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:
The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom
Evidence Not Seen by Darlene Rose
Melissa: Joining me today for this paideia conversation is Jen Carlson, and we invite you into this conversation with us as we continue to practice, pursue, and implement paideia.
I want to introduce to you a friend of mine, we’ve known each other actually for a long time, and I’ve been able to follow what God has done in her and in her family over, I don’t know, over a decade or decade and a half. And I’m really grateful to introduce my friend, Jen Carlson. Good morning!
Jen: good morning! So fun to be on here with you, Melissa. Thank you for having me.
Melissa: absolutely. So before we jump into our conversation topic today, why don’t you just tell us a little bit about you, your background, and what your current work is.
Jen: so, my name is Jen Carlson. I’m married to Joe, we’ve been married eighteen years; and we got married young, while we were students at New Saint Andrews, and so this is a shameless plug right away for New Saint Andrews. We both attended and we knew each other way, way back since the fourth grade, so we ended up getting married halfway through NSA and just loved our time there. And everything that we learned there, the culture, the beauty of Christ in the home, the beauty of Christ in education, just took that with us and we were very changed by it, very shaped by that. And I can’t say enough about our time there. New Saint Andrews is an, if you guys don’t know, it’s in Moscow, Idaho, and we were originally from California, and so it was just a, it was an eye-opening thing and I tell you – Joe and I don’t go a day without really talking about the effect, the beautiful effect, that that had on our lives. And I’m talking about this now because it’s gonna come up later in our conversation, I think, with Melissa. But, like, it is such an important thing to have that kind of shaping at such an age. We were, you know, eighteen nineteen years old, and we were living with families while we were going to NSA and taking our classes, but what we experienced there we really wanted to, once we graduated, we really wanted to take that home, back home with us. Everything that we learned about living robustly in, you know, a Christward life. Living joyfully and living robustly, I just can’t say enough about how impacted we were in that area, and even down to the details as I was living with my host family, the mom would make meals for the family every night. We would all sit around the table every night for dinner, including her boarding students, we all got to sit at her table. She always had cloth napkins for every dinner, it wasn’t like just – and I’m not saying you guys need to do this – but for her, this was what she wanted to do, she beautified her home this way. And boy, I tell you, I did not experience that growing up. I didn’t understand the beauty of the table, the way that it brings people together, the way that it’s… anyway, you know, it’s just a beautiful thing. So she taught me so much about the home and about hospitality. And Joe experienced similar things in the family that he was living with too. So when we got home from college, we really decided very intentionally that we wanted to doo this same thing, the way that Joe and Jen might do it. Not trying to copy them exactly, but do it the way that it might come out from our fingertips in an organic fashion in Joe and Jen’s home. So, you know, as you’re a newlywed, we’re not really sure what that looks like, you kind of have to do trial and error. But over the years, we just decided to be, to have an open door. So our home has been a home of hospitality since the beginning. And then Joe became a pastor about eight years ago, an elder at our church back in California; he was an elder for a while and then an associate pastor. And during that time we also had a house on the church property that we had renovated and that we named Hysa House on purpose. And hysa is a Swedish word that means to nourish, to nurture, to harbor, and to house. Like, there are multiple definitions of that word but you get the picture. There’s this sense of, like, just in a warm, enveloping hug when you come into a home and really it – and Joe is actually 100% Swedish, so it kind of made sense to use that Swedish word…
Melissa: sure does!
Jen: so it’s Hysa House! And we actually made a sign and put it at the front door, and we had been practicing hospitality for years at this point. But once he became a pastor and we had a parish home and we actually renovated it to flow beautifully from room to room so that we could have lots of people in there, and cook big meals and feed people and house people and, you know, have beds for people – so, we really made sure that we were intentional about that. And that all came from our college years. It was just, it’s just an amazing thing to think about, just that understanding of hospitality and how powerful home life is. How powerful it is! And so, um yes, we did Hysa House for about four years, and then I got really sick and had to move out of that house because we found out it was moldy. So we spent some, we’ve spent some years in our marriage living with Joe’s parents, and really in some trial and health trials, and just really struggling with that. But I think during that time it was so important that we – God wanted us to be, to have nothing but Him. And so we spent deep hours, deep days, deep years in the Word together. There was a year where I was in bed, bed-ridden, I couldn’t do anything. Joe quit his job to take care of me. This was before he was a pastor. But there are times where God really wanted to sow into us things that we couldn’t learn any other way. And then He also wanted to prepare us for our son who came along when I was thirty-five. So we waited thirteen years, asked the Lord thirteen years; some people wait thirteen years on purpose. So we didn’t, we wouldn’t have chosen that if we had had another way. And yet God, I’m so grateful, I’m so grateful God asked us to wait. And Joseph came to us through adoption after I had been bed-ridden and we weren’t sure if I was going to have a future, if I even was gonna live. And God just brought our hearts together toward Him and toward Joseph. So now we are parents, and older parents, and that is a really unique thing I think. I do think that some women are having babies later in life, and so that’s kind of sort of maybe, you know when you’re thirtyish or something and starting your family. But thirty-five, thirty-six, thirty-seven to really be starting your family, kind of as a surprise, is a unique thing. And having been, after walking through that infertility journey for thirteen years, and really relinquishing our story to the Lord and saying, Lord You’re writing our story. And you know, that was such an amazing journey to walk, and I’m so grateful. But now I’m also so grateful for the fact that God asked us to really be intentional, thoughtful, and proactive in the culture of our home before Joseph even came along. This, this has been so incredibly powerful for him so far. He’s four, and we just love him to pieces! I can’t really imagine, I don’t know, just, I’m so grateful for the ways that God has already shaped the way that our home functions before he even came along. Of course we’ve made some adjustments, and now he’s four and we can really start to pour into him as a four year old might need it. But kind of the basic, the way that the home runs, like, the way that we love God, the way that the music’s going, the way we have interaction with people in our home all the time, like, that’s just happening organically already. It’s not like, okay, now we have children, now we have to sit down and think, like, what are we gonna do, you know.
