Dwell in Me

Seeking God in the Every Day


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Looking Anew at the Psalms

I always used to wonder about the Psalms. I mean, there are some really pretty poems in that book, right? Who doesn’t love Psalm 23, for example? And I’ve always liked the ones that clearly prophesied things about Jesus, like in Psalm 22:

“I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast;
my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
you lay me in the dust of death.
For dogs encompass me;
a company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and my  feet–
I can count all my bones–
they stare and gloat over me;
they divide my garments among them,
and for my clothing they cast lots.” (v. 14-18)

But outside of the clear references to Jesus and the sweeter, most oft-quoted poetry, I never really cared for the Psalms.

And I sort of felt like they were poems old people liked. I mean, they don’t even rhyme in English. And I’m sure the rhthym is all off too. Not like Shakespeare. Or even Dickinson–with her half rhymes and rhythmic verses. Or e. e. cummings, whose creativity in poetry just makes you think. “anyone lived in a pretty how town/ (with up so floating many bells down).” Love that.

The rest of the Bible is a little easier for me. More concrete. You know when God is telling you to do something or live a certain way. There are stories and you can analyze them and think about their application in your own life. You can read and puzzle over Revelation and Daniel, wondering what everything really looked like to John and Daniel in these visions they’ve recorded. Trying to see what they see. But the Psalms require something different.

I’m not sure what that is. Empathy? Personal suffering? Doubts? A vision of a God who is Love? And maybe all of those things and more.

Infertility has been pain, my suffering. It has made me question God and caused me to examine him to see who he really is. It has brought me to my knees and  brought me to his throne. And it has taken me to the Psalms.

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.” Psalm 1:1-3

 

“Ask of me and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.” Psalm 2:8

 

“But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. I cried aloud to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy hill.” Psalm 3:3-4

 

“Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have given me relief when I was in distress. Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!” Psalm 4:1

 

“But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread you rprotection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you.” Psalm 5:11

And there are 150 Psalms recorded in the Bible. Praise God for this source of wisdom and empathy. For this instruction in speaking to God and relating to and understanding who he is. For this emotional connection to him and to his word that we have in the Psalms like nowhere else. Praise God for opening my eyes to the beauty in these poems, to the meat in them, to the way they can speak powerfully in my life. Praise God.

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Waiting and Waiting and Why?

What’s it all about anyway?

Waiting. And waiting. And maybe some more waiting.

I don’t have an answer. But . . .

I trust the wait is not in vain.

God is using this difficulty in my life to shape me, to turn my heart to him, to transform me into the woman he wants me to be. And this shaping is an answer to prayer. Years ago, we sang the song “Holiness” in church, and I remember praying the chorus on so many occasions:

Take my heart and mold it
Take my mind; transform it
Take my will: conform it
To yours, to yours, O Lord

I believe God is doing these things through the circumstances of my life. Sometimes it’s a painful process, but I need to remember it’s an answer to prayer.

I trust that God knows what’s best (and I do not).

We’ve all heard the saying that hindsight is 20/20. I’m not convinced this is true for humans–but we can look back when we’ve seen how a situation played out and maybe see ways we could have acted or thought differently. God has the luxury of knowing what is going to happen, where we’re going,  and how we’re going to get there. God is outside of time. I think about that and try to picture what it means, and I can’t wrap my mind around it. But I find it comforting to know. I wonder if to God we are a movie he’s seen before. A good movie that he chooses to watch again. Like the celestial equivalent of Pride and Prejudice. Or Sliding Doors.

Either way, God is there, “Declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand and I will accomplish all my purpose.'” (Isaiah 46:10)

He knows. He knows where I’m going and why I’m going this way. And he allowed this trial because he knew how he would use it for his glory and my good.

I trust that God’s timing is perfect (and mine is not).

If it were up to me, I’d have a near-two-year-old right now. But I don’t. If it were up to me, I would have gotten pregnant last month. Or the month before that. Or before that. But I didn’t.

And man, the timing just made so much sense to me last month. It meant I’d get to share with my family in person at the trip we have scheduled to visit them in mid-April. I had the anouncement all planned out. But it wasn’t God’s timing, It was my timing. And what do I know about timing?

