February 23, 2018

Starting Off Right

It is Friday! Woohoo! It is a beautiful cloudy and gray day today. I am loving the cool weather, the clouds, and the gray skies. Today is poised to be a super, an awesome, and a tremendously wonderful day! I feel it! I believe it is so!

As I sit here at my home computer and blog, I cannot help but give thanks to God for His goodness and His mercy. I am so grateful for the work He has done in my life as well as the work He will be doing as the days progress. My hope and my prayer are to continue to remain steady, focused, and to fix my mind upon His work and not on mine. I mean, yes, I do have a lot of work to do. My daily schedule is full, but not too full at this point in time. However, with Liberty coming on board soon, I anticipate that my workload will increase and that over the summer I could really be very, very busy.

The funny thing is that I have always been OKAY with working very hard. I mean, I love to work. I love doing work. I also like to rest, to relax, and really to laze about, but I much prefer to work really hard, for short bursts of time. I love to feel engaged in my work, to know that the work I do is practical, but that it also is productive. It has taken a long time for me to feel productive in my work. I remember when I first started teaching and I was constantly feeling like a failure. I had little to no control over my student's efforts or their understanding. I tried my best to impart knowledge, but they often didn't listen or pay attention to me. I felt like I was failing them, and I was performing at a very low rate of skill and experience. In time, I learned to deal with this fact, and I learned to let go of my student's role in the learning process. I think teaching online really helped me to see that I could only do what I was tasked to do, and the rest, well, it was up to the student to put in the time and the effort.

This is why I love teaching online. My online students either do the work or they don't, and when they don't do the work, well, there can be no mincing of words about it. I mean, they can complain if they want, but the short end of the stick is that they didn't bother to do the work. I didn't carry them. I didn't cover for them. I just was fair, honest, and available. They didn't show up to do their part of the job.

Now, that I teach online almost exclusively, I am seeing the value in this medium. I love it! I really do! It is nice to work from home, but my home office is not a "come as you please" type of environment. I mean, I show up and begin work in my PJ's and I don't stop working until I am ready to retire for the evening. It is a long, long day, but I love the freedom I experience, and I love that I can step away, take a break, and do other things. I love this life! Oh, Lord, how I love the life you have given -- no, provided -- for me!

Praising Him Today

I am giving Him praise today. I am lifting up a sacrifice of praise today, and I am thanking Him for His good will, His good mercy, and His good presence in my life. Yes, God is good to me! I shout out His praise, and I thank Him for His goodness, His goodness in and toward me.

As the clouds roll by my window, I think about how my life will change in the coming months. First off, I know that with another school added to the mix, my daily work schedule will become more packed, more jammed, and I will be required to spend more time teaching, grading, and ministering to students. I love this work, as I said above, but I really love the fact that I can make a difference in their life, and I can help them learn to be more successful.

Second, I realize that as my work life becomes more full, I will need a bigger office space, more secluded, and more apportioned to enable me to do good work. My current office is confined to one corner of my bedroom, and while it works for me now, it really doesn't afford me the space I need to study or to conduct student calls and such. I need a real office, one that has its own desk, bookcases, and door to close off the rest of the noise in the house.

Third, I realize that as my work life requires all my focus, I must manage my time better. I cannot laze about in the mornings (well, I won't be able to do this come summer). No, I will need to keep set hours, perhaps 9-5 on M-F and 9-12 on Saturdays. I will need to set more boundaries so that I don't overwork myself or overdo my days and wear myself out.

Finally, I realize that as my work life begins to take more of my time and energy, my commitment to the work must begin to take precedent. I must begin to see my life as an adjunct as more than just a part-time venue. I must see my work as significant and important, and that as such, I must come to accept my role as a teacher, a non-tenure track teacher. I am not full-time at any of my schools, and while that still bothers me to some extent, I must embrace the life God has given to me, provided for me, and I must rest in His provision. I must accept that what He provides will always be enough for me. It will always be good enough for me.

In Conclusion

In closing, I am thinking that today the Lord has done something wonderful for me. He has made a way where there seemed to be no way. I am standing now thinking that I am about to be hired, yet again, to teach part-time at another school. I am about to take on more work than one person can handle, and while that thought might really scare most people, it simply challenges me, engages me, and makes me want more and more. I want to be pushed to my limit. I want to experience the thrill of the pursuit. I want to do work that is hard, that requires my time and attention, and that needs my focus. I don't want to be overloaded to the point where I mentally or physically break down, but I do want to feel so busy that my days have order, routine, and I no longer can get away with skipping or lazing about. Yes, I want to be busy, Lord. I want to have a full plate so that I can be challenged, motivated, and compelled to remain fixed on your will and your way.

February 21, 2018

Making Moves and Thinking Again

It is a beautiful day here in sunny, but very cool, Phoenix. I woke up mid-morning, and so far, my day has been good. I am in good health, a good frame of mind, and with God's help, will today produce good works that honor and praise His good, good name!

My day has started off well, and despite the fact that it is mid-week, Wednesday, I am in this very good place, and I am ready to tackle whatever work the Lord provides to me. I mean, whatever works, He chooses to bring to me.  Just yesterday, I posted that I had received another email asking for my pastoral reference for final approval and hiring at Liberty University. My road to hiring at this school has been long and very drawn out, but that was not really a surprise. When I interviewed back on October 31, 2017, the chair of the English department said that the process would take a long time and that the longer it takes, the better. I took his words to heart, but still, I have wondered about the holdup and wondered if I would be hired to teach at this school. The good news is that my pastoral reference has been emailed (yesterday), and I hope to receive confirmation from them that I am now in the department for final review.

God is so good to me! I mean it! He is so very good to me! I have spent the majority of the past weeks and months really stewing over this school. I know that Liberty has a reputation as a very fine university, but as a Southern Baptist school, it also has a strong negative perception due to its founder, Dr. Jerry Falwell (1933-2007). However, since his son, Jerry Falwell Jr., has taken over as President (after his father's death), the school has seen incredible growth and is now one of the largest online universities in the world (14K on campus and 75K online students).

Several of my colleagues at Regent University taught for Liberty over the years, and I know a number of people who have attended on campus and online. Like any school, Liberty has its share of issues, and it has its detractors and negatives. Still, the school is considered to be rigorous and the student population is varied and ethnically diverse.

I applied to teach at Liberty back in 2013, but I never received any word back from them. I assumed that I didn't have the "right" credential at that time. I applied for an online adjunct position back in September of 2017, and with the Lord's provision, the door opened for an interview. I have since been in the running as a candidate, slowly processing through their system. Now, it looks like I am finally at the end of the road, so to speak, and if the Lord's wills it, I will be hired to teach English composition and literature courses at yet another online school. Liberty will bring me to a grand total of four schools, and with this final school, I will be well-set financially to continue as an adjunct. However, the Lord may choose to promote me at this school or at another one so that I would have a permanent full-time faculty position. I am open to this possibility, but for now, I am thankful and I am grateful for the work He has provided to me thus far in my short academic career.
Promotion and Possibility

As I think about the possibility of promotion, I cannot help but remember this verse from 1 Peter 5:6 (The Message):

So be content with who you are, and don’t put on airs. God’s strong hand is on you; he’ll promote you at the right time. Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you.