Melissa: right, you had a home culture and a family culture that you had cultivated for years before Joseph was in your arms to join that family.
Jen: yes, yes! It was like, he – exactly – he’s suddenly joining this conversation that’s already been happening for, you know, these thirteen years. This, you know, conversation of faith that’s happening between these walls. And when we started Hysa House, I remember saying, asking the Lord, like, Lord let Your Holy Spirit dwell here; let this be a place where the Holy Spirit is, and where when people walk in, they sense that there is – they sense You. They taste… I guess, the banner, the banner verse has been, taste and see that the Lord is good. Can somebody walk into our home and taste something about Christ? Even if they don’t know Christ, they don’t know what it is they’re tasting, but they’re tasting something delicious. And they want, they want more of it. And I remember when I was a girl growing up near Joe’s family, we were, they were that to me. And I just remember walking to their house and going, I want to be a part of this family. And I ended up being part of the family, I’m so grateful! But I remember that feeling when I walked into their home. So my inlaws have been very helpful to me in that, showing me how that goes. But that’s kind of our journey, and I think that, I think that, you know, our, just our forte – Joe’s and my forte is just home life, like making it a delicious expression of Christ, you know. A delicious atmosphere. Where we want people to want to be here. We want people to feel nourished, both body and soul. And so that’s gonna tie in to paideia I’m sure.
Melissa: yeah. So tell me about that, you know, you do take that home culture with you. So you’ve recently taken a physical journey…
Jen: yes, right!
Melissa: you’ve mentioned California, and then you said back in California. So tell us where you are now, and where you are creating that delicious home at this point.
Jen: yes, you’re right. I totally forgot to say that we moved to Texas, and we are now in Texas, we’re in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, totally different than where we were in California. So it’s a big culture change. But we’re very thankful to the Lord and we’re very excited. My husband is pursuing his PhD at University of Dallas. And this is new for us, we always assumed he would be pastoring and teaching in the church, but God just redirected things and we’re very excited. So we’re here for at least three years while he’s finishing his PhD work. And so we have this little tiny apartment, a little one bedroom apartment on the third floor in, like, the biggest metroplex. I mean, Dallas is probably one of the biggest cities in the country. And so, we’ve got, it’s just a whole new experience. We went from redwoods and ocean and country life to this, you know, fast and furious sort of thing, and this culture here in the city. but what I love about transferring, like, we’ve transplanted our life from California, but nothing’s changed inside our walls.
Jen: I love that so, so much! And it’s been such a source of comfort, number one. And a source of stability for our son, too. And then, you know, our parents actually moved with us, so Joe’s parents and my parents, they all have their own stories as to why it was time for them to move, too, but they’ve also moved with us to Texas.
Melissa: I love that so much.
Jen: oh, it’s amazing, and we are so grateful. It would be so sad if they had to stay behind. But they’re with us too, you know, in their own homes, doing their own thing, and we’re all kind of like twenty minutes away from each other, but when they come over it just feels, you know, it just feels like home. Like, you know, we do our, we’ll talk about this more maybe later, but we’ll do our Sabbath dinners, and that just grounds us, it anchors us to our home culture. So it, I’m very grateful, we’ve been really busy kind of trying to furnish this little tiny place, and make it cozy, make it a place for people to be able to be here. This is something that’s really unique in a tiny, tiny apartment. We were actually very proactive about what furniture do we get for this space, because we actually want a dining table. Like, we want to make that a priority. And at first, we were like, we’re not gonna have any room. But I tell you, I could show you a picture, we have this huge long table that seats twelve people, we have this big long bench that my husband built, and there’s plenty of space. There’s plenty of space for playing on the floor, on the carpet, there’s a couch, there’s a chair, there’s, you know. But we had to think long and hard about, well, what are our priorities? What are our priorities for this little tiny place? And that’s been such a gift. So here we are trying to plant new roots, but I’m just grateful to carry this home culture with us.
Melissa: yes! And that the center of it is Christ, and that is what doesn’t change, and you’re able to prioritize Him and the things that He loves and that Scripture proclaims as lovely. And that’s what you’re doing, you’re carrying His work wherever you go. I love that!
Melissa: so, you mentioned the word paideia, and that’s something that we talk about, of course, here. So you know that word, you know where it comes from, Ephesians right – Paul, talking about raising our children in the paideia of the Lord, and how he took that word – the reason he used that word is because it was familiar to the people who received his letter. So what does that word mean to you? I know you’ve already alluded to it, but specifically, wordwise, what does paideia mean to the Carlsons?
