Dwell in Me

Seeking God in the Every Day


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Escaping the Sins of the Fathers

“The Lord passed before him [Moses] and proclaimed, ‘The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and fourth generation.'” (Exodus 34:6-7, emphasis mine)

Have you heard this passage before? Or maybe just that last part–about the iniquity of the fathers?

Ouch.

How many times have we witnessed this truth, though? Children suffer, and we see the consequences of their parents’ sin, the consequences of their parents’ wrong actons playing out in the lives of the most vulnerable. A child chooses to follow his father’s footsteps toward a life of crime and ends up in prison. A child mimics the abusive behavior he sees between his father and mother and is expelled from school. A child whose father was more interested in beatings than bed-time stories chooses to abuse his own children. It’s easy to see how parents’ bad actions can influence their children. And that’s without mentioning the consequences these children may face at no fault of their own: being behind in school, failing to achieve career or relationship success, inescapable poverty, dependency issues. The list of serious negative sin-consequences is, sadly, inexhaustable.

And if we believe that all people are born with a sinful nature, that our very hearts bend us toward evil (Matthew 15:19), then how can we possibly escape the double whammy of our own sin and the sins passed down from our parents, even if we have been blessed with “good” homes and generally positive role models?

How can our children have any hope of peace beyond the consequences sure to be visited upon them for our sins, not to mention the sins of our parents, and even of our grandparents?

Is there any way to break this cycle?

I’ve been thinking about these questions, and I believe the answers lie in an understanding of adoption. Specifically, of adoption laws in Roman times.

John Wesley Valnes writes that “in [Roman] adoption, a person had to pass . . . out of the possession and control of one father into the equally absolute control and possession of another father.”

Adoption in Roman times was a serious matter, with four major consequences:

  1. An adoptee lost all rights in his original family, but gained all the rights of his new family. He received a new name and a new family.
  2. An adoptee became heir to his new father’s estate–even if that father previously or later had biological children.
  3. An adoptee’s old life was completely wiped out. He was regarded as a new person entering a new life, and the past had nothing to do with his present or future. This included the removal of any debts or obligations connected with the adoptee’s previous family. 
  4. In the eyes of the law, an adoptee was seen as the absolute child of the new father.

 

So why is Roman adoption so important?

Because this explains how Paul, a Roman citizen, would have understood the term “adoption” when he wrote his letter to the Romans:

Romans 8:16“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness that we are children of God.” (Romans 8: 14-16, emphasis mine)

If the sins of the fathers are visited on the children . . .

And if God is our Father by adoption . . .

Then I submit that there can be no sins of the father visited upon us.

What freedom. What joy. And what hope for us in this life.

Praise God, who made a way for us to find freedom from our debts, and freedom from the debts of our families. Praise God, who loved us enough to make a place for us in his family, to include us as his heirs.

Have you been adopted into God’s family? If so, how has your life been changed?

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Not Left Behind After All

One of the things about infertility that made me saddest was the feeling I was being left behind in some way. My friends were getting pregnant and having babies all around me, and I just knew that when it was finally my turn, they’d all be past that stage and doing other things.

My best friend growing up just had a baby a couple of weeks ago. When she told me she was pregnant, I was sad. Not because she was pregnant. I was honestly happy for her and her husband. I just never expected that she would be pregnant before me. I was sad that even she was leaving me behind. And when we found out she was expecting we hadn’t even started treatments.

I never was a particularly emotional person. I don’t often cry. Well, I cried a lot at the beginning of this whole infertility journey, but then it kind of tapered off and I got back to being the fairly stoic version of me that I am most accustomed to being–albeit a little more aware, a little more open to other’s needs. But I remember when I went in to the doctor’s office that month. I was feeling like, this just has to work. Because I so wanted my child to be close enough in age with hers that they would be friends. I cried. It was so embarrassing.

And we didn’t get pregnant that month.

Oh! I just remember feeling so much pressure to get pregnant a.s.a.p. I had watched so many of my other friends have first children. And then second children. Even third children. But, while I felt I was falling further and further behind, it wasn’t until this particular friend was expecting that I felt this sense of urgency. Like I just couldn’t take it if our child was too far behind hers.

And she was so great. She kept telling me that little kids don’t necessarily care how close in  age they are. She reminded me that she would play with my little brothers on occasion if I wasn’t available–and the closest one to me was three years younger than us. She assured me that our children would be like family and so they would have to get along and play together. They just would. It would be fine.

And I knew she was right. And I knew God’s timing is perfect. And I knew I shouldn’t worry. But it was still tough.

