Dwell in Me

Seeking God in the Every Day


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Relating to God in 3 Basic Steps

A couple weeks ago we went to Colorado with my family. I don’t know what it is about mountains that reminds me so of God’s majesty. But I mean, wow! Love.

  
Which leads me to Trinitarianism. This was one of the courses I took this summer (and school’s out for a couple of weeks now!). This class has changed the way I think about God on a level I can’t even fully articulate. Talk about a God who wants to be in relationship with us! During one of our classes, while we were discussing this God in three persons, one of my classmates asked, “When we think ‘God,’ then, are we thinking of the Father?” And my professor replied, “When we think of ‘God,’ we should be thinking of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. That is who God is.” 

This is, of course, the logical conclusion of Trinitarianism–but I hadn’t ever connected it that way. 

And it’s changed how I relate to him–a God who is deeply relational in himself, a God who made us for relationships because he made us in his image. 

So that brings us back to a question I asked a long time ago (just shortly before our little man was born): How can we be in a relationship with God? What does it involve and how do we do it? How do we keep our relationship with God growing and fresh, flowing and not ebbing too much?

I think the first thing we need to realize is, by his grace, he wants to be in relationship with us. He wants this deeply and has gone to extraordinary lengths to make it possible. 

We can’t make it to God because we are so flawed in our fallen state and fallen nature. But God knew this and so he came to us. He became flesh and joined together with us in our humanity and offered us a way back. 

So step one to relationship with God is and always will be belief in his Son. And this isn’t some emotional feeling but a mental decision to trust that Jesus indeed was and is who he declares himself to be in Scripture and that his work on our behalf on the cross and in the resurrection has secured forever a path to salvation and relationship with God. 

But then what? 

It’s easy to take that first step and then keep on living like nothing has really changed. Or even to change your life by the power of the Holy Spirit but without taking it to a relationship level. 

Relationships are challenging. They do require a certain amount of work. And although God will never leave us, we certainly can do a pretty good job of forgetting that he is there. 

So, step two and three in our relationship with God are prayer/worship and Bible study. I don’t know for sure which I would put as two and which as three because they seem to go hand-in-hand. Both are necessary. In my life I know I have gone through phases where I emphasized one and then the other, but I believe it’s important to strive to incorporate both of these into our daily lives. 

We pray and worship as a form of communication with God (and to give him the honor and glory he deserves). Ideally, we should be telling God about ourselves (even though he knows everything already) as well as praising him and honoring and glorifying him. Our prayers should be a way to connect to God as we connect to other people we know and love. We want to recognize his involvement in our lives and let him know our thoughts too. And I would encourage you to spend time in prayer even telling God your anger, fears, and doubts, as well as your triumphs and joys. He is a big God and he can handle hearing about our disappointments. The Psalms are full of raw emotion being poured out to God. Is there anything keeping you from pouring your heart out to him? I’d encourage you to address that and work on getting to a point of authenticity in your prayer life. 

Bible study, I believe, is important in helping us get to know God better. Who is God? What has he revealed to us about himself through his Word? Scripture is such a gift from God and we should want to know all we can from it. 

Imagine if you were hanging out with someone and all you ever did was tell them the goals you have, what you want or need, your preferences and dislikes… But you never once stopped to find out anything about that other person. Would that be a relationship? You may as well be talking to a goldfish. 

We can do the same in our relationship with God if we aren’t careful. And while this won’t change his love and care for us, it is far from ideal. I think we can do better. I think a relationship with God can be the most rewarding and meaningful relationship in our lives–if we let it. 

So, to recap, we have three major steps to help us as we are relating to God: we need  to put our faith in Jesus, pray/worship, and study the Bible. I hope at some point to talk a bit more about what prayer and worship might look like and about good methods I’ve tried for Bible study (and maybe some others I’ve heard about). I talked a bit in a recent post about what it means to put our faith in Jesus.   So, in a meandering sort of way, maybe we’ll end up with some kind of series on relationships after all. Haha 

Enjoy the remains of summer. I’m enjoying my little break, too. And in two weeks: Hebrew! I’m really stoked about it, and maybe just a little scared. 


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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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How Do We Relate?

There are so many stages in our relationships. Some never get beyond the introductory parts, while others continue growth in intimacy throughout a lifetime. Have you ever looked back on an important relationship and remembered that first, fresh, getting to know you phase? Sometimes it can be awkward and it’s often difficult, in my experience, to get from there to a deeper and more intimate stage of growth. Other times, relationships begin full of excitement and expectations, but never do progress beyond early stages.