Jen: to the Carlsons, obviously, you know, it’s like, it’s a culture. You’re building a culture. You’re educating. But I think, I mean, those are kind of the more definite, the definition of that word is like enculturation or education with an intention. So when it was used back then even in the Greek, you know, the Greek eras, they were intentional about their children growing up in a certain way, right. Because they are people of this, of the state or people of the city. They wanted their, the next generation to be good citizens. So when we think about paideia, we think about it as first of all, it’s very intentional. Whatever you’re doing to, you know, in your home, it’s, well – it needs to be intentional. Your – the culture that you’re creating though, it’s gonna happen no matter whether you think about it or not. So you’re gonna be creating a culture just accidentally, if you don’t think about it and be intentional about it, right?
Melissa: right, nothing is neutral.
Jen: nothing is neutral, and it’s gonna be, your children are gonna be taught one way or another. And what is it that they’re gonna be taught? You’re gonna be shaped one way or another. What are you being, how are you being shaped as the parent? I think, so when we think about paideia for our family, if I’m just gonna boil it down, it’s taste and see that the Lord is good. That’s it. We want, when we think about how we want Joseph to grow up, we want it to be such a delicious atmosphere for him that he’s, like, breathing, he’s eating and drinking and breathing this beautiful, joyful delight in Christ. And right now he’s four, he’s just learning about Jesus, we’re talking about it all the time, he’s asking questions. But before that, he was eating it and drinking it and breathing it before he, you know, before he was even talking, right? So it’s so, I think that, for me it helps me to just boil it down to, what is the essence of it? What is the, almost, what’s the feeling of it that I want to create? Because you can, the, I don’t know, the catechisms and the things to do on the to do list, are very, are important too. We want our children to understand what we believe. We want them to intellectually be there. But we also want their hearts to be wooed by the love of Christ. We want them to be drawn in, not because we’re forcing and dragging them to this, to be this kind of person, but more like, do you know that there’s a loving Creator? Do you know Jesus our King? Like, can you taste Him? Is He awesome? Like, and how do I, how do we express that in our daily life. Like, how do we express that in our home? That’s what Joe and I, that’s how we see it. So paideia is just basically this delicious atmosphere of Christ, and everything we do is trying to, you know, bring Joseph to the feast, right, bring Joseph to the table. And introduce him and let him see with his own senses that Jesus is real, that He is alive, He’s his King, and He’s a delight. Like, He – and we owe Him our allegiance, but also, we love Him! Like, we love Him!
Melissa: what is the chief end of man? Right? It is to glorify God… and we really maximize on that a lot in, I don’t know, in specific Christian circles maybe. But that next part… the enjoying Him! To glorify God and enjoy Him forever. I feel like that’s what you’re getting at. You’re talking about enjoying the Lord, and the culture of Christ.
Jen: yeah. And that, yeah.
Melissa: so you mentioned catechism, you’ve mentioned hospitality – what are some of these ways that you specifically pursue or implement a godly paideia for you son, but then – you also mentioned – we, as adults, we’re still enculturated. And so we still need to be purposed with our own shaping. What are you pursuing specifically?
Jen: well, so obviously, this goes without saying, right. But worship on Sundays is critical. I’m probably preaching to the choir with this podcast audience. But, so that’s a given. So worship on Sundays is absolutely how it begins. That’s the foundation. That that’s obedience to God, and Him saying six days you shall work and the seventh you shall rest. And this is My day for you, and dig in! Do it. Like, enjoy it. Rest, go worship Me, drink your fill. And this is something that – I remember, Joe and I were both raised in the church, and we, Sundays was a big deal. Sundays was, like, our life was church. That’s what it was. Our life was church. So all our friends were there, and our spirits were growing in the Lord, and as we were, you know, learning the Word. So this is what we want for Joseph too. So, Sunday school and church and, you know, any time we can be at church with God’s people, we’re there. And I think that’s a priority. So that’s number one. Without that, everything else falls apart. You don’t have, you know, you don’t have the foundation. So from there, though, you can go in a ton of different directions, and you have all the resources at your disposal. But in our home, one of the things that we do is our Sabbath dinner. And this is something that we learned from our college days, our host families did this. On Saturday nights, we kind of, you know, the busyness of the week is, it just, it could keep going, it could keep running right into Sunday if you don’t let it rest, or we don’t stop it from just bulldozing into the next day. So in order to prepare for the rest, we’re trying, we began right away in our marriage, you know, eighteen years ago, to do this Sabbath dinner. Where basically everything kind of winds down, calms down around the afternoon and we really make this really fun meal, and it is festive, and it’s fun, and we get out the fun dishes, we get out the fancy stuff, we get out the cloth napkins, we light the candles, we turn the music on. And it can be worship music or it can be a good Bach album or it can be a good jazz album or just really beautiful, like, just something excellent. And I, this is something I want to touch on, that God says whatever is lovely, whatever is excellent, whatever is worthy of praise, think on these things. And practice these things! Is what He says there in the end of Philippians. So this is something that we have really embraced and said, whatever is lovely. Well that, kind of, is actually quite a statement. Because if you tried to bring in or keep any sort of worldly music, worldly books, worldly shows, you know, worldly attire, worldly thoughts, like you can’t. If you’re gonna obey that command and abide by it, that says whatever is lovely. Are those things lovely? No. Are they excellent? No. Are they worthy of praise? No. So it’s kind of by nature that you just kind of shed those things and say, well, what is lovely? It’s just kind of an easy weeding out of those things. So on Saturdays we bring in as much loveliness as we can. We also use that opportunity to invite people over to our home. This is our main source of hospitality. Throughout the week our door is always open, people can always come in and out, but on Saturdays we are intentional about inviting strangers in. So they can be people we’ve never met before, they can be our neighbors, they can be our church folk we haven’t spent time with yet. We try to make sure we’re watching the stragglers at church. Is there anyone who needs a place? Is there anyone who needs a meal? Is there anyone who’s lonely? Is there anyone who’s new? Now this is interesting for us right now, we’re the new ones at church.