Yes, it is God who will promote me -- when the time is right. Until that time, I am content to be who I am, the person I am today, and the person God has created me to be. My heart is fixed on this thought: I have become the person He wants me to be. I have become the person -- in character, in temperament, and in design -- that He ordained and predestined me to be before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4). In this nugget of truth, I am able to say with my entire heart and mind that I am the person He has made me be.  I have, as the writer of Hebrews said, throw off all encumbrances (or snares as it says in the HCSB), so that I can run this race of faith with endurance and perseverance.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off every encumbrance and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with endurance the race set out for us.

My mind is fixed, and I am ready to tackle the projects, the positions, and yes, even the promotions that the Lord desires for me. I have made Him my delight (Psalm 37:4-5), and while He has given me the desires (the inner longings) of my heart, He has also given me His desires, His wants, His hopes for my future. I am ready now to run this race of faith, to cast off everything that ensnares me, and to begin to focus intently on His work. I am ready now to do the very work the Lord has purposed and planned for my life.

It is a great relief to know that the Lord keeps His word to us. He is faithful, and He stands by His word. It is trustworthy, and as such, every word the Lord utters is believable and true. I have come to see this fact repeat itself in my life, and over the past few months, I have seen His hand of glory wave over me time and time again. It is as if the more I trust Him to perform His will in and through my life, the more He does what I ask. I mean to say that as I lean on and abide in Him, I am being changed -- transformed -- to the point where what I want is what He wants for me. I no longer am thinking about my needs, my wants, my desires. Instead, I am thinking only of how I can live my life as a living stone, a living witness, and that as such, I can begin to surrender my days and my nights in order to produce the work He calls and equips me to do. I am ready now. I am so ready now.

Thus, today marks the first day of a new millennium, so to speak. It is a new era. I have passed through the barriers that were designed to keep me trapped in a life that was fraught with failure, and a life that was apportioned to me as a hindrance, a box without a lid for escape. I have since addressed those figurative and literal barriers, and I have discovered that victory for escape is mine through Christ Jesus -- my VICTOR. I simply had to declare it, and in doing so, accept the position offered to me as a result of Christ's death, burial, and resurrection. You see, I was always a victorious person, I just didn't believe it was so. It was more the fact was true -- as a Christ follower -- I was dead, buried, and made alive through faith in His finished work. But, I believed that my flesh was so weak, that I was so paralyzed by the grip of sin and past sin behaviors, that I simply was among the "walking wounded." I had a discrepancy in my belief system that short-circuited my ability to be set free. It was like the prisoner who has received his pardon, yet refuses to leave his jail cell. He has his writ saying that he is free, but he feels so bad about his past choices, his past experience, and his past failure, that he prefers to remain punished and kept under lock and key. The good news of Jesus Christ is that He came to PROCLAIM LIBERTY to the captives and that because of His sacrifice on the cross, we are now made free (John 8:36).

My enemy, the devil, didn't want me to walk in that freedom, that liberty. No, he much preferred to keep me enslaved, even just within the barriers of my mind, so that I wouldn't understand that true liberty has been given to those who place their trust, their hope, and their faith in Jesus as Lord and as Savior of the World.

I am free to do what God asks of me, and I am no longer bound to my own frail limitations. As a Christ follower, I have the Holy Spirit who lives within me, and it is He who empowers me to do the work the Lord has set aside for me to do. I can do all things through Christ because it is Christ and the Spirit of Christ that empowers and strengthens me (Phil. 4:13).

Now that I am living in freedom, I realize just how precious this freedom is to me. I mean, Paul was very clear that we were to refrain from any actions, thoughts, or ideas of liberty for liberty sake (Romans 6:1). We were to treat our freedom as it should be, and as a result, we are to live our life in holy submission and reliance upon the Spirit of God to ensure that we engage in right thinking, right living, and right believing. Yes, our beliefs, our underlying value system must be in right standing with the word of God. We must agree with the word of God, and we must recognize that we cannot experience success in this life if we disagree with what God has said is true. We cannot walk in disagreement and expect to be blessed. We must embrace God's word as truth, and when we do so, we can begin to see how His word can transform and change our mind so that we begin to think "rightly" about any and all situations and circumstances.

Right thinking is so vital in this day and age especially because our world is corrupted by sin, and sin has taken hold of many who say they believe, but whose lives simply do not bear witness to that fact. I mean, how can we say we love God if we do not love the people He loves? How can we say we worship a holy God if we engage in unholy behaviors and unholy thinking? How can we say that we know God if we do not know His word, believe His word, and keep His word? It is not rocket science, and while many outside of the faith will say that the Bible is difficult to understand, the fact remains that if we know God, and if we read and obey His word, we will begin to allow our minds to be changed to come into perfect agreement with His way of thinking and doing and being. 

My heart today is encouraged. Not because God has provided another opportunity for me to teach online, but rather that I have seen His promise to me, acted on and delivered. It is more to the point that I have witnessed His work in and through my life, and the testimony I bear is not for the thing delivered, but for the promise given to me. It is His word of promise that has been validated, and because I am seeing right now, I understand that whenever God keeps His word to us, we can be encouraged to know that He is faithful and He is true. He is a promise-keeping God, and for that fact alone, I am encouraged and built up.
In Closing

As I close this blog post today, I think to myself that I am in this wonderfully secure position, not because of my wealth and prosperity (though I am thankful for my status and my standing), but because I have chosen to be faithful to God, to believe His word to me, and to trust in Him as Savior, King, and Lord over all the details of my life. Yes, I rest today in faith, in belief, and in trust. I rest today and I enjoy His presence in my life as a good, good Father. It truly is "WHO HE IS" as the song says. He is a good, good Father, and I thank Him, I praise Him, and I give Him the honor due His holy name.

February 20, 2018

Tuesday, Oh Tuesday!

So today is Tuesday, and I am feeling the burn, so to speak. Yesterday, I had a good day. Uneventful, but still good. It was a cloudy and cool day, and for the most part, I stayed indoors and enjoyed the blustery weather from the comforts of my home office. I did some work, but I also had to help care for my Mom, who is really struggling with a chest cold/bronchitis right now. I spent the day grading, and then later in the evening, took some time off to enjoy watching "The Incredibles." I just love that movie! It still makes me laugh, and it has been almost 15 years since I first saw it in the theaters!

As I think about my day yesterday, I give thanks to God for His grace and mercy. It was a good rest day, and I was glad to have sort of a down day to just hanging around loose at home. My plans for the evening were also very low-key, and after the movie ended, I spent a bit of time with my son, discussing his recording progress, and his recital this spring. We had a good chat, and after I turned in for the night, I had this strong urge to pray -- like really pray. So, I did. I prayed for about an hour, declaring the Word of God in and through my life, and finally felt like I was ready to drift off to sleep. Then, I heard my Dad in the hallway. It must have been around 1 a.m. when my Dad came to get me to tell me that my Mom had fallen out of bed and he couldn't get her up. Thankfully, my son was still up, and I got him to help lift my Mom up. She was really out of it, sort of not making much sense, but we got her back into bed, and she seemed better this morning. My Dad has taken her to the doctor, and we will find out if she has a virus or some other ailment. I am praying it is not pneumonia. We will see, we will see.

