Family Business

Proverbs 16:3
“Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.”

One year ago today, Olive Tree Bible Software officially became our family business. On a day when people around our country are reminded of a travesty and horror that fell upon our nation twenty years ago, I want to take a moment to ponder the goodness of God in His continued faithfulness to His people and to honor the husband God gave me.

Steven has labored for Olive Tree since early 2009, originally working in the basement of the company’s founder. It was a small business, but growing. There was obvious blessing from the Lord in paving the way for technology to be used in encouraging His people to study His Word, and my husband was eager to participate in the development. Using his background in both biblical studies and computer technology, he spent the next few years cultivating skills and passion for the particular niche of Bible study technology on smartphones and other personal tech devices.

While Steven moved up from position to position, gaining leadership skills and dabbling in just about every aspect of the company during his first five years at Olive Tree, he eventually took the position of running the company, even when it was owned by HarperCollins Christian Publishing. I don’t remember the first time my husband ever mentioned to me that it would be really neat to own Olive Tree himself, but it seemed like more of a pipe dream for a long time. Not that working for a huge corporation doesn’t have some blessings and benefits, but we really missed the small, local, family run business culture that the company had had the first few years. Steven never seriously thought about leaving the company to start something different, but there was a definite longing for business ownership and small business culture—to be free from red tape and city bureaucracy, to be able to focus on the particular vision for Olive Tree rather than be pulled in multiple directions under the larger umbrella of a big publishing house with agendas outside of our own company’s vision.

1 Thessalonians 4:11-12
“Aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands… so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.”

It was early in 2019 when the conversation changed, and the discussion of owning Olive Tree ourselves became serious. No longer a simple pipe dream, but a strategic plan. While I am not at liberty to share all the ins, outs, ups, and downs of the process, it was quite the journey. Involving our parents from the beginning, and our children once the sale closed, it became a generational endeavor. Closing dates got pushed back more times than I can remember, particularly because trying to get all the legalities lined up with all the proper boxes checked at the right times felt like shuffling a deck of cards in a tornado. It was a real test of faith and fortitude. One of the trickiest parts was that this enormous project on our part literally had to be kept secret, under wraps. Only our parents knew. Employees, friends, prayer partners, our siblings, our children… keeping this huge thing quiet was a real challenge. Not because we can’t keep a secret. But because we legitimately know the value of shared burdens and partnered prayer. Our children got the short end of the stick, but thankfully the Lord is incredibly gracious to us, and they are fully engaged and supportive. It was hard for them when there was stress or tension in the house, meetings and appointments we couldn’t explain, etc. Now we have sons excited to intern for the company and continue the vision themselves, longing to wear the mantle of the family business when they are grown.

But it wasn’t until a year after we thought the sale might close that it actually finally did. Thanks to the crazy kafuffle of a virus that shut down our entire economy, things like small business loans were frozen and business trips to sign papers were no longer allowed. The funniest things put speedbumps in the way, and we could do nothing beyond simply holding out our hands to give all the details to the Lord, trusting His timing would be perfect, even when our deadlines and timelines were continually bumped and erased and bulldozed.

One year ago, my husband stayed particularly late at the office because it was finally happening. All kinds of details with technology and finance and passwords and passcodes had to be switched at the end of business day on September 11, 2020. And on Saturday, September 12th, we were suddenly (at the end of a long, drawn out, unpredictable process) the owners of a small family business intent on sharing the Word of God with others.

So now my husband works from home, has about twenty employees, and deeply loves the work he pursues. He loves technology. He loves Scripture. He loves providing for his family. He loves the intimate, somewhat crazy culture of the folks who work for him. And I am delighted to support and assist him in what small ways I am able. There are sacrifices and hopes, difficulties and rewards. It is good work, a good heritage, and we praise the Lord for putting work into our hands that we can share with every neighbor for the furtherance of His Gospel.

Colossians 3:23-24
“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.”

I am proud of my husby. And I am grateful to our Lord.

Paideia Studies, Firsts

First year, first day, first class. We started it all off by gathering as families in a sanctuary. There’s nothing more symbolically appropriate than embarking on a new journey by first marking that first step with worship. The Doxology came first, a benediction for students & teachers came at the close, and some contemplation of good, true, beautiful things came in the middle.

As a type of convocation speech, this is what I shared for the families as a morning devotion on our inaugural co op day:

The first thing to orient our minds today is just a brief meditation or defense of Classical, Christian, catechistic education. And this is because that is what we are meeting at Paideia Studies to pursue.

In brief, Classical refers to the old paths of scholars who have gone before us—as opposed to the newer socialist method of education that has been promoted by government education over the last hundred and fifty years. Jeremiah 6:16, “Thus says the Lord: Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.” One of the main pillars of Classical education is its aim to equip the students to learn for themselves. So our aim here at co op is not to give you all the answers, or to teach you things to regurgitate onto tests. We aim to give you a love of learning and an atmosphere in which to have socratic, godly dialogue. By the end of even just this one school year, we long for you to have increased in knowledge, but also in understanding and wisdom. This education is not about mere information, but about the Christian life and the lordship of Christ over all things. Psalm 103:19 says “The Lord has established His throne in the heavens and His kingdom rules over all.”

