December 16, 2017
Happy Saturday! It is December 16, and I am sitting here at my home computer, blogging, as I always do, and thinking about the fact that in less than 9 days, it will be Christmas. Yes, I am not even ready for Christmas. I haven't sent one card nor have I shopped for gifts (online or in stores). I am wrapping my semester at GCU and Regent, and I am working extra time to get all my grading done before next weekend. I really would like to have most of next week to enjoy the blessed season, and to reflect on the goodness of God and the sweetness of His greatest gift, Jesus! My prayer is to have most of my work done today and tomorrow so that heading into next week, I can begin to relax, rest, and recover from my very long and very hard semester of work.
Sounds of the Season
Last night, I had a wonderful evening at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. My seat was in the 5th row, about 6 seats in (about center stage), and I was mesmerized! Not only was the Christmas performance, "Sounds of the Season with David Britton" great, but I got to watch my son play keyboards in a major venue to boot! Truthfully, I needed this performance. My heart and my mind were occupied for almost two hours with glorious vocals including a rousing gospel choir, and of course, beautiful music performed by top-notch musicians. I sat there glued to my seat, and the entire atmosphere was just the "ticket," so to speak. I was transformed by the musical performance, and I came to see Christmas once again for what it truly is -- a celebration of God's miracle, the birth of a Savior, and the glorious pronouncement from heaven that God loves us so deeply, so compassionately, and so completely.
In good measure, I left the theater thinking that my life just improved ten-fold and that as I work to complete my tasks this weekend, something truly wonderful is about to happen to me. I don't know what that wonderful thing will be, but I sure do feel it inside. I have this sense of peace, like complete peace, and I have this marvelous hope that seems to be comforting me as I look forward in time. In many ways, I feel like I am peering through the looking glass, and while I can see some images that make sense to me, much of what I do see is shrouded in mist. Yet, I feel the call to step through the glass, just like Alice did, and begin a wonderful new adventure. I am so ready, so very ready, and what is more, I am filled with excitement to think that next year at this time, my life will be radically different. It will be so vastly different than it is today. How amazing is that?
God has given me vision, a new vision, and that vision seems to be saying to me that where I am at today is where He intends to keep me. I have blogged so much about wanting to go, desiring it, thinking and dreaming about it, and last night, as I was driving home, I realized that what God has given to me here today is about as good as it gets if you know what I mean. My students at Regent read Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" last week. We are all familiar with the story of redemption, with the amazing transformation of one miserly old man who after meeting the three Ghosts or Spirits of Christmas, is reminded that Christian joy and charity are tightly linked. In order to experience the joy of Christmas, one must receive the joy given -- Jesus the Christ. In order to share the Christmas story, one must be engaged in charity, giving of good works, and the blessing of using our worldly goods for more than simply building a temporal empire, but rather to give to the poor and the less fortunate in our society. Sure, I am interpreting this story through a Christian lens, but in truth, Scrooge comes to see Christmas as a time of giving, and not as a "Bah Humbug" experience.
In a like manner, I came to see my life anew as I left the SCPA and drove home through Scottsdale. The shopping district was ablaze in Christmas lights, and many of the places I passed on my way home were reminders to me that at one time, I believed Scottsdale (Phoenix too) was a new door of opportunity. I looked to the hope of a new life living here in the valley, and in this way, I thought that my life had nowhere to go, but up! Unfortunately, living here proved not so pleasant. I struggled with deep despair and depression after leaving my family in Northern California. I was abandoned by my then-husband as he spent all his time on his business. I raised my child on my own, and even after I started working for my husband as a designer, I spent most of my time alone. He did his thing, and I was left caring for the house, our child, and working long hard hours just to keep our heads above water. The perfect life I imagined when I first arrived was quickly overshadowed by my in-law's insistence that we do everything they wanted when they wanted. More so, there were duties and obligations that I had not foreseen, and in the end, I came to loathe this place. In truth, I hated every moment I lived here, and even despite the fact that my parents retired here in 2000, I simply detested everything about this place -- the oppressive heat, the dirt, and most of all -- the failed dreams and unfulfilled plans of what was promised to me, but never delivered.
