we don’t know how to adapt to it. But adapting to change is really, really important. And accepting the changes as they come, some are gonna be good and some are gonna be bad and some indifferent – just things you have to adjust to – but just knowing that it’s okay if your life looks a little different one year than it does the next. I’ve had seasons where it looked like my nest was completely empty and it was going to stay empty. And right now, out of the blue, three children – two college boys that had lived in apartments downtown ended up moving back home, and my daughter’s here too, so all of a sudden my totally empty nest is now filled with you know, more people. And that’s a change. I mean, I’ loving it, but it is a change, it is – oh, suddenly, I you know, I have to rearrange my schedule to fit the change. And I can’t, you know, I have to be willing to adapt to that. So all of life is like this and we don’t know. For women I feel like it’s much more, life is much more fluid and I just, I know that some changes can feel really hard, and they can feel like you can’t adapt to it. But if you’re all alone, you can still do many of these things. This is where the church calendar comes in. And I was all alone for several Advents, and I was doing these things that reminded me not only of my time with my family but of my primary relationship which is with Christ. And that’s always gonna be there, always gonna be the same. He is changeless. So if we cling to Him, then we can get through all these changes so much better, so much more peacefully than if we’re, like the Bible says, what is it, torn by every wind of doctrine. You know. We can become very fragile and easily pulled to the right or to the left if we’re not centered on the Changeless One.
Jenn: I love that. On a practical note, as you kind of backtrack even from kids leaving the house and just, you know, maybe even like, high school kids getting jobs and schedules looking different, homeschool schedules looking different, and needing to kind of flex there. Did you find yourself flexing to include those kids? Or was it kind of different in different seasons? Would you hold off on the Advent celebrations until they were home? Or how did you, I don’t know…
Cindy: all of that. At first, I was very reluctant to let anything go. Like Morning Time, I was reluctant to let anybody fly away to let anybody change, let anybody go to work. I found myself saying, well we’ll wait until they get home. And then one day I realized, oh, you know, this is the beginning of the end. They’re not coming home. Not all the time. [laughter] So you’re gonna have to adapt here. And I think sometimes it’s okay just to say, you know what, everybody’s not gonna be here for this. It’s better to do a little bit in the morning, maybe with whoever is there, whomever is there. And then just be okay with the fact that, hey, this other, the other child that’s like flown the nest or not available or at work or whatever, is still benefitting from the rhythms of the family even if they’re not there. They see that those rhythms are going on, and that means they’re important. So you kind of just have to take solace in that, and then…
Jenn: that’s sweet.
Cindy: …eventually when they start their own homes and their own families, they’ll find those things coming back.
Melissa: I feel like that addresses that idea of purposed cultivation of family traditions, and the blessing that that is. I mean, you can try to do all the things, you can throw it all out there and see what sticks.
Melissa: but I feel like that idea of purposely cultivating, purposely planting and seeing what the Lord brings from the harvest… I feel like that’s what you’re talking about.
Cindy: yes, I do too. That you purposefully do these things. And that is, once again, why Messiah is so perfect for this season. Because you can easily do this every year and it not grow old, it not become something stale or, you know, it’s not just Mom yakking away in the background about, you know, this and that and the other thing. It’s really centered on Christ, really centered on the Scripture, and the music is beautiful. So it’s a simple tradition that can easily be repeated. Whereas sometimes, I mean, we had years where we were doing whole crafts around the nativity. You know, we make this this day, we make this that day… and those were fun years. But those aren’t the years that are going to be continually repeated year after year after year. Because it would be hard. And it would be inappropriate at times, whereas this is appropriate in every season whether you have an infant in a crib or you’re all alone like me in the mornings with your devotion.
Jenn: I hadn’t honestly thought of that element of it, but it’s true. It is something that you grow into, and it’s age appropriate the whole time! And it also doesn’t get old, I mean, because like you said, it’s straight Scripture. It’s all Scripture, and Scripture never gets old, so that’s – I love that.
Cindy: yeah, living and active. So you can’t go wrong with Scripture.
Melissa: what was your connection with Greg Wilbur, speaking of the connection to the music? Because he talks in the book about the actual listening, what to listen for. What’s your connection with him?
Cindy: he’s my friend. [laughter] And I said, Greg, can you do this? And he said, sure, I’d be glad to. I’ve known Greg a long time. In fact, he was our… we went to Parish Pres in Franklin, Tennessee. It was our church and Greg was the song director at that church. He’s at a sister church to that at this point at Cornerstone, also in Franklin, Tennessee, now. And Greg is a composer, he has written church music, he has several albums that you can get on iTunes of church music -very beautiful church music. We like to listen to his music on Sunday mornings, put him on and listen. But, so, Greg – we had gone to church with Greg, and, I continued knowing him over the years, so I just, he was the first, my first go-to person. Who could do this, who could explain this music? And Greg did that for me. And Greg, we, this summer, I had my moms’ summer discipleship course which I run every summer. And we have a, we always do a composer, we always study a composer during that time. And this year we did Vivaldi The Four Seasons, and Greg – I asked him to do a class on that for during the summer. He came in, he blew that music wide open! I mean, I love the music and the music stands alone. But for someone to explain the way he did, the music was so phenomenal. So he’s just a very talented musician, he understands classical music and he understands church music. So he was just the go-to guy.
Cindy: and he is heavily involved in New College Franklin, which is a great place if you’re looking for somewhere to send your children to school or… that that is a very wonderful place.
Jenn: I’ve enjoyed, I’ve liked his commentary on the, in the Hallelujah book a lot. I don’t read it all aloud to my children but I’ll pull out bits, and it gives them something to look for and when they’re listening, just things to recognize. And their understanding has grown over the years. It’s been neat to see.
Melissa: starting tomorrow we’ll be using little bits of that in our weekly co op for the next few weeks during Advent
Jenn: oh, fun.
Melissa: during our Collective, we’ll be listening to the Messiah and so I’ll be sharing bits from Hallelujah, and specifically sharing some of Wilbur’s perspective in what to look for. So I get to share that a little more broadly
Cindy: that will be great.
Melissa: well, as we wrap this up, what are you reading and listening to besides maybe Hallelujah and the Messiah this Advent season?
Cindy: yeah, this year – so I usually read Malcolm Guite’s – for several years I’ve read Malcolm Guite’s poetry book for Advent, which I love, but I’ve read it now a couple times. And I wanted to go a different, you know, a different direction. So I am, one of the things I’m reading is a Sinclair Lewis – I mean, Ferguson, what’s his name. I mean Sinclair Ferguson. He has two different Advent devotionals that I’ve downloaded to my Kindle. And I haven’t started them yet, but I’m excited about those. Because they’re very, from what I understand, they’re very meaty and full of – I’m like, should I read one this year and read one next year or should I just do both? You know, we’ll see. We’ll see how that goes. I’m also, for fun I’m reading this, our book club is doing Christmas at Thompson Hall and other Stories by Anthony Trollope.
Jenn: oh fun!
Cindy: they’re Christmas stories. So we usually, so we, our book club has done like, one year we did A Christmas Carol, and then Dickens’ The Chimes. And we had run out of Dickens’ stories, we did The Cricket on the Hearth. So we’re like, what can we read? So somebody found these Trollope stories that we’re gonna… Trollope has some Christmas stories, Connie Willis has some Christmas stories. So those are just fun side, a side Christmas reading. I’m gonna read the Madeleine L’Engle Christmas book, which is called… oh I forget what it’s called. But I’m gonna be reading that this year, I’ve actually started it but I don’t know the title of it. So, Bright Evening Star: a Mystery in the Incarnation. So I’m looking forward to that. I like Madeleine L’Engle’s books, and I’m excited to read some of that. So those are a few. I tend to overindulge in Christmas reading during the holiday season, so hopefully! But I have actually pulled out some books that I started last year for Christmas for devotions and didn’t finish, and I’m just gonna – I’m not gonna start over on those books. I’m gonna just pick up right where I left off, and maybe I’ll finish them this year.
Melissa: that’s such a good idea!
Cindy: yeah, because you get discouraged, and then next year you think, I’ll start over, I’ll start over. So you’ve read the first five chapters or something twenty times and never gotten to the end. [laughter]
Melissa: that’s so wise!
Jenn: that’s some good plodding! I love it! [laughter]
Melissa: oh, well this idea of building expectation and anticipation during the Advent season – hope and joy and cultivating tradition – it’s just lovely. And I’m so thankful, not only for you spending the time this morning, but the time that you spent putting together this book and for how you’ve shared stories from your own motherhood. It’s encouraging for those of us who are in these trenches, sitting in our closets with the laundry, and the Christmas presents piled over there. The reason we do these things, the reason is Christ! And it’s connecting not just with our children, not just with this season this year, but with -like you said- the Church at large, and the Church throughout time. Because it’s about our relationship with Christ and what He has done for us. And the Incarnation and that miracle. I just really appreciate you taking the time to chat about all of those things with us this morning, Cindy.
Cindy: well thank you for asking me. I love talking about Advent, so it’s always fun.
Jenn: thank you.
Melissa: yeah – well, Cindy, it’s been a joy actually just to get to know you over the last couple years. And just on a personal note, praying for you and seeing the Lord continuing to work – it’s such a blessing because I think we can get caught up in that idea of here and now. And my kids are all still little; we don’t even yet have a high schooler. But that the Lord is still at work in your motherhood, and I love that. And it’s not about what you do, it’s about what He does.
Cindy: amen. The more, the older I get, the more I’m convinced of that. That it is! We do all these things, and we have to, we want to be faithful, but it’s Christ that gives the increase.
Melissa: well that’s, that’s the thing that I remember… I asked you… I don’t remember the exact question I asked you actually. But your answer to whatever the question was is that God is faithful. Stop. [laughter] Like, full stop. God is faithful. That testimony that He brings through you is a blessing and an encouragement.
Cindy: well thank you. And He definitely is faithful. I know that. This I know!
Melissa: well, Happy Advent, Cindy, and Merry Christmas, and God bless you! We will talk again.
Jenn: thank you.
Cindy: thank you.
Melissa: okay, buh-bye.
You can pick up your own copy of Cindy Rollins’ Advent book Hallelujah: Cultivating Advent Traditions With Handel’s Messiah. It’s published by Blue Sky Daisies and can be found anywhere your favorite books are sold. And you can find Cindy at her website. You can find her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and in her Mere Motherhood Facebook Community Group. Her favorite place to connect with people is in her Patreon Group.
Thanks for joining us today, and thanks for listening in with Cindy as we talked about Hallelujah.
Cultivating an Advent tradition is just one way of cultivating a godly paideia during this particular season with your children, for yourself, and continuing to pursue an atmosphere and a culture of Christ.
And that brings today’s conversation to a close. You can find more conversations on paideia at PaideiaNorthwest.com and PaideiaSoutheast.com for more resources and practical encouragement. Join me again next time for another Paideia Conversation. And in the meantime, peace be with you.
Katie Westenberg joins Paideia Northwest’s Melissa Cummings today in a dialogue about motherhood, family culture, book writing, and resting in the peace of the Lord. Katie will be speaking at the Paideia Northwest conference in one week, and this is a sneak peek into the energy, joy, and passion she will bring to our day of Rest. While all the time sharing about the need for open hands and extra measures of grace, Katie has words of wisdom and perspectives of gratitude which translates into exhortations not to grow weary in the good word of raising children in the nurture, admonition, and enculturation of Christ. From resurrecting picture books in her read aloud rotation to digging in to deep conversation with her teens, Katie tells us what the atmosphere of Christian family life looks like in this current season of their home. To the Kingdom!
Links to Resources
Outdated by Jonathan Pokluda
Becoming Something podcast
Melissa: joining me today for this paideia conversation is Katie Westenberg. We invite you into this conversation with us as we continue to practice, pursue, and implement paideia. All right, joining me now is Katie Westenberg, and we get to enjoy Katie at Rest coming up next month, but in the meantime I get to have a little chat with her and we get to have a conversation about paideia and rest and all of these things from the perspective of motherhood, and also home educators. So thank you for taking the time to join me and have this conversation. I really appreciate it!
Katie: yeah, it’s my pleasure.
Melissa: so first, just tell us about you and where you are, what you do… tell us about your book, just give us a little background on Katie.
Katie: okay. Well I’m from south central Washington, so like the non-Seattle part of the state. Most people – I guess this is kind of local, but it seems like when I say Washington, people just assume Seattle. But it’s kind of different. It’s dry, and there are a lot of vineyards out here. And I grew up really kind of focused and driven, and so just, in this small town where there’s only, I don’t know, maybe only a half a dozen stop lights. And, but I always yearned to leave the small town for the big town, you know. Just the small town girl who wanted something bigger and different, and it was interesting to think about that lately, because I had a great childhood, and great upbringing, great parents who were followers of Christ. My dad was a pastor, so I, you know, I had a great home, but I, it’s interesting that I wanted to go to the big city. So anyway, after high school, I left for college to get a communications degree, and just plans and dreams of a bigger, a separate coastline maybe. A different coastline. And ended up coming back and marrying my high school sweetheart.
Melissa: I love that.
Katie: and so I, yeah, finished up and went a long way. So I really live like ten miles from where I was born, the hospital doesn’t exist anymore but yeah. Traveled far and wide from there. And, but I had that business degree and kind of plans for that, but it wasn’t, you know, shortly we after, we had started having children, we put my oldest in to preschool at the Christian school that we graduated from, had a great experience there, hadn’t really thought anything different until we really started considering homeschooling. And mainly it was just from seeing other people do it well. You know, I had these assumptions of what it might be but when we saw other people do it well, I thought, wow, this might be something to consider. And so then we did the preschool thing, and then came, brought him home because I thought – like everyone – like how bad can you mess up kindergarten? We’ll just try this for kindergarten. And then the babies kept on coming. So now we have four kids – two girls and two boys – the youngest is nine and the oldest is now sixteen, and we’ve just been educating them at home all along, although my oldest is in Running Start now so that’s a little more hands-off. This is the first year where I have someone doing a little something different, but it’s, I guess all in all, just a story of God’s plans being so much better than my own. Which is probably all of our stories down at the base of it.
Katie: and then just in these last few years as they’ve gotten more independent, and my role is probably a little bit less hands-on throughout the day, there’s just been more opportunities to write and speak a little bit, and so God has grown that. And I was able to write a book last year, it came out, well actually I wrote it the year beforehand, it’s a process but it came out last year. And yeah, I just do a little bit along with all my other home duties.
Melissa: yeah, yeah. So, your kids are – three of them, then – you’re homeschooling, and what’s something you love about that right now? Or what’s something that you do with them that you love?
Katie: I love… I just love being a part of all of it. You know, there’s like, inside jokes and relatable moments that come from just being together. Just experiencing life together. Reading the read aloud together, which becomes a joke later on during dinner or whatever. So I just like not missing it, maybe that’s like kind of selfish. But I like not missing any of the moments. Or when the spelling word that was misspelled pops back up at dinner, it’s just the easiest way to teach because I don’t have to think okay, where are they? What do I need to figure out? What do I need to unpack? What do I need to… What do I need to process with them, because that’s not exactly what we agree with? Like I’m here for all of it. And so it just becomes so much more integrated so that’s one thing I really love about teaching them. And even my… so my oldest who does Running Start, that’s all online this year, so he’s here too. So we’re still doing like our Morning Meeting together, he’s still a part of that. And it’s really sweet to hold onto that a little longer.
Melissa: okay, so you’re talking about that sort of integrated… integrated thing, which is very – that comes really naturally to us as homeschool moms, I think. And I was homeschooled my whole, you know, pre-college education. So I’m curious since you went to a Christian school, you said, how do you find that different? That whole integration. Do you think it’s easier? Not that you were the mom when you were the student… but do you think the integration of that is just more organic, more natural?
Katie: yeah, certainly, because you can’t, you can’t ask questions you don’t know to ask. Right? When you don’t know what happened during history class, I can’t like extend that learning at home without, I mean, you could and I’m sure some parents do an excellent job of it.. but it would be a lot of work to constantly know where you’re at, to constantly know what figures you’re studying or where you’re at with math, or… it’s almost when there’s a problem, that’s when you dig in to what’s going on there. So there’s little issues that we’re able to maybe mitigate but at the same time, I think it – our lives are so much more intertwined. And so I just grew up with one brother, and, and that’s different too. When we have two kids of the opposite sex. But I think it seems easier, at least from my limited perspective – obviously I’ve only been a mom once, right, but it seems like it, it’s easier to create a bonded family because there’s so much overlap of life and learning and… and even, you know, the learning that comes from negative experiences when we bump into each other and we’re forgiving and all that stuff. We don’t have much – as they get older maybe it happens a little bit more – but particularly when they’re younger, we don’t have separate lives. We don’t have a separate day you need to tell me about. It’s all of our day, all the time, the good and the bad and the ugly and the processing. So it just seems like it builds a really close family. That’s what I notice the difference being.
Melissa: yeah. I feel like that builds that right into that question of the term, paideia, then. So I don’t know how familiar you are with the term or its roots or its application. What is your familiarity with that Greek word, or what does it mean to you? Is it just this totally unknown, brand new – it’s all Greek to me?
Katie: yeah [laughter] I was thinking that. What’s my level of familiarity? I think it means, my level’s at, I know how to say it but maybe not spell it. Right? Like there’s too many vowels that I’m constantly mixing those up. So I don’t know what that says about my level of familiarity, but you might – I love to study Scripture, I love to read the Bible and try to unpack it in my limited knowledge, my growing knowledge. And I… My favorite thing about the Word is that it’s living and active, and you can read it again and again, and things jump off the page that you didn’t know were there.
Melissa: yes. Yeah.
Katie: so I’ve come across paideia mainly, you know, in Ephesians. And wondered what that is. And I think I’ve talked to you about that: oh look, I saw this! This is where you got it, it’s so amazing! So for me, my learning probably has been, like, I didn’t know, even though that was probably part of my life when I was young, I didn’t know the word itself until I was older. But I think of it as a, the cultivation of mind and morals. It is the integration that I was talking about. Right? It’s all of that! It’s not just education, it’s all, like all of life is education. What we’re cultivating together.
Melissa: right yeah, it’s not just at eight to three, and what we do in order to attain a diploma or something.
Melissa: or it’s also not just the, what we would call, the spiritual stuff. It’s not just Sunday mornings, it’s not just you know, a quiet time devotional, it’s so broad and deep compared to that. So how… thinking about that, and that depth and that all-encompassing integration, what is a way that you think you purpose to bring that into your home with your children in your family? If we’re talking about it as a term of enculturation, and specifically in Ephesians when it says paideia of the Lord, right, it’s not just – it’s not an American culture, it’s not as in that time a Greek culture or Roman culture – but as citizens of heaven, what is this culture that we’re trying to nurture? What is a way that you purpose to do that in your home?
Katie: a fun way that we’ve done this in the last year is… and I think it’s without like explicitly saying, it’s getting, I mean, what we’re saying is that you can’t really put this in a box, right? We want to. So I could have memorization time with my kids, and there’s nothing wrong with memorization, right? But they so easily want to put things in a box that they could think like, oh yeah, this is our Jesus time and this is our rest of the time, or whatever. But I’m trying to get them to see the bigger picture of, like, this is all of it. Like it’s all for Him. So one fun thing, and maybe unsuspected thing in our home… in the last, probably year, is that I’ve incorporated picture books again. So Bo is my youngest, and he’s nine, and so, as it kind of is with the youngest, they get kind of shortchanged on some things, you know. We round toward the middle usually, right? So I guess everyone besides the middle, you know, doesn’t get shortchanged. But, so I just realized a couple years ago that I hardly had read him any picture books. Like he’s heard so many more chapter books than maybe the oldest did when he was his age, and so I started like on Sunday afternoons we’d sit and just pick three picture books I want to read you. Cuz like he didn’t know who Frances was, from Bread and Jam for Frances, and I was like, I am doing something really wrong! [laughter] How are you missing this? And all the other kids are just horrified that he doesn’t know some of these characters. Anyway, so then I talked to a mom about a year ago, and she incorporates picture books all the time, and my first inclination was probably a little bit prideful like, why would you do that when you could be reading chapter books? Why would you be reading picture books every day? But I started following a couple who recommend picture books all the time. A couple accounts on Instagram that read, like, good quality picture books. Some of them are biographies, some of them are just excellent art, some of them – I think I was telling you about this – one was about Walt Whitman’s life, and how he used his words basically to help the wounded troops and how he wrote his poem about Abe Lincoln, you know, and all of that… and just stories we never would have known otherwise. People we never would have known otherwise, and just, just, just living their life in normal ways. Right? Like, look at the beautiful artistry in this – how could this reflect God’s glory? And I’ve seen my kids, my older ones, my teenagers – like, as I have that open, if they can be there for Morning Meeting, I love it when they can, and then they’re just like drawn closer. They’re across the room and they’re coming closer, because they want to hear the words of this book or they want to see… it’s kind of comical right? I mean, because it’s a picture book. There’s only a couple hundred words in the whole book. But they’ve been really instrumental for like, just using beautiful language, seeing beautiful words, hearing beautiful stories, and learning more about beautiful lives that maybe we would’ve put in a box like, those things are for chapter books. But no, this is just more to our day. More beauty, that we never even saw coming. So that’s just been a really fun way to do that.
Melissa: yeah, yeah. I think it’s really interesting too, because my teenager is… I only have one teenager so far, but he’s the same way. Even if I’ve… I try to just read one on one with each child now and then… and if I’m reading something with the five year old that the thirteen year old remembers or he thinks, oh that sounds interesting, he will stop doing, you know, what he’s doing! Even though he loves computer programming, he notices Mom just sat down to read a picture book with the little brother! He wants to come over and see it. It is. It’s really funny. I mean, I love picture books! Yeah.
Katie: yes! yeah.
Melissa: but I think they also can be a catalyst for further research. We had a picture book on… was it Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library, I think is what it’s called? And we loved that one. And so then the kids wanted to find out about Thomas Jefferson. Or that… Winnie… Finding Winnie. They wanted to find out about Winnie, I think that one’s illustrated by, is it Sophie Blackall? Anyway, she’s lovely. And they wanted to find out about this bear from World War I that was then, you know, the inspiration for Winnie the Pooh. And so they wanted to take what they got from the picture book and go explore, you know, well, then what? What happened next? So it’s almost like they’re just little introductions, especially for the older kids. You know, my five year old will read Hello Lighthouse and just say, oh that’s a great picture book, I love the art, I love the story. But then my oldest is like, well, now I want to go study the architecture of lighthouses and the historical connections that they have with the navy, and all these different things. I’m like, oh, wow, I didn’t realize that was going to send us off on that rabbit trail. So, yeah, I think that is such a good, good tip! Such a good way to build those connections with our kids and… how did you put it… beauty is what you said. Just how to incorporate beauty.
Katie: yes. And it’s so, at least for me, was just so under utilized. I just kind of thought we had graduated from those, but, I mean, it really is like five minutes, ten minutes a day. And then you gave them that, that they can take elsewhere and I find that we don’t, I mean, chapter books take a while. Particularly when we read them together, because one kid might be gone in the afternoon, and so nobody reads without the kid that’s gone, you know, so we might read all together four days a week. So they’re kind of slow. And that’s fine. We still enjoy those of course. But I can give them so much more. I can’t get to all the chapter books I want to read with these kids! There’s not enough time for how many books I want to read.
Melissa: oh, it just breaks my heart! [laughter]
Katie: I know! Isn’t it sad? But I can supplement with these picture books, and like, hey look, we learned about this today, we learned about this person. And who knows which one is going to inspire them or which art style is going to inspire them. But it’s just exposure that’s really sweet. We can do it a little bit at a time, and yeah, it’s great learning.
Melissa: yeah, yeah. So that sort of is this idea of… a glimpse of paideia is what we’ve been calling it at Paideia Northwest and Paideia Southeast… is a glimpse of paideia. So that’s, right there, I’m imagining you, you know, snuggled up with your nine year old, and the older ones coming in and looking over your shoulder and listening in. Seems like a great glimpse of paideia. Are there any other things that come to mind with, what’s something that you’ve seen in your home or with your kids that sort of just speaks that enculturation to you?
Katie: lately it’s been a lot conversations, and maybe this is the factor of my kids getting older. So the oldest is sixteen and then thirteen, and eleven and nine. And there’s so many conversations to be had, particularly in the the world right now. There’s things that they’ve never seen before, or we’ve never seen before. The amount of vitriol that you see or hear or this person or people we agree with or don’t disagree with – it’s so interesting, you know. What does this mean? And it’s, so they’re hearing new things about mandates and such, and they’re trying to figure out how to process that. But the opportunity for conversation is soo ripe, like never before. And talk about, so let’s integrate, what does this mean to be Christlike in this situation? What does it mean to love well when you disagree? You know. What does this look like? So it feels like were working in real time. Like the opportunity is so rich just to have those conversations and talk about when it’s hard and talk about when we… they’re always asking, well what are you guys gonna do? What are you gonna do, Mom and Dad? About anything that comes up. What do you think about that? What do you think about that person who said, you know. And it’s hard because sometimes we’re processing too, you know. And we’re just honest. We’re praying about this. We’re asking the Lord. I don’t really know. This is a really hard situation. You know? This is hard when people don’t agree, when believers don’t agree – all of that. So right now it’s just conversations. And even as hard as they are, I can be thankful that I get to walk them through this when they’re in my home. We’re lucky to have all the time in real time.
Melissa: yeah. That’s such a blessing. So you mentioned picture books as sort of this broad category of, like a resource for encouraging an enculturation of – yeah, godly, just that godly culture and that pursuit, that intentional… what is a specific resource that you would encourage other moms to try out?
