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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From Fall to 2015: So Many Blessings. So Much Joy.

I’m sitting at the table in our new kitchen, surrounded by boxes that need to be unpacked and papers to organize. It’s been a busy–often overwhelming–fall and winter, and as we get ready to start a new year, I’m feeling a little bit out of my league and simultaneously overjoyed.

God has been so good to us this year. We are eagerly awaiting the arrival of our little one at the end of January (though not early, I hope, because there is still so much to do to prepare). I finished my first semester of seminary (which, I’m sorry to say, is what has kept me away from blogging these past months). We enjoyed season tickets to watch an awesome TCU season, with the great finale versus Ole Miss that ended just moments ago. (We had hoped to be in the playoffs, of course. But I’m glad we went out with a bang anyway). And we moved. We still have our other house and are hoping and praying it will sell quickly, but we are getting settled into our new house and already very much enjoying DH’s new commute; he’s spending about one-third as much time on the road to and from work now.

My pregnancy has been textbook, and I’m so grateful for that. I have no complaints about it–only joy. And I am hoping and wishing the same joy for all of you still waiting.

I took a break from blogging during the semester because I quickly came to the realization that I was taking too many classes (though not quickly enough to be able to drop any!). My dear husband has spent the past few months doing almost all the house maintenance, cooking, and generally supporting me and my many hours of study each week. I don’t know that I would have survived the semester without his help. I know I wouldn’t have eaten enough. Lesson learned, though: I won’t be taking so many hours again.

Despite the worklload, I enjoyed my first semester of seminary. I learned so much and have made some new friends. I love Greek. Which is good, because that’s why I chose the program I’m in. I’m grateful that God has led me to this school and program and I’m excited to see how he will use that in my life! I’m sure I’ll have more to write about seminary, and especially about some of the things I’ve learned in class, in the next few weeks.

I’ll post about our new house separately, too. It’s a tiny little 1950 house; a big difference from our brand new house in Katy, but so worth it for the improvement in our lifestyle!

And today is our seventh wedding anniversary. It’s the last one we’ll spend as a family of two. I’ve wanted that and hoped for that for the past few years, but looking back and knowng that this year really is the last one–I’m grateful. Grateful for the time DH and I have had together even while we were waiting. We’ve grown so much together, and grown closer to God together, and I am so grateful for this man who agreed to marry me and still loves me after these seven years. I am excited to have a partner to share my life with and hope we will happily grow old together! And I’m excited to see him as a daddy. I know he’ll shine in that new position!

It’s also DH’s parents’ anniversary, and tonight we’re going to have a meal together with them. It should be nice to share that time together.

I don’t know if I’ll make it to the ball drop. I’ve been getting tired early lately. There’s some chance I’ll get to the live NYC ball drop–since that’s at 11 my time.

As we get ready to begin our new year, I want to wish you all a very blessed 2015, a year for answered prayers and great joys. I have missed blogging. But I hope to be back and more consistent.

They had these signs on the door at Starbucks last spring. I took this picture a few days before we found out we were expecting. I have a thing for hot air balloons, and I liked the message; I think I saw in it some hope that there would be something new and unexpected and wonderful to say “yes” to. And there was. I hope the same is true for you and for us in 2015.

Say Yes to What's Next

Sending love and joy to all. Happy New Year.


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Hope in 2014

Sixty-five years ago today, DH’s grandparents said “I do.” We celebrated Grandpa’s 90th birthday just after Thanksgiving. He and Grandma have been through a lot. They’ve traveled the world, they’ve buried a daughter. Grandma walks some four miles a day and Grandpa had no qualms about standing with one foot on a ladder and one on a bookshelf as he held nail-gun aloft to help install shelving in our study in November. But we are so grateful for the example they have given us about marriage. I don’t know that they are always happy, but they have built a marriage that lasts and I hope we can follow their example.

