Paideia Conversations, Ep. 12

After a bit of a winter rest, Melissa Cummings is back to converse with Jenn Discher from Paideia Southeast… and not just because she often cohosts Paideia Conversations. Jenn Discher recently published her first novel, The Elk King, and Melissa wanted to know all about it. Here at Paideia Conversations we talk a lot about cultivating a particular atmosphere in our homes and families as we live and raise kids for the kingdom of God… and this is a new way that rubber can meet the road. How did Jenn cultivate the culture of Animalia while simultaneously cultivating Discher culture at home? Where were the overlaps? How did she incorporate her family into the project? How did language and naming things in the book come into culture-cultivating? And what was the process like to coordinate the visual elements of culture with her illustrator? All of this and more… join us now for this conversation!

Resources and Links

The Elk King, available on Amazon in digital & paperback

Blog post explaining “why elk?”

World Elk Calling Championship Competitions

The “real” Glenariff

Illustrator Jessica Evans

Freebie Coloring Page

Jenn’s Website

Jenn’s Instagram

Jenn’s Facebook

The Hidden Art of Homemaking by Edith Schaeffer

The Winter King by Christine Cohen

The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson

Letters from Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien

Transcript

Melissa: joining me today is my cohost from Paideia Southeast, Jenn Discher. She also happens to be today’s guest. Please join me as I get to chat with Jenn about her brand new novel called The Elk King, Tales from Animalia, Book One.

From the Original Histories of the Elk, Volume One:
The words of Henoria, Owl Prophetess to the Elk of Glenariff.
In honor of King Argyle’s sacrifice and the Provision of the Great Sequoia.
The Elk shall drink water only from its cistern as far as it depends upon them, the Elk shall shun all other water. It will be durmwat to them.
In faith did Argyle make his sacrifice and, if faithful to the ways of the Elk, the Elk shall be a blessed herd. The ways of the Elk are simple but true: protect the weak, live nobly, and be filled with what is good. But if the Elk prove faithless, be warned. They shall incur a fate more terrible than that from which Argyle saved them.
This water is pure, good, and true. Drink of it and be so yourselves noble Elk.

Here at Paideia Conversations we talk a lot about intentionally pursuing a specific culture, cultivating a particular atmosphere in our homes, with our children, for ourselves, as we raise the next generation for the kingdom of God. We talk about being prayerful, faithful, and mindful about it. So how does this apply to the idea of being an author of some new middle grade fiction? Well, let’s find out what Jenn has to say about that.

Oh, there you are!

Jenn: oh good morning, hey!

Melissa: okay, number one.

Jenn: okay.

Melissa: I’m so excited to have this in my hand, instead of just as a… what was it, a PDF?

Jenn: a PDF, yeah.

Melissa: nothing against digital… Okay, actually. Something against digital.

Jenn: right.

Melissa: but like, even though my husband… we own and he runs, you know, a digital Bible reading company, right? You’d think that I would be okay with digital reading of things. No, not so much. I could get through the paperback version probably in a snap, right? Because it’s the kind of thing where the kids would say, oh just one more chapter! oh just keep going! just turn the page and keep going! For some reason, even though it’s the exact same words, the exact same story, no matter what the book is – whether it’s, you know, C.S. Lewis or missionary biographies or, you know, a story like The Elk King, or even, I don’t know, the book of Genesis – it’s so much harder to keep the momentum when it’s digital.

Jenn: mmm, that’s interesting.

Melissa: I don’t know. I don’t know why. But my kinds seem to follow me in that. So having the paperback finally is like, ahhh! here we go! So instead of reading it in a more choppy version like I did with the electronics where I’m like, okay, I can’t even, because my eyes! I can’t look at a screen anymore…we’re going to revisit this in paperback version. And we’ll just, we’ll keep going. So anyway. I’m so excited.
I love how you have, in the back, you have the Glossary and you have… where’s the cast… Oh there you go. Cast of Characters. I’m kind of really super tempted to ask you to like read the Glossary for me. [laughter]

Jenn: I don’t have it in front of me, so that would be – and I don’t have – it’s not been part of my memory work, so I can’t rattle it off.

Melissa: well it should be! There you go. This should be part of your memory work!

Jenn: honestly, you could probably ask me about a character at this point and I’d be like, wait, hold on a minute. [laughter]

Melissa: like… haroo harrah! I’m like, I don’t know if I pronounce that right! Right?

Jenn: it’s great, it’s great. [laughter] It is. That’s how I would imagine pronouncing it.

Melissa: garoo garoo… well, is the emphasis on the gah or on the roo?

Jenn: that’s a good question, yeah. That’s fair.

Melissa: so this is why, okay, I need you to narrate the audiobook. [laughter] In fact, okay, so The Winter King by Christine Cohen…

Jenn: yes.

Melissa: …who is another friend of mine with these odd connections from like when I was a teenager, and she does the narration for the audiobook of her The Winter King, and it’s so helpful. Because I’m like, oh, okay, that is exactly how it’s supposed to be pronounced! Or Andrew Peterson with The Wingfeather Saga.

Jenn: yes.

Melissa: it just makes so much sense. I love it when an author speaks the words and the characters’ names, and it just really helps me get in that culture. Because sort of like I could read Spanish or… mmm, I don’t know… could I read Swedish, Icelandic? Probably not. You know, I could look at the letters and try to sound it out but I’d be totally butchering it. It’s not until you converse with someone from that culture that you really get a taste for, what does it sound like?

Jenn: yeah, I hear you.

Melissa: so anyhow, that’s what this book makes me… makes me think of. It makes me want to know more. It makes me want to jump into that culture. And that’s why I thought, this is the perfect thing to talk to you about today, because it’s – it’s about culture, and yet, it’s not about the culture that we normally talk about.

Jenn: right.

Melissa: okay, that said. Jenn Discher lives in North Georgia with her husband and three adventurous kids. She likes exploring, reading aloud in bad accents, and serving as Secretary to the Tooth Fairy. I love that bio, by the way.

Jenn: yeah. [giggling]

Melissa: super fun. But I need you to tell me… why The Elk King? And then I’m going to ask you all these culture questions.

Jenn: yes, yes! Well, why The Elk King? Partly because I’d always wanted to write a children’s book, and I’d always specifically wanted to write a talking animal story. And then, why elk spec… I had never intended to write a story about elk specifically. That was a bit of a surprise. I was going on a hike with my husband, and we happened to, we kind of stumbled, almost literally, into a herd of elk. And he made a comment, like an offhanded comment, about them, that for some reason just sparked an idea in my head. And the words, “that would make a great children’s book” came out of my mouth. And instead of looking completely askance at me, he was like, “what do you mean? tell me about that.” And so I, to my own surprise, I all of a sudden could tell him about that. And these things just started coming out of my mouth, and worlds and characters and plot stuff just kind of started coming. And so we kept talking about it and kind of went from there. So, yeah.

