The Conlectio Newsletter
Christmas Feels Hollow Because You Were Made for Another World
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He came in a form
unable to offer anything
to offer everything
Advent, PDM.
I can't open my computer without seeing posts about the disappointment of Christmas. Warnings, updates, reminders that Christmas can be a hard, depressing, difficult time; condolences for the pain of it, the loneliness and the cold. I understand why. Anyone who has had Christmases rife with conflict, so tense you could cut them with a knife, knows how “peace” and “joy” feel hollow in light of the truth. Anyone who has watched Christmas performed like a bad pageant, a facade held together with fake smiles -- knows what ugly Christmas feels like.
I know it.
But here's what I also know.
We do not celebrate Christmas like the world. We do not need to spend 25 days of December in mourning, in “Advent gnosticism” as one writer called it, nor in fake optimism. We do not grieve as those who have no hope, the apostle Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, and this is true for us at Christmas. There is a deep kind of rejoicing we Christians have access to that the world can only attempt to mimic with chipper carols and more money spent.
Advent, at its beginning, was focused on Christ's Second Coming rather than His first. A hope-filled people look forward to the day when all things are made right and new. We do not bow to cynicism, to hopelessness, to despair and darkness because we are the people who have seen the Great Light.
I spent Christmases in chronic illness. Before Josh, I spent Christmases single. I remember one holiday where I walked completely alone at an event filled with couples, everyone having fun, and I couldn't even find friends to hang out with me. Christmas magnifies the brokenness of the world when you look at it in the world's way. But when you look at Christmas through the lens of someone who has not just seen the Great Light, but is filled by Him - it is all coming to right-ness. It is not new yet but it is being made that way. It is all in process because God is always working and He is always present with us.
After all… Immanuel.
Advent is not Lent and we need not act as if it is. Advent is abundance. It is richness, it is looking forward and upward and onward to a supper laden with every good thing. I used to hold back at Christmas; “no use decorating, just another bin to store”. But slowly, over the years, I have changed. And I have changed because abundant beauty, the light of a tree in a window, a home filled with the scent of food baked by loving hands? It's all a reflection of Him. And when I walk down our country road I can see the light of the tree casting warmth into the darkness, throwing long yellow pathways across the snow. Pathways for coming home.

What if our extravagant, hopeful Christmas, our abundance and open door, is a “city on a hill” to those in the dark?
Let yourself celebrate. Let yourself have hope. Life disappoints - but He never does, which is why our hope has never been in this life but in the next one. As Lewis said: we are people made for another world. If Christmas feels hollow here, well, perhaps Christ needs to be centered more than He has in your past - perhaps He is inviting you to truly see this season through the lens of His heart rather than the world's materialistic parade. Perhaps He is inviting you to create the abundance that's missing, to set the table, to light the candles, and create the welcome you didn't have. 
You are made for another world. And Advent is a time when we remember this with bread and wine and song and flame and light and 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!
  • I’m engaged but have crossed sexual boundaries and am scared of the consequences.
    • First - I hear you. I was single and dating once and my personal struggle with sexual sin made boundaries that much harder in a relationship. There are a few encouragements I would send along: First, your understanding of biblical repentance will play a key role in your ability (and your fiancé's) to overcome this sin. I think a big part of this process is owning premarital sex and sexual acts for what they are: sin. That's the starting point! But the next step is just as important, and that is recognizing that ALL sin is covered by the cross of Christ. He went to the cross knowing you and your fiancé would choose this path, and He did it to free you from the shame. While it is tempting to hold onto our sins, Christ died so you could cast yourself on Him and be accepted and embraced. First John 1:9 says “If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us of all unrighteousness.” Cleansed of ALL! That is for you! Ask God to help you truly embrace His covering of grace. Ask Him to assure you of His affection. I would even suggest studying the grace and love of God in Scripture with your fiancé! The final step in the repentance process is to “bear fruit in keeping” with your change of heart. You will have to be ruthless with the situations and triggers that lead you away from holiness - even if this makes you “weird”. Note that while moving up the wedding date might help, it won't resolve the heart issue at play here; what you learn by walking in repentance and restraint will go with you for the rest of your marriage. Other temptations will come your way eventually and what you learn about honor and obedience now will bless you for the rest of your days together. God is FOR you! He is on your side. I encourage listening to this week's episode of Verity Podcast - it is all about repentance, repeated sin, and grace! Comes out Wednesday.
  • A lot of people assume being conservative = legalism. What is your take on this? Is it usually true?