And our child will be about six months younger than hers. That’s all. Just six months! Not such a big difference in age at all. I didn’t deserve that blessing. But I am so grateful for it.

God has really provided for me. I thought I’d be pregnant alone by the time it came to me, but instead, he has placed so many friends around me who are expecting their first–a few of whom are expecting children within a month or two of ours. A dear friend in our small group is due eight days after me! Eight days! Talk about going through pregnancy with someone.

Incidentally, back in December, this friend had said to me, “I really feel like God has been telling me that we will have children together.”

I laughed and said something like, “Well get going already then!”

And sure enough–we are.

Pregnant Together

I’m so grateful. In the middle of infertility, when everything seems hopeless, I feared being left behind. But God’s timing is perfect. And he knows why we need to wait and how long. And even though I don’t think I really resolved this fear of being pregnant alone and too late to have community or support, God addressed it by blessing me abundantly. He made sure I wouldn’t be in this alone. He put other women in my life to go through this with me. I wasn’t left behind after all.

What a good God we serve! That he would reward us when we deserve no reward. That he would bless us with things we didn’t even articulate. That he would restore and redeem us in the ways that are best for us. I am so grateful.

And I hope that those of you waiting will be encouraged to know that God will take care of your needs in ways you may not have anticipated. I believe that. That may look different for everyone, but he will surely bless you through your trials in the best way for you. How he loves us!


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Finding Words

I’ve been trying to find the perfect words for this post, but I give up. The fact is, I’m pregnant. And, I’m over-the-moon excited that we’re going to have a little one in our home sometime in January.

But that’s not the full story. The full story includes that I’m still heartbroken for those of you dear ones still waiting. I’m praying for you. I’m waiting with you. I’m eager for you to experience your little miracles and your daily joys and your resolution in this trial.

The full story includes that it’s weird being infertile and pregnant. Like I don’t have any more street cred. Like the journey’s over (for now). Like I can’t know anymore what it’s like to be in the waiting room or going through treatments. And some of that is true. I know–barring a miracle–we’ll be going through treatments again someday, but that isn’t going to keep me from enjoying this pregnancy, this baby, this miracle growing inside me. I know what we’ve been through thus far was anything but trivial, and that the experiences we’ve had are not going to leave me. I know what it’s like to spend month after month hoping and finding those hopes dashed–but I also know that it’s worth it. That we’ve gotten there. That we’re making it through.

And I know what it feels like to be waiting. And waiting. I pray you’ll be on the other end of that soon.

As slow as all the waiting drags by, I thought I’d have time to enjoy pregnancy. To be happy and gloriously pregnant. But time switched to fast forward. And the first trimester is over before you’ve had a chance to fully realize that it’s started. And as you stare at 14 weeks–wasn’t it just 13 weeks yesterday?– you realize, you’re never going to get everything done. And a human being is coming. And that human will need things and time and love and–wow. I thought I had learned a lot in the waiting. Yet I find myself feeling completely unprepared. Inadequate. Unready as this miracle I want nothing more than to relish keeps speeding by.

Wishing a little fast-forwarding to all of you waiting. And that you’ll be here with me, soon, holding our babies and praising God for yet another everyday–or extraordinary–miracle.


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Looking Anew at the Psalms

I always used to wonder about the Psalms. I mean, there are some really pretty poems in that book, right? Who doesn’t love Psalm 23, for example? And I’ve always liked the ones that clearly prophesied things about Jesus, like in Psalm 22:

“I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast;
my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
you lay me in the dust of death.
For dogs encompass me;
a company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and my  feet–
I can count all my bones–
they stare and gloat over me;
they divide my garments among them,
and for my clothing they cast lots.” (v. 14-18)

But outside of the clear references to Jesus and the sweeter, most oft-quoted poetry, I never really cared for the Psalms.

And I sort of felt like they were poems old people liked. I mean, they don’t even rhyme in English. And I’m sure the rhthym is all off too. Not like Shakespeare. Or even Dickinson–with her half rhymes and rhythmic verses. Or e. e. cummings, whose creativity in poetry just makes you think. “anyone lived in a pretty how town/ (with up so floating many bells down).” Love that.

The rest of the Bible is a little easier for me. More concrete. You know when God is telling you to do something or live a certain way. There are stories and you can analyze them and think about their application in your own life. You can read and puzzle over Revelation and Daniel, wondering what everything really looked like to John and Daniel in these visions they’ve recorded. Trying to see what they see. But the Psalms require something different.

I’m not sure what that is. Empathy? Personal suffering? Doubts? A vision of a God who is Love? And maybe all of those things and more.

Infertility has been pain, my suffering. It has made me question God and caused me to examine him to see who he really is. It has brought me to my knees and  brought me to his throne. And it has taken me to the Psalms.

