June 20, 2018

Feeling His Presence

It is June 20th, and that means the month of June is 2/3rd's over!! I cannot believe that the summer is passing by so quickly. I know it isn't actually passing any faster than normal, but it sure "feels" like it. It is a beautiful day here in sunny and very warm, Phoenix. I am sitting at my home computer, drinking my coffee, checking emails and dealing with some student issues, and as I enjoy the breeze coming in my window, I am thinking that my life is, well, pretty good right now. It has been a good morning, and though it is only 9:20 a.m., I am feeling confident and good about the Lord's plan for my life. Yes, I have this feeling that I am living and doing exactly what He wants, and that I am in the place of His choosing.

Be Still and Know He is God

I haven't blogged in about 10 days, but that doesn't mean I haven't thought deeply about His presence and how I am experiencing such covering right now. For example, since the first of the month, I have watched as several colleagues stepped out in faith and followed the Lord's leading to new jobs and new cities. It has been exciting to see the Lord move in and through their lives, but it has been most encouraging to watch as He has provided for the smallest need, the most critical thing, in order for them to "go" where He was sending them. This observation of His logistical goodness has greatly encouraged my heart, and has helped me to see that God never sends us anywhere without the provision we need to get there and to make a new start, a new life, in the land He has chosen for us to settle. I am greatly encouraged to know that when the time comes for me to go, He will provide for every single need in my life. He will open the storehouse of heaven and provide a life -- a good life -- with whatever accouterments I need, want or desire. He will make sure I have a roof over my head, a car to get me from here to there, and a workable lifestyle that allows me to continue to teach as I do, adjunct for multiple schools, all without the worry or the fear of being left, figuratively and literally, out in the cold in a new and unknown place.

My life is in transition, and as I have blogged these past 10 years, I feel that the transitory nature of it is about to be replaced with something more stable, more solid, more significant. I am about to go to a place where I can live comfortably, easily, and within the means, He has provided for me. The more I have stressed over going, the more I have managed to stay put, but in and through all the struggles, I have realized that the Lord will always have His way, and if I am truly at the mercy of His mighty will, then I cannot stand or keep from moving. I must go. I must go and do His work, and yes, this work can be done here in Phoenix or there in Vermont, but the fact remains that sometimes the Lord chooses to send you to a place simply because it is part of His good plan. For example, I have considered how I could make a living in Phoenix, where the typical home costs $500k. I can make ends meet now, but I share a rental home with my parents. In time, they will need extra care so I cannot live here on my own. I would have to rent-share with someone else, and well, that is simply not going to work well for me. I could move into a small 1-bedroom apartment, but again, while that is doable, with my cats and my son's music needs, not really practical. I know the Lord will provide a house for me, and that in time, I will have a bit of real estate that belongs to me. I will own it, not rent or pay for a mortgage on it. I will have my little bit of life, where every single morning and every single night, I know that I am safe and secure. He knows that my two greatest needs are for security and provision, and He has been faithful to provide both to me since day one. I live in His blessed security, and I manage my life through His blessed financial provision. I need nothing else because He serves as the Source and Content of both security and provision in my life.

Yet, I also know that the Lord desires that I have a place to call home. He knows that one of my deepest desires is to be safe -- as in to live in a place of safety. I am safe, but as a child of violence and abuse, the need for safety has been paramount. I need to feel safe to sleep at night. I need to live in a safe area to know that I am not going to be attacked. He has given me safety, and He shelters me as He covers my fragile shell, much in the same way a Mother Hen sits on her tiny developing chicks. I am safe in His wings, and I find shelter in Him, the Most High.

But, I long to have a small plot of land where I can grow things, garden and enjoy the blessed quiet of a summer's day. I long for a new way of living, a different way -- not in the desert -- but in the verdant green valley and hills of the midwestern or eastern half of the USA. I simply long to go, but my heart is often stifled with the panic associated with "going," with moving. My fears are all logistic based, and since I have no control, no provision as such to go, I can only imagine and envision what my life might be like living in another place.

My time in the wilderness has been profitable. I have learned great skills. I have learned to adapt. I have learned to rest and to trust and to let go. I have learned that my life is not my own and that as I am guided through each phase, I must trust in Him, really dig deep and trust in Him. In this way, I have come to the end of me, and the beginning of Him. Yes, I have come to a place where I am learning -- present active -- to "be" and letting Him "be" in me as well. Psalm 46:10 is one of my favorite verses, and I often will quietly recite it so I remember what the psalmist said -- be still -- and KNOW whom it is who has control over your life. Be still and know that God, the God who loves you so deeply, and cares for you with so much security, is GOD. There is no lack in Him, and when we trust Him, draw near to Him, we will find that our most intimate need is met with full and satisfactory sufficiency. We are LOVED by Him, and with His great love, He provides -- meets -- all our needs (physical, spiritual, material, emotional and so forth). He is a great Lover of our Soul, but He also knows that we have other needs and that often it is the material need that causes us to worry, to fear, and yes, to suffer harm. He knows us well, and He loves us completely, thus when we rely on Him, move into utter and complete dependence on Him, we find that He is able to fill our souls and our hearts and our minds as well as our bodies with His entire Presence. He becomes our EVERYTHING and in this way, we find that our lack has been reduced and our need for things no longer captivates or warrants much attention.

My heart belongs to Him, and because I have made the commitment to be a wholly devoted follower of Christ Jesus, I have come to this place where my deepest need is for more of Him. I once said to Him that I wanted to be attracted to Him as a "moth to the flame." I remember the Lord whispering back to me, "are you sure you want this, dear one?" I said, "Yes, Lord." Since that time, I would describe my devotion to the Lord as such -- I am drawn to Him in a like way. I feel this pull toward Him, and the more I am with Him, the more I want to be with Him. I am compelled to know Him, to want to be with Him, and to learn as much as I can from Him. I should say that I don't always worship in this way, in fact, there are days when I feel such a longing and a deep need, but there is a distance between us. I know it is one of two things: 1) I have done something to cause a break -- perhaps not sin, but perhaps just a bit of stubbornness or wanting of my own way; or 2) He has chosen to step back and allow me time to experience "lack."

I am sure that there are biblical precedents to support my observations, but there have been times when I have not been in sin, actively engaged in it, but the Lord has been a bit distant with me. I think of these as "training wheel" moments. My Father is near, but not right on top of me. He is standing from afar watching as I try out some new skill. He is ready to catch me, but He knows I can do what He is asking so He simply watches me as a proud parent does when their child performs or is in athletics. He is cheering me on, but not "helicoptering" over me, if that makes sense. He trusts me to do the right thing, and as He trusts me, He gives me a bit more length of rope, so to speak. I guess you could say that I am growing up in the Lord, and just as with human parenting, I am moving out of that "teenage" phase and into mature adulthood. The Lord has given me more responsibility, and He has shown me how to manage and attend to my needs well.

Now, I am asked to do the work, to start His work, and to use what He has given to me in order to accomplish His will for my life. It is exciting to move from phase to phase, and while it is not easy to mature, to grow up, there is good grace to cover the mistakes, and plenty of instruction to guide and mentor. I am in this good place right now, and God has chosen this path, this way for me. I am pleased, so very pleased with the outcome of my life. My hard work has paid off, and I am doing the very thing I desired to do so long ago. I am living the dream, so to speak, and as I live it, I realize daily that what I have been given has been given in good faith. The Lord trusts me to use the gifts and talents and abilities well. I am to use all my training -- spiritual and physical -- to bless others, to help others see Him as Good, and to develop ministry materials that will prepare them, train them, and equip them for their own good work. I am simply a caretaker of His goodness, and my role is to share that goodness with others. I do this through my mouth -- I communicate His goodness -- and in doing so, I help others see that God is so very good and that He is so very worthy of their time, their attention, and their devotion. He is good to me, so very good to me!