Katie: yeah, okay. Well, I would say first of all… and, I feel like I’m an old mom because I keep on saying these older kids. And I don’t know when that happened! But it changes as they get older. So one example is that with my older son, he’s sixteen, okay, and we’re not pursuing the dating thing or anything like that now. But my husband and I had an initial conversation about, we want to have those conversations in some ways before he’s ready because before emotions are involved right, before we’ve gone down a lane, like let’s talk about these… I want all of those things to be things that we talk about progressively, and so you know as they go along, so it’s not just like: so one day, here’s how it’s gonna be let’s process how these things go. So sometimes as they get older it’s not being afraid of the resources because we can process, if we have these great lines of communication then we can discuss them together. So one thing we just discussed was Jonathan Pokluda’s book Outdated for older kids. And he has a podcast too that my son likes, Becoming Something. Okay? And so he’s talking about common topics and then we’re discussing them together, so they come back and they’re bouncing off us. But the other day, so Tyler came in and he was telling me about some podcast he was listening to. And it was talking about… actually we were listening to it together… we were traveling and so we were listening to it together. All the younger kids weren’t there to learn about dating at nine years old or whatever. So we, because there are age limits for these things, right? But it was talking about honoring one another. Like, this is what we do when we form relationships: we seek to honor other people. Which is such a great thing to process in any of our relationships, in sibling relationships or whatever. So we were talking about honoring one another, and then also, as you potentially pursue something to define the relationship. To be really honest communicators. To not manipulate anyone. To be really honest about where you are and what you’re thinking, you know, all of those things. So processing those things, and talking with Tyler, and he’s easy to talk to because these conversations haven’t been some big weird cliff we jump off at some point. So anyway, I was talking to a friend a couple days later, and she and her husband are considering some major changes because, because of the world being the way it is. Major changes. And they were hard to process. And she said, I don’t know, my husband came and said, considering a move and all of these things. And she said, however, one thing that has really helped me is that he has always been the best communicator with me. I know he’s not like hedging things back or maybe like not telling me cuz I can’t handle it all. From the time we started dating, he came up to me the first time and said, I am interested in you, I would like to know you more, can we go have lunch. And so here he is, being this honest, honoring her with the communication and now they’ve been married twenty years, and she has this trust in the way he communicates. So, and it just, I had listened to that podcast with my son, so I was able to go back to him and say, you know what, like, this isn’t just for dating, this is like building relationship and trust in your communication for all of life. And it was just one of those sweet moments, that… I don’t know… sometimes I wonder if like half the stuff just goes like, I don’t know why you’re talking about this. But I think he got the point. When you, when you honor other people in the relationship it’s not just to get yourself a wife. Like this is not just about dating. This is about how we maintain good and healthy relationship through all of our life, and I was able to give him the example of that. So I thought, how sweet, Lord, that You could see this and show it to them. And I don’t know, sometimes it’s like, any of our learning, like reading a picture book. Sometimes it is throwing spaghetti at the ceiling and seeing what sticks. But we do: we keep on doing it, we keep on seeing the opportunities and being thankful for them, and who knows how the Lord may use those.
Melissa: yeah, yeah. Now, I think that’s beautiful. You said the book was called Outdated?
Katie: Outdated by Jonathan Pokluda. And so, we bought… we’ve been through some of it. And so I’m nervous trying to endorse the whole thing. But that’s the deal. That’s all of life when they’re moving at that pace when they’re older and then we’re processing it together. Like, what does this look like? What do you think about this? What do I think? And what does the Bible say? And he lines things up with Scripture incredibly well.
Melissa: I love how you use the word honoring. To honor one another. I want to use that with my kids actually. I use the words, you know with their sibling interactions, I tell them, you know, respect one another and be kind with one another. But if you combine those two things together, respect and kindness, it would boil down just to honoring one another. That’s, that’s straight shooting terminology right there. That’s beautiful. I appreciate that!
Katie: one fun tip that we’ve been doing with definitions is memorizing definitions. And my pastor is good at this, so he’s influenced me. And being a word nerd, I don’t know why I didn’t think of it on my own. But sometimes we say “honor” to our kids and they’re like, okay, I’ll act like a soldier. Like, they have, they have all kinds of different ideas. So what does it mean? We’ve been going through the definition every day of love: it’s preferring one another, sometimes at great personal expense by the help of the Holy Spirit. Like, let’s give you terms, that, what would that mean? What would it mean today? And then if we were going to prefer one another, what does it mean right now when we’re all wanting the food or you want to watch your movie, or you know? So I would encourage, just definitions to those terms too.
Melissa: yeah. Oh that’s such a good idea. Definition of honor! Yeah. I’ll start there.
Melissa: something I was discussing recently with someone else too was this idea that we’re raising our kids in the culture of the Lord for His kingdom and yet we are being shaped right alongside them. And so these things that I want to give my children, and bless them with – it’s also a gift for myself.
Katie: right, constantly!
Melissa: yeah. These, these conversations! It’s not just about us, you know, by God’s grace, being this culture-shaper for our children. It’s – God is the culture-shaper of us! You know. We’re His children. And He’s doing that for us as well. And it’s so big. It’s so big.
Katie: which makes aging not all that scary, right? We just have so much more to learn! A lot more time to learn it.
Melissa: it’s true. Yeah. So talking about all these things, and having all the kids and the conversations and the books and the home education and your speaking and your writing… I mean, it sounds like a lot! It sounds exhausting, right? How does the idea of pursuing rest come in to the picture for you? As an individual or as your family, your family culture, how do you find rest necessary?
Katie: well, it’s vital. And usually we don’t recognize that until we hit the wall, you know? Until we crash and burn in real life. And, yeah, I’m missing something here. One thing for me is just margin on the calendar. I used to be someone who’d look at a calendar, and a blank space is open space. And until you filled all the spaces in and realize you can’t pivot, and maybe that’s getting older, more kids, all the things. Like pivoting day to day to different things can really add up quickly. So then it became something as simple as, okay if this is what’s happening this day, maybe the afternoon before it is full too. You know? Like just putting, like I had to write in margin because I didn’t seem to think of it on my own. So if we’re traveling this day, that means I actually write it the day before. We’re big campers, but prep day for camping can be more exhausting than a whole camping trip, right? So I need to know the day before, that no, I’m just gonna say no. And it didn’t feel like- you know, if it’s open you can’t say, no, I’m busy. But you can. I have to make space for that. Because it’s a limited quantity. My capacity is limited. And so I think I need to recognize that no, I can’t just keep on adding. Because it’s gotta take from somewhere else, right? There’s nothing else to give. And all of a sudden we’re picking up McDonald’s because I’m just too exhausted, right? And that’s not, that’s not the way I want to live. I have to have capacity for that. So keeping those margins. And then I’ve kind of adopted a process which is not, I mean it’s nothing set in stone, but it’s just what seems to work for our family. Andy Crouch, I think it’s Andy Crouch, who has the orange book. Tech-Wise Family. Okay? Yeah, checking your family. And he takes a break. He tries to encourage taking a break, one hour a day, one day a week, one week a year. And I in my head formulate rest to being the same way. Now is that always possible? Absolutely not. And there’s some days where, I remember this just like where my kids were little too, and they don’t sleep through the night.
Today we get to share a conversation with you where Melissa Cummings, Jenn Discher, and Rachel Jankovic talked about the atmosphere of paideia being the very air we breathe (Rachel says that paideia “is not a thing we do, it’s a thing we live in”!), the fruit that God brings when we live in obedience to Him (Rachel says, “Just obeying brings about fruit you would never have thought of”), and the encouragement that it is to be someone who is plowing in hope (1 Corinthians 9:10).
upcoming book Sir Bad-a-Lot
1 Corinthians 9:10
1 Corinthians 15:58
Melissa: joining me today is my cohost Jenn Discher from Paideia Southeast, and our guest is Rachel Jankovic. We invite you to join this conversation with us as we continue to practice, pursue, and implement paideia. Good morning, Rachel!
Rachel: good morning, how are you doing?
Melissa: thank you so much for taking the time. We appreciate it.
Jenn: hi, Rachel.
Melissa: this is Jenn from Georgia at our Paideia Southeast community, so…
Jenn: what Melissa and I wanted to talk about, being paideia, the idea of paideia. So Melissa is with Paideia Northwest, we are just – a few of us are just kind of getting Paideia Southeast together, and so similarly to Melissa’s group, Paideia Southeast – we’re wanting to equip, encourage, and connect moms who are seeking to raise their kids in the paideia of God. Which begs the question, what is the paideia of God?
Rachel: that’s a good question!
Jenn: yeah, yeah! So we talk about it a lot. And we talk about it because it comes from Ephesians 6 where Paul is telling the Christians to, you know, raise their kids in the paideia of God… which is a word they would have been familiar with, the Ephesians. But we’re not as familiar with it today. There’s not like one English word that translates perfectly. We hear nurture, discipline, training, in Scripture – that the paideia be translated to those. So how would you, if you had to explain that concept to someone who wasn’t familiar with it?
Rachel: right, and this is probably not, I’m not saying that this is an academic definition of what paideia means. I would say it’s just culture. It’s enculturation, it’s… so it encompasses everything. It’s what you, it’s what kind of food you eat, what kind of things you think are normal, what kinds of, like, what is your entire culture. And when we’re to raise our children up in the paideia of God, it’s really saying, everything about their life, as much as you’ve been raised up in the culture of being American or how people are rural people or, you know, whatever things are normal – what is, what you know, what you believe – it’s sort of the things you believe in your bones that you don’t know how they got there. You know, it’s not, it’s not specific. So that’s what I would say, that’s how I would define paideia of God. It’s like, people who love the Lord, serving the Lord with all they have, what does that produce? It produces tangible Christian culture, and you’re bringing your children up in that culture and that necessarily, it’s the air they breathe, it’s what they know.
Jenn: yep, I love that. And honestly, I think it’s that stuff, what you just described, that I probably glean the most from your resources over the years, because I think just by listening to – either by listening to people who have either grown up in that themselves and/or are, you know, trying to do it in their own lives, you learn by observation. Like, just by listening to other mature believers, like, what is normal for them. It’s like, oh, that’s, that is the paideia of God.
Rachel: like, you mean that we don’t have to get mad at each other and then just let it sit for a whole day, like, we’re gonna have to just live in this stink mood? It’s like, sometimes people don’t realize, you don’t realize it’s possible for it to be a different way.
Rachel: and then once you realize it’s possible, it’s like, well why are we not doing that? Like is that consistent with God’s Word, and if so, then by all means do it. [laughter]
Jenn: absolutely. Just like having cheerfulness, gratitude, being like part of the atmosphere of your home, and having it be like a joyful place to be that the paideia of God isn’t like this white knuckling dour thing that we’re doing.
Rachel: totally. And it’s not a thing that we do, it’s a thing we live in. It’s not a… it’s not a… I think what I’m trying to say, it’s not of our own doing. God uses… God uses our efforts to please Him, to make things that matter more, but it’s not like you could sit down and be like, I’m gonna do something really important today, and it’s gonna matter forever in the lives of my children. Because we all know, you try that, and they don’t remember it, do they? [laughter]
Jenn: no, they don’t!
Rachel: Like, there’s something… or like my dad always says, you could save for years to take the kids on an amazing vacation that they won’t remember, but they’ll all be talking about that time we stopped at the gas station and got bubble gum on, you know, that roll of bubble gum. You’re like, [laughter] why do you remember this? Why don’t you remember the things that were cooler?
Jenn: nope, you cannot choreograph it!
Rachel: no, no. God doesn’t give us that authority.
Jenn: you’ve spoken about this a little bit, but in terms of pursuing or implementing by God’s grace, this paideia of the Lord in your home, can you give us kind of like a, a tangible peek of that? What or how that might look kind of fleshed out? And again you kind of already alluded to this a little bit.
Rachel: so the things that I would say are critically important in a Christian home: staying in fellowship with God, that’s, that is the thing. So like, sin that needs to be confessed, confess it as soon as you know it’s there, confess it. Like this is a really important thing. I’m really involved in the Bible Reading Challenge. This is one of the reasons I’m involved in the Bible Reading Challenge; like, I think it matters way more than we think it matters that women are, you know, very connected to God and His Word, that we’re submissive to that. I’ve used this illustration before, so sorry if you’ve heard me use this. But you know when you’re breastfeeding a baby, you don’t actually know what’s happening, right? You’re the… you are the means by which God is nurturing this child but you know when they do these studies and they’re like, it’s incredible because the baby has a cold and we don’t even know how the mother’s body finds out that the baby has a cold but the vitamins are boosted and things are happening that are like beyond your understanding. You know like, just way beyond your understanding. So if it was just me and my brain, I wouldn’t even know what vitamins the baby needed. Like, I might not even recognize what they need for what kind of growth is happening right now. I don’t know that. But it is the closeness that I have with the child and the, that that’s the mechanism that God made to meet this need. So I think that that is what’s such a critical part of fellowship between, is parents being in constant fellowship with God, and then in fellowship with their children, more is happening in that relationship than we have the intelligence to even… you know, like, we don’t have, we don’t even know it. We don’t know what it’s doing, we don’t know what’s needed, but it’s because God is actually doing something there. And it’s, it’s that faith that you confessing your sins, you walking with God, you loving your children, you confessing your sins to them, you getting things right – it’s maintaining that closeness between all of you that God uses to really grow them up in ways that you couldn’t even… and I think that that’s a great picture of paideia anyways because it’s like, we don’t even know what we’re communicating, which is why it is so important that we be submissive to God, that we want to be walking with Him, because we want to know that we’re communicating Him, not just our own desires and our own likes. I think I might have not really answered that question.
Jenn: no, I think you did.
Rachel: I’m like, what did you actually ask? Because I might have gone rogue. [laughter]
Jenn: I don’t know if you did or not, but I’m glad you did.
Rachel: well, whatever, we went on that tangent!
Jenn: yes! No, I think that’s, because I think, I mean… it’s done by faith.
Jenn: and not by understanding.
Rachel: exactly. And it’s not, it’s not that God allows us to use our understanding, He grows us in wisdom, He gives us… so, I have nothing against, I’m not saying like, oh it can only be this organic feeling and nothing else.
Rachel: but we’re really dumb if we start thinking it was the lesson we just gave our kids, it was the thing that we just explained that somehow accomplished that. Because I think they see, they’re learning something that’s not the thing we think we’re teaching them all the time.
Rachel: we’re like, here’s the lesson – and you don’t actually know what they’re taking away from that.
Jenn: yes, for better or worse! [laughter]
Rachel: I was talking with some friends yesterday about how when you look at something that you are delighted in, like it’s a beautiful sunset, or you’re like oh my word look at that flower or look at this bug or something that you’re, you know… or even on your phone and you start laughing, what do your kids all do? Everybody wants to see what you’re looking at, right? They will crowd all around you to look at what you’re looking at. But as soon as you’re not, if you are not in the joy of the Lord, if you’re angry about something or if you’re frustrated, nobody looks at what you’re looking at. They’re not looking at the pile of shoes by door, they’re just looking at you. You know, like, and you’re like, who did this? And nobody even looks at that. They just, all they’re doing is looking at you not dealing with it well. Like, wow, Mom’s having a problem. [laughter] And I think that that is, that is the thing, is that if you’re frustrated and you’re trying to give them a lesson about God’s kindness or God’s forgiveness, nobody is looking at the lesson. Nobody’s looking at God with you. Nobody’s looking at this beauty. They’re just looking at you like, well, she’s having a problem, she’s not doing well. And I just think that just goes back to the reason why we have to be so careful to be in submission to God and to be in fellowship with Him.
Jenn: love it. What is a resource, maybe a book, website, event, song, poem, habit, podcast that you might recommend to moms who are seeking to raise their kids in a specifically Christian culture?
Rachel: I would say probably my dad’s book Why Children Matter would be a great book. And then I would recommend, although I don’t usually recommend my own things…
Jenn: go for it, do it!
Rachel: I would recommend the podcast I do with my sister, and the reason I would do that is I think we… it is very normal Christian women talking about their normal life in the context of how we want to live in submission to God. It’s not like a dead earnest spiritual podcast, right? So, which I think is a real problem that women struggle with, is that we think that it’s either on or off with our spiritual life. It’s either what we’re doing in this world or it’s what we’re doing in our journals, but it’s not those things held together. It’s not what I believe coming out in the way I, you know, clean my floors or the way I laugh at my mistakes, or whatever. So I would say it’s a non-academic podcast. I cannot guarantee that it will be very edifying, but it is a… it is practical in the sense in that if it’s unfamiliar to you to live yourself in a culture of Christian life, then I think that that’s what the podcast does actually illustrate.
Jenn: I think it does, personally. I would recommend it for that. And my eleven year old daughter listens with, to it with me, and she giggles her way through it. So it is, it is a fun… it’s not just a straight laced spiritual podcast.
Rachel: no, I mean we don’t, I don’t know if we could do that if we tried. But the point is still, application of your faith in everything, or thinking, or a thoughtful application of your faith in your life.
Melissa: so, Rachel, where did the name come from? So What Have You…?
Rachel: I think the name was just to illustrate that we were not binding ourselves to any one topic. [laughter] We’re like, it’s just whatever we feel like talking about today.
Rachel: that’s what the name comes from.
Melissa: I feel like it goes back to that idea that all things are under the lordship of Christ and you know, what have you been cooking, what have you been reading, what have you been… like, what have you confessed?
Rachel: what do you have on your mind? It’s really any of those. Plus, we didn’t even realize for a long time that the, that it stands for WHY. Like, people would text me an all caps WHY, and then start talking about something. I was like, why what? What are we talking about? I was like, oh, What Have You says WHY. [laughter]
Melissa: so you hadn’t thought of that!
Rachel: no! We were not paying very close attention to anything, we were just like…
Melissa: oh, serendipity!
Rachel: we’ll just call it that, let’s move on. [laughter]
Melissa: excellent. Well, one of the things that we love hearing from you is things about your family’s Sabbath practices. And talking about an explicitly Christian culture and things we want to raise our kids in, that we’re just offering but not forcing. I feel like that’s how Lord’s Day habits sort of bathe our kids in that essence of that culture and the way you prepare for it, the way you practice it, and how it influences the rest of the week. So talking about rest and specifically the rest that God asks us to offer to Him one day a week, how do you find that necessary in motherhood and how do you live that out?
Rachel: okay, I would just say… well, there’s a couple things. First of all, I think that there’s no Christian woman on the planet who would say we don’t need rest. Right? Everybody agrees we need a break from what we’re doing, we need rest. But if you actually tell women yes, you should rest on the Lord’s Day, all of a sudden everyone’s bristling and like, don’t make me! I can’t! You know, it’s like this really funny, like… we have a major aversion to resting in the one way God tells us to rest. And then we’re like, no it’s really important that I get a manicure, it’s important that someone take the kids for me, it’s important that I do this because I need to rest. I need down time, I need whatever. I always feel like I have to say this: to be clear, I have no problem with someone having time off in the week sometime also. So I’m not, this is not about, you can’t let your mother in law take the kids so you can have some time to think for yourself. It’s fine. But our, it’s amazing how we hold those two things. Like, we’re so unaware of our own rebellious spirit in that, right? Like we feel like… it’s very common to feel, really be discontent with the work God has given you, too be, feel like you deserve rest that He’s not giving you because babies are around the clock, children are… you know, like, this is a really hard job. It’s common to resent that, and then also resent the rest that God tells us to have. And I just think that’s a really, that should flag in our minds that we’re, that this is actually a sin problem. Right? Like, if you’re like, I hate the thought of having to rest on Sunday, then you know, if God did tell us I still don’t want to do it. I mean, it’s really interesting how open people are with how much they’re, I don’t want it, whatever He says, I don’t want it. So I just want to say that first. Second, I do believe God made a provision for rest. I think what’s interesting is that the provision for rest He’s given us is His kind of rest, not our ideal of rest. It’s very different than – it is not the same. My family has, we have celebrated the Sabbath for years now. Since Ben and Bekah got married, and I think that’s been probably 22, 23 years. So every Saturday night the family gathers, we have a big family dinner, it’s kind of, it’s a party kickoff for the Lord’s Day. Right? So, starting in the very beginning it was more like, that’s when we had our best food, but it was still not a big gathering of people, it was a small table full of people but it was like our, you know, we would actually have a dessert with dinner, we would have wine with dinner, we would toast – that kind of thing. Fast forward now, and I think without guests – although it’s always changing – I think now we have forty-five people every Saturday. Without having guests, so that’s our baseline family, because it has looped in family on both sides. Every, you know, we just have a lot of people gathering. And it’s a real, talking about paideia, that’s a thing that’s so deep in the bones of my children that I think they’re like, they’re totally confused if we have a Saturday without that. Like they’re like, what are we even doing?! What is this? [laughter] And I love that. But that has been, so the idea behind that was to lean into gratitude and joy. What God has given us. So we are not strict Sabbatarians in a lot of ways that some people are. We are not like opposed to stopping at the grocery store on Sunday, like we are, we are flexible with that but we are very careful to not like, I think when we first started doing it when I was a teenager, I was like, do you mean I can’t do my homework on Sunday? And Dad was like, no, it means you get to not. Like, you can have a burden of things you need to do that you do not need to on the Lord’s Day. Like, even though that’s a thing that’s hanging over me, it’s, it’s, I get to not do it and not be irresponsible. Now, through the years when we had little kids, that my mom was hosting it, so it was different for us. But I almost always made food or contributed in some way, so the Saturday was like, everybody’s at home, it was very hard to try to have the house in a, like in a clean and orderly state while you’re making a lot of food. Like I’d probably have to run to the grocery store to get stuff to make something which may only barely be done by the time we leave to go to Mom’s house, so there might be pots and pans in the sink and stuff. You know, like, there, a lot of the time we were leaving the house Saturday night with the house not at all put together, and leaving. For years, I think, I made… I would say now I was making excuses, at the time I don’t think I was making excuses. You know, I think I wouldn’t have thought I was at the time. Now I’m like, eeeeehhh, yeah, that was a bunch of excuses.
Rachel: it was sort of like, I can’t rest if this is all messy, you know. Like, I, it’s not restful so I’ll tidy this up. Or this is not restful so I want to get to a restful place so I’m going to kind of, you know, I should do this first. Or the idea that I would like to take a Sabbath off when I was organized enough to have everything ready to be restful. And I, at some point it just, I was really convicted of that. Like I realized I’m not, what that totally is, is like, I will submit to my husband when he does something that I want to submit to. I mean, it’s totally putting, it’s like once everything aligns so that I’m willing to do this, then I will do it. So at that point I was like, you know what, I’m just gonna treat the Lord’s Day as a: stop! put your pencils down! Whatever, wherever the house is, we stop. Like, whatever it is that’s happening, we’re done until Sunday night. So Sunday at six is when we, we go six to six, and we are not so strict that – we have people in our home now, and so Saturday, whatever we do after dinner, we clean up. You know, like we’ll load the dishwashers. We’ll do whatever. But wherever it is when we, like, whenever we stop that evening, it’s usually, I like, can’t remember it being all cleaned up. Right. Like I can’t remember our house not having tablecloths, napkins, extra tables, chairs, like the counter full of dishes, like, usually we have both dishwashers going, and then we leave it there. But there’s garbage, I mean it’s – it looks like…
Melissa: like you’ve had a party.
Rachel: fifty or sixty people came and ate!
Jenn: yeah, yeah!
Rachel: that’s what it looks like. And that’s just, that’s it. We just stop. We don’t do anything else until Sunday, the next, at six. And the thing that I have been so impacted by is that God’s rest is not like ours. And also God’s rest is way better. Like, way better! And I think it’s so funny, because as long as I was trying to get to Sunday being like a, like a spa day – not really a spa day, but like everything so calm that I just feel calm so I’m going to, like, so the natural thing is to put your feet up by the fire and just have this lovely moment. I think it’s, what’s so interesting is that ever since I’ve been doing this, Mondays are my favorite day. I love Monday. Like, the amount of energy and delight I have at getting back to it and getting my regular work done – I don’t think relaxing in a calm environment makes me so ready to work. Like, I think, it’s just a very interesting thing that God’s rest makes me delight in the work that I have. I love to get back to it. And that’s just been, that’s been wonderful. And one of the funniest things to me, my kids, they’re all involved in helping, always, get ready for Sabbath. They set the table, they’re helping with the food, they’re very involved. So they understand the work of hospitality, and the joy it gives them to come home to the house that’s like chaos in the, in the dining room at least, you know, it’s like wow here is crazy. And to be like, we don’t have to do anything until tonight! Like everybody’s like, we joke, I mean they call it Secret Sundays like we’re always like, haha, like everybody comes in and they’re like, yay, it’s my favorite day! And I would not have anticipated that I would never have thought that my kids would delight so much in the obvious work that we need to that we don’t have to do right now, that we’re just like, we’ll just leave that till later. And obviously this is specific to our particular life. It’s just that it’s given me an insight into the fact that just obeying brings about fruit that you would not have thought of. I would never have thought for a fun thing for my kids, why don’t we weekly have the house in chaos and have them not have to clean it up? I would never have thought of that! [laughter] But the sweet part about it is at six we always turn on music, or it’s like all right everybody it’s time to clean up, and the way that everybody is ready to do and refreshed and, it’s like, we just get ready for the week. After six there’s a lot of like getting ready for lunches and cleaning up and talking and it’s a really sweet time of fellowship then also. But that’s not the kind of thing I could have ever scripted as, let me tell you what will be such a fun thing to do as a family. [laughter] Like, to have a day where you ignore all the mess in the kitchen, like, it will be so fun! So anyways, that’s what we do.
Melissa: so what do you do on Sundays, then?
Rachel: we call them Secret Sundays!
Melissa: so what does that look like?
Rachel: everybody… it’s a lot of reading, crafting, goofing off, napping… I mean, it’s, there’s no real script to what happens on Sunday. It’s whatever people want to do. Sometimes they play video games, they might watch a show, or, it’s just a completely different mood of a day. Every once in a while we might do something like, let’s have a fun, like, let’s get some fun food and make something, we’ll make something different to feed ourselves. Even then it has a completely different feel because our kitchen’s a mess. We would never do that, like, it’s such a different thing to be like, let’s make a fun something in the middle of that. So yeah, I guess it’s just made its own culture. Sunday has made its own thing going on. Sometimes we would go on a hike or do something, but not – usually it’s very low key.
Melissa: it sounds like it’s an organic pursuit of joy and fellowship which can take many different manifestations.
Rachel: it’s whatever actually delights the people that are in your house. So a lot of the time, now that it’s cold, it will be a fire in the living room, and people – I don’t know – they might be playing chees or playing a board game or reading or there’s a lot of craft supplies everywhere. One thing you can guarantee is that we will have made it more of a mess by the end of Sunday.
Melissa: that’s what I was thinking.
Rachel: we will have really leaned into this whole situation.