Wedding RingsWhen DH and I first met, we had a little background knowledge on one another; we’d had mutual friends and seen each other around campus. We had an economics class together. My roommate was constantly suggesting that we’d be a great couple, but I had no idea how right she was. The first phase of our relationship consisted mostly of him asking me to help with his homework, and me returning, confused, to my roommate and telling her, “I don’t get it. He understands this stuff. He doesn’t need any help.” I was clueless (it all seems so very obvious now!), but it can be difficult for two people to take a relationship from the starting point to, well, wherever it’s going.

This isn’t true only in marriage. I’ve seen it in some of my friendships as well. When we first moved to Texas, I remember spending quite a lot of time pondering how one is supposed to make friends after college. I honestly didn’t know where to begin. We’d meet people at church or Sunday school, but how did you go from knowing someone’s name to actually having a friend to confide in or spend time with? I don’t know what the answer is supposed to be, but I kept coming back to some vague idea of shared experiences. Somehow, before intimacy and true friendship develops, you need to be able to get out of the crowd and do things together–but how?

I have a dear friend here in Texas who happened to walk into Starbucks one day last spring while I was working on my Bible study homework. She and I had met in Sunday school, but this was the first time we’d seen each other in another setting. She had some free time and sat down at my table, and we spent a long time talking. At the time, we were getting ready to start the infertility treatments we needed, and she was going through a difficult time as well. Our conversation became deep really quickly and we’ve never looked back. The other day, she mentioned that this was the first time she had gone to that particular Starbucks, and that she hasn’t really been there since. I can only thank God for establishing that friendship!

There’s an ebb and flow in relationships, too. In different relationships it has different intensity. There isn’t a lot of “ebb” in my marriage, because, well, we’re together. Even when we’re busy, we’re both coming back to the same place nearly every night and the relationship keeps going. I have some friends I only spend time with or catch up with occasionally; most of them live in other parts of the country. But that ebbing, while it changes the relationship, is still, somehow, part of the relationship, too.

I’m not a relationship expert by any means. It’s not a field I’ve studied in depth. But I know that God said, very early on in this whole story of life, that it is not right for man to be alone. We have been created for relationship, and I’d like to spend some time exploring the concept.

The most important relationship in my life is between God and me. He’s never distant, but sometimes I am. He’s never losing touch or hard to get a hold of, but sometimes I am. He’s never the one dropping the ball or forgetting our dates or standing me up; when these things happen, it’s me. He’s never the one who needs forgiveness, but I’ve been angry with him before. He’s always on time, always available, and always interested; even though I’m not.

In the next few weeks, I’d like to write about how that relationship develops, how it changes, how it ebbs and flows, and how we can grow closer to God. I think it should always be a stepping forward, but in my experience, there’s often some backtracking, some unnecessary ebbing, involved. It’s not that I have any answers to how to make it better, but it’s something I want to explore and think about. The thing about important relationships is that they can often be the easiest to take for granted. How can we avoid that?

Are there topics related to this that you’re interested in exploring with me? How do you keep your relationship with God fresh and growing? Or what makes it most difficult for you to be intimate with him? Let me know in the comments; I’d love to explore these things with you.


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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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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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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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Rejoicing with Those Who Rejoice

Joseph, favorite son of Jacob, was sold into slavery by his own brothers. The motive? That boy was daddy’s favorite, and they were jealous. Murderously jealous. In fact, if a tribe of Ishmaelites hadn’t shown up at just the right time, the original plan was to kill the boy, their brother, the favorite son of their father.

It’s really a sad story. I can’t imagine being so totally rejected by my own brothers and sister. It would be heartbreaking.

But this story has a truly remarkable ending. Joseph is raised up among the Egyptians. He becomes the number two guy in all of Egypt and prevents the people from starving during a severe, seven-year famine.

He also finds himself in a position to make an important choice.

When Joseph’s brothers who sold him into slavery appear before him wanting to purchase food for their families, he could have repaid their evil with evil. He could have sent them away empty-handed, or sold them as slaves, or even had them killed. But he doesn’t.

Joseph forgives his brothers. Yes, he makes them jump through a couple of hoops and pass a few well-designed “tests” before he reconciles with them, but we don’t see him taking vengence or holding any kind of grudge against the men who kept him from his beloved father and baby brother for over twenty years.

***

So, one of the tests Joseph gives his brothers is to see if they continue in their jealousy. He has a feast prepared for his brothers, and he feeds them all more than enough food, but he gives to Benjamin–his full  brother, the baby of the family, and his father’s new favorite–portions five times bigger than he gives all the other brothers.

