Thursday, July 29, 2010

our blessings double as our family triples in size...

(Note: We sent the following e-mail to some friends and family members of ours.  I decided to copy and paste it for those of you who may not have been able to receive the e-mail.  We have deleted the names of the kids because we're not allowed to share any info yet.  Your prayers are greatly appreciated)

Dear Friends and Family,
     As I am writing this e-mail to you, my heart is filled with a wide mix of emotions.  I am incredibly excited, anxious, nervous, etc. to tell you that our plans for fostering/adopting our children has taken a dramatic turn.

     In the previous e-mail, I informed you that (baby boy) and (baby girl) have two older brothers.  Their brothers' names are (oldest brother) (3 1/2 years old) and (middle brother) (2 1/2 years old).  These two brothers were placed in another home with a loving and responsible family.

     Over the past week, the other family has come to the conclusion that they do not want the two children placed in their home.  On the other hand, Sarah and I have had an incredible week and we have completely fallen in love with our two babies. (you can read more about our experiences here and here) In light of all of this, we have told our social worker that we would like to have the two older children as well.  So, within the next week and a half, we will officially have four children in our home.

     We came to this decision after much thought and prayer and our choice was made for a couple of reasons.  1) Our hearts are drawn to (baby boy) and (baby girl), and we want them to live the highest quality of lives possible.  We believe that this would involve their not being separated from their older brothers.  2) If we only adopted (baby boy) and (baby girl), we would most certainly pursue the adoption of more children in the future.  Since that is the case, we decided that we would rather have these four children stay together now instead of finding another sibling set in the future.

     Because of all of this, we are looking towards God for His provision.  We are in a good spot financially, but we need two major things to happen fairly soon.  First, we need to buy a van.  We currently have two cars that will not fit all four children so if we go anywhere together, we're going to have to drive separately.  Secondly, we can survive in our residence with four children, but we would prefer a larger space.  So, I'm currently looking for a bigger apartment.  Your prayers for God's provision in these matters are greatly appreciated.

     Thank you very much for all of you who have responded with words of kindness and encouragement.  This is an incredibly wonderful time for Sarah and me, and we're especially thankful for the support, encouragement, and prayers of friends like you.


Alex and Sarah

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

an update on the kiddos (kinda)

i haven't had much time or energy yet to write about the two additions to our family, but alex has written some great stories.  you can read it here.

Monday, July 26, 2010

cleaning naturally

i finally did it.

i finally did my last load of laundry with bleach possibly ever.

as i wrote about recently, i have been on a journey this year of becoming a more green/natural household manager.  one of the steps i am taking is to start using all natural household cleaners, mostly homemade.  because i hate wasting, i am using up all of my old cleaners and when they are finished, replacing them with new homemade ones.

i have absolutely LOVED this change in the way that i care for our household.  first of all, it is way cheaper, because i am making it all from inexpensive ingredients like vinegar and baking soda.  secondly, it smells better when i clean.  thirdly, it is better for the environment.  and most importantly, it is healthier for my family.

the other day, i needed to clean the play chair that baby girl was on.  i did it while she way sitting on it.  i was careful not to spray her of course, but it made me so happy to know that the cleaner was so safe that it posed no possible threat to her (it was made from orange peels, vinegar and water).

as of today we will no longer have bleach in the house, a chemical that has been shown to be linked to numerous health problems.  and we wont miss it at all.

do you want to start cleaning your home naturally?  here is my recipe for orange peel cleaner.

*washed peels from several pounds of oranges, organic is best because the peels are cleaner, but i used conventional oranges (it is easier if you wash the peels before peeling the orange)

*white distilled vinegar

put orange peels into a 2 quart container, fill with vinegar, and seal it shut.  allow it to steep for several weeks, shaking periodically.  when it is done, strain out the peels (i strained it twice to get it all out, first through a screen, then through a coffee filter.)

you can use this as an all-purpose household cleaner by diluting with some water (1:1 or 1:2 ratio) in a spray bottle.  i use this for everything, from counters to the floor to the bathroom.  this is also what i used for baby girl's toys.  it also has a nice scent to it!

do you have a homemade cleaning recipe that you like to use?  please share it with us!

