Dwell in Me

Seeking God in the Every Day


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Didn’t I Already Learn This?

I’m constantly amazed at my ability to falter in my faith.

Our house is officially under contract; we did come to terms agreeable for both us and the people who are planning to move into our house, and our closing date is set for September 29. In case anyone is wondering, yes, that is in 25 days. And no, we don’t have a house to move into (or even one we are seriously interested in looking at in the neighborhood in which we’d like to live).

We'll be saying goodbye to our little house

Throughout this process, I’ve been great at talking the talk. Whenever a person came to see the house and didn’t like it, it was easy to assure my husband that God had the perfect buyers for our house and that he knows where we are going. But now it’s time to walk by faith and trust that God has a place for us, and I find myself faltering.

I wonder why we put our house on the market in the first place (even though we had plenty of reasons, chief among them DH’s very long commute).

I find myself secretly (or not so secretly) hoping our buyers will decide to exercise their option and break the contract. We could sell the house at a more convenient time.

I worry: how are we going to get everything packed and moved? I have more than enough work to do for my classes with nothing else added on. DH is preparing to take the first CFA exam this winter and keeps reminding me that he’s terribly behind in his study timeline. Oh, and have I mentioned that I am really, really, really (and that’s not enough emphasis–seriously!) terrible at packing and moving? So, we will hire someone, but that means we need to find someone.

Did I also mention that DH is in a wedding in New Mexico the weekend before our closing date? One which we are both planning to attend (and for which I still don’t have a plane ticket.) Don’t worry: we’ll also be out of town the two weekends preceding that one. As in, this weekend is the only one that has us in town between now and closing.

And when DH’s car broke down on Tuesday morning, bringing the “someday we need to replace your car” to a more urgent “what car are we going to buy and how long can we hold out before we have to do it?”–well, I think that was a final straw for me. And I’m sorry to say I spent most of yesterday succumbing to fear and worry and unable to focus on my studies.

I like to think I was doing okay with the whole thing. That I was trusting God and expecting everything to go the way it should. But I think maybe it hadn’t all sunk in yet. I think I was in denial. And I was quite happy there.

The ridiculous thing about this whole situation is that I thought I had learned these lessons. In fact, just a few months ago, on this blog, I was asking God if I had learned enough yet. And here, too.  I was ready to move on from not being pregnant. So ready.

And here I am, still learning the same things: Trust me. Don’t fear. Don’t worry. Wait on me.

But my gracious God has changed my circumstances. Instead of battling infertility today, I’m dealing with doubts and questions over where we will live and how things can be done in the time that we have. And how our finances are going to work between moving out and (hopefully) moving in and buying a car and paying for movers and flying to New Mexico
and . . .

While I let myself get hung up on the circumstance, on the day-to-day, and on the things about which I have limited or no control, I haven’t been trusting like I should. Yet God is good. And he is calmly whispering to my heart: I’m still here. I’m still trustworthy. I still know. Remember the battles you’ve been through before? I carried you through those, and I’ll carry you through this.

So I’m glad for the wake-up call. This isn’t really a trial: it’s an opportunity to put my faith in practice. I’ve not done so well the past week, but by the grace of God, I can do better today. And tomorrow.

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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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Defining ‘Good’

“Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Psalm 34:8

What is good?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. How do I know if something that happens to me (or around me) is good or bad? Is it even possible to know the difference this side of heaven?

Maybe this seems a pedantic question. Or even a semantic one. But I think there may be real spiritual implications in how we define this one little word.

As with many words, we can be a little loose with our language sometimes. How often have you said something was amazing or awesome–even though you know that these words can truly, deeply, only apply to God? And what do you love? Do you love your spouse? Your shoes? That great movie? Clearly we don’t mean the same love for all things.

So, I’ll start by refining what I’m talking about when I ask this question. I’m not talking about what tastes good, what looks good, what feels good–these are clearly things open to interpretation and different for each person. I can no more determine what tastes good for you than you can for me. It is a matter of personal preference.

I’m also not talking about clear, defined standards set forth in scripture. I don’t need to debate whether God is good–in the most complete and intrinsic sense of the word. And I don’t need to debate whether no one else is good. Jesus said as much. (See Luke 18:19, “‘Why do you call me good?’ Jesus answered. ‘No one is good–except God alone.'”) Similarly, I’m not asking if creation was good or bad–as God declared all things good when he made them. That was before the fall.

I’m talking about how we evaluate the things around us. How do we view our life circumstances? Do we view them all on the basis of personal preference–if it feels good (or bad), it must be good (or bad)? Or do we view life circumstances and the trials and challenges and sufferings in light of scripture?

In Romans 8:28, we see that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.”

Maybe infertility isn’t intrinsically good. But maybe it’s been good for me.

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)

If I am living in light of eternity, and living as a sojourner and alien in this world, then what is good and what is bad is going to take on a new meaning. What causes pain or suffering or temporary discontent in this life may be bringing me closer to God. What I see as “bad” and what causes suffering may be integral to developing my relationship with God. And does that not make such events–or at least the repercussions of such events–good?

The world is full of evil, don’t misunderstand me. And the devil will play his games and work his tricks to try to pull us down. But I would submit that if we are living life in view of eternity, we won’t be fooled by the devil’s schemes. We can’t be brought down into the pit of despair when we know that God is truly for us (Romans 8:31).

Bad things happen. I’m not saying that bad things are good. But if we believe, if we trust God in everything, if we do not fear the world because we aren’t of this world–even the worst things can be used for good in our lives.

And so I ask again–can we define what is good? Because I don’t think I can trust my instincts. I think knowing what is good for us and what is bad for us is impossible this side of heaven.

And what are the spiritual implications of not being confident in our definitions here?

