Dwell in Me

Seeking God in the Every Day


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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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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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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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Wandering

I’ve been studying and teaching Hebrews. I find it a really interesting book, and a really difficult book to relate to the first and second graders I teach. The vocabulary alone is difficult. (When asked if they knew what it meant to be an “heir,” because Hebrews 1:1-2 says Jesus was “appointed heir of all things,” one little girl answered, “I think it means you get someone’s soul.”) Add in all of the references to the Old Testament books, and things get confusing quickly for the seven-year-old mind. I’m not just teaching Hebrews, I’m teaching parts of the history and culture and laws of God’s chosen people.

This week, the section we studied called our attention to the Israelites as they wandered in the desert after being rescued from Egypt. Moses, at God’s command, had sent a group of men into the promised land to scope it out before they entered. When they came back,

They gave Moses this account: “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak [basically giants] there.” (Numbers 13:27-28)

Then, this:

“We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.” And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. We saw the Nephilim there [the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim]. We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.” (Numbers 13:31b-33)

These spies had witnessed great miracles. They had seen the plagues God rained on Egypt. They had crossed the parted Red Sea. They had followed God as a pillar of smoke by day and of fire by night. They had received manna from heaven. Their clothes never wore thin. It’s easy to think that they, of all people, should have trusted in God’s strength and ability to lead them to victory in the promised land.

But they didn’t.

Did they think that as big as God may be, he wasn’t big enough?  Maybe they simply did not consider God at all but continued to put their faith only in their own strength. And they saw their strength was insufficient. Alone, without God, they stood no chance against giants!

They needed to relinquish self-reliance before they could truly rely on God.

And they needed to realize that their God is bigger than they can imagine.

The Israelites weren’t all of one mind in this. One of the spies spoke up for God:

Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.” (Numbers 13:30)

Why was Caleb’s calculation so different from the rest? After all, he’d seen the same things as the others. But he added in one important part: God. God had told the people he would give them the promised land, and Caleb (and Joshua) believed him:

Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes and said to the entire Israelite assembly, “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the LORD is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us. Do not be afraid of them.” (Numbers 14:6-9)

As a result of their unbelief, the Israelites were made to wander 40 years in the desert until the older generations had passed away. Caleb and Joshua, who stood up for God and believed him to be big enough, ultimately led the people into the promised land.

I like to think that I would have been better than the Israelites. That I would have been on the side of Caleb and Joshua in this. That I would have trusted God.

But then I remember how often I have failed to trust him through infertility. How I have tried to will myself to believe he can work a miracle in our life while also secretly doubting the possibility.

I’m not saying believing will mean never suffering, never struggling, never longing for something.

But I think maybe I need to examine the boundaries I’ve put on God. Do I think to myself, he can do A, but B is too much (or too far-fetched, or too unlikely)? Am I limiting him in my mind?

My God can best the giants. My God can knit together a baby in my womb. My God is big enough.

And I am foolish not to relinquish my own self-reliance.

I pray for faith like Caleb’s.