Oh, Lord, please cover us today. Give us your grace and your mercy. Keep us sheltered under your mighty wings, and protect us from the thrust of the enemy, who seeks to devour and destroy us.

News and Notes

I am sitting here today, blogging, and thinking about the plans the Lord has for me. I am in this very comfortable place, whereby my needs are met with sufficiency. Yet, I am not completely ready to settle down. I still need a full-time job or I need for Liberty to come through and start working with me. In fact, this morning, I received another message from them stating that they hadn't received my pastor reference. I have been "in process" for three and one-half months, and this last little part of the package is required in order for me to be sent through to the department for approval. So, once again, I have reached out to a pastor to ask for a reference. I have tried this twice before. The first got lost in the hub-bub of the Christmas rush. The second was rejected by a colleague who had issues with the school. Now, I am on to my third request, and hopefully, this one will work. I hope so, I pray so. I have no other ideas, no other recourses, so I must rest in His abilities to bring this to pass. I must rest in His abilities and His desires and His will. If this is His will, it will come to pass. If He desires this for me, it will be so. Honestly, at this point, my hands are completely empty, and I have run out of possibilities. I guess I will find out today or tomorrow unless this pastor is on vacation or away for another reason. This is one of the challenges of attending a large megachurch. Unless you are well known, it is very hard to get to know anyone at all. Sigh!

My plans for today include purchasing a TV, grading student exams, and generally doing what I always do -- work online as a teacher. I am trusting the Lord, resting in His abilities, and looking to His hand for His gracious revelation of His will. He is mighty. He is able. He is good. I give Him all praise, honor, and glory this good, good day!

February 19, 2018

Happy Today

Happy President's Day! It is a good holiday here in sunny and cool, Phoenix. The skies are clear, but the air temperature is very, very cool. I think our daytime high is expected to stay in the mid-high 50s only. Brrr! Still, it is a beautiful day, and I am thankful for the sunshine and the good weather!

I am feeling pretty good today. I woke up early around 6 a.m., but after getting up briefly to use the bathroom, I ended back in my warm and comfy bed. I slept in until about 9:45! Oh my goodness! It didn't help the fact that I had a very warm, fuzzy, and heavy kitty at my feet. Yes, when one or both boys join me on the bed for an early morning lay-in, well, it is very hard to want to get up!

I did finally get myself up and out of the bedroom, though, and now I am sitting at my computer blogging, drinking, my first cup of coffee, and having a very serious discussion with Ike. He is saying something along the lines of, "Me-row-arow-arow, Me-a-row!" I have already fed and watered him, and I cleaned his box this morning. I also did a good hearty play session, and that didn't seem to tucker him out much. Now he is saying, "Meowed, meowed, meowed," but thankfully, Winston came to see what was the matter. Winston is a good brother. He normally comes when called and gives plenty of kisses and tubbies.

As I said, though, it is a good day. I feel well, and I am doing well. Double-wells!

Making My Life Happen

My life seems to be settling down some, and for that, I am really thankful. I am coming to this place of contentment, true contentment, and I am feeling more and more settled in my decision to stay put. I have nothing new to report, other than to say, that inside of me there is a sense of peace, of wellness, of wholeness, and there is very little disruption, confusion, or chaos (inside as well as outside). Overall, I just feel like I am right where I belong.

Yesterday, was a good day as well. I spent the majority of the morning at church, and I have to say, my pastor preached a wonderfully illuminating message on the Holy Spirit. Much of what he shared, I already knew, but it was the way he connected the dots and presented the truth that really touched and ministered to my heart. I needed the confirmation, so to speak, and I needed to be reminded of just how important the Holy Spirit is to our lives. More so, his message reminded me that I need His help in order to live a successful, obedient, and godly life that is honoring to the Lord of Hosts.

Later in the afternoon, I did some shopping and took care of some things here at home. My Mom is sick with a chest cold, so there are worries all around for her well-being. My Dad had a head cold two weeks ago, and it seems that Mom is now down with a similar virus. She doesn't want to go to the doctor, but if she is not feeling better in a day or two, I am going to make my Dad take her for a checkup.

My online classes are a work in progress, and for the most part, they are all moving along nicely. I have five at present, and in two weeks, my ASU class will end and another will begin. In mid-March, I will have six as my second semester at Regent begins, and I have two sections of Western Literature starting. As of right now, I am not sure if I will have more courses at Grantham come March. They switched their schedule to have a monthly start, so sometime around the first of March, I will either be offered one or more new classes or I will just have what I have at present. I check the schedule for the next four months, and the courses seem to really ramp up in April-July. It seems like I will have a full schedule beginning in April.

In March, the only course offered seems to be another section of Technical Writing, and with two already in process, it seems highly likely that I will be offered another section. Moving forward, there are some sections of American Literature I and I as well as Western Literature I and II. Late spring and early summer, there are oodles of Composition courses, both sections, so honestly, I think this is my set schedule at this school: Composition, Technical Writing, and Literature. I am really, really pleased. I like all these courses, and I enjoy the curriculum. I am finding the routine of daily online work easier to handle, and so long as I don't get behind, the workload is manageable for me.

My other courses are steady on. I seem to be assigned Survey of Literature at Regent fairly consistently, and I am content with my Composition courses at ASU. In all, I would say that I teach about equal parts composition to equal parts literature. I like it, I really do. It is weird, but I do not miss teaching communication at all. Right now, though I feel so content to teach what the Lord has provided. I have enough variation between schools to keep me interested, and really, the content is fairly easy -- as in comfortable -- for me to teach. I know this content so well. I am grateful, however, for the variation, and for the change of pace. I really like these 8-week classes because I get to teach so many different courses during the year. My resume and skill building are increasing, and all praise to God, I really love the fact that I am a teacher, an English teacher, and that I have the ability to do this very good and very practical work.

Thinking About Tomorrow

Well, the sunny skies have been replaced by clouds and gray. The wind is brisk as I hear the wind chime out my window really chiming. I think a storm is heading our way, and with that thought, I am starting to wonder about the "winds of change." I mean, what is in store for me next? I am content to remain, to finally set down roots, and to begin this process of embracing the place the Lord has me stationed. I am content. I am choosing to be happy, and I am feeling free now of all hindrances and encumbrances that have formerly seemed to hold me down, to keep me from experiencing His best for me. Now, though, I am free -- really free -- to go and to do His will and His work. But, where Lord? I will remain because this is what you have asked of me. But, will I remain in this house for a time or will I move to another home nearby that is a better fit for me.

It is interesting to ponder this decision of moving, not that I haven't pondered it ad nausea, but I mean from a new perspective. Just yesterday my pastor said that often he is asked for advice on personal matters like decisions on job relocation or next steps. He laughed and said that he really never knows what to say to the person asking because it is not like he has some oracle to foretell the future. He normally just says, "Let's ask God!" I loved his response because it made me rethink my whole focus of late. You see, I was so bound up in the decision of moving that I overlooked the reality of the move itself. I simply was focused on doing God's will and I forgot to even question whether the decision to move was in my favor or not. I was confused about the importance of the place, the style of the house, and the whole "can I even do it" thought process.

After my pastor's comment yesterday, I started to think more clearly about the decision involved in moving, and I don't know if I had a breakthrough as Joyce Meyer would say or not. I just seemed to come to some clear thinking and in doing so I decided that I was making far too much out of the decision on where to go and where to live. Let me explain...