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.” Psalm 1:1-3

 

“Ask of me and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.” Psalm 2:8

 

“But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. I cried aloud to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy hill.” Psalm 3:3-4

 

“Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have given me relief when I was in distress. Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!” Psalm 4:1

 

“But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread you rprotection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you.” Psalm 5:11

And there are 150 Psalms recorded in the Bible. Praise God for this source of wisdom and empathy. For this instruction in speaking to God and relating to and understanding who he is. For this emotional connection to him and to his word that we have in the Psalms like nowhere else. Praise God for opening my eyes to the beauty in these poems, to the meat in them, to the way they can speak powerfully in my life. Praise God.


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Who’s Serving Whom?

A few days ago I watched an episode of the remade Upstairs, Downstairs. It’s really just a poor girl’s Downton Abbey–something to fill the time while I’m working on knitted and crocheted gifts for the baby shower I’m going to next weekend. But this morning as I was laying in bed, half-waking, half-praying, I suddenly had this picture in my mind like I was the lady of the house and I was speaking to the people I’ve hired to do my beck and call–my servants.

This picture came as an overlay to my prayer. And I suddenly realized that I wasn’t praying, I was listing a litany of requests that I wanted to have filled.

The next thought  came swiftly on the first: Do I treat God as though he is my servant?

Of course, the relationship should go the other way. I should be striving in everything to serve God, my Master–which is a synonym for Lord–my leader, my guide. I am not the boss. God is the boss. I don’t even know where I’m going this afternoon; God knows every step I’ll ever take.

Yesterday afternoon, I was listening to the radio and the broadcaster was talking about sheep that live in his town. These sheep are apparenty moved from pasture to pasture around the town on a regular basis. And he said that as he was driving by the sheep he was thinking about how the Bible often compares us to sheep and Jesus or God to our shepherd. And he said, you never see one of these sheep stand up on its hind legs and tell the other sheep, “Hey, I’ve figured it all out. Follow me!” No. Instead, the sheep just sit there, mindlessly really, grazing on the good grass their shepherd took them to. They don’t even know where they are–all they know is that food has been provided for them.

If we think of ourselves as sheep under an all-loving and all-knowing shepherd, our prayer requests may come across as almost foolish. Imagine the sheep trying to tell the shepherd where it wants to go, how to get to the best pasture, the source of the water it wants to drink. The sheep doesn’t know these things. Instead, he relies fully on the shepherd to lead him and meet all his needs.

Now, this could be scary. In theory, the shepherd could be a wicked shepherd. He coud be leading the sheep to certain death just to satisfy his own evil desires. But a good shepherd would never do such a thing. Even in situations that a sheep might find confusing or frightening–like being sheared, perhaps–the shepherd knows exactly what he’s doing and why.

Praise God that he is the good shepherd. There is no wickedness or evil intent ever in the steps he lays out for us. We may stray, but he only loves us, only wants what’s truly best for us.

How much better would it be to unite myself more fully with the Father as my shepherd instead of viewing him as my equal–or worse, my servant? Why should I bother with a list of “please this” and “please that” when all I should be saying is, “thank you.” Thank you because God is the good shepherd. Thank you because even when the road seems a little rocky or the shears come close, he is leading me the right way. The good way. Thank you, because he is God, and I am not.


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Seeking to Recognize the Supernatural

We can place all the things in the universe–tangible and intangible, actions and inactions–into three broad (overlapping) categories: natural, unnatural (or produced by man), and supernatural (driven by God).

If we had a venn diagram of these, I think it would look something like this:

venn diagram of three naturals

Inside our circle of what’s naturally occurring, we may find things like trees and native forests, wetlands, wild animals, oceans, rivers, natural resources like oil or natural gas. All of these things we consider “natural.” These things are within the supernatural circle as well because all that is natural we see as created by God.

And then, inside the circle of what is unnatural, we see man-made productions: cars, roads, houses, computers. But these still fall inside the supernatural circle, because without the brains given by God, how could these things have been created? Here I don’t intend the label “unnatural” to have any negative connotation. There is nothing inherently negative about the things man has created. Though not all unnatural things are good, neither are they all bad. The term is neutral. (In the same way, “natural” could be used to refer to things we aren’t fond of, like fire ants and poison ivy. The fact that we may perceive them as negatives does not invoke a negative or positive connotation to the term “natural” itself.)