Thirty-one years ago today, DH’s parents said “I do.” It was kind of an accident that DH’s mom and dad wed on the same day as Grandpa and Grandma. They wanted to get married over the Christmas holidays, and DH’s dad, who really pays no attention to tradition, had apparently never realized December 31 was his parents’ anniversary. When my mother-in-law picked the date, Grandma made no complaint. I’m not really sure when my MIL found out she was going to share an anniversary with her in-laws, but I think it was too late to change the day when she did. I’m so glad to have my in-laws in my life. They have been supportive and kind, and I know I won the in-law lottery. And I’m grateful for their example of what a marriage should be. They honor and love and support one another and treat each other with respect. I hope we will be like that when we’ve been through 31 years together!

Grandpa was named after his father; DH’s dad is the third, and DH is the fourth. While my father-in-law isn’t big on tradition, my husband really is. And so I knew the date we’d get married before DH had even proposed. Six years ago today, we said “I do.” And it was the best decision I’ve ever made.

My husband is my best friend. He has proven that he will do everything in his power for me. He has not left me to deal with infertility on my own, but has stood beside me, sometimes even googling right along with me. He’s supported my writing and celebrated with me when I’ve hit blogging milestones. He even gave me a day at the spa when I published my 100th post a few weeks ago. He’s cried with me at our loss and looked forward with me in the hope that we will someday–we hope soon–have children in our home. He goes with me in our nursery each night to pray and lift our requests and our hurt and our cries for understanding to God. He has strengthened me in my faith walk and he helps me be my best self. I don’t know where I would be without him.

And I look at him and hope, oh how I hope, that God will bless us with a child. With a child to carry on the heritage that we have received from his grandparents and from his parents. Maybe even with a son to carry on his name. What a gift that would be for this man who loves tradition. It’s not a gift I can give him, but I keep praying.

I had hoped last year that it would be our last anniversary as two. It wasn’t. But you know what? It’s okay that it wasn’t. God will bless us in his time. We do head into this new year with hope that maybe this will be our last anniversary as a family of two. But maybe it won’t be. But if I’m going to be in a family of two, I am so very glad to be in this one. Thanks be to God.

The traditional gift for the sixth anniversary is iron. Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” I have no doubt that DH has sharpened me in the years we’ve been together. And I believe he will continue to strengthen me and make me a better person for the years we have to come. May there be many.

God bless you all as we wave goodbye to 2013. Here’s to a 2014 of blessings and joy for all.


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Grab Bag: A Recipe, Hot Air Balloons, and Healing

Today is a hodge podge of things I want to talk about–a sort of set of mini-blog posts.

Gluten-Minimizing

Ummm, so I’m not as disciplined as I should be. There are so many tasty gluten things out there! We have successfully been eating only gluten-free food when we’re home. So that’s good. But there are so many little tests when we’re out with others. I guess that’s okay. We are debating cutting gluten completely for 21 days and then reintroducing to see if we have any actual adverse effects from eating gluten. But whether we do or not, we will continue to keep minimizing gluten on the understanding that, like most Americans, we probably generally consume too much. We are working on selecting a start date for that 21-day thing. We are going to someone’s house we don’t know well for dinner on Friday, so maybe we will start 21 days on Saturday? That way we won’t inconvenience our hosts.

In my eating gluten free, though, I created a super delicious, super easy dish by accident. We eat a lot of quinoa, but I find it takes a lot of seasonings to make it tasty. The other day, I was craving tomatoes, so on a whim I threw a can of diced tomatoes into my rice cooker with the quinoa. It was delicious. I may never eat quinoa without tomatoes again. Unless, of course, it’s in a specific recipe. So, for tomato quinoa:

1-2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 c. dry quinoa
1 can diced tomatoes (14.5 ounces or whatever)
1 c. water

Put the olive oil in the rice cooker. Swirl around until the sides and bottom are coated pretty evenly. (This helps tremendously with clean up later–seriously. We do it for any grains that go in the rice cooker). Dump in quinoa. Dump in full can of tomatoes (don’t drain the can). Add 1 c. water. Turn on rice cooker. When the rice cooker pops, fluff and let stand (with the lid on) for about ten minutes. Enjoy.

Lemon Chicken and Tomato Quinoa

Last night I made a delicious lemon chicken (I used dried spices because I don’t have fresh–one day I will have an herb garden) and served it with this quinoa. It was so easy and tasty and completely gluten free! Yay! A new go-to meal for us, I’m sure. Note that the chicken has to marinate for 2 hours–I hadn’t read the recipe on Monday when I planned to cook this until it was too late. Ooops. (I followed the recipe as written, except I doubled it. I used the same amount of thyme and rosemary as it called for but dry–so I didn’t double the spice amounts.)

