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.”

Spending Days

When it comes to learning and growing in my calling as a mama, I always enjoy gleaning from those a little bit further down the motherhood road than I am. I love to learn from books and blogs and podcasts, but one of the best ways to learn can be by watching people in your actual life, and asking questions of flesh & blood mamas within your own circles. This week, I asked a friend (whose kids are all teens now) how their family spends weekends. Not because I was wondering how to spend our family weekends now, but because I was curious about what life might look like in a few years.

But the thing Betsy said that stood out the most to me was a simple way of stating something inherently obvious:
“If you spend your Saturdays right, you can spend your Sundays right.”

And that sentiment is timeless, applicable to all phases of family life and places of living. It is true whether you are single or married, have children or not, work outside the home or not, live in the country or suburbs or city or Sahara Desert.

It reminded me of the kitschy cliché “how you spend your days is how you spend your life.”

Ephesians 5:15-17 says, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”

How do you spend your days?
How do you want to spend your days?
When you think of “spending” your days, do you recognize that there is only a limited amount in that bank account? (And we don’t know when it will run out.)
Do you think of spending your days simply along lines of how you fill your hours with tasks? Or do you realize that you spend your days smiling or crying, eyes on phone or nose in books, thankful or bitter, circumspect or thrown to the wind?

Taking Steps

A year ago, I bought myself a FitBit watch, and grew accustomed to wearing it within a couple weeks, just like my friend Abby said I would. It had been years since I had kept the habit of wearing a watch! Mostly because I always had my cell phone with me, and it’s not like I really needed to keep track of time minute by minute. I have clocks throughout the house anyway, and the digital one on the car’s clock radio works just fine for me, thank you very much. But I have grown to actually really enjoy having a watch, especially because it means I don’t have to be pulling my phone out of my pocket every time I want to glance at the time… which is also particularly helpful, as I don’t necessarily always have it on me, since I like to practice the “foyer phone” mentality (so described in a recent Simply Convivial email by my friend Mystie) by treating my cell phone as a house phone rather than an additional appendage. Its home is in a pocket of my purse, which has its home on a hook by my desk in the kitchen. The kids all know how to access it and how to use it, and only once has one of the kids accidentally called 9-1-1.

But I digress.

My wrist is now a happy home for the watch. Which happens to count my steps, in addition to keeping me informed on the current time and reminding me to move if I grow too sedentary and showing me when a text message arrives. And while I do not have any firm or lofty goals like “lose ten pounds this year” or “go down one dress size by 2022,” I would like to continue striving toward reaching my daily (6 days a week) step goal. In fact, I would love to do 150% of my goal three times a week. I’m not sure I can do it, but having a little friendly competition does help. I am not the early bird at getting my steps, but I do like to get a quick walk in a couple times a day, and I love walking stairways after putting kids to bed or walking circles in my family room as I read aloud to the kids in the afternoon… or listening to an audiobook while I sweat on the elliptical in the basement every now and then.

I do like to take steps.
I enjoy the feeling of stretching, growing, progressing, hitting goals.

And another way I am trying to take steps this year is in my continued reading habits in pursuit of personal education & study. I have shared before about my Scholé Sisters reading challenge, and my decision to dive in over my head by adding a Literary Life reading challenge as well. A friend of mine at Redeemed Reader gleefully told me that I may as well try to fit all of those things into a 100-book reading challenge. We will see if I can squish and squash my books into that. Could be fun! I used to have my kids participate in the Read Aloud Revival read aloud challenge every January… but this year we finally outgrew it, as it felt completely obsolete: my kids all read aloud constantly! To each other, to themselves, to me, even to their great grandma. They ARE still doing the Ticket to Read reading challenge that earns them free admission to a nearby amusement park (it only requires ten hours of recreational reading, which my kids accomplish lickity-split on the regular anyway), and they will certainly want to sign up for reading challenges at Barnes & Noble and Pizza Hut again… as always… because they are avid readers, so they may as well enjoy some perks along the way.

As a busy mama of five super active (including some officially hyperactive, and gifted, or 2E) kids to educate and shape and discipline and disciple… not to mention supporting my husband with his company (and in four weeks he will officially be working from home fulltime), running our home, showing hospitality, and my part time ministry doing Paideia Northwest conferences every year… I actually need to practice good planning and lots of self-discipline if I want to keep up with my own education through the pursuit of reading and study.

How in the world do I accomplish this?! By taking the appropriate steps. By walking the journey alongside friends. Sharing reading lists and thoughts on the newest books we have finished. By writing down what I want to read, keeping a TBR (to be read) stack on my bedside table as well as a virtual list of audiobooks in a queue. And by giving myself other little reasons for taking each step (each book), one by one.

One of my most recently accomplished incentives was knowing that three friends of mine would be reading Salt Fat Acid Heat together. And since I have been wanting to read that for a while, it was a great reason to simply take the step of reading it. What a wonderful book! I really loved it. And now if I hear these three friends talk about it in the future, I will have a great idea of their conversational context, and just might be able to insert an occasional intelligent comment of my own. (No promises though.)

And my newest incentive was being asked to speak at a women’s retreat this spring. A knee-jerk reaction of mine was that I could toss together the two sessions without studying or planning or prepping much… but that is not what I want to do. I want to be stretched and grown and studied. I want to revisit books I have read before, and read a couple others that seem pertinent. And not only do I want to read these things as steps toward being well-prepared for public speaking in two months, but I also would love to blog my way through some of the thought processes.

