Bonus Episode: Curiosity and Finding God In Every Season with Kayla Craig | Words with Writers

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Welcome! We’re in our Words with Writers Bonus Series and today’s topic Curiosity and Finding God In Every Season with Kayla Craig.

Kayla Craig is a former journalist who brings deep curiosity and care to her writing. She created the popular Liturgies for Parents Instagram account, which Christianity Today named an “essential parenting resource.” She also hosts the Liturgies for Parents podcast. Kayla is the author of Every Season Sacred and To Light Their Way, and her reflections, essays, and prayers have been featured in various books, devotionals, and Bible studies. Kayla lives in a 115-year-old former convent in her Iowa hometown, where she hopes to create spaces of welcome alongside her four children, two dogs, and husband, Jonny.

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Here's the episode transcript

Hey friends, it's Jen and welcome to another special bonus episode as part of our words with writers series. I'm so excited to share with you this conversation that I had with Kayla Craig. We talked about the importance of curiosity and wonder and noticing God in our daily life, particularly in the context of parenting, we talked about liturgy and its role in spiritual formation and using breath prayers to connect with God, especially during busy or stressful seasons. And we talked about the importance of compassionate curiosity when it comes to relationships in faith and parenting, I know you're going to love this conversation. And if you've heard earlier episodes as part of this bonus series, you know that one of the reasons I'm having these conversations with other writers is in celebration of my poetry collection A Beckoning to Wonder which came out in March of 2024. So I'll have links for that as well here in the show notes. It's so encouraging to hear testimonies of how God stirs similar themes in each other as believers and how we can put into practice the things that he's talking with us about. And so I know you're going to be encouraged by this conversation with Kayla. So let's get into it.

Kayla, I love the way you introduce yourself. Even on your website, you're like a writer, author, modern liturgist, former journalist, contemplative thinker, curious podcaster, grateful storyteller, and I love that. I think that's so succinctly put for anyone who is just meeting you now. Would you just kick us off by sharing a little bit more about yourself and your life?

Yeah, I'm so excited to chat today. My name is Kayla and like I said, my background is in journalism. So I've been writing and sharing and diving deep into curiosity, my whole professional career. But I would also say my whole life, I'm very curious person by nature. And I feel like that is such a great invitation for those of us who are, you know, walking our spiritual journeys out with Jesus. So I have four kids between the ages of seven and 13. I have written two books, to light their way and every season sacred, and they both are In the realm of spiritual formation for people who find themselves in the season of raising kids and trying to figure out what now, how do I care for my soul as I'm trying to raise my kids while I still have questions about the world and they're asking me questions and what do I do?

So I'm not an expert, but I am somebody who is just right alongside you and maybe can invite you in and be a guide for the journey. So I created liturgies for parents. Which is just the place where I share prayers and liturgies and breath prayers and just try to resource People who are kind of in a similar season of life you got a lot going on. Here's some words to borrow if you don't have maybe the words to pray. Or here's a moment to just take a breath.
So that's kind of what I do and I am praying about and starting to like dip my toes into the next book and just pray that I have margin to do that. In the thick of, you know, a busy life at home, my husband is pastor and yeah, we have kids that have different disabilities, medical needs, different personalities, just like, you know, we all do, but it's never a dull moment in our home.

No, well, that's exciting. I know you said, oh, I'm not really coming as an expert. I think you are an expert. I think you model this so beautifully and consistently in what you do and how you share from those moments of your life. And even making the space where you're talking about, we have these rhythms with our kids and rhythms in ministry and asking God for margin for this next book project, that daily dependence that we get to have with him is always a present invitation. But it can be hard to actually receive and know how to walk it out in daily life.

Oh yeah. Yeah. I mean, I'm just, you know, I'm stumbling, messing up, trying to move forward.

One of the questions I had for you: if we have people listening right now who aren't familiar with the word liturgy, how would you describe it to them?

Yeah, I heard it defined as just the prayers of the people. And I love that succinct description because that is what it is. Liturgy can be you know, like a, a plan of worship where you have scripture and a prayer that you pray together. Maybe there's a call and response. It can be that, or it can just be a prayer that you're sharing. And maybe you're praying it alone, but it's written and you're borrowing it and you're making it your own. And so when I say liturgy, that's kind of what I'm talking about, because it has been such a gift for me to borrow the prayers of another in hard times. And also in times where it's just like ordinary and you're just pushing through.