Melissa: you are new!
Jen: but we’ve already begun to invite people over. And they’re like, wow, Joe and Jen you’re just jumping right in, thank you so much – they’re being blessed by that. But that’s because we can’t not have, we can’t help ourselves, we need to, we need to envelop God’s people. And not just God’s people. We have a bunch of neighbors on our floor that we’d love to have over. So this is our way. Everyone can do it differently in terms of hospitality. But this is our way of really, not only bringing people in to the home life and the home culture, but also bringing them to the table and getting an opportunity for them to taste and see that the Lord is good. And it’s not necessarily, I think we’re a little bit laid back about it. We don’t, like, do a crazy catechism at the table. Although sometimes we do some catechism work, Joseph enjoys that. Sometimes we sing hymns at the table, after we eat. Sometimes we play music, sometimes we play games, sometimes you know we’re just having amazing conversation. We pull out the coffee maker and Joe makes fancy coffees, and you know, we always have a dessert. But what happens is it makes room for, it makes room for the culture of Christ. It makes room for the saints. And you can be as intentional about catechism as you want. We have been very intentional about that, and at other times we’ve just let, you know, we haven’t done catechism at the table. Other times we do it in the mornings, that kind of thing. But for the Sabbath dinner, it is just a time for taste and see. Taste and see that the Lord is good. We really want to put that into all of our senses. We don’t want to just, we don’t want to just intellectualize it and say, we assent to the truth that Christ is. Like, that is not paideia. Paideia is, let’s experience Christ in all the senses that we possibly can that He’s given us to sense Him with. And let’s, taste and see, I think, is such a beautiful verse, and I thank God for that so much. That’s the way that we really begin to live in Him, to really believe Him and to know Him. And thank the Lord we have His Holy Spirit! So He comes in and makes the dining room table something magical, right? The Holy Spirit’s what, without that, it’s just nothing, it’s just a bunch of stuff. You can have a fabulous Thanksgiving dinner with a bunch of people who don’t know the Lord, and it’s a whole different thing than a fabulous Thanksgiving dinner with the table surrounded by people who do know the Lord and who believe in Him and love Him and trust Him and delight in Him. And so anyway, that’s one of the expressions of paideia for, in our family. I think the biggest one, aside from church which is first, the Sabbath dinner is just an anchor in our family culture.
Melissa: yeah. Yeah, I love all of your descriptors! What’s coming out is just joy. It’s this pursuit of joy and this sharing of joy, and of course that ultimate source of joy is Christ.
Melissa: so I love that.
Jen: yes, Christ is our joy. Christ is our life. And He, one thing I was thinking about recently, was that He, you know, He came – He became man for us. And as I was meditating on His conception in the womb of Mary, you know it, He wasn’t – the hard part for Him was the fact that He had to endure our sin, right. He had to take on our sin. But I don’t believe that He was disgusted by the fact that He had to have a human body. I think that that’s proof, that’s proven by the fact that He’s still a human. He’s delighted to stay human so that He can, a) mediate for us 24/7, and b) be human with us. Like, He didn’t finish His, you know, His work on the cross and His resurrection and say, okay Father, I’m done with body. Let’s put this aside, I want to be done. He’s still a human. He still, He is flesh and blood. How beautiful is that?! It just draws my heart to Him so much. Because how much He desires to connect with us, and then if He has a body, He’s flesh and blood, that means these things that He’s given us to experience Him through – food, music, nature, God’s creation – like, there are so many things, that’s only, you know, a tip of the iceberg. But there are so many ways in which He has expressed Himself for us to get to know Him. And those things wouldn’t work if we didn’t have bodies. You know. And so we’re gonna have bodies for all of eternity once our, once our bodies are glorified. So how glorious to do this now? When, and I encourage, you know, the listeners: it matters. What we do now in these bodies. We’re gonna have souls forever, and we also are gonna have bodies forever, though the bodies that we have now are going to be glorified into something we can’t imagine. But we’re still gonna have bodies, so what we practice here – this is like practice. This is practice for the glories of heaven! So what we’re doing here matters to the souls of our children, it matters to their actual bodies, and then the way that we raise our children has an impact on their health of course too. So this, I don’t know, yes, the joy of Christ is really what we’re after. And taking joy in Christ and like finding it and then eating it and then living it. Trying to, and that’s not necessarily something I grew up with. And so that’s my, another encouragement I have for listeners: is that, if you didn’t grow up like this, take heart, because neither did I. I did not grow up like this. I knew Christ and we went to church every Sunday, but it was, you know, it was kind of drudgery. And it was sad, it was a sad day really. And I won’t go into the details, but it’s, it was not this. And I think that’s one of the mercies of Christ upon Joe’s and our home, is that, that’s why we’ve worked so hard to make it – especially Sundays – but make every day a joy in the Lord, and how can we stop the generational drudgery and start making it palatable. Not palatable in a bad way, like condescending to the masses but…
Melissa: back to the word delicious.