Looking Forward to Next Steps

As I prepare my mind for moving, I am reminded that I must straddle the line for a time. I have responsibilities here in Phoenix that I cannot simply let go of and I have planning logistics to consider to prepare my way forward. It can be hard to be in two places at once, but the Lord is already "there" and He already knows what I need, want, desire, and can handle. He has the details worked out, the timing is perfect, and until He makes it possible for me to move, I must attend to what is before me here in Phoenix. I do my work. I take care of my home. I help my parents. I guide my son. I think about the future with hope, I imagine good in this new place, and I pray over the decision, the timing, and the provision with confidence that all things will come to pass just as He has spoken to me (in my heart, my mind, and my thoughts). I believe He is guiding me, and that with His guidance, I can rest assured that no stone will remain unturned, no lack will not be met with His sufficiency, and there will be no need -- no need -- left unmet. He has me well-covered, and today, I take note of the fact that our God is a God of Complete Provision. He never sends His children forward without providing for them, and I can be assured that when my time comes, I will be provided for in the exact measure, the exact portion that is needed. He is good, so very good to me! Selah!

In closing, I sit here today and I marvel at His goodness. I cannot even remember what my life was like 10 years ago. I do remember the details as such, and I do feel at times those sad regrets, but in totality, I look back and I see a progression of moves, from here to there, and as I survey the past, I see touchstones where I rested in Him. I see a lot of pain, hardship, and suffering too, but within all of those unpleasant memories, there are blessed times of refreshing, soul-refilling goodness, where the Lord stood near me, comforting me, and reminding me of His blessed presence. I failed to draw near (James 4:8) as the Word says we must, and sadly, I suffered more than I needed. Had I simply refused to sin, to engage in sin, to keep on sinning, and instead, turn toward Him and put my faith back in Him, my life would have improved (of this, I am certain). But, as Paul reminds us in Romans 8:38 (NASB), "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose;" I know that even in the lowest, bleakest, and most difficult moments, God has used all the experiences in my life to shape me, to make me, and to bring me to this place of surrender today. He has caused all the good and the bad in my life to produce the good He desires, and for that truth, I am blessed, so very blessed. I am good today because He said it was good for me to know Him, to learn to trust Him, and throughout my days, to come to a place of utter dependence upon Him.

June 10, 2018

Baby Steps of Faith

Blessed Sunday! It is a good day to worship the Lord! It is Sunday, and I am at home, resting and thanking the Lord for the peace and quiet on this good, good day. It is quiet in my home, and I am sitting here at my computer thinking how blessed my life is today. I mean, I am in this very good place. I have a good life, a good job, and a good financial future (albeit fraught with tax liabilities, sigh!) In all, the Lord has provided abundantly for me, and He has made a way for me to live comfortably as I learn how to depend on Him for everything -- every single need.

This morning, for example, I woke up thinking about my tax liability. I am waiting for final confirmation from the IRS on what I owe them and whether I will be required to file an amended return for 2017. I have already resubmitted the paperwork for Obamacare (the reason I am in this debacle), so I expect a final letter soon, this month, that will tell me I either need to refile or I am assessed "X" dollars in premium tax credit penalty. I am fine either way, I just would like this whole nightmare of a situation to end! But, as I laid awake, I started to think that I hadn't paid my AZ Taxes. I looked through my records and I couldn't find any record of paying the $200 I owed to the state! Yikes! I feel positive I paid, but without any proof, I went ahead and paid again, plus some penalty. I figure that I will owe the state money for 2018, so if I overpaid, then they will either refund me or keep it and put it toward next year's payment!

Resting Brings Peace

The weird thing is that I am not panicked over this debt. I owe so much money on school loans, cars, etc., that I have come to this place of dealing with the debt and not panicking over it. I don't mean to be casual about it, but at some point, you simply have to accept the fact that you have massive debt, and that you will either pay it off (which is what I believe) or you will not. Many people have debt, but they lack the resources to pay, so they live horribly chained lives to creditors who have no mercy. I am in a fortunate position, thanks to God, that I have debt, but I can pay it off. In fact, I could pay all my credit cards off today, if I wanted to do so, but I feel led to waiting -- to make smaller payments since I have this big tax bill coming soon. I feel that the savings I have will be used for the IRS, thus my smaller cards are on hold for now.

More so, I have a strong feeling that I will be offered a full-time position soon, and with this full-time position, I will not only have a good income, but I will have benefits. I have blogged before how I believed that the four schools I teach at are the four schools the Lord has assigned to me. What I mean to say is that I have always believed that He provided four good schools -- all online -- for me so that I could earn a very decent income.

Furthermore, these online schools, in sum, have made it possible for me to work from home, thus being here daily to assist my parents as they have needs. Now, though, after making the decision to remain -- to stay in Phoenix -- I believe I am to receive another job, but this time a full-time faculty position to provide consistent yearly income to me. I will still keep my part-time contracted work, but this full-time job will cover me 100%, provide for all my needs (as the Lord leads, guides, and provides), and give me comfort to know that my financial future is well-set.

In all, I know how much money I need to live comfortably in Phoenix, buy a house, and make a life here. I certainly can live on less -- for sure! When I was working at CVS, I made less than what I earn now, and I managed a lovely townhome, a newer used car, and took care of my small other debts. All without worry, fear, or doubt.  But, that was a long time ago, and now I work multiple jobs, and almost all my savings is set aside for taxes and other penalties that were the result of the changes in the federal law regarding healthcare. I am out of that system, praise to God, and using a ministry health-sharing service for my needs, but should I need extra care -- chiropractic -- for example, I would have to pay out of pocket. I am hoping that this new job when it comes, provides routine medical care, dental, vision, and chiropractic so I can have the blessing of seeing the doctor or dentist when I need to and not have to submit my bills to the health sharing ministry. In fact, my plan is to remain in the health sharing ministry as a ministry. The money I contribute each month has been used to help other people, individuals, and families, with their medical expenses. I love this fact! I love that I am giving money to help other Christians pay their medical bills!

Baby Steps of Faith

I titled my blog post this morning, "Baby Steps of Faith," because this title most aptly describes my life, in toto, as I have walked with the Lord these past 10 years. Although I have been a Christian for now almost 40 plus years, it has only been in the last 10 or so that I have had the kind of relationship that I would describe as wholly devoted and dependent upon the Lord for every single need, desire, and concern. This is not to say that I didn't have concerns, worries, fears, or doubts -- or that I was not reliant on His grace and mercy -- during all those other years; may it never be! Rather, what it means is that in my former walk, I followed legalism so when I prayed, I prayed in a ritualistic way. I was not really sure God listened to me nor did I feel better when I prayed at all. I would do it because I was told to pray, and then I would scrunch up all my will to "believe" that God did hear me, and perhaps if I was good enough, He would actually attend to my need. In many ways, and in many situations, God did answer my prayers, but it wasn't habitual nor was my dependency on Him consistent. I was a rather hit-or-miss Christian. In my church, we called people like me, "backsliders," you know, I believed but I dangled my big toe in the "sinful pond" of life. I repented, I sinned, I repented, I sinned, and it was like a see-saw, back and forth, and I never really knew where I stood or how God could love me because I was so inconsistent, so bad all the time.