And the brothers don’t complain. If they are jealous or begredging Benjamin this bonus serving, they keep it to themselves this time. The difference in treatment brings out no apparent ill-will. Instead, the Bible says, the brothers drank and were merry.

***

As we discussed this story this morning at my Bible study, someone mentioned Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” And I found it so very intereting when she said, “It seems easy to find people who weep with us when we’re weeping–but how often do we actually rejoice with others who are rejoicing?”

There’s a funny thing with infertility and the infertility community that’s been bothering meI don’t want to be insensitive, but I feel this needs to be said. As people dealing with infertility–people who want to be pregnant or have children more than most–we have a tendency to complain about other people’s pregnancies. We whine and mope about seeing pregnant bellies while we’re in the grocery store or out to dinner. We cry about pregnancy announcements and pictures of babies and bumps on facebook. We talk about how hard it is to be around people who have what we want the most.

I wish I could claim innocence here, but I know I’ve been guilty too.

And we can sugar coat it all we want. One book I read said pregnant bellies were “grief triggers.” This book–with a Christian perspective–was arguing that it is perfectly fine to foster those feelings of disappointment and sadness when we see pregnant women or new babies.

But I think we go beyond “grief trigger” and quickly end up at jealousy. And it’s not fine. We shouldn’t be okay with those emotional responses.

Maybe we can’t help it. Our emotions sneak up on us and we aren’t really ever in control, right?

But maybe we should try.

Because you know what? I’m going to be one excited lady when I’m pregnant. I’m going to be praising God and smiling and joyful–even if I’m sick and tired and feeling bloated. And I’m going to hope that people will want to rejoice with me.

And I’m not a fan of double standards.

So I’m rejoicing with you while you rejoice, dear mama-to-be.

And I’m weeping with you while you weep, dear friend still waiting.

And I’m starting now.


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Choosing God over His Promises

Well, so much for getting back to posting several times a week! I miss it so much though. And there are so many things I want to write. And today I realized that we are three days from the next action and there are things I want to write about before that happens. I don’t know if I’ll get to say all the things I’ve been wanting to say in the next few days. The fact is that my to do list before we go to my parents’ house for Christmas is very long and I don’t know where I’m going to find the time. But know that this is where I want to be. And I’ll be here when I can!

I have things I want to write about before the next steps because I know that whatever happens on Thursday is going to affect my perspective. And I want to be clear that I am saying that whatever happens on Thursday, I’m trusting God with this. If it was worth doing or if it wasn’t. If something happens that I can’t or haven’t yet imagined. If anything, in every scenario, I’m trusting God with this.

And this is why: Because I don’t have the answers, but he does. Because my ways are not his ways, but his ways are higher than mine. And because, at the end of the day, I want to know God and give him the glory more than I want anything–and I’m willing to give him the child that I hope for and that I desire. Because if God doesn’t want me to be a parent, I’m sure it’s because that is best for me. BEST. Not an acceptable outcome or something I’ll learn to deal with, but absolutely God’s best, his most excellent for me. Because I trust that he is working all things for my good. And because only he knows what is coming up and where we’re going.

So, God, I’m saying to you right now: Take it. Take all of it. I will not withhold from you even the dream of a child. I don’t have a living child to offer to you, but I give you the dream.

There’s this story in the Bible–a completely heart-wrenching, heart-aching, heart-breaking story in the Bible. God decides to test Abraham. The test he gives Abraham–the exact test–is not replicated in the Bible except by God himself. God asks Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. The only other time in scripture that God requires a father to sacrifice his son, God is the Father.

It’s in Genesis 22:1-19. God comes to Abraham and tells him to take Isaac to a place he will show Abraham and sacrifice him as a burnt offering. A few chapters earlier, when God told Abraham that he was about to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham interceded for the towns, asking God to spare them if there were as few as 10 righteous people present. And God agreed to do that. He didn’t show any displeasure with Abraham for asking. But here, when God tells Abraham to sacrifice his son, Abraham doesn’t argue. He doesn’t beg. He doesn’t ask for a reprieve. He just does it.

He wakes early the next morning and takes all that he needs for the sacrifice, including the wood, the boy, and two servants and a donkey to carry his provisions. There are parallels throughout this account to the sacrifice Jesus makes on the cross. I was especially struck by the fact that the Genesis account is largely shown through Abraham’s perspective–giving us a sense, perhaps, for how God himself suffered to see his own son hung on a cross. The parallel of Jesus at Gethsemane and to the crucifixion is more from Jesus’ perspective. I encourage you, if you’re interested, read the scriptures and pay attention to the parallels.*

And Abraham comes so very close to sacrificing his son. He has Isaac on the proper mountain, bound and laying on the wood. As he holds the knife and extends his hand over Isaac to finish the task, he is interrupted by God. The Lord speaks to him and stays his hand. Isaac is, symbolically, resurrected, and God alerts Abraham to a ram trapped in a nearby bush. The ram is sacrificed in Isaac’s place.