Monday, July 19, 2010

21 year old mother of 14 kids

"when Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die." -dietrich bonhoeffer

this quote randomly popped into my head yesterday, and has been repeating itself ever since.  i dont know why.

or at least i didn't.  until i saw this video.

after watching it, alex said "i think we should do that".  and my heart was thrilled.

and that is when bonhoeffer popped into my head again.  and i realized that no matter how thrilled i would be about this, there is going to need to be a lot of dying between now and that day.

i will need to die to my fear of wrinkles in order to live in a sunny, tropical country.  i will need to die to my demand for alone time in my life.   i will need to die to my desire for constant financial security (there is no way, humanly speaking, we could "afford" to have 10+ kids).  i may need to die to my desire to have biological children.  i will need to die to my desire for control.  i will need to die to my desire to eat healthy food (it is likely that we will live in a country where we will subsist mainly on rice and beans).  i will need to die to my desire to exercise regularly.  i will need to die to my desire for safety.  i will need to die to my desire to be well liked and well known.

and there are probably 1,000 other things to add to the list that i don't even know yet.

but when i stand before jesus, all these things will be of no concern when (i pray) he says to me: "come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’"

what will He say to you?  i implore you to meditate on this before it is too late:

“when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. and he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. then the King will say to those on his right, ‘come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? and when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? and when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ and the King will answer them, ‘truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
    “then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ then he will answer them, saying, ‘truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ and these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
(Matthew 25:31-46 ESV)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

our imminent foster/adoption: what is a foster/adoption?

yesterday, i shared about how this past week we were finally certified to foster/adopt.  we could be getting kids in our home any day or week now!  i also shared more about our decision to adopt rather than try to get pregnant, and what motivated this decision.
today i want to go more into the different types of adoption, and how we landed on foster/adoption.

what is foster/adoption?

when we started to look into adoption, we learned that there are three different types of adoptions.  one option is international adoption, which is becoming increasingly popular (many stars such as angelina jolie have done this type of adoption).  the children are usually adopted at a pretty young age, and they may or may not have many special needs (many are "diagnosed" with special needs, which makes it easier for them to be adopted by americans, which magically "disappear" when the adoption is finalized).  international adoption is expensive and a lengthy process, and just didn't seem like a good fit for us at this time.

another option is private domestic adoption, which happens through an agency that matches mothers here in the US who have unwanted pregnancies to prospective parents.  adoptive parents pay all the medical bills, and are usually able to ensure a healthy pregnancy (more or less).  private adoptions are almost always for infants, matched with adoptive parents before birth.  private adoptions are also pretty expensive, and can sometimes be lengthy.

foster/adoption is adoption from the foster care system here in the US.  these are children who have been taken from their parents the government because they are being abused in some way.  it could be physical, sexual or emotional abuse, neglect, or because of prenatal drug/alcohol exposure.

children in the foster care system range from a day old to 17 years old.  some have been "in the system" (ie away from their parents and in government care) for years, some only recently.  many of them have special needs, ranging from mild (ADD, attachment disorder, etc) to severe (fetal alcohol syndrome, mental retardation, etc.).  some are still visiting with their parents with the possibility of reunification, while others are completely cleared to be adopted.  this type of adoption is essentially free.  the process can be pretty short, but it can potentially last for years.

there are a half million children in the foster care system in the US right now.  500,000 orphans!!!  over 100,000 of them are ready and waiting to be adopted at this moment.  the sad thing is, many of them wont ever be adopted, and will end up being homeless, on drugs and selling themselves in prostitution, and having more babies which will in turn end up going back into the foster care system.

this is the type of adoption that has captured our hearts, and is what we have decided to pursue. 

foster adoption is hard, and we haven't even experienced a small piece of it yet.  in the next few weeks, we will be getting our first placement of children (we hope to adopt our first placement, but this is no guarantee, as reunification with parents is always a possibility).  we have asked for a sibling set of two children between the ages of 0 and 4 (many of the children in the foster care system are sibling sets, but few people want to take more than one child at a time).  it will definitely be hard to go from 0 to 2 kids, but there is a huge need for this, and we are able, so we are making ourselves available for siblings.  this means that overnight, our family will double in size!  

we have tried our best to prepare, but it is hard to do with that big of an age gap (though just a 3 year span, the developmental changes in these years are huge).  in many ways our hands will be tied as parents, because we wont be able to parent in the way that we think is best, needing to submit to the government's rule first in everything (for example, we cant even cut the child's hair without permission from the social worker, let alone make medical or disciplinary decisions in line with our conscience).