Jen: yes, back to the word delicious! So I just want to encourage you, whoever’s listening. If you’re like, but, you know, I didn’t have that amazing college experience, or I didn’t grow up a Christian, or I didn’t… you know, I don’t even know what that looks like… that we didn’t really either until we, somebody showed us. So maybe go hang out with somebody who can show you how to do that.
Melissa: I was talking with someone not that long ago about the culture being similar to, you know, the sourdough culture.
Jen: yes. Yes!
Melissa: you know, it’s way easier if you already have a sourdough culture fermenting to make bread, than if you need to go make a flour and water paste and set it out in the air waiting to catch, you know, the yeast from the air. So my dad did that back in the seventies, the early seventies, and that is still the sourdough culture that my mom uses, it’s in our communion bread every Lord’s Day, and it’s the sourdough culture that I have in my fridge that I bake from. And I’ve passed it around to some other people who want to make sourdough but don’t want to have to go to the effort of catching their own yeast. So it is such a gift, even if you don’t already have a culture, right, whether you’re talking, you know, the Christian family culture, or if you’re talking the flour and water and yeast culture – it is way easier to say, I see that it’s lovely, show me, teach me, give me a portion, and then ask God to bless that. And you know, you can share it. So I think that’s what you’re getting at. Is that if you don’t have that culture, find someone who does, and be brought in. Take a portion.
Jen: yeah! And if you don’t know who that is, I would say, I mean, if you’re in the church, on Sundays when you go to church, just – who is it that you’re, you are attracted to in terms of, like, there’s somebody you really, really want to go get to know? For some whatever reason, they are, you’re drawn to them. And I remember that being the case when we were in college. There were a few moms who I was really drawn to, and it ended up being that they were really helpful to me in my understanding of womanhood, of being a wife and starting a home. And my host mom was one of those ladies, but I remember just, kind of jaw-dropping stuff that was just details like, you know, how she put cloth napkins on the table. I was like, whaaaat? are you doing? Like, that’s reserved for, like, Christmas or something, you know in our house. So, but no, her joy was getting those cloth napkins on the table every night and then on Sabbath dinners they would up the ante. But like, to me, I imbibed it all because there was something there that I wanted so badly, I was so hungry for. And not like, okay now I have to do all these things. But what I was imbibing was this joy. It was a beauty that I was hungry for. So I would say, start with just looking for someone in your church that is that, that represents that to you, that you are just drawn to for whatever reason. And they might not even do all the things, there might just be one thing about them that starts that sourdough starter for you, that is that yeast that begins that process for you, for your home life, for, even for just, you know, ruminating on it in your mind and then asking the Lord to, how do I work this out in the details? And it’s gonna take time, you know, Joe and I are eighteen years down the road in marriage, and we definitely didn’t have any sort of… you know, if I had been interviewed eighteen years ago, I wouldn’t have had anything to say except, maybe, I don’t know. You know, I don’t know, but I just know that I want it. I don’t know what it is, but I know I want it.
Melissa: right. So, you mentioned that Scripture obviously, taste and see; you’ve mentioned hospitality and catechism and worship and Sabbath feasting and finding someone that draws you with, you know, their enculturation of Christ and joy. Is there another sort of a resource or a library of resources that you either go to or suggest for someone who wants to pursue this kind of delicious family culture for Christ?
Jen: I think one of the main things, at least in our family, has been music. Music is so powerful and it, I think because it draws on, if you’re listening to good music, it not only draws on our intellect but also our heart. It is so, what the music is in your home matters. What kind of music you have playing. But like the, it’s so important to shape the heart. I think it’s such a powerful way to shape the heart, shape the affections, shape the atmosphere with music. So I would say, just general blanket statement is: music. But then, like, well, what music? For us, there’s okay, there’s a couple things. We love the Slugs & Bugs, I forget, do you remember his name, Melissa?
Melissa: oh, it’s Randall Goodgame.
Jen: there it is, Randall Goodgame. He has a Sing the Bible album volume one, and there’s a couple volumes. Sing the Bible. I would highly recommend this. There are lots of Bible music out there, and this just happens to be one that doesn’t grate on me and is not…
Melissa: that’s huge!