The term of Christian flows naturally from that, doesn’t it? And even our youngest students can probably tell us what it means. What does it mean to be a Christian? To belong to Christ, to bear His name, to believe in Jesus. So the education we pursue here together is a Christian education in that we acknowledge that everything about us belongs to Christ and ought to carry His banner. Romans 8 tells us that “those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit… You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you… if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness… All who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God… The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs.” Hopefully, you will find that everything we study here together will be approached and discussed in light of the Gospel, the Creator, and the Font of wisdom which is God. Again: we long for you to increase in knowledge, but also in understanding and wisdom. Why? Because this education is not about mere information, but about the Christian life and the lordship of Christ over all things because the Lord has established His throne in the heavens and His kingdom rules over all.

The third term I would like to present to you is catechistic. Is anybody familiar with the word catechism? What does a catechism do? What is a catechism for? A catechism teaches by two means: question/answer and repetition. It is for the embracing of truth, the memorization of truth, and the embodiment of truth. But then the question arises: if we learn by repetition of questions and answers, is that overemphasizing mere parroted knowledge? I will answer that by reading you what Moses was commanded to tell the people of God. Deuteronomy 6:5-9, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” A few chapters later, Deuteronomy 11 lists off that same catechistic pattern. So that sounds pretty repetitive! There are certain things that God deeply wants etched permanently on the hearts of His children. And we desire to pursue this in imitation of God our Father.

Our ultimate prayer as Christian families gathering to pursue education together ought to echo the prayer of Christ in John 17:3, “This is eternal life, that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”

And ultimately the way we will seek to cultivate this in ourselves, our families, and our co op goes back to Proverbs 1. “To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight, to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth—Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching.”

Benediction:

Lord God, your Spirit of wisdom fills the earth and teaches us your ways.

Look upon these students. Let them enjoy their learning and take delight in new discoveries. Help them to persevere in their studies and give them the desire to learn all things well.

Look upon these teachers. Let them strive to share their knowledge with gentle patience and endeavor always to bring the truth to eager minds.

Grant that students and teachers alike may follow Jesus Christ, the way, the truth, and the life, for ever and ever. Amen.

Consider the Lilies

Matthew 6:25-34
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

My children and I enjoyed a quick jaunt into a store this week to purchase a few last-minute things as we prepare to embark on a new school year with a new co op and new friends. Gluesticks, construction paper, and some pants-without-holes. Who knew that little boys needed new pants once they’ve been handed down three or four times? 😉 This gave me a neat opportunity to chat with the kids again about why we dress the way we do.

Does it matter how we dress our bodies? Yes and no. I love how people use 1 Samuel 16:7 in conversations about clothing… when it’s not actually talking about clothing, but physical features.
“But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.'”

This verse is often taken out of context, but reading it in its actual context clarifies that it’s not about what we put on or don’t put on. It is talking about not judging a person for their physicality. The Lord knew that David was young, small, ruddy, handsome, and had notably beautiful eyes (1 Samuel 16:12). This was not going to be the stature of someone the people expected to be anointed to take the place of Saul.

So is it true that the Lord looks on the heart? Absolutely! Praise the Lord, and amen! He cares not about our size or our beauty or our raiment.

But if that verse isn’t really talking clothing, then is there someplace else in Scripture that DOES? Interestingly, clothing is actually mentioned a lot throughout the Bible! In fact, from Genesis 3 to Revelation 22, we see clothing playing a prominent role. Genesis basically jumps right into it by starting off with complete nakedness, God names it very good in its context of perfect creation yet untainted by sin, and then we quickly find leaves and animal skins being repurposed into coverings for humans after the fall. Historically, right back into biblical record, clothing told you something about the person it clothed: their status, their occupation, their gender. Even the color of their clothing may have an indication: just look at references to white and purple in the Bible.

Different clothing communicated different things: royal robes, sackcloth, leather belts, clothing of a prostitute. What they wore communicated something. And that fact has not changed with the passage of time. What WE wear also communicates something. Ought we to be anxious about that? Absolutely not. Jesus exhorts us NOT to be anxious about what we will ear or wear, because when we walk in faith and pursue wisdom, the Lord provides.

Luke 12:22-32
“And He said to His disciples, ‘Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you.”

There ARE, however, a few basic standards which we can see woven throughout Scripture, and which ought to continue to be guiding us in clothing choices with wisdom. Dressing according to your gender (Deuteronomy 22:5), recognizing clothing as a basic need (1 Timothy 6:8), pursuit of modesty (1 Timothy 2:9-10), not judging/condemning based on attire (James 2:1-9) are some basic underpinnings that we can infer from Scripture without legalism but with freedom.

I confess that I do not ask myself these questions upon waking before I pull on my clothes each day, but I do think they are worthy of consideration more than just occasionally:

What am I trying to say or accomplish by how I dress and what I wear? Does my clothing illustrate my surrender to the Lord? Does my clothing represent my belief that Christ is Lord of all? Does my clothing enable me to profess honor and reverence to God and humility toward man? Am I practicing modesty and discretion? Do I dress with dignity and strength? Do my clothing choices agree with what God declares about my gender? Is my heart content and cultivating godliness? Are my clothing choices consistent with the transformed thinking that ought to accompany my transformed soul?