when the children come into our home, they will probably be behind developmentally, due to the neglect they have faced (or example, we may get a three year old who is no where close to being potty trained).  it will likely be unclear if they will be adoptable, meaning that we could care for them as our own for several months or even a year, after which they may be given back to their birth family.

however, in the midst of all of this possible hardship, i rejoice, remembering my adoption into God's family.  my adoption was way more costly physically and emotionally: jesus had to die to make it possible.  the beauty of this adoption spurs me on to welcome the process God will bring us through, no matter how difficult, because i trust that His plan is to make something beautiful and good out of it.

please take a minute right now to pray that God would lovingly protect our future children right now where ever they are, and that he would lovingly prepare us for this potentially difficult journey, and set our eyes on Him during the whole thing!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

our imminent foster/adoption: why are we adopting?

this week, we were certified to be foster/adoptive parents. finally!!!

if you know us, you know that this is a process that we have been going through for a while.  actually its been almost exactly 9 months since we started, which is kind of funny [i guess that God thinks that this is about the right length of time to prepare for parenthood :) ].  it has felt like a very long, dragged out process, but i guess compared to a pregnancy, its been the same amount of time... however, it has been MUCH more work and [i would guess] more stressful in many ways, though i have never been pregnant yet, so my opinion is biased.

its been a cool process, and God has had his hands all over it.  one way we can see that is because it has taken us SOOOO much longer than it "should" have, which means that God was delaying it for some reason. (we were expecting to be certified as early as march or april, which would have been entirely likely if tons of random things didn't come up like they did.)

for those of you unfamiliar with what we are doing, i want to share more about what foster/adoption is and why we are doing it.

why adoption?

the biggest hurdle in this process was our decision to start a family, since i formerly had no interest in being a mother.  the decision to adopt first (rather than have biological kids) was pretty easy, and relates to our faith in jesus.

::because alex and i were adopted::

the bible says that formerly, because of our sin, we were powerless before God (romans 5:6) and that we were enemies of Him (romans 5:10) , as we rebelled against his perfection by intentionally doing what we shouldn't, failing to do what we should, and pridefully trying to do "good" things to prove our worth to God.

however, God is perfectly loving, and chooses to be merciful even in our rebellion.  while we were stuck in our sin, jesus (who was God) came to earth and died to pay the penalty that we owed for our rebellion.

because of this, the relationship with God that he originally intended for people was able to be re-established.  because of jesus, not only can God forgive our sin, and not only can he view us as if we always did good things all the time, but he also chooses to adopt us into His family.

we, who were once considered His enemies, are now fully cared for and lavished with his tender love, and full beneficiaries of His inheritance for his children.

this is what motivates us to adopt: to be a small picture to our children and to the world of God's amazing grace.

::because God tells us to care for orphans, and we obey because we love Him::

last summer, i was studying the book of james in the bible.  there is a verse (that is pretty popular in social-justice loving circles these days) which says "religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world" (1:27).  my study of the book lead me to something i had never heard before, despite how many times this verse is repeated: the word care/visit (depending on the translation) in the greek implies being an active part of the life of the orphans and widows.  we already had a widow in our life that we were "visiting" and helping to care for, and we were financially supporting an orphan, but we didn't have any orphans whose lives we were actively involved in.

i prayed for God to show us how he would have us be actively involved in the lives of orphans right now while we are still in the US.  his answer was simple and clear: adoption.

soon after we researched the different types of options for adoption, and we settled on foster/adoption.  tomorrow i will talk more about these different types and how we decided to foster/adopt.  for now, i ask you to look away from your computer for a minutes and pray for us, that God would graciously prepare us for this huge life change coming upon us very soon!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

for your contemplation and entertainment

today i have been pretty bogged down by how messed up this world is.

watching this video tonight was of some encouragement to me as it set my eyes back on truth.  i commend it to you:

[i do recommend looking up the lyrics... its a bit hard to understand them in the video]

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

the wrap up: final God-centered and frugal wedding thoughts

at last we arrive at the end of the journey:  i am wrapping up my thoughts on wedding planning.  it has been fun to reminisce about our wedding, and it has redoubled my conviction to live, as john piper would put it, with a wartime lifestyle and mentality.