Jen: yeah, it’s a really big deal. It doesn’t grate on me, it’s not cartoony. I actually think as a musician, I’m a musician myself, so as a musician I really look for music that’s actually skillful. So the musicians actually can play their instruments, they can sing really well, and the music matches the words. I think that that’s really important. But it is also a children’s album, so it is really cheerful. But it’s all Scripture. It’s not Scripture trying to rhyme, it’s not paraphrased Scripture, it’s straight Scripture. But he is, Randall, has taken very brilliantly and put it to music. So I just highly recommend it. Also, here’s the thing about this, is that it’s joyful. And there are a lot – and this is, I might be stepping on toes – but there are a lot of new albums out there, I’d say new as in like the last ten years – where the music, even for the children, is morose. It’s very introspective sounding, it’s very kind of morose, it’s very, like, calm and kind of just a single guitar. Like, it feels mopey or it feels moody. I don’t, I don’t want my children having that. They’re just taking that in, like, without even realizing what it is. I can pinpoint it because I understand where music has come from, I’ve studied it. So there’s a mood in our culture right now that’s very, a music mood, that says that music should be a little bit emotional and introspective and moody, and you know, they call it authentic. Well, what I’m arguing for is something that will help the children rise to the joy of the Lord, and this is very important because this will shape an entire generation of children. And if you think about our grandparents who wrote, who grew up in the war eras, right, the kinds of music they were listening to was very cheerful. Very cheerful! What kind of generation did that produce? I’m not talking like, the music’s not the only thing with that, that created them to be the way they are, the greatest generation. But music was definitely a part of that, and if you think about the music that they listened to versus the music that our current culture listens to it’s all, it’s hands down completely different. But I think the cheerfulness – cheerfulness is key. Joy is key. Delight is key. And what I love about Randall Goodgame’s music that it is full on pure 100% Scripture put to cheerful, not annoying but cheerful, delightful music. And I can’t say, I can’t speak of that more highly. So that’s something that Joseph loves. And of course he’s getting Scripture in his bones as he’s listening. And then he’s building, you know, he’s building his race tracks and he’s doing his tiles stuff – you know, he’s got his MagnaTiles, and he’s doing all the stuff, playing using his mind and his body while listening to these fabulous songs that have Scripture just getting in to him, into his bones. And I thought about this the other day, Melissa, and I thought, what are the songs that I remember the most? It’s the hymns that I grew up singing as a child: Great is Thy Faithfulness, and How Great Thou Art, and, like, all the songs I remember sitting in church as a little person, hearing these, hearing Trudy my mom-in-law playing these songs, and learning how to sing parts, and like – but these are the ones, when I am in a moment of trial, these are the ones that bubble to the surface, right? So when they’re children, it’s so critical. It’s such a fabulous time to be, just, for them to be soaking up what’s going on in the house around them, and music is a beautiful way of creating atmosphere.
Melissa: they’re going to soak it up, so we might as well be intentional, as you said before.
Jen: exactly, they’re sponges! It really gets in. We take in things too that we don’t really realize we take in. So, I’ve been encouraged by those. And I think, so I think music. But I also think it’s very important not to, like, make – I think music should be well rounded. So I think that there’s, we have tons of classical, we have really really good jazz, we have really good you know like – Irish and Scottish music, we’ve got music from all genres that we think is excellent and worthy of praise and lovely. And I think that’s super important, too, because we want our to know that God made the whole world. Like, not just the fun music he listens to as a kid, but like, Bach’s Cell Suites. Like, God made Bach. God invented that guy and gave him the smarts to, you know, write that music. So I don’t know, I just, music has just been one of those most powerful tools for paideia. And then I think the most questions we’ve had out of Joseph from, about God and Jesus, is when we’re, at night when we’re putting him to bed, we sing hymns and then he’s asking, well, what is a throne? Because we’re talking about, we’re singing something with Christ on the throne, and what is a throne? And what is Jesus and what is heaven and what does a king mean? And, you know, he’s just asking these little questions. And those are coming from just singing the hymns, you know. Or reading, like, we have these Baby Believer books. I want to show you this one.
Melissa: oh! You got the brand new one!
Jen: we got the brand new one. We have the whole set. So…
Melissa: Danielle Hitchen’s, right?
Jen: Danielle Hitchen, and her Baby Primers, Baby Believer Primers, are just these cutest little board books. So we love them. And they’re just Scripture. Just Scripture with these adorable pictures, and then they’re talking about, like, this one’s talking about shapes. So it’s called Our God: a Shapes Primer. And…
Melissa: oh I’ve been wanting to see that. I don’t have that on my bookshelf yet, because it just came out like last week.
Jen: it just came out, right. And I think because we were Kickstarter supporters at the very beginning, so they send us the book, like, ahead of time when it’s done so we get it first. So we have the whole collection, so that’s also started a whole lot of fabulous questions from Joseph. We just read through them and he loves them. He just sits and listens and looks at the pictures and repeats after Joe and to ask questions. So that’s another little tool that we enjoy.
Melissa: yes. Books and music and food. Those are the three things I’m hearing from you, and those are the three main contributors to the family culture in my home. Those have been the three main things. Books and music and food.
Jen: yeah, that’s wonderful.
Melissa: so I identify with that.
Jen: I think catechisms have a place, but I think if you can carry a catechism into a story, do it. Right? Like, if you get, because what they’re doing with a catechism is they’re pulling the meat off the bones and they’re leaving the bones. And you’re like, well I do need to see, I do need to understand how the skeleton comes together. I need to see that, I need to understand the nuts and the bolts of the faith. But in terms of children, and even for us honestly, are we wooed to Christ by a catechism? Or are we wooed to Christ by the stories of Scripture and by the stories we read, you know, of people writing about the faith, and stories of missionaries – and like, which woos our heart to Christ the most? And that’s, I think, something that we are very thoughtful about with Joseph. We have a catechism which we like a lot, but I don’t think I would recommend – if you’re asking what tools, you know, what are your tools? That’s not a main tool in our repertoire right now, because he’s younger. I think later on it will be. But right now, stories. Just stories just to woo the heart. And I just, I want to be wooed to the Lord. And He does that through so many different means. So…
Melissa: yeah. Well is there anything else that God has, I don’t know, used to speak to you and your heart lately? Have you read anything or listened to anything that has fed your soul with beauty? We’ve talking about how your son and his heart has been nurtured. What about for you as a woman?
