All the Greek Words

You know the old saying, “it’s all Greek to me”? I feel like as I have waded slowly into the Classical education model in our Christian homeschooling, I have to say that much more tongue in cheek. Honestly, I could say, “it’s all Latin to me” quite often, as my three oldest children love their Latin studies… but they do it without me, because I can only grasp so much of it (I love the vocabulary! but please let me hide in a hole when it’s time for grammar and conjugations!) and they honestly take great delight in learning something Mama doesn’t know. They also have extremely high hopes of having a secret language for communicating right over their parents’ heads. This is a challenge I encourage them to pursue. I wish I could take them gallivanting around the Mediterranean sea to explore the remaining vestiges of the Roman Empire as their reward should they succeed.

At any rate. I had long thought that, were we to pursue an officially Classical educational model in our homeschool, we would choose to study Greek over Latin. In fact, when my oldest son was our only genuinely school-aged child, we purchased Songschool Greek in the hopes of doing just that. My husband knew Greek, after all! But I was too tired to figure out how to use the simple textbook properly, and my husband was too busy to consistently help Gabriel with anything more involved than the Greek alphabet. So it went by the wayside.

Fast forward a few years, and I throw around just a couple Greek words very regularly though. I also do still love the occasional rabbit trail of word study when studying Scripture. But I do not have any endeavor too come fluent in any language at this point outside of English. Keeping up with the ebbs and flows of the ever-iterating English language is enough of a task for me.

But if you have been around here with me for more than a hot second, you have surely seen me throw around words like scholé and paideia. Very clearly, I am pulling out some grand misspells or dipping into a separate language. I know I have explained paideia recently in more than one post, but it has been a little while since I have mentioned scholé. My friend Mystie Winckler explains this fairly succinctly here. She says, “Scholé means seeking Truth, Goodness, and Beauty first and foremost, laying aside personal agendas, prideful goals, and desires to control so that we can be open and able to embrace Truth, Goodness, and Beauty when we see it. And we should be seeing it all over the place. God is True, Good, and Beautiful, and we are reflections of Him, called to increase our reflection of Him more and more as we mature and grow all our lives.”

There are many times when I just get so excited about the ways my very favorite Greek words (not including tzatziki or dolma or baklava…) overlap and intersect. My friends at Scholé Sisters have this phrase “scholé every day” as a reminder that this is a daily, continual pursuit. Not one and done. But a habit was continue to cultivate throughout life. Just like pursuing a godly paideia! One of the ways I pursue paideia is through scholé!

A habit I began when I was just a teen was that of playing through hymnals on the piano. Beginning to end. And while I do not always have this practice on repeat, it is nonetheless something that I have repeated often in the last 25 years! It began as a challenge to myself when I was trying to learn the skills of an accompanist. I wanted to be able to serve in churches and other sacred settings, but did not want piano performance to be a stumbling block. So I set out to work my through hymns and psalms in such a way that I would eventually be able to play anything on any page in any hymnal. And even as a 12 or 14 year old, I wanted to do that not to attain a specific self-promoting skill, but to equip myself for sacrificial service. God gave the desire, the will, the stamina, the joy, and the fruit.

I have served as accompanist at every church my family has attended ever since, at least in some capacity (full time, part time, or substitute). I have accompanied at countless hymn sings and psalm sings and family worship opportunities in multiple homes. Eventually, I even learned to accompany more modern settings which required different skills… chord charts and lead sheets are still not something I love, but I can work with them cheerfully when I am serving the body of Christ.

I love to play through hymnals and psalters. Often singing along, but not always. Sometimes focusing on just the music beneath my fingertips. Sometimes quietly meditating on the words my eyes see while my hands are on autopilot. Interestingly, I do not know how many hymnals/psalters I have played straight through in the last couple decades, but I know it has been at least six – plus other compilations of worship music like the Cantica Sanctorum and the RUF songbook. Last night I reached the end of yet another.

Often, after tucking my children into their beds at night, I will be asked to go play the piano. The baby grand in the large family room with the wood floor and high peaked ceiling projects valiantly and echoes throughout the entire house. The children genuinely love hearing their mama play even the most simple of things… and there have been countless times where I will suddenly hear little voices wafting down the stairwell as they join me in some of their favorite psalms or hymns. I fully expect this to be one of the things they remember about their childhood, just as I fondly remember the bedtime routine of my father singing to me while he played guitar and my mother stroking my hair while she quietly sang me a personalized lullaby.

My practice of musicianship for the glory of God and the serving of His people, as well the simple blessing of beauty & rest that it serves to my own soul, is one example of my own #scholeeveryday pursuit of godly scholé. But in the practice of it, I am simultaneously cultivating a godly paideia to nurture the souls of my family.

So perhaps the next obvious question is this: which hymnal or psalter is next on the docket?? It just so happens that I have a short one already queued up.

Or maybe the next question ought to be, what other Greek words should be in my daily arsenal for living in a Christ-focused home, taking my children with me to the feet of the Savior??

Podcast Conversations

Back in April, I had the pleasure of sitting in my family room to chat over Zoom with a long-distance friend across the country. Amy, who writes at Humility and Doxology, had asked if she could interview me for her Homeschool Conversations podcast. I remember feeling a bit stumped about what in the world I could have to offer to anyone, and why would somebody want my voice speaking into their earbuds… but I jumped at the opportunity to visit with Amy anyway because I knew she was sweet and friendly… and we happened to have a lot in common. Fast forward six months, the interview was published on the Homeschool Conversations with Humility and Doxology podcast, and you can find the transcript on her blog as well.

During the interim months, however, I have continued to enjoy chatting with Amy in little snippets thanks to modern technology: we chat on the Voxer voicemail app and share things on Instagram. She also had me participate in her Homeschool Generations blog series over at The Curriculum Choice, and guest post on her blog regarding Singing Psalms with Little Saints. It has been a delight to connect with Amy on things that are near and dear to both our hearts.