ultimately, i hope that reading my thoughts and ideas has changed your thinking about planning a wedding.  i hope that you are starting to recognize the lies that are proliferated in our society.  i hope that you truly have the desire that everything in your wedding would point to jesus christ.

and when it comes to the practical side of it all, i hope that your thinking has changed from "where do i find a good person to hire for _____?" to "who do i know that is good with _____?", from "where can i buy ___?" to "how can i make ____ and which of my friends can i invite to help me with it?"

to wrap up this series, i want to share some final thoughts and tips about the wedding planning process.  [and this gives me another excuse to share more pictures from our wedding... yay! :D ]

::accept ALL help::

i literally wrote down the name of every person who offered to help with our wedding.  and i took every single one of them up on the offer.  even if someone offers and you really don't think they will need your help, don't turn them down until you are positive there is nothing they can help with.

i already mentioned that my friends helped me make all the food, invitations and programs, chocolate fortune cookie favors , lent me a dress, gave us flowers and veggies from their garden and did my hair and make-up.  i also mentioned that family members blessed us by giving us the paper for our invites and programs, and by making our wedding cake.

furthermore, friends from our church helped to serve the drinks, my aunt did the alterations for the dress, my uncle put together a dvd slide show of pictures of us (with music!), my mom did the decorations, my cousin did all of the photography, my aunt (who works at avon) got us thank you gifts to give to people who helped out, etc etc etc.  i tried to count how many people helped with aspects of our wedding but i lost count at 30.

for the record, if i know you, i am willing to help with your wedding.  please ask if i don't offer first.

::ask for help::

some of the people who helped with parts of our wedding didn't necessarily offer their help, but were more than willing after i asked them.  one example is my uncle who works at a paper company.  i was slightly nervous to ask for his help, but i realized that if he knew how much of a blessing his help would be, he would have already offered.  sometimes we need to take the initiative to make people aware of our needs, because it gives them an opportunity to be a blessing. 

i think that in the body of christ, this type of serving should be the norm.  therefore, it should not even feel like a burden at all to ask another christian for help with something like this.

::pray for provision and wisdom::

we prayed a lot for our wedding.  we prayed for the spiritual side of our wedding, that God would be honored, and for the practical side, that God would provide.  and i can point to numerous ways that God specifically provided.

i also prayed a lot for wisdom.  when there were aspects of my wedding that i didn't know if we should include or not, i prayed about it (for example, the flowers. and i feel like he lead me to forego it for myself, but honor my bridesmaids by giving them bouquets to carry.)

it is easy to get caught up in the little details of a wedding.  but your heavenly Father knows what you need much more than you do.  so trust Him for it.

::be humble::

everything you will read on the internet, in magazines, in books and see on TLC will scream THIS DAY IS ABOUT YOU!!!! 

that is why you need to ask, no beg God for humility throughout the entire process and especially on your wedding day.

ask people who recently got married for their extras

i know people who have gotten all of their decorations from friends who had nothing else to do with their leftover decorations but give them away.  it is also common for people to have things like extra bottles of bubbles because not everyone took a bottle, and there is nothing else to do with 100 bottles of leftover bubbles (we were in this situation even though i did the same thing i did for the programs and bought way fewer than we had guests.  i asked everyone i knew who was getting married if they wanted our leftover bubbles and they all said no.  bummer.  i think i ended up giving them to goodwill before we moved to cali.  what a waste!)

did you miss a part of the series?  here are tips for:

::the foundation: having a right heart while planning your wedding

::the dress and the flowers

::the cake, hair and make-up

::the ring

::food and drinks

::invitations, programs and music


Monday, July 5, 2010

be smart about wedding favors

when it comes to wedding favors, my usual advice it to totally skip them.  people usually don't want them, and often don't even take them home.  if they do take them home, they usually throw them away soon after the wedding.  furthermore, wedding favors are a bit boring, and there is often little variety with what people give out.  this means that favors can be several hundred dollars down the drain with little purpose.

however, i didn't follow my own advice.  we had favors at our wedding. 

why? because for us wedding favors fit with the main theme of our wedding: pointing people towards Jesus Christ.

i got the idea to make chocolate fortune cookies from an old martha stewart wedding book.  i love to bake, so this seemed like an appropriate favor to give out.  also, since the cookies were chocolate brown, and we used pink paper for the fortunes, they fit with the color theme of our wedding.

