Dwell in Me

Seeking God in the Every Day


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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.


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Seeking God’s Most Excellent

It’s easy to get emptied when you overfill. When the days have too much, and the nights are too active, and the moments that you should save for peace, for quiet, for prayer and reflection and time with the Father just slip right away, never fulfilled, never seen again.

Saying no to the good to welcome God's Most ExcellentAnd you look back at a week’s worth of busy and wonder, how did I get here?

And you look forward at a new week’s worth of busy and ask, is there a way to do this differently?

And sometimes, being able to fill your heart and your love tank–and your love’s tank–means saying no. Sometimes it means stepping back, resting, waiting. Sometimes it means taking time for the really and truly important things: for quiet, peace, prayer. For long walks with your husband and those wild dogs of yours, for journaling and enjoying the days and hours and minutes God’s given us before they all run into months and years and we can’t remember.

And sometimes it seems like you’re being selfish when you do this. And don’t we all struggle with that? And how do we establish boundaries that are worth establishing? And how do we say no to the fun things, the “good” things, to gain God’s most excellent instead?

We can fill up. And we can pour out. But it’s hard to pour out when we don’t fill up first. And so I’m learning. Sometimes, we just have to stop. And when it’s nigh impossible to figure out how to stop in an ever-spinning world, I don’t know what to do. Except to pray. To say no. To wait on the Lord. And to know that His ways are not our ways, but they are better.

Even when better is hard to understand and even harder to define.

TIME

Every Friday, Kate Motaung provides a prompt for “Five-Minute Friday“: Write for five minutes only, no editing, no rewriting. This week’s prompt is “Fill.”


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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)


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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.