Hot Air Balloons

So, DH loves me. Before we knew we were infertile, I was constantly designing and redesigning our nursery in my imagination. The last theme I had settled on before our diagnosis involved hot air balloons. The reasons for this are probably apparent (who doesn’t love hot air balloons?). After our diagnosis, hot air balloons came to symbolize–to a certain extent–our hope for a baby. I may or may not actually decorate the nursery with them. But for my birthday (last week), DH got me a beautiful hot air balloon charm (from Fossil) that I wear on a necklace. It’s our little way of saying we haven’t given up hope. And it’s pretty. Other people can see it, but only we know what it means. I love it! He is so thoughtful and good to me!

hot air balloon charm

Healing

To end, I just want to leave you with a quotation from Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling for August 20 (we read it together before bed). The whole entry for yesterday is beautiful, but here is just a part of most of it:

I am a God who heals. I heal broken bodies, broken hearts, broken lives, and broken relationships. My very Presence has immense healing powers. You cannot live close to Me without experiencing some degree of healing. However, it is also true that you have not because you ask not. You receive the healing that flows naturally from My Presence, whether you seek it or not. But there is more–much more–available to those who ask. . . .

When the time is right, I prompt you to ask for healing of some brokenness in you or in another person. The healing may be instantaneous, or it may be a process. That is up to Me. Your part is to trust Me fully and to thank Me for the restoration that has begun.

I rarely heal all the brokenness in a person’s life. Even My servant Paul was told, “My grace is sufficient for you,” when he sought healing for the thorn in his flesh. Nonetheless, much healing is available to those whose lives are intimately interwoven with Mine. Ask and you will receive.”