Another way that Amy has blessed me recently is in a bit of tip-giving in almost a mentorship type way. While I have been coming alongside my friend Heather Tully for nearly a year now, to be a sounding board as well as act as a bit of a mentor, regarding the beginning of a sister community for my Paideia Northwest, we have come up with some ways to pursue community together between our Paideia Communities even across the distance. Pursuing a small, casual podcast is one of those ways. But I had no idea where to begin! Just like Heather said to me all those months ago, having a vision and a desire and excitement is a great place to start… but sometimes we really need someone to take us under their wing and show us how they have gone about things. Not because there is only one right way to accomplish a particular undertaking, but because it is such a blessing not to recreate the wheel every time you want to try out a new project! I am happy to iterate multiple times, but even to simply have a foundational starting stone is such a gift. It is like being a given a seed that was harvested from a friend’s garden, and now I have something to start with as I begin to build my garden. (It feels like a very pioneer thing to do, in fact.)

So thanks to Amy at Homeschool Conversations, I have been able to start dabbling with Paideia Conversations. While it is not officially launched in any sort of grand way, this is sort of a “soft opening,” so to speak.

Although I have been largely doing the first few podcast episodes on my own to learn the ropes (and thankfully my teenage son is tech savvy and computer literate, so he can run the ropes that are beyond my non-Millennial brain), the Paideia Southeast team will be participating and creating content right along with me before long. This podcast is simply intended to continue the conversation about raising kids for Christ and cultivating homes that center their atmosphere around Him. The recording of these “paideia conversations” in a casual podcast is a natural extension of what we have spent recent months discussing on Voxer together.

So here we go: one more new endeavor to tip toes and fingertips into. Another way to be sharpened and encouraged and challenged and fortified on this journey of raising little saints for the Kingdom of God.

Meditation on Imago Dei

: Imago Dei. Image of God. Man was created in God’s image—male and female.

If God is King and Creator, covering us in inescapable grace, and in our quest for truth we know that we are to deepen roots and produce fruit, how should we then live? We ought to live as He created us: as His image-bearers. So what does it mean to be a creature, a created-one? What is it to be a bearer of His image?

Well, what does the Bible say about this?
Genesis 1:26 & 27 “Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness… So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”
Genesis 5:1 “When God created man, He made him in the likeness of God.”
Genesis 9:6 “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in His own image.”
James 3:9 “With [the tongue] we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.”

The Bible very clearly says that we, as mankind, are created in the image and likeness of God. But do we have any real idea of what this means? To be an image means that you are not the actual thing, but an image of a thing. You show its likeness like a replication, a duplicate, even a mirror. But you are not the thing itself. Pastor and writer John Piper says, “If you create an image, if you make a sculpture of someone, you do it to display something about that someone. You put it in the square in the middle of town, and you want people to look at it, notice it, think about that person, think something about them — that they were noble or strong or wise or courageous or something… God created us in His image so that we would display or reflect or communicate who He is, how great He is, and what He is like.”

So every time we see another human, we are seeing another image of our great God and eternal King. Think about that! Billions and billions of images—every one of us imperfectly imaging Him—but each one reflecting something of our Creator. Looking at another human ought to cause us to wonder, for it is seeing a reflected glimpse of God. John Piper said, “being created in the image of God means that we image God. We reflect God. We live in a way, we think in a way, we feel in a way, we speak in a way that calls attention to the brightness of the glory of God.” As parents, the way kids are reflects something about their parents. I think you know what I’m talking about: haven’t you ever heard a parent laughingly say, “oh I hope they don’t make me look bad” when they’ve dropped a kid off somewhere? What they are saying is an acknowledgement that their children reflect them. For good or for ill, we reflect our parents—our children reflect us. In this same way, we reflect our heavenly Father in whose image we were created. And we do make Him look bad! What I mean by that is that we are marred, imperfect images of Him. We only reflect a small part of His glory and majesty. Our hope and prayer is that as we continue down our life of sanctification, that we continue to be honed and sharpened and polished so that we are ever more accurately reflecting our Father, our Creator, our King.

As we bear the image of God, we are all made to glorify and magnify the Lord—and this is for all His image-bearers, all of mankind. Our Creator gave His image to all humans: He created Adam and Eve in His image before sin entered the story, but then all of humanity after our first parents have likewise borne His likeness. Regardless of salvation. Even those who live and die in unbelief bear His image. We can not escape His glory. To one extent or another, we all bear His image and reflect His glory. 2 Corinthians 3:18 tells us that we are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. Ever since the fall of man, we have rejected the glory of God—His glory has been replaced with idol after idol, false image after false image, and they lack the glory of God. But the fall of man and our sinful nature did not change the fact that we bear God’s image: but Romans 8:29 tells us that His chosen people are predestined to be conformed to the image of Jesus. This is part of our sanctification, ever onward toward glorification and eternal praise of our Father in heaven.

C.S. Lewis said it best when he wrote in The Weight of Glory: “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.”

But then let’s go one step further and see that not only did God make humans in His image, but He made them male and female. This is a countercultural way to talk in our current social climate. But it is extremely biblical. It is straight out of Genesis 1. This establishes the pinnacle of a Christian worldview. Kevin DeYoung writes that what is at stake here by God creating His image male and female is “nothing less than the gospel. That’s all.” Because without it, we would not have marriage, we would not have procreation, we would not have the continuance of His image. And Paul tells us that it is a profound mystery, that marriage refers to Christ and the church. This is not by accident. God did not have to make humanity this way. But it reflects Him most, and it glorifies Him best—this was God’s very own, very good idea. In His infinite wisdom, when He put Adam to sleep, He formed a woman for Adam’s companion. And the two together were the image of God. In some mysterious way.

