Paideia Conversations, Ep. 4

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

Westminster Shorter Catechism

Songs for Saplings

Our 24 Family Ways by Clay and Sally Clarkson

Jesus Storybook Bible

Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield

Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle by Betty MacDonald

The Railway Children by E. Nesbit

Atomic Habits by James Clear

Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics

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

Episode Transcript

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.

Melissa: absolutely.

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…

Kristen: yes!

Melissa: so then that kind of leads me right into that question of paideia.

Kristen: yeah!

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.

Melissa: right.

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.

Kristen: yes.

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?

Melissa: yes!

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…

Melissa: oh!

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.

Kristen: yeah!

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.

Kristen: yeah.

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?

Melissa: mhmm!

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.

Melissa: gotcha.

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.

Kristen: yes!

Melissa: but if they’re used to you, sort of having a rhythm of taking space and making time for those moments…

Kristen: yeah!

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.

Melissa: yes.

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?

Melissa: lately.

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…

Melissa: right.

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.