Another thing, which is perhaps less easy to cite by chapter & verse, is how clothing throughout Scripture helps us see the occupation of the person. And this is a practice which has continued through the centuries, even today. In a hospital, you can tell who are the medical workers and who are the patients or visitors. It is easy to discern the difference between military personnel and civilians. In historical practice, it has been easy to tell who the pastor/priest/leaders are in a church because of their particular raiment.

Peter Leithart says, “clothing is a sign of a position in the world, a position in society.” He argues that even in our casual, glib era of modernity we do still believe in uniforms. “If someone knocks on your door claiming to be a cop, we expect them to be wearing a police uniform. If a judge shows up in jeans and flipflops and begins to preside, we think somebody else has taken over.” I agree with his logic about the appropriate nature of uniforms for certain offices. You would not work in the garden wearing formal garments, you would not wear a swimsuit to a wedding, you would not wear pajamas to a job interview. Different clothing ought to be designated to different offices. Different vocations require different uniforms.

What about the office of education, then? What about the vocation of a student? How ought my kids to dress to reflect their status as students, as children, as Christians? What clothing choices might best reflect our conviction to bring them up in the paideia of the Lord?

There is an essay by Douglas Wilson (listen to him read it aloud to you here, or snippets can be found here) about school clothes which I find very winsome and provocative in the best of ways. I commend it to you, not only for these following quotes:

“Of course, we should dress for comfort, but the biblical view is that we should also dress of the comfort of others. Today our natural tendency is to dress to suit ourselves. In another era, students would dress to make themselves presentable. Now students want to dress to make themselves at ease. The former generations thought of others; we now insist on putting ourselves first.”

“The Christian approach is incarnational and insists on discipling the whole person. Everything is to be brought into submission to the Lord Jesus Christ, and every thought is to be made captive, every collar obedient, and every pair of slacks honoring to Him (2 Cor. 10:4-5).”

“The triad we want to urge in classical Christian education is truth, goodness, and beauty. When it comes to aesthetic issues, the Christian world is horribly compromised. One of the tasks of the Christian school is to help bring us out of this aesthetic relativism by teaching students to love that which is lovely – in music, in painting, in poetry, in drama, and in dress. Whatever is lovely, Paul says, think on this.”

“Left to themselves, the students will establish their own informal dress code. This is another inescapable concept: It is not whether there will be cultural enforcement of dress standards, but which standards will be applied and by whom.”

“Young people today are desperately trying to vandalize the image of God that they carry about, despite themselves, in their bodies.”

“The wearing of clothing that does not fit, does not flatter, and does not proclaim the lordship of Christ is commonplace, and unbelievers will frankly acknowledge that this is the statement they are trying to make through their appearance. They are trying to proclaim the autonomy of self, and while they are at it, they are declaring how miserable such autonomous selves are.”

“Imitators of the world’s culture from within the church know everything about the world’s culture – except what it means.”

“This desire to fit in or to be thought cool is not a new phenomenon. The Bible calls it worldliness (1 John 2:12-17). All this is bad enough as a phenomenon within the broader Christian world. But for the board, administrators, and teachers of a Christian school, to be culturally clueless is disaster.”

I just love that last fragment: to be culturally clueless is disaster.
So how do we pursue enlightenment regarding our culture? How do we discern between worldly culture and godly culture when it comes to clothing? How ought we adorn our bodies in a home (or church or school or co op) where we actively proclaim the lordship of Christ and pursue His paideia?

This is a conversation I am eager to share with others. To banter and dialogue. To sharpen one another. I don’t have the answers. But I am seeking to grow in wisdom and grace and loveliness. I long to be more like Christ. May I know what garments to don, and when to set them aside to wash the feet of the people I serve. May I consider the lilies.

Culture, 2

If you are forty years old, having never been taught to swim, do you think you might have a slight disadvantage at the beach compared to a twenty year old who just learned to swim? And what about the five year old who has been at the beach every day since their second birthday, splashing in the waves and learning to float? What if you were born into a family who not only visits the beach every weekend but also has a swimming pool in their own backyard… and your parents taught you to swim at the same time they taught you to crawl, walk, speak, and potty train?
It might all come down to swimming skills… but it legitimately plays out differently depending on when you were tossed into the water, and how long you’ve been splashing, floating, paddling, treading…

Were you just recently tossed into the waters of educating children at home? Or has this been something as natural to you as making your bed in the morning? For me, it is the culture in which I was brought up. It is the habit I have cultivated for decades—first as a home educated child/student, and now as a home educating mother/teacher.

In talking with my new friend (mentioned in this post), she commented that it seemed easier for me to grasp and apply many of the principles—and some of the methods—we read about this summer in a long-distance book discussion group. She wondered aloud if it was because these were not new concepts to me (as many were to her), but rather familiar snippets that could honestly have easily been written by or about my own childhood experiences with education… not to mention my children’s experience now. The culture my friend was raised in was not the paideia of the Lord. The culture I was raised in was the paideia of the Lord.

It is easier to pass on an already-existing, thriving, familiar culture than it is to begin a brand-new culture on your own. Somewhere in the middle is the option of adopting a culture with which you are somewhat familiar, and which someone else can assist you in cultivating.