It wasn't until my faith was turned upside down and inside out, and I reached out to Him, truly confessing my need for Him all the while acknowledging that despite my knowledge of God, I really didn't KNOW HIM very well. I asked to be shown how to love Him, in the way that He desired it, and BOOM! My life changed. I turned on inside, and I became an ardent, wholly devoted follower of Christ Jesus. Okay, so not immediately. It took time, a lot of time, a lot of practice, and a lot of mistakes before I got to where I am now -- walking habitually with Him -- always connected to the Vine, always in conversation with Him. But in the ensuing years, so much good came as a result of that one humble prayer. Yes, I should mention that so much bad also happened. I lost my life -- my marriage, my family, my career, my home -- everything I believed and held dear was stripped away from me. I found myself depressed and devastated by betrayal and abandonment, and in the end, I was forced to make a choice: stay in a miserable and three-sided relationship (me, my ex-husband and his girlfriend) or walk away and take on the emblem of singlehood (divorce). I chose to stand on the Word, and with as much bravery as I could muster, I walked away from my marriage, and I placed my entire trust in His hands.

He has not disappointed me. Not once. I left with nothing save my few belongings, my cats, and my then teenage son, and I followed Him as He began to lead, to guide, and yes, provide for me. It was baby steps of faith that got me to where I am today. I had to trust Him every single day for gas money, grocery money, bill-paying money. I had to care for a young man who was ready to begin college, and I had to figure out how to get him to college and pay for it since his Dad wasn't going to help out. I received nothing from his Dad because, in our divorce, our son was no longer a child. There was no support money coming in. It was all on me, and thanks to the Lord, it was His provision and banner over me that kept us going, kept us safe, and ensured that we had every need met.

Now, I am on the backside of all of that change, massive change. I live with my elderly parents (they are 85 and in failing health), and I care for my son in as much as he is just beginning to step out on his own and practice baby steps of faith as he comes to lean on and depend on the Lord. I work four jobs, earning a decent income, but not really making the significant income I need to be settled -- yet. I make good money, but it is contracted, so every month, I never know how much work I will have or whether I will have any new work to do.

Still, I depend on Him for these contracts, and He has never once let me fail. My bank account has gotten low, but not gone into the red. My credit card balances have been high and low and high again, but I have never defaulted or missed a payment. My tax liability, while now really scary, has been nil these past 10 years. It was only due to a combination of unfortunate events (my change in status -- no longer head of household, my working as a contractor, and Obamacare's 2017 penalty that said if you make more than you claim at any point in the year, you must pay back ALL the subsidy you were given -- even if it was for one month only like me).

Consequently, I am in this place of utter need and utter dependency. The Lord has been my ROCK AND MY REFUGE, and He has never once let me down. I believe in Him, I trust Him, and I can rest in His abilities to keep me, sustain me, and provide a way for me to go. Every single day, I look UP, and I thank Him for the blessing of this life. It is a good life, filled with mostly sweet days, and I am going places, exciting places, and my future is rosy and cheerful looking.

He is Faithful

As I close this blog, I am reminded this morning that God is faithful, He is good, and He never stops loving us, comforting us, and caring for us. Yes, He cares for us! My life has been kicked into high gear, and just recently after I made the decision to return to my vow -- commitment to remain -- things have started moving again. I am feeling confident, like boldly confident, and I am sensing that I am where He wants me to be. No more wavering, no more doubting, no more stalled progression. I feel like Peter Pan as I fly straight on to Neverland. I am going someplace wonderful, someplace good, and I know it will be GREAT.  My life is ready, yielded and I am wholly submitted, confident in His abilities to provide for me. Will He provide the money I need to pay my tax bill? Yes, He will. Will He provide the money I need to pay my student loans? Yes, indeed. Will He bring me the exact job I need, when I need it most, so I can be certain, assured, and confident of my future career life? Absolutely, yes! He is good, He is faithful, and as our Loving Provider, He will never let our basket and bowl run empty or dry (see Deuteronomy 28). I rest today in this knowledge -- that my God, my King, and my patient and kind Sovereign, knows my needs so well, and has every single one of them apportioned and ready to be met. He is good, He is reliable, and as such, I can trust Him and wait on Him for His perfect provision and His perfect good timing! Selah!

June 8, 2018

Faith in Action

It is Friday! Woohoo! I am so glad this long week has come to an end. It has been a good week, a rather stressful week, but in all, what has passed has been good. I am in a very good place right now, and while I do not know exactly what tomorrow will bring, I have full faith and confidence that no matter what, it will be good.

My week has been chocked full of busyness. My two older brothers left on Monday to go back to their respective homes in Nevada and California. My parents, son and I, worked to recover from the previous weekend of hosting family and attending an out of city wedding. It was a great time, but tiring, and yes, stressful, simply due to the logistics of getting there (2 hours each way) and back at night. Nonetheless, we did it, and we were blessed to be a part of my nephew's start to wedded life.

The middle of the week was pretty much "business as usual" for me. I wrapped up three classes at Grantham, and with just four still in process, found the lower volume workload to be a real joy. I've been busy grading essays, but overall, I have had some nice downtime to rest and relax.

Wednesday brought another battle with the ants, but this time, I feel victorious. I was able to determine their entry point, and with my trusty can of Raid, blasted the live buggers and then using spackle, plugged up the two spots where they seemed to be finding the entrance. So far, so good.

Thursday proved to be the pinnacle of upset, and not for expected reasons. My son headed off to CA with his SUV packed to the gills for a week in Orange. He is performing at a CIY's High School Camp. He was looking forward to a week at the beach, but instead, he is socked inland at Chapman College (LOL!) Still, it is a paying gig and a time for him to rest after his very busy and long final year in college.

Yesterday was a good day for me -- I finished most of my work early -- so that meant I could rest in the evening. I turned in early, and after about an hour in bed, was awakened to the sound of the smoke alarms going off. It took about 20 minutes to determine which of the six installed were the culprits, and once located, extra time was needed to get the ladder out and climb up the 12 feet to where they are wired into the security system. My poor head and ears! Sigh! My dad and I did a thorough check -- I climbed into the attic to make sure there was no "smoke" anywhere, and we walked the perimeter of the house, checked the outside roof, simply to determine where the smoke could have come from that triggered our system. In the end, we all returned to bed around 12:30 a.m., but never really satisfied that we knew what caused the alarms to go off.

When All Else Fails, Just Believe

So here it is Friday. I am feeling okay, despite not sleeping well, and the fact that I am still trying to figure out the plans the Lord has for my life. Oh yes, in between all the commotion, I found my mind stirring with thoughts of plans, places, and eventual purposes -- all toward the process of deciphering the Lord's will for my life. I mean, I know His specific will, and I know what He has in store for me long term (well, I know in the sense that I understand some aspects of what I feel led to do), but I don't know what will be in 3-6 months, and that unknown is far scarier and frustrating that my entire future hopes and dreams. Will I stay here, in Phoenix? Will I go to the Midwest or Northeast? What will my son do after December, when his contracts end? Will he be offered more work to teach adjunct here? If so, do I stay? And, what about my parents who are crossing the threshold of needing more individual care then I can provide to them? These are the details I wrestle with continually. I am content in the knowledge that I have a good longterm plan, and that I do not need to move anywhere to do the work God has provided to me. I can rest in this fact -- I can stay right where I am and be OK. But, these other details worry me -- constantly -- especially as I consider my need to be settled, to have my own place, and to make sure my parents are cared for properly. Sigh!