And then it's like, Oh yeah, like God is in all of this too. There's sacred in all of this too. So that's been. really formational for me. And so I hope to be able to offer that to others. Like, these aren't my words. These are our words. Take it, make it your own, use what works for you, leave the rest. So yeah.

Oh, that's beautifully said. Yeah. I, so I grew up, my background is all over the place denominationally. But mostly non-denominational. And so even the idea of a liturgy wasn't something that I was super aware of. I heard of it like the order of a church service. It was a more liturgical church service. But getting to actually experience that in our daily life can happen by ourselves with the Lord. It's in how we lean into him and sharing those moments with him. I love the way that you described that.
And for those of you who are familiar with Good God Talks, you're going to love her podcast. So we'll have links here in the show notes. Kayla, you and I have a really similar heart and how we approach the podcast. So I know yours are liturgies for parents. Good God Talks are also really short episodes and they're a theme, a verse, and a question to go ask God. So if you're enjoying this kind of setup, our bonus episodes are a bit different, but our regular flow, you're going to want to go check out Kayla's podcast too. There is such a welcoming way that you bring people into these moments saying any moment can be sacred. Any moment we have can be shared with the Lord. Was that always a normal part of your experience with him or was that something that developed over time?

I think my experience of God and journey with Christ is similar to yours, where I have been formed through a lot of different denominations, backgrounds, faith expressions. And I think all of that made me who I am. And I'm so appreciative of, you know, like. My Pentecostal brothers and sisters and just like the fire they bring. And I'm also appreciative of my Catholic brothers and sisters and like some of the depth that they bring it. like this tapestry that's just woven together, and these are all little parts of myself. And so I think I borrow a lot from a lot of different expressions that, when it comes down to it, are all rooted in Christ, you know.

Yes, we're part of the body and we're intended to have these different flavors and expressions and to celebrate that in one another. It's so great to actually be part of the body of Christ.

Yes. Yeah. And you know, unity doesn't mean uniformity. And so I love that it's like, this is so beautiful to see your faith come out like this. And, you know, I just appreciate, like you said, just the body of Christ and how vast and wide it is.

Yeah. We don't always understand that, but when we can start to appreciate the beauty, like even as you're talking about it as a tapestry, there's so much life that we can walk in. And as we notice that about each other, as we notice that about God, that God makes space for all of our stories and all of the flavors that are expressions of him. You talk a little bit about the practice of Noticing and how we can foster curiosity in ourselves and also in our kids. I would love for you to talk more about that and how really you came to that awareness.

Yeah. You know, I think being a parent has caused me to slow down. Like we all have invitations in our life that cause us to take a break, to pause, to stop just worrying so much about what's going to happen in the future. That's how I'm like oriented to time. I'm always thinking about what's going to happen in the future. Some people are more connected to the past. But for me having kids, spending time with young kids, even before I was a parent, helped me stay present, helped me notice what's around me. You know, like I go on a walk with a young child and my son is picking up a heart shaped rock and giving it to me and I just walk over it. And he's noticing butterflies that I'm too busy to notice, you know? And he is excited, experiencing God and God's creation and the Creator. But I am often just too distracted to stop and pay attention.

And so I think being a parent has helped me enter into that sacred act of noticing. And it's time and time again, right? Sometimes it feels like a distraction. Because I want to be working or I've got this going on or that going on. And it's just this reminder to like come back, come back to the present because God is here too.

Yes, He is. Okay. One of the things I have appreciated about you listening to your podcast, reading Every Season Sacred, is how openly you admit that parenthood is tiring. We are tired. You don't have to pretend you're not tired. Come to God with your weariness. So thank you for that permission. I feel like sometimes even wanting to draw closer to God or wanting to grow spiritually, it can feel less spiritually mature to admit that we're tired, but that there's rest that comes when we receive that rest from God and part of that is just admitting the need. How do you practice noticing when you're a tired parent? How do you do that?

That's such a great question. If you find out, let me know. You know, I don't know any parent that isn't tired that, you know, our lives can look so different, the seasons of life we're in, the seasons of parenting we're in, toddlers, teens, babies, Young adults, whatever it is, we're just tired. We all have a lot going on, a lot demanding our attention, a lot being asked of us. We turn on the TV or scroll our news feeds and it's overwhelming. We're just holding a lot. And so I think one of the things we can do is just remember to breathe, which sounds so Simple, but it has been such a practice for me and more and more science is coming out about the power of breath and how God has made our brains and our bodies and our emotions and science, you know, like I'm not a scientist, but it's fascinating.