the key to these favors was the idea i had to put bible verses about love inside each of the cookies.  specifically, each of the verses pointed out that love is solely from God and not us, and that we learn what love is by understanding the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross to pay the price for sinners.  our hope was that people would see that our love for one another did not come from within us, but it was enabled and empowered by God.

we spent very little on our favors, since i made them all by hand (and it was another fun memory making them with a friend!).  in the picture on the right you can see one of our table settings.  the fortune cookies are in the clear plastic baggies.
an alternative wedding favor idea is to donate money to a charity in lieu of wedding favors.  this was our second option, if we had not done the chocolate fortune cookies.  however, this is becoming a bit faddish these days, and i am wary of fads.  furthermore, it maybe a temptation for you to feel very righteous and holy for giving away money and letting everyone know about it.  but if you pray and move forward with this with the right heart, it could be a great option.  and if nothing else, the charity you give to will really appreciate it.

all this being said, skipping the favors still is probably your best bet.  its an easy way to save money without really having an impact on your wedding.

did you have favors at your wedding?  what ideas do you have for frugal favors that serve a positive purpose?

[this post is a part of a series on God-centered, frugal wedding planning.  you can view posts with other ideas here here here here here and here]

go on to the last part here...

Sunday, July 4, 2010

frugal invitation and music ideas for your wedding

as we approach the end of my series on planning a frugal wedding, here are some thoughts and ideas to about invitations, programs and music.


making your invitations will not only save you money, but will allow you to be creative and make unique invites that fit your personality. furthermore, it will likely be a fun bonding time for your and some friends!

i wish i had a picture to share with you of our invitations. they were made of two pieces of brown card stock.  sandwiched in between was a long piece of pink paper inside folded accordion-style with four panels.  the first panel had 1 john 3:16 printed on it, and the other three, details about the wedding.  and the print was all in lower case, my typing style of choice, if you haven't noticed :)  each invite was tied in a piece of twine, and sealed in a brown recycled paper envelope.

i am not a very creative person, but i was able to come up with a design that was unique (i have never seen anything like it before or since!) and pretty simple to put together.  i should also give credit to my friend allison who helped tweak the design!  we were also blessed to get all the paper for this for free, since my uncle works at a paper company!  each invitation cost just over 50 cents apiece, including the cost of postage.  what a good deal!  i also really enjoyed the quality time i got to spend with some of my good friends as we hung out, chatted and laughed as we made hundreds of these things together.

Brown & Ivory Vintage Invitations Kitanother idea, if you really dont feel creative and/or are under a time crunch to prepare your invitations, is to buy an invitation making kit.  these kits come with everything you need (envelopes, paper, ribbons, etc) and only require that you print the invites from your home printer.  here is one example, but you can find tons of kits in various colors and designs. 

you will save SO much money by making them yourself.  furthermore, because i am a realist i will point out that people will end up throwing away the invitations anyways, so there is no use putting a ton of effort into them.  that being said, i am still happy for the [minimal] effort i put into the ones for our wedding.  they didn't require a ton of work, but i feel like our invites set the right tone for the feel we wanted for our wedding (God-centered and comfortable).

another way to save money is by having an electronic rsvp (this saves you the money from the rsvp cards, envelopes and stamps).  this is not only a more frugal option, but is just easier anyways, since most people prefer the ease of the internet over the mail.  we did this by setting up an email specifically for people to rsvp to.  another option is to use one of the many websites that will allow you to set up a site for this, such as  (or if you are computer savvy like some friends of mine were, set up your own website!  they even had people vote on aspects of the wedding on their site... how fun and unique!)

the same advice goes for programs for the wedding... making them will save you lots of money.  you can use a similar design for them as the invites, just tweaked a little bit (for example, accenting with a different stamp, or ribbon).  also- only make about half as many programs as you have guests.  most couples will just take one program, and many people wont take one at all.  i have never heard anyone give this as advice before, but i have always noticed at weddings that there are tons of leftover programs.  we only made about half as many programs as we had guests, and we still had leftovers!

in the picture to the right, you can see in the foreground that we used the extra paper and ribbon from our programs and invites to make signs for the different types of cake (we also did this for the different nacho toppings and drinks).  i like to be orderly and organized, so this made me happy :)


our first dance was to the song "at last" by etta james.  not only has this been a favorite song of mine for a while, but it seemed like an appropriate way to celebrate finally being married after a 15 month long engagement!