Lately, I have been at odds with the Lord in the fact that what I seem to know, well, is unknown to me. I know -- crazy thinking -- but let me explain. I feel like I know what to do, but when I start to think about it, I run rabbit all over the place. I simply end up here, there, and everywhere. Then, when I ask for clarification, the Lord tells me that:
  1. I already know what to do
  2. I should rest and trust Him 
Okay, so I get number 2 well, but it is the first part that really causes me to strive to understand -- to figure things out -- and then with that pursuit, I end up falling flat on my face. I am tired and weary, sort of like I am sure Jacob was so tired and weary of wrestling with the Lord at the ford of Jabbok (Gen. 32:22-33). I simply want to stop doing it, but until I know the answer, I feel I must keep on pressing on. I don't want to give way.

This morning while I was praying, this thought came to my mind. I had asked the Lord for clarification, and always when I do, He is always willing to help guide my thoughts. Sometimes, my mind is illuminated and I "get" or understand what I need to know. Other times, I simply remember something I have forgotten. And, then once in a while, I receive some new piece of information, sort of like when you find the missing piece of the puzzle! In all cases, He is faithful to clarify and help me come "unstuck" in my thinking processes.

My Breakthrough

Today, though, I prayed for clarification, and I asked to remember what I had forgotten. I don't want to keep on struggling, wrestling with Him, because 1) it wears me out, and 2) I will never win -- the battle is futile. I asked the Lord to help me remember whatever piece of the puzzle was missing or hidden, and I said that I would stop contending with Him once I knew the answer. Well, I promised as such.

Ruminate. Ruminate. Ruminate.

As I sat down to write my blog, these scripture verses from James 1 came to mind:

But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord (verses 5-7a, NASB).

Then, I began to think about how I doubt. You know, I second-guess what I already know is true, and I doubt what I think I know what is true of future things. In short, I doubt. Like always, I doubt. More so, I started to think about how easily fall into this practice of doubting the Lord's will for my life. I waffle. I waver. I am just like that ship that James spoke about in his letter. I am a doubter -- one who is prone to not believe unless I can "see" it.

[As an aside, I always considered myself to be most like Peter -- the disciple who was rash and had quick faith -- but would turn in fear when the moment presented something unexpected. Now, I would say that I am like Thomas, the disciple who was ready to believe but only when he was sure of his facts. Sigh!]

It didn't take too much time for me to figure out where I had wandered off the mark, and suddenly, my eyes were opened. I remembered! Yes, I remembered the decision I made 6-months ago when I decided that the best choice for my future life was to REMAIN in Phoenix, and to stay put right where the Lord had me planted.

I remembered that I had been given the choice of staying in Phoenix or going to another place to live. I remembered how I wanted to go -- to live in a four season climate -- but that part of that motivation was not formed in value-based judgment (meaning that it was best for me), rather it was formed as a result of memory and experience. In sum, I wanted to go elsewhere because of my memories of childhood, and my unpleasant life experiences since moving here in 1996.

At the time, I remember that the Lord asked me to be sure this was the decision I wanted to make, and I said, "yes." I felt that it was the best decision in the short-term because my son had good work here, and I seemed to be well-watered. I mean, I have not had an opportunity to go elsewhere. I have good practical work here, and while I know that I will have to work hard to stay here (because housing is so expensive and such), the Lord has graciously and abundantly provided me with income to satisfy and care for all my needs.

Wavering. Doubting. Fear. Frustration. Confusion.

In all my wavering, my tossing back and forth, I have created this monster on my back. I am frustrated and confused. I fear the unknown, and it is all because I allowed myself to be tempted to waver in my commitment and my decision.

What does this mean now? I think it means that I am done wrestling with the Lord. I think it means that I will no longer look to the left or to the right, but that I will remain where I am until the Lord opens a door to move me elsewhere. It means that for now, I can rest knowing that the Lord has me well covered for today, tomorrow, and all the months and years going forward. I still don't know where I will live, say, in 6-9 months (in this rented home or my own home), but I can rest assured that I will have a place to live, and I will have good practical work to keep me covered, well-covered.

In Closing

Today, I feel free. I feel better -- like a weight has been lifted off of me -- and today I feel like I finally have the answer I have known all along but was unwilling to acknowledge. I will remain here. I will stay here. I will rest here. And, should the Lord choose to move me physically at some point in my future, I will certainly go wherever He leads. But, for now, for the short-term, mid-term, and longterm, I will know that the plans the Lord has for me, my parents, and my son are established right here in the desert, in this place, in this hot, dry, and dusty place. Selah!

Dear Lord,

I have contended with you for so long. I have worn myself out with all my waffling and wavering and doubting. I have believed your word for a short time, and then like a puff of smoke, my belief simply floated away. I entertained other thoughts, other ideas, other possibilities, and while you have said there is "no place off limits" for me, this didn't necessarily mean that all places were equally beneficial (yes, equal but different as I have blogged before). Some places are truly better for small intangible reasons. I understand this, and with all value-based decisions, I realize that the culminating point often comes after much debate and battle between ideas, elements, and minor choices. Just like when I had to decide between staying in corporate business and accepting that I will be a teacher for my professional career, this battle has been hard fought. I am relieved, and I feel good about it. And, like with the decision to trust you with my teaching career, this decision comes with a lot of unknowns. You have provided for me in my career, provided benefits, and plenty of income. I had no assurance of contracts, yet you provided them to me. In a like way, deciding to stay in Phoenix, to remain here comes with so many unknowns. Housing is so expensive, the cost of living here is high. yet, you have said you will provide. Thus, as I confess today, my doubt simply was used by my enemy to cause me to lose momentum, to stop my forward progression, and in this way, to keep me from doing the work you had for me to do. I have spent months being frustrated and confused, and I am to blame for it all. Thankfully, you have been my ROCK, my STEADFAST PARTNER, and you have never let me go, never let me fall so far down that I couldn't be rescued. You provided a way out when I asked, and you gave me time to come back to my senses. I am good now, and I am committed to seeing this decision out. I am all in, as they say, and that means to whatever good plans you have for me, and to whatever provision you intend to provide. I trust you this good day. I rest now, and I let this matter go in Jesus' Name, Amen. So be it, thy will be done. Selah!

June 6, 2018

Feeling Unwell and Shaken

It is a good day in Phoenix, Arizona. It has been another nightmare of a battle with the ants, and sadly, my only recourse this morning was to do the RAID, and blast those pesky buggers to kingdom-come! I hate using pesticides, especially in the pantry, but the ant bait stations simply were an attraction, and although effective,  they are slow to act. My impulse got the better of me, and I simply chose to kill on sight rather than destroy the entire colony. Sigh! This is to say, of course, that my first experience this morning, after my feet hitting the floor, and my quiet moment alone in the bathroom, was to face a horde of invaders. Needless to say, I was miffed and put out, and upset that "yet again" I had to stop my morning routine to deal with this problem. It has been about two hours since the first attack, and on inspection, there are some scouts still lingering, but overall, the Raid did its duty and wiped them out. I am now sitting at my computer, drinking my second cup (non-decaf) of coffee and eating a toasted English Muffin. I am feeling miserable, out of sorts, and generally speaking, unwell. I wish I could say that the whole feeling of being unwell and shaken was the result of the ant battle today, but this would not be true. I have felt this way since last Saturday, and I do not know why this is so or what I may have done to bring the confusion, irritation, and lack of peace to my life. I simply do not know...