Here’s the thing: God promised Abraham he would have Isaac. He promised Abraham that Isaac would have many offspring, and that through Isaac, Abraham would have so many descendants they couldn’t be counted. In other words, without Isaac, there was no promise. There was no heritage. There could not be more descendants than stars in the sky or more descendants than sand on the seashore. To sacrifice Isaac was to say to God, thanks for the promises you offer, but if I need to choose between you or your glory and the promises, I choose YOU.

I think it’s amazing that Abraham takes the test and he doesn’t seem to resent it when it’s over. And I was touched at the idea that God is using this test of Abraham both to refine and strengthen Abraham and to share with him something about himself. Abraham dies long before Jesus’ is born on this earth, of course, but it is as if God is reaching down and including Abraham in this story and giving him a glimpse of the sorrow, the struggle. But as Abraham shows God that he truly does love God more than anything–and that he would choose to have God even if it meant losing the promises God had made him–God showed us through Christ’s sacrifice that he loves us more than anything. He loves us so much that he did not withhold even his son, his only son, from us, but instead gave him as a sacrifice to pay for our sins.

And it is because he loves us so much, and because he is who he is, that we can trust him with this.

In truth, there is no choosing between God and God’s promises. For when we are faithless, God is faithful, for he cannot deny himself (2 Tim. 2:13). It goes against his character for God to break a promise. It cannot happen. But what do you choose?

I choose God. And his glory. And I don’t know if he’s promised me children, but I’m willing to give them up. I’ll give it all up. Because I want God’s best for me more than I want my best for me. I just don’t trust my own judgment. I trust God’s.

Whatever happens next–whatever outcome–this is in God’s hands. Thanks be to God for whatever he has planned for us. I can’t wait to live out this excellent life for his glory.

*Look, for example, at the length of the journey, carrying wood, a donkey, the substitute, a crown of thorns . . . There are other things that parallel but that is a good start.


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Existing in Real Life

I feel like this is the first day in over a week that I’ve been able to just be still.

I don’t know how I get so busy. I felt like I had so much time over the summer, and then as school started my schedule got more filled and, well, I think I had been taking the margins in my life this summer for granted.

But busyness isn’t all bad. I’m busy with fun things and fulfilling things. And if I hadn’t also been recuperating from a cold last week, I think I would have had more free time to write and do more of the things I love to do and feel called to do. (And maybe my floors would have a little less dog fur on them.)

I really wanted to write last week about getting to meet another blogger. I actually do exist in real life (though, full disclosure, Ria is just my blog name), and so does Caroline, an amazing and beautiful spirit-filled woman. I loved getting to share actual physical space with her and her lovely husband in their living room just over a week ago. If you haven’t seen her blog, I’d recommend stopping by In Due Time to see how God is moving in her life.

In-Due-Time

She and her husband were so welcoming! The boys mostly watched football while we talked about a lot of things, but mostly about what God is doing and teaching us in the midst of our trials. And we prayed together. Can I tell you? There are no words to describe how I felt God moving during that prayer.

And I’m so grateful that DH, who hasn’t really ever talked to anyone about this IF stuff in person outside of our parents, had the opportunity to be there with us.

It is amazing to see this couple’s faith in practice as they wait on God for an expected miracle. I just can’t wait to meet their baby (or babies!) whenever God brings them! What joy that day will be!

It was such an honor to be able to share a little real life with them. And it made me want more of it!

I’d like to extend the invitation to anyone who reads this little blog of mine, if you’re in the Houston area and craving a little “in real life” time, please feel free to e-mail me (fillmynest (at) gmail (dot) com) and we’ll see if we can’t set something up! I’d love to pray with you or just to talk. And if you’re not in Houston but want someone to talk to, e-mail me anyway!

And I am just reminded how very blessed I am to be living today and to have the ability to connect with so many beautiful people through the Internet. It’s hard to imagine going through this without the blog world and all the people who have blessed me through their posts and comments. Thank you all.

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus.
(I Corinthians 1:4)

To share these difficulties, and to one day share each other’s joys when our babies finally do come, is such a gift. And I am so very thankful.


