Dwell in Me

Seeking God in the Every Day


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Time Flies

He’s one. Almost thirteen months. And the time has soared by. And he’s nursing less and less and needing nourishment and cuddling from me physically. And I know that special relationship we have is coming to an end. And I am okay with that mentally, but emotionally I’m a wreck.

And the demands of school are sometimes overwhelming. I can’t finish my homework. It’s always hanging over me like a dark cloud or a nagging parent. And I sit and read and study and look up Greek words and puzzle over Hebrew verbs while my son keeps growing, changing, and wanting more attention.

And today was his first day at a “preschool” (which is really just daycare, right?) and I got a lot of homework done, but it will be a while before I’m caught up. I got to see him for about two hours today: getting ready in the moring and driving to his school and then after school to drop him off with his daddy so I could go to class. I missed that little guy so much today.

And it’s weird how time flies by these days, when the days before we were expecting, when we were still yearning, sometimes seemed to simply drag on for weeks and weeks. Why is time seemingly so out of balance? Why are the moments we want to hold on to the most the ones that seem most fleeting?

And it’s weird, having your heart beat in someone else’s chest.

And especially weird when that heartbeating is happening in some other place than where you are.

And he’ll go back to preschool on Thursday. A school full of love, where they are speaking Spanish and playing and doing interesting art projects and eating healthy food. But I don’t like sharing him all that much–so far.

The hope is that two days a week for me to do my homework will be enough so that I can focus on him on the other days. And in that way, the time we do have together should be quality time, right?

I won’t be caught up after Thursday, so it may take a little while to see the fruits of the plan. In the meantime, well, I suppose life goes this way sometimes.

Sigh.

And for some reason it’s no surprise to me that I haven’t written since August. I haven’t really felt motivated to write–except in my baby journal, which I can hardly keep up with. And I haven’t felt I have the time for it.

And tonight I’m thinking about all my friends out there who are so longing to have that heartbeat in someone else, that one they’ll grow and love on and give everything for. The one that will hurt so much to be apart from for a day. And I am sending some sweet thoughts and prayers your way tonight.

And remembering that I am so very blessed. In the mess and in the emotional roller coaster and in the husband who puts up with me and my crazy and in especially my little boy who likes to play in the dirt.


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Relating to God in 3 Basic Steps

A couple weeks ago we went to Colorado with my family. I don’t know what it is about mountains that reminds me so of God’s majesty. But I mean, wow! Love.

  
Which leads me to Trinitarianism. This was one of the courses I took this summer (and school’s out for a couple of weeks now!). This class has changed the way I think about God on a level I can’t even fully articulate. Talk about a God who wants to be in relationship with us! During one of our classes, while we were discussing this God in three persons, one of my classmates asked, “When we think ‘God,’ then, are we thinking of the Father?” And my professor replied, “When we think of ‘God,’ we should be thinking of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. That is who God is.” 

This is, of course, the logical conclusion of Trinitarianism–but I hadn’t ever connected it that way. 

And it’s changed how I relate to him–a God who is deeply relational in himself, a God who made us for relationships because he made us in his image. 

So that brings us back to a question I asked a long time ago (just shortly before our little man was born): How can we be in a relationship with God? What does it involve and how do we do it? How do we keep our relationship with God growing and fresh, flowing and not ebbing too much?

I think the first thing we need to realize is, by his grace, he wants to be in relationship with us. He wants this deeply and has gone to extraordinary lengths to make it possible. 

We can’t make it to God because we are so flawed in our fallen state and fallen nature. But God knew this and so he came to us. He became flesh and joined together with us in our humanity and offered us a way back. 

So step one to relationship with God is and always will be belief in his Son. And this isn’t some emotional feeling but a mental decision to trust that Jesus indeed was and is who he declares himself to be in Scripture and that his work on our behalf on the cross and in the resurrection has secured forever a path to salvation and relationship with God. 

But then what? 

It’s easy to take that first step and then keep on living like nothing has really changed. Or even to change your life by the power of the Holy Spirit but without taking it to a relationship level. 

Relationships are challenging. They do require a certain amount of work. And although God will never leave us, we certainly can do a pretty good job of forgetting that he is there. 

So, step two and three in our relationship with God are prayer/worship and Bible study. I don’t know for sure which I would put as two and which as three because they seem to go hand-in-hand. Both are necessary. In my life I know I have gone through phases where I emphasized one and then the other, but I believe it’s important to strive to incorporate both of these into our daily lives. 