This is where the sourdough comes in.

I have a small container of sourdough starter in my fridge, which I have fed and kept and used and shared for a decade or so. But I did not start from scratch with it—that blessing was handed down to me from my parents. Back in the 1970s, my dad was intrigued by the idea of sourdough and he wanted to pursue that for his future family. So he read and researched and talked to sourdough folks, and learned that he could start a brand-new sourdough culture on his own. He set out a flour and water paste in a warm area, and waited for the natural yeast in the air to settle in. He knew that it could happen, and he hoped that it would happen… but starting from nothing takes time and faith and grit. (Things my dad has never lacked.) Long story short: natural yeast from the air landed in the paste and began to multiply. It began to bubble. It grew lively. It grew pungent. It grew efficacious. It did what culture does: it multiplies, spreads, takes over.

Scripture talks about yeast—using the word leaven. Some of the contexts and connotations are negative, some are positive. But the ultimate point of all the Scriptural examples is this: leaven leavens! Don’t be surprised when the culture being cultivated multiplies. It is inherently contagious, because that is the way God created it.

This applies to many kinds of culture—in my home, we see it most readily in sourdough and homemade yogurt… and in Christian paideia.

I was raised in the nurture and admonition of the Lord under the leadership of Christian parents (and multiple generations of Christians before them), who knew they wanted to build a family culture of education and worship and structure based on Scripture and focused on following Christ.
My husband (also raised under the principle of the Lord’s paideia) and I now seek to raise our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, continuing to build upon the foundation we already have beneath our feet, to perpetuate a family culture of education and worship and structure based on Scripture and focused on following Christ.
My friend at a completely different spot on the map, with a completely different background (spiritually, educationally, familially), is seeking to raise her children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, starting from scratch to build a culture of education and worship and family structure that is based on Scripture and focused on following Christ.

I did not have to catch the leaven on my own. My parents spent decades doing that work—in their parenting and educating, and in their sourdough. They passed along to me what work they had spent their lives doing, and I simply continue it, building upon their shoulders. I am parenting and educating similarly (but not identically) to the upbringing I received—the culture I perpetuate now in my home is not unlike the culture in which I was raised. I also have the sourdough culture in my fridge which is from the original culture my dad caught a decade before I was born. (We do actually joke that the sourdough was my parents’ first child.) And I can share a lump of the sourdough with someone else who wants to cultivate that habit and blessing and keep the leaven alive. Taking a bit of my sourdough would be an easier start in the art of bread baking than if you caught your own natural yeast the way my dad did. I can walk you through how to feed it, keep it, cultivate it, use it, and share it. But giving you an hour long introduction to sourdough culture is equivalent to you reading a book on a particular education/parenting culture. It is easier to continue cultivating a culture when you were steeped in it yourself. Extra grace and patience is needed when culture-cultivating!

Culture is alive, efficacious, contagious, potent.

We cannot continue to send our children to Caesar for their education and be surprised when they come home as Romans.
-Voddie T. Baucham Jr.

Thankfully, we do not have to stay in a particular culture. God created us in His image, not in the likeness of tiny microbes. So we can choose to cultivate something new by the power of the Holy Spirit. Just because you came from a particular culture does not mean you can not take a lump from somewhere else and cultivate something new. It is simply harder to purge old leaven than it is to cultivate new leaven. (Corroborate that with Scripture!)

Start from scratch with nothing but raw ingredients and a heap of faith and grit!
Or take a lump from a culture you admire and want to perpetuate yourself.
Or continue the culture you already have and love, by nurturing it regularly and keeping it alive with fresh cultivation and courage and patience.

Stand fast! Be brave! Be strong! Let all that you do be done with love!

Raise your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. That is the principle of Christian culture which we need to cultivate, perpetuate, and share. There may be many methods of pursuing this—but pursue it we must. The Lord requires nothing less. Our children belong to Him. We need to care for them according to His principles, in His paideia, and for His glory.

Culture

If paideia is the entire enculturation
of a person or society,
then what is culture?
How do we begin, start, create,

cultivate a specific culture?
How do we then maintain, tend, keep,

and share an existing culture?

Paideia is the word handed down to us from ancient Greece, which means education or upbringing, the culture of a society—this was broadly understood to mean that this was the all-encompassing atmosphere and education necessary for the continuance of the Greek values and methodology. Particularly passionate Greeks wanted to produce similarly passionate Greeks in the following generations. Paideia was the word used to describe the way their culture and life and belief system and practices would be perpetuated. But in our modern American social elitism, I don’t know if we even understand culture anymore. We think it is simply what surrounds us, with its ever changing ebb and flow, dependent upon the whims of the society and their winds of change which always blow.

Culture is a word that has a noun form as well as a verb form, and both have an interesting nuance when it comes to raising the next generation in a specific paideia.
As a noun, culture means:

—the customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or other social group.

As a verb, culture means:

—maintaining conditions suitable for growth.

Interestingly, I find the definition of enculturation to be a sort of marriage between the noun and verb forms of culture:

—the process by which an individual learns the traditional content of a culture and assimilates its practices and values.