Jen: yes, that’s such a good question. I, well, I love reading. I love reading! I’m always in a book and I’m always reading. I think, like I was talking about how stories are so important. Things that really minister to me in terms of, I think, the faith – in terms of the faith and of being a faithful woman and a faithful wife in this household, and then the faithfulness that a loving Christian mama and a loving Christian wife, the power that she has to create a beautiful atmosphere just almost by accident, right? I mean, you have to be intentional. But like, if I am in love with my Savior, and if I am fed on the beautiful stories of His people, of Him and His people, then I am, I’ve got everything I need to pour out. So for me, my reading is like, the life of the mind, it is so important. I think that cultivating my spirit, cultivating my mind around what is true and beautiful, is to critical, so… I recently just read some, I’ve been reading through some homeschool books, and I’ve been reading, my favorite thing though is reading, like, autobiographies of brave people. Brave people. And this is gonna touch on our times, but like, we’re in a time where, you know, there’s a culture war. And it’s actually, there’s been a culture war for about a hundred years in our country, eighty years ish. But I would say it’s now getting, it’s now getting to the last skirmishes, the last war, where we either are going to have a Christian nation, a nation that turns the corner back to Christianity, or we’re going to have very, we’re gonna be living in major enemy territory. This is something that’s so critical to know as parents. And so I think that reading, for me, reading has been such a good way of making sure that I, in my, you know, my heart and my spirit, and imbibing those stories that encourage me to be courageous, to take a stand where it is needed, to stay the course, right? So as Christian parents, are we going to stay the course? Or are we gonna give in to the culture? And that, even that can be expressed in small ways, right? So, you know, am I going to stay the course with homeschooling? Am I going to stay the course with worship when all the churches want to close down or when somebody says I can’t go worship? Am I going to stay the course with, you know, making sure that our home culture is one of Christian atmosphere? Am I going to stay the course in the small things? And so, to be honest, like, really good stories of brave, courageous men and women help me so much. And so there have been so many different stories that I’ve read that – one that I’m just revisiting is the one, what’s it called, oh now it just went straight out of my brain. Oh. She’s a missionary in China and then China gets taken over by… during WWII… and she becomes a… oh hold on, let me look it up. She becomes a slave and a prisoner of war. Do you remember, do you know what I’m talking about, Melissa?
Melissa: I’m trying to think. I just finished reading Radiant by Richard Hannula with the kids…
Jen: okay, yeah, that’s a marvelous one of short stories.
Melissa: yes, and I think it touched on who you’re talking about, but I can’t think of the name.
Jen: I know! I’m so sorry, you guys. I will remember in a second. But things like that…
Melissa: I revisited The Hiding Place, you know, by Corrie ten Boom, this summer.
Jen: that’s one of the best.
Melissa: that was just a really good, timely revisit.
Jen: yeah. It’s so important to read stories like that. So any of the missionaries, any just brave people that are doing the right thing, just really refreshes me a lot. And then, like, podcasts on homemaking, podcasts on food, podcasts on music, podcasts on culture, podcasts like this – where you are really being intentional about your, not only your thoughts about it, about something, but also how you’re going to implement that into your home. Because it does need to get, you know, our theology needs to be practiced and come out in order to be real and to bless somebody. So, um, sorry, my brain keeps trying to figure out what that, the title of this story is. But I recently reread it and it was so, so good. Darlene. That’s her name. Darlene Deibler Rose, I believe, is her name, and it’s an autobiography. Let me look it up real quick, I just remembered her name so now I have to find out, you guys.
Melissa: Testimony of Darlene Rose, interesting. I don’t think that’s a name that rings a bell for me.
Jen: oh, there it is! Evidence Not Seen. That’s it: Evidence Not Seen: a Woman’s Miraculous Faith in the Jungles of World War II. You guys. If you have never read this, do it right now. Like, this is your book of the month.
Melissa: it’s going on my TBR right now.
Jen: this is your book of the month, you have to read this! And it’s really good for our times that we’re living in right now. One of the things, two things that I walked away from that… Well, actually the main thing. Let me just say. The main thing I walked away having gleaned from this book was: know the Word of God.
Jen: have it in your bones. Just start memorizing. Just start! Just get it in your bones, just read it enough that you feel like you can recall it when you need to. Because God, I mean, I’m not gonna give away the story, but oh my goodness. She… God sustained her in crazy times through His Word. And some of it just, just His work. Like, and Corrie ten Boom, you know, there’s a lot of that too, in what she suffered and in how, you know, she had the Word, but then at times when she didn’t have the Bible at hand, she would remember Christ, remember the Word of God. And there’s promises in there that you have to cling to. And I just can’t, I can’t recommend it enough. So Evidence Not Seen. You have to read it.