So as you look at one another, I challenge you to see the glory of God reflected in each other’s faces. As you play together, I encourage you to find the glory of God reflected in the bodies around you. God has fearfully and wonderfully knit one of you—for His glory and in His image. Let us prayerfully seek to grow in our reflecting of Him, in our bearing of His glory, and to embrace the gift of being male or female specifically created for His praise.

Verse: Genesis 1:27 “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”

Catechism Q: How and why did God create us?
A: God created us male and female in His own image to know Him, love Him, live with Him, and glorify Him. And it is right that we who were created by God should live to His glory.

Blessedness vs. Wickedness

Trees have roots and fruits, and we see this in Psalm 1 applied to a godly man. How do we apply this to our walk with the Lord? What can we learn about blessing, delighting, meditating, prosperity, and fruitfulness? Where do we go for nourishment?

Verse: Psalm 1
“Blessed is the man
    who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
    nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and on His law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree
    planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
    and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.

The wicked are not so,
    but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
    nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
    but the way of the wicked will perish.”

The book of Psalms opens with two psalms which really end up setting the stage for the entire rest of the book to come. It generally makes sense to begin in the beginning of a book before reading on through it, but not everyone has had that experience with Psalms. A lot of people are introduced to Psalms through super common ones like Psalm 23 – the Lord is my Shepherd – or Psalm 100 – about entering His courts thanksgiving and His gates with praise. But one of my absolute favorite ways to read wisdom literature in Scripture is from beginning to end. My kids and I read both Psalms and Proverbs this way: straight through, on repeat, all the time. I can not count how many times we have read those two books together already, and can’t imagine how many times we will have done it throughout our lifetimes. This is a good heritage to pass on, and a worthy foundation to set.

So if we were to approach the book of Psalms by starting at the beginning, we would see that Psalm 1 presents two ways of living—actually, very similarly to what Proverbs does with the way of wisdom and the way of folly—but here in Psalm 1, it is the way of the blessed man and the way of the wicked man. Some theologians actually say that Psalm 2 is not a separate song but a continuation of the first—the King mentioned there is not David, but a foreshadowing of Christ, the Son of David that God’s people were anticipating. Psalm 2 is a Messianic Psalm. But back to Psalm 1!

This is a wisdom psalm (again—that connection to Proverbs), it is intended for the training and instruction of God’s people. The book of psalms was the hymnal of the Hebrews, the Jews, God’s people. And right here in the beginning of that book is a teaching method commonly found throughout the Bible: two ways in contrast; a positive example beside a negative example; one meant for imitation and the other for warning. We’ve already established that the two options in Psalm 1 are that of blessedness and that of wickedness. What does blessed mean? This is actually the Hebrew word that my son Asher’s name comes from: asherey, ashrei, esher (it’s phonetic so you can find it transliterated different ways). It is a word that means happy, blessed, fulfilled. It is a contented state of joy that is an internal happiness which brings blessing from the inside out—not the outside in. It is not a happiness based on situation or blessedness based on materialism. This kind of true blessing, true happiness, comes from walking with the Lord.

The first half of this psalm gives beautifully poetic description about what the blessed man is like. We see the blessed man described as a tree planted by rivers of water, yielding good fruit, not withering but prospering! And from where did this tree stem? Where are its roots? Delighting in the law of the Lord and meditating on the law of God day and night—that is where these tree roots are nurtured and nourished. And then back to the beginning, we see that this man steers well away from sinners and scoffers and wickedness.

We must see that the very first thing mentioned is the distinction between godly and ungodly influences. We must resist the influence of the ungodly, carefully protecting ourselves from ungodly influences. Therefore, we must rather put ourselves in the way of godliness, righteousness, and meditation on God’s holiness. This is where blessedness and happiness lie. This is the path of good fruit and prosperity. Psalm 119 is a long treatise on exactly this! Here is a brief example:

Psalm 119:97-106

Oh how I love your law!
    It is my meditation all the day.
Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies,
    for it is ever with me.
I have more understanding than all my teachers,
    for your testimonies are my meditation.
I understand more than the aged,
    for I keep your precepts.
I hold back my feet from every evil way,
    in order to keep your word.
I do not turn aside from your rules,
    for you have taught me.
How sweet are your words to my taste,
    sweeter than honey to my mouth!
Through your precepts I get understanding;
    therefore I hate every false way.
Your word is a lamp to my feet
    and a light to my path.
I have sworn an oath and confirmed it,
    to keep your righteous rules.

Throughout the psalter, but notably right here in the very first chapter, we see that devotion to God and His Word is not a slavish duty nor hedge against superstition. Rather than a burden, it is a delight and pleasure and joy. He meditates on it! This meditation is considering, pondering, wrestling with, and being occupied with—meditating on God’s Word means focusing on it and seeking to understand it, memorize it, and—dare I suggest—even sing it.

But how does the psalmist go on to describe the wicked? In an abrupt shift, he declares simply: “the wicked are not so.” He describes them as chaff that has been shaken off the grain. Therefore, because of their very nature as inconsequential and useless, they will not stand in judgment but will blow away like the dry hulls of chaff when a farmer winnows wheat. Chaff is worthless, meaningless. Ultimately, we are told that the end of the wicked is far from prosperity: the wicked will simply perish.