We pray and worship as a form of communication with God (and to give him the honor and glory he deserves). Ideally, we should be telling God about ourselves (even though he knows everything already) as well as praising him and honoring and glorifying him. Our prayers should be a way to connect to God as we connect to other people we know and love. We want to recognize his involvement in our lives and let him know our thoughts too. And I would encourage you to spend time in prayer even telling God your anger, fears, and doubts, as well as your triumphs and joys. He is a big God and he can handle hearing about our disappointments. The Psalms are full of raw emotion being poured out to God. Is there anything keeping you from pouring your heart out to him? I’d encourage you to address that and work on getting to a point of authenticity in your prayer life. 

Bible study, I believe, is important in helping us get to know God better. Who is God? What has he revealed to us about himself through his Word? Scripture is such a gift from God and we should want to know all we can from it. 

Imagine if you were hanging out with someone and all you ever did was tell them the goals you have, what you want or need, your preferences and dislikes… But you never once stopped to find out anything about that other person. Would that be a relationship? You may as well be talking to a goldfish. 

We can do the same in our relationship with God if we aren’t careful. And while this won’t change his love and care for us, it is far from ideal. I think we can do better. I think a relationship with God can be the most rewarding and meaningful relationship in our lives–if we let it. 

So, to recap, we have three major steps to help us as we are relating to God: we need  to put our faith in Jesus, pray/worship, and study the Bible. I hope at some point to talk a bit more about what prayer and worship might look like and about good methods I’ve tried for Bible study (and maybe some others I’ve heard about). I talked a bit in a recent post about what it means to put our faith in Jesus.   So, in a meandering sort of way, maybe we’ll end up with some kind of series on relationships after all. Haha 

Enjoy the remains of summer. I’m enjoying my little break, too. And in two weeks: Hebrew! I’m really stoked about it, and maybe just a little scared. 


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Looking Forward to Forever

People are eternal.

Have you ever thought about this? About the implications? Or about whether that’s even true?

It seems self-evident that we all have an eternal yearning and that, therefore, something drives us to strive for an eternal existence.

I started thinking about this in the throes of infertility as I sought to grapple with why it was so important to me to have children. And I finally realized that we see children as a legacy, a way to continue, a way to exist beyond this life–at least in some form.

I would argue that all people make some attempt at eternity.

The powerful do this by building monuments or statues to themselves. It’s as if they believe–perhaps subconciously–a bronze statue set up in the middle of the square will forever remind people of who they were.

But statues come down.

And the inteligentsia preserve themselves through great discoveries and inventions, or great works of art and literature. And for a time these things remind us of their creators. So we recognize and remember the names of Marie Curie and Vincent Van Gogh and Harper Lee and even Galileo or Socrates.

A Lucille Ball look-alike poses at Universal Studios, FL, with my sister and me

Lucille Ball lives on in our memories and even in people who dress up like her at Universal Studios, FL–at least for now.

But there are many who have contributed to our understanding of the world and of beauty whose names are long forgotten: who wrote Beowulf? And who devised the alphabet? Or recognized addition?

The great achievers are so often forgotten, and perhaps all will be forgotten in the end.

And the regular folks among us–we strive to carry on through a name, through a child (and later a grandchild, a great grandchild, and so on). My father-in-law is an only son (he has two sisters), and my husband is his only son. When our son was born, DH’s grandmother remarked, joyfully, that the family name would continue one more generation. While this urge to bear children may not be a conscious attempt at extending our presence on earth, I believe at least subconciously, that is part of the motive.

But sometimes, family lines end. A family has only girls (a strange phenomenon in our culture that girls don’t carry on names and lines–but that’s another topic entirely). Or a person never meets “the right person.” Or a marriage does not result in children for whatever reason.

But either way, there’s this clear drive to go on in some form or fashion.

I believe this drive for eternity we see exhibited in so many ways is present in us because people are eternal. People are created to live forever.

But how?

If statues and inventions and even children don’t get us there–how do we live forever?

We know we’re going to die. People die.

But I believe we were made to live. To continue.

Beyond the earthly realm, we hear about many ways to a sort of everlasting existence. The quest for eternity appears in many of the world’s religions. A Buddhist seeks nirvana–a sort of eternal bliss state and reuniting with the universe from what I understand. Hinduism teaches reincarnation–a continuing on of the same spirit of a person ad infinitim. Judaism professes an eternal existence that takes different forms depending on which interpretation one follows. And Islam and Christianity both preach heaven–although the path to heaven differs for each.

