The Conlectio Newsletter
The Strong Thing in a Winter of the Soul
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your love is the constant:
a north star on December night
guiding homeward, turned to harbor
we pass from life to life
never too far from You to return,
never too sinful to be born anew
your love is the constant
in a world of unknowns
North Star, PDM
I have learned to love winter: the biting cold when I walk across our field, how it stings my face and brightens my eyes; how it smells to walk in the door afterward. There's something about being outside in the cold that makes the inside that much sweeter. We light a wood fire, play a Celtic playlist, break out the knitting or the read-alouds or coloring books and markers. This is the cozy season.
When you don't see the sun 210 days of the year and snow coats the ground for five months (at least) joy has to be created, because it usually won't be found. Isn't that how it is in a lot of life? I spent most of my twenties dictated by my circumstances and emotions. If I was having a bad day I would count the “bad” things that happened and exclaim over just how awful it all was. If someone else was having a bad day I would live on edge, anxiously trying to please them and manage their emotions.

Living circumstance to circumstance, feeling by feeling, didn't leave much room for true, abiding joy. As Elizabeth Elliott said, I found to be true: “The answer is Christ in me, not me in a different set of circumstances.”
Those circumstances are a bit like the biting wind and 15 degree temperatures. They nip and bite at us, sometimes they oppress and suffocate us. And yet the darkness and heaviness of the circumstance is just what makes coming home to God's heart to sweet. So warm. So welcoming. Here the door is open, the music is on, it smells of cinnamon and fresh coffee and bread just baked. You don't have to go anywhere, do anything. You get to just live.
God's heart is the safest place, the softest place, for those in a winter of the soul.
Running away from His Word is not the answer and shutting off your heart to prayer will not make you stronger. The strength to face a winter comes through utter dependence on the One who holds the world together by His wisdom and grace. Here we can cast ourselves; here I have cast myself when there was no answer to my broken body, when my husband lost his job while I was pregnant, when we had to leave a job and a church and my husband woke up with nightmares from the horror of it all. When I woke up with nightmares from postpartum anxiety, when those anxious dreams came true as smoke filled our house and I snatched my four month old from his crib -  in those winters, I cast myself on the God who sees. The easy thing would be to quit seeking Him. The easy thing would be to blame Him for it.
The strong thing is to trust His goodness. The strong thing is to remember all you learned on the easy days and let it be real for now. 
Christ's heart is the safest place, the softest place, for those in a winter of the soul.
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Before I left social media for the month I promised I would answer three Monday questions each week in this newsletter. Here are this week's!
Why do we pray to God/Jesus? Is it biblical to pray to the Spirit?
The model of prayer Jesus gave us was to the Father (John 17, Luke 11). However, in Matthew 28 Jesus commands His disciples to baptize in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This has carried over to our model of prayer (and in Catholic Churches, has resulted in the sign of the cross to represent the Trinity). To baptize or pray “in the name of” means “in the authority of”. God's name carries great power. So when we pray in the name of the Father, Son and Spirit, we are not saying a magic word without which our “prayer formula” fails to work. When we pray in the name of the Trinity we are praying on the basis of His authority.
That said, the model Jesus used always directed prayer toward the Father. Jesus intercedes for us at the right hand of God (Rom. 8:34). And we pray IN the Spirit (by His inspiration, leading, authority and power: Rom. 8:26, Eph. 6:18, Jude 1:20). 
How to put confessed sins behind you and not dwell on them?
This will, quite simply, all come down to your theology of justification. It is also related to your theology of God's sovereignty. Here's how:
  • If your theology of justification says - even unconsciously - “God will only forgive me if I continue to beat myself up for sins I've repented of. Then He will know I am truly sorry" - you functionally believe that your salvation is not by grace, but by works. Your “work” is being “sorry enough” to get God's attention. But that is not how we are saved from our sins! First John 1:9 tells us that we need simply confess our sins and God is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us of ALL unrighteousness. 
  • If your theology of God's sovereignty says - even unconsciously - “God isn't strong enough or kind enough to forgive me for this sin", you will operate in constant doubt over whether you are forgiven. You will refuse to embrace the grace God has given you through Christ and will most likely repeat the same sins because you remain captive to them. 
So how do you break the cycle? GOOD NEWS! I have an entire episode on repentance coming in just two weeks to Verity Podcast - and I am so excited to have it available. You had so many questions on this topic and I'll be discussing repeated sin, “presumptuous” repentance, what Scripture says about repenting and more. For now though: The key to putting confessed sins behind you is asking if you have 1) intellectually recognized the sin as sin; 2) emotionally grieved the effects of the sin (are you responding to the Spirit's grief over this?) 3) set up boundaries: “bearing fruit in keeping with repentance”. If one of these is missing, it was not true repentance.
If all three exist but you are still going backward, recognize these thought patterns for what they are: the condemnation of the enemy. Then reject them outright! “In the name of Jesus, who took these sins from me, I reject this thought. I am a child of God. I no longer am bound to those patterns. I am free.” Then move forward in that reality!
How do you honor God with money/finances?
I think this is a very broad question and the beautiful thing is that the Spirit will apply it differently person to person. Your culture, family, current life stage, and job all play a factor in how you handle your money. At the same time our money is incredibly spiritual - it comes under the authority and guidance of God (as all things should for Christians). The more wisely we handle our money, the more free we are to be generous and bless others. 
Josh and I have remained on a constant learning curve with our money. We used Financial Peace University to get out of Josh's college debt when we were first married. That was a huge gift - the method works. However, we found that FPU didn't address the heart attitude toward money. My favorite resource for that is Your New Money Mindset. This book pointed out that a scarcity mindset - “there is never enough” - affects ALL Christians regardless of how much money they have in the bank. It can make someone dismissive (spendthrift) or stingy (hoarding). That may be a good start! Grab it here. 
Thank you for reading the Conlectio! As always, I love reading your thoughts and replies. My team responds for me, but I do read what you share!

