Dwell in Me

Seeking God in the Every Day


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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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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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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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From Fall to 2015: So Many Blessings. So Much Joy.

I’m sitting at the table in our new kitchen, surrounded by boxes that need to be unpacked and papers to organize. It’s been a busy–often overwhelming–fall and winter, and as we get ready to start a new year, I’m feeling a little bit out of my league and simultaneously overjoyed.

God has been so good to us this year. We are eagerly awaiting the arrival of our little one at the end of January (though not early, I hope, because there is still so much to do to prepare). I finished my first semester of seminary (which, I’m sorry to say, is what has kept me away from blogging these past months). We enjoyed season tickets to watch an awesome TCU season, with the great finale versus Ole Miss that ended just moments ago. (We had hoped to be in the playoffs, of course. But I’m glad we went out with a bang anyway). And we moved. We still have our other house and are hoping and praying it will sell quickly, but we are getting settled into our new house and already very much enjoying DH’s new commute; he’s spending about one-third as much time on the road to and from work now.

My pregnancy has been textbook, and I’m so grateful for that. I have no complaints about it–only joy. And I am hoping and wishing the same joy for all of you still waiting.

I took a break from blogging during the semester because I quickly came to the realization that I was taking too many classes (though not quickly enough to be able to drop any!). My dear husband has spent the past few months doing almost all the house maintenance, cooking, and generally supporting me and my many hours of study each week. I don’t know that I would have survived the semester without his help. I know I wouldn’t have eaten enough. Lesson learned, though: I won’t be taking so many hours again.

Despite the worklload, I enjoyed my first semester of seminary. I learned so much and have made some new friends. I love Greek. Which is good, because that’s why I chose the program I’m in. I’m grateful that God has led me to this school and program and I’m excited to see how he will use that in my life! I’m sure I’ll have more to write about seminary, and especially about some of the things I’ve learned in class, in the next few weeks.

I’ll post about our new house separately, too. It’s a tiny little 1950 house; a big difference from our brand new house in Katy, but so worth it for the improvement in our lifestyle!

And today is our seventh wedding anniversary. It’s the last one we’ll spend as a family of two. I’ve wanted that and hoped for that for the past few years, but looking back and knowng that this year really is the last one–I’m grateful. Grateful for the time DH and I have had together even while we were waiting. We’ve grown so much together, and grown closer to God together, and I am so grateful for this man who agreed to marry me and still loves me after these seven years. I am excited to have a partner to share my life with and hope we will happily grow old together! And I’m excited to see him as a daddy. I know he’ll shine in that new position!

It’s also DH’s parents’ anniversary, and tonight we’re going to have a meal together with them. It should be nice to share that time together.

I don’t know if I’ll make it to the ball drop. I’ve been getting tired early lately. There’s some chance I’ll get to the live NYC ball drop–since that’s at 11 my time.

As we get ready to begin our new year, I want to wish you all a very blessed 2015, a year for answered prayers and great joys. I have missed blogging. But I hope to be back and more consistent.

They had these signs on the door at Starbucks last spring. I took this picture a few days before we found out we were expecting. I have a thing for hot air balloons, and I liked the message; I think I saw in it some hope that there would be something new and unexpected and wonderful to say “yes” to. And there was. I hope the same is true for you and for us in 2015.

Say Yes to What's Next

Sending love and joy to all. Happy New Year.


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Still Home, Sweet Home–For Now

Do you know anyone in Katy looking for a really nice house?

You’d think I wouldn’t be surprised when God does the unexpected. But I always am.

So, we’re not moving. Not yet, anyway. The day after I wrote my last post, the buyers decided to back out of the contract. They didn’t give any concrete reasons, and they didn’t have to. I figure it’s because God knew that we wouldn’t be able to get it together to move by the end of the month, so he took that pressure away.

At first, it was quite a shock to us. And I was so worried DH would be mad at me! It’s his commute, after all, that won’t be getting cut by 2/3 at the end of September. He texted me Friday morning and said, “Well, your prayers were answered. The buyers backed out.”

I thought he was joking.

I didn’t technically pray that this would happen. But I guess I made it pretty clear to God that I was hoping it would; shoot, I made that clear to anyone who reads my little blog.

The sudden change in our circumstances was unexpected. And now our house is back on the market–which brings its own little set of joys to our daily routine (like hiding our toothbrushes every morning and constantly mopping after the dogs come in the house, and impromptu study sessions at Starbucks because I have to leave my house on short notice). But once the shock of their decision wore off, both DH and I were feeling really at peace about what had happened.

And he isn’t mad at me.

Current plan: The house will stay on the market through the end of September. At that point, we’ll pull it off for the rest of the year and try again early in the spring after the baby is born. I don’t want to move 7-plus months pregnant while also trying to prepare for Thanksgiving and Christmas. That said, I don’t actually want to move with an infant either.

I know God’s timing is perfect and he’s got this. And I am praying that he will bring the right people to our neighborhood at the right time. I hope whoever he brings will love this house and our neighbors and be a positive influence in the community. And I hope that when he brings people, there will be a house for us in the right place, too. In the meantime, maybe we’ll be here when the pomegranites ripen and the limes are ready to be picked from our baby fruit garden. There’s something to look forward to!