I would argue that there is a certain impossibility built in to all of these faith traditons. Even those that don’t put their faith in some way in a perfect and holy God teach that the path to eternal existence is based on discipline, good works, perfection of some kind. Hinduism teaches that there are consequences for the life we live: A bad life leads to a less favorable next life–karma directs destiny. And Buddhism teaches that people need to rise above the world in some way, usually portrayed through some kind of self-discipline. And Buddhists I have had the opportunity to speak to acknowledge that the likelihood of ever reaching nirvana is very low. Only a handful of people are considered to have done it. Judaism focuses on living a righteous life. And Islam requires both belief (in Islam) and a balance of more good deeds than bad deeds.*

The problem is, no one is perfect. We all yearn for eternity, but none could earn it. We all fall short. The Bible says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) Sinning, and falling short, means we put ourselves in opposition of a perfect God. And, “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Great. So for even one sin we earn death. We are made for eternity, but we earn death the first time we fall short of God’s standard. And we don’t really have a way, in ourselves, to go back and undo even one bad deed. We earn death, and we can’t unearn it.

It sounds pretty dire.

But, God loves us. And God wants us to be with him in our eternity. The Bible says, the Lord “is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Since we can’t live up to God’s standard, we can’t get to God. But God knew that, so he came to us. His Son took on flesh and lived a sinless life–something only God could do. He died a gruesome death on a cross and paid for all sins for all people. He paid the wage we have all earned. And he rose from the dead. This resurrection shows that God accepted the sacrifice made on our behalf and that Jesus defeated death once and for all.

Jesus paid for all of the sins of all the world. But we have to choose if we want to accept that free gift. We have to be able to accept it, and recognize that we cannot earn it. Attempting to earn our way to God will fail every time. Statues fall down. Inventors get forgotten. Family lines die out. There is no way for us to make ourselves eternal on our own. But the Bible says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Believing this truth is what is meant by having faith. And the Bible says, “For by grace you have been saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

If we trust God, we have the everlasting life we are all wired to desire. And we can be assured of it, because it is based on something that God does for us and not something we are working toward or trying to do for ourselves. Jesus says, “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me [God the Father] has eternal life and will not be judged but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24). I urge you to notice the present tense here: believing in Jesus means you have eternal life. No need to work for it–which is good, because working for heaven would leave us falling short.

One who believes the good news of Jesus Christ can be assured an everlasting life–thus resolving the urge and fulfilling the yearning ingrained in us because of our eternal nature. This doesn’t mean we don’t still seek to make a noticeable difference in this life, or to have children–but perhaps it can meet the heart’s need for life that continues, making the accomplishments and desires of this life less pressing.

This truth is something I believe with all my heart and something I’d stake my earthly life on. It got me through the hardest parts of dealing with infertility and it will get me through this life with the ups and downs we are going to deal with. It’s the hope that I have. And it’s about time that I made that clear here.

If you’ve read this and chosen to believe in what Jesus has done to grant you a life that does not end, I encourage you to talk to someone about your decision. If you want to talk to me about it, please let me know in the comments or send me an email at dwellsinme (at) gmail (dot) com. I would love to talk to you!

By that same token, if you’ve read this and don’t know if you want to believe, or have some questions, or think I’m way off base here, and want to talk about it–well, shoot me an email. I’d love to talk to you, too!

*I’m not an expert on Islam–or any world religions–but found this article helpful in understanding an Islamic view on salvation compared to the Christian perspective.


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Giving Myself Permission to Write

I’m an inconsistent and sporadic blogger. I always was, and it’s only getting worse. Rather than hide from it, rather than try to pretend that if I put my mind to it I’ll post regularly, I think it’s time to just admit that I’m a write-when-I-can kind of blogger. At least for this season of my life.

Because the more I try to tell myself that I should write consistently, the more I frighten myself away from writing. And that really isn’t what I want.

So, whether it makes sense in a social media world or not, whether it’s the “right way” or not, whether it’s a way to build followers or scare them away, I’m going to commit, right now, to blogging when I can. Which means that I probably won’t write consistently. And I’m going to be okay with that, because otherwise I’m not going to write.

I have always been a pretty long-winded blogger, but I’m giving myself permission to change in that regard too. Life with a baby is truly worth the wait, and I love being able to spend time cuddling my son and loving on him. So maybe when I do write, I’ll write short snippy things because my free time is rare and often short-lived or quickly interrupted.