And so if we are feeling overwhelmed and we want to connect with God, we want to connect with ourselves, we want to connect with our kids, with our communities… one place to start, no matter where you are, is: You can take a breath.

You know, you're driving in your minivan. You are making dinner. You're taking kids to practice. You're rocking a baby, whatever it is. Take a breath.

Take a deep breath and on your inhale, make it a prayer. You know, as this is what I always go back to. It's so simple. You can pray it by yourself with your kids. Alone, aloud, silently, and it's just on your inhale, take a deep breath and pray, Oh God, and then hold it for a second and then release it and say, you are with me.

And for me, that's such a rooting practice, a simple prayer practice that we can enter into that just reminds us. That whatever is going on, the good, the bad, the mundane, whatever it is, that we have the one who gives us each breath with us right now. And sometimes that's just enough, enough to get to the next hour, enough to get to the next day.

Yes. Sometimes you don't have the words to say or the words to express how you're feeling, but you can breathe and your breath can be a prayer. And so I love that you incorporate those. We did a series on Good God Talks again, we are so similar in the heart. We have to just slow down and be with God to let our prayer be a breath and not feel like it has to be more than that. He is so happy to receive those prayers from us and to be with us in the moments like that.

Yeah. Yeah. I love it. And I need it. I need those reminders all the time, so I'll take it all.

Me too. Me too. Okay, so you say something, and I always feel funny when I'm like, I'm going to quote you back to you. But you say something at the beginning of Every Season Sacred and you say, “may your family be filled with holy curiosity, divine wonder, and sacred delight.” More words, please. Can you talk to us more about, like, how that started for you and where that came from?

Yeah. Gosh, you know, I'm parenting kind of two stages right now. I have teens and I still have younger kiddos and then we have a daughter that has Down syndrome and a lot of different disabilities.

And so I feel like I'm experiencing all of that. A lot of different, you know, invitations into curiosity, into wonder, into awe, into delight. And I think as parents, first of all, it's that sacred noticing, right? Like just slowing down enough and being present enough to notice God right in front of us, you know?

But I also feel like these invitations into wonder and delight, sometimes we might feel like, well, that is. Like cotton candy, you know, that is fluffy. That's not where God really is. And you know, Jesus says like, you like the little children that doesn't mean be naïve. It means be aware of the glory all around you. That's unfurling. be aware that I am with you right now. I'm in you. I'm among you. my. Spirit is dwelling. My creation is there. I love you.
So I think just resting in that belovedness and in that grace and in that awe is easier when we slow down enough to pay attention and to notice. And kids are such a guide in that cause they're just inherently like that oftentimes.

Yes. I feel like we have to relearn that as adults to go back to that wonder. I feel like they so easily, like, will marvel at a bottle cap like, Oh wow, this has ridges on it that are different. You need a tool to get like all the things and just get so accustomed that we move right past it.

Yeah. And you know, we want, we want logic. We want to explain things. We don't want to just trust. We want to look up at the stars and say, well, this is how they're formed. And this, instead of just taking a breath. The science can be amazing and phenomenal, and we can find wonder and awe in that too. But kids are just like, look what God made. And sometimes that's all we need is to just say, look what God made.

What practical tips would you have for someone who's listening and recognizing, “I think I need to relearn curiosity now as an adult?”

Yeah. Oh my goodness. Well, so in the back of “Every Season Sacred”, there are these kind of appendix pages. And I wanted them to be a resource for parents who want to maybe be a little more intentional about how they're living their actual lives. They aren't sure where to begin. So some of the things that you can find there that might be a resource to you is creating like a rule of life.
And a rule of life is this ancient, practice and tool that we have. And it's really not about rules at all, but it's really about distilling our values. Distilling what your values are as a person, as a family unit. What matters to us? What do we want ultimately our kids to know and us to live into? What are those values? How do we live them out? How do we live into them? You know? And so the rule of life just kind of, you know, ask you some questions so you can kind of distill that for yourself. it's almost like a mission statement, you know, like a value statement. And that can help you make all sorts of other decisions in your actual life, right?