Last night, as I drove past many familiar scenes, I prayed to the Lord to change my heart, my mind, and my attitude about this place. Yes, I decided to engage in an "attitude of gratitude," and instead of seeing all the negatives about living here, I gave thanks for all the positives and the negatives about my life in the desert. I thanked the Lord for every single up and down in my life I had experienced during the last 20 years. I thanked Him for everything I have today, but also for everything that had passed -- good and bad -- and I claimed the truth of Scripture that says that God causes ALL THINGS TO WORK FOR OUR GOOD. In short, I made a proclamation that the good and the bad of my life worked together to bring about the very good I have this day. I am good today BECAUSE of everything that has happened to me previously. It has all worked into this favor, this blessing, this hope I experience, day in and day out. My attitude of gratitude simply reversed my thought process. I am thankful for my life, in sum, in toto, and in this way, I am able to say that the good I have today was hard wrought from the experiences (positive and negative) of my former life. It is all good, all so very good. Thank you, Jesus! Thank you, thank you, thank you, Jesus! Selah!
This morning, I woke up with a pounding headache. My eyes were swollen shut, and every time I tried to open them, I experienced a rush of pain. I am not sure why this was so, but suffice it to say it was probably dirt, dust, well, the stuff of living in the desert. After I got up, got moving I should say, and had my coffee, the pain in my head subsided. I was able to sit at the computer for a time, catch up on some work, and generally sit and reflect a bit of my night, my glorious good night.
My good night turned into a pretty good day (so far), and with that in mind, I feel confident to say that I am ready to embrace the life God has for me right here in Phoenix, in the Valley of the Sun. I know this may sound so trite, but the truth is that for so long I simply wanted to live someplace else. I am not saying that my mindset is different from the reality of living here; no, not at all. Nothing will change the fact that it is hotter than you know what for six months of the year. It is dirty, dusty, filled with snakes and scorpions, and well, cacti. There is little to no greenery -- no grass -- and even our trees are not the trees of my former life. Pines are non-existent unless you travel north, and most of what we see along the roadside is rock, debris, and scrubby brush. It is not "pretty" by any stretch of the imagination. But, here I am. I am in this place, and for good or for bad, I am where I am for a reason. God has blessed me here, and not anywhere else. He has opened doors for me here. He has given me oodles of practical work, and right here, right now, I have everything I need to live comfortably, to be successful, prosperous, and content. I have a good life, a really good life, and while it doesn't look like much on the outside, on the inside, it is beautiful, good, and pleasant. Yes, I have a very good and pleasant life. I am blessed. I am favored, and I have His goodness in and through my life. Selah!
As I think about this today, I marvel at His goodness toward me. I have done nothing to warrant His love. I have not managed to be "good" in any way, yet His love endures. His mercy is from everlasting. I am in this blessed place because it is His decision to keep me here. I have blogged about how I have struggled to separate the staying and going aspects of His commands. I am to remain, but I am to go. How can you stay and go at the same time? I have not been able to grasp the fact that the Lord can ask you to do two very different things and for each to make perfect sense -- to Him -- I mean. For example, I am to stay put, to remain where He has me, which simply means to be wholly dependent and completely surrendered to His will, His way, and His word. But, I am also to go and do His work. In this way, I am to remain positionally surrendered, yielded, submitted, bent and humbled. Yet, the work He calls me to do is active, present, and full-time engaging. Thus, I am to go and do His work. I do His work with this same attitude and position -- in humility -- and I rely on Him for His grace, His mercy, and His provision to do everything associated with His special calling and mandate for my life. Therefore, the going provision is simply this: go and do the work assigned.
I have been so confused, so terribly confused. I have thought that I had to go somewhere else to do this work, and while I am not saying that I was completely off the mark in that line of thinking, what I am saying is that I really was thinking that I had to "go" someplace else before I could begin this work. In truth, I WANTED to go someplace else. I wanted it with all my heart, my mind, my soul, and yes, my strength. I wanted to live in another state, in someplace DIFFERENT, in order to remove the stain and the stench of the life I had here in Phoenix. I know -- I am over-reacting -- but the truth is that I wanted to leave this place, all the memories, the negative ones more than I wanted to do His work. I was making the whole "let's move" business my focus, and I realize now that even though the Lord said clearly, "Carol, you can live anywhere you want and do my work," I assumed that I still had to go to do anything at all.