I’m back in school full time, which means 7 hours this summer and 9 in the fall. Last fall I took 15 hours and I didn’t know what free time was. This spring I had a baby and took 3 and barely got it together to study when I needed to for that. But babies grow–very quickly as it turns out–and as Penn has gotten just that much more independent, I’m finding I have a few minutes here and there to toss a load of laundry in or rinse a few dishes. And as he’s napping in his crib now and going to bed before me (most nights), I’m finding some time to do my homework for my classes. And, well, sometimes maybe I’ll be here, blogging.

I love having this space, but I guess I need to treat it as what it is: a space for me. For reflecting and writing and growing. For recognizing the seasons I’m in and the lessons I’m learning. And maybe sometimes it will be interesting for other people and maybe–likely often–it won’t. But if I get hung up on that, I’m not going to write.

And I know I have had a baby. And that changes a lot when you’re dealing with infertility and so many posts for so many months were so focused on not having one and wanting desperately for circumstances to change. Infertility has shaped me. And it’s something we expect to deal with every time we want to grow our family. But the fact remains that having had a child changes the scene and changes the focus. I’m not worrying about treatments. I’m not despearately crying out to God every night for a change in our circumstances, because the circumstances are changed. And that change is going to spill over into my blog because otherwise this isn’t going to be an honest place.

So, dear readers, I won’t be offended if you need to leave because I’m talking about the joys and challenges of having a baby. Because while I wouldn’t change it for the world, being a mother does come with challenges. I think we all know that, but I’m just coming to really, personally, know that.

And if I don’t make this a place where I can speak honestly, I’m not going to write. Which may partially explain why I haven’t really written in such a long time.

That, and because four months of motherhood have flown by and I’ve hardly had moments to acknowledge any of it.

So, this post is about me finding the freedom to write what I want to write and to let myself write when I can. Because some days I want to and I can’t. And today I can, so I am.

Blessings.

 


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It’s a Boy!

In my last post I promised a series on relationships, starting with how we can grow in our relationship with God.

That was one month ago. Yikes.

Now, in my defense, I was in fact working on the first post for the series one week later. I have a half-written draft sitting in my account. And I do intend to finish it and get the series going. But I got distracted and had to stop in the middle of writing because I went into labor.

And I can’t believe it’s taken me three weeks to get this up here, but:

Introducing Penn!

8 lbs., 2 oz, and 20.25″ long. Well, he’s bigger now, but that’s what he was at birth on Jan. 22 at 7:57 a.m.

Our little boy.

Our miracle gift from God.

05-andrew-5

I was extremely blessed to be able to have a natural delivery and a relatively short labor. We are absolutely over the moon in love with this little boy!

I hope to get my series going here soon, but find it’s difficult to get much done these days. I’ve been a bit preoccupied, I guess. I’m sure I’ll get to it eventually.


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How Do We Relate?

There are so many stages in our relationships. Some never get beyond the introductory parts, while others continue growth in intimacy throughout a lifetime. Have you ever looked back on an important relationship and remembered that first, fresh, getting to know you phase? Sometimes it can be awkward and it’s often difficult, in my experience, to get from there to a deeper and more intimate stage of growth. Other times, relationships begin full of excitement and expectations, but never do progress beyond early stages.

Wedding RingsWhen DH and I first met, we had a little background knowledge on one another; we’d had mutual friends and seen each other around campus. We had an economics class together. My roommate was constantly suggesting that we’d be a great couple, but I had no idea how right she was. The first phase of our relationship consisted mostly of him asking me to help with his homework, and me returning, confused, to my roommate and telling her, “I don’t get it. He understands this stuff. He doesn’t need any help.” I was clueless (it all seems so very obvious now!), but it can be difficult for two people to take a relationship from the starting point to, well, wherever it’s going.

This isn’t true only in marriage. I’ve seen it in some of my friendships as well. When we first moved to Texas, I remember spending quite a lot of time pondering how one is supposed to make friends after college. I honestly didn’t know where to begin. We’d meet people at church or Sunday school, but how did you go from knowing someone’s name to actually having a friend to confide in or spend time with? I don’t know what the answer is supposed to be, but I kept coming back to some vague idea of shared experiences. Somehow, before intimacy and true friendship develops, you need to be able to get out of the crowd and do things together–but how?

I have a dear friend here in Texas who happened to walk into Starbucks one day last spring while I was working on my Bible study homework. She and I had met in Sunday school, but this was the first time we’d seen each other in another setting. She had some free time and sat down at my table, and we spent a long time talking. At the time, we were getting ready to start the infertility treatments we needed, and she was going through a difficult time as well. Our conversation became deep really quickly and we’ve never looked back. The other day, she mentioned that this was the first time she had gone to that particular Starbucks, and that she hasn’t really been there since. I can only thank God for establishing that friendship!