Enculturation and acculturation are two vastly different things. And I think one of the sad realities is that a lot of Christians in our nation have given way to acculturation rather than actively pursuing the enculturation of our children for the kingdom of God. Briefly put, acculturation is the amalgamation of multiple cultures, as opposed to enculturation which is the acquisition of one’s own primary culture.

For the Greeks, they wanted to raise good little Greeks, and they actively pursued a Greek paideia. They certainly didn’t want the influences of outsiders to overwhelm and overtake their children, thereby staining and ultimately derailing the next generation. When Paul used the term paideia in Ephesians 6:1, he used that word specifically because it would have been commonly understood and recognized by those who received his letter. He exhorted fathers to raise their children in the paideia of the Lord. He was promoting a culture centered on their heavenly citizenship over their national citizenship.

Philippians 3:20—But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

This is a principle which withstands time and supersedes location. The paideia of the Lord is a culture which transcends time and location!

What do you want your children raised for, educated for, brought up to love and pursue and perpetuate?

I for one long to raise my kids for Christ, to educate them well in order to equip them to glorify Him through their lives as His image-bearers, brought up to love things which are good and true and beautiful, to pursue the spreading of God’s kingdom on earth, and to perpetuate the line of Christ and practices of piety… in other words, I want to bring my children up in the paideia (nurture, admonition, education, culture, principles, instruction) of the Lord Jesus Christ.

I am hands-down, fully-in on that. Lord, grant me strength and shower me with mercy as I strive to accomplish this on Your power and grace!

A new nuance to contemplate, and that which has recently intrigued me, is the verb form of culture. “Conditions suitable for growth.”

I know a lot of people have been thrown into a lot of new things in the last couple of years, as though tossed into the water without the slow and careful teaching of swimming and floating methods. Things that I honestly have not been thrown into or had to develop myself, because I have honestly just always lived and swam in this water. In a recent discussion with a new friend (one of the founding members of Paideia Southeast, a new sister community for Paideia Northwest which I founded in 2018), I was reminded once again that learning something new and countercultural is harder to recreate than continuing to perpetuate something old and already culturally assimilated.

Two things a lot of people have been thrown into recently are sourdough baking and schooling at home. So I will use these as my primary examples here.

I was brought up on homemade bread. My children have been brought up on homemade bread. And one of the many types of bread I like to make is sourdough bread. In fact, I like to use my sourdough starter as a base for almost any kind of bread I make. I have a friend who really wanted to learn to use sourdough bread a couple years ago, so I gave her some of the sourdough starter from the container in my fridge, told her how I care for it and use it in baking, and wished her well. Again, about a year ago, she came back to me asking for starter and instructions… because it hadn’t worked well for her, she kind of forgot about maintaining it, and she’s not really sure what happened, but it definitely derailed and she tossed it. But with the craze of sourdough bread baking during the insanity which was 2020, she remembered that she once had an interest in this particular thing, and that she had access to someone who was already elbow-deep in the process. I haven’t asked her how it has been going over the last ten or twelve months, but I wonder if she has been more proactive and diligent and engaged in the sourdough process this time around. I wonder if she has been able to taste the wonder of the fruit of those labors.

I was also brought up on home education. And my children likewise have been brought up on home education. But I happen to know that there are plenty of cases over the last nineteen months where families have had their kids brought home to pursue their schooling out of forced necessity rather than choice—and while some have embraced it with skill and joy, others have found it to be a nightmare of overwhelm or dropped the ball from apathy or simply found it undesirable to have to sacrifice their days and hours and resources to educate kids themselves. This was not an ocean that I was pushed overboard into—it is a sea of blessing which I would gladly drown in, but prayerfully swim and float through by God’s grace. It is the same water (educating kids at home), but being shoved overboard into it is vastly different than searching for the water and wading in slowly from the shoreline… which, I would argue, is also vastly different than simply having already spent your whole life in that water (yep: I think I just labeled myself as a mermaid).

Two crazy metaphors which cannot overlap and seem unrelated if not opposed?
I don’t think so.
(…but humor me, and stay tuned for part two…)

Puddles of Glory

It rained last night. Real, wet, heavy drops. It thundered but no lightning struck nearby. The ground is still wet this morning. The bugs and birds are literally dancing with delight.

The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows His handiwork.

We sing Psalm 19 for the month of August, and we seek to see how its every sentence is applicable for us in this current time and place. God gloriously, faithfully shows us His glory and His handiwork.

In the muddy puddles. In the bowing sunflowers. In the wriggling worms. In the clucking hens and crowing rooster. In the shadow-dappled grass. In the image-bearers making French toast in the other room. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

lAUNCHING wORK

Today, I launch fully into another Paideia Northwest conference season with joy and weight – this is good work, it is big work, it is valuable and sweet. I am deeply humbled at the work God has put into my hands. I did not seek this, but I gratefully receive it. I have just opened registration for this year’s event, Rest. If you or anyone you know is interested, it’s best to get a jump on signing up. We sold out very quickly last year, and this year is shaping up to be similar. The details are occupying the corners of my brain space: luncheon details, decoration details, vendor details, volunteer details, printing details… Twelve weeks from tomorrow, we will be gathered in Post Falls – and I am here for it.