Taking Count

As I sit here and blog, two things come to my mind. The first is that I have sinned, well, wondered if I have sinned. I realize that we all sin -- intentionally and unintentionally -- but that for Christ-followers our sins are forgiven (past, present, and future). We stand in the righteousness of Christ, fully free from the penalty of sin. The presence of sin still exists, it mars our world and our relationships, and since we live in a fallen world, and are living within our fallen created forms, well, we still do things -- think things and react to things -- in ways that are not always aligned with God's word or follow His way and will.

My hardheaded stubborn will has gotten me into trouble again, or so I think. It is easy for me to become confused these days, and I long for a major do-over, to begin again, and for things to settle down and start flowing more freely, more easily. I am stressed today, almost panicked, and I am suffering from anxiety -- something of which I haven't experienced in years! I said to my Mom earlier that I was having an anxiety attack, and I simply do not know why. Why now? What have I done? What is going on?

Second, is the fact that my enemy seeks to devour and destroy me. He longs to trip me up, and while he cannot keep me from seeing paradise, he can make my way difficult, steal my peace and joy, and generally, cause havoc with my relationships and the plans God has for my life. He can disrupt the good will of the Lord, cause me to doubt God's veracity, and make me feel sick, sorrowful, and depressed as a result.

Thus, one of two things has happened that has brought on this panic attack and made me feel so unwell today. 1 John 1:9 says, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." I have confessed my sins, so I know that 1) God is faithful and will forgive me and 2) as a result of that forgiveness, I will be cleansed of all power and penalty. Therefore, if I have confessed, repented, and turned around -- acknowledged my sins before God -- then I know I stand cleansed and in righteousness (His Righteousness) before Him.

My enemy, contrary, is like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. I can stand, no I must stand against him, and do this -- I must rally the troops, and use the full armor of God to combat the forces of darkness. I stand fully clothed (Eph. 6), and with my faith (shield), and the Word of God (sword), the enemy is defeated and powerless to pursue me. He will not relent, however, so this is a daily battle of dressing up and getting into the spiritual warfare game. I must stand at the ready and know that God is on my side. After all, the word says, "If God is for us, then who can be against us?" Yes, we are more than conquerors in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:28-30 says,

And we know that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose. For those God foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers. And those He predestined He also called, those He called He also justified, those He justified He also glorified.

Verse 32 sums up by reminding us that since God didn't spare His only Son, we can be assured that He will not keep any good thing from us. We can rely on Him, and we can draw our strength from His presence in our life. He is good to us, always so very good to us.

In sum, I look at my day today, and I realize that I am being tested and tried by my enemy to see if my words that I professed the other day are true. Will I really follow the Lord into battle? Will I go where He is sending me? Will I do this very important work? Or will I waffle, weave, and wobble as I doubt His integrity, His veracity, and His truth?

My choice is limited. I can stand and fight or I can run and hide. I am choosing today to fight, to stand my ground, and to not give way. Job said in chapter 13, verse 15 (speaking of God), "Even if He kills me, I will hope in Him. I will still defend my ways before Him." May I trust the Lord, believe in, and follow Him as our dear brother, Job, did. He didn't give in, and God rewarded His faithfulness with good, good things.

As I close this blog post today, I am faced with this fact of life: the walk of the Christ-follower begins to take on new dimensions when we are close to fulfilling our calling. We are tasked with not only the burden of doing the work God has assigned to us, but we must endure great hardship (spiritual forces seeking to destroy us or our witness) throughout the process, the journey. I am just beginning to see that this process of sanctification is progressive, and it begins first with the shaping of the character of the new believer by helping them see their true self (warts and all), then it progresses to the point where the believer begins to allow the Holy Spirit to address the deeper issues (social, personal, psychological, etc.) so that they can become more Christ-like in their ways. It continued on with the process of both training and correction (God's discipline) to help mold us, make us, and create within us the desires that God has and wants for our lives (in short, we become conformed to His will). In the more mature believer, the process also includes testing in various areas, not so much with the outward areas (not bridling the tongue for instance), but the inward parts where there exists doubt or inconsistent behavior (attitudes and mindsets). Lastly, as the believer progressively becomes more like Christ, the time comes when so much fruit has been born that the enemy has no recourse but to give up and focus on other, weaker and less mature followers. This is why as Christians, we must build up the church, help weaker brothers and sisters to move through the sanctification process (not that we help them with the actual process, but we love and affirm them -- encourage them -- in the midst of it).

I see that I am in that middle-to-latter stage. I have been a Christ follower for now on 40 years. I still goof up, but it is not habitually related to my tongue, say, or wicked thoughts. No, my issues are internal, and they are fixed in one area alone: trusting God and not giving way (not wavering). My goal is to progress through the trust phase so I can enter into the rest phase (reserved for Godly ones who have endured long and hard roads). I am ready to rest, but I still doubt. I still find it hard to follow instructions and to go and do what is asked of me. I find that I am easily confused, especially when I am overworked or overloaded. Today, though, I lift my voice and I cry out to God, my Father, to rescue me. I am tired, so very tired. I am being pressed hard, and I want to stand firm. I want to remain as He has said, and I want to follow Him in obedience -- always -- trust and obey.

Heavenly Father, I cry out to you this good day, and I beseech you -- rescue me. Provide a door for me to exit so I can find rest. I have tried so hard to follow you, to do what you ask, and today, I am feeling that it has all been for naught. I know better, yet, this is how I feel. I ask now for your mercy and grace to provide temporary rest for me, a bit of rest so I can relax and be refreshed. I need the downtime, and I need a way to simply sit and enjoy the good days you have provided to me. I am ready for rest, but I know that I cannot rest until you are ready for me to do so. I ask this now in Jesus' name, Amen!

June 4, 2018

The Discipline of God

It is a good Monday here in hot, hot, hot, Phoenix. Yes, our summertime temps have hit finally, and now that it is June, the next three months should be "more of the same." The forecasted high is expected to be near what it was yesterday -- 107. Bright skies, no clouds, and hot temps make for your typical Phoenix June day! Sigh!

I have to admit that it was so nice driving up to Prescott, AZ for my nephew's wedding on Saturday. The elevation is 5100 feet, so the air was seasonable mild (about 80) with a nice breeze. When the wind died down, in the sun, it was warm, but most of the time, it was just pleasant, pleasant, pleasant. Of course, the long drive was very hard on my folks, and the fact that the event was in the evening meant that we had a long day all together. But, praise God, my nephew is married, and we love that we were able to gather as a family. It is hard to know if this will be the last gathering when all of us are together or not, so we are thankful to God, that this wedding was here in AZ and not anywhere further away.

I am tired, though. My week from Thursday onward has been filled with grading and teaching duties along with managing the house and guests. Honestly, I am worn out. I was thinking about how much I like the fact that my house is so quiet right now. My parents have taken my older brother to the airport, and I am sitting at my desk, sipping my coffee, while my little one (Ike) is curled in the corner taking a "tubby." It is peaceful again, and I so love the fact that my mornings can be quiet like this every so often.

My other brother leaves for the airport later this afternoon, but he is not staying here in our house. I expect he will pop in to say goodbye before he leaves to return his rental car. In all, this has been a busy weekend, and I for one am glad it all turned out well.

