Dwell in Me

Seeking God in the Every Day


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Giving Myself Permission to Write

I’m an inconsistent and sporadic blogger. I always was, and it’s only getting worse. Rather than hide from it, rather than try to pretend that if I put my mind to it I’ll post regularly, I think it’s time to just admit that I’m a write-when-I-can kind of blogger. At least for this season of my life.

Because the more I try to tell myself that I should write consistently, the more I frighten myself away from writing. And that really isn’t what I want.

So, whether it makes sense in a social media world or not, whether it’s the “right way” or not, whether it’s a way to build followers or scare them away, I’m going to commit, right now, to blogging when I can. Which means that I probably won’t write consistently. And I’m going to be okay with that, because otherwise I’m not going to write.

I have always been a pretty long-winded blogger, but I’m giving myself permission to change in that regard too. Life with a baby is truly worth the wait, and I love being able to spend time cuddling my son and loving on him. So maybe when I do write, I’ll write short snippy things because my free time is rare and often short-lived or quickly interrupted.

I’m back in school full time, which means 7 hours this summer and 9 in the fall. Last fall I took 15 hours and I didn’t know what free time was. This spring I had a baby and took 3 and barely got it together to study when I needed to for that. But babies grow–very quickly as it turns out–and as Penn has gotten just that much more independent, I’m finding I have a few minutes here and there to toss a load of laundry in or rinse a few dishes. And as he’s napping in his crib now and going to bed before me (most nights), I’m finding some time to do my homework for my classes. And, well, sometimes maybe I’ll be here, blogging.

I love having this space, but I guess I need to treat it as what it is: a space for me. For reflecting and writing and growing. For recognizing the seasons I’m in and the lessons I’m learning. And maybe sometimes it will be interesting for other people and maybe–likely often–it won’t. But if I get hung up on that, I’m not going to write.

And I know I have had a baby. And that changes a lot when you’re dealing with infertility and so many posts for so many months were so focused on not having one and wanting desperately for circumstances to change. Infertility has shaped me. And it’s something we expect to deal with every time we want to grow our family. But the fact remains that having had a child changes the scene and changes the focus. I’m not worrying about treatments. I’m not despearately crying out to God every night for a change in our circumstances, because the circumstances are changed. And that change is going to spill over into my blog because otherwise this isn’t going to be an honest place.

So, dear readers, I won’t be offended if you need to leave because I’m talking about the joys and challenges of having a baby. Because while I wouldn’t change it for the world, being a mother does come with challenges. I think we all know that, but I’m just coming to really, personally, know that.

And if I don’t make this a place where I can speak honestly, I’m not going to write. Which may partially explain why I haven’t really written in such a long time.

That, and because four months of motherhood have flown by and I’ve hardly had moments to acknowledge any of it.

So, this post is about me finding the freedom to write what I want to write and to let myself write when I can. Because some days I want to and I can’t. And today I can, so I am.

Blessings.

 

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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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Lessons from Seminary

I am so blessed to be in seminary! I am more sure than ever that this is where I’m supposed to be right now. I was so nervous, and frankly I had a bad attitude about some of the classes I’m required to take for my degree. I’m interested in the academic study, and wasn’t looking forward at all to classes like “Spiritual Life” or “Evangelism.”

I had my first Spiritual Life class last night, and I’m happy to say I’m a convert. I LOVED it. It promises to offer so much spiritual growth. True, it’s not an academic class, but as my professor wisely pointed out, there is little merit in gaining academic knowledge if the heart and soul are getting left behind. Throughout the two-hour meeting I could just feel the Holy Spirit working in my heart, changing my perspective. What great joy! My evangelism class is tomorrow, but I’m looking forward to it now. I just have a completely differnt attitude.

Coffee Love

My professor, Bruce Fong, is also a dean at the Houston campus of DTS. More importantly, he is a man with an obvious heart for the Lord. He imparted so much wisdom in two hours–and half of that time was spent going over the syllabus!–that I could probably write three different blog posts based on the insights gained through him in one class. I feel so blessed to be in this class, and before yesterday I was absolutely dreading it and expecting it to be a waste of time. Amazing how God can change a heart and attitude so quickly!