For one thing, I believed that there was only one "right" place for me to live. Even though the Lord had said to me that my work, the work I do is portable and that I can live anywhere I choose, I was stuck on this idea that there was just one place that was "best" for me.

Second, I was under the mistaken belief that I could make an error in choosing that place. Like somehow I could go somewhere that He wasn't going to go. I thought I could move outside His will for me, and with that move, I could somehow be in a less favorable position.

Third, I believed, erroneously, that I could make a mistake -- a wrong decision -- and that the Holy Spirit would not help me and guide me into right thinking, right decision making. I forgot that up until now, all my decisions have been really good ones, and in each decision, I believe I was guided by His wisdom, knowledge, and hand. Thus, to think that I would make a decision without His input, well, that was just nonsense.

Thus, as I thought more deeply about the connection between wisdom and decision making, I realized that the Holy Spirit lives within me, and though I usually see Him as Comforter, He is far more my Counselor than any other attribute. You see, He counsels me daily. I feel His wise words percolate up, and I hear His advice in my head. It is like I hear what He wants me to consider, and then in my heart and within my spirit, I think about it, meditate on it, and well, in the end, I do what He says I should do. I follow His leading, and I obey His command to me.

So really, how can I make a mistake when it comes to an important decision like moving away from Arizona or moving to a new home in Arizona? I cannot. I mean, He will lead, guide, and provide for me, so when the time comes, He will guide me to a home that suits my needs, that fits my families needs longterm, and that will be "doable" (financially) for me. Likewise, when I need more work, more income, He will open that door, and I will apply or ask or receive whatever I need.

I have come to see that I have no lack because I have Him. I have the Holy Spirit living within me, and as such, I have the third person of the Trinity, guiding me, helping me, and showing me the way to go. And, while most of the time we see His work as spiritual in the sense that He works within us to grow up, to bring us to maturity, He also is a wise counselor who can help guide us in our behavior, our decisions, our speech and our conduct so that all our dealings, all our relationships, honor God and demonstrate His love for us and our obedience to Him. Yes, if we let Him lead, guide, and provide for us, then we truly can live victorious lives right here and right now and right in the midst of whatever mess we may find ourselves in.

Thankfully, the Lord has worked to bring me out of the mess I was in. He has helped me live a clean life, free from drama, free from sin, and free from the entanglements of sin. He has given me a future that is full of light and goodness, and despite the fact that my flesh fails, His word is from everlasting, and He is eternal. Therefore, I rest in His complete provision and complete protection. I have no need, no lack because I have the One who connects me to the Eternal God, the three-in-One, the Triune Godhead. I am not far from God -- rather -- He is with me. Emmanuel -- God with us! Adonai, Jesus!

In Closing

As I close this blog post, I look up and I wait. I know my Lord is for me (thus, who can be against me?) I wait for His blessed provision, and I listen intently for His good word, His counsel, and His commitment to my best. He knows me, He loves me, and He is for me! Praise God! He is for me! I can walk in victory today, and I can face all my tomorrows knowing that my God is for me!

February 17, 2018

Praise and More Praise

Well, hello, beautiful Saturday! Where have you been hiding?

Yep, it is a good day, a good Saturday! I am feeling the "love" here in Phoenix, and with the sunny, but cool temps, I have to say that Phoenix in February is about as lovely as it gets! Oh wait! I forgot that March is the loveliest month in Phoenix, so that means that I have another beautiful month to sit, to enjoy, and to soak in the gorgeous flowers, the mild temperatures, and the stunning vistas -- abloom with wildflowers. Yes, it is spring in the Valley of the Sun, and this is the time of year when it is best to visit, best to think about staying here, best to consider retiring here.

I must say that I am enjoying my "new attitude," in regard to this place I call home. I have purposely tried to change my mind, to think about my situation differently, and over the past couple days, my entire perspective has shifted. I am more comfortable with staying put, with remaining here, than ever before.

I am not sure what happened, but I think it simply was that I chose to align my thoughts with His, and in doing so, I found sweet peace. I found my contentment, not in the place, but in the person who brings to me His contentment and His inner joy. Yes, the Lord has become my focus, my ever-present companion, and His peace floods my soul and gives me rest, true rest.

Today is a good day, therefore, to celebrate the Lord, to give Him praise, and to spend time worshipping, and singing psalms and hymns that bear testimony to His holy name.
Plans and Purposes

So, as I mentioned, I am not sure what changed within me, but I believe it started the other day. I made the decision to stay, to remain here permenantly, and to let the Lord prepare a place for me right here in the desert. I blogged about how I have felt the push to move, to live some place else, and how for so many years, I researched places all over the USA in order to find the one I felt the Lord was saying was a good one. Phoenix was always an option, but for many years, I simply didn't want to stay here at all. I didn't want to remain. I had many reasons for wanting to go elsewhere, mostly to get out of the heat of summer, but for more personal reasons as well. My history here has been checkered, it has been peppered with pain, and as such, my memories of life here have not been sweet. I have some good memories, but most have been soured by my experiences in marriage and extended family contention. Now, though, I have looked to the past, to sort through those memories, and realize that for the past 10 years, since 2011, the memories I have made have actually been pretty nice. I have some good thoughts, good feelings associated with my experiences since this time.

More so, last week, I came to the conclusion that the place didn't matter, but the work I was to do (as in ministry) would take place regardless of where I lived. However, the place was an influencing factor, and in that way, the place did have some pull. For example, my childhood desire is to return to the Midwest where I grew up. I have family and friends there still, so part of me wants to go back to where I last felt at home, where I had somewhat happy memories. But, in sorting through these memories, I realized that the place wasn't really the reason for those memories, but rather it was a time of life when I had very little responsibility, and my family was whole and intact; meaning my original family (brothers and parents) were all in one place. Yes, my childhood memories that matter are those where my family was with me.

It took some time to divest myself of those memories, and to remember that it is logic and not emotion that should rule when making such a life change, such an important decision. So, I considered the pros and cons of moving, and frankly, the pros of staying put simply outweighed the pros of moving. I came to the conclusion that what I have right now, right here, is good. Thus, the only thing I would be changing is the scenery and some material things. For example, leaving Phoenix for another climate changes the weather from hot to cold. Leaving Phoenix for another part of the USA changes the style of house or living conditions from Southwestern to Midwestern. Likewise, leaving Phoenix replaces the desert landscape with trees and lawns and forests and woodlands. These are all really nice "changes," but they are not significant in and of themselves. My job is here in Phoenix, and while I am employed at several schools, the big provider is ASU, and it is the one school where I have the best chance of being hired full-time at some point. My others schools are all great, good supportive income, but there is no real chance for change in status at any of them (well, it is a big unknown). Thus, change for change sake as they say is a less than wise reason when considering a big move such as relocating to a new place. I have watched family members and friends do the "change for change sake" move, and after a year, they either return home or they up and move again, never settled or satisfied with the change.

I don't want to do the same thing, and as such, I don't want to "move just to move" so to speak. If there was a reason to move, that would be very different. If I was offered a job in another state, well, that would be reason enough to up and move. But as it is now, I am well-employed online. I can live here in Phoenix or anywhere else, but since one of my employers is here, and I am technically at "state employee" as a result, it makes some sense to remain connected to Phoenix.