The Fear of the Lord

So, it has been a good weekend -- rather jampacked -- but good. My Sunday was busy, but I was able to attend my church's online service yesterday. My pastor has been teaching on John 15, and as it is one of my favorite passages, I didn't want to miss his 3-part series. I blogged last week how his first message really resonated with me, and how I came away with a better understanding of what it means to abide with Christ. This week, part-2, focused on the discipline of God. Our pastor mentioned that this week would not be an easy message to hear, but that it was so vitally important to understand it because many Christian's believe "bad" theology. In short, they see discipline as punishment instead of seeing it biblically as training and correction.

Though the proof-text came from John 15, verses 1-11; the specific text used was from Hebrews 12:5-6 (NASB), which reads:


The message itself was good. It provided solid teaching and instruction to know that there are two components to the discipline of the Lord. The first is that God disciplines us because He loves us and He wants us to become like Him. This is what the New Testament writers called training in the art of discipline. The best way to think about it is to consider any effort that requires training -- work, play, athletics, artistry and so forth -- all require consistent training to perfect skills. In a like way, as Christians, we are being trained in the habits of Christlikeness. This is not a one-time, said and done, activity; rather, it is a life-long practice (habitual) to learn how to be like Christ. Oswald Chambers called it the process of sanctification or the means by which we (fallen creatures) learn how to live holy and sanctified lives. In one of his most famous devotions, Chambers said this about Hebrews 12:5-6:

Copied from https://utmost.org/the-discipline-of-the-lord/
It is very easy to grieve the Spirit of God; we do it by despising the discipline of the Lord, or by becoming discouraged when He rebukes us. If our experience of being set apart from sin and being made holy through the process of sanctification is still very shallow, we tend to mistake the reality of God for something else. And when the Spirit of God gives us a sense of warning or restraint, we are apt to say mistakenly, “Oh, that must be from the devil.” 
“Do not quench the Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:19), and do not despise Him when He says to you, in effect, “Don’t be blind on this point anymore— you are not as far along spiritually as you thought you were. Until now I have not been able to reveal this to you, but I’m revealing it to you right now.” When the Lord disciplines you like that, let Him have His way with you. Allow Him to put you into a right-standing relationship before God. 
“…nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him.” We begin to pout, become irritated with God, and then say, “Oh well, I can’t help it. I prayed and things didn’t turn out right anyway. So I’m simply going to give up on everything.” Just think what would happen if we acted like this in any other area of our lives! 
Am I fully prepared to allow God to grip me by His power and do a work in me that is truly worthy of Himself? Sanctification is not my idea of what I want God to do for me— sanctification is God’s idea of what He wants to do for me. But He has to get me into the state of mind and spirit where I will allow Him to sanctify me completely, whatever the cost (see 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).
I love the idea of discipline when it is shown as a measure of learning how to adapt to a new way of life. Learning how to walk like a Christian is hard, and as any new believer will tell you, it is so difficult to learn how to think, to act, and to say Christian things. It is not just a matter of maturing, rather, it is a process of putting on new ways as Paul said while putting off the old. Even as mature believers, the process doesn't seem to become easier. There is a never-ending stream of "old things" that percolate up, and that seems to never permanently go away. Yet, we are called to discipline, and that means to be disciplined by our Master Teacher Christ.

Discipline, therefore, is the art of being trained how to do something well. We get the concept, but when we are being disciplined (trained) we often do not like what is required of us. Often, we are pressed hard into service, and this pressing causes pressure points to rub and hurt. Yet, as Chambers says, if we allow the Holy Spirit to train us properly, we can be assured that our sanctification will produce good results. In time, we will become more and more like Him.

Correction, the twin application of discipline, is what we most often think about when we say the word discipline. And, sadly, when we think of correction, we instead think of punishment (retribution). This is faulty thinking, and it is heretical teaching that has permeated the church, and where many Christians believe in error. God does correct us (rebuke as Chambers says) when we are heading in the wrong direction, doing things that are not good for us or our families or our relationships. He also corrects us when we need to turn around, return to Him, so that we stop walking farther away, and instead, we begin to walk closer as He desires for us to do.

In corrective action, discipline often hurts. We correct our children to teach them the difference between right and wrong, and in a like manner, God corrects us so that we also can know the boundaries of His grace. It is hard to believe that there are boundaries to grace, but there are. It is not that grace has a limited fence around it; but more so, it is that God limits or sets boundaries to keep us from abiding in sin. One of the ways He does this is to withdraw from us. Scripture is clear that we can grieve the Holy Spirit with our actions and we can experience a time when we feel God is very far from us. Normally, this is a result of unconfessed sin. The immediate solution is to confess, repent (turn around) and begin the restoration process whereby we come to learn our boundaries and how to live within God's holy parameters for our lives.

The mistake that many Christians make is in believing that somehow all discipline is corrective and that all discipline is a means of punishment. God reserves punishment for those who deserve it, and that means for those who reject His means of grace and refuse to accept Jesus as Savior. For the Christian, the child of God, the discipline that is provided is always training in good works (sanctification) and correction (to right our path when we deviate from God's plan).

In all, my grand takeaway from Sunday's message was two-fold. I have experienced both training and corrective measures over the course of my 40 years as a Christ follower. I have had times when the training seemed so difficult, and when I thought I would not be able to stand due to the weariness of the pursuit of holiness. I have also had hard, hard, hard times where I felt the corrective hand of the Lord as He helped me see that the actions and attitudes I was expressing were not aligning with His Word and my life choices were not matching to His desired plan for my life. In both cases, I experienced loving discipline that in turn produced a great fear or reverence for the Lord.

Psalm 110:10 says, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments; His praise endures forever." Fear or awe of the Lord produces understanding, and with understanding, knowledge and wisdom fill our minds and our souls with reason (rationale) that helps us to believe that His word is true, that His way is best, and that when we submit and yield to Him, we can find that He is good -- through and through -- always good.

In Sum

As I close this blog post, what I do know is that my life has been mastered by the Grand Tutor, the One who loves me so much that He died to save me and to restore me to fellowship and relationship with God, the Father. In thinking about my relationship with the Lord today, I realize that I am in this interesting position. I am an old believer, someone who has walked with God for 40 or so years. Thus, I know my Bible well, and I think I have a good grasp of Christian doctrine. Yet, I still goof up. I mess up, I make mistakes, I discount His word to me, and I don't always trust Him as I should. I am still a believer in training -- walking out my faith with His steady hand to guide me. I am not ready to do this faith walk on my own, and God knows that what I need most is a strong community of believers to help support me and challenge me to continue to do the good works already within me. Yes, this is partly why we need fellowship. We need to have people around us who will keep us in line and who will make a way for us whereby we can remain steady, stand strong, and not fall when the road gets very deep, dark, and difficult.

My prayer today is for a loving group of companions who will choose to walk alongside me and who will stand with me to ensure that I do not give in or give up. I pray for the Lord to open doors today to bring those people to me so I can remain in Him, abide habitually with Him, and live out my days in total and complete obedience to Him.

June 1, 2018

Faithfulness Above All Else

Happy Friday! It is a good day here in Phoenix. The skies are clear blue, and the air temperature is mild -- warm -- but mild. The high is forecast for near 100 today, but with our low humidity, it is another lovely, lovely day in the Valley of the Sun.