Melissa: worship, obviously, is also a given. Right? But talking about the Bible Reading Challenge as well… how does that bring rest into the other days of the week?
Rachel: I think I would say it’s a kind of rest that is confidence in God, confidence in His Word. I have, since doing… when we started the Bible Reading Challenge, I think we already had a church community that revered God’s Word and a lot of people that were already Bible readers. So it was not like we came into a community that didn’t read their Bibles, you know, but just even locally I have seen such an increase in the confidence women have in what the Word accomplishes that it has been really remarkable. Like, one wonderful side effect is you see women who are actually equipped to counsel themselves and equipped to encourage and admonish friends. Like, they actually have a more confidence in God’s Word. They’re feeling like, no I’ve actually, I actually know that you can trust God’s Word. You know, like, they are very differently bold about God’s Word. Differently bold about telling people with problems, you need to be reading your Bible. You know like this is an important part of your life. So I would say that that’s just, that is a defining, it should be a defining characteristic of Christians, that we serve the Word, right? We serve the Word made flesh. This is what we’re named after. That we should be a people of the Word, like how you know, how do we dare say that we’re followers of Christ when we are not actually reading His Word? We’re not… and I’ve used this example on the internet somewhere before… but it’s like if you said, oh I’m a Jane Austen fan. You know, I love Jane Austen, but the last time you read Pride and Prejudice was like fifteen years ago. And when someone says something to you, like… or you’ve only seen the movie, or you’ve only… you know, you’re like, I’m a huge fan, but I don’t know it. Right? I’m a huge fan, but I am not… and compared to Scripture, Pride and Prejudice is nothing, right? Like it’s a tiny little thing that does not have… that is, it’s a tiny little thing. Well anyways, if somebody, if you hadn’t read it, and someone comes up to you, oh you like Jane Austen! Don’t you think it’s weird how Darcy shows his, kind of you know, his classist pretentions to the innkeeper in that wherever, and he’s so, it’s such an abusive relationship? Like, you could be like, what? No, like I like, ohhh, but the shame of not knowing what they’re talking about, right, there’s an embarrassment of, I say I’m a fan and I have no idea what you’re talking about… and just to be clear to anyone who’s listening, that doesn’t happen in Pride and Prejudice – that is a nonexistent, that is not a scene. Right? But you’re thinking, I’m pretty sure there’s an inn. There’s an inn, right? There’s Darcy, he does have a pride problem, what am I… like, you kind of just go, ohh maybe that happened and you can play along. But that happens all the time with Christians and Christ. Where someone says, well, Jesus would never rebuke someone for their sin – He loved… and you’re like, oh, right? Unless you happen to have been reading your Bible at which time you’re like, mmmm that’s not true. What you just said is not accurate. And the women are led astray so quickly simply by their total lack of knowledge of what Jesus actually does say. And that confidence of, no I’ve actually recently read that. Of course people could still get in deeper than you expected them to get in with something and pull out, what does a Greek word mean, and you could be like, I’ll need to look into that, I don’t know what we’re talking about. But at the same time, you have a, you know Christ in a different way if you have been in His Word. And I think it is remarkable how flippant we are with that. Like, like we don’t really need to know Him, we can just be a faithful Christian without really knowing Who it is we’re following. It’s okay to not know about Darcy, it’s not okay to not know about Christ. It’s like, this is a different situation.
Melissa: right, but there’s also a delight in the connection, that fellowship of literally, as you say, being on the same page with one another. So Jenn in Georgia made a comment about, oh yeah I was just reading in Scripture this particular thing, and then she realized, oh wait, we’ve all just been reading that because we’re all on the same page! And there’s something really sweet about that.
Melissa: so that’s another perk
Rachel: when we first started it probably one of the funniest moments I’ve ever had – I think it was the first year, we were all, everyone was in Genesis I guess, and we were in the bleachers of a volleyball game and it was like a major discussion among a lot of people from all different families about what was going on with Jacob and the rods and the sheep. People were like, well I read something because I was trying to figure this out – it was like, in the bleachers of the volleyball game, topic for discussion today, let’s talk about the breeding of the spotted, you know the whole, putting the rods in the water. [laughter] It was such a funny topic of conversation and yet it was so wonderful to just be so, like, that this is the sort of thing we can, you know, we can be like oh did you read that? I read that.
Melissa: yeah, I love that. Well we appreciate your work in that. Is there anything else that you find helpful in that pursuit of sort of a spiritual rest? Obviously worship on Sunday, you mention the Sabbath, setting it aside.
Rachel: right. Oh it’s, this is like an ongoing, I would say this is like a whole field of sanctification. Like it seems like, yeah, there’s a lot that you could talk about there. I was just talking with some friends about this in the sense that I think building Christian culture is a wonderful calling that women have. But it’s not an easy one, and it’s not something that will be done by women who are only doing things that come naturally to them or are, or are, they’re immediately good at. Right? So the discipline of pursuing things because you have a bigger goal in mind, because you’re like, this is something, like, I know my efforts will just be a foundation. Right? I know that whatever I’m working on is never gonna be the glamorous part of Christian culture and building God’s kingdom, but wanting to push it further and further in your own life and not just settling in a place that’s like, well, good enough. You know? This is as far as I need to go. And I love that anything that we claim for Christ is His, right? So as we’re reaching around, looking for ways to communicate the joy of the Lord and what it means to be a Christian and what Christian culture should look like, we just get to take anything. Like an apple pie is not by itself… something, you know, it’s not… I hesitate to say that. I’m like, is that true? I was gonna say it’s not holy. But I don’t know, it might be holy by itself, I can’t be sure. [laughter] But if we take it and do it to the glory of God, He establishes the work of our hands. Right?
Rachel: it’s not the stockings that are that important, it’s not the pie, it’s not the table setting. It’s the people doing it to the glory of God. Right? And that whole concept, and I love this, I’ve said it before, but that in, that whole concept of, whatever you do, do it to the glory of God. It just opens up like, whatever you do! Like if you’re making quilts to the glory of God, that will matter in the lives of your child… you know, if you’re doing, if you’re cooking things, if you’re cleaning, if you’re doing all these things to the glory of God, it’s established and it’s building something, it’s making something. And I think that this idea that we have that what we’re doing is, like, it’s… okay… hold on, you asked what are the resources, and I was gonna say we were talking about this. And just today I was catching up… guess who was behind on Bible reading? [laughter]
Jenn: I think it’s a catch up day.
Melissa: it is!
Rachel: totally not my normal week where I was in… I’m in the Master’s program, a creative writing Master’s program, and I had classes all week which a whole other ballgame for me. I was like, this is not what I usually do. Okay, so as I was catching up, I flagged this verse, which I love. [1 Cor 9:10] That “he who plows should plow in hope and he who threshes in hope should be partaker of his hope.” Like, we’re hoping to build the kingdom, but we also get to partake in the joy of that right now. Like it’s a much bigger joy, it’s a much bigger thing than we have the access to, but we should still be doing it in joy here, and when I say that you were asking about rest, and I know this probably feels very loosely connected, except for how common is it that we’re trying to do something glorious for the Christian kingdom but we’re getting stressed out and we’re not partaking in the joy of what’s actually happening, what we’re actually doing it for? And Christmas is a great example of that, right? You’re like, I want this to be so fun and beautiful and joyful! And what is your temptation the entire time? Is to get just like ggghaaaaaa, like it’s so stressful, and feeding people and doing all this feels stressful, and I just think… when my twins were babies and I had two other toddlers, in that, I remember trying to make myself be like, screaming infants is not stressful. [chuckle] And actually thinking, I am not going to react to this physically like it is inviting me to. Right? You’re like, let’s just chill out and realize this is just news that I need to help them, right? Like I’m not gonna freak out if I’m changing one diaper and the other baby is screaming. I’m gonna just not respond physically to this. And I actually think that this is… I know from that example and then from the whole area of sanctification in my life, that this is a thing that you actually have the capacity to do and you can actually, you can actually strengthen the muscles that you have that blow it out, that don’t channel the stress, that’s like, well this is chaotic… and laugh and move on. Like, you don’t have to be… and in that way, we’re actually welcome to partake in a bigger rest than at times it feels impossible that we could be doing that. Right? Like, you have the capacity to not be partakers in the stress or in the noise but actually partake instead of Christ and His rest and the peace there. And it’s a real, I really think that’s a thing that’s like, you have to try it to know you can do it. But you can do it. You can actually just thank the Lord for it, blow it out, move on.
Melissa: yeah, yeah. We’ll repeat that constantly. What’s something you have read recently that has brought encouragement to your own framework of mind or your soul?
Rachel: hmm man, I’ve been reading schoolbooks. I’ve been trying to think, what did I just read? What have I been reading? Hmm. I don’t know that anything that I have been reading lately, I would say is that. I do think, I like to think more broadly of Christian culture which means that a lot of the time it’s more random take aways from things here and there that I would say are not, they’re not of particular… I wouldn’t recommend them to people to be like, read this book for a real understanding of that. So I don’t know that I have a good book recommend on that, that I would say, this is not actually a subject that I, like, probably the way Bekah and I talk about things on the podcast is the way I actually treat it in my own life. That you’re picking up fragments of things that encourage you, more than you are – I don’t have one place that I would say, oh I go here for encouragement. But this morning doing my Bible reading, catching up on stuff, that’s for sure a place that you’re like, here’s a random encouragement about the work that I’m doing today.
Rachel: that passage I’ve read a bunch of times and never actually taken it that way at all. Right? Like that’s something I’ve seen a lot of times…
Melissa: it’s a living Word, it’s always new, it’s always got something.
Rachel: I know, right? So it’s at the end of 15, 1 Corinthians 15 which I love – is therefore my beloved, you know it’s this whole discussion of the resurrection and the importance of the resurrection – and the ending, “therefore my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” And I just love that because it’s like, oh, because we believe this, you can be steadfast, immovable, and always abounding in the work of the Lord.
Melissa: yeah, hallelujah!
Rachel: and we’re always like, can we do that? Like, well that would be great. And you’re thinking, well it’s the fruit of actually believing in Christ and believing the resurrection. And so yeah, I guess that’s a cop out, to say read your Bible. That’s where you should be reading for your inspiration and encouragement.
Melissa: yeah, absolutely. Well, Rachel, thank you for taking time out of your busy life. We appreciate it.
Rachel: my pleasure.
Melissa: we’re looking forward to having you with us in person in, hold on, two and a half weeks?
Rachel: yes! All right, sounds good.
Jenn: thank you.
Melissa: thank you so much, Rachel. God bless you.
Rachel: you too. Buh-bye.
Melissa: bye, Jenn.
Melissa: and that brings today’s conversation to a close. Thanks for joining us. You can find us at PaideiaNorthwest.com and PaideiaSoutheast.com for more resources and encouragement. Join me again next time for another Paideia Conversation. Until then, peace be with you.
For this Paideia Conversation, Jenn Discher from Paideia Southeast joins Melissa Cummings from Paideia Northwest to dialogue with today’s guest, Mystie Winckler. Protecting family margin on the calendar, prioritizing Lord’s Day rest & fellowship, and picking soul-filling books like God in the Dock by C.S. Lewis are some practical ways Mystie encourages us to pursue godly paideia as well as rest… and don’t overlook her tips of quieting the mind by learning how to nap and honing the skill of brain dumping!
Links to Resources
Melissa: joining me today for this paideia conversation is my cohost Jenn Discher from Paideia Southeast, and our guest today is Mystie Winckler. We invite you into this conversation with us as we continue to practice, pursue, and implement paideia.
It’s so much fun, yeah, to sit on opposite sides of the country – you’re in your basement, I’m in my closet, and we can come together and just chat about things like creating a culture for our children…
Melissa: to further the Kingdom of God, and ask His blessing on it. It’s so great!
Melissa: so, this, Every Moment Holy is something that both Paideia Northwest and Paideia Southeast, and our respective people, have loved and used and recommended; and I just want to read a little bit from A Liturgy to Begin a Purposeful Gather. And, dare I say, a Purposeful Conversation.
“So we are gathered here, uniquely in all of history, we particular people in this singular time and multiple place, accomplish Your purposes among us, O God. Tune our hearts to the voice of Your Spirit, wake us to be present to You and to one another for in these showered moments we are given You, O Lord. You have gathered us from our various places and You alone know our hearts and our needs. O Father, enlarge our hearts, O Spirit, expand our vision, O Christ, establish Your Kingdom among us. Be at work, even now, O Lord, and may Your will in us be accomplished. Amen.”
So as we continue our chatting about paideia across the country and with a variety of different events and things coming up, I know Paideia Southeast has had one event recently. What did you call that?
Jenn: yeah, we called it a Moms’ Encouragement Night.
Melissa: Moms’ Encouragement Night. Yeah, so that was a panel and fellowship and sort of your introductory event. And now in another couple weeks you have another event, a nature walk, right?
Jenn: yes, yes! It’s a… we’re calling it a Moms’ Enrichment Day. It’s a, it’s a nature walk at a local botanical garden.
Jenn: and so there will be some nature journaling, kind of time for personal reflection, connection, fellowship, and then a lunch afterwards.
Melissa: yeah. Think I can, you know, just, be a fly on that wall maybe?
Jenn: yeah, we would love that. [laughter]
Melissa: so on this side of the country, we’ve got the Paideia Northwest conference coming up very soon, so today we get to have one of our speakers join us for our conversation here about paideia and about rest, which is the theme of the upcoming conference. Jenn, do you want to just sort of tell Mystie what we are up to, what we are doing?
Jenn: yes! So we are just chatting, Mystie, about the concept of paideia, being representatives of Paideia Southeast and Paideia Northwest. And then we’re also gonna chat a little bit about the topic of the upcoming Paideia Northwest conference being rest.
Melissa: so I’m Melissa Cummings from Paideia Northwest up in northeastern Washington, and I’m here today with my friend Jenn Discher. Tell us where you’re from.
Jenn: I’m from north Georgia, north of Atlanta.
Melissa: and you are with Paideia Southeast.
Melissa: yeah, so we’ve got one from each coast today, which is fantastic. And we are welcoming our friend Mystie Winckler, who is going to be speaking at the upcoming Paideia Northwest conference in just a couple of weeks. So, Mystie, thank you for taking the time to join us.
Mystie: thank you for inviting me.
Melissa: yeah. Jenn, do you want to go ahead and ask Mystie to tell us about who she is and what she does?
Jenn: yes, Mystie. Please do. Tell us a little about who you are and what you do.
Mystie: well, my husband and I have been married for twenty years this year. We had our twentieth anniversary. And we are in eastern Washington state in the Tri-Cities, and we both were homeschooled from the very beginning. So when it was very uncool, or even just very unknown. And then my husband and I both did dual enrollment at the community college which is about the age that we met each other in early high school. And we got married at nineteen, and now we have five kids. And our oldest is about the age that we were when we, like, were interested in one another. So that’s weird. So I have an eighteen year old, a sixteen year old, an eleven year old… um, I skipped the thirteen year old, and an eight year old. So we’re kind of in those older grades now, but they have all been homeschooled from the beginning. My oldest graduated last year with his AA from the community college, and my son is currently in that program, my second son is in that program. So I’m really only homeschooling three actively every day, but we’re in a different phase of life now. It’s a little bit strange.
Jenn: and tell us, you also, you work with, out… beyond homeschooling… Scholé Sisters.
Mystie: yes. So I am a cohost of Scholé Sisters which is a podcast and an online community for classical homeschooling moms. And then I also have my own blog and podcast and online, like, mentorship type community for homemakers. For Christian homemakers to overcome overwhelm and perfectionism and establish habits in their homes.
Jenn: I’m glad you mentioned that. I’ve been blessed by your work in all of those areas over the years, so I’m very glad you are doing all those things. To bring it back to paideia, there’s this idea, and it comes from a chapter in Ephesians in the Bible where Paul is talking to the Ephesian church, and he’s telling parents, specifically fathers in that passage, to raise their children in the paideia of God. Melissa and I have been talking about this a lot lately, we’ve been talking with other folks about this… what does this concept of paideia mean to you? How would you explain that to someone?
Mystie: well, one of the things that I love about the concept of paideia and the word and then how it’s used in Ephesians is that it was a known word to the Greek and Roman culture of the time. It would have been their word for education. You can look back through some of those classical education sources and they talk about education being paideia, and they didn’t have the categories that we do today about education where it happens in a schoolroom during certain set hours. But their idea of education that they used the word paideia for meant your whole life, everything about the whole society and culture was shaping people to become the kinds of Greeks and Romans that they wanted to raise up. So it includes the kind of typical hours, sorts of activities and education but it includes, but it’s so much more than that as well. It’s really all the pieces of life and how everything goes in to shaping our children’s loves and their desires and raising them up in that nurture and admonition of the Lord, is how it’s usually translated about where we can take this… they would have called it, enculturation could also be a translation of it. So becoming a part of a culture, and the culture that we’re supposed to be passing on to our children is the culture of the Lord.
Jenn: mhmm. I love that. It’s very holistic. I think when I finally got a handle on it… which, I mean, I don’t know that I’ll ever fully get a handle on it. But when I really started to really chew on that, it was kind of mind blowing and really encouraging. And I think, very reflective of, I mean, if a Christian worldview is supposed to be holistic, then this is, these are like holistic actions we can take, you know, by God’s grace within that. It’s exciting. So then, how does your understanding of paideia- how does that kind of flesh out in your home?
Mystie: I think as homeschoolers, one of the advantages that we should recognize and work with is the fact that we do kind of administer the whole life picture. And so we can make sure that all the pieces of life are working together and in balance with one another and give our children an education that is not just, you know, a check list, and not just passing tests or getting grades. But it is a working towards loving God in all that they do, and that includes schoolwork and it includes service and it includes work and play and everything. And since we are there all the time in all those pieces, we have to kind of keep them all working together and not compartmentalize. And then if, you know, for those who are… have their kids at a school and then they’re at home, they can really focus on the home element of paideia, because it is, I think, more enculturating. The home is really where people are formed. So it’s not optional even if your kids are at a day school, you are still a huge part of raising them up in the paideia of the Lord.
Jenn: mhmm. So, well I mean, I referenced this and I think you touched on this too, that it’s a really big, rich concept. And it can be, it can kind of take a while to chew on and think through, okay, how does this flesh out? What does this mean for us as Christians to be enculturating our kids? So can you give us kind of a tangible glimpse of, like, like we call it a glimpse of paideia, or the paideia of the Lord in your home? Whether it’s a schooling, specific to homeschooling or not.
Mystie: yeah, one of the things I think of is how we go about choosing, like, what we memorize or what we sing during our school time. We have a Morning Time where we’re all together and do Scripture memory and singing and prayer time together, and so that’s really the cornerstone piece of our homeschool, and that is a huge part of the paideia of building up a family culture that is centered on Christ. And we choose what we sing based on what we sing at church so that my kids can participate better in church. That’s one way to like tie in those different pieces of our lives and make them one piece, is that the efforts we put in, you know on this one side of our school day, are also working together to build up helping them feel like a part of the worship service as well. We often end our family dinner time together with the Lord’s Prayer. So just when these different pieces come up in different parts of the day and not just, oh, that’s what we do during this time, it’s happening kind of all over the place, that’s one way where I see paideia happening.
Jenn: I love that. I like the idea of being intentional to have those things be crossing paths in different contexts. One thing actually that I’ve found helpful in our Morning Time in our homeschool has been mottos… probably your mottos… [laughter] We’ve adapted! We’ve pulled in… I have a good friend who’s great at that, and then I’ve come up with some, but mottos have been so key for us. Those short, snappy little phrases of little, like, little nuggets of truth or just good things to remember. And that over time, if you practice them, to put them in action, it really does become part of your family culture. Right. I love that.
Mystie: yeah, that’s a great one too. Because they apply, then, throughout life. You might be learning them during one piece but you’re applying them and referring back to them throughout, and it changes your actions, which is making a culture.
Jenn: yes! Absolutely. And you get reminded of them by your children [laughter] when you need to remember the motto. They are so good at that! At reminding you.
Melissa: Jenn, that really goes over into the idea of, it’s not just a culture of our children… I know what we’ve talked about this before is, we’re also in that culture and we’re still being formed. So even as the mama or as an adult, we are still being shaped. And so how, how we are in that culture making with our kids, having those hymns and those Scriptures and those mottos – all of that – or even, Mystie mentioned the word service – entering into acts of service with our children is continuing to shape us. And just like we need to be intentional with our children because they will be shaped whether we are intentional or not, so will we.
Melissa: so yeah, good thoughts.
Jenn: love that. That’s so true. So I guess along those lines Mystie, what’s one resource, maybe like a book or a website or event, song, poem, podcast, whatever – that you could recommend to others, to other moms who are seeking to raise their kids in a specifically Christian culture in their homes?
Mystie: I do think music can be one of the most powerful sources of enculturation, and so just, each family thinking about what is the music tying you to? What culture is the music tying you to? And what are the resources available to you that help you make, use music, to tie you to your local church body? So we have a huge stack of the Trinity Psalter Hymnal, which is the hymnal that our church uses, and we use that for our Morning Time every morning. My piano students are always practicing at least one hymn from that during their piano time. It has the catechisms and the creeds in the back of it so we use it for reference, and so, that’s not like, oh, use this resource – we’re using that resource because it is what our church uses. And so, you know, whatever, I would recommend finding something that helps you tie your family culture to your local church culture. And just considering your local church a part of your paideia in your family, your extended family, I think is really important.
Jenn: mhmm, I love that. It makes me think of even just as a resource the people. Like, the other older women at our local churches. Like looking at someone else’s family or like, oh, I love what you’ve got going on there, tell me about that, where did that come from?
Mystie: for sure.
Melissa: that’s really good. So talking about implementing these things or opening up the idea of making connections across home and church, and then also you mentioned, of course, education, right, specific homeschooling or day schooling – but connecting all those things, from the perspective of a mama, then, who is stitching those pieces together and encouraging how they all weave in… how do you find, going back to that idea of rest, how do you find rest necessary in motherhood? Because I think so often the automatic, the default, is, oh of course motherhood is exhausting. But usually we’re talking about the sleepless nights or the need for more coffee. What do you think of when you ponder the need for rest in motherhood?
Mystie: I think about the need to enjoy the work that we’re doing it, which, at least for myself, does not come naturally. Even, you know, Morning Time, which is supposed to be the best part of your day or whatever, it often it is, well just honestly it can feel chaotic especially when we had younger kids, it just kind of felt like crazy time. But when I treated Morning Time or meal time or these other, you know, really family building times as just one more thing I was supposed to be doing, was when I felt overwhelmed and exhausted. And I was closed off, really, to being able to enjoy them. And it was actually a good friend of mine, who at one point… I was probably at this point having a bit of baby blues after having baby number four, and was the, complaining to a friend. And one of the things she said has always stuck with me. She said, well, just go do something that you enjoy with your kids. And it caught me off guard because I, it made me realize, I hadn’t enjoyed, like, any of those, these times lately. And it wasn’t because they couldn’t be enjoyable. It was because it was like I had shut off a part of my awareness to the fact that it really was enjoyable and so I couldn’t receive the joy, enjoyment, from those times. And the rest of just being instead of doing. Because of how overinvolved my mental space was with the tasks and with feeling like I wasn’t doing good enough, so I wasn’t letting myself be happy about anything. And so just taking the time to just step back, and you know, a brain dump is one of the things I’m always recommending. Where you’re just writing things out that come to your head. And so, what are the things that really ought to be enjoyable with my family, and it required turning off the constant inner narrator loop of this isn’t good enough, this isn’t what I wanted it to be, there’s still the laundry, there’s still the this, that, and the other thing going on. You have to step back and stop the, that negative ticker tape mind and just see the people and enjoy the food or the singing as a person. And that has been a big game changer for me, in that rest doesn’t have to be always a time away or an escape. I was looking, at the time I was looking for escapes. And the joy and the rest was actually right there in front of me. I just had to accept it and recognize it and put away my anxiety and overwhelm.
Melissa: there’s a quote from Sarah Mackenzie’s Teaching from Rest that I remember revisiting this summer, when I did that with the Scholé Sisters’ read through of it, where she said: what if, instead of trying to make the most of our time, we worked harder at savoring it. And I’ve always loved the word savor. But I feel like that’s the essence of what you’re saying. Like, it is right in front of us, but we need to savor it. So, yeah, really… really helpful reminders. It is. It’s right in front of us. So how, I feel like this is… You’ve already touched on this a little bit but how do you as a specific woman, a specific mother, how do you pursue rest in your home, in your family culture? As an individual, but they also, how do you encourage rest in your family?
Mystie: I think one of the things is, we’re pretty careful with our schedule, and we don’t do a lot of running to and fro, and we’re not involved in a lot of different things. You know, sometimes the kids do need times with friends and community and activities, but it’s really easy to overload those so that as a family we don’t have time to have a meal together or it’s just one thing or another, and everyone’s passing each other. It starts happening just naturally with older kids, because now I have two older teens with drivers’ licenses and jobs. And you know, we don’t see them much. So that’s fine for the stage of life that they’re at, but it reminds me to be careful with the younger kids’ time that they have time to just sit and read or draw or ride their bikes out on the road with friends. And those kind of refreshing activities that don’t involve a lot of hurry and scurry, I guess. And making time for family meals together without phones at the table. Or even just… the big one for me is, when we do, do have, when we do have our Morning Time, putting away my phone during it so that my mind is actually engaged in what we’re doing and able to take the singing and the prayer and the Scripture as a source of encouragement and enjoyment in the morning instead of it being just one more thing on my list that we’re doing but I’m also thinking about what’s coming later, you know, this, that, and the other thing. It’s really, you know, looking at that whole day and the week as a whole, and trying to balance that making sure that the kids are each getting what they need while not going crazy as a family.
Melissa: how do you purpose to set aside the Lord’s Day as a day of rest?