Melissa: aw, while you were on a hike with your husband!

Jenn: I was, yeah! Yeah, we were. We were on a rare trip just the two of us, and it was a coastal California hike. Yep.

Melissa: and he just asked the right question at the right time.

Jenn: yeah, well he was kind of like, what do you mean? what did you just say and what do you mean by that? And so then we… yeah, he said something like… I wrote a blog post about this actually, so the fuller version is online somewhere. But I think he said something like, well that’s a herd of elk that’s gone soft. Like it’s almost like they’ve forgotten they’re a herd of wild animals. Because you could approach them. We had been told at breakfast that morning that, “oh you might – if you go hike over here, you might run into a herd of elk.” And I thought, what? no, that won’t happen. They wouldn’t let us, you know, get that close. And having no experience with elk whatsoever, these were my assumptions about elk. And but we were wrong. They were really used to humans because it was a, like kind of a preserve area. Not a preserve but a national seashore kind of protected area.

Melissa: oh that’s interesting.

Jenn: yeah.

Melissa: okay, so were there any male elk with an amazing rack?

Jenn: huh, there were male elk. The, yeah, the antlers, not maybe as dramatic as they’re pictured in The Elk King. But, and the time of year I guess, I guess it was summer so yeah, they wouldn’t have been full grown I guess yet anyway.

Melissa: okay, so it wasn’t rutting season? They weren’t bugling for you?

Jenn: no, they weren’t. I didn’t even know they bugled. I didn’t know any… I literally didn’t know anything about elk when I started writing. I didn’t know they bugled. I didn’t know there were bugling competitions where men got up on stage [laughter] and practiced bugling or performed. Didn’t know that! That’s pretty cool.

Melissa: [laughter] That’s a random piece of info right there, yeah.

Jenn: google it!

Melissa: so when I was… how old was I? I was probably twelve… my family went to Yellowstone National Park, and it was in like late September early October – because that’s when homeschoolers really like to travel. After all the other kids are back in their schools, we get to hit the cool places. And I remember hearing elk bugling and thinking it was the strangest, most amazing yet ghostly kind of sound. And that was about a year before my family ended up buying property in a town by the name of Elk. And so ever since those two experiences, I’ve been fascinated by elk. So I particularly love that you stumbled on The Elk King.

Jenn: yes, that’s awesome.

Melissa: I think that’s fun. So intentionally pursuing a specific culture. We do that because we know that we are going to cultivate one atmosphere or another, whether it is intentional or accidental.

Jenn: yeah, mhmm.

Melissa: so we believe as we pursue an intentional culture we need to be prayerful, faithful, and mindful about it. But what I’ve been pondering is this idea that you’ve been, for how long? How long have you been working on writing this book?

Jenn: umm, the writing was maybe about twoish years, and there was editing and all kinds of stuff after that. So maybe about four and a half years total.

Melissa: yeah. And the ages of your kids: remind me.

Jenn: so when I started, they were quite young. They were seven, five, and two. And now they are almost twelve, ten, and seven.

Melissa: yeah, okay. So while you have been working on intentionally pursuing a specific culture in your home, raising your babies for Christ, you’ve also been cultivating this other, entirely different kingdom and culture that came out of your imagination and you’ve been crafting it there and putting it down on paper! You’ve been living in two worlds. [laughter] And I find that fascinating! That’s where I just want to hear, what is that like and where do you see cultural overlap between those two? Between your home and family and Christian, Georgian culture – and then the culture that you created in Glenariff… how do you pronounce it?

Jenn: Glen-AR-iff. I would say Glen-AR-iff.

Melissa: well then, that’s the right way to do it. Glen-AR-iff. Okay. So where do you see those overlaps? Or do you see those overlaps?

Jenn: yeah, I – and I think there would have to be overlap, because I’m creating out of my own… well, my own head. But also my own worldview, like values and all that. So I think there would be overlap. But not, you know, not in every way obviously. Specifically with the elk, they are like the chief creatures of Glenariff. And the specific overlap I’d see there is that, in terms of values probably, like the, part of the motto of the elk is to be filled with what is good. And that’s something that’s very much in the forefront of my mind as I raise and educate my kids. Because we value identifying and focusing on, you know, what is true, what is good, what is beautiful. Another Way of the Elk is to live nobly and protect the weak. And so there would maybe be overlap there in terms of, in my home like I desire to live sacrificially, to consider the interest of others, to defer – we talk about deferring to those who are younger and honoring those who are older. I wasn’t explicitly thinking of this verse when I wrote the Ways of the Elk, but they do kind of remind me of Micah 6:8 where it talks about, what does the Lord require of you but to do justice and love mercy and walk humbly with the Lord your God. So, yeah, so maybe the terminology… like I don’t explicitly say to my children to live nobly, but the underlying value there I think is present.

Melissa: so one of the things that is such a big part of culture in general is naming, right?

Jenn: mhmm, mhmm.

Melissa: and I think that applies to pretty much any culture at any time or in any location. Naming our children, naming streets, naming… I mean… in the Bible, that’s one of the first things that Adam is given to do, right? It’s to name things.

Jenn: right.

Melissa: and when a child is born, whether now or two thousand or six thousand years ago or whatever… naming a child has always been a big thing. Creating a title for a book, creating a name for a home, right? In a lot of children’s literature I think there are very creative names for places, and it can be as simple as Spare ‘Oom [laughter] and yet that’s naming something. So in creating and nurturing and sustaining a culture, that’s a big piece of that puzzle. So tell me about naming the places and the characters in your story. And particularly what about how you came up with… I mean, you didn’t even use English words, right? [laughter]

Jenn: haha, right! Is it easier that way? I don’t know, maybe!

Melissa: only if you tell me how to pronounce them!

Jenn: [laughter] Mmm, I’ve always liked naming things. I like my kids’ stuffed animals. I get kind of a kick out of it. I would do it for them, you know, before they could talk. We would use like rejected baby names for the kids’ stuffed animals [laughter], and then as they got older, they would come to me and be like, Mom, what does she look like? And I’d be like, oh she’s clearly a Mathilda or whatever. So it is something I enjoy. And where did they come from? They… so, Tolkien talks about this idea of the leaf mold of the mind. Meaning like, just things go in and they sort of decompose and turn into, I don’t know, like fertile soil. Or maybe I’m taking the metaphor too far. But basically it’s like this idea of a depository of everything you’ve seen and read and listened to, and so anything I named I guess came from that. Like books I’ve read, picture books, travels, people I know, places I love, cultures I have an affinity for… and so…

Melissa: and so cultural norms and customs related to language… how is that, or how do you think you may have expressed that in The Elk King? Sort of establishing cultural norms through the use of language?