It is a busy day here, too. My older brother arrived from Nevada yesterday, and my next oldest brother arrives from San Diego today. Tomorrow, we all drive up to Prescott, Arizona (about 1.5 hours away) to celebrate the wedding of my oldest brother's child (his youngest). The entire family has come in from far distant parts, and the wedding is sure to be a wonderful event. My parents are hanging on -- not really overly thrilled with the whole "event" business. They are old-school at 85 years of age. In their day, you had a wedding with cake reception. It wasn't an entire weekend affair, LOL. We were invited to the rehearsal dinner tonight, but that would have required overnight accommodations, and with all the medications and extra concerns, it simply wasn't practical to go early and stay the weekend.

Thoughts for Today

Today, I am a "grading maven!" I have to knock out all my grading and student interaction so that I can be free to enjoy the day tomorrow. It should be OK as I worked really hard yesterday to push ahead and complete as much as I could before I retired for the evening (LOL!) In all, I am in good shape, and I should be fine. My goal is to take the entire day off and simply "be in the moment" as they say.

As I think about my life and the turn of events, I stand amazed at God's faithfulness to me. I mean, I am in this very good, very safe, very productive place. I have a good quality of life right now, and barring any unforeseen circumstances, Lord willing and providing, I anticipate continued good success. I spent some time yesterday working on my finances, and while I haven't shifted my debt an inch, I am keeping my accounts balanced. The goal this month in June is to begin to pay off all of the debt. Of course, I don't have that much money laying about, but God is to be praised, He has a plan, and I believe He will help me to do it. I long to be faithful in all matters, and since I believe He called me to attend Regent, to complete my degree there -- I have to believe that He has a way for me to repay my student loans. More so, I still have some high balances on my credit cards due to travel expenses -- three trips to VA in 2017 and one trip to Indiana -- added up. I have not paid these cards off, and frankly, now that it is 2018, I need to really get down to brass tacks, as the saying goes, and get these smaller debts cleared.

The good thing is with my focused attention on my finances, I actually streamlined them some yesterday. I moved some money around so I could close one checking account that had a monthly fee/penalty for a lower balance. I didn't need it; it was a freebie account I opened when I worked at CVS, but after I left there in 2013, the account reverted and I was charged to keep it. I closed it yesterday, and now I have a much easier system set up to deal with my income and expenses.

It feels good to be in charge, like financially in charge. I spent so many years at the mercy of others, letting other people make financial decisions for me. In doing so, I gave my power away, and as such, many of the decisions were not made according to Godly principles. More so, these decisions were often self-motivated, directed at "gaining" quick wealth. Of course, those plans came to naught and the money was wasted on a chance. Since January of 2010, the Lord has been my Manager. He has guided all my decisions, led me to make wise choices in all major purchases, and even helped me to buy small items that are needed.
As an aside: I laughed just now (not in a funny way, but in a marvelous way) at the fact that my older brother, who has some medical challenges, asked for white bread/toast for breakfast. I had no knowledge yesterday when I went to the store that he needed a certain diet. The Lord had pressed on me to go to the store while my parents were at the airport. I did, thinking I would pick up a few items for breakfast, etc. So I came home with a loaf of white bread, a 12-pack of Sprite, and some seedless grapes among other things my parents enjoy. My brother announced yesterday that he needed "7-Up" and that he could only eat grapes for fruit. This morning, it was white bread for toast. Is our God amazing? He most certainly is and I give Him praise today.

My life is moving swiftly down a river. I am floating along as the Mighty current of His will carries me forward to the place of His choosing. Many years ago, this word picture came to mind. I saw myself floating on a large raft, sort of a "Huck Finn" wooden raft. The Lord was at the helm, steering the raft as we drifted down a long and powerful river. I was sitting in the middle of the raft, resting, at ease. I remember thinking how delightful it was to be safely in the middle of this raft and to feel confident in the One who was guiding it, maneuvering the rapids. The Lord spoke to me through this imagery, and I came to remember the saying that the key to a quiet life was to "remain in the middle of the river of His will." Often, I will say this is so -- I am in the middle of the river -- and as such, I am allowing Him to guide me, to carry me, and to keep me safe as we travel from point to point to point along the way.

His river (will) is powerful, it is mighty, and it can produce incredible achievements if we allow it to do so in our lives. I have come to see His will as a blessed thing, both the personal aspect of it and the kingdom/corporate aspect of it. I do all things in accordance with His will, and I seek to remain in His will no matter what I do, think, say, or even become (be). My life is about His will, and over the past 10 years, I have learned that it is a blessed and good thing to seek His will and to live within it.

I am sitting at my computer today, marveling at His grace and goodness, and thinking about His faithfulness to me and toward my needs. He has never let me down, not once, not ever. He has never left me, abandoned me -- nor has He said -- "Enough, Carol! You are on your own now!" Instead, He has reminded me that His will is sufficient, His grace enduring and never-ending and that the plans He has for my life, well, they are so very good. I rest in His completed will -- the finished product -- the end. I know that all things will work out, producing good works and wellness in and through my life because this is His purpose and design from creation. He is truly working all things so they come together in a good way. My life is being changed, shaped, molded, and as such, I am learning how to walk according to His specific and precise way. The outcome, therefore, is determined -- predestined -- to come to pass. I am not speaking of material things, but rather, of eternal things. I am predestined to be conformed to His likeness -- in character and temperament -- and I am predestined to complete the path, the process, and the plan. I will finish this course, I will win the race, I will be faithful to the end with His help, His strength, and His mighty and powerful grace and mercy and goodness.

Making A Decision

So today, I make a proclamation. This is a proclamation that simply states: I will go and do the good work the Lord has called me, equipped and trained me to do. I will go and live where He says I should live, and I will rest in His complete and satisfactory provision to do so. I will not worry, fret, fear or doubt His sufficiency, but I will become more and more dependent on Him for my very thoughts, my emotions, and my actions. I will be His hands and feet, as the saying goes, and I will remember my lips so that they speak words of truth in love. I will be kind and good and thoughtful and fair, and I will remember that the grace of God goes before me to clear the way. I can walk comfortably, easily, and with less care (burden) because this is His way, His plan, His path.

I realize today that my life, in sum, is the aggregate of so many little decisions. Some of them were good choices, good ideas, and good plans. Some came to pass and produce right thinking, right behavior, and right outcomes. Some, sadly, were not good and were rooted in evil intentions or dishonest gain. These decisions didn't bring any life to me, and most of the time destroyed the little good I did have in my life. Thankfully, the sum -- the whole -- of these decisions has proved good. I am experiencing good in and through my life as a collective outcome of all the various steps I made from birth to age 55. I am safe. I am good. I have a good life plan despite the mistakes and missteps of the past.

The Lord has chosen this way for me, and while I goofed up in asserting my own will often, His marvelous grace covered me. The wrinkles have been ironed out, and as such, the fabric appears far more smooth now. It has been pressed, my life I mean, to create a beautiful appearance. The crimples of the past are gone now, and the smooth clean and clear lines of the future are all that is visible. He has done this for me, and I have allowed Him to press me into good service, to help me overcome much pain, sorrow, and depression in order to be made useful to Him and His kingdom work. Now, I feel presentable, ready, and with my new appearance, I feel good about who I am, the person I am today. I am content, satisfied, and I feel like I am the best representation of the inner person -- my identity is firmly rooted in Christ, and my self-evaluation and worth now is firmly attached to His reckoning. I am accorded worth on the basis of His life, death, and glorious resurrection. I am a new creature in Christ Jesus, and as such, I am made brand new. The past is dead and buried, the future is unknown, but it is open and bright and full of possibilities. God is good. He has restored His goodness to me, and through His grace and mercy, the life I live today is no longer my own. I have been purchased with a price, and I intend to live it in light of this glorious and marvelous truth.