One of the things he talked about was the importance of asking for things in Jesus’ name. Jesus says,

“Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.” (John 14:13-14).

But what does it mean to ask for something in Jesus name? There are plenty of things I’ve asked for that I haven’t gotten in the end. And I always add, “In Jesus’ name I pray” at the end of my prayers. I had never thought that I may be missing a key element.

What Dr. Fong said last night is that we are good at asking for things, but not as good as asking in Jesus’ name, in his character, in line with who he is and his goals for us, as one who walks closely with him. As my professor said, if we ask for something because we want it for ourselves, we aren’t asking in Jesus’ name. But if we can become like Jesus in our prayers, we will see our prayers answered out of his divine power (2 Peter 1:3-4).

Wow.

To ask in the name of Jessus, I need to grow more in my relationship with him. I need to seek to know what he wants and what his goals are for me and for my life. And then I can be confident that what I ask will be given to me.

I am glad to have this new insight to guide me and help me grow in my prayer life and in my relationship with my Lord. And I am feeling confident that he will answer my request that I might grow deeper roots in my faith this semester. Praise the Lord!


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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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Blessed

So Mother’s Day happened. And I survived. Actually, it was much better than last year’s. DH got me some lovely flowers and a card signed with four paw prints from our fur-babies. And we’re going to see Jesus Christ Superstar in about a month–which was, I suppose, an easing the blow/maybe soon gift to take the edge off.

I seriously love  Jesus Christ Superstar. I know it doesn’t tell the whole story, but I grew up listening to the records–yes records–every year over Easter weekend. This year, DH and I spent Easter in Colorado on a mountaintop at sunrise. And it was magnificent. But I didn’t get to listen to the music. I am so touched at the thought he put into this gift on what can be such a very difficult day.

I think things were much improved this year because we have so much hope that our time is coming soon. It’s either that, or I’ve become really detached from our infertility. Or maybe a little bit of both.

Our infertility isn’t causing the stress, the emotional duress, or the feelings of disappointment lately. Maybe I’m in the “acceptance” stage of grief. Or maybe I’m back in denial–espeically since we are actively pursuing treatments right now and any month could be the month. Either way, I’m grateful for the stability, for the peace, and for not feeling particularly distraught on Sunday. It all feels like a few enormous steps forward for me. Sigh. Happy, peaceful sigh.

And, I’ve been a negligent blogger lately. Well, I could make excuses. I seem to be neglecting the blog more and more lately, and sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever have anything worth saying again. I’m sure I will. Today’s post might not be it, but maybe the next one will. And if I keep posting I know two things to be true: 1. I’ll get back in the rhythm of the life I want to have and 2. the writing (and messages) will improve. And I so want that.

I also want to take some time this summer to make some improvements to this blog. This will involve posting more regularly, of course. And doing some research on interneting. And stay tuned for a new name and new look–hopefully soon.

I’m officially starting seminary this fall. It’s exciting and overwhelming and wonderful. I’m so looking forward to it–and I need to do a few things to get myself fit to return to school. That’s an aside. Because it’s an exciting anouncement and I make it on the heels of having done a serious amount of work to submit my application. But it feels weird to dedicate a post to it. So here. A little, tiny bit of Internet space.

I am feeling truly, completely, magnificenty blessed today. And I’m amazed to be able to feel this way in light of everything else. And so very, very grateful.

I hope this week is a joy-filled week for you. And I hope, also, that it marks my return to regular posting. Though I suppose only time will tell on that account.