Jenn: yeah, that’s an interesting question. So the passing down of the male royal elks’ names would be one custom. And I didn’t make that explicit in the book, so that’s not spoilery at all. I didn’t spell that out. It’s just what I did in my head when I was parsing through the family trees. And I didn’t create a whole language for the elk or any of the other creatures. But I did create certain terms to name certain aspects of their culture. Or to name, like, commonly used… I don’t know… expressions. So, for example, like, dermwat for the elk is… and for really any of the free creatures of Glenariff… is water not from the great cistern. So they have this great cistern: that’s where they’re supposed to go to get their water. There’s a whole backstory to that for why they’re supposed to do that, and so they just name any water that’s not from the great cistern is dermwat.

Melissa: and that’s right in the beginning, isn’t it?

Jenn: mhmm, yeah.

Melissa: okay yeah, so, that’s right from the getgo.

Jenn: yeah. Then there’s distinctions for… so, for the male and female elk. They’re talhorns and talhornas to designate fully grown male or female elk. And then you have nadorns and nadronas for the young male and female elk. And that transition from nadorn to talhorn happens when their horns are fully grown. Yes, I know elk have antlers, not horns. [laughter] But in Animalia they have horns, and there’s a reason for that too. There’s a backstory there. They did, historically, have antlers. But at one point they transitioned to having horns. Which, the difference, for my purposes, the difference – the main difference is that they keep them for life. I should also say, they don’t continue growing. They do stop at some point. Because in real life, I think, I don’t know if this is true for all species that are horned. But like, I think the big horned sheep, like I think their horns keep growing and growing and growing until – and I think that’s actually what kills them. It’s kind of awful. They just, like, the weight of it. So, I don’t have that…

Melissa: like Texas Longhorn cattle or something I’m envisioning…

Jenn: no, like sheep! Well, I think…. Well we were in the Grand Canyon last summer, and we saw the Bighorn sheep and my kids pop off with this trivia about them that they got from a nature show. And it’s, yeah. So that’s not happening in The Elk King. Their horns reach a certain point and stop growing. But, and then back to the language, that those terms kind of distinguish when they’ve come of age, I guess. That naming. They get a new name when they come of age there. And then there’s a Glossary in the back of the book of elk and smaller creature terms, and them some various bugles. So there’s a couple of terms for, that come out of rabbit culture and sparrow culture that I had fun with. They just… and like floptrust for a rabbit is like to just be paralyzed with fear, and when a bird, when a sparrow goes paddywhomp they’ve just grown limp, they are limp from lack of nourishment or something. So just, I mean, some of it was just fun. Fun to do. It was fun to kind of create those words that… sort of like those, I feel like there are those words in German that express a feeling that we need multiple words for in English. That was a fun part of it.

Melissa: have you started using those words or phrases in your family culture now? Every day language?

Jenn: what’s funny is that [laughter] my husband has, actually!

Melissa: I love that!

Jenn: he’s more prone to it! He’s like, are you floptrust? [laughter] And I’m like, I might be actually! So yeah.

Melissa: oh that’s great. One of the things I love about this being only book one is that you really drag us into the entire culture right from, at the beginning with the map, and then like you mentioned at the end, the glossary and… oh I said I was gonna keep it closed, didn’t I? Well but anyway, from front to back, it’s showing this culture, and it’s so encouraging that, oh hey, if it’s only book one, then getting to know this culture right at the getgo with the map and learning the glossary at the back, regardless of the story, right, that makes you want to know, well what’s next? Where’s book two? What’s coming? But even just those little, I don’t know… teasers?… of the culture – I want to explore the map more, I want a bigger glossary, I want all of that. So, but the map made me think, there are other aspects of cultivating a culture than just, you know, language or naming. A lot of atmosphere is impacted by visual presentation and then preservation. So how was it to work with your illustrator, especially thinking about this map, which is fantastic.

Jenn: Yeah, it is. Yeah, I love the map.

Melissa: but Jessica Evans… and I’ve… I have some of her picture books and so you’ve… how did that work? How did you get connected with her? And then what was it like to work with her? Did it take stress off your plate? Did it, I don’t know, was it a nerve-wracking leap of trust? It’s like trusting her with translating this culture that you’ve created, that she’s going to put into visual elements, she’s going to show us visually, you know, a picture of Glenariff and Draven, to solidify the Animalia culture for the readers. But how was that for you, essentially passing that off to someone else? What was that like?

Jenn: it was, it was great, honestly. Like, it was just a total dream to work with her. She’s the best. I wasn’t nervous really at all about her, like, visually translating the story. Probably for two reasons. One being, I was pretty familiar with her work before I reached out to her about The Elk King. I’d seen her work, you know, on social media and on her website and in her books. And I loved it. And I especially liked her depictions of animals. I knew her a little bit from interacting on social media. I knew we liked a lot of the same books. And then probably the second reason is that, that it, you know, there wasn’t that nervousness, was that when I sent her the manuscript, she really just happened to connect with the story. She was really encouraging about it, and I remember telling my husband, “I don’t think she’s just being nice, I think she really likes it.” And he was like, “yeah, I think she does.” Which was just kind of mind-blowing for me, because I had sent it around to beta readers, and I had, you know, I had people I didn’t know read it.

Melissa: that’s so fun.

Jenn: yeah, yeah it was. And she really captured, I think I was even, I think I was surprised by how well she captured the characters. Because she just was like spot on.

Melissa: I’ve never thought about what it would be like to be in our shoes as an author, and then having an illustrator take my words and turn them into something visual.

Jenn: yeah.

Melissa: but I’ve experienced it in a consumer format. If I’ve read a book, for instance, and I have these images in my head of what the characters look like or what the landscape looks like, and then I see a movie… Do you know how many characters, like what number of characters she ended up sketching for you?

Jenn: I think thirteen or fourteen. I forget, yeah.

Melissa: more than a dozen though, essentially.

Jenn: more than a dozen, yes. Yes. She got some of the bad guys, too. Which was, it was fun to see.

Melissa: I love how you’ve shared them on social media, too. Little ways to, again, visually draw people in and entice them into that story and the culture. It’s really fun. So how has the journey of becoming an author impacted your typical routines of homemaking and homeschooling, and how have you been able to incorporate your family – your children, as well – into that process? And did you keep the story sequestered from them until it was closer to a finished product, or did you involve them the whole way?

Jenn: so I should probably say at the outset that my husband just happened to be insanely supportive of this. Like, really far and away beyond anything I would have ever imagined. I mean, I didn’t really have any expectations when I got started, but so he really was invested in this from the beginning and so we kind of sat and he would help me sit down and kind of navigate the family schedule to find writing time. Because it just sort of became a project that was a priority, I guess, for us together. And therefore for our family. So yeah, so he helped me make it a priority. He was my first beta reader, my first editor, plot untangler, would talk through stuff with me. And my kids were quite young when I started it; they were seven, five, and two. So it was almost easier then. I did kind of keep it sequestered from them, because it wasn’t… not like, I mean… just because it wasn’t super relevant to them. They weren’t even strongly reading yet. I mean, two of them weren’t reading at all, one of them was newly reading.