Mystie: yeah, that’s been a big growing space for me in the last few years, just trying to figure out that question. Because it seemed like a lot of the advice for making the Lord’s Day a day of rest seemed to come from men who didn’t understand homemaking. [laughter] Because it’s like, well, just don’t work… I mean, we do need food, and we do need all these other things, they are, that’s like your ox in the ditch. But then, that’s my whole week. Like, so? How is this a thing? [laughter] And I really have come to a place where I do enjoy the Lord’s Day as a day of rest even when I have to make food and get the kids together and in the care on time and to church… because I make it a point to not move my own agenda forward on that day. That’s kind of become my reference point for it being a day of rest. It means I’m not trying to get ahead. I’m not making a to do list. What needs to be done, we do. And I don’t let myself have a bad attitude about it. And that makes it restful. It’s the bad attitude that makes it not restful. And that has been a big help for me, is just thinking about it in terms of letting my agenda go, and you know, usually we get together with friends or something, but I also sometimes – because we’re getting together with friends – have to clean the kitchen or sometimes have to make food. But it’s for the fellowship and it’s for enjoying as a family and it’s not because I have this plan that I am making happen.
Melissa: now, I know, Jenn already asked about a resource for encouraging the enculturation, that paideia, in your home – and so I think the answer of a psalter/hymnal or something from church couldn’t overlap here. Bit what is a resource or an idea for pursuing that rest in the Lord as we labor for the kingdom of God? And you’ve already given some really good glimpses of how you incorporate that. But are there, are there any other last thoughts that you have on that subject?
Mystie: well, I think going to church on Sunday and letting your mind and heart be engaged there, and reading the Bible every day on your own and then also with your children somehow – those are the cornerstones. Like, no other… every other resource has to come after those, and then I know, one thing I have noticed more and more lately is that the homeschool moms of my mom’s generation all do take naps, and did take naps. And I am a bad napper. [laughter]
Jenn: it doesn’t further your agenda!
Mystie: no, it doesn’t! And I have a hard time turning off my mind!
Jenn: I get it, yeah! [laughter]
Mystie: and so I’ve been thinking about the a lot lately. The ability to take a nap, even if it’s just a twenty minute downtime in dark and, you know, my kids are old enough now that if I close the door, they can not bother me for twenty minutes. But how that is a giving up of the agenda and the feeling of, like, I have to be all that and supermom and do all the things. It’s an act of trust and faith sometimes to take a nap, and so it’s not lazy. It can be a spiritual exercise of faith.
Melissa: it’s so encouraging to hear, you know, from the perspective of, yes, we need to fill our souls, we need to be in the Word, we need to prioritize those things – but also, I mean, the Word, the psalms are full of references to physical rest and how the Lord uses that to nurture our bodies and our souls. And that’s something that we can receive from Him, and I think, you know, you mentioned, Mystie, putting a hedge around your family’s time, and that’s a gift that we can also give to our children then. To say, you get to have this space of rest. And my kids don’t always appreciate it at a gift. [laughter] Sometimes it’s, you know, I have to lay down? Usually, you know, if I let them have a book, it’s always good news then. But it is, it’s a gift we receive from the Lord and we can then pass that on to our children. I think also a little plug there for the Bible Reading Challenge–that’s something that Paideia Northwest and Paideia Southeast, that’s something we love and we have as a habit and we like to share that. It’s restful. It’s that daily nourishment and, you know, we’re talking about the, the Living Water and the Bread of Life. Man does not live by bread alone, but it’s the Bread of Life and the Living Water, and that’s what gives us that inner spiritual nourishment. So really, really good reminders there. So a final question before we head off is, what have you been reading lately that specifically has brought the blessing of that godly culture, godly nourishment to your soul?
Mystie: right now one of the books I’m reading is C.S. Lewis’ God in the Dock, which is a collection of essays. So that’s always a nice kind of a book to have in the rotation because you don’t have to keep the thread through a long book. It’s like each chapter stands alone. And I wasn’t, I mean I wasn’t going into it thinking, that’s the book that’s going to be a paideia type of book, but C.S. Lewis is so good at identifying the spiritual problems in culture and in questions, and a lot of the cultural and political issues that we see around us today, you know, in a way that’s a part of our paideia. Like, it does, whether we like it or not, the society that we’re in is a part of our surroundings. So our paideia has to address it, and living in that in a godly way.
Mystie: and reading C.S. Lewis and God in the Dock – he’s addressing these cultural, you know, atheistic or other ungodly cultural assumptions and questions, in such a clear way, and it helps me right now to see that some of the problems we see in the world around us today have been a long time coming. Like, they’re not just, where did that come from? C.S. Lewis saw all of this coming and was answering them in his day and we can continue those… there are good answers, and there is a right Christian response to living in the world that has its issues today. So that’s kind of where my mind of paideia thoughts have been lately. Encouraged by C.S. Lewis.
Melissa: yeah, always timely. Always good.
Melissa: well, Mystie, I’m really grateful you took the time to join us for a short conversation today, and… you know, Jenn won’t be here for our conference on Rest next month, but I will get to see you and I’m looking forward to hearing your practical applications for how to pursue and apply that rest and not give in to overwhelm, which we can so easily fall into. So thank you for taking the time to be with us. And, Jenn, it was great to catch up with you today
Jenn: yes, always. Good to chat, thank you!
Mystie: thank you, Melissa. Thank you, Jenn.
Melissa: thank you so much, ladies. We’ll talk again soon.
This conversation between Melissa Cummings from Paideia Northwest and Kristen Kill, author of Finding Selah, is a contemplation of beauty, Christian culture, and making space in the midst of busy life to purposely rest in the Lord. If you are anticipating the upcoming Rest conference with Paideia Northwest, this ought to really whet your appetite. To the Kingdom!
Links to Resources Mentioned
Finding Selah by Kristen Kill
Pollyanna with Hayley Mills
Our 24 Family Ways by Clay and Sally Clarkson
Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield
Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle by Betty MacDonald
The Railway Children by E. Nesbit
Atomic Habits by James Clear
The Gospel Comes with a Housekey by Rosaria Butterfield
The Architecture of Happiness by Alain de Botton
Rewilding Motherhood by Shannon Evans
This Beautiful Truth by Sarah Clarkson
Melissa: okay, and joining me now is my new friend, Kristen Kill. And she’s going to be speaking to us at Paideia Northwest at our upcoming Rest conference, and we get a little peek into a conversation beforehand. So, Kristen, I’m delighted you took the time to join me today for a conversation – thank you so much!
Kristen: oh, thanks for having me! It’s really fun to get to know you ahead of meeting you in person and speaking to all these wonderful women.
Melissa: yes! So, could you just introduce yourself, your family, your background and your current work? Just all the things.
Kristen: sure! Yeah, you bet. Okay, so. I’m Kristen Kill, and I live in Portland, Oregon. Before we lived here, we – well, we’ve lived all over the place, but before we lived in Portland, we raised our kids for about seven years in Manhattan. I have five kids now, our last was born two weeks after we moved to Portland, so that’s a whole story. But my oldest is a senior in college, she’s twenty. And then I have a daughter who’s a senior in high school, who is almost eighteen. And then I have a fifteen year old son who’s a sophomore and a thirteen year old daughter that is an eighth grader, and then our little guy who just turned five. So we’re kind of all over the place with kiddos. My husband and I have been married twenty-two years…
Melissa: praise the Lord!
Kristen: which is just crazy, it’s so fun! And it really does get better and better. We got married really young. Well, not so young: twenty and twenty-one. It felt… it feels young now that I have a twenty year old. [laughter]
Melissa: of course, right? [laughter]
Kristen: yeah, she’s like, sorry guys, I’m not on the same path. [laughter] We’re like, step it up, you’re behind! We’re always giving her a hard time, we’re always making jokes: she really is not in that place right now. So we are, we’ve been married a long time. Our families have known each other, our great grandmothers worked together in the same town – it’s so bizarre. And so it’s really, really sweet. All of our family’s in the same town in Wenatchee and Cashmere, Washington, which are not far from where the Paideia Northwest conference is. And that was one of the reasons we moved back to Portland, to be able to be in driving distance of our families, and back in the Pacific Northwest after almost a decade away. Let’s see. I am an author. So I’ve written a book that came out with Zondervan in 2018 called Finding Selah, and a lot of what I’m sharing about at the conference is from that book. It’s on rest, and it’s about finding rest kind of right in the middle of things, not as an end of something that we work towards and then we get to take a break. But what it looks like to experience the rest of God in the rhythm of our real life. And what it looks like to abide in Him. And so I’m really excited to talk about that. I have taken off a couple of years from professional writing and speaking, really, to study creative writing at Oxford University in the UK. And so I just began on my second year in a program there that I’m loving! And so that’s really where all my time and energy is going. I say yes to speaking things and little things are going on locally, and then things that I just feel really called to, like this conference! Which is so exciting for me to be able to do something in my region that’s accessible right now, and share about this thing that I haven’t been able to share about in a little while. So I’m kind of immersed in literary critique and poetry and drama; right now I’m in the middle of a six week course on short story. And I’m just absolutely floored, getting to study writing and story in this context academically, and seeing the way that God’s story has been crafted for us by the Lord, and the way that all story ties to His story. Like, it’s phenomenal to be able to even learn about connecting with readers and seeing so much of what we know to be true of the Gospel and how God connects to us in a lot of these principles. But I’m really, really finding my heart in poetry, and so I think that my next book will be about poetry in the life of the church.
Melissa: oh, I can’t wait for that!
Kristen: I’m so thrilled! It actually has been until really the last 150 years or so such an integral part of our spiritual formation and expression of our hearts before the Lord, and in church history more of a formal way. And so I think that I’m going to probably end up doing a Master’s thesis on that and being able to research a little bit about tying in church history and literature and poetry and then… and I’m really hopeful to be able to write and share about what that looks like in my next book, especially because I think that in the United States in particular we’re just having such a crisis of beauty. And to be able to write and understand our church history through the lens of a poetic heart and poetic speech I think just will increase our wonder that we have before God. And I think that that’s something that we really need right now in our culture and in our churches.
Kristen: so year, it’s still a little bit away because I still have a year left of this first program. But that’s where I’m at now, what occupies my days.
Melissa: wow, wow – and what does education with your kids look like right now during this season? Because I know it kind of can change year to year.
Kristen: yeah, it can. So we have our kids – one of them is at a private Christian high school, and we kind of have taken the view of, like, we’ve homeschooled everyone up until like that middle school high school time, and we start looking for co ops or outside classes or kind of partner programs that they can do that allow them to have some time with their peers, some time to be exposed to like classroom settings and tests which have not always been a piece of our life at home. Just some things that are a little bit more traditional as we prepare to launch them. And then for a couple of them, that has meant going to, like, partner programs or, like, this private Christian school. So I have one obviously in college, she homeschooled all the way through. And then this other at a private school. Our other kids are at a private Christian classical school that is, that just partners quite a lot with parents. And then our little guy is doing homeschool with us at home as well, and then does like a co op preschool where the parents are there really every day doing things together with them…
Melissa: you have a lot of different irons in that educational fire.
Kristen: it is really crazy, yeah! So they’re… it’s a weird thing. I don’t know if I would have ever thought that this would happen as my kids grew. But their education really has – the older ones especially, because you know, eighth grade and up, a lot of, and pretty much what they’re doing is really independent with the courses and the classes that they take part in. I don’t think that I ever thought that my kids would, like, know how to read, let alone handle so much independently, but they really have, and we’ve really turned over quite a bit for the high school kids over to tutors, and get to take on more of a coaching role and a supportive role. And they’ve been able to focus on areas and passions that they have, and it’s been so beautiful. I love, I loved kind of crossing that boundary with them where we really, I feel like I just get to be right alongside and coach, and it’s been really really great for this stage of their discipleship as well. So yeah, it’s – we’re kind of all over, doing all kinds of different things.
Melissa: that’s beautiful though. It’s like a mosaic.
Kristen: it is! It’s a mosaic. An educational mosaic. And a lot of driving! [laughter] But it’s so good, and it’s so sweet. I don’t know, I don’t know that I could ever be satisfied not having everything for our kids so tailored. Like, it’s just been such a gift. So to see the…
Melissa: to educate them as individuals, is that what you mean?
Kristen: yes. Yeah. And to see the fruit of that in them. To be able to say yes to things that they care deeply about, and to see them each kind of take up a mantle in areas of giftedness that they have or areas of interest that they want to explore. I just can’t think of any other time in life where they’re gonna have the freedom to do that, and so to be able to watch that and see things come alive for them as they go about that has just been really rich and really beautiful, so yeah, we’re bopping around all day long over here. But it’s, but it’s really sweet.
Melissa: so you mentioned, obviously, you mentioned the word education. Then you also mentioned the word discipleship…
Melissa: so then that kind of leads me right into that question of paideia.
Melissa: so what does that word mean to you? Is it new to you? Is this a word that… yeah, like, I love this word, but I’ve been told I’m a little it geeky about that. So-
Kristen: I love that you love it! I maybe had to google it. [laughter] And be sure that I understood it in its context. And, you know I asked you about this before we recorded today. I had been familiar with the word because there is another classical partnering, partnership homeschool program here in Portland that is called Paideia. And so I had known some about its roots and its connection to the word education and its, you know, the way that it’s used in the Greek in the New Testament. But in talking to you about it, and in seeing a lot of, even the posts that you have on the Paideia Instagram account, this idea of enculturation is one that I just love, and I think I’ve been using the heart of paideia without knowing the word for a really long time. And I think I would’ve, I think it does come down to discipleship. It’s thinking about discipleship of the whole person, you know, looking at who God has made them to be, like, who our family is, where we’re called to live, like, the things that we’re passionate about just in who we are in the culture of our home. Which a lot of times of course is always fueled by Mom and Dad. We say often, if we’re called to this then you’re also called to this. You know. If we have a baby when you’re in high school, you’re called to experience what this is all gonna look like, as a teenager in our home, etc etc. But there’s this idea of your family culture, of like who you are and also developing and uncovering, like, the work that God has you to do in the world. But that pouring in and also uncovering of a person is really beautiful, and I just think it’s so… we were talking a little bit before we started recording as well, about this idea that it’s so easy to kind of, as parents especially if you have lots of children or are homeschooling or are working or have whatever responsibilities are happening in your life that are overwhelming, it’s so easy to start box-checking. Like, okay, we did math today, okay we did this today, okay we did this- like, we’re doing good. Or to start, you know, just looking at life in sort of a flat way like that. Like this two dimensional life instead of having this vision for something that is so much bigger, that is so hopeful, that’s so rich. And so I think to be able to consider, like, that the way that you’re opening up and pouring into the soul of a person in the math lesson, in the way that you set a dinner table, in the way that you help them learn how to greet someone or smile when they’re out at the grocery store, or share with a friend- like, all of the beauty that is being created in your home and all the little habits that are being created. As well as the appetites that are being formed, in literature, in film, in art. It’s these deposits into our children that let them feel that they’re so part of something, giving them a sense of self, but giving them a sense of who God is, and opening up their divine imagination. But there’s this piece of uncovering, too, in that, in being able to – I guess that’s what I would say in terms of developing a divine imagination about all of those things, that they’re connecting with the heart of God through academics, through the things that they’re learning, through all the things that they’re being exposed to in your home, and that.. and even just letting them be free to be able to interact with all of those things and learn who God has made them to be. Our kids are, all five of them, are so different. Which is funny. You kind of think after like three kids, you’re like, okay, we’ve got like some variety here. [laughter] We’re just gonna go back like, it’s an A-B pattern or something, but they’re all like so different, and yet there are these things that like us, that are like, these are the Kill family things. These are the ways of our family. These are the things we love, these are the traditions we hold, this is the way that we interact with one another, this is the way we interact with the world, this is the way we see things. Like, you’re developing a grid and a lens for life as you disciple a person, and it, it’s pretty great, like, to see adult kids now in our family… I mean, the hardest part is that you basically get to raise kids who love all the same things that you love- or don’t, and make fun of you for it! [laughter] But they really do typically. My kids are still kind of funny about certain music and tv shows or, like, movies that I loved and I thought that they would just adore. I thought they would just adore Pollyanna, and they just tell me I’m so dorky.
Melissa: oh that’s so funny!
Kristen: I’m like, are they even my children? I don’t even know. [laughter] It’s so funny, but there are certain things like that that they’ll sit through and they love, and then they’re like, do you want to watch that, Mom? I know. And I love that old Hayley Mills movie, you know. And they, and I think they secretly love it, but they just love to moan about it when they’re teens.
Kristen: and yet it’s like this thing that we do. And it’s just really fun to raise kids who have similar appetites and kind of are your best friends, because they love doing all the things you love, and then you have to send them off somewhere… which is absolutely horrible. And but it’s yeah, it’s just such a gift, just to share so… like, you really do kind of raise best friends, like, by the time that they’re adults. It’s so fun!
Melissa: oh amen, my mom is still my best friend.
Kristen: your mom is what?
Melissa: my best friend.
Kristen: I love that.
Melissa: which is one reason we live next door to my parents.
Kristen: oh, I love it. See? That’s the dream. We need to buy a place where there’s enough property for the kids to build a house next door. That would be perfect. We live in the middle of a really busy city, but you know, the dream is still alive.
Melissa: the dream is still there, yeah.
Kristen: if anything goes up for sale around us, we’ll think about investments.
Melissa: there you go.
Kristen: but it really is true, because you’re shaping their appetites with all the things you introduce to them. You know, the way that they view the world, the way they understand the things of God, but also all the fun things. All the cinnamon rolls and favorite recipes and things that you do in the fall, and it creates a culture and a team that is just such a stabilizing force for, not only your children, but for you. You know, it’s so fun to get to kind of have your team that, you know, love all the same things. And, like I said, it’s not all the time that they love all the same things. But there’s things that are just built into the warp and woof of your life that are so special.
Melissa: you’ve said habits, and you’ve said appetites.
Kristen: oh, okay.
Melissa: and I love those words. Those are so good, because we all have habits and we all have appetites.
Kristen: yeah, right.
Melissa: but training them and honing them, turning them toward things that are communal or lovely, praiseworthy… yeah, so good.
Kristen: right. Yeah, that’s hard! Because the whole, I mean… if you get on… I mean, you go to the library and there’s a lot of, what did Charlotte Mason call it?
Melissa: twaddle! [laughter]
Kristen: twaddle. There’s a lot of twaddle out there. There’s a lot of twaddle in terms of things that you may consume: art, music, books, movies. And so being able to discern what is beautiful and introducing that to your children and having them sort of, like, choose from a feast of beautiful literature, and a feast of beautiful art, and you know, even taking the time to… we’ve been remodeling our kitchen, so it’s been mayhem. And we’ve had our kitchen in our… we had to be out of our house for six weeks, and when we came back, since, I don’t know, mid-August, we’ve been in our laundry room as the kitchen. Now we can’t, we don’t have our kitchen fully back, but we have it back enough that we can cook in there even though there’s no oven. We have like a countertop oven. It’s a whole situation with these cargo ships that are all over the place right now! But I laid out appetizers the other night before, while I was cooking dinner. And it was just like hummus with vegetables on top, like, and a bunch of pita bread and some fun little things just for the kids to nibble on. And my thirteen year old goes, are we having people over? And I was like, nope, this is just dinner. You know? And it was, her eyes just lit up. And it took thirty seconds longer to put out a beautiful serving dish and light a candle and have them be welcomed in and be hosted, you know, by us for a meal. Which, I think, in the absence of that, we’re just very aware of the hunger that we have (no pun intended) for that kind of dinner together. But it’s sort of like, those small choices that you make in the way that you lay out a feast for your family in whatever it may be, the books that you read, the music that you listen to, you know- all of my kids, my five year old has been obsessed with Vivaldi since he was three. Like, he just loves Vivaldi! Like he thinks just, kids that are, you know, really into TikTok and all these fun music things, like, are listening to that beat drop, you know, in rap music and everything else? Vivaldi is the original beat drop! [laughter] He just had that, and then, so the kids are able to see that and go, oh my gosh, this is so cool! This is so good. But there’s this, I mean, when they hear something rich and beautiful and true, it’s almost transcendent in terms of opening up their world to the Lord, I think, and to all the gifts that He’s given. And it’s that simple, as turning on something beautiful to listen to or… and it doesn’t always have to be Classical music. We love rap music. But it could be, you know, or lighting a candle before dinner so that they have a sense of home and a sense of place, and that they begin to desire beauty and connect that with your heart for them, connect that with home and connect it with the Lord. And it changes, like, if they’ve been raised in an environment where they have been loved and accepted and cared for and heard, and where there is so much beauty and connection happening around them, like I really think that is probably the greatest safeguard in when we send them out into the world and the kinds of relationships that they have and the places that they want to inhabit. Because they will instantly recognize something different in people who are not listening, who are not respecting, who are not safe. And places that they occupy that aren’t like that. And not everything has to be over the top, but I think there is really a security in that, in the way that we shape the things that they love and the things that feel right and true to them, that tie into a broader picture of eternity and into the heart of God. So it’s a really sweet privilege to get to introduce them to things. And it also really nurtures your own soul as a mom, because you get to feast on all the delights of God as well! And yeah, it’s just, it’s a beautiful way to pour into your own soul in the midst of days that can get harried.
Melissa: yeah, yeah! So, you know, you mentioned obviously books and movies and food and candles and music, all of these atmospheric and engaging things. What is something recently, you know, with, I don’t know, a child or as a family- that you’ve noticed sort of that philosophical idea of a paideia reaching the practical, seeing it lived out and enfleshed, fattened up?
Kristen: oh that’s a really great, that’s a really really great question. I think that it’s actually been interesting with our five year old, because we have started, and this is one of my resources I really want to share with your listeners too- he’s at the age where he, we’ve traditionally started introducing our kids like to the Westminster Shorter Catechism at this age, and a lot of that is just rote memorization. We sing a lot of it and Songs for Saplings is one of my very favorite resources! It’s actually created by some of our closest friends, James and Dana Dirksen, and I’m actually on the board of the nonprofit for Songs for Saplings. So there’s a plug. But I love it! And I’ve loved it for forever, even before we knew them. And Dana’s a musician, and she sings biblical truth. And so we’ve had that playing in our car, we have it playing at bedtime, we’ll have it playing in the background while Harris is playing so that Scripture is just pouring into his heart. And he is at the point now where we’re driving in the car and he’ll look somewhere and have a question about eternity, have a question about… he asked another parent in our preschool co op, he said, do you know Jesus? And they said, oh yes, I know Jesus. And he goes, or no, he said, do you know about Jesus, I think is what he said. And then he said, but do you trust Jesus and love Jesus? And I thought, that is a huge concept for him to understand the difference between knowing about Jesus and trusting Him with your life and loving Him. And it’s like all these truths about who God is and about, you know, truths about who he is before God, are turning into the conversations that he is prompting and initiating with us and with other people. And it’s really interesting because, you know, you just kind of have these things on in the background, and we do talk about them, but not, I mean, he just turned five two weeks ago. So it’s, it’s like, we’re talking about them once or twice a week, really intentionally, and like, let’s sing those songs together and remember these truths about God. But to see him begin to apply that to his own heart and life, to be able to ask questions that are really rich theological questions has kind of blown me away actually. And they’re insightful, and it’s just like, okay this truth about who God is and this truth in His Word that has been pouring into his heart is not returning void. The Holy Spirit is doing something in him that we get to watch and participate in. And I would say, too, a big piece of that that has been important for us is to make sure that there’s space and room for those conversations. We really have to be intentional with everything with five kids, which only four are at home. But in terms of just making room to talk, making room for our kids to ask questions, to know when they can connect, to know that we’re unencumbered by other things and want to receive them and be welcoming to them and the questions that they have and the conversations that they want to have. But it’s been really cool to see something like that that we’ve presented begin to take real root in his life.
Melissa: yeah. It just really drives home what Jesus said about faith like a child.
Melissa: you know, it’s that unencumbered wonder of, yeah, this child who is embracing and questioning and wanting to learn and wanting to grow…
Kristen: yes! And that that’s an innate part of who God made them to be. That there is a natural inclination to play and to explore and to be engaged in wonder and beauty already in our kids that God has placed there. And so we get to be kind of… Sally Clarkson always says, conductors of beauty. And I would say, too, like conductors of all the things that are going on in your home. If you almost, like, imagine all the beauty, all the people, all the things that are a part of that paideia in your home as like musical notes… like, you’re the conductor who gets to make sure that all these things are coming together and then… really, God is the Conductor of all of these things that are happening… but to be able to see, kind of, and cultivate what all of those pieces look like and just see fruit and see what bubbles to the top for each of your family members or for yourself, the things that they’re interested in or that they want to look at and ponder and bring to you is just really, really beautiful. So, yeah.
Melissa: so you mentioned the Songs for Saplings, are there other things that come to mind when talking about something that you would recommend to those who are raising their children in a specifically Christian culture and home?
Kristen: yeah! I just mentioned Sally Clarkson. She and her husband Clay have written a book called Our 24 Family Ways, and I have used that with all of our kids. So probably, oh I don’t know, because of the spread of our kids, there’s probably been like four or five distinct seasons where we pull it out and we’ll, it’s twenty-four ways, and we’ll go through one way a week. And it has, you know, a Bible story, it has verses to memorize. We actually have photocopied – Clay gave me this idea, actually – to kind of photocopy and then cut out these strips in the way that the book is laid out, because it’s like a two page spread for one, you know, Way 24, or whatever. And we’ll slice them up and be able to pull out a verse or a story or something to read. There’s one for every day of the week. And we’ll put them in a big vase on the kitchen table so that during dinner we pull one out and then pull out the Bible, and then read about the Way in that context in that Bible study. So it’s lent itself really well to family devotions for the kids, but it’s been about things like… one of the Ways is that, you know, we really respect one another in our speech, or we, you know like, it’s all kind of the character training that you really want to pour into your kids, but it’s done in a way that you can discover together. Like we’re hard workers. And they’re longer. It’s like a whole sentence. But it addresses things like, you know, working together, having a joyful attitude, welcoming others in. You know, the ways that are our posture of heart before the Lord and before each other. And so it’s been neat to kind of explore those Ways together and to feel like we’re part of a team together. So for primary, like, character training, that’s been really big. And it’s been fun as the older kids, like, I guess we’ve done it probably three times. We’re about to do it again, because Harris is just at the right age now. And the older kids in the past have done it, like, knowing those Ways and being able to talk about them with the younger kids. That’s such a huge piece too, if you have a spread like mine, where your older kids are able to point out and create word pictures for the little ones about the different things that you want to teach. We also are big Jesus Storybook Bible lovers, as is everyone I’m sure. And then there is, like, anything that is… you know, Scripture Lullabies or like Songs for Saplings that we can have in our car or in our home that just adds to hearing God’s Word in a beautiful way, and pouring it into our hearts is a big deal. And then probably just countless books that we’ve read that all shape who we are and that we love so much and it’s, I mean, a list of hundreds I think. That’s one of my favorite parts about having homeschooled my kids. And now even in the older kids, I try to always have a read aloud going, and in seasons where they’re like, Mom, I don’t have time to sit here, then I just make sure we have something life-giving in the car. Because it’s such a communal kind of attentiveness there, and it creates so many conversations later. And it’s just delightful to have something more fun, I guess, fun reading or inspirational reading that is separate from their schoolwork that we’re doing together that they look forward to and enjoy. And there’s just so much about reading aloud that’s so important even for our teenagers. So we incorporate a lot of that. And there’s certain books that are for certain seasons, like, have you ever read Understood Betsy?
