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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Even One Thing

This year, DH and I made a goal together to memorize one Bible verse together each week. We’ve started with 24 verses from the book of John (as provided by Ann Voskamp on her blog A Holy Experience). 

We’ve memorized John 1:1,

In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.

And John 1:5,

The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.

John 1:14,

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. And we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father full of grace and truth.

John 1:16,

Because he was full of grace and truth, from Him we all received one gift after another.

John 2:5,

Do whatever He tells you.

John 3:16,

For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.

And this week, John 3:27,

A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven.

It’s been fun memorizing scripture together. We’ve been quizzing each other, which makes it easier to keep the verses memorized. And I know if we weren’t doing it together I would have given up, probably right around John 1:16 (that one was so tricky for some reason).

But this week’s verse has really opened my eyes to something that maybe should be obvious but which I had been missing.

A person CANNOT receive EVEN ONE THING unless it is given him from heaven.

This means the baby I’m hoping for will be from heaven–from God–whether it’s conceived miraculously without any help, or with the most help possible. If God wants to give us a baby, he will do it when he will and in whatever way he desires. And if, for some reason, this is not his will (or not his timing), he will prevent it.

I don’t have to worry if going forward with infertility treatments is God’s will or not. God has not given me any reason to question going forward with treatments, but if he desires our infertility to continue or to be resolved in a different way, he will make that happen, because we cannot receive a baby through ART (or any other means) unless it is given from heaven.

I find peace in this. It came at a time when I was really questioning: What is God calling me to do today? What is his will or desire for me right now? What’s plans can I make for tomorrow?

And the beautiful answer? I don’t need to know.

I choose to love God, to put him first, and trust that he will take care of the rest. He is for me–he has shown me this time and time and time again.

And besides, a person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven.


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Faith Lessons from a Steak Knife

I have written most of my essays for seminary. And though I’m not finished, I’m not feeling so overwhelmed about it now. I think I need to visit the campus before I’ll be able to finish one essay, and the remainder is resume stuff that I can do in fits and spurts: what areas of Christian leadership I’ve been involved in, campus activities I was part of in college, and my employment record. And then, I’ll submit it. Oh my!

In the meantime, we are really just feeling overjoyed and excited lately. There is so much to be hopeful for. I suppose there always was, but we had lost that excitement of trying to conceive and now it’s back–for the moment. I hope treatment works and works quickly! And we are so very grateful that God has given man this ability to research and find ways to overcome medical challenges. I am so glad he has not withheld from us even these good gifts of medical science.

Last Thursday we had small group to our house for dinner. I love hosting our group (we take turns), but last week was a busy week and I was feeling frazzled. This time I had started early and I was determined to have dinner ready by 7:00. I had from scratch tomato soup in the crockpot (best recipe ever), butter melting on the stove for a roux to add creaminess to the soup, and an assembly line for baked grilled cheese sandwiches (on gluten-free bread for me!) with avocados, tomatoes, and bacon laid out on the counter. The stove had just told me that it was preheated and ready to go. With about twenty minutes before small group was supposed to start–and with my husband still not home from work–I started chopping a frozen stick of butter with a steak knife to fit it in a small bowl to melt so it could be spread on the bread. And then–OUCH! I am not sure why the knife slipped, but I felt the injury before I suspected anything was amiss. I looked down to see a bloody gash on my left index finger.

Now, I can give a shot with expert precision and usually not even feel it. I’m perfectly comfortable reading biological research papers on gamete development, reproductive anomalies, surgical procedures, and hormone functions. I can discuss with doctors all manner of surgical procedures, results of blood work, and what they may be looking for. But friends–when I saw that blood on my finger, I about passed out. The room started spinning and I felt so very hot and I knew I had to snap out of it and get moving.

I ran to the sink and held my finger under cold water for a while. I pinched it together to close the wound, but as soon as I let go, the blood just kept coming out.

I managed to move to the bathroom, where I cleaned the wound properly and bandaged my finger–probably a little too tightly–to stop the bleeding. I called DH and fussed a little about it, because I knew he’d talk me up off the floor and get me back to the kitchen. He did.

By the time I got back to the stove, my butter was burned. I dumped it and started over. And dinner was a bit late. Well, a lot late. We didn’t sit down to eat until 7:40. I love my small group. They didn’t mind. Didn’t bat an eye at the tardy meal, and we had a great meeting anyway.

Later that night, I unwrapped my finger, cleaned it again, and changed to a bandage that wasn’t cutting off the circulation of my fingertip. I checked it and felt sure I didn’t need to go to the emergency room or anything.

As DH and I were snuggled into bed Thursday night, after we’d prayed together, I lay there a moment thinking to myself, huh… we didn’t pray that my finger would heal. And I knew why I didn’t ask God to heal my finger. It’s because I trust, and have no doubt whatsoever, that my finger will get better. That’s part of God’s design for us–cuts can heal themselves. What an amazing thing. And this is something I have taken for granted. I thanked God for healing my finger and fell asleep.

In my prayers, I often want the quick fix. The miracle fix. The supernatural fix. And maybe sometimes that means I’m missing out on what God is doing in the natural, how God is changing my circumstances even without any drama or fanfare.

The next day–really the next few days–my finger was sore. It was painful. And I expected it to be. Although I knew God would heal me, I didn’t wake up Friday morning or Saturday morning or even this morning and find that my finger had  been magically put back together without any time or waiting or effort. I am typing this now with a little medical tape still wrapped around the finger, giving it a little protection from the keys and the germs and keeping it from splitting open again while it is still vulnerable. But even as I am waiting, I don’t feel any less sure that my finger will be healed.

And I think this is faith. I have faith that my finger will heal. And I don’t know if I have that kind of faith for everything. But I want to. I want to have this kind of faith–this certainty, really–that what God has promised will be. I have this faith for my salvation. I really have no doubt that I am forgiven. But I don’t know if I feel as sure about the things that aren’t as straightforward as cut skin or the gospel message. Do I believe God is using me for his glory today? Do I believe that he has ordained my path for a reason? Do I believe that he is working all things for my good?

Some days are better than others.

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)


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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.