So we see that there are two ways we can live—the Lord presents us here with the two paths: that of wickedness and that of blessedness. This is the ultimate distinction in life. And here is one simple yet profound note: although we would all like to think of ourselves as the blessed one, the tree planted by rivers of water… we are only that one thanks to the irresistible grace of God. But for that undeserved mercy, we would lie squarely in the path of the wicked one. Praise the Lord for His sovereign plan and gift of Jesus Christ! Because of Him, we can be blessed. We can be happy. We can be fruitful and prosperous. Like that tree representing the happy and blessed man, we do not have to fear dry seasons because of the constant water supply nourishing our roots. Because of the Living Water of Jesus Christ our Savior, we can endure adversity, persecution, drought, affliction. It is the law of God, His very Word—which we have the modern gift of carrying around in our very pockets, not to mention in a dozen different copies on our shelves at home—which is our sustenance. May we thus brim over with love for God’s Word. May we raise children whose roots are planted by the riverside. May our homes be orchards with fruit ripe for plucking and harvesting and sharing. This is how we can share in the prosperity and blessing of the man in Psalm 1. Rely on Jesus and trust in Him, letting Him be your righteousness and hope, your joy and delight. Do not walk in the ways of the wicked—but rather, choose to delight in the law of God and meditate on His living Word.

Trinitarian Blessing

We can not escape the grace of God. Father, Son, and Spirit—this God we serve is with us as our foundation, our protection, our all. Do not fear.

Weekly Verse: 2 Corinthians 13:14 “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” Weekly Catechism:
Q:How many persons are there in God?
A: There are three persons in the one true and living God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They are the same in substance, equal in power and glory.

Our memory verse this week is a benediction—in fact, a specifically Trinitarian blessing—that emphasizes God’s love, the grace we enjoy because of the person and work of Jesus Christ, and the fellowship or communion we experience because of the person and work of the Holy Spirit. (And our catechism focus is also on the Trinity.) There is unity here, yet diversity. Paul’s blessing ascribes specific blessings to the operation of each person in the Trinitarian Godhead. The finite human mind can wrestle with the doctrine of the Trinity for more than a lifetime: it is a mind-blowing truth, which remains a mathematical mystery for us. Jonathan Edwards noted, “I think [the doctrine of the Trinity] to be the highest and deepest of all Divine mysteries.” But it is comforting and practical to the core. We can basically sum up Christianity this way: we come to the Father, through the Son, by the Spirit. And in this verse we remember the fullness of God in how He redeems and blesses His people with grace, love, and fellowship.

There are many ways to apply this, but one way that I find comforting is the reminder that we can not escape the grace of our God. Perhaps this is a terrifying reality for some—but for those of us who find our safety, security, comfort, and refuge in the Trinitarian God, it gives us every reason not to fear. His grace reaches us no matter where we run! The grace of God is before us, behind us, above us, beneath us, with us, and for us. It is this gracious God who is our foundation, our refuge, our protection. We His children do not need to fear. We have His grace, His love, and His fellowship. He gives us Himself in grace and love while enfolding us into communion with His family.

If anyone has experience with this inescapable grace of God, it was Paul. 1 Timothy 1:12-17 is Paul’s testimony of this:
“I thank Him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because He judged me faithful, appointing me to His service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display His perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in Him for eternal life. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”

You remember Paul, right? Paul was a blasphemer. A persecutor. An insolent opponent. He was ignorant and unbelieving. He proclaims his dire sinfulness! But here’s the thing. Even Paul—who was Saul at that time—could not escape the love, grace, and communion of our Triune God. And Paul invites us to give honor and glory to the only God, the King of the ages, because of His mercy and patience and faithfulness.

Why did the chief of sinners receive love, grace, and communion from God? Because the grace of our Lord overflowed for Paul with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. And this ought likewise to be our comfort and our hope, it ought to drive away fear and doubt. Our Lord Jesus Christ has grace for you and for me. Our God loves you and me. And the fellowship of the Holy Spirit reaches and embraces you and me. This is indeed a blessing. This is our firm foundation. This is encouraging. And it ought to give us hope to face trials and strength to climb mountains.

Aletheia, part ten

(…continued from Aletheia, part nine…)

The truth is, we are called to bear fruit in our motherhood. To produce it and to carry it. Put your hands to the work before you, planting and tending and praying for the coming harvest. The truth of who we are as mothers is that we are the nourishers and nurturers of the bodies, minds, and souls of the children entrusted to us. But it is not by our own strength that we can accomplish these things. It is only through the enabling strength of Christ, and His work on our behalf, that we can strengthen the bodies, instill wisdom in the minds, and fatten the souls of our children. This takes repentance. This takes humility. This takes a posture of being a student alongside our children, even while we labor as teacher. This takes being a discipler of our children, even while being a disciple of Christ alongside them.

Truthfully, there is no more important work than that of discipling our kids. Bringing them along with us to the Lord. We do this by faith, by example and by leading. Do your kids see the primacy of Christ in your life? Do they know that Scripture and prayer and repentance and forgiveness are the backbone of life? Are they growing in their knowledge of God’s Word? Are the affections of your family’s hearts set on things above or things on the earth? Is your family being conformed to this world or transformed by Christ and His Word? Are you pursuing being noticeably different than the world around you? How do your kids stand out as undeniably God’s children? Only the Lord knows the heart, but a tree is known by its fruit. Act, speak, and dress like redeemed people, purchased at a price.

Give your children opportunities to fellowship with faithful Christians outside your own home. Faithfully take them to worship corporately every Sunday morning. Show them the loveliness of the Lord’s Day by setting it apart from six days of work. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. Memorize Scripture in context. Teach through the practice of catechesis. Confess your sins against your children quickly and honestly. Forgive generously when your children sin against you. Be quick to listen and slow to speak. Smile in the faces of your children, and show them the joy of the Lord. Rejoice when your children rejoice, and sorrow with them when they are sorrowful. Show your children the grace of hospitality in the every day sacrificial acts of feeding them, clothing them, laying down your life for them even as Jesus washed the feet of His disciples. Tell your kids what you love about them, and what makes you thankful to be their mama. Speak blessing over them. Make your home a haven to which they long to flee for refuge, comfort, rest, fellowship, feasting, and joy. Lace the Word of God and the fruit of the Spirit through everything, because it is in Him that we live and move and have our being.