Kristen: so I always think that is like the best book for like a third grade girl that’s starting to like not want to do chores [laughter] or needs some independence. Like, okay, you are like moving into a season. It just is like clockwork in third grade. There’s something about it.
Melissa: I read that with my daughter right around her eighth birthday. [laughter]
Kristen: yeah, it’s perfect! And it’s like, okay, we… I need to help you, like, have a sense of what you’re actually capable of and grow in your capacity. And it’s the perfect book for that. We just love it. I have kind of an ongoing list of books like that, that I’m like, ooh it’s time for this. And pull out often.
Melissa: I would like a glance at that book, or at that list! That sounds fantastic!
Kristen: it’s kind of mostly in my head. But it’s, it’s one of those things. Or like, you know, if you have a first grader who doesn’t want to take a bath, I always love Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle. Like I love doing as much as I can with humor and joking with my kids and just sympathizing and connecting with them. And sometimes books can do that. They can allow us to discover alongside and laugh…
Melissa: yeah, it’s a communal experience, but then you can also develop those inside jokes.
Kristen: yeah, it is… and then… yes, so many inside jokes! And so there’s things like that that are just special to read. When my older four kids were in a season of quarrelling, I read The Railway Children…
Kristen: which I just love. And it’s about these four children whose father is like falsely imprisoned in English. I don’t even know, was it the eighteen hundreds or early nineteen hundreds?
Melissa: right around the turn of the centry?
Kristen: yeah, and they end up having to go to the countryside with their mother who is overburdened, trying to write a book to save them economically, and they end up having all these adventures in the countryside and waving to people on a train and getting kind of excited about the railway that’s near them, and all these different events happen. But they really have to learn fortitude together and bond together and be a team together that works together, that cares for each other. It’s four children, so they… or maybe it’s only three children… anyway, they have a younger sibling that they kind of have to watch out for and care for, and it’s just really beautiful. Like, they can’t, your kids kind of can’t stay mad at each other or not have a vision for teaming up and conquering the world together after they read that book. And so there’s things like that that I just kind of have in the back of my mind that are tied to the things that will spark up or, you know, that I see that need attention in their character. And that’s kind of been my secret. I don’t know if… I have a lot of other little things but that’s probably the main one, where I say okay, it’s time for this!
Melissa: that’s fantastic.
Melissa: okay, so one thing that I know you have spent a lot of time pondering and researching and writing about and sharing is that idea of pause and rest and selah. I’ve read your book a couple of times and then I listened to the audiobook at least once through…
Kristen: oh, thank you!
Melissa: I just, I’m so… I find so much in there where I’m just nodding my head and going, yes, yes! Underlining all the things.
Melissa: so how do you see rest or pause or selah in motherhood? Where it’s so easy to not have a pause in a day or in a routine.
Kristen: yeah, and it’s huge. And I think that that’s kind of what I was saying when I was introducing myself and saying hello, is that the idea that rest is something that only happens, you know, at the end of something. Like when we finish a task you get to rest. As though it’s a reward, and not the place where we begin. If we don’t, you know, it’s interesting in the context now after the Resurrection of Christ, we begin the week on the Sabbath. We’re not… we get to begin in a place of rest and abiding so that we’re trusting God in all the work that He has given us to do. And we’re working from that place of abiding in Him instead of this, we get to fall apart now because we have a bunch of output and we’re worthy of rest now. That was a really big transformational shift for me. To realize that this was the place that God wanted me to begin, was in Him, and abiding in Him, and allowing the Holy Spirit to breathe into everything that I was doing instead of going on my own steam and striving and then crumbling and needing rest because I was falling apart. So being able to kind of switch that perspective can be really helpful. The idea of selah, for me, came when I was reading the psalms and saw that this word selah happens, you know, it kind of pops in and out. Sometimes it’s at the end of an entire psalm, and oftentimes it’s right in the middle. And if you’ll notice, there’s even a pattern within the psalms, not always but often, where it’s… there’s this pouring out to the Lord about anguish, about, you know there’s lots of psalms of lament, there’s… there are psalms of ascent as well. And there’s this pouring out with vulnerability to the Lord, and then there’s a selah, this rest. It actually means rest or interlude. And then being able to, often, see that there was like this bolstering of the psalmist after the rest. Like, the circumstances hadn’t changed, you know, you look at the psalms of David. He’s still in hiding, nothing’s different. But he has a renewed sense of confidence in the Lord after this pause, and it’s musical, it’s metaphorical, right? But there is something there to be able to say, what does it look like in my middle minutes, as Sarah Hagerty always says, to be able to engage in the rest of God right now when I need Him most, when I’m pouring out my heart vulnerably, when I’m being honest with how weak I feel and how spread thin I am? And to experience His rest and renewal in this moment right now, to go forth afterwards with a renewed sense of hope and trust and equipping. And so I started to explore what that looked like, and it began a little bit for me with looking… the book is kind of separated into multiple, like, three real themes. The first is about really being honest with God about the things that you’re carrying. You know, not, like looking at the vulnerability of the language of the psalms and recognizing that God can handle it when you tell Him that you’re burnt out. God can handle it when you talk to Him about what you’re carrying that feels so big, the areas where you’re angry, like, this is sort of the heart of confession. That we are not holding on to these emotions and circumstances and carrying the world on our shoulders. But we’re bringing that to Him and He’s meeting us in that. And the second part is kind of looking at areas where we seek rest that are not of Christ. So there’s so many things that we all, you know, have as idols in our lives. Sometimes it’s even looking back or looking forward towards what will be if I get all of these things done if I’m productive or what I want my life to be, what we’re working for, toward, or sometimes looking back at, everything used to be perfect, I’m… personally, I’m sentimental, so that’s a shift that I usually have is looking backwards and kind of wondering if I can still trust God. Or looking at all the things that we think will fill us that are not Him. And then the last part is kind of looking at what is true rest, and how do we see true rest in the Person of Christ and the way that God has established it and ordained it in our lives. And actually, if true rest is found in Christ alone, then it’s not something that is just beautiful, it’s not something that is just delightful for us, but it’s actually a Person that we are subject to. And so being able to engage in the lordship of Christ is something that we are obeying, you know, we’re obeying laying our lives down and surrendering them to Him. And so it’s kind of, opens up, yeah, what it looks like to follow the Lord in those things and in our own… I guess, we kind of, in our own uncovering of, why am I so harried in my heart? You know, when I think for a lot of us, it’s because we’re not honest about where we really are with the Lord. We struggle with confession before God and before others. A lot of us are looking for rest in places that are hollow, that we think are going to fill us but actually like fill us with air. My editor actually added a line in my book that I loved and I kept, and she said, it’s almost like having Coke and like having a big belch when you think you’re full, but it’s actually just like this fizzy false sense of being full. And then I think also examining the way that we are obedient to Christ, and see rest and beauty and fullness and all things in who He is and our choice to be subject to Him. So it’s a big question, but I think that there are ways that we can, in small things in our lives, even in the small minutes that we have that feel exhausting, where we feel like I need rest, I crave this. What those notions really tell us, you know, those inklings, those feelings, those triggers, for lack of a better word, I think bring up is our need for Jesus. And so being able to rightly recognize that this feeling I have of needing X, Y, or Z, of needing time alone, of needing a day to myself, of needing this type of meal or this type of home or this type… things to be like they used to be, or hope for things to be this way in the future. Those are all like windows into the areas that God wants to meet in us, and if we start to name them that way and find satisfaction in God alone, then I think everything begins to really shift and change. So I would say it almost begins with being willing to take those pauses and those moments in the middle of our day, and consider the way that God wants to meet us. So anyway, I was just thinking, if you have those times during the day, the things that you feel like you’re drawn to or that you need, like, realizing that those are all sort of shadows of what you need in Christ and the way that He wants to meet you. And so being able to see the gifts that God has given in the things that we were talking about before that build beauty and appetites and culture in our children as gifts of God, delights of God, for your heart and your personality… that those things matter to the Lord! You know, He’s given us the taste of food, He’s given us candlelight, He’s given us sunsets and hikes and walks and all of these delights to fill us. But not to fill us alone. To point us to true beauty. And we can’t fully experience deep soul rest until we see that He is our true beauty and our true rest.
Melissa: yes. So what are some practical ways that you have found, or that you would encourage people to pursue, in that pursuit of rest, of finding our rest in the Lord?
Kristen: yeah, that’s huge. I think there, for me, it really helps to have time in my day that I pause and stop and pray. And that I build into my day. You know, have you heard of the Atomic Habits where you’re like habit stacking?
Kristen: so you already have to give your kids an afternoon snack. Why not make it tea? And make it beautiful and have little teacups that pop out and something delightful. And I don’t really make scones lately, I just buy these really delicious ones at Trader Joe’s [laughter], and I pull those out. Or pull out a fun cookie or whatever it might be. And enjoy that in the afternoon and be… and am able to just stop and thank God for those moments. I light candles often. All the things I learned about having to take these pauses through the day are totally from Sally Clarkson. She says all the time, like, wise women copy other wise women. And I’m like, how much can I copy you? Like, how many, how much? [laughter] But I do! And it’s huge! So being able to, to know that there’s times throughout the day that I need to take a pause, like, I learned early on in having a bunch of kids home and homeschooling, that hour before dinner, like, I was going to kind of fall apart. And so taking time, like a half an hour before that, to close my eyes, to listen to music, to read a book or whatever that looked like before it got crazy made a huge difference in what I was doing later. So there’s just like wisdom of being able to say, what are the sticky parts of my day? Where do I tend to crumble and fall apart? You might need to like carry around a little notebook or have something on a notes app in your phone, and say like, where are these? I bet that there’s going to be a pattern that emerges if you look and go, oh! I’m consistently feeling like I can’t stand up anymore at 4:30 every afternoon, so how can I actually adjust the puzzle of my life so that that isn’t happening anymore? Like, do I need a nap? Do I need more sleep? Do I need to, you know, have a little caffeine and sugar in the afternoon? What does that look like for you? So there are certain things that we know about ourselves, ways that God has made us, that help us to enjoy. Like taking walks, being able to light candles. We light candles every single night. Now we’re doing electric candles because my husband has become like kind of afraid of fire, and I am trying to be okay with it, and buying way too many versions of twinkly fake candles. But it’s working and it’s fun. So we just have a time of day where we do that. And speaking of enculturation, my kids- all of them- are like, Mom, is it time to light the candles? Like when it just gets a little twilighty or it’s raining in the Pacific Northwest, we’re lighting candles all day long. But having times built in where you just get to delight and remember the gifts that God has given in the simplest of ways. Also taking time just to pray throughout the day. That’s a big one for me. Because I just need to sit in quiet, even for five minutes. So I have alarms set on my phone that have like those churchy chimes that go on, and I’m like, oh, okay, I’m just gonna take a second. And I’m gonna stop what I’m doing for five minutes and pray. And I have to do it that way because I don’t stop on my own. But that’s been helpful for me to just be like, I just need to just sit in quiet for five minutes and even the toddler can like hang with you or hang with a sibling for five minutes and it’s not gonna hurt anyone.
Melissa: praise the Lord.
Kristen: hopefully! Hopefully, depending on the ages of your kids. Or sit at your feet and do something independently for five minutes while you just sit and close your eyes and pray. That’s a big one for me. Another one is, it’s also really important what I pour in. So there are certain books that I read in the morning, like I will flip through different devotionals or a Bible study time or certain kinds of spiritual encouragement in that time of day. And then in the evening I like to, I love to read like a murder mystery or, you know, who-dun-it. And that really matters to me to be able to have time to read something delightful. I usually fall asleep with my Kindle, reading something like that, because I will fall asleep if it’s like after eight o’clock and I read anything. So it can’t be something really important. But paying attention to what I’m reading or what I’m watching and what I’m listening to, and just being intentional about it. So thinking about the ways that, you know, what I allow to fill my mind and my thought life is really, really big for me. And just something that I’ve just seen sweet fruit from. So I am looking for books that will challenge me and trying to spend time in the Word every day and even if it’s just with my kids, sometimes that’s how it goes in homeschooling if I don’t get up really early. But those times of day to be openhanded and be able – I mean, I wish everyone could see us on Zoom, but just opening my hands to receive from the Lord and to say, like, I’m here. Like, hearing Him speak, being able to thank Him for things that have already gone on in the morning, to ask Him to meet me in those things. For me, too, I am a personality that can live easily like disembodied if that makes sense. I need to be reminded of being fully present. So, when, I guess… I don’t know how you feel about the Enneagram. I’m a seven on the Enneagram. So I…
Melissa: I don’t know much about the numbers.
Kristen: okay, we might get some email hate from me saying that I know my Enneagram number. I know all about the concerns of the Enneagram, I share them, but I’m just looking for language to help. So the seven is a person that, it’s just a personality tick. I’m an ENFP on Meyers-Briggs. It’s just kind of a cheerleader, go-go-go, let’s just have fun. So when something hard happens in our day, something isn’t going well, or something painful has cropped up, it’s really, really easy for me to put that off to the side and just keep going. And almost disconnect from it, that’s what I mean.
Kristen: and so for me to be able to make sure that throughout the day in small moments, that I’m really taking those things to the Lord, is a really big deal. So that I don’t just disengage from them but I remain present in them. Sometimes I need to cry about them and really feel that, instead of just casting it off to the side. And so, so yeah, just having those times throughout the day as needed but always scheduled too. So that I don’t miss them.
Melissa: yeah, I love that idea. Because, you know, they always say, oh if you run to the bathroom to, you know, lock yourself in for five minutes, a child is going to find you.
Melissa: but if they’re used to you, sort of having a rhythm of taking space and making time for those moments…
Melissa: then yeah, you built that into those habits. I think that’s beautiful.
Kristen: yes, you do. And you teach them how to do it too. And as they grow, that becomes a rhythm in their own lives. Like, wow, I just had, I’m finding this math problem, this whole thing we’re doing- I mean, it’s always math for me, because I’m not a math person- but I’m finding this to be really challenging and difficult, I need to just take five minutes and just pray about this. And that becomes a natural part of the culture of your family. That your children know that God is not only interested in these giant things in the world but is interested in giving them knowledge and wisdom for something as small as what they find frustrating and unable to understand in their schoolwork.
Kristen: and that He breathes on that, and that He cares about them in these tangible ways. And so being able to see you do that goes a really long way in our kids learning how to do that for themselves. Like, oh, Mom’s upset about something, and her response is to go and just pray. Like, that modeled is huge. And I wish that I did it perfectly, but I don’t. But it’s something I’ve tried.
Melissa: that’s sanctification.
Kristen: yeah, it’s something I’ve tried to do, and that God has used quite a lot in my life. And I don’t want to, I’m not shy about what I’m doing either. Like if we’ve hit a little bit of stickiness relationally, people are bumping up against each other, I don’t want them to think Mom disengaged and just went somewhere to get away from us. I want them to understand, like, guys, I need five minutes to take this situation to the Lord, I just need to go talk to Him about what’s going on here so I have wisdom to come back and return and do this well- please watch your little brother. Like, whatever that looks like. And I think that’s important too. Because I don’t want that to be something assumed. Like, oh Mom went and closed the door to her room and just left us every time anybody fought about something. And it’s not every time by any means, but it’s… it is, there’s just… or it’s in front of them. I don’t always leave. So that’s important too. But that habit is important. It’s not that different from, like, the Book of Hours, you know. Being able to go through like, hey, we’re eating… and those are also natural times to include your children in that, especially if you’re homeschooling. You have your kids fully a part of mealtime, like, and they’re a captive audience to be able to pray, to be able to read God’s Word, you know. Those are really natural times for those readings, those hymns, all of those things. Any time their hands can be busy with playdough or kinetic sand or Legos or food… don’t waste them.
Melissa: yeah, absolutely wise words. Wise words. I think you mentioned, you know, reading books and different types morning versus evening. What is… can you think of a title, even if this is on the spot, but can you think of a title of something that has really brought a specific blessing to your soul?
Kristen: lately… Oh gosh, it’s gonna sound so nerdy. I’m reading an encyclopedia on poetry. And it’s actually the Princeton… it’s literally an encyclopedia. One of my friends who lives in California, who I met on Instagram actually and then has come to visit with her family when they were passing through, she was like, I’m gonna read this with you, and she bought it, and I only had it on Kindle at the time, and she’s like, Kristen, it’s actually an encyclopedia. And I’m like, I know, I’m so sorry. And she’s like, are we just going front to back? What are we doing? And I kind of am. I’m just loving it. It’s giving context in history to different forms of poetry, different poets, themes, and just the way that it all works, like, that it’s woven into, you know, traditional history. It’s called The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics. I’m also rereading Rosaria Butterfield’s The Gospel Comes with a Housekey. And I love that book. And my husband just had me start a book called The Architecture of Happiness, which is kind of all about the life of a house. We’re remodeling a huge house, and so it’s… well, it’s a huge remodel project, I should say… and so that’s been really fun to read too, kind of as we consider the soul and feel of home and what home is.
Melissa: the atmosphere of your family culture.
Kristen: yeah, totally, so those are some of the…. and that’s why I was reading Rosaria Butterfield’s book too. So those have been huge. I’m also halfway through Rewilding Motherhood. Have you heard of this? I actually have it right here.
Melissa: that is a new one to me.
Kristen: it’s by Shannon Evans. Yep, and I love it. So Shannon is a Catholic, she writes in a Catholic contemplative tradition. And it’s really, really beautiful. She’s talking about all kinds of things that are tied in to what it looks like to be… the subtitle is, Your Path to an Empowered Feminine Spirituality… so discovering spirituality in the midst of motherhood and a lot of it ties in with some of the themes of Finding Selah. But more tied in to identity and how some of that sense of who you are can be lost in this season, and why it’s so important to recover your sense of self. I don’t know if sense of self is the right word. I think she uses that term. But sense of who you are before the Lord so that you can pour back out into other people.
Melissa: your identity is in Christ.
Kristen: your identity, yes. Exactly. And not necessarily in a role. And so, how does your identity flow out of your identity in Christ into that role? But it’s wonderful. She has, like, it’s this idea of like this gardening metaphor of rewilding a place where it sort of goes fallow and then has purpose and it… oh, ha, someone’s hollering in the background… but it’s really beautiful, and the end of every chapter has incredible questions or practices, like, to be able to sit with and think about and even like sitting in silence in certain pieces.
Melissa: something to put into practice.
Kristen: yes. So I’ve really liked that. It’s hard for me to suggest books because, especially books I haven’t finished yet and I don’t know the author of, because I feel a sense of shepherding and like, I don’t know if I want to send you to places where I can guarantee they’re a perfect fit spiritually…
Kristen: so this is written from a Catholic contemplative one, so keep that in mind. But there’s a lot of really great nuggets there. Maybe a book more for, well, I think it’s wonderful actually. But probably for more of a discerning believer. Just theologically, I’m not, I can’t say yet because I’m not done with it yet. This Beautiful Truth by Sarah Clarkson is also absolutely lovely. I read that, actually over a year ago because Sarah sent me an advance copy and I got to endorse it. So it’s not a recent… but it is recently out in the world, and it’s…
Melissa: that’s what I was thinking.
Kristen: if you don’t know Sarah Clarkson and aren’t following her, like…
Melissa: then you should!
Kristen: you should! She’s so incredible, and she’s written this absolutely gorgeous book called This Beautiful Truth. And I don’t even know what to say about it. It’s probably the best book I’ve read in a decade.
Melissa: I’ve heard that from multiple people, actually.
Kristen: Sarah is such a gifted writer, and this is also the first time that she’s really opening up about her own story. And it’s just, it’s just beautiful. I am so thankful she’s written it and that her words are out in the world. I have… she writes about OCD and some invasive thoughts, and she writes about it right away, I’m not giving anything away. But I have a kiddo with OCD, and so Sarah has been a constant guide for me for a very long time. And now I’m, but I’ve never been able to share about that with others, and so now it’s a go-to book that I hand to every other mom that I know, or any other teen or adult I know, who’s dealing with that. And that’s not what the whole book is about, but it’s… if you know anyone who deals with anything like that, I can’t recommend anything better.
Melissa: I love it.
Kristen: it’s so beautiful. And it’s about a lot what we’re talking about today. Like being able to experience the beauty and grace of God as transcendent, and opening up our divine imagination to the wonder that He has for us and in who He is. You know, it changes your whole world when you look at flowers and trees and leaves changing color as gifts from God that are revealing His beauty and character and delight. It shifts our whole hope.
Melissa: would you tell me where we can find you in the world? I know you mentioned your book of course, Finding Selah, and I know- because it’s been one that I’ve enjoyed on audiobook, I know you can have paperbook, you can have audio… it’s probably an ebook as well, isn’t it?
Kristen: I actually don’t know. I think it is. It’s on Amazon and anywhere books are sold. You can find me online at KristenKill.com I do have dreams of updating my website at some point here. And then, but it does have everything there. And you can also find me on Instagram at KristenKill, and anywhere is KristenKill. I’m on Pinterest. That’s it, I think. Those two places, yeah. So yeah, that’s it. And it’s Kristen with an E. I don’t know, all the, I’m an E-N Kristen, which is fun.
Melissa: well, I’m so grateful that you were able to fit this conversation into your busy schedule and family life and everything. I just feel so personally blessed.
Kristen: oh, I’m so honored to! So fun.
Melissa: and I’m really excited, I get to meet you in just a few weeks and give you a hug.
Kristen: I’m excited! I mean, I don’t know which one of us is more excited. [laughter] And I love Spokane. I can’t wait to be there. My cousin lives there and just had a baby, so it’s gonna be extra fun.
Melissa: oh, perfect timing.
Kristen: it is, yeah. So I’m really thrilled to be with you all and just honored to get to spend time with you.
Melissa: yeah. I’m delighted. Well, thank you so much, Kristen. I really appreciate it.
Kristen: oh, you’re welcome!
Melissa: and that brings today’s conversation to a close. You can find more conversations on paideia at PaideiaNorthwest.com and PaideiaSoutheast.com for more resources and practical encouragement. Join me again next time for another paideia conversation, and in the meantime, peace be with you.
In this episode, Paideia Northwest’s Melissa Cummings reconnects with longtime friend Jen Carlson of Hysa House. Jen shares what godly paideia includes for her young family, emphasizing hospitality, music, Sabbath… and ultimately a variety of ways to make the gospel centered home nothing less than delicious.
Including specific book and music suggestions, and personal insights on how to live Christianly while pursuing all that is good and true and lovely, this is a golden conversation. To the Kingdom!
Links to Resources Mentioned in this Episode:
Melissa: Joining me today for this paideia conversation is Jen Carlson, and we invite you into this conversation with us as we continue to practice, pursue, and implement paideia.
I want to introduce to you a friend of mine, we’ve known each other actually for a long time, and I’ve been able to follow what God has done in her and in her family over, I don’t know, over a decade or decade and a half. And I’m really grateful to introduce my friend, Jen Carlson. Good morning!
Jen: good morning! So fun to be on here with you, Melissa. Thank you for having me.
Melissa: absolutely. So before we jump into our conversation topic today, why don’t you just tell us a little bit about you, your background, and what your current work is.
Jen: so, my name is Jen Carlson. I’m married to Joe, we’ve been married eighteen years; and we got married young, while we were students at New Saint Andrews, and so this is a shameless plug right away for New Saint Andrews. We both attended and we knew each other way, way back since the fourth grade, so we ended up getting married halfway through NSA and just loved our time there. And everything that we learned there, the culture, the beauty of Christ in the home, the beauty of Christ in education, just took that with us and we were very changed by it, very shaped by that. And I can’t say enough about our time there. New Saint Andrews is an, if you guys don’t know, it’s in Moscow, Idaho, and we were originally from California, and so it was just a, it was an eye-opening thing and I tell you – Joe and I don’t go a day without really talking about the effect, the beautiful effect, that that had on our lives. And I’m talking about this now because it’s gonna come up later in our conversation, I think, with Melissa. But, like, it is such an important thing to have that kind of shaping at such an age. We were, you know, eighteen nineteen years old, and we were living with families while we were going to NSA and taking our classes, but what we experienced there we really wanted to, once we graduated, we really wanted to take that home, back home with us. Everything that we learned about living robustly in, you know, a Christward life. Living joyfully and living robustly, I just can’t say enough about how impacted we were in that area, and even down to the details as I was living with my host family, the mom would make meals for the family every night. We would all sit around the table every night for dinner, including her boarding students, we all got to sit at her table. She always had cloth napkins for every dinner, it wasn’t like just – and I’m not saying you guys need to do this – but for her, this was what she wanted to do, she beautified her home this way. And boy, I tell you, I did not experience that growing up. I didn’t understand the beauty of the table, the way that it brings people together, the way that it’s… anyway, you know, it’s just a beautiful thing. So she taught me so much about the home and about hospitality. And Joe experienced similar things in the family that he was living with too. So when we got home from college, we really decided very intentionally that we wanted to doo this same thing, the way that Joe and Jen might do it. Not trying to copy them exactly, but do it the way that it might come out from our fingertips in an organic fashion in Joe and Jen’s home. So, you know, as you’re a newlywed, we’re not really sure what that looks like, you kind of have to do trial and error. But over the years, we just decided to be, to have an open door. So our home has been a home of hospitality since the beginning. And then Joe became a pastor about eight years ago, an elder at our church back in California; he was an elder for a while and then an associate pastor. And during that time we also had a house on the church property that we had renovated and that we named Hysa House on purpose. And hysa is a Swedish word that means to nourish, to nurture, to harbor, and to house. Like, there are multiple definitions of that word but you get the picture. There’s this sense of, like, just in a warm, enveloping hug when you come into a home and really it – and Joe is actually 100% Swedish, so it kind of made sense to use that Swedish word…
Melissa: sure does!