What I'm Reading 
  • Abortion and the Early Church by Gorman: A new Thriftbooks find. Such a a fantastic, informative read - did you know the ancient Romans and Greeks both practiced abortion and infanticide? And the church opposed it from the beginning, rescuing babies and women in need. 
  • Conservatism: An Invitation to the Great Tradition by Roger Scruton: I saw this recommend by Dan Darling, I think, and wanted to read the history of conservative thought myself (note: conservative does not necessarily equal Republican; it transcends the party line). 
  • Pastors and Their Critics by Beeke: Have not started this yet but looking forward to what this book says about criticism in ministry and how to navigate it healthily.
  • The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp: This is my Advent devotional this year. 
And still reading:
  • Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend 
  • The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien
  • The Care of Souls
  • On Christian Liberty by Martin Luther
What I'm Loving
  • Women in History Wooden Dolls: Every Sabbath (Sunday for us) we take a break from media from 8-5. I try to turn my phone off for the whole day, and after church we concentrate on slow, simple routines. We read aloud, paint, play games, go for walks, eat yummy food, and bake. Josh has created some cool stuff with his 3D printer and laser printer that he and Addie paint together, so I got into painting too. I started painting wooden clothespins as “courageous women in history” using one of the girls' books for ideas. Here's how they turned out!
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  • War and Peace Miniseries: The girls have been studying Russia and just recently moved on to study Napoleon. Leo Tolstoy's famous novel includes both of these topics, and this BBC miniseries is incredibly well done. Sexual content warning in Ep. 3; battle violence in Ep. 7.  (I wouldn't let my girls - (ages 5 and 7 - watch it, but I enjoyed it) On Prime
  • The Amish and the Reformation Documentary: I was up working late one night when this popped up on Amazon Prime. I was so intrigued - you don't often see information about the Anabaptist experience of the Reformation! This doc was FANTASTIC and entirely worth the hour to watch it. It is made by a family of former Old Order Amish and discusses the church history behind the Anabaptist “reformers” and how they split into the Amish and Mennonites. It actually made me emotional at the end. On Prime
  • Every Mom a Theologian // Don't Mom Alone Podcast: I had the honor of interviewing with Heather MacFadyen of Don't Mom Alone a few weeks ago - a full circle moment for me! I listened to Don't Mom Alone religiously when Adeline was a baby… seven years ago! Heather's voice takes me back to long stroller walks as a brand new stay at home mom. In this episode I talk about why we need to be able to explain theology to our kids - especially the theology of sin. Listen in iTunes or Spotify!
On the Farm
  • Wintering Animals: Our animals do just fine in the subzero temps and six months of snow, but we have found some hacks to make things easier for us and for them. 
    • Heated waterers: We use a heated bucket for the goats, an electric metal pad beneath the chicken's water, fill water bowls for the rabbits. Water bowls seem to be more effective for the rabbits since standard rabbit waterers freeze very quickly. We bring a water bucket out to refill the goat water and dip the bowls in it as well. 
    • Exercise: Because our rabbits are caged, winter can get very long for them (and boring). In summer we put them outside in a run, but this winter we are hoping to bring them inside a few days a week to stretch their legs. Perpetua (our Ragdoll cat) will be shook.
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In Our Homeschool
  • It's week 12 of Classical Conversations, our last week of the fall semester! Though we are wrapping up co-op, our family will continue with school up to Christmas Day. This allows us to build up school days in case we need more weeks off in the spring, and helps the girls remember their math and reading skills. This week we are studying constellations, Napoleon, and doing lots of read alouds.
  • Sewing: Adeline expressed interest in making some felt stockings for her American Girl dolls, so we picked out some felt, I showed her how to design and cut out the stockings, and she learned how to sew by hand. Such a simple little craft following her interests!
  • Our Christmas Bucket List:
    • Have a gingerbread house competition
    • Finish our Christmas movie list
    • Drive around town and “judge” the Christmas light display
    • Finish our Jesse Tree
    • Make gifts for our neighbors
    • Attend our city's open house (last week!)
    • Attend the Nutcracker (this weekend)
    • Secretly shop for siblings (this is a date with a parent)
    • Read 25 Christmas books
  • Our Christmas Movie List: Different families have different tastes, but these are some of the movies we regularly watch or are watching this year. I am personally not a fan of The Christmas Story or the National Lampoons (and honestly not a fan of the Grinch either, but my girls love it) so here's what we do! *As I shared in the podcast last week, we don't “do” Santa in our home. But we still watch movies about him, attend events he's at, etc. They just know he isn't real
    • The Nativity (we watch this Christmas Eve after the church service)
    • It's a Wonderful Life
    • The Christmas Card
    • The Santa Clause
    • Christmas Carol (Jim Carrey version)
    • Muppet Christmas Carol
    • Elf
    • The Polar Express
    • How the Grinch Stole Christmas
    • White Christmas
    • Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
  • Christmas Movies for Parents: Josh and I enjoy watching these together.
    • The Holiday
    • The Family Man
    • Serendipity
    • Christmas with the Kranks
    • Sleepless in Seattle
for the awakening, 

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