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Hannah Took It to the Lord

Today happens to be the first anniversary of my blog. When I started this blog, I am sure I expected to have a child by now. Instead, we are still waiting for our miracle pregnancy. But while our outward circumstances have not changed, we have grown and matured in our trial. We have felt God’s peace. We have wavered but not fallen. We have waited expectantly and waited reluctantly. And we are learning to trust, to relinquish fear and worry in favor of reliance on God and faith in his goodness.

So it seems fitting that today is the day I said I would write about Hannah’s calling.

One of the things that strikes me about Hannah is that her calling was more than she probably thought or ever realized. God uses her story to give hope to so many others who know the pain of infertility, the pain of longing for an answered prayer. Surely the example she sets is one part of her calling from the Lord. Being a role model, having “fame” in this way, is not something she would have expected or asked for, but her life has been used by God for our good and his glory over and over.

What we see as our calling may be only a small part of what God has truly called us to do. 

But I’m jumping ahead.

Hannah’s husband was a man who loved her. Elkanah had two wives: Hannah and Peninnah. Peninnah had children but Hannah did not. Each year, Elkanah would take his family to make sacrifices at the temple. Elkanah gave Hannah a double portion of meat because he loved her, but Peninah mocked Hannah because Hannah was barren. [Mocked? And to think I get so upset at “just adopt” and “just relax” from well-meaning, albeit ignorant, fertile folks.]

We never see Hannah retaliate. But she does grieve. She grieves and she refuses to eat. In an effort to comfort her, Elkanah asks, “Aren’t I worth more to you than ten sons?” Ah, but the pain of infertility is so great. [Thank you, God that DH understands and is struggling with me.] Hannah, though loved, is really alone in her grief.

I wonder what she thinks about. Does she wonder, as I have wondered, why God would give her the desire to be a mother without the children to bear that out? Does she feel a lack of purpose, a lack of meaning without children? Did she dream of motherhood as a girl? Was raising children something she looked forward to?

One year, while they are in Jerusalem to make their sacrifices to the Lord, Hannah goes to the temple and prays. In her prayer, she shows that God is gracious to hear us. He listens to our needs. And we are right and justified to ask him for that which we long for. The Bible says, “And she made a vow, saying, ‘Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor shall ever be used on his head.” (I Samuel 1:11)

Eli, the priest, who watches her as she prays, wrongly assumes she is drunk and confronts her. Upon finding that she is praying, he says, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.” (1:17)

Hannah does go in peace: “Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast.” (1:18b)

So, Hannah feels called to be a mother. Year after year goes by and she remains childless. Her husband’s other wife (who Melanie has [sweetly] speculated he may have married only because Hannah was barren–I encourage you to read her post) not only has children but regularly mocks Hannah for her barrenness. Her husband loves her but doesn’t understand her pain and, essentially, urges her to just be happy with what she has. Hannah doesn’t give up. She places her hopes before the Lord, seeking his help because he alone can provide what she longs for. After pouring her heart out to God, she leaves with peace. Even while her circumstances are unchanged, her countenance is different.

Oh how I praise the Lord for providing us with peace–however tenuous it may sometimes seem–in the midst of this heartache. I look back at the past year and see that I am different than I was at the beginning of this journey. I am changed for the better–though my circumstances remain largely unchanged.

This isn’t the end of the story for Hannah. She does bear a son. She calls him Samuel. And she fulfills her vow. After Samuel is weaned, she takes him to the temple to be dedicated to the Lord. She leaves him there.

I cannot even imagine! Hannah receives the blessing of a son, but she is with him for only a very short time. She will now see him just once a year when Elkanah brings his family to the temple. Upon leaving Samuel at the temple this first time, Hannah lifts up praises to God for the answered prayer.

Samuel becomes the final judge of Israel. He is a prophet and God speaks to him. He anoints the first two kings of Israel under God’s direction. Hannah’s faithfulness and prayer were key to God’s story for his people Israel.

And God is gracious to Hannah in her faithfulness. She goes on to have three more sons and two daughters (I Samuel 1:21).

Hannah: Called to be a mother. And called to set an example for us in prayer and praise, in being genuine before the Lord. She waited years to be able to fulfill her calling.  Without that wait, the pain, and heartache, would Samuel have been dedicated to the Lord? Would we know that we can pour out our hearts in agony and grief to God while asking for specific requests? God had a plan and a purpose in giving Hannah her deep-seated desire to be a mother. And I trust he has a plan and a purpose for each of us in the midst of our difficulties, our trials, our insecurities.

So we keep turning to him.

This is episode 3 of my “They Were Called” series. To see episode 2, about Moses and the calling he didn’t want, click here. To see episode 1, about David and his calling, click here. For the introduction to the series, click here. Join me next Monday for episode 4.