Jen: so it’s Hysa House! And we actually made a sign and put it at the front door, and we had been practicing hospitality for years at this point. But once he became a pastor and we had a parish home and we actually renovated it to flow beautifully from room to room so that we could have lots of people in there, and cook big meals and feed people and house people and, you know, have beds for people – so, we really made sure that we were intentional about that. And that all came from our college years. It was just, it’s just an amazing thing to think about, just that understanding of hospitality and how powerful home life is. How powerful it is! And so, um yes, we did Hysa House for about four years, and then I got really sick and had to move out of that house because we found out it was moldy. So we spent some, we’ve spent some years in our marriage living with Joe’s parents, and really in some trial and health trials, and just really struggling with that. But I think during that time it was so important that we – God wanted us to be, to have nothing but Him. And so we spent deep hours, deep days, deep years in the Word together. There was a year where I was in bed, bed-ridden, I couldn’t do anything. Joe quit his job to take care of me. This was before he was a pastor. But there are times where God really wanted to sow into us things that we couldn’t learn any other way. And then He also wanted to prepare us for our son who came along when I was thirty-five. So we waited thirteen years, asked the Lord thirteen years; some people wait thirteen years on purpose. So we didn’t, we wouldn’t have chosen that if we had had another way. And yet God, I’m so grateful, I’m so grateful God asked us to wait. And Joseph came to us through adoption after I had been bed-ridden and we weren’t sure if I was going to have a future, if I even was gonna live. And God just brought our hearts together toward Him and toward Joseph. So now we are parents, and older parents, and that is a really unique thing I think. I do think that some women are having babies later in life, and so that’s kind of sort of maybe, you know when you’re thirtyish or something and starting your family. But thirty-five, thirty-six, thirty-seven to really be starting your family, kind of as a surprise, is a unique thing. And having been, after walking through that infertility journey for thirteen years, and really relinquishing our story to the Lord and saying, Lord You’re writing our story. And you know, that was such an amazing journey to walk, and I’m so grateful. But now I’m also so grateful for the fact that God asked us to really be intentional, thoughtful, and proactive in the culture of our home before Joseph even came along. This, this has been so incredibly powerful for him so far. He’s four, and we just love him to pieces! I can’t really imagine, I don’t know, just, I’m so grateful for the ways that God has already shaped the way that our home functions before he even came along. Of course we’ve made some adjustments, and now he’s four and we can really start to pour into him as a four year old might need it. But kind of the basic, the way that the home runs, like, the way that we love God, the way that the music’s going, the way we have interaction with people in our home all the time, like, that’s just happening organically already. It’s not like, okay, now we have children, now we have to sit down and think, like, what are we gonna do, you know.
Melissa: right, you had a home culture and a family culture that you had cultivated for years before Joseph was in your arms to join that family.
Jen: yes, yes! It was like, he – exactly – he’s suddenly joining this conversation that’s already been happening for, you know, these thirteen years. This, you know, conversation of faith that’s happening between these walls. And when we started Hysa House, I remember saying, asking the Lord, like, Lord let Your Holy Spirit dwell here; let this be a place where the Holy Spirit is, and where when people walk in, they sense that there is – they sense You. They taste… I guess, the banner, the banner verse has been, taste and see that the Lord is good. Can somebody walk into our home and taste something about Christ? Even if they don’t know Christ, they don’t know what it is they’re tasting, but they’re tasting something delicious. And they want, they want more of it. And I remember when I was a girl growing up near Joe’s family, we were, they were that to me. And I just remember walking to their house and going, I want to be a part of this family. And I ended up being part of the family, I’m so grateful! But I remember that feeling when I walked into their home. So my inlaws have been very helpful to me in that, showing me how that goes. But that’s kind of our journey, and I think that, I think that, you know, our, just our forte – Joe’s and my forte is just home life, like making it a delicious expression of Christ, you know. A delicious atmosphere. Where we want people to want to be here. We want people to feel nourished, both body and soul. And so that’s gonna tie in to paideia I’m sure.
Melissa: yeah. So tell me about that, you know, you do take that home culture with you. So you’ve recently taken a physical journey…
Jen: yes, right!
Melissa: you’ve mentioned California, and then you said back in California. So tell us where you are now, and where you are creating that delicious home at this point.
Jen: yes, you’re right. I totally forgot to say that we moved to Texas, and we are now in Texas, we’re in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, totally different than where we were in California. So it’s a big culture change. But we’re very thankful to the Lord and we’re very excited. My husband is pursuing his PhD at University of Dallas. And this is new for us, we always assumed he would be pastoring and teaching in the church, but God just redirected things and we’re very excited. So we’re here for at least three years while he’s finishing his PhD work. And so we have this little tiny apartment, a little one bedroom apartment on the third floor in, like, the biggest metroplex. I mean, Dallas is probably one of the biggest cities in the country. And so, we’ve got, it’s just a whole new experience. We went from redwoods and ocean and country life to this, you know, fast and furious sort of thing, and this culture here in the city. but what I love about transferring, like, we’ve transplanted our life from California, but nothing’s changed inside our walls.
Jen: I love that so, so much! And it’s been such a source of comfort, number one. And a source of stability for our son, too. And then, you know, our parents actually moved with us, so Joe’s parents and my parents, they all have their own stories as to why it was time for them to move, too, but they’ve also moved with us to Texas.
Melissa: I love that so much.
Jen: oh, it’s amazing, and we are so grateful. It would be so sad if they had to stay behind. But they’re with us too, you know, in their own homes, doing their own thing, and we’re all kind of like twenty minutes away from each other, but when they come over it just feels, you know, it just feels like home. Like, you know, we do our, we’ll talk about this more maybe later, but we’ll do our Sabbath dinners, and that just grounds us, it anchors us to our home culture. So it, I’m very grateful, we’ve been really busy kind of trying to furnish this little tiny place, and make it cozy, make it a place for people to be able to be here. This is something that’s really unique in a tiny, tiny apartment. We were actually very proactive about what furniture do we get for this space, because we actually want a dining table. Like, we want to make that a priority. And at first, we were like, we’re not gonna have any room. But I tell you, I could show you a picture, we have this huge long table that seats twelve people, we have this big long bench that my husband built, and there’s plenty of space. There’s plenty of space for playing on the floor, on the carpet, there’s a couch, there’s a chair, there’s, you know. But we had to think long and hard about, well, what are our priorities? What are our priorities for this little tiny place? And that’s been such a gift. So here we are trying to plant new roots, but I’m just grateful to carry this home culture with us.
Melissa: yes! And that the center of it is Christ, and that is what doesn’t change, and you’re able to prioritize Him and the things that He loves and that Scripture proclaims as lovely. And that’s what you’re doing, you’re carrying His work wherever you go. I love that!
Melissa: so, you mentioned the word paideia, and that’s something that we talk about, of course, here. So you know that word, you know where it comes from, Ephesians right – Paul, talking about raising our children in the paideia of the Lord, and how he took that word – the reason he used that word is because it was familiar to the people who received his letter. So what does that word mean to you? I know you’ve already alluded to it, but specifically, wordwise, what does paideia mean to the Carlsons?
Jen: to the Carlsons, obviously, you know, it’s like, it’s a culture. You’re building a culture. You’re educating. But I think, I mean, those are kind of the more definite, the definition of that word is like enculturation or education with an intention. So when it was used back then even in the Greek, you know, the Greek eras, they were intentional about their children growing up in a certain way, right. Because they are people of this, of the state or people of the city. They wanted their, the next generation to be good citizens. So when we think about paideia, we think about it as first of all, it’s very intentional. Whatever you’re doing to, you know, in your home, it’s, well – it needs to be intentional. Your – the culture that you’re creating though, it’s gonna happen no matter whether you think about it or not. So you’re gonna be creating a culture just accidentally, if you don’t think about it and be intentional about it, right?
Melissa: right, nothing is neutral.
Jen: nothing is neutral, and it’s gonna be, your children are gonna be taught one way or another. And what is it that they’re gonna be taught? You’re gonna be shaped one way or another. What are you being, how are you being shaped as the parent? I think, so when we think about paideia for our family, if I’m just gonna boil it down, it’s taste and see that the Lord is good. That’s it. We want, when we think about how we want Joseph to grow up, we want it to be such a delicious atmosphere for him that he’s, like, breathing, he’s eating and drinking and breathing this beautiful, joyful delight in Christ. And right now he’s four, he’s just learning about Jesus, we’re talking about it all the time, he’s asking questions. But before that, he was eating it and drinking it and breathing it before he, you know, before he was even talking, right? So it’s so, I think that, for me it helps me to just boil it down to, what is the essence of it? What is the, almost, what’s the feeling of it that I want to create? Because you can, the, I don’t know, the catechisms and the things to do on the to do list, are very, are important too. We want our children to understand what we believe. We want them to intellectually be there. But we also want their hearts to be wooed by the love of Christ. We want them to be drawn in, not because we’re forcing and dragging them to this, to be this kind of person, but more like, do you know that there’s a loving Creator? Do you know Jesus our King? Like, can you taste Him? Is He awesome? Like, and how do I, how do we express that in our daily life. Like, how do we express that in our home? That’s what Joe and I, that’s how we see it. So paideia is just basically this delicious atmosphere of Christ, and everything we do is trying to, you know, bring Joseph to the feast, right, bring Joseph to the table. And introduce him and let him see with his own senses that Jesus is real, that He is alive, He’s his King, and He’s a delight. Like, He – and we owe Him our allegiance, but also, we love Him! Like, we love Him!
Melissa: what is the chief end of man? Right? It is to glorify God… and we really maximize on that a lot in, I don’t know, in specific Christian circles maybe. But that next part… the enjoying Him! To glorify God and enjoy Him forever. I feel like that’s what you’re getting at. You’re talking about enjoying the Lord, and the culture of Christ.
Jen: yeah. And that, yeah.
Melissa: so you mentioned catechism, you’ve mentioned hospitality – what are some of these ways that you specifically pursue or implement a godly paideia for you son, but then – you also mentioned – we, as adults, we’re still enculturated. And so we still need to be purposed with our own shaping. What are you pursuing specifically?
Jen: well, so obviously, this goes without saying, right. But worship on Sundays is critical. I’m probably preaching to the choir with this podcast audience. But, so that’s a given. So worship on Sundays is absolutely how it begins. That’s the foundation. That that’s obedience to God, and Him saying six days you shall work and the seventh you shall rest. And this is My day for you, and dig in! Do it. Like, enjoy it. Rest, go worship Me, drink your fill. And this is something that – I remember, Joe and I were both raised in the church, and we, Sundays was a big deal. Sundays was, like, our life was church. That’s what it was. Our life was church. So all our friends were there, and our spirits were growing in the Lord, and as we were, you know, learning the Word. So this is what we want for Joseph too. So, Sunday school and church and, you know, any time we can be at church with God’s people, we’re there. And I think that’s a priority. So that’s number one. Without that, everything else falls apart. You don’t have, you know, you don’t have the foundation. So from there, though, you can go in a ton of different directions, and you have all the resources at your disposal. But in our home, one of the things that we do is our Sabbath dinner. And this is something that we learned from our college days, our host families did this. On Saturday nights, we kind of, you know, the busyness of the week is, it just, it could keep going, it could keep running right into Sunday if you don’t let it rest, or we don’t stop it from just bulldozing into the next day. So in order to prepare for the rest, we’re trying, we began right away in our marriage, you know, eighteen years ago, to do this Sabbath dinner. Where basically everything kind of winds down, calms down around the afternoon and we really make this really fun meal, and it is festive, and it’s fun, and we get out the fun dishes, we get out the fancy stuff, we get out the cloth napkins, we light the candles, we turn the music on. And it can be worship music or it can be a good Bach album or it can be a good jazz album or just really beautiful, like, just something excellent. And I, this is something I want to touch on, that God says whatever is lovely, whatever is excellent, whatever is worthy of praise, think on these things. And practice these things! Is what He says there in the end of Philippians. So this is something that we have really embraced and said, whatever is lovely. Well that, kind of, is actually quite a statement. Because if you tried to bring in or keep any sort of worldly music, worldly books, worldly shows, you know, worldly attire, worldly thoughts, like you can’t. If you’re gonna obey that command and abide by it, that says whatever is lovely. Are those things lovely? No. Are they excellent? No. Are they worthy of praise? No. So it’s kind of by nature that you just kind of shed those things and say, well, what is lovely? It’s just kind of an easy weeding out of those things. So on Saturdays we bring in as much loveliness as we can. We also use that opportunity to invite people over to our home. This is our main source of hospitality. Throughout the week our door is always open, people can always come in and out, but on Saturdays we are intentional about inviting strangers in. So they can be people we’ve never met before, they can be our neighbors, they can be our church folk we haven’t spent time with yet. We try to make sure we’re watching the stragglers at church. Is there anyone who needs a place? Is there anyone who needs a meal? Is there anyone who’s lonely? Is there anyone who’s new? Now this is interesting for us right now, we’re the new ones at church.
Melissa: you are new!
Jen: but we’ve already begun to invite people over. And they’re like, wow, Joe and Jen you’re just jumping right in, thank you so much – they’re being blessed by that. But that’s because we can’t not have, we can’t help ourselves, we need to, we need to envelop God’s people. And not just God’s people. We have a bunch of neighbors on our floor that we’d love to have over. So this is our way. Everyone can do it differently in terms of hospitality. But this is our way of really, not only bringing people in to the home life and the home culture, but also bringing them to the table and getting an opportunity for them to taste and see that the Lord is good. And it’s not necessarily, I think we’re a little bit laid back about it. We don’t, like, do a crazy catechism at the table. Although sometimes we do some catechism work, Joseph enjoys that. Sometimes we sing hymns at the table, after we eat. Sometimes we play music, sometimes we play games, sometimes you know we’re just having amazing conversation. We pull out the coffee maker and Joe makes fancy coffees, and you know, we always have a dessert. But what happens is it makes room for, it makes room for the culture of Christ. It makes room for the saints. And you can be as intentional about catechism as you want. We have been very intentional about that, and at other times we’ve just let, you know, we haven’t done catechism at the table. Other times we do it in the mornings, that kind of thing. But for the Sabbath dinner, it is just a time for taste and see. Taste and see that the Lord is good. We really want to put that into all of our senses. We don’t want to just, we don’t want to just intellectualize it and say, we assent to the truth that Christ is. Like, that is not paideia. Paideia is, let’s experience Christ in all the senses that we possibly can that He’s given us to sense Him with. And let’s, taste and see, I think, is such a beautiful verse, and I thank God for that so much. That’s the way that we really begin to live in Him, to really believe Him and to know Him. And thank the Lord we have His Holy Spirit! So He comes in and makes the dining room table something magical, right? The Holy Spirit’s what, without that, it’s just nothing, it’s just a bunch of stuff. You can have a fabulous Thanksgiving dinner with a bunch of people who don’t know the Lord, and it’s a whole different thing than a fabulous Thanksgiving dinner with the table surrounded by people who do know the Lord and who believe in Him and love Him and trust Him and delight in Him. And so anyway, that’s one of the expressions of paideia for, in our family. I think the biggest one, aside from church which is first, the Sabbath dinner is just an anchor in our family culture.
Melissa: yeah. Yeah, I love all of your descriptors! What’s coming out is just joy. It’s this pursuit of joy and this sharing of joy, and of course that ultimate source of joy is Christ.
Melissa: so I love that.
Jen: yes, Christ is our joy. Christ is our life. And He, one thing I was thinking about recently, was that He, you know, He came – He became man for us. And as I was meditating on His conception in the womb of Mary, you know it, He wasn’t – the hard part for Him was the fact that He had to endure our sin, right. He had to take on our sin. But I don’t believe that He was disgusted by the fact that He had to have a human body. I think that that’s proof, that’s proven by the fact that He’s still a human. He’s delighted to stay human so that He can, a) mediate for us 24/7, and b) be human with us. Like, He didn’t finish His, you know, His work on the cross and His resurrection and say, okay Father, I’m done with body. Let’s put this aside, I want to be done. He’s still a human. He still, He is flesh and blood. How beautiful is that?! It just draws my heart to Him so much. Because how much He desires to connect with us, and then if He has a body, He’s flesh and blood, that means these things that He’s given us to experience Him through – food, music, nature, God’s creation – like, there are so many things, that’s only, you know, a tip of the iceberg. But there are so many ways in which He has expressed Himself for us to get to know Him. And those things wouldn’t work if we didn’t have bodies. You know. And so we’re gonna have bodies for all of eternity once our, once our bodies are glorified. So how glorious to do this now? When, and I encourage, you know, the listeners: it matters. What we do now in these bodies. We’re gonna have souls forever, and we also are gonna have bodies forever, though the bodies that we have now are going to be glorified into something we can’t imagine. But we’re still gonna have bodies, so what we practice here – this is like practice. This is practice for the glories of heaven! So what we’re doing here matters to the souls of our children, it matters to their actual bodies, and then the way that we raise our children has an impact on their health of course too. So this, I don’t know, yes, the joy of Christ is really what we’re after. And taking joy in Christ and like finding it and then eating it and then living it. Trying to, and that’s not necessarily something I grew up with. And so that’s my, another encouragement I have for listeners: is that, if you didn’t grow up like this, take heart, because neither did I. I did not grow up like this. I knew Christ and we went to church every Sunday, but it was, you know, it was kind of drudgery. And it was sad, it was a sad day really. And I won’t go into the details, but it’s, it was not this. And I think that’s one of the mercies of Christ upon Joe’s and our home, is that, that’s why we’ve worked so hard to make it – especially Sundays – but make every day a joy in the Lord, and how can we stop the generational drudgery and start making it palatable. Not palatable in a bad way, like condescending to the masses but…
Melissa: back to the word delicious.
Jen: yes, back to the word delicious! So I just want to encourage you, whoever’s listening. If you’re like, but, you know, I didn’t have that amazing college experience, or I didn’t grow up a Christian, or I didn’t… you know, I don’t even know what that looks like… that we didn’t really either until we, somebody showed us. So maybe go hang out with somebody who can show you how to do that.
Melissa: I was talking with someone not that long ago about the culture being similar to, you know, the sourdough culture.
Jen: yes. Yes!
Melissa: you know, it’s way easier if you already have a sourdough culture fermenting to make bread, than if you need to go make a flour and water paste and set it out in the air waiting to catch, you know, the yeast from the air. So my dad did that back in the seventies, the early seventies, and that is still the sourdough culture that my mom uses, it’s in our communion bread every Lord’s Day, and it’s the sourdough culture that I have in my fridge that I bake from. And I’ve passed it around to some other people who want to make sourdough but don’t want to have to go to the effort of catching their own yeast. So it is such a gift, even if you don’t already have a culture, right, whether you’re talking, you know, the Christian family culture, or if you’re talking the flour and water and yeast culture – it is way easier to say, I see that it’s lovely, show me, teach me, give me a portion, and then ask God to bless that. And you know, you can share it. So I think that’s what you’re getting at. Is that if you don’t have that culture, find someone who does, and be brought in. Take a portion.
Jen: yeah! And if you don’t know who that is, I would say, I mean, if you’re in the church, on Sundays when you go to church, just – who is it that you’re, you are attracted to in terms of, like, there’s somebody you really, really want to go get to know? For some whatever reason, they are, you’re drawn to them. And I remember that being the case when we were in college. There were a few moms who I was really drawn to, and it ended up being that they were really helpful to me in my understanding of womanhood, of being a wife and starting a home. And my host mom was one of those ladies, but I remember just, kind of jaw-dropping stuff that was just details like, you know, how she put cloth napkins on the table. I was like, whaaaat? are you doing? Like, that’s reserved for, like, Christmas or something, you know in our house. So, but no, her joy was getting those cloth napkins on the table every night and then on Sabbath dinners they would up the ante. But like, to me, I imbibed it all because there was something there that I wanted so badly, I was so hungry for. And not like, okay now I have to do all these things. But what I was imbibing was this joy. It was a beauty that I was hungry for. So I would say, start with just looking for someone in your church that is that, that represents that to you, that you are just drawn to for whatever reason. And they might not even do all the things, there might just be one thing about them that starts that sourdough starter for you, that is that yeast that begins that process for you, for your home life, for, even for just, you know, ruminating on it in your mind and then asking the Lord to, how do I work this out in the details? And it’s gonna take time, you know, Joe and I are eighteen years down the road in marriage, and we definitely didn’t have any sort of… you know, if I had been interviewed eighteen years ago, I wouldn’t have had anything to say except, maybe, I don’t know. You know, I don’t know, but I just know that I want it. I don’t know what it is, but I know I want it.
Melissa: right. So, you mentioned that Scripture obviously, taste and see; you’ve mentioned hospitality and catechism and worship and Sabbath feasting and finding someone that draws you with, you know, their enculturation of Christ and joy. Is there another sort of a resource or a library of resources that you either go to or suggest for someone who wants to pursue this kind of delicious family culture for Christ?
Jen: I think one of the main things, at least in our family, has been music. Music is so powerful and it, I think because it draws on, if you’re listening to good music, it not only draws on our intellect but also our heart. It is so, what the music is in your home matters. What kind of music you have playing. But like the, it’s so important to shape the heart. I think it’s such a powerful way to shape the heart, shape the affections, shape the atmosphere with music. So I would say, just general blanket statement is: music. But then, like, well, what music? For us, there’s okay, there’s a couple things. We love the Slugs & Bugs, I forget, do you remember his name, Melissa?
Melissa: oh, it’s Randall Goodgame.
Jen: there it is, Randall Goodgame. He has a Sing the Bible album volume one, and there’s a couple volumes. Sing the Bible. I would highly recommend this. There are lots of Bible music out there, and this just happens to be one that doesn’t grate on me and is not…
Melissa: that’s huge!
Jen: yeah, it’s a really big deal. It doesn’t grate on me, it’s not cartoony. I actually think as a musician, I’m a musician myself, so as a musician I really look for music that’s actually skillful. So the musicians actually can play their instruments, they can sing really well, and the music matches the words. I think that that’s really important. But it is also a children’s album, so it is really cheerful. But it’s all Scripture. It’s not Scripture trying to rhyme, it’s not paraphrased Scripture, it’s straight Scripture. But he is, Randall, has taken very brilliantly and put it to music. So I just highly recommend it. Also, here’s the thing about this, is that it’s joyful. And there are a lot – and this is, I might be stepping on toes – but there are a lot of new albums out there, I’d say new as in like the last ten years – where the music, even for the children, is morose. It’s very introspective sounding, it’s very kind of morose, it’s very, like, calm and kind of just a single guitar. Like, it feels mopey or it feels moody. I don’t, I don’t want my children having that. They’re just taking that in, like, without even realizing what it is. I can pinpoint it because I understand where music has come from, I’ve studied it. So there’s a mood in our culture right now that’s very, a music mood, that says that music should be a little bit emotional and introspective and moody, and you know, they call it authentic. Well, what I’m arguing for is something that will help the children rise to the joy of the Lord, and this is very important because this will shape an entire generation of children. And if you think about our grandparents who wrote, who grew up in the war eras, right, the kinds of music they were listening to was very cheerful. Very cheerful! What kind of generation did that produce? I’m not talking like, the music’s not the only thing with that, that created them to be the way they are, the greatest generation. But music was definitely a part of that, and if you think about the music that they listened to versus the music that our current culture listens to it’s all, it’s hands down completely different. But I think the cheerfulness – cheerfulness is key. Joy is key. Delight is key. And what I love about Randall Goodgame’s music that it is full on pure 100% Scripture put to cheerful, not annoying but cheerful, delightful music. And I can’t say, I can’t speak of that more highly. So that’s something that Joseph loves. And of course he’s getting Scripture in his bones as he’s listening. And then he’s building, you know, he’s building his race tracks and he’s doing his tiles stuff – you know, he’s got his MagnaTiles, and he’s doing all the stuff, playing using his mind and his body while listening to these fabulous songs that have Scripture just getting in to him, into his bones. And I thought about this the other day, Melissa, and I thought, what are the songs that I remember the most? It’s the hymns that I grew up singing as a child: Great is Thy Faithfulness, and How Great Thou Art, and, like, all the songs I remember sitting in church as a little person, hearing these, hearing Trudy my mom-in-law playing these songs, and learning how to sing parts, and like – but these are the ones, when I am in a moment of trial, these are the ones that bubble to the surface, right? So when they’re children, it’s so critical. It’s such a fabulous time to be, just, for them to be soaking up what’s going on in the house around them, and music is a beautiful way of creating atmosphere.
Melissa: they’re going to soak it up, so we might as well be intentional, as you said before.
Jen: exactly, they’re sponges! It really gets in. We take in things too that we don’t really realize we take in. So, I’ve been encouraged by those. And I think, so I think music. But I also think it’s very important not to, like, make – I think music should be well rounded. So I think that there’s, we have tons of classical, we have really really good jazz, we have really good you know like – Irish and Scottish music, we’ve got music from all genres that we think is excellent and worthy of praise and lovely. And I think that’s super important, too, because we want our to know that God made the whole world. Like, not just the fun music he listens to as a kid, but like, Bach’s Cell Suites. Like, God made Bach. God invented that guy and gave him the smarts to, you know, write that music. So I don’t know, I just, music has just been one of those most powerful tools for paideia. And then I think the most questions we’ve had out of Joseph from, about God and Jesus, is when we’re, at night when we’re putting him to bed, we sing hymns and then he’s asking, well, what is a throne? Because we’re talking about, we’re singing something with Christ on the throne, and what is a throne? And what is Jesus and what is heaven and what does a king mean? And, you know, he’s just asking these little questions. And those are coming from just singing the hymns, you know. Or reading, like, we have these Baby Believer books. I want to show you this one.
Melissa: oh! You got the brand new one!
Jen: we got the brand new one. We have the whole set. So…
Melissa: Danielle Hitchen’s, right?
Jen: Danielle Hitchen, and her Baby Primers, Baby Believer Primers, are just these cutest little board books. So we love them. And they’re just Scripture. Just Scripture with these adorable pictures, and then they’re talking about, like, this one’s talking about shapes. So it’s called Our God: a Shapes Primer. And…
Melissa: oh I’ve been wanting to see that. I don’t have that on my bookshelf yet, because it just came out like last week.