Melissa: sure.

Jenn: it was kind of beyond their level, too. So we set it up so that it wasn’t really impacting our, my homeschool time or my homemaking. I mean, homeschool time was not taking a lot of time in that season of life, too. I would write either after they’d gone to bed or during their afternoon rest time, about once a week I’d go out of the house to write for a longer stretch. And we just had to be kind of creative and flexible with that. My husband would work from home one day a week but it would, the day would change, so it would be like, okay, well I’m working from home tomorrow, so you can go out to the coffee shop then and have a chunk of time. Or sometimes I’d get up early on a Saturday morning and go out and write. So it didn’t impact generally speaking our typical routines. It just, writing sort of just became my one big extra, or my one hobby. There were other things that I was probably saying no to. I’m, off the cuff, thinking of things like, you know, watching shows in the evening or extra reading time or something like that. But that didn’t feel usually like a big sacrifice, I was enjoying the project and excited about it. And then also as a family, we didn’t have a lot of outside commitments in that season with the kids being younger. As they got older, I would occasionally read the older ones bits of the manuscript, but other than that, they weren’t really incorporated into the process until I got into final edits. And then they were super encouraging and actually really helpful. My daughter has a good eye for detail, and found some straggling edits that needed to happen there at the end.

Melissa: so what was the response of your children when they got to see… or maybe when they actually got to hold the first copy in their hands? To see their mama’s name on it!

Jenn: yeah, it was super, they were super excited. They’ve been so sweet. They’ve been really, really encouraging. And they’ve prayed for it, and they’ve just been excited, yeah, super interested and excited. There’s a, I have a free download for a coloring sheet, Elk King coloring sheet on my website, and I think my seven year old has done like twelve of them. He just keeps doing the same coloring sheet, bless his heart, over and over! I’ve never seen him color like that before. [laughter]

Melissa: and each one is probably different, right?

Jenn: each one is different, yes! Very, very boldly colored. They’re great.

Melissa: my ten year old did one a couple weeks ago, and it’s been up on the fridge, and he did the… oh, what are the trees in the background?

Jenn: oh they’re aspens.

Melissa: aspen, okay. I was going to say birch, I knew that wasn’t right.

Jenn: yeah, I’ve actually probably called them that at one point, too.

Melissa: yeah. So he colored each one, like it looks like a rainbow backdrop.

Jenn: oh, that’s cool. I want to see that!

Melissa: I’m like, why? [laughter] I should do that. So that has been a fun aspect, too, is having something tangible like that to color. Actually, the map… and of course I wouldn’t let them actually color the map in the book… but he wanted to color the map. I’m like, well, I guess we could photocopy it and blow it up on a piece of paper, and then you could. He wants to like map it out.

Jenn: that’s fun!

Melissa: that’s my ten year old for you.

Jenn: yeah. I had fun with… I had to draw a map as part of the writing process just for me to kind of visually orient myself. So it was really fun to see her, like I had to give her like my little chicken scratch map, and then she made it beautiful. But yeah, I like maps.

Melissa: I wondered what the process of story boarding, story mapping, was like for you. Because I’ve seen some author friends with their… I mean, it can be really intense. The notecards and the white boards, and just all these files of… yeah, sometimes chicken scratch, sometimes really intricate family trees written out.

Jenn: yes, yes.

Melissa: what has that part been like for you?

Jenn: yeah, so I don’t know that it’s anything I would recommend to someone else. I was just figuring it out as I went. But yes, family trees, multiple family trees, maps, calendars, timelines, sketches of rooms – like, real rough sketches of rooms to orient where everything was, sketches of buildings. Yeah. A lot of… distances. Things that maybe nobody else would pick up or I didn’t even need to be explicit about in the book, but I needed to know in order to reference and have it feel real. I mean, there’s always, you know… it’s not, the map’s not to scale, there’s things that aren’t really to scale so to speak. But in order to have there be a reasonable, you know, for it to feel reasonable, I felt like I needed to know those things.

Melissa: yeah. Where do you store all that stuff? I mean…

Jenn: yeah, in a binder.

Melissa: okay.

Jenn: it probably should be more organized than it is. I have napkins from coffee shops! But it’s just, it’s all there. [laughter]

Melissa: a binder actually… because I was envisioning like, okay, a cardboard box, or an accordion file… a binder sounds like a really good, easy reference just to flip through to find what you need to answer your question.

Jenn: yes, oh, and spreadsheets too. Yeah. Spreadsheets of characters.

Melissa: and would that also be stored digitally so you could look it up digitally?

Jenn: yeah, it’s not technically in the binder, but it probably should be.

Melissa: but having both is probably great.

Jenn: yeah.

Melissa: I love that. So… asking for a friend… ahem. Then, your tips that you might offer to a similarly busy homeschool mama with unique interests to pursue in little off-moments… would be things like getting it scheduled or going to a coffee shop? What else do you have as tips for my friend? [chuckle]

Jenn: yes! yeah. So probably to check in with, if there, you know, if you have a husband… him first about those interests. Just kind of to be able to collaborate there and to think holistically about your family and the season that you’re in, and the calendar, and see if you can come up with a plan to work in time for that amidst the family schedule maybe. That would probably be where I’d start. And then just to be realistic about what you can do in this particular season. Because some seasons allow for more interest pursuing than others. But I think there’s probably, there’s often ways, creative ways, to support a particular interest even if you’re in a season where you can’t produce a lot. So, you know, when there’s a new baby or a sick child or a family member living with you or you’ve just moved… or all these, the myriad of, you know, things that are unexpected or just transition times. You might not have a lot of margin for producing something then, whether it’s writing or knitting or whatever creative endeavor… or maybe not creative endeavor, you know, maybe it’s a particular form of exercise or whatever. But I think there can still be maybe that could be a season for more, for consuming about that particular topic. I mean, I don’t know. I’m spitballing here, but if it were, if it were writing for example, there could be a time, that could be a time of consuming good stories or helpful books on writing maybe in the form of audiobooks, or reading to your children. That kind of fueling the leaf mold of the mind kind of thing is going to help when you do have margin to produce. And then just living life, going on adventures, paying attention to the world around you, to what God is doing, I think can be fuel for bigger writing projects later on. And again, I’m speaking specifically there of writing but I think the principles could translate to other interests. I think not despising small windows of time, because they do add up. Ten minutes here and there is better than nothing, especially if you, you know, have your whatever paraphernalia you need for that particular interest kind of on the ready. Like if you have your knitting in the basket here next to the couch where you know you’re going to be sitting down with the baby on the mat or whatever, or I had a writer friend say, you know, always keep your laptop open on the kitchen counter so you can just type as you walk by, like oh here’s a note I want to write down. Tips like that. I think, talking to other people who have maybe that particular interest, and who might be in that same season of life is super helpful. I’m part of an online writing group, and it’s been helpful to see other peoples’ writing routines, what they do, and they’re really different. I mean, some people can only go write like once a week, that’s what their schedule allows for, but they go take like a six hour block of time. Other people are doing it every day really consistently. I think it’s just going to really vary, depending on your family dynamics and the season of life that you’re in. But if it is something, especially that you know the Lord’s put on your heart or that you are particularly, you know, really interested in or potentially gifted in or want to pursue, I think, just looking for those opportunities. And be willing to be flexible, and just kind of seize them when they come. I’m not naturally flexible. I want things to be a certain way, and this really, this process was super good for me to kind of break a lot of that off because I had to just take what I could get and embrace it. And I couldn’t, really, I had to be pretty diligent with the time that I did have, because time was a rare commodity. Like I just had to use what I had. Yeah.