I guess you could say that I put the going business ahead of His ministry business. I knew and understood the truth, but I so wanted to exchange the dirt for the green that my eyesight just wasn't very clear. I already knew what I was to do, and in fact, often when I prayed and asked the Lord to help me to understand, I would hear Him say to me, "Carol, you already know this answer. You already know what I have said. You know where you are to go." I would then beg and plead for Him to remind me, to refresh my memory, and I would confess that in my frailty, I had "forgotten" what He had said. Of course, I was thinking He has said: "Go to Illinois!" You know, like a voice from heaven directing me to a specific place (yes, Old Testament theatrics!) Instead, the Lord had spoken to me so many months ago, right while I was in Virginia Beach getting ready to graduate. He had said to me that I couldn't begin His work until I was dedicated, commissioned, and of course, graduated. I had to be dedicated (with prayer and oil), and I had to be commissioned to go and do the Lord's work. In addition, He clearly said to me that I was to remain where I was and that I was to be content in it. Of course, in my shortsightedness, I thought He meant physically and not positionally. Later, I thought it was reversed. But, now I see He meant both.
Remain where you are today, and remain in the position you are right now. Do not move to the left or the right, but stay right where you are this day.
I think it was last night when the whole "going and staying" business dawned on me. As I left Scottsdale to drive back home, I simply remembered clearly that I am in this place for a reason, and while I don't really like it here, there is something "good" about it. The twinkling lights, the stores with their holiday wreaths, and even the train park where I took my son when he was little served as reminders that this place has "good" written on it. This place has possibilities and though it is expensive to live here, and it is hot (so very hot), it is also a place where God is at work, where His work is being done, and where people are hearing the Gospel message and where lives are being changed as a result. I may not "like" the place where I live, but that is temporal and of less account. I am thankful for God's goodness, the gracious provision, and the bountiful blessing of possibilities.
The Lord opened my eyes to see that despite my shallowness, I really am in a very special place. I have everything He desires for me to have this day, and the future plans are sure and secure in His hands. I can wait. I can be patient. I can trust Him to be faithful, to keep His word to me, to fulfill His promises. I can do what He asks me to do here, and I can do it with His blessing. I am anointed for this good work, and I am dedicated to it. God has called me, equipped me, and He has mandated that I do a very specific thing for His kingdom. I need to focus now on doing this work, and stop looking to go someplace else, to live someplace else. I am to simply be ready and willing, and then He will enable me to do what He wants when He wants, and where He wants. Until that time, I will remain focused, fixed, and faithfully attentive to His plan, His wonderful plan for my life. I will not deviate from the path I am on, and I will not worry about the unknown in my future. I will simply remain steady, be active, and do what He is asking me to do this good, good day.
As I close this blog post today, I feel ready to tackle the new adventure as it unfolds. I honestly do not have any "new" news. I just feel confident that I am on track, that my mind is clear, and that my vision has refocused to the point where I can see now what was just yesterday hidden. I can see His way, His path and it is clearly marked. Go this way, Carol. Do not leave the path. Do not dally. Be present, active, and fruitful. Do the good work I have called you to do and leave the rest of the details up to me.
December 14, 2017
In truth, the campus was eerily silent. It was late on Monday night when two distraught freshman students climbed to the top of the 5th-floor parking garage and decided to jump off -- thus -- ending their lives. One student achieved his intended goal and was pronounced dead at the scene. The other student survived, miraculously, but is in a coma, and her condition is uncertain and unknown at this time. The sadness that enveloped this final week of classes, the mad rush to complete finals, and to escape to winter break was simply diminished by the news that despite all the happiness, bright lights, and good cheer on campus, there was and still is, an ominous presence of depression that has won victory in and through the lives of two young people.
I spent the majority of Tuesday and Wednesday thinking about these two young people, and how they felt that they had no other option than to commit suicide. I thought, "But wait! You are only 18! I didn't start really living until I was in my 30's, 40's and 50's!" I had no way of knowing what my eventual future would look like at 18 years of age. I read some of the Tweets from the one young man, and frankly, I was scared to think that this young man was even attending our "Christian" University. I don't mean to say anything about this man, his name is still being withheld, but clearly, he was troubled. I read the reports that said he was always cheerful, so loving, such a sweetheart, but his social media channel showed a completely different side to his personality. I would use the words "deeply troubled," "dark," and well, while the outside may have "looked normal," what was on the inside was a different story.
Again, I don't mean to say anything bad about this young person, but I read so many comments about how the school and faculty should do more, reach out more, help more, etc. Frankly, that is an awful lot of guilt and shame to dump on faculty and staff who do a marvelous job ministering to the students they work with day in and day out. Each week, I have the blessing of teaching close to 300 students. I do my best to get to know their name, and if I can, to hear their story. Not all want to be in a close relationship with me. Many don't even bother to come to my class on a regular basis. I file my reports, document concerns, but at the end of each day, I limp home, eat dinner, and begin the arduous task of grading mountains of paperwork. Yes, I have little free time to even enjoy my family or to think about my own needs.