Like, okay, am I going to take this job? Does it align with our rule of life that we have said, this is our core value in Christ. Is my son gonna do this activity? Does this align with our values? Are we gonna live in this neighborhood or that neighborhood, you know? Are we gonna shop at this grocery store or that grocery store?

Like, all of these things. can kind of be simplified once we know, like our purpose, once we know for this year, this is where our family is. And this is how we are going to worship God with our whole lives and our whole hearts and minds and bodies and souls. So that I feel like is a great place to start.

And it really doesn't have to be super complicated. It can be very simplified actually, but just something that you can go back to. And, and get into the rhythm of, okay, I'm kind of filtering things, our choices that we make through this lens.

I can see how that would be so helpful because so many goals that we set can be productive. I want to hit this achievement milestone and those are good things, but also building into that rule of life, that rhythm of life. I want to be curious. I want to be aware of God on display in my circumstances and that type of goal is a mindset shift I think for a lot of us.

And, you know, with curiosity too, kids often have really hard questions and really tricky questions. And sometimes they're questions that we don't necessarily have answers to this side of heaven. And so that is also an invitation to enter into curiosity and say, let's wonder about this together.

What do we know about God in this situation? Like, what do we know is true and how can we apply that here? You know, even modeling Compassion through curiosity saying like, well, this person is different than me or made different choices or looks different or worships different or acts different or whatever it is.

Like, how can we enter into a holy curiosity about that and wonder about that instead of just making like, these are my judgments about you. And I'm going to go on with my life. How do we enter into that that curiosity to gather. And I think that's something I'm, I'm trying to do. I'm trying to model it.

I don't always get it right, but I feel like that's where God's grace comes in. We always have an opportunity to start again and start fresh. And parenting is so much of that, right?

You get it wrong and then you. Pick yourself back up and you try it again. And that is showing your kids so much more than just like a set of these are my answers.
I feel like curiosity is a beautiful, multifaceted part of our lives. And bringing it into those hard moments, bringing it into those conversations where you're like, you know, let's wonder about this together. Let's be curious. I read Try Softer from Aundi Kolber and the idea of compassionate curiosity toward myself was revolutionary for me. Oh, I can approach myself with curiosity? Not just judgments about how tired I am or how I'm feeling or how I'm doing and getting to take that same curiosity into other aspects of life and relationships. How have you found that helpful in your relationship with God to approach Him with curiosity?

I feel like we're only getting this little, tiny snippet of the expansiveness of a God, but God is so much bigger than I've ever fathomed that I just keep experiencing that over and over and over again.

Like I said, As soon as you start to think like, I've got God, I'll figure it out. Like, that's a good cue that like, maybe you could have turned to a little more curiosity, but I think it always brings me back to experiencing God's love in new ways. You know, the more curious I am about who God is and who I am in light of that and who my kids are and who my neighbors are in light of that, the more I am pointed to love.

I've pointed to the truest, most distilled form of love. And so I think being curious can sometimes feel scary, right? Especially if we've grown up in a background where it's like, no, don't ask questions. Asking questions is wrong. A lot of us grew up like that. And so to enter into a curiosity, it's almost like we're a child that is just like asking.

You know, asking our parents and our parents loves us so, so much. And so I, and I think about curiosity and like my walk with Christ. That's kind of where I land.

I can relate to that too. Both the tension of, is it okay for me to ask questions? And then being someone who has a lot of questions and finding that God welcomes them, that it draws us closer, even sometimes in the way that he answers, where he'll give part of an answer or he'll give an inkling of something. And then there's more questions and he's like, yeah, let's talk about this. Let's spend more time together. Okay. In this, right?

I mean, we look at the parables, right? And it's like he, Jesus could have answered in so many different ways or taught in so many different ways and that I think the parables continually invite us into curiosity because that's who God is.

Yeah. That's who he is. If you can think back to a specific time where you saw God differently and you were able to see how that experience with God really changed my life, could you share a little story about that?

There's so many. And yet it's like, how do you choose? That happens all the time!

I have four kids and gave birth to two kids and two kids join our family through adoption. And I think walking through my children's adoption really taught me A lot about who God is and about who I am not, because it can be very tempting for parents to fall into almost like a savior mentality in adoption.

And that's really harmful and like really not healthy and, and it does not benefit anyone, right. But, you know, even just as Christians, we can fall into like, we are the saviors of the world and we are going to do things and lose sight of the one. That is really holding everything. So I think just through their adoption process we adopted one of our kiddos when he was one and that was an international adoption.