PSALM 128:1-2 “BLESSED IS EVERYONE WHO FEARS THE LORD, WHO WALKS IN HIS WAYS! YOU SHALL EAT THE FRUIT OF THE LABOR OF YOUR HANDS; YOU SHALL BE BLESSED, AND IT SHALL BE WELL WITH YOU.”

I find that I love organizing and creating lists and compiling details and pulling together lovely things. I have a penchant for pulling people together for common work and encouragement. Never before would I have thought that’s something I loved… but I do. Another evidence of this is found as I am also preparing to launch fully into directing the Paideia Studies co op. We begin meeting in just twenty days! I’m trying to finalize details for this work too. Printing off copies of the Collective plans for every family – thirty-one weeks of devotion, Bible memory work, poetry, loop studies, Medieval art study… I had so much fun compiling true, good, beautiful, pertinent, and worthy things for our year of education. My hope is that having it all laid out so far in advance will bless my future self, and serve the ten families in our group well. I pray that it is so! All of the details necessary for a co op director to have in order seem to be smoothly sailing at this point… again, I pray that it is so. I am grateful for the steering committee and board, and the prayer and conversational support the network provides for our co op. I am grateful for the mamas who are learning new methods for building upon familiar principles. I am grateful for the kids who are about to embark on new friendships, new studies, and new projects. I am grateful for the church where we are meeting each week this year – for their hospitality and generosity and kindness. I am grateful for the limitations we already face: limitations in space & size & scope & time. Limitations are a blessing for someone like me who can so easily be tempted to bite off too much at a time, or jump in too deeply before wading.

GALATIANS 6:9-10 “LET US NOT GROW WEARY OF DOING GOOD, FOR IN DUE SEASON WE WILL REAP, IF WE DO NOT GIVE UP. SO THEN, AS WE HAVE OPPORTUNITY, LET US DO GOOD TO EVERYONE, AND ESPECIALLY TO THOSE WHO ARE OF THE HOUSEHOLD OF FAITH.”

And so as Paideia Northwest and Paideia Studies (which nope, aren’t actually connected – one is a business I run, the other is an old fashioned cooperative I direct – and they just both bear that beautiful Greek term in their titles) are both preparing to launch their 2021 endeavors into the world, my hands are extremely full. And I am grateful to remember what paideia means. I am grateful to rest in the culture that has been passed to me. It is bubbling and vibrant, and I am eager to pass it along to others who want to pursue this culture for their families, their children, themselves, their souls.

ROMANS 12:10-11 “LOVE ONE ANOTHER WITH BROTHERLY AFFECTION. OUTDO ONE ANOTHER IN SHOWING HONOR. DO NOT BE SLOTHFUL IN ZEAL, BE FERVENT IN SPIRIT, SERVE THE LORD.”

The Lord is good. Blessed be His name.

Singing Psalms with Little Saints

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom,
Teaching and admonishing one another
In psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs,
Singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
Colossians 3:16
Long before I became a mother, I yearned to have children who sang. During my own years of home education in a Reformed Christian family, we grew our love of hymns into a love of Psalms—a love of melody into a love of harmony—a love of corporate singing on Sundays into a love of singing at home as a family all week long. I loved almost nothing more than monthly Psalm sings with our church family—and to this day, there is almost nothing which fills me with more delight than filling my home with the echoes of boisterous harmony. This love, instilled during my own childhood, was something I longed to continue cultivating as I moved on to college academics and beyond.

To read the rest of this article,
written by me for my friend
Amy Sloan to share,
head over to HumilityAndDoxology.com

Paideia Studies Book Stacks

As we continue our way through summertime, I am seeking to spend any marginal moments on education. I continue pursuing my own education through reading about Classical Christian education, Charlotte Mason education, and things to expand my knowledge & imagination.

Some things I have been reading lately:
Morning Time: a Liturgy of Love by Cindy Rollins
Ideas Freely Sown by Anne E. White
The Gospel Comes with a House Key by Rosaria Butterfield
The Case for Classical Christian Education by Douglas Wilson
The Paideia of God by Douglas Wilson
The Flow of the Psalms by O. Palmer Robertson
Teaching from Rest by Sarah Mackenzie
Mortimer Adler: The Paideia Way of Classical Education by Robert Woods
Classical Education and the Homeschool by Wilson, Callihan, and Jones

I have also been working on class schedules for our new Classical Christian co op, Paideia Studies. I have created the scope and sequence for Middle Ages History, General Science, and Collective for the upcoming school year. It feels so good to have those things ironed out and ready for the mamas.