Jen: it just came out, right. And I think because we were Kickstarter supporters at the very beginning, so they send us the book, like, ahead of time when it’s done so we get it first. So we have the whole collection, so that’s also started a whole lot of fabulous questions from Joseph. We just read through them and he loves them. He just sits and listens and looks at the pictures and repeats after Joe and to ask questions. So that’s another little tool that we enjoy.
Melissa: yes. Books and music and food. Those are the three things I’m hearing from you, and those are the three main contributors to the family culture in my home. Those have been the three main things. Books and music and food.
Jen: yeah, that’s wonderful.
Melissa: so I identify with that.
Jen: I think catechisms have a place, but I think if you can carry a catechism into a story, do it. Right? Like, if you get, because what they’re doing with a catechism is they’re pulling the meat off the bones and they’re leaving the bones. And you’re like, well I do need to see, I do need to understand how the skeleton comes together. I need to see that, I need to understand the nuts and the bolts of the faith. But in terms of children, and even for us honestly, are we wooed to Christ by a catechism? Or are we wooed to Christ by the stories of Scripture and by the stories we read, you know, of people writing about the faith, and stories of missionaries – and like, which woos our heart to Christ the most? And that’s, I think, something that we are very thoughtful about with Joseph. We have a catechism which we like a lot, but I don’t think I would recommend – if you’re asking what tools, you know, what are your tools? That’s not a main tool in our repertoire right now, because he’s younger. I think later on it will be. But right now, stories. Just stories just to woo the heart. And I just, I want to be wooed to the Lord. And He does that through so many different means. So…
Melissa: yeah. Well is there anything else that God has, I don’t know, used to speak to you and your heart lately? Have you read anything or listened to anything that has fed your soul with beauty? We’ve talking about how your son and his heart has been nurtured. What about for you as a woman?
Jen: yes, that’s such a good question. I, well, I love reading. I love reading! I’m always in a book and I’m always reading. I think, like I was talking about how stories are so important. Things that really minister to me in terms of, I think, the faith – in terms of the faith and of being a faithful woman and a faithful wife in this household, and then the faithfulness that a loving Christian mama and a loving Christian wife, the power that she has to create a beautiful atmosphere just almost by accident, right? I mean, you have to be intentional. But like, if I am in love with my Savior, and if I am fed on the beautiful stories of His people, of Him and His people, then I am, I’ve got everything I need to pour out. So for me, my reading is like, the life of the mind, it is so important. I think that cultivating my spirit, cultivating my mind around what is true and beautiful, is to critical, so… I recently just read some, I’ve been reading through some homeschool books, and I’ve been reading, my favorite thing though is reading, like, autobiographies of brave people. Brave people. And this is gonna touch on our times, but like, we’re in a time where, you know, there’s a culture war. And it’s actually, there’s been a culture war for about a hundred years in our country, eighty years ish. But I would say it’s now getting, it’s now getting to the last skirmishes, the last war, where we either are going to have a Christian nation, a nation that turns the corner back to Christianity, or we’re going to have very, we’re gonna be living in major enemy territory. This is something that’s so critical to know as parents. And so I think that reading, for me, reading has been such a good way of making sure that I, in my, you know, my heart and my spirit, and imbibing those stories that encourage me to be courageous, to take a stand where it is needed, to stay the course, right? So as Christian parents, are we going to stay the course? Or are we gonna give in to the culture? And that, even that can be expressed in small ways, right? So, you know, am I going to stay the course with homeschooling? Am I going to stay the course with worship when all the churches want to close down or when somebody says I can’t go worship? Am I going to stay the course with, you know, making sure that our home culture is one of Christian atmosphere? Am I going to stay the course in the small things? And so, to be honest, like, really good stories of brave, courageous men and women help me so much. And so there have been so many different stories that I’ve read that – one that I’m just revisiting is the one, what’s it called, oh now it just went straight out of my brain. Oh. She’s a missionary in China and then China gets taken over by… during WWII… and she becomes a… oh hold on, let me look it up. She becomes a slave and a prisoner of war. Do you remember, do you know what I’m talking about, Melissa?
Melissa: I’m trying to think. I just finished reading Radiant by Richard Hannula with the kids…
Jen: okay, yeah, that’s a marvelous one of short stories.
Melissa: yes, and I think it touched on who you’re talking about, but I can’t think of the name.
Jen: I know! I’m so sorry, you guys. I will remember in a second. But things like that…
Melissa: I revisited The Hiding Place, you know, by Corrie ten Boom, this summer.
Jen: that’s one of the best.
Melissa: that was just a really good, timely revisit.
Jen: yeah. It’s so important to read stories like that. So any of the missionaries, any just brave people that are doing the right thing, just really refreshes me a lot. And then, like, podcasts on homemaking, podcasts on food, podcasts on music, podcasts on culture, podcasts like this – where you are really being intentional about your, not only your thoughts about it, about something, but also how you’re going to implement that into your home. Because it does need to get, you know, our theology needs to be practiced and come out in order to be real and to bless somebody. So, um, sorry, my brain keeps trying to figure out what that, the title of this story is. But I recently reread it and it was so, so good. Darlene. That’s her name. Darlene Deibler Rose, I believe, is her name, and it’s an autobiography. Let me look it up real quick, I just remembered her name so now I have to find out, you guys.
Melissa: Testimony of Darlene Rose, interesting. I don’t think that’s a name that rings a bell for me.
Jen: oh, there it is! Evidence Not Seen. That’s it: Evidence Not Seen: a Woman’s Miraculous Faith in the Jungles of World War II. You guys. If you have never read this, do it right now. Like, this is your book of the month.
Melissa: it’s going on my TBR right now.
Jen: this is your book of the month, you have to read this! And it’s really good for our times that we’re living in right now. One of the things, two things that I walked away from that… Well, actually the main thing. Let me just say. The main thing I walked away having gleaned from this book was: know the Word of God.
Jen: have it in your bones. Just start memorizing. Just start! Just get it in your bones, just read it enough that you feel like you can recall it when you need to. Because God, I mean, I’m not gonna give away the story, but oh my goodness. She… God sustained her in crazy times through His Word. And some of it just, just His work. Like, and Corrie ten Boom, you know, there’s a lot of that too, in what she suffered and in how, you know, she had the Word, but then at times when she didn’t have the Bible at hand, she would remember Christ, remember the Word of God. And there’s promises in there that you have to cling to. And I just can’t, I can’t recommend it enough. So Evidence Not Seen. You have to read it.
Melissa: excellent, yep. So I just put it on my list. So there we go. [laughter]
Jen: I’m so glad, yeah. And so that’s the kind of thing I need. Sometimes I need a lighthearted, let’s just throw on a podcast about homemaking and get that going while I make dinner. Sometimes I need something more, you know, more rich and more deep because I am a deep thinker and I really think through life, you know, I really think through it. Sometimes I think too much, so I need to, I need lighthearted stuff too.
Melissa: well, is there any final thought you have or did we skip anything that sort of stood out? I feel like now I have more to ponder and wonder about, and I’m gonna go look for some good jazz music. Maybe I’ll have to request some [laughter]
Jen: yes, okay, if you want some really good jazz – Paul Desmond. Go look up Paul Desmond, he has some really beautiful, just beautiful stuff. And then if you want something Classical, you’ve got to check out Bach’s Cello Suites. They are pretty astounding. Any of his organ works are crazy, like, just, he was a brilliant man. And then, like, we love… I don’t know, there’s so much we love, so I won’t go into it. But also decor. You know? Like think about how your decor feels in your home. Think about how warm and inviting it needs to be. What colors can you put together to make it feel warm? What colors go together that make it feel colder and more off-putting? How can you change the lighting? There’s a real, you know, big push right now with lightbulbs being the LED so that they save all kinds of money. But you know what, those things are cold. They – unless you get the warm LED ambiance lights, and I just found a bulb that I actually really like. I mean, this is getting into brass tacks now but [laughter] honestly, honestly, the lighting in your home matters! Because if somebody walks into a fluorescent lit home, which is basically what those LED bulbs are… they last a lifetime, but they’re ugly, and they feel cold and blue. Now, if you do that versus you do an old fashioned incandescent or you do one of those LED bulbs that are like really, really warm – then you have just transformed your whole entire house. And it creates a vibe for your children that encourages their hearts to be cheerful, and it encourages their bodies to relax and to be at home, and then they’re more ready to learn, they’re more ready to change their attitudes if they need to. Like, think about how you feel, you know, in an office space or a doctor’s office versus how you feel at home when you’re relaxing. You know. I just, you know, a little tidbit. But decor is really fun to play with, and how to, you know, how to encourage that sort of atmosphere where joy, the delight of Christ, is present.
Melissa: yeah. Well, tell us where we can find you around the internet. Because you share these things on YouTube and Instagram and websites and all of that. So tell us where we can find you.
Jen: okay, yes! So we’ve got a slightly outdated website. It’s HysaHouse.com And outdated meaning the pictures are old, but the content there is still really good. And you’ll read, you’ll find our whole story there. I just went into a tiny little part of it for the paideia aspect of it, but you’ll find our whole story there, how Joseph came along, all the health trials and stuff. And then I’m on Instagram @JenCarlson and Facebook as well @JenAndJoeCarlson and then I do have a YouTube channel called HysaHouse. So Hysa is h-y-s-a and then house. And there I’m really focusing on hospitality and wellness. So one of my passions is wellness, and that’s because I have walked through so many health trials. So I really am passionate about walking beside people who are in chronic illness or in, you know, long term problems or who are infertile, having trouble getting pregnant. These are some of the things that really matter to me and that God has really given me great mercy in. And so I really want to share what I’ve been given, and really help come alongside people that are walking those journeys. And so then I have a business that I run from home for practical wellness and for natural wellness means. And so those are the ways that I, you know, kind of reach out to people and support people in their journeys. But yeah, Instagram and YouTube and I need to get my website updated now that we’re in Texas, but all the content is still accurate, so yeah.
Melissa: and it’s still beautiful.
Jen: thank you.
Melissa: and delicious! [laughter]
Jen: and delicious! Yes. And I love to cook, and some of the goals of my YouTube video coming up are some recipes and cooking for everyone.
Melissa: anytime I want to make a salad, I just think, okay, Jen Carlson’s Everyday Dressing. [laughter]
Jen: I’m so glad! That is so fun, Melissa.
Melissa: there we go. So JenCarlson and HysaHouse. And I’m so grateful, I feel like it’s just such a gift to be able to chat with you today, and yeah, it’s like getting this little glimpse into the home culture that you have and just seeing what God’s continuing to do with you. And I have a feeling we’re going to be doing this again.
Jen: okay! Wonderful!
Melissa: and I’m just, I’m so grateful. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy day and life to just share your heart and to share that delicious nature of our Christ, because I – oh, we just can’t get enough, right?
Jen: yeah, we can’t get enough. I know, I know. God is so kind. And thank you, Melissa. And I so appreciate all that you do. I love how Paideia Northwest is growing and, you know, Paideia Southeast now. And I so appreciate all that you’re doing. And I am, you know, brand new mama compared to you, and brand new homeschooler, so I am always drawing from you, and what you do with your boys is just mind-blowing actually to me. How you sing with them and do parts and harmonies, and they’re learning so much, like, musically, and just – anyway, I just wanted to tell you that that is such a blessing for me to kind of follow closely.
Melissa: God is so kind.
Jen: yeah, so kind, yeah.
Melissa: God is so kind. I am really looking forward to getting to connect with you in the future, including face to face one of these days.
Jen: yes, me too. Thank you, Melissa.
Melissa: thank you.
And that brings today’s conversation to a close. You can find more conversations on paideia at PaideiaNorthwest.com and PaideiaSoutheast.com for more resources and practical encouragement. Join me again next time for another Paideia Conversation, and in the meantime peace be with you.
Humility and Doxology‘s Amy Sloan joins us for this conversation, which is a special joy because she has encouraged and mentored me for the beginnings of Paideia Conversations. I was a guest in 2021 on her podcast Homeschool Conversations with Humility and Doxology, so this was a fun opportunity to turn the tables and share another cross-country cup of tea. Listen in to this discussion of godly paideia from the philosophical to the practical!
Amy has experience as a second generation Christian homeschooling mom, so we can glean wisdom from her recommendations for habits, routines, and books. You might want to take notes! Or click through the show notes and highlight the transcript below… because I have the feeling this is a Paideia Conversation you won’t want to forget.
Links to Resources Mentioned in this Episode
Church history books by Simonetta Carr
Heroes of the Faith series by Sinclair B. Ferguson
Steve Green Hide ‘Em In Your Heart
The Question of Canon by Michael Kruger
Last Call for Liberty by Os Guinness
Transcript for this Episode
Melissa: All right, joining me today is Amy Sloan from Homeschool Conversations with Humility and Doxology, and we invite you into this conversation as we talk about practicing, pursuing, and implementing paideia. Hi, Amy!
Amy: Hi, Melissa. Thank you for having me today, I’m excited.
Melissa: thank you for joining me! I’m really thrilled. Talking with you has been a blessing to me over the last, I don’t know, year almost? Definitely this year, so thank you for jumping on and experimenting with me. I know a little bit about you myself – your blog and your podcast – but could you just introduce yourself, and your family, and your current work?
Amy: sure. So, like you said, my name is Amy Sloan. I’m a second generation homeschool mom of five in North Carolina. My youngest son is six, my oldest is sixteen, then we have three girls in the middle: nine, eleven, and fourteen. So my husband John and I have lived here in North Carolina for our whole married life, and enjoy that adventure of homeschooling together. I write at HumilityAndDoxology.com, and like you mentioned, host the Homeschool Conversations with Humility and Doxology podcast, which has been fun. And you have been one of my guests, so this is really exciting to get to chat with you now on your podcast.
Melissa: well, you have been my mentor, so it’s only right to flip the tables on you [laughter], and try out this side of the table. So I’m excited to have you share your perspective with us today. So you mentioned that you are, like me, a second generation homeschooler – and, actually, we figured out that we crossed paths when we were homeschooled teenagers! I was from the west coast, you were from the east coast, and we actually probably ran into each other in Idaho. [laughter] So that’s actually kind of a funny little nuance actually.
Amy: yes! We may have passed each other at a history conference or a ball one day.
Melissa: we may have done a Virginia Reel together.
Amy: who knows?
Melissa: I could look at old photos. That would be funny to find you. So, you have a background with Christian home education, and you mentioned that – but what, what has your experience been as someone who might have heard the word paideia thrown around throughout your own past, and now as a mom doing it again with your kids. What does the word paideia mean to you or say to you?
Amy: so of course when we’re talking about paideia, we’re talking about raising our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, and all the many facets that that entails. I’m very thankful that in my own homeschool experience as a child, my parents didn’t see our Bible lessons or our biblical worldview as something that was like a separate subject. Instead, it was something that effected all the subjects: everything we were learning and studying, whether officially for our academics or just as a family, was all seen through the framework of: who is God and what does this teach us about Him? And so as a homeschool parent myself, that’s something that is definitely important to me: that my children see that faith and life and the things that we are reading and studying and experimenting with and wondering about – that these are all things that are integrally related together. So that they’re really seeing God and our worship of Him, and the wonder at His creation, that they’re seeing that in everything that we do in our homeschool.
Melissa: that sounds like you’re talking about worldview.
Amy: yes! So when I was a teenager, I had this pair of awesome purple sunglasses. I just thought they were the greatest thing ever! And they had, like the lenses were also tinted kind of this lavender, so when I would have them on, you know, everything that I looked at was a little tinged with lavender. And that’s kind of how I think about what we’re doing at Christians. That we’re looking at everything through the lens of what the Scripture teaches us about who God is and what He’s done.
Melissa: mhmm. So, being familiar with a term, paideia, knowing that it has Greek roots, knowing that it’s from, you know, the letter of Paul to the Ephesians, where most of us have run into it – most of us, I think, have run into it in that context from am already-Christian perspective. But it wasn’t originally a Christian word, so when we see it in Ephesians 6:4 talking about fathers not exasperating their children but bringing them up in the paideia of the Lord, how do you see that being applied in your home? Because, like you said, worldview – it’s the glasses through which we’re seeing the world around us, and we want that to be, who is God? and wonder at what He’s given, what He’s done. How do you apply that paideia in your home?
Amy: I think it’s just amazing to think about how God raised up these men to write the Word of God, through the inspiration of the Spirit, and to care about the culture to which they were writing. And to use this term as Paul was speaking to, you know, a Greco-Roman audience, and so he’s – throughout the New Testament epistles we have these ideas about being citizens of a heavenly kingdom. Those who were opposed by Babylon, if you’re reading an epistle from Peter. Talking about the family of God, this covenant family of God in the New Testament, is the church, is this family and this people. And so as I think about those ideas, I think about my own family as being part of this big family throughout history, this people of God. And we see ourselves as strangers! We are citizens of a city yet to come, right? We are on pilgrimage. My church’s own name is Pilgrim. We are pilgrims in this land. And we are praying for the good of the land where we dwell, we rejoice in seeing God at work here and now, but we also know that we’re connected to our brothers and sisters in Christ both now and throughout history in a very unique way. And so the idea of paideia is this idea of like enculturation, right? Thinking about this cultural idea, you know, for a pagan society what would be more important than to have your children be good citizens, to stand up for the virtues and the ideals of your community? Because otherwise you were gonna lose it, right, to the first invader that came through. Well, as Christians, we are most concerned about our children as citizens of heaven and our family as a representative of that here on earth. So we’re really wanting to pass on the cultural identity not of any particular country or state or, you know, region of the world – although those are part of our family, our human family, and those have value of course as well – but most importantly, we’re concerned about our children as citizens of heaven, and wanting to pass on that culture of their spiritual family tree and their spiritual home.
Melissa: yeah, that enculturation, that passing along from one generation to the next. It definitely hearkens to Deuteronomy. We are to teach these things to our children and our children’s children! And that’s a beautiful picture of that enculturation. So that’s a great philosophical and theological way to approach paideia, that Christian worldview and culture as we raise up and educate our children. What are some of your favorite practices or habits to foster that sort of Christianly culture with your children or even with yourself?
Amy: so my husband will sometimes bring up a reminder of in the Old Testament how they had, like the morning sacrifices and the evening sacrifices, and the day was sort of bookended, right, by this reminder of redemption. And so in our family, just a practical way in which we seek to communicate this prioritization in our family, both with the children and ourselves, is that we will start the day with Scripture and prayer together as a most important part of the Morning Time routine I do with my own children in our homeschool. The kids know when they come down in the morning, Dad’s generally at the table eating his breakfast. He eats the same breakfast every morning and he always has his Bible open there with him, and so they’re coming down and observing as well. The things they observe as well as the things they participate in. And then at the end of our day, generally its at the end of the day, although with older children having activities sometimes we have to reschedule it for like lunchtime or whatever, but generally at the end of the day is when we have our time of family devotions. And so that is how we end the day together, and we may not always have time to read a book together as a family or to do a bunch of activities, but that is a priority and the kids know that that’s going to be something that we make a point to do every day together. And then when we think about the week as a whole, we have this rhythm of the first day of the week always being set aside for worship. Morning worship and evening worship, time with our church family, time with our own family, time to really focus on the worship of God – and that sets our entire week up with that being the priority. So I think those are just some practical ways of just framing our week, framing our time. That means we don’t always get to do a lot of other things, but those are most important to us.
Melissa: yeah, I love that – the cyclical nature of that on not just a weekly basis but also that daily basis. What does your family, did you call it a devotion time or worship time, what does that include for you, for your family?
Amy: yeah, so we call it kind of family devotions or family worship interchangeably – you know, it’s the same idea. But what we do is we begin with prayer, catechism questions, John will read a chapter of the Bible to us, and we’ll discuss it, we’ll sing a hymn or a psalm, and then we pray again. So it’s nothing really complicated or fancy. The most important part of all of that is the reading of the chapter of God’s Word, and in our family we just read Genesis to Revelation. Then at the end of Revelation, we get back and start back in Genesis one! We don’t skip anything, even the awkward chapters, and that’s been one of my favorite parts of our family, I think. I’m really thankful for that tradition that we have had. And John and I actually recorded a podcast episode all about how to start a family worship practice if that’s something new to your family.
Melissa: oh, that would be great. I’ll have to get that link from you! Yeah. Beautiful. What do you use for resources for the singing portion of your family worship? I know there’s lots of different preferences and personalities brought into it, but with seven people in your home, how do you figure out what resource to use and what hymn or psalm to sing? Do you go straight through a hymnal like you do with the Scripture?
Amy: so again, this is something that we’ve done different things at different times. There have been times when it’s just sort of like, John or I will just pick something, but generally what works best for our family is to eliminate decision fatigue. We just need it to be like the next thing. So in the past, we sang through the entire psalter that our church was using at the time, but within the past couple years our church actually switched over to the Trinity Psalter Hymnal. Well maybe it’s probably been actually more like three or four years at this point, I’m bad with time, I don’t know, it has no meaning for me. [laughter] But whenever we switched over a few years ago, we decided that it would be a really good practice for us to go through and learn – a lot of it is similar and familiar, but it’s a new set up. So we started back at the beginning and sang through the entire psalter just in order, and are now working our way through the hymns. I have this goal that I would like to finish the whole hymnal, I think there are like six hundred ish, before my oldest son leaves home. So, I told him if we get behind he’s just going to have to sit down one Saturday, and then as a family we’re just gonna sing through the rest of it. [laughter]
Melissa: that is so funny, I have a similar goal with my children! I’ve told them that we are going to learn to sing all one hundred fifty psalms before they leave home. But I haven’t specified whether that needs to be my first child or my final child, because I just don’t know how that’s going. I haven’t kept track!
Amy: oh no! [laughter]
Melissa: but there’s only a hundred and fifty, so it’s not like six hundred, right?
Amy: yes, exactly. We started this tradition a couple years ago, was whenever it’s your birthday, we sing whatever psalm corresponds to the number of your age. And, I don’t know, that’s just been something that’s kind of fun and exciting.
Melissa: that is fun. How do you get the higher numbers though? So you’ll be really good at the first, I don’t know, fifty?
Amy: fifty, sixty, maybe? Yeah. Well that’s why we had to sing through the whole psalter separately of course.
Melissa: exactly. Hit them all numerous times. Beautiful. So you’re talking about the philosophical and theological side of paideia, and of living a Christian worldview, and we are citizens of heaven and that’s where our primary focus and heart as Christian mothers ought to be. But how do we combine that with the fact that we are called to take dominion on this earth? God put us in a specific time and place. What are some practical ways that you might have seen paideia lived out in your home and family recently in something that isn’t just family worship? Where have you seen a Christian worldview lived out in something really tangible outside of that?
Amy: well, I can think of a couple examples. I guess I’ll start like oldest and kind of move down some ages of my kids. I see the work of the Spirit really bringing out that diligence and hard work and stick-to-itiveness when things are hard in my oldest son as he’s doing a lot more independent work. It’s been very hard, but to see him begin working at a job outside the home, while doing school, learning how hard that can be but working through that, has been a joy. And I think that sometimes we think, well, it has to all be like perfect the first time through. Like, why don’t you just have it all together? But that’s not the Christian life, right, that’s not sanctification, that’s certainly not how God treats me. So learning as a parent, I think the flipside of that is learning to repent as a parent of this perfectionism and yeah well basically just expecting perfect children and being so shocked when they don’t have it all figured out. So I think that would be sort of the two sides of that. Really seeing that work with your hands, sweat of your brow, like dealing with thorns and thistles, and yet persevering for God’s glory. That diligence, I think, is something, self control, those are things that are definitely part of paideia, and I’m seeing that fruit borne out in my son. At my daughters, I mean I won’t talk about all of them, but like I see the… to make things for other people, not just for themselves but thinking of creative ways to bless their friends, noticing the lonely is something I love about my daughters. You know, those middle ages with girls, it can be a really tough situation even in the church. And to see my girls being the ones who often will notice the lonely, notice when someone is being left out, or just being thoughtful in that way is something that I think is another part of paideia. Because that’s what we’re called to do, like in the book of James, right, you don’t just look for the big flashy person and say, here come sit at the front, but ignore the person who comes in who’s dirty and ill-kempt and poor and send them to the back. And maybe we don’t judge or deal with friendships in that kind of like rich/poor dynamic in the same way, but it definitely applies I think to girl friendships especially were there’s sort of the popular and the less popular, and it can be a tension there. So seeing again that work and growth of the Spirit in them and how that applies in friendships. And then, oh, my little guy. He’s just learning to obey. [laughter] He’s learning he doesn’t get his own way, and that is something I’m still learning too.
Melissa: same, yeah. I love how you’re able to connect worldview with virtue with practical application. You’re seeing diligence and compassion and obedience, and of course we need to practice these, we need to iterate them, and there will be plenty of opportunities where our children will need to repent and where we likewise need to repent. But that’s so beautiful that we can see things like those virtues not just in a list, not just even in a, you know, fruit of the Spirit song, but to see them coming out in hard work, in schoolwork, in friendships, in things like, yeah, reaching out to bless one of their friends, baking cookies and carrying the groceries across the street, those kinds of ways. But to be able to see that that’s not just, it’s not just a good behavior or a happy incident or a happy accident, it’s the Lord at work. And He is blessing the fruit of your labors, He’s bringing that! And that is good, that is encouraging.
Amy: and I think I would definitely just emphasize that it is the work of the Spirit, because it is not a result of perfect parenting for sure. [laughter] There have been so many mistakes and so many times and oh we’ve just not handled situations in a way that honored the Lord, and so to be able to cry out to the Lord myself and say, these are Your children, you know, please be merciful to them, be merciful to me, do not treat me as my sins deserve, you know, don’t treat them as their sins deserve. And that’s grace, right. That’s the work of Christ that He has done for us, and God the Father as our perfect Parent, when we are less than perfect.
Melissa: mhmm, yeah, we were studying just yesterday the trinitarian blessing of, second Corinthians 13:14 I think, talking about the grace of Jesus Christ and the love of the Father and the fellowship of the Spirit, and this threefold blessing that Paul is giving to the people. And just seeing how that is something I would love, I would love to imitate more and more, right, how to cover my children in the blessing of grace and love and fellowship. And that’s paideia, right there. May the Lord equip us!