How can I even presume to know that one month is the right month? How can I even think for one moment that I should be in a position to determine such an important thing? That I should have any say in when a precious–nay, invaluable–human life should begin?

God’s shown us through his word that his timing is indeed perfect. What might have happened to the Israelites, for example, if Joseph hadn’t been in the perfect place at the perfect time to sustain the known world–including his own family–through severe famine? I’m sure each day that went by in prison had Joseph asking, “Is today the day?” As the years went by and he kept waiting, how did he not grow weary? How did he not lose faith? But he didn’t. And God’s timing was perfect.

I trust that God is good.

We can see the end of Joseph’s story. And since we know the ending, we see that God even used Joseph’s slavery for good.

We may not all have the opportunity to see how God has used the bad things in our lives for our good. Or we may allow bitterness to creep in and hide this truth from us. We can ignore the blessings of God–especially when they come in the midst of affliction. Or we can recognize them and give him the glory as  Joseph did.

Joseph’s second son is Ephraim, “for the Lord has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.” (Genesis 41:52b). Do we see how the Lord is making us fruitful in the land of our affliction? Are we allowing the Lord to make us fruitful in the land of our affliction?

When Joseph reveals himself to his brothers, he also reveals his faith in God’s goodness.

“As for you [my brothers], you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” (Genesis 50:20)

Can we look at our affliction and trust that God is good?

I trust that God is bigger. And that his ways are better.

He knows. Everything. The number of hairs on my head. The number of children I’ll have–and when I’ll have them. The location of the end of the rainbow.

And because he knows everything, I can trust that he knows the best possible outcome in any given circumstance. And even the best circumstance for any given person in any given moment. The depths of his wisdom and knowledge are infathomable.

And he is sovereign and just asking us to give our foolish attempts at control over to him, because he’s really in control anyway.

And why shouldn’t we, when we know that his ways are better?

I’m not saying it’s easy to surrender. But it is necessary. Painful, even. Yet absolutely necessary for the well-lived life.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

I trust that God loves me.

This is the key. Because if I don’t believe God loves me, then the fact that he is sovereign, all-knowing, and in control is terrifying. A capricious or unloving god would be an all-powerful super-villan. How could we trust such a god? How could we commit our lives or surrender our desires to such a god? Such a god–an unloving god–would perhaps be worth struggling against.

But praise God, he IS love. He doesn’t just love us, his being defines the term! He loves us. He weeps with us, as Jesus did at Lazarus’s tomb. He struggles with us. He hurts for us. He triumphs and rejoices with us. Our God is not a sadist–he takes no pleasure in suffering. He is a father who loves us. Truly loves us.

And this love he has for us? This love we could never even almost hope to approximate? It’s a game changer.

Oh, thank you, Father, for revealing this love to me through infertility. Because it is this love that makes me sure. This love that lets me know that you are trustworthy. And that this waiting is not in vain.


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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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Why Do We Suffer?

Jesus told us, “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33b)

I have often wondered about this verse. What, exactly, does Jesus mean when he says he has overcome the world? And today, as I was reading through some verses about suffering, I thought, maybe it means that although we have troubles this side of heaven, this is not all there is. And that hope and knowledge of something more, something better, can sustain us in times of trial. Knowing that Jesus has overcome the world can give us hope and the long-term perspective we need to endure difficult times.

There is really no need to define suffering or trials. And really the definition will differ for different people. As some have a higher tolerance for physical pain, certainly some have a higher threshold for emotional or circumstantial trials. I know my greatest pain and suffering has been through infertility. And I also know some of my greatest triumphs of faith and of compassion are because of infertility.

I’ve written before about whether our trials are God’s will for us. I don’t believe they are. I believe God loves us with a love so all encompassing that it pains him to see us in even a tiny bit of pain. And I believe that our trials are because we live in a fallen world–consequences not necessarily of an individual (that is, my trials are not necessarily consequences of my personal sin), but consequences of the entrance of sin in the world. That said, I am realizing that because God works our sufferings for our good, he allows trials in our lives. These trials can bring about many different results in us, and I am encouraged by the scriptures I was studying because when I put infertility in each verse, I can already see some of these results in my life. Wow. We serve a good God!