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Jonah Liked His Way Better

So, my mom and grandmother are here this week! I’m so excited they traveled all the way from St. Louis to see me. Since they’re here, I prepared this post, on Jonah, a few days ago. I probably won’t be able to blog again until next Monday’s installment of this series, but look for more from me next week!

~~~

I had a dream a few nights ago. DH and I were in a remote swamp. It was unlike any place I’ve ever seen in real life—the kind of scene that might show up in a movie or one of those reality shows about people who live deep in the wilderness lowlands. There we were, filthy and just sitting around in the mud. Weak waves kept washing up on the bank of some murky body of water, and time after time they deposited what I can only describe as manna on the shore.

The “manna” appeared in different forms, like marzipan animals and homemade cookies. It was a melt-in-your-mouth kind of delicacy. The kind of rare treat that makes you happy deep down in your being. When I woke up, I had a message in my mind. I distinctly felt God was saying that as long as I still want my own way, I’m not trusting him.

When I told DH this great insight that had been revealed to me in my sleep, he looked at me funny and accused me of stating the obvious. And maybe it seems obvious to you, too. But it hit me. I keep saying I trust God, and then I keep asking him, “Please, oh please, can’t we just do it this way?”

Which brings us to Jonah. Jonah made no bones about his dislike for God’s plan. When God told him to preach to Nineveh, he didn’t just refuse to go, he hopped a boat in the exact opposite direction. Have you been there, too? At the heart of his disobedience was the same sin I struggle with: A belief that his way and his ideals were better than God’s.

While Jonah wanted the Ninevites doomed to destruction, God wanted them to repent and turn to him. If it had been up to Jonah, they wouldn’t have had a chance at rescue. But it wasn’t.

We saw in Moses that sometimes God calls us to do things we don’t really want to do. Moses didn’t feel equipped to answer God’s call. He didn’t question God’s desire to rescue the Israelites from their Egyptian masters, simply God’s determination of who would represent the rescuer. While Moses’ cries of “please pick someone else” can be chalked up to his great humility, it’s hard to find any virtue of Jonah’s that even begins to justify his willful disobedience.

The book of Jonah starts with his call:

“The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me” (Jonah 1:1-2).

Sometimes I find myself hoping for such a clear call. But what if, like Jonah, I hear something I didn’t want to hear? Would I do as Jonah does?

“But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord” (Jonah 1:3).

The story that follows is commonly told to children. A storm comes up and ultimately Jonah is thrown overboard to satisfy God and save the ship. Jonah, in fact, tells the crew to throw him into the sea. It seems he would rather die than do as God has commanded. But God isn’t going to let him off that easily: he provides a great fish that swallows Jonah. Jonah resides in its belly for three days and nights.

We can safely surmise that Jonah isn’t having a good week. And when you’ve hit rock bottom—or the innards of a fish—isn’t it only natural to turn to the only one who can pull us out of the deepest pit?

That’s what he does. He prays to God. He calls out to God and thanks him for providing rescue. And even then, I think, he tries to make a case for why he did what he did. He says, “Those who cling to worthless idols [like the Ninevites] turn away from God’s love for them” (Jonah 2:8).

“But,” he says, “I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord’” (2:9).

In modern vernacular: “God, those Ninevites who prefer idols over you and your love don’t deserve to be saved. But, even though I don’t want to, I will sacrifice my desires to yours. I’ll do what you want, I’ll tell them how they can be saved, and I’ll praise you all the while.”

He seems noble in this moment, right? But still a little bit unsurrendered. There’s still that “I don’t like it, but I’ll do it” tone, isn’t there? Oh man, I keep seeing more of me in Jonah than I care to admit.

So, “the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land” (2:10). Gross, right?

And Jonah preaches to the Ninevites. And Lo! They believed God. They start moping about, showing their repentance. They fast. They dress in sackcloth—from the king down to the animals (yep, even the animals had to wear that itchy stuff). And the king announces, “Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish” (3:8b-9).

They don’t try to justify their evil behavior. They don’t moralize their way out of recognizing their sin. They just repent. The “evil” Ninevites offer us a better example of repentance than God’s own prophet. And God does indeed relent.

So, Jonah is called to prophesy. He runs away. He relents and does what God told him. And he’s fully learned through his traumatizing fish-belly experience that God’s plans are greater and better than his, right?

Let’s see: “But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord, ‘Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity’” (4:1-2).