With this in mind, I took a deeper inventory this past week and I determined that for now, it is best to remain. The Lord had said this was so last year. I had argued and wrestled with Him on this point, and eventually, I felt Him saying to me that I needed to "relent." Yes, I needed to let go, to stop, and to let Him have His way. I tried to justify my reasons for wanting to go, but in the end, I had to agree that He was right, and I was wrong, and well, His way is always best. Enough said.

My life seemed to take a sharp turn the other day, and after a brief fit, I discovered much to my joy that I am rather content here. I mean, I don't like the road noise out my window, and I really do want my own space, my own defined space. But for now, I share my space with my parents and son, and for now, I must endure. I will rest and wait for the Lord to open a door, to permit me to find a new home somewhere less noisy. When this happens, I don't know, but perhaps it will be this summer. Perhaps it will be soon. Until then, I wait. I simply wait, and I rely on Him for His goodness and His graciousness toward me.

Some positive comfirmation has come to me since last week, which has helped me see that I made a good choice. In addition to my own career being settled here, I had this sense that there might be a chance for me to interview (again) for a full-time position at ASU. I haven't heard anything yet, but I am waiting to see what happens in March. If not, I am okay remaining as adjunct. I am okay to see the Lord provide for me as adjunct over the coming months and years.

It was really a conversation I had with my son last night that simply helped me settle down into my decision. You see, I had asked the Lord mid-week for confirmation, some confirmation to help convince me that the decision I had made was a good one, a wise one. I didn't really have any confirmation, overt confirmation come on Thursday, but yesterday, I felt that the Lord was simply saying to me to rest, to stop worrying, and to let the plans (His plans) develop naturally. My son was home late in the afternoon, and he was really busy working on school recording project. He is under a deadline to have this recording done, so he didn't have much time to spend with me. However, later, around 10 p.m. he popped into my room to have me listen to his "mix."

Afterward, we chatted briefly, and I shared with him my thoughts about his work. He really is a gifted sound engineer, so I told him how amazed I was with his work, and how I recognize that he needs a real studio to do this type of work. In between our conversation about mixing and computers, he shared that he has already been hired (rehired) to be a sound engineer at school next year after he graduates. It is a part-time position, but in conjunction with his part-time position at a local church, he will be working full-time (sort of like his Mum) at two positions that pay well. Furthermore, he has been offered two teaching contracts for fall, similar to what he has done the past two years as a student worker. Thus, he is teaching college courses as an adjunct in addition to working as a professional musician and a professional sound engineer.

I sat there and started to think about the fact that the Lord has blessed my son right here in this place. First with his school scholarship, and second with the connections he has made as a result of working at church and at school. In short, in the past 10 years, just like for me, my son has been blessed and favored with work, performance opportunities, and school subsidy all right here in this desert place. More so, as he has matured and developed his own interests and pursuits, the Lord has opened doors for him, and has provided material needs to him so that he can do this work, and actually make a living at it. Thus, coupled with my own experience, it is clear that the place of blessing for us both has been Phoenix and not anywhere else.

Now, for many years I believed that at the end of 2017, we would move some place else. In fact, I have been so confirmed in that plan that I undertook years of study and research to find good places for us to move. But, here I am, in 2018, and of all the study and research, I am content now to let these places go and simply remain where God has provided the blessing and the favor to me and to my son. This is a good place, in response, and for this good fortune, I am finally accepting that the Lord's word to me is true.

In fact, every time I would hear Him say to me, "Carol, you are in a really good place right now," I would think He meant like temporarily or spiritually, and not so much physically. But as God is God, and man simply cannot know His thoughts, I have since come to think He meant "in totality" and not as in one area or kind of "good," if that makes sense. If I take His remark to me as "you are GOOD in every area of your life," then I can easily see that His goodness also covers the place where I reside. God is good all the time, and that means that His goodness pervades all things, just like His light illuminates the darkness so that no darkness exists. There is no end to His goodness, and if He is good here, then everything here is good.

It has been so difficult to come to terms with this idea that God's goodness knows no boundaries. His goodness is complete and lacks nothing because He is GOOD, through and through, and there is no lack of goodness within Him at all. Thus, my shortsighted feelings that good is a temporary thing or that good is resident in only a portion of possession was simply my failure to see the connection between God, omnipotent, and God as some lesser being with lesser abilities and powers. In short, I put God's goodness in a box with a label, and I compartmentalized it to such an extent that I came to see His goodness as defined by the contents of the box.

Once I removed those labels, I saw that His goodness permeated all things, and while the manifestation of His goodness did certainly provide measure and means, it was His inner goodness that was the Source of my provision. Truly, God is good all the time, and in every way, His goodness is manifested to those He loves. I am in this good place not because the place is good, but because God is Good and He is in this place!
In Closing

Today, I marvel at this new level of understanding, and in this way, I begin to see that God's goodness is resident within me because I belong to Him. The Holy Spirit who is GOOD lives within me. I have the Spirit of Christ, the Good News, alive and well within my spirit. As such, all this goodness is with me, and if I simply remain, abide, rest, then I can experience the manifestation of His goodness daily, every day, as a refreshment for my soul.

I give you praise, O Lord, for your goodness, your mercy and your grace. May I never take your goodness for granted, and may I always give you praise and honor and thanks for your goodness toward me, in my life, and through my life. You are good, O Lord, you are so very good to me! Selah!

February 15, 2018

Blessed and Favored

It is a good day here in cloudy and cool, Phoenix. The forecast calls for a chance of rain today, but I am thinking it just looks like clouds, you know, gray skies only. I am glad for the gray skies, and if the clouds sprinkle some, well, that would be super sweet!

Yesterday, we had RAIN! I mean we had major rain, and it was such a blessing to see. The skies were like this in the morning, and by noon, it had started to sprinkle. I decided to run some errands, and before I got too far down the road, the sprinkles turned into a steady rain. My car drove like a champ, by the way! I am still in awe of my car, the gift of this new car, and I have to say that driving in the rain (heavy later on) was an amazing experience.  My car simply didn't move one inch on the road, even when heavy trucks passed me by. My Nissan Sentra would have been switching and swaying all the way home. I ended up taking my car for a good long drive and ended up down in Chandler at Ikea (about 38 miles going and 26 coming back -- two different routes). All the way down and back, I gave the Lord praise and thanks for His good gift of a sturdy and reliable car! Selah!

So, whether or not it rains today is a moot point. I am happy and content with the cloudy skies and the cool, cool weather (about 57 degrees right now). This is such a nice change from our normal sun and warm weather (just two weeks ago it was in the mid to upper 80s). Yes, I am loving Phoenix, and I am giving Him all the praise for helping me to see that the "place" where I live has nothing to do with inner contentment and happiness!
Rain and Unjust Behavior

I woke up this morning thinking about the school shooting in Florida. Yes, I thought to myself, "how can it be that we have had another school shooting?" In the past 20 years, we have seen an uptake in violence in the schools, and as such, we have witnessed the mass murder of so many people in the most tender of places (churches, schools, malls, and open venues). How can it be that in a nation as great as ours, and I do believe we still are a great nation, we have such mass scale violence against innocent people (bystanders, really), children, teens, and adults who work in service capacities (teachers, administrators, pastors, etc.)? It is just crazy, and unimaginable. Yet, despite the fact that we have had "another" mass shooting, I am reminded of the fact that God sends the rain on both the righteous and unrighteous (Jesus' words as recorded in Matthew 5, the Sermon on the Mount). Yes, God's love and His faithfulness extend to all of His creation INCLUDING the unjust (or as KJV calls it, evildoers). It is difficult to rationalize this fact, that God loves and is faithful to all of His creation, even the part of His creation that doesn't seek Him or serve Him. The wandering, those who have gone astray, the lost and the multitudes that have no shepherd to guard or care for them. I am so saddened that something happened to the young man who decided to get up yesterday and carry out an assault on his former school. I am saddened that so many young lives and the lives of several adults were lost in the bloodshed. I am saddened to think that someone, bent in their mind, decided that the best way to spend their day was to mass murder, innocent classmates. How sad, how terribly sad!

