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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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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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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Didn’t I Already Learn This?

I’m constantly amazed at my ability to falter in my faith.

Our house is officially under contract; we did come to terms agreeable for both us and the people who are planning to move into our house, and our closing date is set for September 29. In case anyone is wondering, yes, that is in 25 days. And no, we don’t have a house to move into (or even one we are seriously interested in looking at in the neighborhood in which we’d like to live).

We'll be saying goodbye to our little house

Throughout this process, I’ve been great at talking the talk. Whenever a person came to see the house and didn’t like it, it was easy to assure my husband that God had the perfect buyers for our house and that he knows where we are going. But now it’s time to walk by faith and trust that God has a place for us, and I find myself faltering.

I wonder why we put our house on the market in the first place (even though we had plenty of reasons, chief among them DH’s very long commute).

I find myself secretly (or not so secretly) hoping our buyers will decide to exercise their option and break the contract. We could sell the house at a more convenient time.

I worry: how are we going to get everything packed and moved? I have more than enough work to do for my classes with nothing else added on. DH is preparing to take the first CFA exam this winter and keeps reminding me that he’s terribly behind in his study timeline. Oh, and have I mentioned that I am really, really, really (and that’s not enough emphasis–seriously!) terrible at packing and moving? So, we will hire someone, but that means we need to find someone.

Did I also mention that DH is in a wedding in New Mexico the weekend before our closing date? One which we are both planning to attend (and for which I still don’t have a plane ticket.) Don’t worry: we’ll also be out of town the two weekends preceding that one. As in, this weekend is the only one that has us in town between now and closing.

And when DH’s car broke down on Tuesday morning, bringing the “someday we need to replace your car” to a more urgent “what car are we going to buy and how long can we hold out before we have to do it?”–well, I think that was a final straw for me. And I’m sorry to say I spent most of yesterday succumbing to fear and worry and unable to focus on my studies.

I like to think I was doing okay with the whole thing. That I was trusting God and expecting everything to go the way it should. But I think maybe it hadn’t all sunk in yet. I think I was in denial. And I was quite happy there.

The ridiculous thing about this whole situation is that I thought I had learned these lessons. In fact, just a few months ago, on this blog, I was asking God if I had learned enough yet. And here, too.  I was ready to move on from not being pregnant. So ready.

And here I am, still learning the same things: Trust me. Don’t fear. Don’t worry. Wait on me.

But my gracious God has changed my circumstances. Instead of battling infertility today, I’m dealing with doubts and questions over where we will live and how things can be done in the time that we have. And how our finances are going to work between moving out and (hopefully) moving in and buying a car and paying for movers and flying to New Mexico
and . . .

While I let myself get hung up on the circumstance, on the day-to-day, and on the things about which I have limited or no control, I haven’t been trusting like I should. Yet God is good. And he is calmly whispering to my heart: I’m still here. I’m still trustworthy. I still know. Remember the battles you’ve been through before? I carried you through those, and I’ll carry you through this.

So I’m glad for the wake-up call. This isn’t really a trial: it’s an opportunity to put my faith in practice. I’ve not done so well the past week, but by the grace of God, I can do better today. And tomorrow.


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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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I’m Coming Out

I created this blog at a vulnerable time, and I made it anonymous. At the time, we weren’t ready to share what we were going through with just anyone. But now I feel differently, and it’s time to come out.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you may have noticed that I’ve made a few changes–not only to the layout and title of the blog, but also to the content. I’ve taken out a lot of medical details and left the nitty gritty doctor stuff intentionally vague. I guess I’m still not ready to share that with the world of people I know. I don’t expect I ever will be.

In real life, I go by Tori. Tori Andrew. Like Ria, Tori is short for Victoria. A new name, but the same girl you’ve gotten to know since you started reading my rambling thoughts.

So, if you came here looking for “Fill My Nest,” you’re in the right place. The blog’s name has changed, too (in large part because I wanted a .com address and someone bought fillmynest . com to try to re-sell it). But  I chose to call the blog Dwell in Me because I feel like God has really impressed the word dwell on my heart this year.

I’ve been reading about that word. It’s a word that implies some permanence. To dwell is more than just to pass through or to stay for a moment. It’s about living, about staying. It’s about finding a home.

I want to do that. To dwell. To dwell in the Spirit and hear what the Lord has to say into my heart. To make my home with my husband in accordance with God’s grace and plans for us. To be willing to dwell where God calls us (so hard, sometimes, and yet, so worth it).

And I want to be a dwelling place. To be open and available for the Spirit to make a home within my sinful flesh. To relinquish control and the determination for my way and allow myself to be led by the Spirit instead. To be open and willing to change, to bend, to be molded and shaped in God’s preferred form.

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. (I Corinthians 6:19-20)