Pomegranites, Limes, Blackberries and Blueberries . . . oh my

And I get another chance to trust him and wait on him, which is good, because I was clearly botching that last opportunity.


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Unexpected Blessings

Our God is amazing. He knows us better than we know ourselves. And I love how he blesses us in ways that he knows we will appreciate–even when we haven’t asked for a specific blessing.

DH and I are in the process of selling our house. That is, we have our house on the market and are waiting for God to send the right people, the ones he wants in our neighborhood, to come and buy it. We’re sad to be leaving our house, because, frankly, we really love it. But the location just doesn’t work with seminary night classes and a baby on the way. We need a place closer to school and closer to DH’s office so he will be able to come home in time to watch our little blessing before I need to head to class.

We don’t need to move now, but we’ll need to move by this time next year–or else we’ll be tracking down babysitters for short time frames to cover the gap.

We received our first offer on the house on Friday. It’s exciting and a little overwhelming to think this move might actually be happening. If the perspective buyers accept our counteroffer, we need to find a place to live. Quickly! And although there are not any houses we’re interested in buying in the neighborhood we’re looking at, I feel completely at peace about the possibility that when we move, we may be moving into something temporary, instead of buying a new house.

Or, God may provide a perfect house for us at the perfect moment (I hear his timing is perfect). Either way, I’m not worried. Which is, in itself, a clear gift from God that I didn’t specifically pray for.

And it’s still possible these folks will decide this isn’t the house for them. They could reject our counter and walk away. They will have a 10 day option period, from which they could walk away. They could run into financial issues that prevent them from closing and leave us back where we started. And maybe no one else will come to make an offer on the house before we take it off the market at the end of September (I’d prefer to move pre-baby, sure. But not particularly close to my due date). But I know it’s in God’s hands.

Orchid on my bathroom counter

Oddly, I was reminded that God is taking care of this by an orchid I purchased for our master bathroom counter. It’s a really pretty plant, with two flowering spikes adorned by pale pink flowers that almost look vintage. I’ve been enjoying it since we put our house on the market about a month ago. But one of the spikes is starting to lose its flowers. And I was reminded, when we heard news of the offer on Friday, that when I had purchased the orchid I had thought to myself that it would be nice not to need another one before we got this place sold.

And, it looks like we may not. Again, contingent on whether we actually get under contract or not–but still: another blessing I didn’t specifically request.

I think it’s great to be very clear with the Lord and let him know what you’re wanting. And sometimes he says yes, and sometimes he says wait, and sometimes he says actually, I have something else, something better in mind.

But I love that the Lord chooses to bless us sometimes when we haven’t asked for anything. These little unexpected blessings can be easily overlooked or brushed aside. Or we can see them, recognize them, and then thank the Lord for his good provision and good gifts that we didn’t even articulate.

As I’m starting seminary today–my first class begins tonight at 6 p.m.–I’m glad to have the reminder that God is looking out for me even in ways I don’t think I need or don’t think to mention. And I trust he is looking out for you, too. I pray this school year will be an excellent one for all who are heading to class or watching loved ones go back to school. And that we will better notice those blessings from the Lord we never expected.


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Summer Storms

I came home this evening from a peaceful afternoon at the coffee shop. I exited my car to a thunderous soundtrack: a storm rolling in. There’s something so lovely about summer thunderstorms. I can’t quite place it, but it’s something to do with the thunder and the lightning and the smell of rain. And maybe to do with the car’s thermometer reading triple digits all day and a hope that rain will bring a respite from the heat.

I tried to let the dogs out before it started. They both cowered at the door to let me know they could hold it a little longer, thanks. They could sense the coming rainfall.

Now, it’s pouring. The rain hits the metal chimney vent like popcorn on the stove. The ground will take in what it can hold, and let the rest just run right away, filling ponds and bayous.

Melville, the two-year-old pup has decided now that he’ll go out after all, braving the storm to use the restroom. He spent a few minutes sitting on the porch, like he was watching the storm, before making his way to the grass. He’ll be back in a moment, frustrated about having wet feet and a wet coat. Happy to lay on the cool tiles and watch through the windows instead.

Rain painting our fences

Rain spilling off the roof

Puppy watching storm

Watching the storm from the windows

Today I’ve been thinking about the to-do list I want to get through before school starts. I’m nervous about going back to school. And as the summer quickly draws to a close, I realize that many of the items on that list–like making things for the baby, journaling and reading about pregnancy, relishing each moment of this dream-come-true–aren’t going to be finished before school starts.

And I have to be like the lawn, letting the things that can’t fit in just roll off and away. Because where the lawn fails to do that, the grass drowns and dies off. And where I fail to do that, maybe I lose a little, too. I stretch thinner and thinner in the places that should be growing.

Yes, I’ve journaled some. I’ve done some knitting. And I am relishing the moments I have. And I am finding out that God waters us and grows us in our circumstances, even if they aren’t always the circumstances we want to be in. And the rainstorm is slowing already, passing away as I watch it and type. Each moment is, afterall, only a moment. And we choose to find joy in the moments. Because I don’t know a better way.