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.

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.

Sweet Paideia

One week ago, my sweet little girl decided to make a surprise for her new friends at ballet. She has been trying to find ways to connect with the girls in her new class this year, which is difficult when they are not allowed to talk or giggle during class (they are very focused on their poise and form and classroom respect), and with all the weird restrictions our state has over gatherings… honestly, it’s almost surprising that we are allowed to have classes at all. Praise the Lord, we can! But how to overcome the obstacles of our current culture’s mania when my little girl just wants to hug and talk and smile and be close and interact and pursue fellowship… let’s just say, it has been a bit of a fickle pickle to iron out.

She started with writing letters to a couple of her fellow ballerinas, and then at the next class after that, one of the moms pursued a conversation with me to tell me how incredibly timely and kind the letter-writing gesture had been. Our daughters came out of class then, and spent the next fifteen minutes giggling and talking and dancing on the studio patio.

So her next creative idea was to bake cookies for her classmates as a special surprise. She had all the ingredients set out, found a recipe she wanted to use, and waited all day for me to have the time to help her. It went beautifully until she was adding eggs… and unfortunately dropped an entire egg — including the shell — into the mixer — while it was beating. Immediately, I turned off the preheating oven and broke the news that that was my last pound of butter and cup of brown sugar, so we would have to wait a week to make cookies for her class. Cue the tears! I may have briefly considered the possibility of using tweezers to scrutinize the bowl of dough and try to pull out three hundred shards of eggshell like so many splinters…

She sadly got into jammies and brushed her teeth, all the while blinking back tears that desperately wanted to wash her freckled cheeks. I climbed into bed with her to scratch her back and have a conversation. What makes this the hardest tonight? She replied, my friends won’t get to have cookies tomorrow! I smiled at her and said, but maybe there is a reason why God wants you to bring cookies NEXT week. Maybe one of your classmates is really going to need the encouragement of a kind gesture and friendly gift at that point. God knows all the details of the things we can’t even imagine.

She looked at me, fairly satisfied. And so for the last few days, she had mentioned now and then how she wonders what her new friends are doing, going through, enjoying, struggling with — and she is hoping that bringing cookies to them will be a timely blessing.