Melissa: excellent, yep. So I just put it on my list. So there we go. [laughter]
Jen: I’m so glad, yeah. And so that’s the kind of thing I need. Sometimes I need a lighthearted, let’s just throw on a podcast about homemaking and get that going while I make dinner. Sometimes I need something more, you know, more rich and more deep because I am a deep thinker and I really think through life, you know, I really think through it. Sometimes I think too much, so I need to, I need lighthearted stuff too.
Melissa: well, is there any final thought you have or did we skip anything that sort of stood out? I feel like now I have more to ponder and wonder about, and I’m gonna go look for some good jazz music. Maybe I’ll have to request some [laughter]
Jen: yes, okay, if you want some really good jazz – Paul Desmond. Go look up Paul Desmond, he has some really beautiful, just beautiful stuff. And then if you want something Classical, you’ve got to check out Bach’s Cello Suites. They are pretty astounding. Any of his organ works are crazy, like, just, he was a brilliant man. And then, like, we love… I don’t know, there’s so much we love, so I won’t go into it. But also decor. You know? Like think about how your decor feels in your home. Think about how warm and inviting it needs to be. What colors can you put together to make it feel warm? What colors go together that make it feel colder and more off-putting? How can you change the lighting? There’s a real, you know, big push right now with lightbulbs being the LED so that they save all kinds of money. But you know what, those things are cold. They – unless you get the warm LED ambiance lights, and I just found a bulb that I actually really like. I mean, this is getting into brass tacks now but [laughter] honestly, honestly, the lighting in your home matters! Because if somebody walks into a fluorescent lit home, which is basically what those LED bulbs are… they last a lifetime, but they’re ugly, and they feel cold and blue. Now, if you do that versus you do an old fashioned incandescent or you do one of those LED bulbs that are like really, really warm – then you have just transformed your whole entire house. And it creates a vibe for your children that encourages their hearts to be cheerful, and it encourages their bodies to relax and to be at home, and then they’re more ready to learn, they’re more ready to change their attitudes if they need to. Like, think about how you feel, you know, in an office space or a doctor’s office versus how you feel at home when you’re relaxing. You know. I just, you know, a little tidbit. But decor is really fun to play with, and how to, you know, how to encourage that sort of atmosphere where joy, the delight of Christ, is present.
Melissa: yeah. Well, tell us where we can find you around the internet. Because you share these things on YouTube and Instagram and websites and all of that. So tell us where we can find you.
Jen: okay, yes! So we’ve got a slightly outdated website. It’s HysaHouse.com And outdated meaning the pictures are old, but the content there is still really good. And you’ll read, you’ll find our whole story there. I just went into a tiny little part of it for the paideia aspect of it, but you’ll find our whole story there, how Joseph came along, all the health trials and stuff. And then I’m on Instagram @JenCarlson and Facebook as well @JenAndJoeCarlson and then I do have a YouTube channel called HysaHouse. So Hysa is h-y-s-a and then house. And there I’m really focusing on hospitality and wellness. So one of my passions is wellness, and that’s because I have walked through so many health trials. So I really am passionate about walking beside people who are in chronic illness or in, you know, long term problems or who are infertile, having trouble getting pregnant. These are some of the things that really matter to me and that God has really given me great mercy in. And so I really want to share what I’ve been given, and really help come alongside people that are walking those journeys. And so then I have a business that I run from home for practical wellness and for natural wellness means. And so those are the ways that I, you know, kind of reach out to people and support people in their journeys. But yeah, Instagram and YouTube and I need to get my website updated now that we’re in Texas, but all the content is still accurate, so yeah.
Melissa: and it’s still beautiful.
Jen: thank you.
Melissa: and delicious! [laughter]
Jen: and delicious! Yes. And I love to cook, and some of the goals of my YouTube video coming up are some recipes and cooking for everyone.
Melissa: anytime I want to make a salad, I just think, okay, Jen Carlson’s Everyday Dressing. [laughter]
Jen: I’m so glad! That is so fun, Melissa.
Melissa: there we go. So JenCarlson and HysaHouse. And I’m so grateful, I feel like it’s just such a gift to be able to chat with you today, and yeah, it’s like getting this little glimpse into the home culture that you have and just seeing what God’s continuing to do with you. And I have a feeling we’re going to be doing this again.
Jen: okay! Wonderful!
Melissa: and I’m just, I’m so grateful. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy day and life to just share your heart and to share that delicious nature of our Christ, because I – oh, we just can’t get enough, right?
Jen: yeah, we can’t get enough. I know, I know. God is so kind. And thank you, Melissa. And I so appreciate all that you do. I love how Paideia Northwest is growing and, you know, Paideia Southeast now. And I so appreciate all that you’re doing. And I am, you know, brand new mama compared to you, and brand new homeschooler, so I am always drawing from you, and what you do with your boys is just mind-blowing actually to me. How you sing with them and do parts and harmonies, and they’re learning so much, like, musically, and just – anyway, I just wanted to tell you that that is such a blessing for me to kind of follow closely.
Melissa: God is so kind.
Jen: yeah, so kind, yeah.
Melissa: God is so kind. I am really looking forward to getting to connect with you in the future, including face to face one of these days.
Jen: yes, me too. Thank you, Melissa.
Melissa: thank you.
And that brings today’s conversation to a close. You can find more conversations on paideia at PaideiaNorthwest.com and PaideiaSoutheast.com for more resources and practical encouragement. Join me again next time for another Paideia Conversation, and in the meantime peace be with you.