I’d like to encourage you, as you read the following verses, to keep your own greatest challenge in mind and reflect on whether God has used that suffering in your life to produce the promised results.

Has God used your suffering to produce or increase godly character and hope in your life? Has he used your suffering for the good of your character?

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5)

Have you become more empathetic or compassionate as a result of suffering? Do you find yourself better able to relate to others in pain because you know what pain is? Has God comforted you as only he can, thereby equipping you to comfort others?

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort. (2 Corinthians 1:3-7)

Have your most challenging experiences made you a better person? Are your trials not contributing to your sanctification?

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)

And oh there is so much in this next one! Has your trial pushed your faith to a deeper level? Has it moved any of your head knowledge to gut faith?

I am sure that all of these purposes for suffering have come through in my life in some way through infertility. I am also sure that there is more value that I can gain from my trials because I still have a lot of growing to do. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want this trial to be over!

Nonetheless, these scriptures reaffirm that I wouldn’t trade this experience. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy, but even now, even in the midst of this trial, God is already redeeming my pain, for my good, for the good of others, and for his glory. Praise God!

One more thing. God may not will for us to endure suffering, but the fact that we do is a fact of life. And God uses this suffering to accomplish great purposes. Our suffering is not due to a lack of faith or a faulty understanding of God’s promises to us. To suggest so is to question the faith of such great fathers of the church as Paul, who repeatedly asked God to remove what he calls a “thorn in his side” that God told him had to stay; Peter, who was martyred and who acknowledges in his letters that the saints are going to suffer in this world as Christ did, and Jesus himself, who asked for the cup to pass from him, but chose to do God’s will and be crucified instead. So take heart when you face trials. In this world you will. But a time is coming when pain and suffering and even the heartache of infertility will be but a distant memory. For Jesus has overcome this world.


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Asking, and Still Asking

Do you ever feel a little bit phony?

I’ve been riding a bit of an infertility roller coaster lately. I guess it’s been for the past few weeks, maybe even over a month. I am just so ready to be on the other side of this. So ready.

I think I’ve also reached a place where I think I’ve learned my lessons. Yes, I’ve been blessed in a number of ways by infertility, not least of which is getting connected to some absolutely wonderful men and women who are sitting in this boat with me–or who have been. I’ve grown closer to God and to my husband. I’ve seen intimacy increase in both relationships in ways I never expected. I know I’ve gained a new appreciation for what I’m missing, that I’ll be more joyful and slower to complain when things are tough in pregnancy or after. And I’ve benefited in some tangible ways: I eat better (or at least know better and try to), I’ve eliminated some potentially and actually harmful substances from my skin care routine. I’ve begun some new habits that will hopefully help my house run a bit smoother once I get them all down. And these are all things that will be good for my coming children.

I wouldn’t take it all back. Really I wouldn’t. I’m grateful, honest-to-goodness grateful for the journey that has led me here. But have I learned enough yet? Because I really, really am so ready to move on.

And the phoniness? It comes out on here sometimes, when I want to look like I have things more together than I really do. Mea culpa. Seriously. And I feel it when I’m with the people who don’t know. The ones who ask me, at my Bible study, “How are you?” with that look that says, “I know there’s something hurting you” or “Are you really okay?” or “No really, tell me, how are you?”

And I’m so grateful to have these women who ask me with depth. They know. I know some of them know. I’m 29, I’ve been married almost six years, I live in Texas, and I’m a stay at home wife. They know. But they don’t pry, they just keep asking, “How are you?” and meaning it.

And I keep deflecting. Like today, when I told a dear friend that, well, I have to get my house cleaned for DH’s grandparents who are coming to visit. I do need to do that, by the way. My house is a complete disaster. And I’m not exaggerating (though I really wish I was!). And I know why I’m not telling them, why I’m not exposing myself in that way and why we’re waiting. And I think we have some valid reasons not to tell, beyond just protecting ourselves. So I’m not actually rethinking that decision. Just, I guess, coming to terms with the feeling of phoniness that likes to sneak in.