There’s an ebb and flow in relationships, too. In different relationships it has different intensity. There isn’t a lot of “ebb” in my marriage, because, well, we’re together. Even when we’re busy, we’re both coming back to the same place nearly every night and the relationship keeps going. I have some friends I only spend time with or catch up with occasionally; most of them live in other parts of the country. But that ebbing, while it changes the relationship, is still, somehow, part of the relationship, too.

I’m not a relationship expert by any means. It’s not a field I’ve studied in depth. But I know that God said, very early on in this whole story of life, that it is not right for man to be alone. We have been created for relationship, and I’d like to spend some time exploring the concept.

The most important relationship in my life is between God and me. He’s never distant, but sometimes I am. He’s never losing touch or hard to get a hold of, but sometimes I am. He’s never the one dropping the ball or forgetting our dates or standing me up; when these things happen, it’s me. He’s never the one who needs forgiveness, but I’ve been angry with him before. He’s always on time, always available, and always interested; even though I’m not.

In the next few weeks, I’d like to write about how that relationship develops, how it changes, how it ebbs and flows, and how we can grow closer to God. I think it should always be a stepping forward, but in my experience, there’s often some backtracking, some unnecessary ebbing, involved. It’s not that I have any answers to how to make it better, but it’s something I want to explore and think about. The thing about important relationships is that they can often be the easiest to take for granted. How can we avoid that?

Are there topics related to this that you’re interested in exploring with me? How do you keep your relationship with God fresh and growing? Or what makes it most difficult for you to be intimate with him? Let me know in the comments; I’d love to explore these things with you.


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Fear: An Enemy to Keep Fighting

**This post is very much pregnancy related.***

Fear.

Never a friend.

But always sneaking up on you, no matter how many times you say, no thanks. You’re not welcome here.

Recognizing and fighting fear became a big lesson for me as we were going through infertility treatments and prayers and whys and what-ifs. I learned a lot about this enemy and I wanted it out of my life for good. But it somehow keeps sneaking back in.

Yesterday, when the baby wasn’t moving like normal, I let it in a little. I knew it was better not to be afraid, but it was a fight to push fear back. Have you been there?

I know I still have a lot of growing to do in eliminating fear and its control in my life. But I’ve learned a little, and I tried to put what I have learned into practice. I prayed. I worried and feared that something may be terribly wrong with the baby, but I prayed.

“There is no fear in love, for perfect love casts out fear.” (I John 4:18a)

That verse continues: “For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”

God doesn’t punish us. Right?

But bad things happen. They do. I’ve seen plenty. I’m sure we all have. I’ve experienced more than enough, but I’m sure I will experience still more. So how do we go from there to trusting that the bad things that happen can be used for good? Or that the terrible things in our lives can be part of God’s perfect will for us?

“The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21: any wonder why we praise this man’s faith?)

And I thought about it. What if the Lord was taking away this prayed for baby? I know it sounds terrible and gruesome and now, in the light of day and on the other side of this, it’s harder to imagine than it was yesterday morning. But what if? What if the Lord wanted this child to bypass the evils of this world? What if the Lord wanted to postpone our meeting until we might be reunited in heaven? What if he did? Could I face it?

Could I trust that it was to be used for my good?

Could I trust God in the face of that kind of loss?

I prayed that I would be able to. I prayed for trust and faith in him. And I prayed that our baby was okay. And I prayed that if he did in fact call our baby to himself right then that I would keep praying.

I can’t imagine what that would have been like or what that would have looked like. And I thank God that this is not where things are right now. Our baby is fine. Hours at the hospital yesterday hooked up to fetal monitors have determined that the baby is fine. But there was that moment. And in that moment, I let fear sneak in a little more than I should have, but a little less than I would have in the past.

I am growing. But still not completely perfected in love. And still with much to learn.

And I am praising God for the miracle of life that is still alive in me. I am overwhelmed by his mercy toward us and thankful for his grace.

And praying that these next few weeks will go smoothly, that we’ll meet our child soon and on this side of heaven. And that God will continue to grow us in wisdom and to perfect us in love. Because if we let the fear in–it’s too much. There are too many ways this could all go wrong. Yesterday was such a poignant reminder. And a good reminder, also, that this baby is not mine, but the Lord’s. May the Lord use our child for his purposes and to do his perfect will.

I John 4:18

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