Melissa: I really like that distinction of pursuing an interest versus producing something from that interest. I feel like there needs to be a bumper sticker or a water bottle sticker with that sentiment on it that I can look at regularly. Because that’s, that’s a really helpful way to look at that. I’m going to be pondering that. Pursuing something doesn’t necessarily include the producing in all seasons. Oh, because there’s the physical time but then also the mental capacity. So even when I do have maybe a physical time that’s open, the mental capacity for a particular interest… maybe writer’s block? Maybe that would be an example of what I’m trying to articulate.

Jenn: and there’s time, I mean, when you’re doing physical tasks like homemaking tasks, you can be thinking about the particular project or the particular interest, too. That that time could be spent like brainstorming for that. Or, I think thinking of our… all these interests too, in light of using them to bless our families first or, and then our communities, or just these concentric circles – that’s been really helpful to me. That idea of just being willing to use your gifts in a hidden way to bless your people. I’ve really, I’ve been chewing on that for years. That’s a, probably an idea I got from that Edith Schaeffer book, The Hidden Art of Homemaking. But I love the particular example that I often think of that I think is an example of that is Tolkien’s Letters to Father Christmas. That he, he wrote these letters to his kids from Father Christmas, from, I think it started around 1920, with his first son – and they’re so intricate! I mean, he’s pretending to be Father Christmas, writing in different languages, different, he’s drawing drawings, he’s writing clever stories, he’s got all these characters… and you can see in them, like, glimpses of you know Middle Earth, like the kinds of drawings that are actually in his books… and nobody was ever, I mean, they, people… we can see them now because they’re published but I’m sure he had no thought of them ever being published. And he did this for all his kids for over a decade, and I love that! Because he was using his gifts to bless his kids, to delight them. And I want to have that in the forefront of my mind as I’m writing. Like I want to delight, bless my kids with my stories.

Melissa: so good. How about a quickfire of the silly questions?

Jenn: yes!

Melissa: where did you do most of your writing?

Jenn: our schoolroom table.

Melissa: what did you drink most often while you wrote?

Jenn: black coffee or Good Earth sweet and spicy tea.

Melissa: hot or cold?

Jenn: hot.

Melissa: what is your favorite quote from the book?

Jenn: oh, I have a few!

Melissa: it’s like asking you to pick a favorite child, I know.

Jenn: yeah! There’s… and probably the ones that stick with me are the parental ones, the ones spoken by the parents in the story. But there’s one where the king is saying to his son that the king’s mantle has a way of making the wearer ready. Like even if you don’t feel ready for something, like the very act of being called, you will be enabled for the task at the right time. I guess that sentiment is what’s behind that. And I didn’t give you an exact quote, so sorry. [laughter]

Melissa: well that’s because we need to read! We need to read the book to find it. It’s like a treasure hunt.

Jenn: yeah, aw.

Melissa: now when I go back to reread it with my kids, when I find that, I’m gonna book dart it.

Jenn: yeah!

Melissa: is there a moment in the process that would stand out to you as most remarkable?

Jenn: yes. After publishing it, having kids, hearing kids say that they love the book or that they really, you know, love a certain character. That’s just really surreal and an honor, and just makes me so happy. It’s really, it’s really great.

Melissa: so what’s next?

Jenn: getting my house in order! [laughter] I mean, the last couple months have been a more full season, and so with, you know, launching it. And so I’m backlogged on house projects and family photo albums and things like that. But I would, once I kind of get life on the rails there, I’d like to, I need to start working on Book Two.

Melissa: how about with The Elk King? Are you doing promotional things? Are you, will you take it to local bookshops and ask for… I don’t know… them to carry it and you could do an event? I mean, what does that look like?

Jenn: yeah. So sorry, I did jump ahead to Book Two mentally, but yes. There is some of that going on. I’m gonna go a sweet author event in a couple weeks with a local homeschool group, kind of like an author Q and A, especially geared toward kids who might want to write themselves, or who already are writing. Kind of like a young writer’s thing. Which I’m really looking forward to, I love those conversations. That’s been one of my favorite things actually also about the book, is it’s generated some of those conversations naturally just with kids I know. And yes, I’ve been chatting with local bookshop owners, and have, I would love to do a local, like a bigger local book signing. Like author event, book signing, kind of celebratory thing. That’s in the works too.

Melissa: and do you have people… do you have tips for people as far as how to get it requested by a library or that kind of thing? Is that a…

Jenn: yeah, actually. So because I do this with my library all the time actually, I’m always requesting that my library buy certain books.

Melissa: yeah, same.

Jenn: yeah, I just, that’s just kind of a habit for me. So it’s usually pretty easy, you know. If it’s not clear on their library’s website, you could ask a librarian and they’ll usually very kindly walk you through the process. My library happens to be really fast about it, they’re really, they let you request three books a month, and they have really fast turnaround on purchasing them. Which is really, really great. So yeah, if you find yourself, you’re interested in getting the book but you’re in the place where you can’t really, you know, you can’t buy it, don’t want to buy it, then asking your library to buy it would be great. And then it’s accessible to any number of kids for free.

Melissa: we can get it on Amazon, I know, because that’s where I got mind.

Jenn: yep, yep. Right now it’s Amazon. Ebook or a paperback, either is great, I probably prefer the paperback but both have their benefits. I have both. And then potentially local bookshops, that’s TBD.

Melissa: mhmm. And where can we find you on the internet with all these things?

Jenn: yes. So I do have a website, it’s JennDischer.com Jenn with two n’s. And you can get the free coloring sheet there, it’s a free download. And then on Instagram @JennDischer and Facebook as well. Yeah, thank you.

Melissa: well, in the midst of all that is on your plate, both cultures you’re pursuing right now, I’m so honored that you would just be able to carve out time to have a chat with me this morning and to celebrate The Elk King! I just, I can’t get over… I mean, it hasn’t been that many months that I’ve known about it, but just seeing that come to fruition from a distance has been delightful. And I’m, I’m so happy for you! And happy for the kids in this upcoming generation that they get to have these kinds of stories to grow with and to learn from. It’s just beautiful.