Melissa: so you mentioned obviously the Scripture, you mentioned the Trinity Psalter Hymnal. What are some other resources, or do you have one top resource that you would recommend to others who are seeking to raise their children in a specifically Christian culture, in that paideia of the Lord?
Amy: yeah, well, I know I already have talked about this, but I would just say, I will give a couple book titles as well. But I would say, if there’s one thing that you could do in your home that would be most valuable and most, I don’t want to use the word effective because the Lord brings the fruit, but the one most impactful thing you could do in your family would be regular family devotions that aren’t fancy but that are focused on just reading through the Scripture. And not just picking and choosing verses, but reading all of the Scripture. I’m really more and more convinced that the most important thing we can do as a family. But some additional book resources for children. I will actually kind of take a different tack and talk about church history because I think that is something that we need to focus on. It helps prevent us from error and heresy, it again gets us connected with this culture that’s not just the church of today but the culture of the church through time and history, and so I would suggest reading books by Simonetta Carr – Sinclair Ferguson has a children’s series on some of the early church fathers like Polycarp who’s a great favorite of mine, I love Simonetta Carr’s book on Athanasius. If you can read some of those great books for children about the great theologians of the church history, I think that would be a really wonderful way to encourage them and to connect them with God’s people.
Amy: we own one, Trial and Triumph. My teens have read those, my older two kids have read that particular book. I have not read that particular title, but we do own it. Yeah, we have a lot of church history books. It’s kind of a favorite thing.
Melissa: yeah. Just yesterday with my children, we were reading about Athanasius and Alexander and the council of Nicaea. And that’s one thing, my children know the Apostles’ Creed really well, and so this year I’m challenging them – and our entire homeschool co op – to memorize the Nicene Creed. And so we decided to need to know about the council of Nicaea, what were the heresies they were particularly addressing at the time, and who were the men and what was at stake when they were meeting to discuss these things. There was a lot at stake!
Amy: yes, and it’s the same things that we’re dealing with now. Who is Jesus? You know. These issues are the exact same issues facing the church today.
Melissa: oh, there is nothing new under the sun.
Amy: no. Yeah, we actually, so the Nicene Creed is one that we love to kind of, we generally like rotate through that periodically and come back and review it. We use that as part of our confession at our church as well. So the kids and I actually just finished a month of Nicene Creed review, it’s one of my favorites.
Melissa: yeah, yeah. I know you’re really interested and really good at promoting memorization, specifically of beautiful, lovely things like poetry. How do you incorporate memorization into godly paideia?
Amy: so in our Morning Time is where I will put most of our memorization, and so we will just recite things together. So I’m doing it right alongside of them. It’s not like a test or a quiz or drill work. It’s more like, oh let’s all just recite this together. And then over the course of time by simple recitation we really memorize it quite well. If not word perfectly, still we get the big ideas and the themes. So that’s where I’ll put in a longer passage of Scripture. I like that because we’re not just learning a proof text but we’re also seeing the logic of how God communicates. That’s where we’ll do things like a creed if we’re gonna include a creed in that particular month. And then I actually asked my husband if we could, I used to try to do the catechism in the morning as well, we do also do catechism as part of our Sunday School program at church, so we’re kind of getting catechism from all different directions. But it was just becoming a little overwhelming for me to try to include that as well in our Morning Time. So we have been doing that now in our evening time of family devotions, and that’s worked well. We just do a couple questions a week, do them for a week, them move to the next, you know, couple questions. And just the more you cycle through them, you’re not gonna have it word perfect by the end of the week. So I think that’s something that holds people back with memory work, is they think, well I have to do this thing until it’s like perfect, and then you just get discouraged and tired and kind of bored. So I prefer kind of just like, do it a little ways, be consistent, and kind of move on and cycle through. And then when it comes to shorter verses, I love things set to music. So things like Seeds Family Worship, the classic Steve Green Hide Em in Your Heart, you know GT and the Halo Express, all these things that are great for just learning a verse or two to music. And those are things that I still remember from my own childhood, so yeah we love that.
Melissa: well, I think the last question that I would like to surprise you with, is just tell me [laughter] what have you been reading that is specifically for your soul? Right. Not that fiction can’t be for your soul, because it could be, and not that secular poetry – if there is such a thing as a sacred/secular divide, but what have you been reading? Do you have a specific recommendation for us and is that something that you’ve been doing lately?
Amy: yes. So what I like to do is try to have something going on that I call my Sunday book. And that’s not because like it’s bad to read it on a Monday through a Saturday, but just, it helps me get through some of those books that maybe I wouldn’t prioritize as much during the week. I remember a long time ago, a mom friend, like a friend of my mom’s who, her daughter was my age, said, you know, if God has given us one day every week to devote to studying His Word and to studying the things of the Lord, that means we have over seven weeks of vacation a year! Imagine how many spiritual books you could read in seven weeks if you just read for a little bit every day. I was like, oh, that’s kind of like a mindset shift, right? We think, well, if I just can read for like fifteen minutes on a Sunday, does that really count? But if you think of it as like seven weeks of your year, it’s pretty significant. So I… can I go grab the title? I can’t remember the author’s name. Hold on just a second. This is called The Question of Canon by Michael Kruger.
Melissa: I have not heard of that.
Amy: so some of my older kids were asking me some questions about the formation of the canon, and I was like, I remember studying this when I was in high school, but I don’t really remember. So it made me kind of start asking some questions. So I borrowed this from my father-in-law who is a minister, and I would highly recommend it. I will say, it’s a hard book to read. I generally don’t find books so difficult to read. But it was so meaty that I could only read a few pages. It was good that it was a Sunday book. I could just read like for fifteen minutes and really think about it. But if someone has questions about the New Testament canon in particular, I would highly recommend this book: Michael Kruger, The Question of Canon. And then, this is, well, I’m calling it my Sunday book just because otherwise I’ll never finish it. I guess if we’re very broad with our categories of Sunday books, but I am reading this one on Sundays right now. And it’s called Last Call for Liberty by Os Guinness, and he’s really looking at the difference between the American Revolution and the French Revolution. And the reason why I’m counting it as a Sunday book, even though generally I try to be a little bit more biblically focused on my Sunday readings, is the idea of freedom is such a biblical concept and idea. We have to define freedom as the Bible defines it, not as an opportunity for vice, for instance, that freedom does not mean autonomy, that as Christians we believe freedom still means we are under authority. And so this idea of how that word has kind of changed the way it’s being used and applied is really fascinating and certainly very timely. He actually wrote this book like four or five years ago I think, but it’s kind of creepy, I’ll read it and I’ll be like, I feel like he’s writing this about a news article that just came out this week or something. So, this is one I’ve finished: I’ve finished the Michael Kruger and I’m working my way through the Os Guinness. Both are really excellent.
Melissa: and they’re good for your soul. And it’s a good reminder, I think, for me: paideia and the Christian culture in our home that I’m seeking to nurture isn’t just about the children. As a mom and especially as a home educating mom, I think, that tends to be my main focus. And I need to remember it is not just about them. I need Christian culture, I need to be saturated myself in the Word, in prayer, in – yes- stories of the saints who came before, in creeds, in catechism, learning with my children. And I love the idea of the Sunday book to sort of peg that at the start of the week again. I’m going to make note of that.
Amy: and it’s kind of one more way to set the Lord’s Day apart. Like there’s something special on that day. Again, not that there aren’t books that I read on other days that would be appropriate to read on the Lord’s Day, but it is a way to set it aside and set it apart.
Melissa: yea, I love that. Oh, well could you tell us one more time where we can find you all around the internet and how we can read your blog and hear your podcast?
Amy: yes, I would love for people to come over to HumilityAndDoxology.com, there I have resources for memory work and textbook free history and lots of church history and Bible and family worship resources as well. And then you can find my podcast Homeschool Conversations wherever you get your podcasts, and I also include the transcripts for those episodes over on the website if you prefer. And then I’m also on Instagram and Facebook and YouTube at HumilityAndDoxology.
Melissa: we really can find you just about anywhere we are.
Amy: yes. Not on Twitter. [laughter]
Melissa: well, stay away from there then. [laughter] Well, Amy, I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me this morning about paideia and the various ways you have seen it and live it out and seek to prioritize that in your home with your family. Thank you for spending this time with me today.
Amy: thank you for having me, I can’t wait to listen to your episodes
Melissa: we’ll talk to you again soon.
And that brings today’s conversation to a close. Thanks for joining us. You can find us at PaideiaNorthwest.com and PaideiaSoutheast.com for more resources and practical encouragement. Join me again next time for another Paideia Conversation. Until then, peace be with you.
In Episode 1 of Paideia Conversations, I was joined by my cohost Jenn Discher from sister community Paideia Southeast. In this inaugural conversation, we simply opened with basic questions: what is paideia? How do we spell it, pronounce it, define it? How do we pursue godly paideia, in light of Ephesians 6:4?
Then we shared some snippets and thoughts from Douglas Wilson’s essay The Paideia of God as an opening springboard.
Repentance, worship, prayer, Bible reading, joy, forgiveness! These are the foundation upon which we are building Christian culture.
Resources mentioned in this episode:
The Paideia of God by Douglas Wilson, title essay
The Case for Classical Christian Education by Douglas Wilson, chapter 13
Repent, Rejoice, Repeat ~ Mystie Winckler, Simply Convivial
Ephesians 6:4 & 2 Timothy 3:14-17
Transcript for Episode 1
Melissa: joining me today from Paideia Southeast is my friend Jenn Discher, and we invite you into this conversation today as we continue to practice, pursue, and implement paideia. Thanks for joining me, Jenn!
Jenn: yes, I’m so happy to be here. Thank you!
Melissa: so, today: episode number one! We are talking about, what IS paideia? And WHO is this for? And, specifically for our springboard, an essay that we discussed together this summer called The Paideia of God by Douglas Wilson. It’s always nice to have something to start with and discuss, and jump off from there rather than trying to come up with our own great ideas, right?
Jenn: yes, absolutely.
Melissa: talk about what blessings we can gain from that, and what we need to chew and spit. So paideia. What is this? What is this word? It’s so foreign to us, right? It’s not an English word. We don’t know how to spell it, we don’t know how to pronounce it…
Jenn: we don’t! We don’t know how to spell it! [laughter]
Melissa: So yeah, with Paideia Northwest and Paideia Southeast, it’s like, we have to know how to spell that, we have to know how to pronounce it, and we probably should have at least something of an understanding of what it means. Right? What is our vision with these communities and in encouraging moms to pursue this word, this paideia, for their families? So paideia: P-A-I-D-E-I-A, right? So paid. Paid… paideia… It starts with paid! That at least helps a little bit, right?
Jenn: that’s good. Yep, that’s good!
Melissa: and then for pronouncing it, my friend Mystie Winckler from the Scholé Sisters said, well we’re gonna pronounce it “pie” as in delicious pie, “day” as in the opposite of night, and we’re gonna throw in “uh” just for good measure. So pie-day-uh. And that’s always been really helpful.
Jenn: that’s great!
Melissa: so there you go. That’s how you spell it, that’s how we’ll pronounce it. And now we get to the fun part: what is this? First of all, Jenn, what is your background with the idea of paideia? Is this a brand new word to you or when did you first hear about this word or this idea?
Jenn: I would say maybe about five years ago, I’m estimating. So, I mean, it’s in Ephesians 6:4 so I was always familiar with that verse, like, “fathers, raise your children in the nurture, instruction, or the discipline, or the training” however it’s translated… but I don’t think I became aware that that nurture or that training was actually the Greek word paideia and really the fullness of that word until the last few years.
Melissa: right. Yeah. I know I’d heard the word when I was a child, or at least a teenager. But it’s definitely since motherhood and since homeschooling in the last thirteen years for me… it’s really… I’ve had to chew on it and flesh it out. I think understanding the height, the breadth, the depth of it is just – we could have endless conversations about it!
Jenn: yes, totally!
Melissa: so I think that’s why we wanted to share these conversations with others, right? Because we’ve been chatting about this idea for a few months and with some of our other friends, we’ve been chatting about it off and on for months, or maybe a couple years for some of us, right? And wanting to share that conversation with others. So yes, it’s a Greek word, right? We got it from ancient Greek culture where their vision was to raise fantastic little Greeks, right? And who are we trying to raise? We are trying to raise citizens of heaven. They might happen to be a citizen of a, you know, a specific nation on earth, but ultimately our citizenship is in heaven. So we want to be raising children for the kingdom of God. So what are we trying to raise? Little Christians! Not little Americans or little Greeks, we want to be bringing up children in this specific paideia. So what kind of words come to mind when you think of paideia? I know for me originally it was, like you said, nurture, instruction, discipline, education, formation – are there other words that pop into your mind?
Jenn: training, enculturation – like enculturating, culture of the Lord.
Melissa: yeah, I think that’s the big one, right, that ties them all together: the enculturation. It’s that entire person. It’s not just, if you could separate the spirit and the physical, or the intellectual: it’s not just the “Christian” part, it’s not just making sure they read their Bible and training them in catechism, and sitting at church on Sundays…
Melissa: it is that, it’s at least that! It’s also not just, you know, “school.” It’s not just the books we read or the books we listen to. It’s ALL of it. And I think that’s where, for me, I find that to be really refreshing and also very heavy. Right? It’s a lot! It’s everything. Nothing is outside the realm of this paideia. And so if we are to be pursuing a particular paideia, the paideia of the Lord as Paul told us in Ephesians, how do we go about that and what’s that supposed to look like?
So one of the places that we’ve discussed together is… Douglas Wilson has a bunch of great things about Christian education and classical education and parenting… a Paideia of God essay. I wanted to read just something out of there, a couple little excerpts.
He says, “much more is involved in this requirement [that of raising our children in the paideia of the Lord] than simply establishing the scope and sequence of a formal Christian education. Formal education is essential to the process of paideia, of course, but the boundaries of paideia are much wider than the boundaries of what we understand as education. Far more is involved in this also than taking the kids to church or having an occasional time of devotions in the home, as important as such things are. And, more to the point, far more is involved than simply providing the kids with a Christian curriculum 8-3.
So the word paideia goes far beyond what we call formal education. In the ancient world, the paideia was all-encompassing and involves nothing less than the enculturation of the future citizen. Paideia for us then would include the books on the best seller lists, the major newspapers, the popular sitcoms and networks, the songs on the top forty lists, the motion pictures seen by everyone, the architectural layout of most suburban homes, and out at the periphery the fact that all our garden hoses are green.”
Melissa: That’s an illustration that I think is just intriguing. How far reaching this simple term of paideia is supposed to go. So, to sum it up, Douglas Wilson says, “paideia is not just bounded education, it is enculturation. Every aspect of enculturation.” I love that! That while the paideia is not limited to formal education or limited to going to church on Sunday or family devotions, we certainly see that those things are at the heart of paideia. So we ought to do nothing less than that, right? But how much more could we do?
So um, yeah, I think it would be great if you wanted to pull out The Case for Classical Christian Education by Douglas Wilson. And chapter thirteen is one of his treatises, you could say, on the paideia of God. And we’ve discussed this one at length actually this summer, and just sort of pondered a lot of the principles and discussed some of the methods – but really maximizing on those principles. What would you say stands out to you, Jenn?
Jenn: I think, so I’m looking at the book; in that first page, he actually has that quote from the other book, Melissa, that you just read from. But he says that it describes an entire way of life, and I think that also sums it up well. I recently read a quote from a classical education website, I think it’s called The Classical Difference, and they put it along these lines, the paideia: “paideia describes what we actually love, what we actually believe, the truth we actually believe, and what we assume about the nature of the world.” And that’s huge, right? And it also speaks to the fact that it’s not, it’s not just, I mean, in Ephesians, Paul’s saying, do this, raise your kids in the paideia of the Lord; but really everybody, regardless of worldview, has a particular paideia. Everybody has values and beliefs and presuppositions and loves. This is gonna happen to all of us. We’re all going to go through life developing a particular paideia. It’s just a matter of what they are, like what these particular values, beliefs, loves are, and how we get them. And the how can be intentional or it can just be something that happens to us.
Melissa: mmhm. Yeah. Cultural values is something, I think, you know we all are raised in a culture, those of us who are parents now were raised actually in a different culture probably than what we’re raising our children in, whether that’s simply because of the passage of time or a change in worldview – not all of us were raised with a Christian worldview but maybe that’s the worldview that we now have to raise our children in. I think that’s huge. Right? Also, our world is constantly changing and culture is developing and being reshaped continually out there as well. So even if we feel like, oh our home culture is, not static but that my worldview isn’t changing that much, it is changing outside too. And those elements do get in. So how do we proactively and reactively pursue a particular paideia within our homes? So yeah. The entire way of life. That’s so good.
I think what’s interesting is, you know, you said, what are our loves? And how what we think we love, what we say we love, may or may not be expressed in our life. So how have you experienced living out paideia in your home? Has it been different in your plan versus in its actual production? What have you found to be strengths and weaknesses with that?
Jenn: I think that there’s, I mean, there’s just always gonna be inconsistencies. Right? Because we’re sinners, and we’re never, like we’re shooting for these ideals and at the same time, I’m still like fleshing, thinking through, what even are these ideals? What does it, what does a joyful, robust Christian culture look like in a home? It’s not something I grew up with. So at the same time that I’m sort of coming to this understanding, and trying to by God’s grace, alongside my husband, flesh this out in my home, I’m also failing to execute this well. And so, I mean, that’s just repentance, right? That’s just repentance, putting that off. Getting before the Lord about that, and receiving forgiveness, you know, making it right with whoever was present who I need to make it right with and moving on. So there’s that element, where there’s that, you know, there’s those inconsistencies that you’re aware of and convicted of and you go to make right. But then I think there’s also, sometimes you’re not totally aware of the inconsistencies, and you might say that you value certain things, but that what’s actually coming out of your mouth – even if it’s not necessarily sinful, it’s just like, oh, you might not even realize that that’s not what I want. I don’t know, you almost have to take that step back sometimes, and sometimes you’re made aware of that. And sometimes it takes a while to realize that.
Melissa: yeah, absolutely. I think it, for me, definitely, sin nature is what pops into my head when I think, oh I have these plans or this set of – like you said, ideals – and it’s my sin nature compounded by the sin nature of my children that just makes it difficult to actually seek the Lord in all of these things. In every aspect of our home culture and our educational culture that we pursue. Now, you and I both homeschool, and so that also gives a particular opportunity for pursuing paideia in a specific way. So one thing that I think is important to note today is that, like you said before, paideia is for everybody. It’s for me as a mom as well as for my children, it’s for me as a homeschooler and you as a homeschooler, but it’s also for our sisters who are raising kids for Christ who are not homeschooling. Right? We mentioned before that idea of principles over methods, and so as we discuss paideia in the future, we’re going to be talking somewhat about homeschooling because you and I are both in that particular trench right now, but also including conversations about pursuing paideia outside of a homeschool setting. Hopefully bringing some friends into that conversation who have that experience as well.
Douglas Wilson, in this essay The Paideia of God, on page 109 says, “the Apostle Paul commanded Ephesian fathers to provide their children with a paideia of the Lord. This is not a command limited to enrollment in a Christian school. What Paul is requiring is nothing less than the establishment of a Christian civilization or culture. Paideia means enculturation and you cannot have Christian enculturation without a Christian culture.” And then on 111, this follows that, “Paul says the Scriptures are profitable as the foundation of our Christian paideia.” So that would be referencing back to 2 Timothy 3:14-16, all Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. And what is paideia if not instruction in righteousness? So that’s a beautiful place for us to start on these conversations. And Scripture, right, Scripture in our conversations, in our books, the artwork on our walls, coming out of our mouths when we are praying, when we’re frustrated, when we’re joyful – all of these things, these are opportunities to use what we say we love. Right? And Scripture ought to be at the foundation of that, regardless of your educational method or your own educational background or your own spiritual background. Right? I’ve been in a Christian home for 37 years, but that doesn’t mean that I am furthering along the road of pursuing paideia than someone who’s been in a Christian home for 7 years. So this is for all of us, and I think that’s what is so good about having these opportunities to discuss these ideals and these principles.
Now, we mentioned sin nature as one of our… well, as THE main hiccup in the pursuit of paideia. What would you say is one of your absolutes? What is a part of paideia that is just – if you had to just name one thing that is a core of paideia in your home – what would you say?
Jenn: well, I mean, the first thing that came to mind honestly was repentance. Because, I mean, I would say worship too, I would say prayer, I would say Bible reading – all of that. But the thing that feels most tangible, my most like felt need on a daily basis, is repentance… I love Mystie Winckler’s “repent, rejoice, repeat.” It’s not like a glum repentance. You’re rejoicing! You’re rejoicing in the Lord. The joy of the Lord is our strength. And we want to be quick forgivers, we want to be quick to ask for forgiveness, we want to be quick to extend forgiveness, and then we move on. And then it’s forgiven, it’s dealt with, it’s removed as far as the east is from the west, we start over, His mercies are new every day. And that is just such a truth to hold onto.
Jenn: I mean, when it says that, you know, Paul, when he [Wilson] says that Paul is requiring nothing less than the establishment of a Christian civilization or culture, I have… it’s almost this vision I have in my mind that we’re laying the train tracks as the train is going over the tracks almost. Right? That we are putting this down as our children are the train cars like going on the track, and so it’s this, both, we’re building it while we’re trying to raise them in it. And we’re gonna, I don’t know, I mean, we’re gonna stumble. But we’re stumbling forward into the arms of a loving Father whose mercies are new every day, and who washes us clean and welcomes us, you know, with open arms. And so that, I don’t know, that is what I want my kids to grow up in. A joyful Christian culture where they know that they’re forgiven and that we take sin seriously but then we move on after it’s been dealt with.
Melissa: right, and that idea that sin, while… it’s not surprising, right? Sin should not surprise us because we know we’re sinners, and so that pursuit of repentance – we’re not raising our children or training our children to become sinless. Right? We’re not going to be sinless until we have reached glory. But that idea that we’re going to train ourselves and, God willing, our children to have quick repentance. Like you said, it’s that, what do we do when we sin? Not if we sin, when we sin. So yeah, I think it’s, that is repentance! That is huge. And repentance means turning away from, right, but that idea that you mentioned, Mystie Winckler’s little mantra “repent, rejoice, repeat” – there’s that repeat thing too.
Jenn: yes! Repetition!
Melissa: this is not one and done. But that’s not discouraging. That’s actually encouraging. So remembering that because His mercies are new every morning, when we sin again, or when our child sins again, what are we gonna do? We are just gonna repent, and we are going to then move on rejoicing. Yeah. The other thing you mentioned is what I would say would be one of my main paideia foundations. And that is, you know, worship. And obviously the word worship can mean different things for different people. Sometimes it’s the music portion of a church service, sometimes it is a church service, sometimes it is simply a time of set apart focus on the Lord whether it’s, you know, known as family devotions or personal quiet time… but that those kinds of things are worship. So I think, along with that repentance, which… to some extent is more of a reactive thing, right, because we know that we are going to stumble. Maybe we start with worship and the foundation of setting our hearts and our minds on things that are above, and that’s what we lay out for our children and for us as we begin a day of work or education or play or the Lord’s Day of rest. But that focusing our hearts and minds on Him and what He has done, that is pursuing the paideia of the Lord. And when we stumble, yes, I love how you put that: we stumble forward into our Savior’s open arms, and He then enables us to repent and because we are in His embrace, we can rejoice and move forward. So I love that. Worship and repentance – I think that sounds like an excellent way to just format this conversation moving forward. What are we talking about? The paideia of God, the enculturation of our children and our families for Christ, and that is not just education, it is all of life. And it starts with worship and it goes through repentance and it’s on repeat all the time.
So I really appreciate you taking the time to set apart some minutes with me today to talk about these things in this introduction. So in the future we’re going to talk more about this paideia. We are going to be discussing the paideia of God in general, we’re going to be discussing how the rubber meets the road for us as homeschool moms, and sharing resources that we love and that we find encouraging on this journey as we pursue this in our own homes and as we pursue these in our Paideia communities in the Spokane area of Washington state and the Atlanta area of Georgia.
So, Jenn, is there anything else that you wanted to share with us before we sign off today?
Jenn: no, thank you for having me.
Melissa: yeah! You can find us at PaideiaNorthwest.com and PaideiaSoutheast.com for more resources and practical encouragement, and updates on events that we’re hosting in our local areas.
And that brings today’s conversation to a close. Thanks for joining us.
Join me again next time for another Paideia Conversation. Until then, peace be with you.
While it has been a bit of a soft launch while I worked to learn some podcasting ropes and tech practices, as of today, Paideia Conversations now has its first five episodes distributed across four major podcasting platforms… so it’s time to tell people about it! It’s always funny to try your hand at something new, and then to be brave enough to fling it out into the world for others to see. Thankfully, I am not alone in this venture! I am grateful to have the team at Paideia Southeast in my corner on this project. Jenn Discher has done three episodes (one is still in the cutting room) with me, and she is a gift. We have another one planned where I hope to get at least one more Paideia Southeast member on the mic with us. This first round of episodes is pretty much all about discussing paideia with mamas in the trenches: sharing ideas of what a Christian enculturation could includes, which varies from family to family. It is beautiful, inspiring, lovely, sharpening. Paideia is not something we do… it is literally the air we breathe. Or that’s the reality of it, whether or not we are intentional.
Please listen in ~ join the pursuit of godly paideia in your homes and the conversation of personal practical application. Leave feedback for us, and share it with your friends. There will be more interviews in the future, more team discussions, more ideas for pursuit of godly paideia, and more book discussions. We invite you to join our conversation. To the Kingdom!
Have you wondered what the philosophy of the Lord’s paideia might look like when implemented and pursued in real Christian families in our own era and locale? Paideia Conversations is a casual podcast where Christian mamas from Paideia Northwest and Paideia Southeast dialogue about all things paideia: interviewing others, discussing books, sharing their own glimpses of practical paideia around the home. Currently shared only on Spotify while we stitch up a few loose seams by knotting off some lingering threads, please chime in with your own thoughts, suggestions, or experiences. The paideia of the Lord is such a gift, and there is so much freedom. Our intent here is to increase joy, offer encouragement, share resources, pursue wisdom. We are eager to explore the vast array of ideas here. To the Kingdom!