it is finished!

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Every evening this week we have lit the candles and followed the Trail to the Tree. During the day I fight exhaustion and my short temper and lose the battle more times than I care to remember. As the sun sets and the shadows flicker in our dining room I bow my head over the words. I linger in wonder at the price that was paid. My sin is real, I have seen its damage. I have felt its blackness in my heart. Sin is no mere theory when I see the hurt in my sons eyes that is caused by my harsh words. And yet I continue to spew them anyway. That breaks me. I cannot rationalize that selfishness away. I feel that the battle between my sin and my desire to truly serve and honor God in all I do will tear me apart.

On Friday evening my voice breaks as we read from the Jesus Storybook Bible. The simple, profound description of Jesus’ love keeping him on the cross. God, the Papa, turning away from His Boy. The earth splitting as God’s wrath came down to destroy sin without destroying his children. Then, “It is finished.”

I marvel that the curtain has been torn in two, from top to bottom, and with trembling heart I step into the presence of the Most Holy One. There is holy ground here between the dinner crumbs and impatient voices and sibling squabbles. Even as I grieve the consequence of my sin I feel the finality of the victory, “It is finished.” I will continue to battle. Some days the light will shine lighter than others. But always there is the reminder, “It is finished.”

My sin has been destroyed on that cross. Every single bit of it. My old self is buried in the tomb and my new self’s heart is thumping wild with joy. “It is finished!”

“You died with the thieves but You were buried with the rich. And so You take us sinning thieves, and offer us the inheritance of riches, unending, in God. Like Mary Magdelen and the other Mary, we sit opposite Your tomb, and we never leave, but live here. For continually we bury our sins, and, as surely as we breathe, we inhale the hope of what will happen at this tomb on Resurrection Sunday.” -Ann Voskamp, Trail to the Tree

how long?

To see the law by Christ fulfilled, to hear His pardoning voice
Can change a slave into a child and duty into choice
No strength of nature can suffice to serve the Lord aright
And what she has she misapplies for want of clearer light

How long, how long beneath the law I lay
How long, how long I struggled to obey

Then to abstain from outward sin was more than I could do
Now If I feel its power within, I feel I hate it too
Then all my servile works were done, a righteousness to raise
Now, freely chosen in the Son, I freely choose His ways

How long, how long beneath the law I lay
How long, how long I struggled to obey
How long, how long in bondage and distress
How long, how long I tried without success…

credits

from The River, released 22 July 2012 by Wayfarer

This song has been on repeat at our house recently. I feel like it accurately expresses the cry of my heart recently. For so long I lived as a slave, following God’s law because it was expected of me or because it was the right thing to do or because I thought I could earn God’s love. The harder I tried to follow the law the more despondent I became because I knew I could not follow the law. I am so thankful that the past few months have taught me the glorious truth of the free gift of grace in new and meaningful ways. I truly feel like I have been released from bondage and am free to love God and follow His law out of joy and freedom!

 

Holy Week

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It’s Holy Week and my heart is tender. I want the daily routine of life to stop so that I can ponder and pray. The history of the world changed in this week. Jesus walked willingly to the cross and the curtain between God and man was torn in two forever. In this week death and sin were smashed to pieces and all things were begun to be made new again. Doesn’t this warrant a few minutes of quiet? How can I not spend this week on my knees?

Yet this morning I scratched out the week on a scrap of paper and every day has something extra that has to be done. Every day has something besides the regular home schooling, meal planning, laundry, house cleaning.

I am experiencing Lent in a new way this year. I feel more still. My heart has been quiet and calmed and I search amongst the daily lists and messes for grace. In fact I am seeing that grace is more true and real in the midst of the daily lists and messes. I am slowly losing the need to perform. Last week was messy as I fought a sinus infection and tried to implement consistent discipline. There was struggle against pride. Struggle against sin. Struggle against selfishness.

That of course is exactly why Holy Week matters. The struggle against sin continues, but at that moment in time the battle was won! On a day when I have spoken impatiently, my words have cut deep, my selfishness has hurt others I know that the price has been paid and I do not have to continue in guilt and shame. This week I pause in the midst of the daily struggle and marvel at the sacrifice. Jesus suffered for me. Because he loves me. Grace.

A Break Basket

Confession: The atmosphere in our home the past few weeks has not been ideal. Months of sickness and lack of routine have left us all impatient and short tempered and lacking in self-control. Over the weekend Aaron and I talked about some behaviors that we were seeing in the boys and how we wanted to address them. Because obviously nagging and yelling weren’t effective. Ahem.

I returned to one of my all time favorite parenting books,

 

This book has the perfect balance of heart centered theology and practical tools for discipline. As I was reading I was reminded of the importance of routines for instruction and discipline. Routines prevent anger and frustration by setting expectations and keeping everyone on the same page. The correction routine is outlined in Chapter 4 and looks like this:

Tool 1: Use Words “What you are trying to do is train your children to eventually receive correction through words without further consequence…you’re moving them in the direction they need to go in order to listen to God.” (pg.67)

Tool 2: Have the Child Take a Break “This technique follows a biblical model of correction and focuses on a child’s heart, not just behavior.” (pg.67) When a child is disobeying, lacking self-control, getting angry, acting defiant and they are not responding to words (Tool 1) they are asked to take a break. They are asked to go to a per-determined area for whatever length of time it takes them to get calmed down and show a willingness in their heart to change and take instruction.