I am glad that my school does have a good crisis intervention program, but like all schools, we are not in the business of mental health. We are in the business of education, and thus, some of the onus on mental health must fall to the parents and the family members. The medical community is well-poised to intervene, but even they cannot help if the family or the family member at the center, refuses treatment. It is a difficult problem with a very narrow solution.
Thus, as I left campus yesterday, I couldn't help but feel bittersweet about my experience. I worked hard this semester, and I did mentor about two dozen students personally. Not a bad ratio, really. I had close to 300 students this semester, and I think I was able to reach about 10% of them. My heart was heavy, but there was this wonderful spirit of goodwill and cheerfulness that ushered me out and sent me on my way with happy thoughts, sweet memories, and good feelings about my future steps, the next stage or phase of my life, so to speak.
Terms End, Life Goes On
As I sat here today and graded my essays, I had the sweet pleasure of speaking to a friend of mine who is getting ready to defend her proposal. I felt God calling me to confirm her path, and so I did. I offered my testimony so that she would feel confident that she is doing the very thing God wants her to do. It is a priviledge to speak life into people, and I appreciate the fact that the Lord opened a door for me to spend about 1.5 hours on the phone with her. I am so happy for her research, and I believe the Lord has such a wonderful plan for her life.
The funny thing is that my time spent on the phone today had an added benefit. I was confirmed in my own path. I shared with my friend how I struggle to see my colleagues promoted when here I sit as an adjunct English teacher. I am not receiving any accolades, no promotions, no opportunities for research. I am simply teaching students how to write, and while I love what I do, there is part of me that feels I am standing still while my colleagues are on the fast train going to greater heights and more blessed regions.
Yet, as I shared my story with my friend, I said these words:
I am where God wants me. I am an English teacher, and this is exactly what He said I would be. My PhD is for His work, and in His time, I will create the materials He asks me to create. Until then, I am to be about His business of teaching students how to write essays.
I know my life is not bright and shiny, and when compared to the mountain of debt I hold today, I do wonder if all the hard work was really worth the effort. Then, I remember His calling on my life, and His word to me. I realize that I am not called to high achievement. I am not called to produce articles for publication, and I am not called to teach at a fancy University. I am called to do exactly what I am doing, and I am choosing -- no I am -- happy and content to do it.
In fact, I am thankful for the work I do. I was telling my parents this last evening. I said that I am so thankful for this work, and that I truly do love what I do. I know my life is good, my life is just as He desires it to be, and I am so thankful for what I have today. I know my tomorrows are all in His hand. I am good. I need nothing more. I have my Savior's love, His presence, and His goodwill in and through my life. I have everything I need, and I am so very good.
More so, as I left campus (I am digressing some), I thought about the number of students that came up to me and told me that I was their favorite teacher, and that of all their teachers on campus, I was the best. It felt good to hear their sweet words, many from students that barely spoke a word to me all term. I left thinking I had made a difference in their lives, and that I am moving on to online teaching where I will do the same, have the same effect, just through the computer and not face to face. God is good to me, and I love His provision. His provision, yes! He has given me the desires of my heart, and for that gift, I am truly thankful.
I am so ready to rest. My semester at GCU and my time there has come to an end. I will no longer teach on campus for this school, and in truth, I am OK with that fact. I am ready to begin the new life He has for me, and that new life requires -- no -- depends that I have more freetime during the day to do His work. I am ready for my future, and for the wonderful possibilities that exist for me now that I am free from campus work and solely teaching online. He is good to me, so very good to me! Praise God! He is so very good to me!
December 13, 2017
Closing Out and Moving On
I still haven't heard from Liberty University, and while I am worried a bit, I also know that I can do nothing but rest in the matter. The Lord is in control, and if He says this job will come to pass, well, then it will come to pass! I really am well-set for spring, and even without my work at GCU, I know that I have good income coming to me. Yes, it would be better with Liberty set aside already, but I know that I must be patient and simply wait. I will wait, Lord, I will wait.