So these are some steps I am taking in 2021. Physical steps to care for this physical body God has given me. Educational steps to grow the mind and spirit God has given me. Please walk with me as I take these steps, one by one, regularly and consistently. And please share with me what steps God is putting into your path! I love to see how He is at work.

Joyful Domesticity’s Summer Reading Challenge, 2019

Joyful Domesticity Summer Reading Challenge

One of the things I really love about homeschooling is how each of our family members both contributes and receives from the culture in our home without much contradiction from outside input. We are constantly discussing, evaluating, and sifting what we see, hear, and experience through our Christian worldview and family culture. I have posted before (it seems so long ago) about the main loves in our family and home ~ broadly stroking, books & food & music.

This last year, perhaps more than any other, our love for books and love of story has been quite pronounced. I have long loved the Read Aloud Revival, and have enjoyed the community of membership there this last year. I have found encouragement and validation and camaraderie over literature there, and it brings delight to my heart. I have also found a lot of encouragement and camaraderie at Simply Convivial and Scholé Sisters this last year, thanks to the community-building efforts of my friend Mystie. It is such a blessing & boon to know that I am not alone in my journey, even if many of my connections necessarily happen online.

Something that I have loved every summer with my children is pursuing a variety of reading challenges. We participate in Read to Ride, Barnes & Noble’s summer reading journal, Pizza Hut’s Book It program, and we have also enjoyed summer reading challenges from Exodus Books and Veritas Press in the past. This summer I have crafted a slightly more personalized take on it for my children. They will get to put stickers on their completed squares through the end of August, and there will be rewards for every dozen squares marked off. You may notice that there are a few specific books and authors ~ these are to help my children & me keep up with the Family Book Clubs my friend Sarah & her Read Aloud Revival team host each month. And then we love taking rabbit trails from those ideas, exploring more of the authors & illustrators we meet there, and build a lot of our library holds list from that. But the majority of these challenge boxes are much more open, more free. It is up to parental discretion whether a book can be used to check off more than one box, or whether each book should only qualify for one box at a time.

REWARDS for every dozen checked boxes:

  • Ice cream sundae
  • Movie date
  • Staying up thirty minutes late
  • Cookies & lemonade picnic
  • Choosing a new book on Amazon
  • Visiting local amusement park (with free tickets!)

I will also be sharing some of our favorite titles and authors that suit some of these categories, to encourage your own library holds list to grow!

Please feel free to print and enjoy Joyful Domesticity’s Summer Reading Challenge, and fatten the hearts & minds of your family this season along with us! And if you are so inclined, please leave comments sharing some of your favorite authors, illustrators, titles, and wins so we can learn from one another.

A Break for Breathing

It may seem as though even I were new around here now, it has been so long since there has been any update here on Joyful Domesticity. This has been a break for breathing, a season for a deep breath. A season for new journeys, and adjustments to old paths that take new winding turns.

For anyone who is genuinely new to glancing around Joyful Domesticity, please allow me to briefly introduce myself. I am Melissa Joy, a second generation Christian homeschooling mother in the Pacific Northwest. I have been married to my husband Steven since 2007, and we have been deepening our walk with each other & our walk with Christ ever since. One way He has broadened our faith and deepened our theology is through the sanctification of parenting: what a joy, what a privilege, what a hope, what a responsibility! He has blessed us with fourteen children: nine in heaven, four in our home, one in the womb.  Our journey of recurrent miscarriage has been very shaping and honing, of our individual spiritual lives as well as of our family culture at large. I continue to endeavor to reach out in empathy, compassion, understanding, and aid for other grieving mamas. I continue to learn much from the experiences and community God has put in my story.
We homeschool our little band of redheads on family property in the countryside in a Classical Christian model, emphasizing truth, beauty, & goodness through the means of books, music, science, math, art, books, language arts, penmanship, computer skills, books, history, geography, handcrafts, theology, and more books. We delight in embracing life together in our home, our homeschooling community, our church family. My husband operates a company called Olive Tree Bible Software with passion, patience, and diligence. I recently began an endeavor called Paideia Northwest, where we aim to host an annual conference in Northeastern Washington state for Christian mothers raising, educating, & loving their children for the Kingdom of God. It isn’t a money-maker, it is more of a ministry, as my heart longs to see Christian mothers band together in love and encouragement despite differences of practice, method, or even theology.

We have four sons, with one daughter directly in the middle. At this moment, our children are Gabriel (11), Asher (7 1/2), Evangeline (6), Simeon (3 1/2), with the littlest brother’s arrival anticipated in a matter of weeks. God has been continually gracious toward our family, and we are humbly grateful for His intense benevolence. There is no more challenging yet rewarding chapter in my life than motherhood ~ with its many facets.

While I have taken recent months to focus on my tangible home, replete with books and babies and bedrest, I hope to make a somewhat more regular presence here at Joyful Domesticity again. To share what God is doing in my heart, my home, my journey to the Kingdom. I am nothing particularly clever or wise or unique, but I have a heart that is eager to uplift, encourage, and share the sharpening of Christ mutually with my sisters in Christ both near and far.

For the glory of the King, the furtherance of His Kingdom, and the joy of the home! Cheers.