Fail. Jonah is again justifying his earlier disobedience. I guess it’s a good thing for him that what he says about God is true: God is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love–even to Jonah. But God points out, and then shows Jonah in a way that we can only hope does get through, that he doesn’t have any right to be angry about what happened.

It’s easy to look at Jonah and say, “Man, that guy really messed up.” But then I have to look at myself and say, “Man, this girl really messes up.” And that’s not quite as fun as critiquing Jonah.

Jonah’s calling was straightforward, but he ran away from it. He didn’t want to go through with what God asked him. His challenges in accomplishing his call were pretty much entirely his own doing. Is God calling you to do something that you’ve been putting off? Have you been running away from God?

I have. I’ve felt the call to apply to seminary for several years. And I’ve made excuses and tried to push it behind me and pretended like maybe that’s not really what God wanted.

No more excuses. I’ve said it before, but I’m applying this year. If God wants me to go to seminary, I’ll go next fall … or whenever he desires, I guess. I don’t fully understand why or fully agree that this is what I should be doing. My plan is different. My plan is to have babies and stay home with them and maybe go to seminary when they are grown. But I guess it’s time to give up my plan and really put my trust in God. And, trusting God means choosing his plan over mine.

This is episode 5 of my “They Were Called” series. If you want to follow along, I am posting on Mondays. For previous episodes, see:

Introduction: Working for My Calling

Episode 1: David Asked, “How Long, O Lord?”

Episode 2: Moses Looked to the Reward

Episode 3: Hannah Took It to the Lord

Episode 4: Noah Chose to Build


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Serving the Lord Best

From my Bible study this morning:

“I want you to be free from the concerns of this life. An unmarried man can spend his time doing the Lord’s work and thinking how to please him. But a married man has to think about his earthly responsibilities and how to please his wife. His interests are divided. In the same way, a woman who is no longer married or has never been married can be devoted to the Lord and holy in body and in spirit. But a married woman has to think about her earthly responsibilities and how to please her husband. I am saying this for your benefit, not to place restrictions on you. I want you to do whatever will help you serve the Lord best, with as few distractions as possible.” (I Corinthians 7: 32-35)

This is Paul talking. I was reading it and wondering a few things that aren’t relevant to this post (such as, is this a message that applies today or was Paul speaking in the context of persecution or something?). I am so very happy to be married (and married to my wonderful DH–who I wouldn’t trade for anything), so I have always kind of glossed over this part. And Paul states clearly that the notion not to marry is not a commandment, just something that might make things better or simpler for the believers. And, as we see in this passage, not marrying might free a person to better serve the Lord.

I think there is truth in this for the married person as well as the unmarried person. I am sure I have distractions in my life that prevent me from serving God as well as I could. As a Christ-follower, I should strive to eliminate these distractions where I can. Is TV keeping me from serving God? I can turn it off. Am I so caught up in a flurry of activities I don’t have time to get in the Word? I should cut things out. And so on.

That doesn’t extend to my husband–and I don’t think he’s a distraction in my service to God. He’s there to help spur me on and encourage me to serve the Lord according to my calling. And I hope I am able to encourage him in the same way.

But maybe it can frame where I am now. As I continue to wait for children, are there ways I can serve God that will be more difficult or “impossible” when I do have children?

Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of ways infertility has caused me to look at things like health/nutrition in a new way, which should make me a better parent. But I’m also beginning to consider how God might use me now, while I’m waiting.

I’ve talked about going to seminary for a long time. It’s something I feel called to at least apply for, but I’ve been putting it off. I envisioned going to seminary someday in the far off future. Definitely after we had kids. And I think I figured if I put it off long enough I wouldn’t end up going. I was okay with that.

Lately it has been made clear to me that I need to apply to seminary and I need to do it soon. So no more excuses. If I have this time of childlessness and waiting, I need to use it for God’s glory. Wednesday I’m going to talk to my pastor about the process and see if he will be able to write me a recommendation. The application isn’t due until April, and a lot can change between now and then, but I’m doing what I need to do. This is one way to serve the Lord best in the situation I’m in. A way to be fruitful in my year of fruitfulness, even without multiplying.