Some things are closed already, and some things are in the process of closing. For example, I am now pretty much on my own. I have spent the last year working very hard to complete my PhD. I spent the past seven years working toward one goal, to complete my education. In the process, I have let jobs, people (friends), and even my family go. I had to focus 100% of my attention on this pursuit, and I know that not everyone understands my reasons or my rationale, but the truth is that I found it impossible to do what the Lord was asking me to do AND be in a relationship or have a full-time job or be present and active in ministry. I had to let some things go. In fact, I remember sitting in the first summer residency course and some of the older students (3rd year) said to us: you will have to decide what to let go of in order to complete this program. I realized the second year that these students were correct. It is all consuming, all consuming, and even after it is finished, the process to repair and recover what was lost during that time of isolation, slowly is restored.
Right now, there is me, my son, and my parents. My extended family stops in from time to time, but I have no other "connections" to speak of or even potential connections to consider. I am solely devoted to the Lord, and in this way, I am His and He is mine. It has been difficult for me to accept that this situation has resolved in the way that it has, but for all the wishing, hoping and wanting, I came to see that this is my life. It is the path I have chosen, and it is the path I believe the Lord desires for me to remain on.
What does this mean for me?
I guess I am saying that for the future, my prospects for companionship are ended. I do not see any hope of a friendship developing that has the potential to last. I am saddened at that thought, but I am also pragmatic as well. I know myself, and I know my ways. I am here for a reason, and this life, this solitary life is what has developed after 30 years of marriage, three years of being single. I will never get married again, and I will never experience that life. However, while I certainly do miss the companionship, I also see that the road I am on is not for everyone. In truth, very few can walk beside me. I work 24/7/365 days a year, and I never stop. Well, I do stop, but I work around the clock to do the work assigned to me. I like to work, I guess. I enjoy working, and I love the way it makes me feel to work. I simply am not a "downtime" person. Though, I need rest. I do need some vacation time, but I really do love my work, and I love to work.
Perhaps it is my personality type. Perhaps it is simply the way I am wired, but I am most comfortable when I am working, 100% invested in my tasks, and simply consumed by what I do each day. I love to be engrossed, to be so fixed that I barely eat. I love to be this attracted to and in love with my work, and I derive a measure of pleasure from the whole process. There are very few people who understand the nature of what I do, how I do it, and why I do it. Even my parents do not understand it. They will say, "Carol, you work too hard" or "Carol, we don't want to see you spend all your time at the computer." I understand their concerns, and I get what they are saying, but I love, love, love the work I do, and I am passionate about it. I cannot stop until I am finished, and even then, the work never ends.
My friend said to me that all I do is grade, and well, this is true. I do grade. I grade A LOT. The grading never ends, and it is time-consuming. I don't have any free time, well very little free time, but I don't mind it. I don't mind doing what I do because I love the response I receive from my students. I love what I do. There is little more to say on that score.
So, as I close my year out, I accept the fact that I am a workaholic. I always have been this way, I mean. I can remember working 60-70 hours a week at ShareBase, Inc. (back in the 1980s). I worked this way when I was self-employed. I simply work. My son says that he doesn't know anyone who works as hard as I do, who is able to accomplish as much as I can, and who can manage so many projects at once. It is true. I manage a lot of data, and I love this work. I so love this work.
It is funny to think of it this way, but I am actually okay with this path. I really do not have any issues, concerns or worries about it. I like to work, and so long as the Lord provides the quantity and quality of work, I am good.
Making Some Plans
Another thing that I have accepted is the fact that my desires for moving are prompted by an inner longing to return to a childhood way of life. I miss my life in IL, and the funny thing is that while I wanted so desparately to leave it when I was 15, the truth is that I miss it terribly, and I wish I could go back and well, live it again. I know, wishful thinking. Let me explain.
When I left IL as a sophomore in high school, I had a circle of friends that brought me great joy and companionship. I was loved. I was accepted, and I was known, if that makes sense. My weird quirky ways were accepted by my friends, and as such, I was happy in that place. However, I also suffer horribly with abuse, at home and at school, and the peer pressure was strong back then. I wanted to be free from the pressure, and rather than stick it out, enduring it, I begged the Lord to move me. Now, I am not saying He moved me because I asked Him to do so, but shortly thereafter, my Dad came and told me that we were moving to CA. I thought, "My prayers are answered!" I so looked forward to my life in CA. I thought it would be better than IL, but when it came down to it, it was nothing like what I had back home. I never made good friends. I suffered even more abuse when I was isolated by my peer group. I suffered sexual abuse at the hand of a young man, and despite my experience, I found myself all alone without anyone to help me. I jumped into a relationship with my ex-husband, and well, that was a mistake from the start. Yet, through it all, I experienced a great renewal of my faith, and my devotion to the Lord depeened. Suffice it to say, moving to CA and the experiences there were life-shattering and life-forming. I grew up. I found my hope and reason to live in Jesus. In all, it turned out for the best.