    • Legalism is man's shortcut to holiness/righteousness. As such, legalism is not about conservatism, though conservative legalism exists. Legalism exists any time we set up a law beyond what Christ articulated (first tier doctrines) and say you must do XYZ to be truly be a follower of Christ. Conservative legalism is just more readily recognizable: KJV only, extremely strict modesty standards, certain aspects of purity culture, and some approaches to alcohol, movies, music, politics etc. The emphasis of conservative legalism is being “holy” and when crossed with conservative politics, freedom. Progressive or liberal legalism emphasizes “love”: if you don't get the V, if you don't vote for this policy, if you don't affirm LGBTQ+ marriages, if you don't swear a little, if you associate with XYZ person, you're not loving/authentic/a true disciple of Christ. When pressed, both sides will tell you they aren't actually saying someone isn't saved, but the end result of their discipleship proves that they are in fact setting up a new gospel. Legalism is the shortcut. You don't need to listen to the Spirit of God because you have a nice list to follow. The solution to all legalism? A robust understanding of the holy, Spirit-led Christian life. Christ will not lead you into bondage to the law nor will he lead you to a lifestyle of justifying your own freedom and licentiousness.
  • Tips on helping a 3 yo with not wanting to pray?
    • I have mentioned this in the new theology scripts appendix of Raising Tiny Disciples, but many kids go through a stage of not wanting to pray. One of our kids has been in such a stage for years! It can be developmental, personality driven, or even spiritual (I didn't want to pray until I became a Christian at 15). Families approach this differently, but in our home, we require our kids to respect the prayer (bow head) but we don't make them pray personally. We pray with and over them multiple times a day, and in some moments will have them repeat after us, and over time the resistance usually fades. It's often nervousness or not knowing what to say. Modeling a healthy prayer life goes a long way, giving them time, and praying that when they are ready they will listen to God's call to their hearts!
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
  • The Nutcracker: I didn't intend for this to be a tradition but four years running we've attended our local arts center's performance of the Nutcracker - and we love it! Adeline loves it too. I'm in awe of the talent we get to observe! Addie and I got to call it a girl date (below).
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  • Three Pines: All year you've heard me talk about reading Louise Penny's mystery novels - and now they've been made into a show! It is perfectly cast (in my unprofessional opinion) and about two episodes per book/story. Language warning and of course, these are murder mysteries so use your discernment. *You can use VidAngel to remove language and sex/nudity from shows. We use this liberally! It is healthy and normal to be bothered by nudity and sexual content as well as language. VidAngel is a huge help in this area!
  • This fabric Advent calendar (above) is from my own childhood - my mom gave it to me and the kids adore it, just like I did! These are easy to find on Etsy - here is a cute one.
  • Decluttering: Josh and I overestimated how long it would take to sort seven years' worth of kids' clothes… whew! But our basement is now organized and we are using the funds from selling these clothes to get Addie her next size up. I love to declutter before Christmas to get an idea of what we have, create space for any gifts the kids receive, and help clarify the home for new year.
  • Show Her Off at-home dance program: Josh and I don't love at-home date nights. We are home alllll the time… so being home is not that fun! However going out costs money and we wanted to be more intentional with our evenings. I grabbed this program on sale with some serious doubts (we've done in person lessons before) and honestly, it's so fun. Definitely worth the money!
  • Lindywell Pilates: I'm still on the Pilates train! I have less than a month to meet my goal of 208 workouts in 2022. Not sure I'll meet it, but this program has been so sustainable for me this year. My link should give a discount on your first month.
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On the Farm
  • A new morning routine: Josh and I have really struggled with early mornings this year. Perhaps it's some stress we experienced, constant resets when kids got sick - whatever the case, we are holding each other accountable to get up at 6 AM. My tricks: cold turkey it (you'll be tired that night and can do a hard reset), create things you look forward to (for us that's Nespresso coffee), and then, once up and enjoying the quiet, memorize the feeling. You'll use that sensation as a reminder the next day when the alarm goes off!
  • Dishes by hand: When our dishwasher died right after Thanksgiving we ordered a new one (conveniently on Black Friday! God provides!) but we've instituted a family dinner dishes routine that is quickly becoming a special time - complete with musical soundtracks and kitchen dancing!
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In Our Homeschool
  • Christmas Book List: Last week I gave you my Christmas movie list, so here is our list of Christmas books for the month! We have already read through many of these and the kids have loved them:
    • An Orange for Frankie by Patricia Polacco
    • One Wintry Night by Ruth Bell Graham
    • The Story of Holly and Ivy by Rumor Godden
    • The Nutcracker by E.T.A Hoffmann
    • The Christmas Cat by Efner Tudor Holmes
    • The Night Tree by Eve Bunting
    • A Little House Christmas by Laura Ingalls Wilder
    • The Legends of Christmas Treasury by Lori Walburg
    • The Little Drummer Boy by Ezra Jack Keats
    • The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado
    • The Tale of Three Trees by Angela Elwell Hunt
    • The Night Before Christmas illustrated by Douglas Gorsline
    • All About Christmas by Alison Mitchell
    • The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
    • The Christmas Star from Afar by Natalie Ard
    • The First Night by B.G. Hennessy
    • The Christmas Word by Brian Fink
    • Who is Coming to Our House?
for the awakening, 

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