There is one who knows. One who knows that the difficult childhood you went through directly relates to your acceptance of the Son. One who knows that the wealth and prosperity you received in this earth did nothing but distance you from himself. One who knows how to bless us–even when that blessing includes a baptism by fire and trial and pain–so that we will truly know him. And since he knows and I don’t, I must choose to trust him and trust his direction for my life–even when it goes against my hopes or plans or sense of what is good.

All the “good” things this world can offer us are really bad if they pull us away from God. All the “bad” things in the world that push us on our knees and draw us to God and Christ are a gift to us. When I’m with God, if I have any care whatsoever about this life I’m living now, I’ll not be surprised to hear him say, “That trial of infertility? I allowed that in your life. I did it because I love you, and because I knew it would draw your heart closer to mine.” And what response can there be to that but a heartfelt thank you?

So I give up on trying to value my circumstances. And I say, why not thank him now?

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)


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Hannah Took It to the Lord

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

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

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

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

But I’m jumping ahead.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So we keep turning to him.

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


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Life Isn’t Always Easy

Several months ago a woman in my small group made an interesting comment. Essentially, she said that before she was a Christian her life had been difficult but now that she is a Christian everything is going smoothly for her. She talked about how she had been trying to convince her mother to start following Christ so her life would be simpler and she would have fewer problems.

I guess there is a small nugget of truth in that, as there is in many false teachings that are easy to believe. After all, Jesus says, “Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” He says, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28–30).

We have the ability to cast our cares and our burdens on Jesus. And the lightening that follows can truly change a life. I have been praying for some time that Christ would help me carry the burden of infertility, and I have recently written of the peace I have today that I believe is completely from God. But that peace doesn’t change my circumstances. It affects my attitude and my daily posture, but it isn’t a complete solution to my problem. I still long to be a mother.

I would submit that this view seems fine until something goes wrong. Different people have different tolerances for what that means. But if you believe that as long as you love the Lord things will go smoothly for you, what must you think as soon as the road becomes bumpy and difficult to travel? If the first premise is correct, then what follows from hardship?

Someone failed. Maybe you failed to love God enough. What follows is a quick slide into a works-based salvation, where your right standing with God is dependent on your own actions. And what we will find if right standing is dependent on us is that we are not good enough for God. We cannot be good enough for God.

Alternatively, maybe God has failed to provide for you. Maybe you question whether the Word is true when it says that God will “work all things for the good of those who love him, who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Maybe you start to wonder if God has abandoned you or left your side. Maybe you doubt his leadership in your life or his ability to bless you.

If you believe your Christian walk includes a promise that everything will go smoothly all the time, something’s got to give when hardship finds you. And hardship will probably find you. Jesus said, “In this world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33b).

There are two main directions hardship can push us: away from God or closer to him. In hardship, we can choose to put our faith in a God who sees the whole picture and knows the whole plan. We can choose to trust him completely even when our difficulty and pain doesn’t make sense to us. We can choose to believe him despite the difficulty inherent in our circumstance.

Or we can choose to give up on him. We can decide we don’t trust him. We can feel betrayed, like we have been taken where we didn’t want to go and put in places we didn’t think we’d be in despite, or perhaps even because of, God. We can decide God is not bigger than our problems. Or that he doesn’t actually care. Or that he’s not actually present in our lives.

And if you start with the premise that Christian faith makes life easy, you’re setting yourself up to fall into that second category. You believe, even if you don’t articulate it, that when you face hardship, someone must have failed. And if God fails you, is it worth it to believe in him? And if you’ve failed God, can you ever dig yourself out of the hole you’re in?

If you thought the Christian walk would be an easy one and you’re finding it’s not—take heart. God is working all things—even bad things—for our good. He promises to do that. But he does not promise that life will be easy. That’s not in the book. And it’s okay to be upset about what we don’t understand. It’s okay to cry out to the Lord. He’s a big God. He can take it.

Not only that, but he knows your pain. He cares about you. He loves you. And he is always there for you.

“It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Deuteronomy 31:8


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Out of My Head, into My Heart

I’m not a very emotional person–at least compared to other women I know. I live my life through my head. It’s hard–so hard–for me to get things into my heart.

I think sometimes this means I’m not a very compassionate person. I struggle with sympathy, not to mention empathy.

People talk about feeling someone’s pain so deep that it feels like it’s their pain. Or seeing something beautiful and just feeling this little twinge of emotion that flows up like something real and tangible.

Not me.

Like a white-washed tomb–my heart felt empty and unmoved inside this body.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires

One of the biggest struggles I’ve had through infertility is convincing my heart that what I believe in my head is true. I’ve called this the head knowledge-gut faith disconnect.

And one of the biggest blessings of infertility is that my heart seems to be working better. Like infertility is the hammer that has broken my heart open and at the same time knocked down the walls I’d built around it. The feeling is coming back, empathy and compassion are slowly seeping in. Not perfect, but gradually coming to life within me.

Outside Recoleta Cemetery,  Buenos Aires

That opening up makes me hurt more. Opening up lets in the good with the bad, the pain with the joy, the heartache with the peace. And it is what enables me to trust that what God says is true, that God is who he says he is. That God is everything to me. These weren’t possible with my hardened, sealed up heart.

So today, my heart is aching. Aching for one of my only “real life” friends who is dealing with this infertility mess. Her embryo didn’t make it in her first IVF transfer.

And she says she is struggling with this same head knowledge-gut faith disconnect right now.

Praying for her today. For her faith and trust in God. For peace and strength. And for beauty in the pain of death.

And thanking God that he has used infertility for my good and his glory. That I can be there for my friend because of where I’ve been and where I’m going.

I may have picked a different road in life. But God knew where I needed to be today and how to get me here.