Now, though, I see my childhood friends remain connected to one another, and I so miss their friendship. I know they think about me, that they are sincere when they say they miss me, and well, that thought cheers me. But, here I am, alone. Here I am all alone.
You see, it was back in CA when a youth group friend said to me quite caustically, "Carol, you don't have friends, you have acquaintances!" I know she meant well, but her words stunned me, and to this day, I think about her expression. She was right, of course. I didn't make friends. I collected acquaintances because you know, acquaintances come and go. You don't get hurt by acquaintances. You simply let them walk out your life without much fuss, and then you say, "Oh well, may they experience better times ahead!"
I am 55 years old, and I don't have any friends. I have many aquaintances, and the closest thing I have now to true friends is my study group from my doctoral program. I was blessed by these ladies, and I cherish each of them. I know them, and they know me, and well, it is a good, sweet distant friendship. Yet, I don't have any close friends here in Phoenix, and I think to myself, that perhaps if I moved back home, back to IL, I would meet some people who could be friends with me. But, then I know that with my work schedule, my choice of life, I would simply have more acquaintances, and not more friends.
To have friends one must be a friend, and well, I am just not very good at being a friend. I never have been, really. I was friends as a child simply because life forced us all together. I lived in the same neighborhood, went to the same school, did everything -- parties, summers, experiences -- with these 4 girls. I did life with them, if you can call almost eight years (from 9 to 16), life.
Now, I am at this age, and I wonder if I will have friends in my future. I know I will have to give up my work to have friends, but I also know that the work the Lord calls me to do is very important. I know that whatever happens, the Lord is with me. He is my Friend, my Companion, and as such, even if I do not share my life with another person (deeply, intimately), I will always have His enduring and guiding Presence in my life. Selah!
Thus, what I am trying to say is that I long to go home, to where I belong, to where I am accepted, loved, and where I can experience true friendship. For me, this place is in IL, my former childhood home because that is the last place where I had all those things. I get it now, I get the drive to leave Phoenix. It is not about my ex-husband, my parents, or my son; rather, it is just about me wanting something I can no longer have, and not being content to accept what is right in front of me.
I have made up my mind to be content right where I am. I am alone, and well, it is by choice. I live in Phoenix, again by choice. I work hard, almost non-stop, and this too is by choice. I have no friendships because I don't stop long enough to cultivate friendships nor do I desire to be intimate with anyone simply out of fear of abandonment (from my childhood experiences and my marriage). I am a mess in many ways, but I am a glorious mess as I have come to understand my inner workings, my mindset, and my leanings. I accept myself, my workaholic, single, isolated self, and I realize that the only one who can help me to change my way is the Lord. I am open to changing, but my fear must be replaced with faith, and I must learn how to let people in my life. I must learn how to live comfortably right where I am, no more wishing to run to someplace else, and in this way, I can fully accept all the wonderful gifts the Lord has in mind for me. I am choosing to remain in Phoenix rather than run away, and in doing so, I am asking the Lord to open a door for me to experience His blessing in friendship, companionship, and well, just life as He leads, guides, and provides it to me. Selah!
December 12, 2017
Making Sense Now
As I hung up the phone, closed the online meeting, I thought to myself, "Carol, you are an English teacher! Who would have thought this was possible?" No one, that is for sure. In fact, my English teachers from high school would be surprised that I was even a professional person. Most thought I wasn't cut out for college, and even after a so-so experience during community college, I even believed it. But, thankfully the Lord had other plans for my life. I returned to San Jose State, and after two and one-half years, I graduated with renewed hope that the Lord intended for me to do something special with my life. Now, many years later, I can look back and see the path I traveled, and I can understand that when the Lord calls you to follow after Him, sometimes He is specific in the way you go. So while I didn't follow Him exactly as He called me, I ended up doing the thing He asked me to do nonetheless. In fact, I was sharing this with a student and I said that the Lord called me to teaching, and as such, I believed from the time I was a child that I was supposed to be a teacher. First it was to teach Kindergarten, then Art in middle or high school, and eventually English in college. I can say that after a rocky path filled with many pot holes, I am now doing the very thing the Lord desired me to do all those years previously. Thus, it is true -- He does get His way! So long, I should add, as we are willing and agreeable to be used by Him, for His purpose, and we are open to letting Him lead, guide, and provide for us. Selah!