Proverbs 11:30 says, “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and whoever captures souls is wise.” Capture your children in the wonder of Christ. Proverbs 3 says, “Do not lose sight of these—keep sound wisdom and discretion, and they will be life for your soul and adornment for your neck. Then you will walk on your way securely, and your foot will not stumble. If you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. Do not be afraid of sudden terror or of the ruin of the wicked when it comes, for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught.”

Be encouraged, Mamas.

“But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God has from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which you have been taught, whether by word or letter. Now our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God our Father, who has loved us, and has given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts, and establish you in every good word and work.” (2 Thessalonians 2:13-17)

~~~

Heavenly Father, you are holy and you are good. You are the perfect husband and father. Please help us to rest in you, to bless Your name at all times, and to offer ourselves as willing vessels to be poured out for Your sake. Please mold us into godly wives who are complements to the specific husband you have given each of us, to be helpmeets that speak the truth in love, to grow in virtue, to be home centered home lovers. Please also mold us into godly mothers who love to nurture and nourish the children You have given us. Make us wise to the needs of our children’s bodies, souls, and minds. Cause us to be winsome examples for the sake of Christ, and enable us to lead our children in Your ways. Give us joy in the posture of humility as we repent of our ignorance and seek to grow in knowledge and wisdom even as we work to educate our children. Thank You for promising to be the God of our children, to those who love You and follow Your commandments, even unto a thousand generations. Enable us to mimic You in being kind, forgiving, generous, comforting, and truthful. Please return our minds and conversations to things which are worthy of meditation: honor, virtue, joy, and truth. Give renewed vision for who we are as Your people and how You have equipped us to work for Your kingdom. As we take dominion over the gardens allotted to us, please make us fruitful and bless the work of our hands. We offer ourselves to You in faith, knowing that You created and called us, and You will faithfully complete Your work in us. Please establish us in every good word and work, blinding us to falsehood and peeling the scales off our eyes to see Your truth. We thank You, and in the name of Jesus we boldly ask for blessing in all of these things. Amen.

Aletheia, part nine

(…continued from Aletheia, part eight…)

For a few years, I had an only child—and he took up all my time. Any extra time I had seemed to be spent researching how I could stop having miscarriages and give him siblings on earth. Motherhood was a very full time job, right from the get go. Now, a dozen years later, my five kids still take up all my time. I did not have more time then, I do not have more time now. Whether you have one child or ten children, motherhood is every day, around the clock. And I think this is never more true than for the homeschooling mama. I have some friends who don’t homeschool, and the things they accomplish during the hours when their children are away at school sounds absolutely fascinating to me. Floors get mopped and pianos get dusted? Hydrangeas get pruned and dental appointments happen on schedule? Who knew?! Their fruitfulness looks different than mine in many ways.

But mopping and dusting and pruning and planning aren’t paramount to me—nurturing and nourishing my children is. So I need to remember not to glance sideways at the fruit of others, but rather labor faithfully in the orchard where the Lord has placed me.

I would like to read you some wonderful words from a book called Building Her House, by a non-homeschooling mother:

“The wise woman understands that children are a source of joy and blessing entrusted to her by God, and she is to be a good steward of them, seeing that she takes care to dedicate her children to God and train them up as God’s own.” (Building Her House, Nancy Wilson, p61)

“Nothing we do in our homes is neutral; it will either feed and nourish or starve and impoverish.” (Building Her House, Nancy Wilson, p63)

“Life in our homes should be characterized by joy and thanksgiving so that children are taught and nourished in a way that takes their souls into account.” (Building Her House, Nancy Wilson, p17)

“Mothers must model forgiveness and repentance by seeking it themselves when they have been too hard on [their children].” (Building Her House, Nancy Wilson, p71)

Here are some key words that I gleaned from those quotes: wisdom, understanding, joy, blessing, entrusted, steward, care, dedicated, training, feed and nourish, starve and impoverish, thanksgiving, souls, model, forgiveness, repentance.

When was the last time you sinned against one of your children? When was the last time you asked their forgiveness? Over the years, I have grown in my repentance and begging forgiveness, but I still have much room to grow. Is your home characterized by joy and thanksgiving? Does the ambience in your home take the souls of your children into account? What might look different about it if you really thought about pursuing that nuance? Do you ever think that you are doing something neutral? That how you act, the work you do, the discipline or training of the kids, even the way you do the laundry could be neutral? Does it make your brain do a somersault to consider the idea that every action you take and every sentence you say will either nourish or impoverish your child? Do you look at your children as treasures that have been entrusted to you by God? Do you steward them well? What kind of profit will He see when He looks at these children in your care? Do we see beyond the diapers and fitful nights and math troubles and sibling squabbles and teen angst and acne and gangly limbs… to daily remember and recognize that these are immortals in our presence? Do we constantly consider the fact that the souls of these children will live forever? How can we live circumspectly to keep that in view?

Starting with prayer and praise is always a good answer. Seeking the face of the Lord and asking for Him to give that perspective and circumspection.

I also find that there are things I can do to put myself in the posture of that perspective. For instance, in the morning when I first see my children, I endeavor to hug them and greet them with a smile—whether or not I slept well, feel well, or even have an emotion of kindness at that moment. Praying with them and for them throughout the day, at prescribed times as well as in the heat of various moments. Remembering that not only are they as deeply human and personal as I am but that they are image-bearers of God and beloved of Him, my brothers and sisters in the Lord as well as my offspring—and in remembering their frailty as humans, making a point of physically connecting with them through the day by kissing a forehead, squeezing a hand, rubbing a shoulder, scratching a back, snuggling on the couch. Not all of my children are as fed by physical touch as some of them, but it is a good practice to fill up their love tanks not only with tasty meals, hot chocolate, funny stories, and the occasional date night, but also with physical touch.