I don’t personally have an official high school student this year, but this is what the high school bracket at Paideia Studies will be jumping into for our inaugural year:

Science: Chemistry (Jay L. Wile)
Worldview/Lit/History/Writing: Omnibus II (Veritas Press) and Medieval History Based Writing (IEW), plus a long literature list
Language: conversational Spanish using Complete Spanish, 501 Spanish Verbs, and some dictionaries
Logic: Bestiary of Adorable Fallacies (Canon Press) and Critical Thinking (Anita Harnadek)

I do have kids in all the other class though! I have kids entering 1st, 4th, 6th, and 8th grades – plus a toddler for the youngest class. We are really looking forward to all the subjects and books and projects we will be pursuing with so many new friends this year. Here is a peek at the book stacks I have put together for the Grammar and Middle brackets at Paideia Studies this year:


Science: General Science (Jay L. Wile) with supplemental books from Reader’s Digest, Usborne, and other project compilations


History: Middle Ages – Story of the World volume 2 (Peace Hill Press), Mystery of History volumes 2 and 3 (Linda Hobar), A Child’s History of the World (V.M. Hillyer), plus a large collection of picture books and chapter books and anthologies for living books/literature


Language: Latin SongSchool, Primer A, Primer B, Primer C (Classical Academic Press), bilingual dictionary, and a handful of resources containing fairytales and poetry in Latin


Art: Studies of Imitation through Sketching – Anyone Can Teach Art (Julie Abels), Discovering Great Artists (Bright Ring), Short Lessons in Art History (Walch Publishing), History of Art (Bustard, Veritas Press); plus a bunch of other resources to sprinkle throughout the year – Art Treasury (Rosie Dickins), The Children’s Book of Art (Rosie Dickins), The Arts (DK Publishing), The Usborne Book of Famous Paintings (Usborne), The Illustrated History of Art (David Piper)


Phys Ed: social dancing – Chimes of Dunkirk (NEDM), Listen to the Mockingbird (NEDM), Teaching Folk Dance (Phyllis Weikart), Dance a While (Waveland Press) and Swedish Drill (Dawn Duran)

I never expected to spend this summer doing this kind of planning and organizing, but the Lord has blessed me so much and given me a lot of joy in it. How kind of Him! And as we have had opportunities through family interviews, co op cookout, and play dates… we are finding a beautiful sense of community already building. Although these ten families have not known each other much previously, there is at least one previously-known family per family. So everyone knows someone, but nobody knows everyone. It can honestly feel a little daunting to jump into a new group of people and an entirely new endeavor together – both for mamas and for kids. But it is beautiful to know that we have unity, regardless of any diversity. (Our pastor recently mentioned in a sermon how uniformity and unity are not the same thing! We don’t strive for uniformity, but unity in Christ.) We are coming together to form a group working toward unified goals: pursuit of God, love of Him, knowledge of Him, wonder of Him for His creation.

We want to train our kids (and ourselves) to love things the Lord loves. Things which are good, true, and beautiful. Things which honor Him and equip us to further His kingdom on earth. That is what will bond us together. That is how we will create friendships and have fellowship in Paideia Studies.

Ordo amoris: ordering our loves. We need to teach our children what is lovely, and then teach them how to love it. This includes various subjects, topics, and books – but it also includes people and families and home cultures. I feel absolutely honored to walk with my children through a new season of education, a new season of community, a new season of friendship. I feel the Lord at work: HE is ordering our loves. May we follow Him with gladness!

Smoke & Prayers

Summertime in the Inland Northwest involves a lot of smoke and a lot of prayer. In fact, yesterday afternoon there was smoke rolling in like I’d never seen before right around the time we were having a few families come over for a time of prayer. Of course, the two things were unconnected at first… but slowly became remarkably entwined.

I had spent the afternoon preparing to welcome nine families over, plus our two sets of parents… all together, we were going to have 69 people over for a bbq potluck. While this may sound like no small undertaking, it was not hard to rally my family to mow the grass, set up lawn games and tables, wipe down a few dozen chairs, and tidy up the main area of the house to be as hospitable as we could manage. Our goal was to make our guests feel at home, to feel embraced and welcomed. While we had met each of these families at least once before, most of the people we were having over are new friends: they are the people we will be pursuing education with this coming year in our new homeschool co op. As Director of the co op, I have been spending weeks compiling family info and class schedules, pulling together curriculum in order to prepare lesson plans. I had printed out each mama’s own teaching schedule and supply list, plus a stack of updated data—schedule, directory, and other documents. I had even gathered textbooks and teaching resources to share with mamas who would be able to put my things to good use this year. We had smoked pork butts shredded, watermelon cubed, bags of chips opened, condiments set out with big stacks of paper plates and napkins… we even had dispensers of ice water, lemonade, and iced tea beside towering stacks of classic red Solo cups. And just because I like to add a personal touch whenever I can, I put out centerpieces of sliced wood, burlap squares, and jars of flowers from my garden bed on every table inside & outside.

I guess you could say, I felt ready. Dare I say, I even felt in control.
Being a leader is new to me. I have long loved following. I like being told what to do, so there is no question about whether I am doing the right thing or not. I’m still a recovering people-pleaser, and being in charge of things can make me anxious: what if people don’t like the way I am leading, preparing, or organizing? Well, God has been pushing me to make strides in these areas over the last couple of years, and this summer you could say He shoved me the final distance to close the gap.

But last evening, as we were welcoming a few families into our home for a time of prayer over our homeschooling plans and upcoming co op year, the smoke was rolling in—and it slowly became obvious that I was in control of none of it.

By the time we finished our prayers, we looked up to see more fresh smoke through the windows, and more new friends arriving, bearing armloads of food and furrowed brows.

Then peoples’ phones started shrieking with alarms. Evacuation Level 2 was at play for us, and Level 3 was happening for friends of ours just down the road. The smoke was not blowing in from a far distance as has happened in previous summers—this smoke was from forest & field charring up just down the road in our little farming community.