We bought more butter. And brown sugar. And this time, we will crack the eggs into a cup before pouring them carefully into the mixer set in its off position.

~~~

When we were discussing the idea of making cookies as a gesture of kindness and friendship, Evangeline said that it seemed like a Christian thing to do: to make something lovely or delicious without someone expecting anything, and to just bless them out of nowhere. And I think she’s exactly right. This is the kind of gesture a godly paideia longs to produce. An 8 year old little girl who can articulate on her own that making cookies for her ballet classmates can be an embodiment of “virtues like the fruits of the Spirit.” When I asked her which fruits she thought cookie-baking and cookie-gifting might embody, she smiled and said, “love and joy definitely; peace like fellowship between new friends; I had to have patience because of the whole eggshell problem last week; kindness and goodness are like giving a special surprise to someone; but I’m not sure I can find faithfulness and self control…” I reminded her at that point that she has a very faithful pursuit of trying to be friendly and to generate actual friendship with these girls. And while we laughed at self control because we can’t mention that virtue relating to cookies without Frog and Toad immediately coming to mind… (tell me you know that kid lit reference!), it is also true that Evangeline has had to pursue self control in class not to giggle and chitchat with these new friends, which honestly is what urged her to try finding more creative, out of the box ways to connect with classmates.

I think this is the kind of moment where I really want to be purposed in pointing out that glimpse of paideia. Recognizing that something as simple as homemade cookies… and as complicated as ruining the first batch of dough, thus needing to wait an entire week before trying again… can bring about a sweet conversation about philosophical paideia intersecting with practical paideia… that is a beautiful step for me. It’s my friends at PaideiaSoutheast.com that help urge me onward and upward in this continued conversation. And I am finding that the more I open my eyes, asking myself how can I glimpse paideia here?, the more easily I see it. Godly paideia fleshed out and lived to the fullest.

So this is the sweetness of a little Christian girl, giving of herself for the enjoyment of others. And I praise His holy name.

Glimpsing Paideia

I have always loved the word paideia. It’s a word I kind of grew up on. Having been raised in the Reformed Christian tradition, Greek and Hebrew and Latin words are not unfamiliar to me, although I have never even considered the option of studying one of those languages to the point where I were fluent or able to translate anything. But when it comes to original languages, especially used in Scripture, I have a longing to know the translation and the etymology and the various definitions and applications of a word. Paideia was one of those words introduced to me from childhood, thanks to Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. I think it is fairly safe to say that all children raised in a Christian household have been taught Ephesians 6:1 from a very early age: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right,” and many of us probably even went so far as to have memorized verses 2 & 3 on its heels: “Honor your father and mother (this is the first commandment with a promise), that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” But I think it is less commonplace for verse 4 to be memorized and catechized in our families: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

As a parent, it can be tempting to bark Ephesians 6:1 without first washing ourselves in the gentle command here to parents (fathers specifically). DO NOT provoke your children to anger. Rather, DO bring them up in the paideia of the Lord.

That’s where we see the Greek work paideia.
Biblical translators have a variety of different English words they use in our English Bibles, but they are just insufficient for the height and breadth and depth of what the Greek word would encompass.

Britannica says:
Paideia, (Greek: “education,” or “learning”), system of education and training in classical Greek and Hellenistic (Greco-Roman) cultures that included such subjects as gymnastics, grammar, rhetoric, music, mathematics, geography, natural history, and philosophy.

Merriam-Webster shares this definition:
1: training of the physical and mental faculties in such a way as to produce a broad enlightened mature outlook harmoniously combined with maximum cultural development
2: the ideal development envisioned or attained by paideia

And John Piper shares the Greek here:
Fathers . . .
bring them up (ektrephete auta)
in the discipline (paideia)
and instruction (nouthesia)
of the Lord (kuriou).

John Piper continues by saying, “This word [paideia] signifies the actions a father takes to give his children the abilities and skills and character to live life to the glory of God. It is not synonymous with teaching. It is more full and more active.” (emphasis mine)

I have previously written here about paideia as well: how it is the complete enculturation of a person (or society), which is not limited to religion or education, but includes all aspects of training, education, nourishment, nurture, instruction, discipline, and enculturation! The Greeks were endeavoring to raise fantastic little Greek citizens, for which they used the term paideia: but our endeavor as Christian parents is of raising faithful Christian citizens of heaven, using that same all-encompassing term paideia.