I know that in the days to come, stories will come out that will bring to light the trigger points that led this young man to commit such a crime. More than likely, we will hear that he suffered from some sort of mental illness. No doubt, he suffered from a broken home. We will hear confirmation that he was alienated, bullied, and well, he was disenfranchised from the norms of society, and as such, he chose to align himself with other marginalized groups that seek violence and hate as a response to their status in society. In all, we will see this person as someone who was on the fringe of society, an outcast, a loner, and sadly, a man that was desperately unhappy and who wanted to make a statement to show the world he mattered to someone, even if it was simply the justice and law enforcement system. His several hours of fame will make him feel valued. How horrific is it that in order to feel valued, this man had to shoot and kill 17 people. This should never be the case. This should not happen. This is not right. Sigh!

I am of such a strong mindset now to believe that the people who commit the crimes in our society are those who have been brutalized and victimized throughout their lives. These are children who were abused, physically or sexually, and who have grown up on the "mean streets," believing that the only way to survive is to be "top dog." The criminal mindset is one that seeks its own against all others. It is the mindset that believes what is good for one is best.

In my literature class this past week, we read the story of Julius Caesar (Shakespeare's version). We discussed the ethical implications of Brutus' murder of Caesar, and Antony's claim that the action of killing Rome's leading citizen was "noble." In a twist of fate, we must consider how the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few (to quote Mr. Spock from "The Wrath of Khan"). When we look at sacrifice, we must consider the justification of actions that result in the death of one to save many. In the case of Brutus, he committed murder in order to save the empire from ruin. Marc Antony claimed that Brutus' noble sacrifice (killing Caesar and then falling on his own sword) was worth the high cost he paid. The idea that one action can save the lives of many is the basis of our hero worship mentality. In truth, we worship (or hold in high regard) anyone who pays the price of their own life to save others. Of course, our greatest HERO is Jesus, who as Paul said in Romans 6:10 (New International Version), "The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God." In other words, Jesus died for the sins of mankind (all people, from past to present to future). His death occurred once, at one point in time, but the action had eternal ramifications. Jesus took the view that what was good for the many was better than what was good for the few, or in His case, the One.

In narcissistic personality disorder, often the narcissist thinks only of themselves. They are all about the "one," and to their mindset, what is best for the one, always outweighs what is best for their spouse, their children, their family, and their friends (and coworkers). It is all about the one, and with this view in mind, it is easy to see how all criminal activity like what we witnessed yesterday aligns with this belief.

"I need to make a statement!"
"I will show them!"
"I will make them take notice of me!"

It is really interesting to consider this fact, especially after watching a clip from Joyce Meyer yesterday morning. I don't have the actual clip because it came up on my feed and then disappeared so quickly, but Joyce was speaking to a group about dealing with hurt. Her most famous saying is that "hurt people, hurt people" and often she will use this saying to provide guidance to those who are struggling to forgive others. Yesterday, she said something about choosing to live in the past (my words). She mentioned how some people choose to live in their hurt. They choose to be mired in their hurt, to relive the pain, and to constantly wallow in it. She said something that stuck with me, and I am sure many in her audience probably took a start from it. She said, "Get over it. Just get over it." Now, many people would say, "How uncompassionate of her to say that to someone who is grieving!" But Joyce didn't just stop with that one remark, she went on to say that if anyone knows pain, she does. She has been open about the sexual abuse she suffered as a child and teen at the hands of her father, and how for many years, she was bitter, angry, and miserable. She is well acquainted with this type of pain (see Isaiah 53:3 to read about Jesus). Her words stuck with me, though, because I think she has a fair point. When people are hurt, they tend to lash out at others. Now most of us, do not commit murder as a result, but if the hurt is not healed, and the mind is not turned toward positive things, it is very possible to allow that hurt to become the inward motivation that leads to outward aggression. At the least, if the inward hurt is not healed, the outward manifestation of that hurt can cause marriage problems, relationship problems, work problems, and so forth.

Healing and Restoration

I know what it feels like to suffer humiliation, to suffer physical and sexual abuse, and to be manipulated and controlled by others. I know what it feels like to be devalued, to be treated as unworthy, and to be betrayed and left behind. I have experienced all these scenarios, and for a time, I felt the desire to punish my enemies, to punish those who hurt me. In truth, I used my bitterness, pain, and my pride to push me to achieve, to force me to become better than others (to show them, so to speak), and I even used my pain to cause me to live a less than best life because I believed I didn't deserve anything better.

 Thankfully, after giving my life to the Lord again (the second time back in 2006), I was healed from those desires. I learned how to deal with the hurt, the pain, and the sorrow, in healthier ways, and as a result, I have since been set free from the emotional control those events held over me for so many years. I no longer engage in harmful behaviors and I no longer think about these triggering events. They still come to mind from time to time, especially when I see or hear something that causes my mind to make a mental connection, but instead of giving them heed, I simply dismiss them by saying, "I've been healed from that experience. I don't have to think about it or relive it anymore!"

As I sit here now, I marvel at the completeness of the healing process. It wasn't an easy process for me, and it didn't happen overnight. I had to work through the painful experiences, and I had to accept the truth of what actually happened to me. I had to permit myself time to grieve, to let the emotional pain go, and then I had to learn how to deal with the aftereffects of that painful experience. One of the ways I deal with the memories is to not give them any time to replay in my head. I simply choose to think about other things. Secondly, I will confess my healing in Jesus' Name whenever I feel the need to rewind the tape, so to speak. I simply say, "I've been healed in Jesus' Name or by His stripes I have been healed." Then I turn my thoughts toward praise, and I thank God for His gift of healing. It works, but sometimes, I have to say this more than once. Sometimes, I have to say it and do something like washing the dishes, clean the bathroom, take a walk, etc., in order to put the words into action. My body then moves onto whatever I am doing at the moment, and with that change of effort, the memory quickly fades back into the recesses of my mind.

My point in all of this discussion is that before we go off the rails on more gun control or meeting the mental health needs of students as we will in light of the tragic events of yesterday, we must also consider the emotional wounds this young man suffered as a child. These wounds were allowed to fester and with that festering, came the desire for revenge, for payback. Sadly, no one intervened to help him deal with his perverse affection for guns and killing, and no one did anything to highlight this young man's deeper needs other than expel him from school and confirm to him that he was unfit, unwell, and unwanted.

The tragedy is that 17 people died as a result of this one man's desire to be seen as worthy of attention. How sad is this fact?