In all things, I look back over my life and I realize that God had a plan, and that His plan was good from the start. Had I listened, followed, and let Him lead me, I would probably be doing the very thing I am today, but I would have started a lot sooner, and I would have a very different outcome now at age 55. I don't mean that things wouldn't have happened the way they did, just that I would have had 20 so years of experience teaching college, and well, things would have been different for me. Sigh!
Nonetheless, I am where I belong today because He is relentless. He simply doesn't give up. He doesn't quit, and He pursues us not only for our salvation but also for our role in His great kingdom plan. You see, I do believe we all have special work to do, and while some of our work may be mundane, there are jobs set aside for each of us, and if we do not show up and do our work, there isn't always someone else to step in and do it for us. I know this is the case because I believe that God calls us to partner with Him in His ministry of reconciliation, and He doesn't make it up as He goes. He knows divine appointments are part of His repertoire. He knows who needs to hear His word and when, and while some people believe that things "just happen," I don't. I look up, I look to see the world and the marvelous heavens hung in perfection and I just know that God does cause all things to work together, meaning, that His plans are purposed, designed, and orchestrated for success! Therefore, I rest in the plans the Lord has for me because I know they are already in process, and they are coming to pass according to His design for my life and His purpose overall.
In short, my life today makes so much sense. I am doing what He wants, I am living exactly as He wants me to do today, and my future life is already planned out. I don't have to guess at it, to worry about it, or to even think I could mess up His determined will. I cannot. I am not able to thwart the plans of God. No, no matter how I may mess up, His will comes to pass. It is part and parcel with His sovereignty. He is sovereign, providental, and all-consuming -- always on, always ready, always knowing -- and there is nothing that surprises Him. I rest today in that particular knowledge. I am good because He is good and His goodness is manifested to me. All of this goodness comes to me as part of His goodwill for my life. I, in return, worship, adore, and obey Him. I follow after Him, and I do whatever He asks of me because He has my best in mind all the time.
"See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.
It is with joy, thanksgiving, and a wonder of blessing that I say this today: my life makes sense now. I see it all with such clarity. I know I am right where He wants me to be as I move forward over the next three-six months. I may not have the details figured out, worked out, I mean. But, what I do have is the assurance that no matter what, they will work out. Like without a hitch. Like perfect and planned. Like as they were designed and intended to do. I am good. I live a good life, and I experience His blessed goodness every single day of my life. I rest! I rest! I rest now in His goodness, His goodwill, and His good and perfect plan for my life! Selah!!
December 9, 2017
I cannot believe this is the case, but as I wrap up my very hard, very challenging, and very time-consuming semester, I am actually starting to feel excited about next spring. Yes, I know! CRAZY talk! I checked my schedule for spring, and as of right now, I have between 6-7 online classes set. I am still waiting to hear back on confirmation from Liberty University so my total course load may top out at eight (8), but since all these courses are online, I feel very confident that I can handle the workload.
In all, as I consider my options, I realize that it is very doable for me to teach online at multiple schools. Is it a perfect solution to my needs? Not really. It is hard to keep courses straight, to make sure I am not missing any deadlines, and that I am contractually in good stead at each school. But, I am thankful for the Lord's provision. I am really thankful for His gracious gift of good practical work.
It is December 9, and that means there are only 14 more days until Christmas! I am so excited to finally spend some quality time enjoying the holiday festivities. Last Friday, I attended "Winter Wonder 2017" at my church, Scottsdale Bible Church. Next Friday, I have tickets to see David Britton in concert at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. My son played piano for Winter Wonder and will be playing keyboards for David Britton. I am really happy that I was able to see him perform this year (I missed out last year).
Moreover, I hope to do some much-needed shopping this week since I will be off from school beginning on Wednesday. Of course, I have oodles of grading, but God is to be praised, I know I will complete it all. I will get everything done, on time, and I will be able to close out this semester with a grand finale! Boom!
My mind is beginning to clear, and I am finally able to see my next steps. Though my future is still a big unknown, I do have some confidence to know that with my work life settled, I can begin to think about my living arrangement and my desire to move to my own place. My parents cannot live on their own, and for the time being, we are settled here in this rented home. It is a good place, a good house, but I long to have my own place, my own life, and I really desire to have full control over my days. It is not that I do not have control, but rather, my life is intermingled with my parents, and as such, I cannot skip a meal (for example) without my decision impacting their life. I would like to be free to spend the evening out if I wanted to do so. The other day, I thought that I really wanted to just go to the mall after work. I wanted to do some shopping, and I thought it would be fun to walk through the mall, see all the Christmas lights and displays, eat somewhere there, and just enjoy the cheerful noise of the holiday season. But, instead, I rushed home to make sure my folks had dinner. I don't mind, but there is part of me that is longing to have that kind of freedom, to go where and when I please, and to simply be able to make choices that impact one life only -- mine.