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Five-Minute Friday: Small

Every Friday, Lisa-Jo Baker provides a prompt for “Five-Minute Friday“: Write for five minutes only–no editing, no rewriting. This week’s prompt is “Small.” Here goes . . .

~~~

Like matchbox cars and Barbie-doll clothes. The things we played with as children. When we went to Goodwill to drop off a load of clothes and an old suitcase and a duplicate set of measuring cups, we took a couple of those little matchbox cars. Two of them that DH had hung onto and his mom had hung onto. Two that had ended up at our house when we moved to Texas.

But we kept one of them. One especially fancy tiny car. The hood opens and inside there are little tools, including a tiny tire iron. We kept it because it turns out that just after you’ve grown out of wanting to play with those small things that are reflections of the full-size grown-up version there’s a new small thing you want. And that small thing might one day want to play with the same small things that we played with. Or at least to see them. And who wouldn’t be impressed by Dad’s “vintage” toy car with a teeny tiny tire iron?

Toy Car

 

Opened Toy Car

 

Tiny Tire Jack

So it’s sitting on top of the extra refrigerator in our garage (something else, incidentally, that will be more useful when there are children). A sign that we haven’t given up our hope yet. That we’re still waiting and looking forward to having a little one or three or four or however many the good Lord decides to ultimately bless us with in the end.

TIME

Five Minute Friday


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Sharing in His Sufferings

“But whatever gain I had I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith–that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3: 7-11

So I’ve been meditating some on what it means to take joy in suffering lately. I guess that came up in my last post and then hit me again as I was doing my Bible study in Philippians 3 this week. The verses that really caught me are 3:10-11, though I provide 7-11 for some extra context here. Paul has just finished talking about why he was about the most qualified person for salvation that ever could be–by worldly, Jewish standards anyway. He has perfect lineage, “a Hebrew among Hebrews.” As a Pharisee, he knows the law forward and backward. He had great zeal for his beliefs–which he credits as the motivation behind his persecution of Christians before meeting the Lord on the way to Damascus. He is as righteous and by the book as any man could have been before Christ. But he says, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”

None of those credentials is worth anything to him in light of Christ. And none of those things could have saved him.

There are things I rely on in daily life all the time when I should rely on Christ. And things I feel so heartbroken that I am missing. But I was reminded recently that while “children are a blessing from God,” they are not the ultimate blessing. That is salvation.

That doesn’t change the fact that infertility means pain and difficulty and suffering for so many of us, myself included. I haven’t really suffered in this life outside of this, and I have found it difficult to become accustomed to it. I don’t like suffering. I don’t want it. I want nothing to do with it.

But then, that puts me a bit out of line, doesn’t it?

Paul talks about sharing in the sufferings of Christ not just as a worthwhile thing, but as something he desires. Wow.

This verse (verse 10) really hits home when considering how to have joy in our sufferings. We can rejoice in our difficult circumstances because in some small way our challenges allow us to take part, albeit to a lesser degree, in the sufferings of Christ. I believe this is so even when the things we suffer are not outwardly related to our faith or profession thereof. That is, even when our sufferings are not brought about by persecution.

In this sense, I should rejoice in infertility, even if all I could ever gain from it is that I will have shared in some small part in the sufferings of Christ.

I need to remember that to attain resurrection from the dead is worth it at any cost. Even the cost of my ability to bear children. That is so difficult for me to wrap my mind around. But if that is not true, what do I believe?

I think if I had read what I am writing here a few months ago I would have thought two things. First, that this writer is a bit off balance (which, let’s face it, is a completely valid concern even now), and second, that this writer has no concept of what I am going through and clearly cannot understand my pain.

But God is working on me. He is changing my heart and changing my perspective. If you think this is crazy, I don’t blame you. But this. This is what I am thinking. And this is true: My pain is worth rejoicing over if it means I am getting closer to Christ and growing more Christ like. 

And in that way, infertility is a discipline, making me better than I could make myself. And God, who knows all things, is growing me and doing what is best for me, as he has promised to do. Even when I don’t understand it.

I don’t have to enjoy it.

“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11

But I do need to rejoice in what suffering really means for me. The building of a Christ-like character within me. And that’s an investment in eternity.


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The Production of Hope

I had an interesting question in a comment the other day, and it’s sparked a lot of thought.

From anchortomysoul:

I do take comfort in that knowing he said this would happen, and that trials produce perseverance and perseverance character and character hope which does not disappoint! Although the end of that verse confuses me! Ha how does character produce hope?

The verse referenced is Romans 5:3-5

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Last year, I studied Revelation in my Bible study. At first I really struggled with it–and not just because it’s such a difficult book to read through. I struggled with the idea of the world’s end, and especially with the idea that we were supposed to be looking forward to it and even praying for it (“your kingdom come,” in the Lord’s prayer, is just one example). Frankly, it was hard for me to say truthfully that I wanted Christ to return and for the world to end. There are things I want to do. Like have babies, for example.

But suffering makes you think about these things differently. When we were first diagnosed with IF, I felt oddly in tune with the suffering in the world. It was like my personal tragedy somehow highlighted tragedy around me. It was probably because I was so emotional at that time. Uncharacteristically emotional–though I don’t know that “uncharacteristic” is still an accurate description nine months later.

And when I watched the news coverage Monday of the bombings at the Boston Marathon, it was all I could do to hold back tears. Maybe that’s a normal response, but I know it wasn’t a normal response for me 10 years ago. When 9/11 happened I was glued to the TV in fascination, but I don’t remember any real sense of empathy for the people whose lives were lost or who lost loved ones. That sounds terrible as I reread it, but it’s true.

Suffering–through the longing for a family, the challenges that infertility has wrought on us, and, yes, the growth we’ve experienced through IF–has led me to be more aware of the fact that we live in a fallen world. A world of pain. A world where people are hurting every day and all.the.time. This is not my home. And I don’t want this to be my home.

I don’t have an official answer to the question posed, but I have a response. Suffering produces hope. Through suffering, we persevere; perseverance builds our character (I think, primarily, our trust and faith in God, our recognition of our own powerlessness and incompleteness alone, etc.), and we end up with hope. To hope in a place where there will be no more crying. To hope in the perfection promised. To hope in Christ, in his offer of salvation, in the redemption, and in the completion of that story when he will come again.

And now, when I say the Lord’s prayer each night, I mean it. Especially “Your kingdom come.”