And I believe there are natural-unnatural overlaps. For example, a grain of wheat. The wheat we have today resembles its ancient ancestors in very little respect. This isn’t due so much to a natural evolution as it is to cross pollination, genetic engineering, and other forms of modification. Domesticated animals–dogs, cats, chickens, and cows–are natural creatures that have been affected by man. Other natural-unnatural overlaps may include infertility treatments that use natural products (sperm and eggs) mixed with science to enable pregnancy. Or even natural things that are used by man to create something else, like paper (from trees) or cotton clothing.

But, because God created everything, everything is–at least in some way–within the supernatural. There is an old joke that illustrates this point:

A scientist is speaking to God. “We don’t need you anymore, God. You see, we have figured  out how to create life in a labratory. We can be self-driven and have no need for your talents.” God looks at the scientist and says, “Really? How do you do it?” And reaching down to scoop us some of the earth, the scientist says, “Well, first you take some dirt–.” But here God interrupts him. “No,” God says, “Get your own dirt.”

Some things are exclusively supernatural–that is, they wouldn’t be lumped in with any other category. As an example, the resurrection would be considered wholly supernatural. There is nothing natural about a dead man rising from the grave. And there is nothing man can do to enable a dead man to arise from the grave. This is something God has done at specific times (Lazarus, Jesus, the 500 who arose when Jesus died, etc.). He has never done it by employing man in any way to accomplish the task (Jesus did raise Lazarus from the dead–but we see this could be done only because he was fully God in addition to being fully man).  And I believe Love is supernatural. We know that God is Love (I J0hn 4:8) and we cannot love but that God allows it and pours something of himself into us. Some things–like love–are supernatural whether we choose to acknowledge their source or not.

The key to the picture remains that all things, naturally occuring and produced by man, must be linked in some way to the supernatural. The very fact of existence at all connects us to the supernatural. But at the same time, we are least likely to recognize the supernatural in our daily lives. I submit that we tend to forget who is really behind the inventions we take for granted. We tend to forget who is behind the food we eat or the scenery we witness–whether rolling virgin hills or unforgettable city skylines.

And that’s a shame.

Because if we can live our lives always looking for and finding the supernatural, we will be so much more in tune with our Creator, so much more appreciative of his love for us and his role in our lives. I think recognizing the supernatural in the everyday is a key to a more abundant and more joy-filled life.

Lord, give me eyes to see your hand in the basic, the mundane, the normal. Let me recognize your presence and inspiration in the world around me. 


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Blessed

So Mother’s Day happened. And I survived. Actually, it was much better than last year’s. DH got me some lovely flowers and a card signed with four paw prints from our fur-babies. And we’re going to see Jesus Christ Superstar in about a month–which was, I suppose, an easing the blow/maybe soon gift to take the edge off.

I seriously love  Jesus Christ Superstar. I know it doesn’t tell the whole story, but I grew up listening to the records–yes records–every year over Easter weekend. This year, DH and I spent Easter in Colorado on a mountaintop at sunrise. And it was magnificent. But I didn’t get to listen to the music. I am so touched at the thought he put into this gift on what can be such a very difficult day.

I think things were much improved this year because we have so much hope that our time is coming soon. It’s either that, or I’ve become really detached from our infertility. Or maybe a little bit of both.

Our infertility isn’t causing the stress, the emotional duress, or the feelings of disappointment lately. Maybe I’m in the “acceptance” stage of grief. Or maybe I’m back in denial–espeically since we are actively pursuing treatments right now and any month could be the month. Either way, I’m grateful for the stability, for the peace, and for not feeling particularly distraught on Sunday. It all feels like a few enormous steps forward for me. Sigh. Happy, peaceful sigh.

And, I’ve been a negligent blogger lately. Well, I could make excuses. I seem to be neglecting the blog more and more lately, and sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever have anything worth saying again. I’m sure I will. Today’s post might not be it, but maybe the next one will. And if I keep posting I know two things to be true: 1. I’ll get back in the rhythm of the life I want to have and 2. the writing (and messages) will improve. And I so want that.

I also want to take some time this summer to make some improvements to this blog. This will involve posting more regularly, of course. And doing some research on interneting. And stay tuned for a new name and new look–hopefully soon.

I’m officially starting seminary this fall. It’s exciting and overwhelming and wonderful. I’m so looking forward to it–and I need to do a few things to get myself fit to return to school. That’s an aside. Because it’s an exciting anouncement and I make it on the heels of having done a serious amount of work to submit my application. But it feels weird to dedicate a post to it. So here. A little, tiny bit of Internet space.

I am feeling truly, completely, magnificenty blessed today. And I’m amazed to be able to feel this way in light of everything else. And so very, very grateful.

I hope this week is a joy-filled week for you. And I hope, also, that it marks my return to regular posting. Though I suppose only time will tell on that account.