But talking about the philosophy surrounding and supporting godly paideia isn’t the whole story. It needs fleshed out! It isn’t enough to simply say, “raise your kids in a decidedly Christian way, and voila, there you have it!” A friend of mine from Paideia Southeast was telling me recently how it feels like raising her kids in the paideia of the Lord is like driving a train down the track… but she is currently laying the track upon which they are driving! And it is exhausting to lay the track while driving the train. And sometimes we don’t even know what other well-used train tracks look like, so we are planning the path of the track while laying it while driving down it. Whew! How much more of a blessing it is to be driving down an already-laid track, or at least to have another track nearby for reference and recommendations.

How do we actively pursue the paideia of the Lord as we raise our children? What are some simple ways for starting out on laying that track? Where are visuals to remind me that it looks different in different families? I am looking now for glimpses of paideia around me. Specific instances where I see godly culture being cultivated both in my home and in the homes of others around us. In pictures, in books, in conversations, in posts online. I want to recognize it myself, point it out to my children, and share it with my friends. The paideia of the Lord.

Oh, may the Lord give me eyes to glimpse His paideia in palpable, practical application so that I can walk in faithfulness for the furthering of His kingdom. Amen.

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

Friday Collective

Have I mentioned yet that I am trying to call our Morning Time routine something different now? Partly because “Morning Time” is a little inaccurate since sometimes we don’t do it in the morning… and the time of day is certainly not the spine of this family gathering. I know people who call it Gathering or Symposium… but the word that I recently stumbled on and decided to clasp is Collective. I feel like that word really captures the essence of what I want to accomplish and cultivate: collecting people together to collect & cultivate culture together. I mean, the simple definition in the dictionary is “a cooperative enterprise.” But in a homey way, I just love the idea of collecting my people and collecting truth, goodness, and beauty alongside them. THAT is the spine of what I want to do during this time.

So my Morning Time posts are now simply Collective. Our Morning Time Cart is now happily renamed the Collective Cart. And we are trying to remember to refer to this time as Collective in conversation, even though we do occasionally slip into the old phrasing of Morning Time. Old habits really do die hard. I have been so ingrained with Cindy Rollins, Sarah Mackenzie, & Pam Barnhill’s teachings over the years that I can’t exactly just move on without some serious retraining. 😉 I’m too connected to Schole Sisters to make the switch lightly or simply!

Without further distraction, then…

FRIDAY COLLECTIVE, 4.16.21

Poetry Readings:
selections from Sing a Song of Seasons
selections from Amy Carmichael’s Mountain Breezes

Scripture Readings:
Psalm 24:1-10
Proverbs 16:1-16
John 6:1-21

Copywork:
Nehemiah 8:10
Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

Memory Work:
The Peace of Wild Things by Wendell Berry
1 Peter 3:10
G: Epilogue from The Lay of Redemption by Joseph Carlson
A: Jesus is the Beautiful Gate by Jason Farley
E: Resurrection Sunday (1) by Joseph Carlson
S: David (1 & 2) by Joseph Carlson

Catechism:
G & A reviewing the New City Catechism (finished all 52 here, so this is their third completed catechism)
E continuing through the New City Catechism (on question 20, this is her third catechism)
S continuing through The Kid’s Catechism (on question 82, this is his second catechism)

Hymn of the month:
Christ the Lord is Risen Today (Charles Wesley)

Psalm of the month:
Psalm 35, Behold, the Love, the Generous Love (Isaac Watts & Seaborn Denson)

Additional singing:
Taizé Gloria
Psalm 117
Psalm 92
Psalm 128
The Apostles (Jamie Soles)
Follow the Line (Jamie Soles)
The Beatitudes (David Erb)

Ancient History reading:
Mystery of History, Vol 1, pages 378-384
Story of the World, Vol 1, pages 285-287
Child’s History of the World, pages 159-163

Church History reading:
selection from Radiant by Richard Hannula

Fiction reading:
Strays by Remy Wilkins
stack of picture books, including Home in the Woods by Eliza Wheeler, We Are the Gardeners by Joanna Gaines, and Petunia by Roger Duvoisin

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…)

A Series is on the way

Back in January, I received a message from someone who knew me through my conference work at Paideia Northwest, asking if I would speak at a weekend retreat in March. I remember actually busting up into giggles: no, really – I did that! When my husband, who was sipping coffee nearby, asked what was so funny, I said, “I think somebody must have me confused with someone else. Because I just got a message asking if I would speak at an upcoming retreat.” My husband didn’t see the level of humor I did, and admitted, “I think you would do a great job at that. What makes you think it wasn’t intended for you?”