It felt a little surreal. Steven and I just sort of stared at each other, bewildered or unbelieving or naïve—I’m not sure—while the other adults who were gathering around us in our dining room seemed to all be talking at once. Pack your things, Where are all your important papers, Tell us where to put your photo albums, How can we help, What do you want us to do, We’ve been through this before… Thoughts and questions and experiences were entering my ears in fragments, but I wasn’t really processing any of it. I just looked into the eyes of my husband. Honestly, I felt calm—or maybe numb. I remember sighing and asking, What am I supposed to do? I’m supposed to be hosting and leading. Do I just send my children away with all these friends, and stay here to pack up whatever we can salvage before our home burns down? I wasn’t panicked. But my questions were plain.

Then one of our new friends raised his hand, and we all looked toward him as he said, May I make a suggestion?
I’m pretty sure Steven and I both sighed with relief as this man calmly spoke, commanding the room with his gentle leadership (so Christlike). He looked at me, while all the eyes were turned on him. If I may, I suggest you take your children and go with all the other families and have the potluck somewhere else. Then you let your husband stay here to pack up and do what a husband is supposed to do. He will take care of it, he will pack up what is needed in order to protect and provide. That’s what a husband is supposed to do.

All of a sudden, we had a plan. And a leader.

Most of the parents gathered up all the food and serving supplies, and shepherded children into vehicles. One woman pulled out her iPhone to take pictures and videos of every room (and every bookshelf) in my house, in case we needed such things for insurance claims and repurchasing of items. Another woman walked to all the bedrooms with me, holding a duffel bag and I threw in “two of everything” for each family member. Women kept asking about the pictures on my walls, but in this modern digital age, it was easy to say—I can always print more if I need to. I grabbed one painting, one baptismal gown, and some things from when my babies died. I left everything else. I went outside to make sure my children were prayed with and buckled into the car. Two men stayed with my husband, to remind him to gather banking information, identification papers, business folders, laptops, cash, guns & ammo. My children had been allowed to grab a couple quick things—piggy banks, a favorite doll, a blankie, a book to read.

I kissed my husband before I drove away. While we knew this might end up amounting to little more than a dress rehearsal for a performance that may never open curtains, there was also a sense of heavy reality. Perspective checks are good and healthy. It is a good practice to remember that even the things which feel most precious, and to which we may be fairly attached, are still just things. Even things which have been painstakingly handmade with incredible love are just things. Even if they are technically irreplaceable, they are just things. My children’s eyes welled with tears at the thought of books and musical instruments and bunkbeds and sketchbooks being reduced to char, but they were so obedient and composed and sweet amidst the chaos. Sixty-some people (most of whom they did not know well at all) were rushing around our home and yard, dispersing just as quickly as they had arrived—while smoke billowed in, and the bright sun grew eerie behind the orange-brown haze all around—and my children were being told to leave with only an item or two, perhaps for good.

The Lord was clearly in our midst.

When I pulled into a friend’s driveway ten minutes later, the potluck spread had already been quickly reassembled on a large table, the kids were frolicking and laughing in the yard, and the sixty-some people were now welcomed and embraced by a different hostess. Someone else’s husband asked for God’s blessing on the meal. Someone else had to give directions to the bathroom and repeatedly direct people to the garbage cans. Fellowship happened, bellies were filled, friendships were forged.

And I had almost nothing to do with it.

While I had been planning and prepared to host and lead and act like an adult, what ended up happening was that I was the recipient of some of the most hospitable people I’ve ever met. A friend of mine who was planning to receive hospitality suddenly offered hospitality to this huge group of people. A friend of mine who I barely know yet walked through every room in my house to document all my belongings (in whatever their current state) on her phone. Another friend I barely know helped me pack socks and underwear and toothbrushes, wandering from bedroom to bedroom and bathroom to bathroom in my home—reminding me of the simple task at hand, when it could have felt very complicated.

Later in the evening, my husband and the other men who had stayed with him joined us at the bbq’s new location. We all fellowshipped and feasted until it was almost too dark to see outside anymore. And it was right about that time that phones began to blare again with emergency updates—the fire was being reasonably contained, and we were allowed to return home if we wanted to. We remain in Level 2, but our friends down the road have also been reduced to Level 2—which makes us think the constant hum of helicopters and buzz of airplanes overhead are accomplishing good work. We didn’t sleep much, but we rested in our own beds.

Upon waking this morning, I am decidedly thankful that our home was not directly in the line of fire. In fact, only one home has been lost in the 155 acre blaze. Praise the Lord for His hand of protection over our neighbors! But I am also decidedly thankful for the hospitality roles which were turned on their heads last night. I am thankful that when I felt rather like a follower than an equipped leader—or more of a child than an experienced adult—we had friends ready to fill the gaps and lead us with charity.

Sixty-some people showed up to my home last evening expecting the kindness of hospitality. What they did rather was embrace my family in our own time of need, and showed a unique variety of hospitality to us and one another.

I won’t forget that.
And as fire season has only just started—and a solid month earlier than most years—I will carry with me the lessons they taught me. About what to do and how to serve in moments of crisis. This is Christlike community, and while the smoke & prayers continue to be laid on thick—I am thankful.