Jenn: thank you, Melissa. Thanks so much for having me, I really appreciate it.

Melissa: well I’m looking forward to chatting again soon, actually.

Jenn: yes, I would love that.

Melissa: and I was also thinking, the scarf…

Jenn: yes! The king’s mantle! That’s another cultural thing, right? Yes.

Melissa: right there. Oh, see. You’ve been talking about knitting, you’ve used that as an example.

Jenn: yes, I don’t, I want to knit. So that’s an interest I’d like to pursue. I would like to pursue knitting! I have not had margin for it. Or I have not made, created the time. Taken the time.

Melissa: I thought, wow, there needs to be a pattern for that! And that would be a… [laughter]

Jenn: yes, yes! Well there are these four clans in Glenariff, so it’s all the colors from all the clans, are in the king’s mantle.

Melissa: again sort of pulling from that Celtic or Scottish little bit there. Maybe Nordic people do that as well, but

Jenn: yeah, it is definitely more Celtic than anything.

Melissa: yeah, I love it. Well thank you for taking the time to answer all my questions about the book and the culture.

Jenn: thank you! My pleasure. It was a treat for me to like, to just kind of reflect on the process.

Melissa: yeah, well, I’m glad it was a treat for you because it was definitely a treat for me. All right, let’s talk again soon, friend. God bless you.

Jenn: aw, okay, I would love that. Okay. You too, bye bye.

Melissa: bye!

Elk Prince Draven will inherit the throne of peaceful, prosperous Glenariff much sooner than he’d like. He doubts he’d make a very good king and just wants a normal life. But in Glenariff no elk is normal. All are bound to the magical source of the herd’s strength. Like many, Draven has forgotten the old tales and old enemies. As Draven makes plans to escape royal life, a deadly sickness sweeps the kingdom. Rumors of enemies and traitors abound. With the king distracted by secret troubles, the elk stand to lose everything, including their very lives. To save the kingdom, Draven must face what he has long feared, and new terrors he could not have imagined. But first he must remember the old tales, before there’s no herd left to rule.

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.

Paideia Conversations, Ep. 9

Have you taken the time to survey your children about things like truth vs. tradition when it comes to your family’s holiday observances? Specifically asking what they actually remember year by year? Have you ever giggled at their responses or given yourself a face-palm for what they say? Melissa from Paideia Northwest and Jenn from Paideia Southeast took a chance on their kids, and are happy to share this little insight with you! It is fun to hear what these seven kids had to say when asked about the meaning of Advent or the traditions & atmosphere in their homes during this season. Maybe this will inspire you to ask your children some similar questions and get the conversation going around your dinner table.

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Melissa and Jenn also then took the time to share with one another (and with you!) about some of their own favorite ways to cultivate a specific paideia in their own homes during Advent. Everyone pursues traditions (for marking of days or celebrating annual events or creating memories) differently from family to family, and we love to learn from one another as well as just pause to reflect on why we do what we do. Why do my kids love the Jello their grandmother makes? Why are Advent countdown calendars such a thrill? Why do we love getting presents? How do these tangible, practicable, experiential things point us toward Christ as we repeat them year over year?

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This isn’t about teaching anyone to do anything particular: rather, this episode is all about sensing the atmosphere in two homes (three thousand miles apart), and how these particular mamas seek to bring their children with them into the unnecessary-yet-completely-lovely practice of Advent. It is our hope that it will simply serve to inspire you to pursue a godly paideia with your own kids, think about your traditions, and maybe give you some new ideas or ring with familiarity.

What does Advent mean to your kids?
What are the favorite sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and experiences in your family during this season?
What traditions have you and your husband brought from your own childhoods, and how have your entwined those things into the tapestry of your own family culture?
If you have never practiced Advent, what one tradition would you want to try implementing in your home?

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Links to Resources

Arnold Ytreeide book series

Chocolate Advent calendars

Wooden Advent calendars

The Christmas Cookie Sprinkle Snitcher by Robert Kraus

Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree by Robert Barry

Raspberry Jello salad recipe

Mushroom Risotto recipe

Hallelujah by Cindy Rollins

Christmas Spirit by George Grant and Gregory Wilbur

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Episode Transcript

Melissa:

Jenn:

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Melissa:

Jenn:

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Paideia Conversations, Ep. 7

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

I Choose Brave

Walt Whitman: Words for America

Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library

Finding Winnie

Hello Lighthouse

Outdated by Jonathan Pokluda

Becoming Something podcast

Praying the Scriptures for Your Life by Jodie Berndt

The Tech-Wise Family by Andy Crouch

Poetry by Wendell Berry

Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry

Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry

Episode Transcript

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.

Melissa: mhmm.

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.

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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.

Katie: yes.

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.

Katie: right?

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. It doesn’t really change what you have to get done during the day sometimes. Like there’s no time for a nap, so then you’re just gonna rely on the Lord. This is what I have before me, and I’m gonna ask that any rest that I need today comes from You. And whenever we do that, because I would still calculate the math of how many times I got up–oh yeah, you know, I got up four times last night–I would just like keep track, like tallies on a prison cell or something like that. When I forgot, when I would stop keeping track and just trust the Lord for what I needed, I would get to the end of the day, and I would realize, you know, I didn’t even get as tired. I’m not here, I’m not relying on this strength and staring at my weaknesses, right? So anyways, it doesn’t always work that way every day now. But if I can, inasmuch as I can, when we’re here, I try to have an hour of quiet time, and it’s Rest Or Rest we call it at our house. So you can read if you want to or you can rest: those are the options, you know. And then on Sundays, I try to make space for that as much as possible. Because I’ve just found that lifegiving to my family. So if something comes up, and we’re invited to go to dinner somewhere, or, you know, we make those decisions as they come. If we’re able to do something as a family, that’s fine. But I love to have, it’s been lifegiving to all, to everything. You know, kids, when they get around other kids too much, they have that separation between them sometimes – I’ve talked about this with you – just the ingenuity and the creativity that comes from being bored. But they’re not bored very often, right? Because we’re going. But what happens when I try to print out some things like… what’s been fun lately… those dot to dots that are like adult dot to dots… like a thousand dots? Those are fun! So I set them on the table, make sure there’s books there, and now we’re just gonna give each other a break for a couple hours and have that quiet time. And then if we can make time to have a vacation too, away time just to rest, put it all away. And those built-in rests… again, not hard and fast rules, not things I want to be a slave under by any means, but they do bring joy to our family.