And then, there’s God’s word. And I read it and I so want some of these things to be true for me specifically, but I don’t know how to take the promises specific to one person, or to one tribe, or to one time and place, and call them mine. I don’t know if they’re mine. And truthfully, the only thing that makes me want to say they are mine is because they line up so well with my will. But in my head I know that God’s will is best.*

And I’ll keep asking. And keep seeking. But I’m not yet claiming. I don’t know if I can, or should. So here I am, God, still waiting. Waiting to hear what your promises are to me. Hoping that, like infertility, having a child is a good gift you have in store for me. And waiting for this trial to end. Please let it end.

Sigh.

Keep on asking and it will be given to you; keep on seeking and you will find; keep on knocking [reverently] and [the door] will be opened to you. For everyone who keeps on asking receives; and he who keeps on seeking finds; and to him who keeps on knocking, [the door] will be opened.

Or what man is there of you, if his son asks him for a loaf of bread, will hand him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will hand him a serpent? If you then, evil as you are, know how to give good and advantageous gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven [perfect as He is] give good and advantageous things to those who keep on asking him!
(Matthew 7:7-11, AMP)

With family in town from now through Thanksgiving, I’m not sure how consistent I’ll be (they are staying with DH’s parents, or I know I wouldn’t be able to do much blogging). I’ve been feeling so overwhelmed lately–not by the blog, but by other things–and I am striving to find balance. So, if I’m quiet for oddly long periods, please don’t worry. I’ll be back. I might be back tomorrow. But I appreciate your patience.


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A Father’s Love

There’s this song on the Christian radio station I’ve always kind of disliked. But this morning it hit me in an entirely different way.

It’s a song by Plumb called “In My Arms,” and it starts with this verse:

Your baby blues, so full of wonder
Your curly cues, your contagious smile
And as I watch, you start to grow up
All I can do is hold you tight

I find the song mildly annoying because it always stirs that little piece of discontent in my heart, that piece of me that won’t stop shouting, begging, pleading for a baby of my own. That piece of me that is always there but which I can usually keep pretty quiet.

On the surface this song is all about a parent’s love and her desperate desire to keep her child safe in a totally messed up and fallen world.

But today, as I was driving in the middle of a heavy rainstorm on I-10, it spoke something different to me.

Instead of changing the station when the song came on (yes, I normally do), I listened to the words. And in the chorus I got a mental picture I wasn’t expecting.

Knowing clouds will rage and
Storms will race in
But you will be safe in my arms
Rains will pour down
Waves will crash all around
But you will be safe
In my arms

I had a quick thought first that changed my perspective. Mothers can hope to protect their children, but no amount of holding them in their human arms will truly keep them safe. But we are safe in the arms of God. I believe that fiercely and I needed to hear it today.

As I pictured God as a loving Father, which is how Jesus encouraged us to think about God, I saw him holding me through this current storm. And I felt this great relief. An unburdening I can’t really express.

In another line in the song, she sings, “My heart is torn just in knowing / You’ll someday see / The truth from the lies.”

And I wonder–does God think that about us? Does he watch us as children, knowing yet dreading the decline of our innocence?

And he [Jesus] said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:2)

Does he look at the landscape that is before us and grieve over the consequences of living in a fallen world, the storms that will rage in our lives?

Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come! (Matthew 18:7)

He knows the storms will roll in, and when, and how hard, and why. He knows that we can’t see through the darkness to the other side of it or to what glorious future he has planned for us. Does he feel sorrow over it? Over this human mess we’ve made that we’re slogging through in this world by our own choices?

Jesus wept. (John 11:35)

I’m not saying that infertility or other pain we struggle with in this life is a consequence of personal sins in our lives, as I don’t think it is. I think there are consequences to sin that are specific and affect the person who sins, but I also think there are general consequences of sin, of living in a fallen world. These consequences strike who they may.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

And as God watches, and sympathizes with us, he is also working these most painful and most challenging trials for good in our lives. Not that the bad things are themselves good. But that good will come of it. And so he gives us hope to endure the trial.

For we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

I love that God can speak to me even in the midst of a song that I didn’t like. And that he can use someone else’s words to give me a picture of who he is and how truly, madly, deeply he loves me as his own child. As much as I know God is indeed working through infertility in my life for my good and for his glory, I don’t think he intended or desired for me to go through this trial. But since he knew it was coming, he’s making me better for it.


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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.