I am pretty sure I gave him a blank stare. Giggles stifled, I sent a quick response basically just clarifying who I am, and checking to see if the request was actually for me. I admitted that it has been almost ten years since I have spoken officially at anything… you know, outside of being the emcee of a medium-sized conference every November in recent years. I figured the sender would appreciate being given an “out” once they realized their mistake in reaching out to me.

I was surprised to shortly receive a response which clarified that they knew exactly who I was, and I was exactly the person they wanted speaking at their upcoming event. And she knew that I was not a seasoned speaker… and apparently that didn’t matter to her, and wasn’t necessarily what she was looking for.

She told me the topic and theme for the retreat weekend, and I began to pray and read some books and decided to step across the threshold of the door God was opening.

Tomorrow evening, I will be giving my first of two sessions. I will give the second one on Saturday morning. I don’t have stagefright about being in front of people: honestly, I think that whole idea of being an emcee in front of three hundred people every November has sucked those nerves right outta me. But I have a deep desire to simply be a conduit of God’s grace to this group of women… and I am confident that while I have nothing to offer, the Lord can use me. Even me. Even my words.

So I am praying for the women that will be sitting near, maybe even note-taking, while I deliver a little treatise on a large topic.

I ended up having so much to say about the subject that I wrote it all down, and decided to share all of it in a blog series here. I will use some of the things for my talks, of course, but with only a total of ninety minutes of presenting, I won’t be able to cover as much ground there as I can in a blog series. There are no time limits when it comes to blogging!

This is the pile of books that I started with, and I will share links to each one. They are not all created equal, and just because I revisited them or even quote from them doesn’t mean that I would encourage you to go out and buy them or gift them or apply them unapologetically. Sometimes mediocre books have wonderful things to chew on, but there are also things to be spit out. Have wisdom. And I would love to engage further about these books or the series that will begin to go live tomorrow… so if anybody wants to discuss these things, just contact me and I will get back to you: I won’t even laugh out loud, thinking you contacted me by mistake.

To whet your appetite, here is what’s coming:

The Truth of Who We Are

  • as Christians
  • as women
  • as wives
    (homemakers)
  • as mothers
    (homeschoolers)

and how the light of the Gospel shines here

Wonder Gardens


Spring is trying to sprout, and we are loving the sunshine and longer days! My three younger children walk around with their eyes searching for treasures, their boots sloshing in mud, their fingers sticky with pine sap. The one year old is learning about prickly pine needles and pokey pinecones (he is not a fan). The five year old collects a pile of rocks, the eight year old collects chunks of bright green fuzzy moss: they both run to the garage to pilfer old cardboard boxes to fill with their treasures.

When I return from a walk to reach my 75K workweek steps, during which I was listening to an audiobook on authenticity in the Christian walk, the children want to go into the house with me. Tea and stories, they beg! I make no promises but agree it is a lovely scheme. I watch them grab small cardboard boxes, and they ask where they can store their treasures. Is there a shelf in the garage where we can make space for these boxes?

Suddenly I think about boxes of treasures in basements. Parents and grandparents who have lovely things boxed up and put on shelves. Stored away. Supposedly treasured, yet simply coffined.

I stop the children, and stoop down to meet their eyes. “Why would you find treasures, just to put them in a box and hide them on a shelf? Wouldn’t you rather beautify something with them?”

Quizzical looks spread across their faces. They don’t quite understand.

“Did you collect these things because you find them lovely or pretty or wonderful? Let’s not stuff your treasures away, let’s use them to beautify something. Let’s go plant a wonder garden!”

We found a little cove in a forest stand right by the driveway, and two children each claimed a small spot of earth. They unpacked their treasures, decorating their garden spot with tangible pieces of wonder.

Sparkly rocks encircle tree trunks like necklaces. Pieces of moss line up against a fallen branch like a lace collar.

They are catching on.

A pile of deer bones, an antler, a bucket of shells from last summer’s scouring of the beach… the children suddenly see their treasures with new eyes. Not just as things to hoard and collect, to quantify and pile up like a dragon. But rather as things to use and bless, to decorate and share. To take dominion over a spot in the forest by sprinkling gathered wonder.

We’ll see if this idea catches on. But for now, even the tiny seed of idea makes the possibility bubble in joy.

Now we can go in the house. Now that we have found a proper home for your treasures, let’s go sip tea and read stories.”