And then we adopted our daughter as like a, Kind of special medical need adoption when she was three weeks old. And I learned a lot about God's care and about my wanting of control. And God's actual control and how God, you know, cares for the world. And so yeah, gosh, I just, I've learned so much about myself and my kind of like off kiltered ideas of, of who I am or who God is.
I think those experiences have really taught me a lot and have been really growing and important.

That's so beautiful. I can see that too as a mom who's wanting to care for your kiddos in this way and you can't control all the outcomes. Our capacity is limited. And that's good because God's capacity is not. And he's like, I have this. I have them and I have you.

Yeah. And I think it's so humbling, you know, for all of us. Who, you know, just love somebody else, whether it's a spouse or family member or child God loved them before we did, you know. So we want to make decisions for them or we want to protect them or we want to do all of these things to order our lives, to have some semblance of control, but like the truth is God has been there all along way beyond our capacity to control things.

And so that is, that is both. You know, kind of scratchy a little bit. Like it makes us itch a little bit. And yet it's also like, so comforting. to know that like God has been with my child. God has been with me all along. And it's not something that I can like strong arm and like make happen.

God is going to do what, what God does. Yeah. And invites us into it and lets us co create, you know, alongside him. Yeah. Yeah.

He is. And he does. It's beautiful. And, and, you know, it's, it's that invitation. Come wonder at me, come live closely to me, come experience me here with you. That is a constant invitation that he invites us into.

And then we get to experience the unforced rhythms of grace, right?

Yes. Yes. Which I mean, thank the Lord for unforced rhythms. My goodness. I can try and force so many things in life. I'm like, I will figure out a way. And he's like, Oh, I have a way for you. Do you want to come with me in this way?

Right. But it doesn't look like the ways of the world often does. It doesn't look like what strength or power or productivity or success often looks like outside. Outside of the kingdom of God. And so, yeah, sometimes we're, we're scared. We're scared to enter into those unforced rhythms of grace, because what does that mean about who we are? You know?

And even that is that invitation again, he's like, yeah, find out who you are. Yeah. Come find out. Yes. Kayla, do you have any closing thoughts that you'd like to share with everyone? Then I'll ask for more places we can connect.
Yeah. Gosh, I don't know. I'm just so grateful for the beautiful intentional work that you're doing to come alongside people who just need somebody to say like, Hey, me too, you know, like somebody else in, this kind of messy journey and pointing to the hope that we have.
Yeah, well, thank you. It's been a joy to have you here. I know people are going to be wanting this information. So will you share a little bit about where they can connect with you? And then I think you have a fun project going on right now.

Yes. So, I mean, the easiest way to go is just because that's the one place you can go for all of the links.

But my new book, “Every Season Sacred” is like a yearlong journey. And there are short chapters for each week of the year. It's split up by season. They're not dated. So you can kind of just pick what works for you. And in each of these small little chapters, I mean, they're like. Four or five pages. They're small. There's reflection, and then there's the scripture reference. There's a breath prayer. There are conversation prompts that go along with that theme for you to use with your family. And there's a bunch, so it's just like drag and drop, like find one. And talk about it when you're in the car or when you're at school or going to school or whatever it is.

And then there are two kinds of shared liturgies. So they're short prayers meant to be prayed aloud with your family. And there's like a younger version and an older version. And yeah, it just takes you through the whole year. So that's “Every Season Sacred” available wherever you get your books. And then “To Light Their Way” is a collection of prayers and liturgies, specifically for parents and there's more than a hundred different prayers that you can kind of turn to over and over again specifically for holidays or holy days or hard moments. You can find more prayers all the time at liturgies for parents on Instagram.
And then I have a new kind of project that I'm doing called a year of breath. And those are weekly intentional prompts for you. I send them out every early Sunday morning and it's just an invitation to kind of care for your own soul as you're caring for so many other people in this world.

Friends, this was such a great conversation. I'm so grateful that I got to share it with you. There are links for all the places that you can connect with Kayla and find her resources here in the show notes.

And I encourage you as we close out this episode, ask God what he wants you to take away specifically from today and keep talking with him about how you get to walk that out in your daily life as a believer. Thank you so much for joining me here on Good God Talks and we'll talk soon.

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