Another thing I think is important is to leave my children at night with a feeling of comfort and confidence and care. No matter how hurried the bedtime routine has to be even on our latest or craziest nights, it must include praying over the children, singing them Numbers 6:24-26 as a blessing, and saying “peace be with you” to each child. I think it is really important for them to go to sleep knowing that we are at peace with one another, that I am asking for God’s blessing on them, and that I care for them intimately. I also have one child who struggles a little more than the others with feeling loved or wanted or appreciated, so I try to make a point of often saying “I am really thankful for you. I am thankful to be your mama. I really love X about you.” Nurturing and nourishing the mind and soul of my children is just as important as feeding and providing for their physical bodies.

Of course one of the main passions I have as a Christian homeschooling mother is bringing my children with me to the feet of Christ. It is important to nourish and nurture their bodies, their physical and mental selves, of course. But the sacred work of discipling them for the Lord is where we really get to live out what we say we believe. And that is precisely because we bring them with us to the feet of Christ in everything else we do.

Mark Chanski wrote, “How does a married woman with children forge a noble reputation in God’s eyes? She hammers it out on the anvil of sacrificial mothering. She gives herself wholly to the sacred mission of nurturing God-fearing children, from a spiritually healthy home environment… My goal is not to raise low-maintenance children, but lion-hearted ones.” (Womanly Dominion, Mark Chanski, p102/p141)

My friend Mystie Winckler has a saying: Repent. Rejoice. Repeat.
This is such a good and easy reminder to constantly have running through my head as I go about my day at home—one sinner running a three ring circus starring five other sinners. My day should be a continual cycle of repentance. Repenting of apathy. Repenting of selfishness. Repenting of a snappy response. Repenting of an unkind tone. Repenting of wrong priorities. Even education itself is a kind of repentance: it is repenting of ignorance.
I ought to be the one practicing repentance most openly, as I seek to bring my children with me in the sanctifying journey of daily living with the cross of Christ ever before us. “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God… Where is the one who is wise?… Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?… We preach Christ crucified!… Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God… God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are… and because of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption…” (1 Corinthians 1)

Amy Sloan writes, “God’s delight in us is due solely to the perfect obedience of His Son, not our amazing homeschooling.” Our daily living is to be one of repentance and rest in what Christ has done for us and for our children. Amy continues, “humility and repentance is an essential posture of the teacher and, in imitative turn, of the student.”

Like all children, mine ask constant questions. There is a continual seasoning in my homeschool days, constant peppering with How and Why. You might think, since my children are still fairly young and their grandest of questions are still relatively narrow in relative scope, that I would “have all the answers.” Or maybe you come from a background full of the classic responses of, “because I said so” or “it just is.” But my own ignorance is a reason for repentance, and the humility I long to see in my children needs to be exemplified in me as their example. George Grant says that “true education is a form of repentance. It is a humble admission that we’ve not read all that we need to read, we don’t know all that we need to know, and we’ve not yet become all that we are called to become. Education is that unique form of discipleship that brings us to the place of admitting our inadequacies.”

I have learned to love the posture of humility as I honestly reply to a question with, “I do not know.” And the real joy comes when I don’t leave it there. We repent of the ignorance by then saying, “Let’s find out together.”

C.S. Lewis said, “The surest sign of true intellectual acumen is a student’s comprehension of what it is he does not know; not what he does know. It is a spirit of humility that affords us with the best opportunity to grow, mature, and achieve in the life of the mind. It is knowing how much we do not know that enables us to fully embark on a lifetime of learning; to recover to any degree the beauty goodness and truth of Christendom.”

G.K. Chesterton encourages us that it is, “Far better to seek the wisdom of the common, the ordinary, and the humble—for God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

Research with your kids, plumb of the depths of the unknown hand in hand, seek knowledge and instruction and wisdom together. Unhindered by arrogance. Leave pride and self-righteousness and laziness at the door. Actually, kick it right out into the back alley. Teach your children that you are walking with Solomon in the pursuit of wisdom. If you don’t know where to begin, begin with Proverbs 1. Continue through Proverbs 31. And then do it again! Read Proverbs with your children on repeat. Not because the act of simply doing it will add any jewels to your crown, but because bathing ourselves in the wisdom of God slowly saturates us with Himself. And that is ultimately what we ought to be pursuing in our motherhood, in our homeschooling, and in every other aspect of who we are.

(…continued in Aletheia, part ten…)

Aletheia, part seven

(…continued from Aletheia, part six…)

First we talked about who we are as each being a particular helpmeet given to our particular husband, and then we talked about the spiritual side of being a wife who is growing in virtue—and I think they spiral together beautifully, when we seek to bless and help our husbands through the work of our hands and prayers, which both require virtues abundant… and now we turn to a third aspect of who we are as wives.

We read in Proverbs that “The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish pulls it down with her hands.” (Prov 14:1) And again: “Through wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.” (Prov 15:6) So to begin with, let me say that as we are talk about wise domesticity, I think those two Proverbs are a really good foundation for the conversation. In Building Her House, Nancy Wilson asks, “What is it that makes our homes truly pleasant places? Without a doubt, it is godly wisdom. When wisdom is at home, home is a delight.” (Building Her House, Nancy Wilson, p99) Extrapolating the opposite, I think we can also infer that when there is folly at home, home is unlovely.