My heart goes out to the families that lost children or spouses or other loved ones yesterday. My heart grieves that this young man will now be prosecuted for his crime spree. In doing so, justice will be served. But with justice, he will be sent to a maximum security prison where he will be subjected to all sorts of horrors simply because of his age and his sex. Yes, this man would do better to be condemned to die rather than to be sent to a larger prison population where he will be used for indescribable acts.

Yes, I am asking for mercy. Yes, I am asking for us to pray for our enemies, as Jesus instructed, and in doing so, I am asking for forgiveness. There is more at the core here than hate. There is more at the core here than simple evil behavior. To say that this man was filled with hate is probably correct. To say that his behavior was evil is also true. However, this man was created by a loving God, and this man needed to receive the love of God, the healing power of God, and the hope of reconciliation with God just like you or I already have been given. Yes, this man needs Jesus -- now more than ever -- and while I am not advocating a lesser sentence or less severe justice, I am simply saying that this man needs our prayers as much as we will give to the grieving families.
In Closing

As I close this blog post today, I am reminded of the great love of our God for His children. Oh, how I am thankful that God loves me, and that in that love, I have His forgiveness and His free grace. I am free today because of the sacrifice Jesus paid at the Cross of Calvary. I am free from the painful experiences, the hurts I suffered as a child, teen, and young adult, because of Jesus' healing and His help in restoring me back into a whole person. I am safe, and I am secure. I have a good life, and I have a good future, but none of these things is the result of anything I have done in the past or anything I am doing at present. No, I am blessed and I am favored, but only by Him and as a measure and manifestation of His amazing grace.

February 14, 2018

Middle of the Road, No Turns!

Happy Valentine's Day! It is a beautiful cloudy and gray day here in Phoenix. I am enjoying the sunless day, and I am thinking about all the good gifts the Lord has given to me over the years. Mostly, I am thankful today for His love. I marvel at the depth of His love, and I am amazed that He loves me so completely, securely, and with such amazing fierceness. Scripture says that our God is a jealous God (Exodus 34:14), an all-consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29), and that He loves us with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3)!

It is a good day today, therefore, to consider God's love, and to thank Him for the way He loves each of us -- uniquely and with specific attention. Really, have you thought about the fact that God loves each one of His children in a unqiue and wonderful way? I mean, He loves me in a way that best meets my needs. Your needs, though, are different from mine, and He loves you in the way that shows you how special you are to Him. He is truly a good, good Father, and His love knows no boundaries. I think the more I consider His love, the more I find that I am drawn to Him, the more I want to know Him, and to be known by Him. It is a marvelous thing to be loved by God. May His love meet your every need this good day, and may you come to feel His presence as He loves you completely, securely, and with intense and committed desire!
Decision Made, Now Preparing to Go

So, yesterday, I blogged about how I made a decision, a final decision to stay put, to put down roots, and to not think about moving (physically) from Arizona. This decision was especially difficult for me because I really, really did desire to move elsewhere. I had deep longings from my childhood that were firmly rooted. I wanted to return to a time and a place where I enjoyed life, where I found my fill of grass and trees. I wanted to go back to a place WAY BEFORE all the pain and hardship and trial happened. In my mind, this place would bring me peace, happiness, and joy. Sure, my contentment would be found in Jesus, but there was something about the place that I believed would ensure my happiness. I really did think that the place would bring me a source of comfort that I cannot have here or at the least, couldn't find here in Arizona.

The funny thing is that when I would think about the place I wanted to live, I always had issues with the way in which I would go there to live, if that makes any sense. I wanted to go, for certain;  but, I was so hesitant to actually do it that I never really moved much past just dreaming about it. I spent hours on the Internet looking at houses, scoping out neighbors, churches, stores, and really thinking, feeling, and researching what it would be like to live there. In the end, though, I always felt like something was missing, and no matter how good it was (like living in a colonial Saltbox), I couldn't "see" myself really living in peace, living with complete calmness and surrender. Finally, after much planning, preparing, and purposing, I came to the conclusion that I can live anywhere I want, but what I want exists here, and that is my home, my family, my church, and my good work. I mean, I already have everything I want right here near me. I just wanted all of this ---> moved over there --> to a place with trees, grass, and more picturesque surroundings. In truth, I wanted what I already had, but I wanted it to LOOK differently.

It was so hard for me to let go of my childhood fantasy and dream. However, once I did that, I was able to see the good that exists in my hand now. I was able to see the good work I am doing here, and I was able to see that I didn't need to run anywhere else, but that I could make a good life for myself here in this desert place. Sure, it is expensive to live here. Sure, there are issues like the heat to contend with, but overall, this place (Phoenix) is just as good as the next (Chicago), and to boot, I already am settled and situated, so there is less mess, less hassle, and well, less stress to REMAIN where I am now.

I am content now in this thought, this decision. It was last May when I was on campus at Regent, and I heard the Lord say to me, "Carol, I want you to remain." I thought He meant to remain in Phoenix, and for a time, I had this amazing sense of peace. Then, I drove through the area near Regent, and I thought, "Oh, Lord, look how lovely it is here. I would love to live here and teach here." Of course, I was already teaching online at Regent, but the Lord didn't intend to move me to VA. Still, I struggled with His word to me, "Remain," and the thought of never leaving Phoenix for the beauty of VA or any other place.

Over the summer, I vacillated back and forth, I wandered if I was to really "Remain" in Phoenix or if the Lord was saying to me, "Remain on this [spiritual] path." I figured it was both, but while I was okay with the idea of remaining spiritually stalwart, steady, and steadfast, I wasn't okay with remaining here in Phoenix.

All throughout the fall and into the early part of winter, I thought I would still be "moved" to another state. I wanted so badly to go, and when I would ask Him about it, I would hear Him whisper to me, "What did I say to you?" or "You already know this answer." I would ask; no, I would plead with Him. "Tell me, Lord, where I am to go?" Even when I would come back and remember His words, "Remain," I didn't have peace. So naturally, I would think, "No peace, you are to go!" I knew my enemy was toying with me, playing with me, saying to me, "Did God really say...." and I was falling for his crafty speech, hook, line and sinker, as they say. I was confused. I was so very confused.

In December, I had an epiphany moment when I made the first move toward staying put. I was driving home through Scottsdale, and I remembered how impressed I was with all the Christmas decorations. I immediately thought about the reasons why I came to Phoenix in the first place (for a new start, a do-over). I thought about those experiences early on, and how the hope I had for a good life were quickly squashed when I realized my error, my mistake in thinking that my life, my marriage, would be improved by simply changing the scenery. My life didn't improve here, and my marriage eventually ended. My hopes for a better quality of life were doomed from the start, and as a result, I wanted nothing to do with this place, this horrible place.

But, the lights were bright, and the place -- on face value -- was so lovely. It was as I was driving home, tears streaming down my face, that I realized that the place wasn't to blame. Rather, it was my decision and choice in marriage as well as my situation amidst a very difficult family dynamic. In short, Phoenix or Scottsdale, had nothing at all to do with the dissolution of my marriage. It was sin, and sin alone, and it was unrepentant sin that eventually caused a crack that couldn't be healed -- or wouldn't, I should say -- be healed.