Melissa: yeah. Yeah, JOY. That’s an underpinning of rest. We can still be busy in the things that we need to get accomplished… or… going on a vacation can be exhausting. Especially with kids, right? [laughter] We call them trips in our house at this point, because we still have a fresh two year old. So they’re trips. They’re not vacations yet! But they can still be restful in that way, and I think it’s that joy. The joy that gives us that foundation of feeling rested. So pursuing that rest in your family culture, you mentioned Sundays. How do Sundays look different? Obviously, you know, we celebrate the Lord’s Day on the first day of the week, but, you know, they’ve asked me, what was the purpose of that seventh day? What did God do? And so talking with them about, that’s a really good question, what did He do? He enjoyed the fruit of what He had done, that labor. Was He physically exhausted? You know, could He not continue working? Well I mean, He’s God. He is all powerful. But it had to do, yeah, with setting it aside and pondering the good things that He had made. I really enjoy talking about that with my kids. Like how can we make this day joyful and fresh and festive, and, yeah, restful. In that, not just physical way, but the soul-filling way.

Katie: which, what a gift. Like, why would we not want to, and like, that was a gift for us. It’s a gift for our renewal. Like why, what wouldn’t we want to enjoy that?

Melissa: right! Sabbath was made for man.

Katie: yeah, right! I don’t want to make it another cleaning day or another shopping day.

Melissa: right. So what would be a resource, an idea… is there a blog or a book or particular music or something that you would suggest to another mama who wants to pursue rest while laboring for the Kingdom of God?

Katie: so my first recommendation you can’t go without saying to be in the Word. You have to! Like, pursuing rest is pursuing Christ.

Melissa: amen.

Katie: right? So I have to be found there, and it’s amazing how much the habit of faithfulness in the Word is just transformative. Like, so I have to be there, I have to see. I love… I think I already told you that… I love the living and active Word. How different circumstances that are going on in my life, like, just Scripture jumps off the page. So whether you start in the Psalms, whether you do a cover to cover reading plan, like there’s a lot of fantastic options that will do the job. You know. Whether you’re studying comprehensibly in one book. But just to be faithful there so He can provide! I need to absorb the Word, to remind me, because we’re such good forgetters. Like, I need to be reminded, like, this is where my hope is found. Tell me about this living hope, Peter, I need to know this again and again so it gets drilled through my head. So first and foremost I would make time for that. And time in different seasons looks a whole lot different, right? So if it’s just a couple of Scriptures, it’s a couple of Scriptures and I promise He can make it enough. Like, loaves and fishes kind of. That can be enough. but there are seasons where you get to go deep, and it’s just like dwelling in your head and heart all day long. So I would definitely start with Scripture. One thing, so I’m not a big devotional person just because there’s only so much time. And so if there’s time, I’m gonna be found reading my Bible. But this last… shoot, was it August? July? I mean, the last couple years have been intense, right? Politically, socially, all those things. But I found it, for the first time, really hard to read my Bible. Like my brain is just spinning. It’s thinking about news, and I’m trying, it’s not sinking in as much. And I’m in this study thinking like, ah, why does my brain just spin? I read Praying the Scriptures Over Your Life by Jodie Berndt. Jodie Berndt is a friend of mine, she’s a mentor, a woman who follows Christ intensely and she’s always been about praying the Word.

Melissa: I printed out a calendar of hers that’s Praying the Scriptures Over Your Children, and it’s just a calendar.

Katie: yeah, she has a series of books. Praying the Scriptures Over Your Children, Over Your Teens, and Over Your Life just came out and she sent me a copy. It was just late this summer. And so I picked up that book and it’s all about abiding, it’s that John 14 or 15, right in there. And just the days to read that in a time where my heart feels so weak, so tired of hearing everything that’s gone… like, things you just can’t even process, where you feel like it’s just spinning. And just being reminded each day to abide and let’s pray over this, let’s know who God is. So anything that can, that is gonna be like theologically sound and point you back to Christ daily is a healthy thing. And that was such a healthy thing for me to read in that season, and probably a good thing to be reminded that there are so many good tools out there at our disposal. I don’t want to say like, yeah, don’t mess with devotionals, just read the Word. I want to start there. But there are other things that can help me in certain seasons. So I just had a friend the other day who was overwhelmed. Just one of those moments where she hit the wall. And she was hungry, desperate for the rest. And I was thinking, I ordered that book right away and was able to take it to her. Like here’s something when you can’t, like when your brain just can’t take in much else and you need someone almost just to process it for you, right, to help you, like, walk me through in baby steps and point me back to truth, point me back to the Word. It’s a fun thing to have that at your disposal, like, yes! This is what I was able to give her in that season.

Melissa: yeah. Yeah, so, trying to connect it: you mentioned that you speak and you write occasionally, can you tell me about I Choose Brave, and how… how God used that as… how did He use that in your life as a way to bring you closer to Him? The writing of that book.

Katie: mhmm. Well you were by my side for much of that story. You prayed me through the launching of that and stuff like that. So that’s always a process, writing the book takes a couple years and then it comes out, and so studying precisely the fear of the Lord and what godly courage looks like… it’s felt like the job of my life to be able to, like, this is my job to study the fear of the Lord. Study like, what is holiness? What have I thought about this? Being a believer. You know, I was raised in the church. So I’ve kind of known these things, but there’s so many things in that familiarity that we just kind of skim over. And like, do I really know what holiness is? What does it mean to fear the Lord and not fear man? What does that look like? So interesting and timely that it would come out in the middle of all of this. But, okay, what did it look like to write that and have that come out? When you sign a book contract that’s before you begin writing the book, and so you have a year or so to write the book, and it’s gonna come out a year after that, and when I signed the contract for that book, I signed a contract for two books. And that was an option, right, like you have an agent and they work with a publisher and you have these options. So the hardest thing about signing that contract was not knowing what life would be like. Right? So in two years, the first book comes out. I can kind of imagine what my life might be like in two years. Like add two to every kid, and these grades, and I don’t plan to move in two years. You know, like, that control. I’ve got two years under control. A couple years later, I have no idea beyond that. Right? I mean, shoot. Kids could almost be married. You don’t even know! Like, a lot could happen in four years. So what was concerning us was the second book, not the first book. I got this one under control, I got my life under control, but what is it gonna be like? Anyways. Pride is hilarious at times. Because it wasn’t just long after I signed that contract that life just flat turned upside down. Like we had some stuff with extended family that came out of nowhere, and divorce and just really complicated messy things we weren’t expecting – not mine, but like extended family. You know. Like really painful things. When you hurt for other people and you’re in it with them. And those are, I don’t want to call them distractions, but here I had this work and this focus and this time in front of me, and my heart is somewhere else. Like my tears and my mind is spinning not as much about the fear of the Lord. I’m just thinking, how do I help? What do I do here? You know? So your mind is consumed with that, and it was just a couple months later that my dad had a heart attack and my dad was pretty healthy at the time, so it was, he didn’t have any heart trouble, so it was totally unexpected. And then he had a bypass surgery that didn’t go well, and then he had… gosh, he was just weakening day by day… well he ultimately ended up getting a heart transplant. I had my marketing call, my first marketing call for the book, from the eleventh floor of the ICU at a hospital. Like, time out with Dad so I could go, you know, who plans these things? It’s just, it was comical to me. And like, Lord, You went before me. Because here I thought I had this all under control, and I had no idea. And so I was leaning on Him for courage in ways I hadn’t even expected, hadn’t even planned for. And He made time and space. I was editing when he was recovering from the transplant at the University of Washington hospital. Like, okay, I could take the book with me and I could edit, you know, he’s asleep still. He’s not, he’s just coming out, so I could do it. And who makes time for that? No one would sign up! I don’t have the courage to sign up for that. Thank goodness. Like it’s a grace not to know what lays ahead. But to live that out and to see day by day, I can trust Him for enough, to get what, to get done what needs to get done today. He always provides. Like what an awesome thing to experience. So much like what you said: we are just learning as we’re parenting our kids, you know. Here I’m just learning even as I’m writing, and He’s reminding me who He is while I’m trying to write the same words about other experiences I’ve had in the past. And He’s reminding me, yes, I’m still that God, Katie. This is Who I am here. And then to get done and not to be overwhelmed by it, and like, that happened and He did it. You can’t take any credit for it because you had no idea the train wreck that was coming. So it was an amazing experience, a really awesome experience.