Tool 3: Give a Consequence If words and taking a break are not bringing about a change in a child’s behavior then it is time to give an appropriate consequence. “This kind of discipline doesn’t view consequences as a sentence for doing wrong or a way to balance the scales of justice. Rather, it sees consequences as tools for helping children change.” (pg.74)

Tool 4: End with a Positive Conclusion This tool should always be used along with one of the other three. “It’s a discussion about what went wrong and how to change for next time.” (pg. 75)
1. What did you do wrong?
2. Why was that wrong?
3. What are you going to do differently next time?
4. Make a final positive statement like, “Okay, go try again!”

We used to use this corrective routine with a lot of success but lately our discipline of the boys has been hit or miss and usually done out of frustration or anger. Obviously it was time to return to the routine and address the heart issues that we were seeing. As I thought through the tool of Taking A Break I remembered something I had read a long time ago on Ann Voskamp’s blog A Holy Experience about making a “prayer chair.” A quiet place for kids to sit and calm down with resources for them to think, pray, and read. So I looked around the house and gathered some things together.

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In our basket are 2 Bibles, 2 notebooks, cards with verses on them and pens/pencils/markers. Now when we ask one of the boys to take a break they have a choice. They can sit in the chair for however long it takes for them to calm down and make a change in their heart. Sometimes they only sit for a few seconds. Sometimes they take longer and get out one of the resources in the basket.

This morning I asked Nathaniel to take a break when he was refusing to do his school work without whining and complaining. He came back from his break with a drawing he had made. We talked about the drawing, how he felt, and how he could do things differently next time. The tone of the morning changed and we were able to continue school without the power struggle and frustration.

There is no magic bullet when it comes to disciplining children. We are constantly re-evaluating our methods and trying different things. As the boys grow we are spending more time in conversation with them, trying to guide them to be little men of integrity as they face challenges and decisions. Our ultimate goal is that they would learn to listen to the Holy Spirit and be guided by God working in their hearts. For right now the Break Basket seems to be a good tool to start that process.

What tools have you found useful for effective, heart-oriented correction?

Five Minute Friday: Home

Go

Home is blazing heat and dusty ground. It is fruit trees and days spent outside. It is a simple bed in a dorm-like room with kids of all ages that are like siblings to me though we are not related. It is towering rocks and camping trips by muddy rivers. It is chattering monkeys and cool cement floors. It is the smell of rain drops on parched dust.

Home is airplane seats and tray tables and mimicking the safety precautions that we have heard a million times. It is the flutter of excitement or pain of parting in my heart at liftoff. It is checked bags and lines and airport terminals that are all the same yet also distinct. It is being surrounded by people who are made exotic by the language they speak and the clothes they wear.

Home is cobbled streets, leaning buildings, and crooked streets. It is cool misty rain over brilliant green fields that are flat as far as the eye can see. It is sun sparkling on canals and bright flowers. Home is benches at train stations and hours with feet propped on the friend sitting across from me as the countryside flies by.

Home is mountains and brilliant fall leaves. It is the arms of this man who has grounded me. It is the small town community that is starting to grow on me. It is full of the noise and play of two tousled blond boys. It is friends who are like family and a yard full of kids playing wild on summer nights.

Stop

7 experiment: Clothes

The February food fast ended up being a bust for me. For most of the month it was a struggle for me to eat much of anything. Which I guess taught me a lot even though I didn’t follow the fast the way I had intended.  So now we are in to March and the next challenge/fast – clothing. In chapter 2 of 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess , Jen Hatmaker explores issues of image, pride, and waste by choosing only 7 items of clothing to wear for 30 days.

About 2 years ago I did a drastic minimization of my wardrobe with the help/inspiration of Project 333. Through that process  my approach to clothing has changed. While I assume this will be one of the easier fasts for me I know that I still have much to learn.

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Here are my 7 items for March: 1.  jeans
2.  grey khaki pants
3. grey denim skirt
4. long sleeved black shirt
5. long sleeved red shirt
6. blue flowered button-up shirt (not pictured because it was in the dirty clothes)
7. black boots & sneakers

Note: The black corduroy jacket will be the jacket I wear if it is cold, which it still can be where I live.  I will wear only 1 pair of pj’s. I do have a hoodie sweatshirt that I wear around the house because we keep our heat very low. I will wear my wedding ring and pearl earrings as my only accessories.

While I assumed this would be an easy month for me I did have some struggle in choosing the items I was going to wear. I kept thinking, “But what if?” and finally had to just make myself commit. Even the choosing revealed a certain level of pride and concern of what others would think.

The other decision that I made was that I would not give anyone any explanations or justification of why they may see me wearing the same thing unless they specifically ask. The fact that this was a decision that I had to consciously make reveals two things. First, it would be easy to be very self-righteous and prideful. “Look at what I am doing! Look how holy I am! Look at what I am willing to give up!” Second, that I care very deeply what other people think of me.

So here I go, 7 items of clothing for the month of March!