Today, I proclaim my utter devotion and faithful dependence upon Him. He will make a way for me, and I will do what He asks of me. He is worthy to be praised, so very worthy to receive our praise, our honor, and our worship.

As I close this blog post, I am reminded of His faithfulness to me. 1 Corinthians 1:9 (NASB) says, "God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord." God is faithful -- it is in His very nature -- to be Semper Fidelis (Always Faithful). 2 Timothy 2:13 (NASB) states, "If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself." Our God is a faithful God. We can rely on, absolutely trust in, and lean upon/abide in Him. We can be assured that He will keep His promises to us. We can believe His word in Deuteronomy, chapter 7, verse 9 (NLT) where it says:

Understand, therefore, that the LORD your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps his covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes his unfailing love on those who love him and obey his commands.


May 31, 2018

Change is Good!

It is a good Thursday in sunny and very warm, Phoenix. Our summer temperatures have finally hit, and the expected high today is supposed to be right at 100 or so. By the weekend, the high is said to reach near 110. Oh, no! I am so not ready for hot summer temps!! Boo!!! In truth, I am pretty used to the high heat. I was out yesterday running around and I had my rolled jeans on with my Birkies. I thought how odd it was to be wearing jeans when it is 96 degrees out, but really, the weather was so lovely. It was HOT in the direct sun, but there was the nicest breeze, and even walking between Target and my car, I thought it was very pleasant outside. I laughed to think that in some places, that 96 degrees would be coupled with 30-40% humidity, and well, I was so very thankful for our less than 13% yesterday. Yes, despite the poor air quality today (my head bears witness to that fact), it is nice to be here in the Valley of the Sun. The desert suits me some days, and even though I long for trees and grass, I am content to remain here as long as the Lord chooses to keep me positioned -- planted -- in this dusty and dirty place.

Getting Organized

So among my tasks this week, in addition to getting ready to celebrate my nephews' wedding this weekend, I am getting organized in preparation for moving. I am still unsure what the Lord intends to do, but I have felt His push to get organized, to clear away the clutter and to begin to downsize my "stuff" so it is more manageable. So far, I have focused on my room. I have made some headway on my closet, and I have sorted some of my papers, but I haven't really made a huge dent in the mess yet. Last fall, I did clean my storage area, and I did clear a number of extra things from my closets (personal and hallway).

I spent the morning organizing my finances. I've wanted to pair down my accounts, sort of merge them into a better grouping, and to close some of the accounts that had higher balance requirements/fees associated with them. I took care of this today, and by tomorrow, I will have streamlined my banking and reduced my holdings to two banks, each with a personal checking and savings account. I also switch where some of my auto-payments are processed, which should make tracking my expenses as well as my income/outgo with more precision.

My goal is to have my banking organized so that I can easily "pick up and go" wherever the Lord leads. I believe that where He guides me, He will provide for me (Is. 58:11), and as such, I need to be portable, light, and ready -- always ready -- to go. You know, Jesus instructed the disciples to carry only what they needed for their journey. Normally, this would have been a cloak and a satchel. He said that God would provide their needs, give them a place to stay, and so forth. I believe the idea holds true today. As God leads His missionaries forward to the place where He intends for them to serve, He asks us to be as light as possible.

Often, when I am praying about logistics, I feel the Lord asking me to let go of things like my furniture, and to go where He wants me to go without any packing or moving expense. He says to me that I can always "buy new" and with that, I should consider the ease with which it is to move when you are only taking what is most important and necessary. This idea of moving "lightly" is so hard for me to fathom. I am quite attached to my things, and while I have already downsized twice, once when I moved from my home to a rented townhome, and then a second time when I moved from the townhome to this shared home I have now. I have learned how to live in a room (LOL!) and while I do share the home with my parents, most of what fills the rooms here belong to them. The Lord has suggested I start over -- find things I like -- things that suit my style rather than to compromise and hold onto the things that were my Mom's style. Some days, I think, "Yes, this makes such good sense" (to buy new), and then other days, I think "why not use the perfectly good things I already have access to and can repurpose?" Sigh!

I am slowly coming around to His way of thinking, though. I have realized that my style is far more contemporary than that of my parents. I like modern things, and I like a streamlined modern appearance. In truth, I am pretty much a minimalist when it comes to decorating. I do love old, vintage, and farmhouse looks -- I have about 4200 pictures of said style pinned to Pinterest. But, my competing style is eclectic, rustic modern, and contemporary. I feel pulled sometimes as I try to imagine how I would set up a new home, I mean if I could purchase all new things. I have never had new things in my life. I have made my home from hand-me-downs and garage sale finds. I have been given cast-offs and I made the most of them.  Now, I am sitting here, on the threshold of possibly moving, and I feel the Lord saying to me, "Pair down, Carol. Let these things go and I will provide everything you need to live comfortably in your new place."

It is funny, really. I have so little to my name, yet the little I do have, I hold onto so tightly. But, I must let go, let these "things" slip through my fingers. With empty hands, I am able to receive other good gifts, and with His provision, I can start a new life that is 100% all mine (not borrowed, not handed down). Part of me loves this idea, but part of me find the whole process scary, sort of disconcerting. It is really hard to let go of what you know in order to experience something new, but change is good, or rather, it can be a good thing -- if we allow it to be.

I am ready for a good change, you know. I really would like to see myself move to another part of the country, to be settled in a new life, a new way of life, and to experience something different. It is not that I am not content to remain here, to stay put, but it is more so that I long to try something new. I have been living this way -- on the welfare of others -- for almost my entire life. I am thankful, grateful for their grace and mercy, but now I want to do my own thing, live my own life, and do it in a way that the Lord provides for all of it. I want to rest 100% in Him, trust and rely on Him, and yes, ABIDE IN HIM for my full and complete satisfaction. This means that I must let go of all the hindrances and obstacles, and even "good familiar" things I hold dear, in order to do it.

I am ready, Lord. I want to be sent out, and as you commanded your disciples to go "lightly," so to must I prepare to go with less so I can receive more. I am willing to let go of all these "things" and to open my eyes and my hands to new options, new possibilities, that only can be seen if I am willing to believe and to receive. Today, I say then that I am ready to let the past go, and all the things of the past, so that I can move forward and embrace the future the Lord has for me. He is good to me, so very good to me, and in His goodness, He will lead me, guide me, and provide for me. I know this is true. I know it, I believe it, and I rest in this fact. He is good, always so very good to me! Selah!

In Closing

The plans for today, therefore, are to finish my practical work (grading and such) and to begin to reorganize, clear the clutter, and reduce the footprint of my life. I have already started by reviewing and reassessing my online banking, and now I must do the same with my material possessions. I intend to go lightly, so that means to make a list of what I absolutely "need" and then match it to what I have already that is worth keeping. Old and worn things need to be trashed, or if they are still useable, given to those who can use them. I am to keep only what is necessary. The rest is to be given to charity for reuse by the poor. I know this, and I know that this method of downsizing pleases the Lord. I am not a "garage sale" person, so I would rather give things away than to charge a pittance for them. Others enjoy this process of selling possessions but have always been partial to loading the truck and taking my goods to a reputable service for reuse and provision of the needy in my community.

In closing, therefore, I make myself ready to go even though I don't have plans in place to actually go anywhere. The Lord knows my needs, and the Lord has a great plan for my future. He has me well in hand, and I trust and rely on His judgement this good, good day.