Melissa: yeah. Oh that’s beautiful. So then, I guess, the next obvious question is, are you working on that second book?

Katie: I am, yes! But I have no expectations now, right? [laughter] I know we can get through this one, because you only have a heart transplant once, right? I mean, seriously. I’ve been working on the second one. The deadline is not even until March of next year and then a year following, so they gave me great space on that. That is, that’s another thing. Like you think that the calendar’s full, there’s a lot on my plate, but there’s a lot of space in there too. So that helps to work with people who get motherhood and get what your life is like, and aren’t trying to push a round peg in a square hole. Like we have capacity for this. That’s the only way I’m able to do it, is lots of time.

Melissa: yeah. Resting in between maybe.

Katie: that’s right!

Melissa: so sort of a final, bring-it-in-for-a-landing question… what have you been reading lately? Obviously Scripture. We talked about that. What has brought the blessing of a godly paideia to your own soul?

Katie: so I have been reading more fiction, and I’m not a big fiction reader, and that’s probably the productivity side of me. Like, why would you read fiction when you could read real stuff, you know? And that’s a change – I would never tell my kids that – but that’s been a change in my own mind to think the beauty of fiction is mostly what my heart needs in this season. And I guess that’s something I tended to do even with the last book, because you never want to absorb somebody else’s ideas. So when I’m writing, I tend to read fiction anyway. But it has blessed my heart in ways I haven’t expected. So I’ve read more Wendell Berry, I think I’ve read his books in the last year. I’ve always like his poetry, which I know some people don’t love, but I’ve loved his poetry. But Hannah Coulter, I just finished that one a couple months ago… so beautiful. It felt like sitting with a mentor. Like, how is this not even real, right? Like, how can I process…

Melissa: and how is this written by a man?

Katie: oh! I already asked that question! Isn’t it amazing? Extraordinary! It’s like she’s mentoring you through life. You’re seeing it in a different perspective. Like the depth and the breadth and the width of it all. And it makes these, everything that’s going on in the world, it just shines perspective on all of it, so that was a huge gift to me in this season. And now I’m reading Jayber Crow which doesn’t move quite as quickly. I’m probably only halfway through that, and not loving it as much as Hannah Coulter, but I still, I just love the pace of Wendell Berry. Just the pace of his words seems really healthy in this season.

Melissa: mmm, yeah. And the way that he, you know, he does tie reality to beauty to imagination, because yeah… Hannah felt like a real mentor, and so when her heart broke, my heart broke in a way I don’t think other fiction had… I struggle to call that fiction because it felt like such a biography.

Katie: yes, that’s exactly right. That’s exactly right.

Melissa: and so, Wendell Berry. Yes. So good. So good. Well, I… I really enjoy chatting with you. And I’m so excited I get to see you in person in just a few weeks.

Katie: me too.

Melissa: and I’ll chat with you more there, and sit under a talk by you! That’s such a blessing. I’m just, I’m really grateful. So thanks for taking the time out of your day today to have this conversation with me, and chat about motherhood and Christian culture and all the things.

Katie: yes, it was a joy. It was a joy.

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.

Paideia Conversations, Ep. 6

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).

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Resources Mentioned:

Loving the Little Years

Fit to Burst

You Who?

upcoming book Sir Bad-a-Lot

Why Children Matter

What Have You

The Bible Reading Challenge

Ephesians 6:4

1 Corinthians 9:10

1 Corinthians 15:58

Episode Transcript:

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.

Rachel: sure.

Jenn: hi, Rachel.

Rachel: hi.

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.

Jenn: yes.

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.

Rachel: totally!

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.

Jenn: sure.

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.

Jenn: true.

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.

Melissa: yeah.

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?

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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.

Melissa: right.

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.

Rachel: totally.

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?

Melissa: amen.

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.

Melissa: yeah.

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.

Jenn: bye.

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.

Paideia Conversations, Ep. 5

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

Every Moment Holy

Scholé Sisters

Simply Convivial

Trinity Psalter Hymnal

Simply Convivial Brain Dumping

Teaching from Rest

Bible Reading Challenge

God in the Dock by C.S. Lewis

Episode Transcript

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…

Jenn: yes!

Melissa: to further the Kingdom of God, and ask His blessing on it. It’s so great!

Jenn: yes!

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.

Melissa: okay.

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.

Jenn: yes.

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.

Jenn: mhmm

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.

Melissa: yeah

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.

Jenn: yes.

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.

Paideia Conversations, Ep. 3

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:

New Saint Andrews College

Hysa House

Psalm 34:8

Philippians 4:8

Slugs and Bugs

Sing the Bible, Volume One

Bach’s Cello Suites

Paul Desmond

Baby Believer books

Radiant by Richard Hannula

The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom

Evidence Not Seen by Darlene Rose

Transcript

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.

Melissa: yes.

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!

Jen: yes.

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.

Jen: right.

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.

Melissa: amen.

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.

Paideia Conversations, Ep. 2

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

Amy Sloan & her hubby share about family devotions in this podcast episode

Trinity Psalter Hymnal

Church history books by Simonetta Carr

Heroes of the Faith series by Sinclair B. Ferguson

Books by Richard Hannula

Seeds Family Worship

Steve Green Hide ‘Em In Your Heart

GT and the Halo Express

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!

Amy: yes.

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.

Melissa: have you read the books by Richard Hannula? Trial and Triumph, Radiant

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.

Paideia Conversations, Ep. 1

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:

Scholé Sisters

The Paideia of God by Douglas Wilson, title essay

The Case for Classical Christian Education by Douglas Wilson, chapter 13

The Classical Difference

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…

Jenn: right.

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.”

[Laughter]

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.

Melissa: amen!

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.

Paideia Conversations has Launched

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!

Paideia Conversations

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!