Again referencing Titus 2:3-5, we look to the Apostle Paul for wisdom. This is where we read that older women are to “be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things”—and then we can ask, what are the good things that need to be taught? Wisdom wants to know so that we can build our house! We want to understand so that our home can be established! We want to grow in knowledge so that the rooms of our domain will be full and pleasant. Well, we read on to see that the older women are to “admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands”—and why is this? Paul gives us the exact reason: “that the word of God may not be blasphemed.” (Titus 2:3-5)

It isn’t so that we will have the best house on the block, the most curated Instagram, the cutest family walking in to church on Sunday… It isn’t even so that we will be known as a fantastic wife or as a super godly Christian. Nope. The reason the older women are to teach the younger women these things is for God’s glory, and to uphold His holy Word.

When I was young, I always found it interesting that young women need to be taught to love their husbands and to love their children. At least those things seemed to be such natural things—even if we struggle with discretion or chastity, goodness or domesticity or submission. Loving my husband and children? Why would I need taught that?! As I have gotten older, I have realized that my understanding of love has grown, and I now know that loving my husband and loving my children actually takes practice and discipline! Learning how to love these particular people given particularly to me is a lifelong education as a wife and mother. And I do not want to grow weary or lazy in the pursuit of this good work. So having older, wiser women to remind me—admonish me—to love well and love specifically and love in truth is a real gift. And as I get older, I get to link arms with the younger women to remind them of these truths as well.

Love your husband. Love your children. By doing these things you will proclaim the purity and verity of God’s Word.

In 1 Peter we read that we are to “be of one mind, having compassion for one another, loving one another, be tenderhearted, be courteous, do not return evil for evil but rather blessing…” (and later), “be serious and watchful in your prayers. And above all things have fervent love for one another, for love will cover a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” (1 Peter 4)

Who we are in our emotional, mental, and spiritual selves is who we are in our active, physical selves as well. We live our theology! It comes out in our thoughts, words, and actions. What you believe necessarily shapes how you live. So these passages from the New Testament are telling us as Christian wives how we are to live out our theology in wisdom. I am still in the mid-generation of womanhood: I have older women who teach me, and I have younger women who ask to learn from me. But right here are the most solid things I have both learned and now teach as a Christian wife: I am to be reverent, chaste, a teacher of good things; I am to love my husband and love my children; I am to be discreet, home centered, and obedient to my husband; I am to be compassionate, loving, tenderhearted, courteous, prayerful, forgiving, and hospitable. (And any of it, by God’s grace alone.)

A number of years ago, I started this blog, calling it Joyful Domesticity. I knew that those were two words that I needed to have constantly in front of me to remind me of my duties: I was called to be joyful and called to pursue the arts of domesticity. I would dare say that those many things I just listed off could boil down roughly to joy and domesticity. Those two things are indescribably broad, yet beautifully narrow.

Allow me to share with you an excerpt from an essay called, “The Emancipation of Domesticity”:

But when people begin to talk about this domestic duty as not merely difficult but trivial and dreary, I simply give up the question. For I cannot with the utmost energy of imagination conceive what they mean. When domesticity, for instance, is called drudgery, all the difficulty arises from a double meaning in the word. If drudgery only means dreadfully hard work, I admit the woman drudges in the home, as a man might drudge at the Cathedral of Amiens or drudge behind a gun at Trafalgar. But if it means that the hard work is more heavy because it is trifling, colorless and of small import to the soul, then as I say, I give it up; I do not know what the words mean. No; a woman’s function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute. I will pity Mrs. Jones for the hugeness of her task; I will never pity her for its smallness. ~ G.K. Chesterton, from “The Emancipation of Domesticity”

I think the words “gigantic” and “hugeness” are lovely there. The height, depth, and breadth of our work as wives and keepers of homes is undoubtedly enormous. Nancy Wilson says that “It’s one thing to have strong views about the glorious calling of vocational domesticity; it is another thing altogether to live it out, day after day.” (Building Her House, Nancy Wilson, p39) Yes, it is exhausting. But it is not exhausting because it is small, unimportant, or boring. It is nothing short of the business of the entire world, bundled up into one home, over which we as wife are regent. It is our job as keeper of the home, or homemaker, to keep it and make it. Not as a place to constantly be heading away from, bustling hither and yon, but as the place to which everyone is magnetically pulled. A place to gather and feast, to celebrate and rejoice, to grieve and mourn, to study and learn. Home is not just where we rest at night: it is where we create community, foster fellowship, live life.

Domesticity is a broad field and encompasses all of life in and around the home. We could go back to Proverbs 31 again, and see the incredible skills and talents and capabilities exhibited in her creative, innovative industries… but let me simply say, we can not create a to-do list (or a to-learn list) from Proverbs 31. That is not what we are called to do with this passage of Scripture. Rather, it is a description meant to inspire us toward our own domestic joys! That woman is clearly enjoying herself, flourishing and prospering, and using what gifts, resources, and opportunities God has given her. So we ought not individually feel burdened to produce something comparable to the Proverbs 31 description (what a relief!), but exhorted to follow the lead of her attitude, her industrious nature. No two homes will be exactly alike, but it ought to be our goal to have homes which are well-managed and which well-represent the family living there. Nancy Wilson said, “if we want to change the world one home at a time, then we have to start by taking dominion of our own homes.” We must determine to become skilled at the tasks God has assigned us.

Psalm 128:3 says, “your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the very heart of your house.” The wife is central, at the heart of it all. What a privilege! What a responsibility.

So in the heart of our house, we are to imitate our God, the Maker. We are to be making our homes, taking dominion there, subduing the dust bunnies and laundry hampers and our own selfish ambition. We understand that without Christian homes, there can be no Christian culture: each one of our homes is a building block in the big project of Christendom. Keep the big picture in view. And be a woman who fills your home with good things, pleasant things, necessary and true and lovely things. Glorified things! Hot meals, cold drinks, the best stories, good music, birthday gifts, laughter, justly metered work, limitations and consequences, cleaned messes, songs and back scratches. A woman who fears the Lord provides stability, comfort, beauty, and order in her home. This is wisdom. And it is a tall order, requiring faith, hard work, and a vivid imagination.