I came to my senses so to speak, and after the holiday rush, I started to become more thoughtful about the whole "place" issue. Was it really the place that mattered? Or could God do work here without me even moving anywhere else?

Unfortunately, I still wavered, and for most of January, I made up my mind to move, once and for all. I wanted to live someplace less expensive, where I could own a home free and clear. I wanted to live someplace where it snowed, where there were four distinct seasons. Yes, I WANTED to go, I wanted to leave sunny and warm Phoenix and move to someplace utterly dreary and cold.

Thankfully, the Lord gave me time to consider my desires, and two week's ago, as I was purchasing my new car, the Lord asked me to consider why I wanted to move so badly, and what it was about the place that made me what to go there more than stay right where I am now. I confessed all the reasons why I wanted to go, and then in a moment of clarity, I thought that my contentment is wrapped up in my relationship with Jesus Christ. I am content, not because of Phoenix, but I am content because of Jesus. It was in this moment when I bowed my head and relented. I let go of the notion that moving would serve some purpose, that moving would satisfy some deeper need, and that moving would somehow make my life better. And, it was in that moment that I came to this pivotal decision. I decided to stay where I am and seek contentment in no other thing, save Jesus Christ.

In doing so, several amazing things happened. For starters, I found my peace. Secondly, I found a new sense of logic or rationale that I had been missing for a while. I started to think that starting over really wasn't that great of a deal the last time I tried it. I mean, while moving here did solve some of the financial crisis we had (my family, I mean), in the long run, moving here didn't save or solve the problems within my marriage. In fact, those problems just intensified to the point where all hope was lost. My life didn't improve at all by leaving California and moving to Phoenix. More so, my life simply became bitter, hard, and well, really unpleasant.

Improvement and Advancement

In hindsight, the only way my life has improved, the quality of it, I mean, is due to my relationship with the Lord. Even though I was a Christian when I moved to Phoenix in 1996, and I devoted much of my time to serving Him at church, I really wasn't a happy Christian at all. I was a teeth-griting, nail-biting, hanging on for dear life, type of Christian. I was in a war zone, and I simply "survived" the days, the weeks, and the months as best I could.

As I have blogged previously, in 2006, I had a major life change where my entire belief system was called to account. I suffered the loss of a friend, an Internet friend, a dear woman who died during childbirth, and the Lord used her death to shake me out of my fox hole (literally) and get me to look up at Him. I was distraught, lost in my own sorrow, but thankfully, I listened to His voice. I heard His call to me, and I surrendered my life as it was -- all the black and white of legalism -- and as a result my life was upended, and turned inside out. Furthermore, as I began to desparately seek answers for why this young woman's life was ended so soon, and why my life was as it was, with no real purpose or end goal in mind, I found new joy in reading His word, in studying the scriptures, and in spending time with Him in prayer. In short, March 1, 2006 was the day of my second-birth.

Since that day, I wish I could say that my life drastically improved, but that would not be the case. Instead, my life became even more difficult, even more destructive. In 2007, my then husband suffered a major heart attack. His illness persisted, and with mounting debt and medical bills, we fell farther and farther into poverty. In 2009, my then husband suffered a hemmoraghic stroke, leaving him with some residual side effects, but mostly making it difficult for him to work regularly. More so, it was at this time that I discovered his Internet relationships, and as such, I came face to face with the truth that my husband didn't love me nor did he want to remain married to me. Even though we did do crisis counseling, our marriage was doomed to fail. My husband didn't want to remain married, and in January of 2010, we made the decision to separate. Of course, I had no work outside of his business, and the economy was not fully recovered so work was scarce. I lived in our shared home for 18 months while my husband did nothing to attempt to restore our marriage. Finally, in November of 2011, I was able to move out on my own. The Lord provided a lovely home for me and my son, and we moved out and began the process of starting over. Shortly thereafter, in January of 2012, our home was sold at auction, and well, everything we had hoped, dreamed, and worked so hard for was taken away from us. I was alone, living alone, and all the reasons for moving here (a new start, a chance to buy a home, a better quality of life) were flushed away like refuse in the toilet.

What was amazing in and through all this difficulty was the fact that spiritually my relationship with the Lord continued to grow. I began to be changed, shaped, and molded. The Lord gave me hope for a new career as a teacher, and I began to follow a path through higher education. In 2010, I returned to graduate school to complete a Masters' degree in English. In 2013, I started a PhD in Communication at Regent University, and from which I graduated in 2017. In addition, in 2013, I began teaching English on campus at Grand Canyon University, and now five years later, I am teaching online at Arizona State University, Grantham University, and for my alma mater, Regent University.

Financially, my life took a major upward turn in 2011 and then again in 2013. I was  hired at University of Phoenix as an enrollment advisor, and though I didn't like that job, it was through that job that I was able to rent my first real home. In 2012, I moved to CVS, and with that new job, I bought my first "financed" car, my Nissan Sentra. Later in 2013, I moved into this rental home with my parents, and then in 2018, I traded my Sentra in for a newer Rogue. More so, in between, I bought my son a used Honda, and then last year, I bought him a new Kia Sorrento. In truth, my financial situation has improved 100-fold since my marriage ended.

Relationally, I have not seen any major changes, but that is something I knew and expected. My ex-husband and I are on good terms. We divorced in August of 2014, and he moved on with his life and is now living with his girlfriend. I felt confident that I was meant to remain single, and for a long time, I was steadfast in that belief. In 2014, I met someone online and for a time, I thought perhaps the Lord wanted me to consider the thought of marriage again. However, distanced relationships rarely work out, and after much consideration, I realized that I was not meant to be married again. In truth, I came to the understanding that for me, personally, the scriptural mandate that says marriage is between one man and one woman for life, well, it just holds water, it rings true. I was married for 30 years to my husband, and I still love him and care for him. I am content to be as I am, single, but I am not content to engage in another relationship. I simply cannot do it. It took me a long, long time to come to that conclusion, but once I did, I realized that I am good just as I am, and for the rest of my life, I will be married (in the Lord) to my husband despite the fact that we are legally divorced and he is living with another woman. I will remain as I am, and the Lord will see to my needs. I am okay with this status, and I believe that my relationship honors the Lord. I am content to remain single for the rest of my life.
In Closing

Thus, in all the change and upheaval, the good and the bad, I realize now that the place, Phoenix, had nothing at all to do with what happened to me. I have seen some pretty horrible things over the past 55 years of my life. I have also witness some wonderful things too (like the birth of my son). I have lived in tight constraints for almost all my married life, and once I was free to do as the Lord was leading me, I finally found freedom to enjoy good things, a good quality of life. Today, I am the blessed recipient of His good favor. He has provided for me well-beyond my hopes, and I have a good future filled with good prospects. I am in this very good place, this very safe and secure place, and I am happy and content to remain where I am. Phoenix, it seems, is destined to be used for His good, His glory, and like in the story of Joseph, God seems determined to do something wonderful with my life right here in the desert, in the Valley of the Sun.

I have relented. I have let go. I have accepted His best for me, even if it doesn't look so bright and shiny on the outside. I have determined that it is best to trust Him, to rest in Him, and to look to Him for my every need, and in doing so, I have come to see that when I abide in Him, I have my peace. My joy is restored, my hope confirmed, and my comfort is secured. He is good to me, so very good to me! Selah!