how much did we spend on music?  not a dime.  this is because we made a playlist of songs on my ipod, and got a friend to be in charge of playing it.  he was also the "emcee" doing any of the various announcements that a dj normally would have made.

we were fortunate enough to be in a place where we just had to plug in our ipod and go, but some locations may not have sound equipment set up.  you can check into renting equipment, but for a first option i would check around to your church or elsewhere to see if they have sound equipment that they would be willing to lend out for a night.

what frugal invitation or music ideas do you have for someone planning a wedding?

go on to part seven here...

Saturday, July 3, 2010

true and false repentance

recently, i have been thinking about repentance.

one might think that all repentance is a good thing, but on the contrary the bible describes two different types of repentance, only one of which is honorable to God and acceptable in His sight.  under God's inspiration, paul wrote:

"for godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death [ie divine judgment]." 2 corinthians 7:10

first a few marks of worldly grief, and then i will expound more on God-centered repentance.

::worldly grief::

worldly grief is characterized by regret for sin because of the consequences of sin (ie getting caught) and what other people think. self-pity is another mark of repentance that is in opposition to God and the gospel.

worldly grief ignores the truth and beauty of the gospel, and pushes God away by saying "i will feel bad enough about my sin that i deserve to be forgiven."

furthermore, worldly grief often focuses on outward sin (ie getting drunk, stealing) rather than the seat of sin in the heart (pride, lack of joy).  paul says that this focus on outward goodness that is not motivated by God's grace is "having the appearance of godliness but denying its power" (2 timothy 3:5a) and goes on to say that true followers of jesus should avoid such people (v. 5b).

::godly grief::

it is good to be aware of worldly grief so that we can identify and run from it, but our real focus should be on godly grief, what it is characterized by and how to cultivate it.

true repentance is motivated by the love of God (romans 2:4).  it agrees with God's word that says "none is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one... there is no fear of God before their eyes." (romans 3:10-12, 18) but also "in this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him." (1 john 4:9).

in light of this, tim keller writes that "the gospel creates the only kind of grief over sin that is clean and does not crush" because the recognition of the depth of sin is accompanied by a deeper understanding of Jesus' sacrifice on the cross and God's love that motivated such a sacrifice.  furthermore, as Christians grow in their faith, they will experience deeper conviction of sin that is always accompanied by a deeper amazement and enjoyment of the depth and riches of God's grace and love.

in 2 corinthians 7, paul writes extensively about the results of true repentance.  he rejoices that the corinthian's godly sorrow for their sin has resulted in eagerness to clear themselves, fear, zeal, longing and joy.

thomas watson identified six characteristics of true repentance, based on psalm 51.  tim keller summarizes the six this way (and suggests using it as a template for prayer):

"1. sight. "my sin is always before you" (v. 3).  no one can truly repent without the Holy Spirit enabling us to see the reality of our sin.
 2. sorrow.  "against you, you only have i sinned, and done what is evil in your sight" (v. 4a).  repentance involves genuine sorrow over sin, the way it has grieved God, and what it cost him.  false repentance is sorrow over the consequences of sin, the way it has grieved you, and what it has cost you.  self-pity may appear to be repentance, but it is not.
3.  responsibility.  "You are proved right when you speak, and justified when you judge" (v. 4b).  real repentance makes no excuses, shifts no blame, takes full responsibility, and readily accepts any consequences without complaint.  this is true confession- agreeing with the judge.
4.  humility.  "surely i was sinful at birth..." (v. 5).  in real repentance, there is a change in one's whole attitude toward oneself.  you become dependent on God and others.  the myth of self-sufficiency is shattered.
5.  hatred.  "what is evil in your sight" (v. 4).  if there has been real sorrow for sin, (and not just its consequences) you will come to hate the sin itself.  watson says it is so unmask our sin and to see it as the "most misshapen monster" that it is.
6.  change.  "grant me a willing spirit" (v. 12).  if the other five elements are present, you will forsake the sin.  its power over you will be weakened and you will at least make progress out of it. "

how has the gospel shaped your ability to repent?  what verses bring you the most refreshing enjoyment of God's grace during your sorrow over your sin?