What I can lose sight of so quickly is that it isn’t about me doing or being these things. It is about Christ in me, accomplishing good works He prepared for me, in order to further His kingdom. It is about the work He accomplished for me as my Redeemer, and now I get to live in submission to Him. We could list off all the things we do as wife and homemaker: but none of it matters if I am not given over to the Holy Spirit.

So the third truth about who we are as wives is that we are given the vast dominion of the home to subdue, cultivate, craft, fill, and share. How we each live that out will necessarily look different from home to home—but living it out in wisdom will build your home and bless your husband when you are focused more on the work Christ did for you than on the work you now do for Him.

As wives, we get to shine the truth of the gospel by seeking to be obedient, wise, virtuous, helpful, domestic artists ~ all for the furthering of God’s kingdom.

(…continued in Aletheia, part eight…)

Aletheia, part six

(…continued from Aletheia, part five…)

The second truth we will consider now relates to how we can help our husbands. This truth is that, as godly wives, we are called to both ponder and pursue virtue—and this, my friends, is a great help to a husband.

“Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies. The heart of her husband safely trusts her; so he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil all the days of her life.” Proverbs 31:10-11

That is an extremely familiar passage for many Christian wives, but it is something which ought to be deeply pondered as well as broadly known. First of all, it says “a virtuous wife”—but what is virtue? In 2 Peter 1:5-8, we see the exhortation; “giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

This tells us that if we are faithfully increasing in these things mentioned by Peter, the result is that we will be rooted and fruitful in the knowledge of Christ. What better endeavor could there be for Christian women? Our goal ought to be to grow in our faith and love for God, and through those avenues we will grow in good works. So back to the question of virtue: a virtuous woman is a woman who exhibits godly character traits, because virtues are qualities that God’s Word defines for us. Of course some virtues may fall out of favor with the world because unbelievers can call evil good and good evil. A modern dictionary simply defines virtue as “conformity to a right standard” or “moral excellence.” For us, God’s Word shines the light of truth! In Philippians 4:8, we read that “if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” Virtue is obviously praiseworthy, and we are commanded to focus and fill our mind with it. So we can see that we are to think about virtue as well as pursue it.

And underlying all of this, we must remember to be keenly aware that without the grace of God, none of our labor is worth anything. Our pursuit of holiness, our quest for virtue, is all of grace or it is all for naught. It is of primary importance for us to know and remember that He is the One making us fruitful. 1 Corinthians 15:10 says, “but by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”

Indeed, I can see why a virtuous wife would be so invaluable. I can see why the heart of a husband could safely trust in a virtuous wife. I can see that her fruitfulness in virtue would overflow to keep him from lacking gain. A virtuous woman would purpose to do good to her husband and to avoid sinning against him.

So in the twenty verses which follow in Proverbs 31, while it does not list out virtues by name, it does describe the characteristics which a godly wife could seek in her quest toward growing in virtue.

What qualities come to mind when you think of the word “virtue”?
Fruits of the Spirit maybe, Purity, Holiness, Chastity, Obedience, Diligence, Contentment, Prudence, Wisdom, Humility, Courage, Kindness, Loyalty, Gratitude, Patience, Domesticity… this is clearly not an exhaustive list. But it is a starting point.

What qualities do you see in Proverbs 31 specifically as you read through 31:10-31? What words would you use to describe her? Going straight through the twenty-one verses in this passage, this is the progression I could see at a glance:
Valuable, Valued, Trustworthy, Productive, Good, Industrious, Resourceful, Diligent, Hospitable, Generous, Savvy, Practical, Strong, Fit, Thoughtful, Confident, Attentive, Creative, Compassionate, Courageous, Prepared, Artistic, Innovative, Respected, Respectful, Capable, Honored, Preparing, Organized, Rejoicing, Wise, Kind, Observant, Blessed, Admired, Godly, Fruitful, Rewarded.

I don’t know about you, but I am simultaneously humbled and have my sails filled by that list. And I think it is a good reminder about two things specifically. One, how broad my calling is—how I could never hit the apex in an entire lifetime—so I ought never have an excuse of growing bored or stagnant. And, two, how narrow my calling is, because I am not called to be all these things to all people everywhere—rather, I am called to be these things right here, at home, with my people, amidst my community.

So this second truth about who we are is that we are called to be virtue-seeking wives. We are called to ponder and pursue virtue, godly characteristics laid out for us throughout Scripture. This is an incredibly vast nuance, covered with a wide lens, not a zoom. Thankfully, we each have the rest of our lives to “add to our faith, virtue.”

(…continued in Aletheia, part seven…)

Holy Week, iv

Holy Week, iv ~ Holy Wednesday, “Spy Wednesday”; plotting against Jesus, anointing Jesus; teaching, resting, fellowshipping.

Discussion Points:
What was Judas doing on the Wednesday before the crucifixon? Who did he conspire with? What was Jesus doing? Where was He resting? Who was He teaching? Who anointed Him, and what is the significance of this offering?
(Here is an interesting blog about Spy Wednesday.)

Art Study:
Study the visual difference between faithful following and plotting following. What is the posture? Where is there light versus darkness?

File:Master of Perea - Saint Mary Magdalen anointing the feet of Christ - 1975.95.1 - Yale University Art Gallery.jpg
Saint Mary Magdalen Anointing the Feet of Christ
Artist: Master of Perea, Spanish, Valencia, active ca. 1490–1510
Dixon, Maynard_Shapes of Fear
Maynard Dixon (American, 1875–1946), Shapes of Fear, 1930–32

Scripture Reading:
Psalm 70
Matthew 26:6-16
Luke 20:19-26
Luke 22:1-6
John 12:36-50
Hebrews 12:1-3

Hymn:

Snack & Stories:
Today we will eat simple bread and fruit, such as Jesus and the disciples may have had while traveling and fellowshipping and teaching. And we will read The Jesus Story by Mary Batchelor.

Poetry:
Holy Sonnets by John Donne

Activity:
Playing some spy games (ideas here and here to be a fun mom)
Printable activities:

Listening:

Bach’s Chorales & Partita No. 2 in D Minor—Holy Week festival, Tenebrae (what is a Tenebrae?)