I know that sounds really selfish, but I have been in the "parenting" role for a lot of years, and while I love being a Mom (and I do), I am ready to be my own person again. I am really ready to embrace my singlehood, to begin to enjoy the freedom God has given me. I want to go and do His work. I want to be involved in ministry and charity and other good pursuits. I want to have a real life again where I can enjoy hanging out with friends, going to the movies, and just generally doing "life" outside my home and my room/office. I guess I am saying that I feel confident the Lord does not intend me to be a hermit. He has never said, "Carol, you are to be a hermit." Rather, He has said I am to be in a relationship with others, enjoying the blessed conversation that happens when we all hang out and just enjoy friendship. I miss this aspect of life, I really do. I miss having friends and doing life in a community.
Now, I am thinking where I will do this "life." Will I stay here in Phoenix? My son is still set on attending Berklee School of Music in Boston, MA, and I am thinking perhaps I will move there as well. Not to Boston, but to the Boston area. I know he will not be there, technically, because the school is actually in Spain (his program, I mean), but I would really like to live somewhere else. I would like to live in another part of the country, and I would like to experience a different climate with changing seasons.
I am open to going just about anyplace in the USA, and with my work now online, that means I am able to live anywhere I please. Of course, I will only go where the Lord leads me, and I cannot go anywhere without His provision. Yet, I feel the pull to go, and while I must remain now for a time, I think that eventually, I will end up in a different state. I hope so, I mean, I do hope so.
I am befuddled at times because I have this deep longing to move, but at the same time, I feel this strong pull to remain. I cannot really explain it other than to say that what I feel inside is both a call to go and a call to remain. I often feel confused by this two-faced "push me/pull me" feeling. I ask the Lord daily to help me understand how I can go and stay. I don't want to do anything outside of His will, but I also don't want to miss out on any movement that could send me someplace super wonderful and exciting. Yet, I know that what He has said is clear -- I am to remain where I am for the time being and that although I have provision to live anywhere, I am not "free" to live anywhere I choose simply because there are factors in play. For example, one of the online schools I teach for has a requirement that faculty attends on-campus meetings. They make an excuse occasionally for conflict, but generally, they want you to meet with them regularly in a face-to-face manner. I have already felt the conflict when I have had to teach on campus and I couldn't attend these gatherings. Now, I see that this is key, and for that reason, I need to remain in AZ so long as I plan to teach at this school.
My other schools are truly online in the sense that they do not mandate that faculty live near the campus. I am free to live anywhere and teach as much or as little for each school. I like that freedom, but I do rely on my work from this one local school, and well, if I plan to stay in Phoenix, I have a much better chance of being hired someday as full-time online faculty. It would be a good thing, a very good thing.
As I sit here and think about my next steps, I cannot help but wonder if I should simply face the facts as they are (the practical approach) or if I should continue to look to the possibility of a different outcome based on facts that I do not have right now. I mean, do I say, "Well, this is what it is!" and then deal with it? Or do I continue to think that "all things are possible with God," and as such, I can hope for a different outcome simply because He is able to bring such an outcome to pass.
First of all, I was thinking to myself that I have everything I need here in Phoenix. We have good hospitals, I live near every restaurant I would want to eat at, and I have access to every service possible. Plus, I have high speed Internet -- Gigablast -- and really good service (no outages). More so, I have ready access to housing. Yes, purchasing a home in AZ is expensive, but after spending quite a bit of time looking at houses in the Midwest and East, I can say that to purchase a moderate home (4 bed, 2 bath) in a nice area (safe, suburban), the average cost is about $300-350K. Sure, inner city areas are less as are older homes (Vintage or Antique), but generally speaking, it is very difficult to find a home under this price range unless you live in a more rural area. The problem of living in a rural area is access to services such as Internet (spotty, satellite, or no coverage). More so, the cost to heat/cool a house varies from location.
In AZ, our utilities are high in the summer, but low in the winter. In some places, the costs are the same because you have to cool in summer due to humidity, and you have to heat in the winter due to cold. I guess you could say that here in AZ, the average cost of a moderate house (as above) runs about $300-400K. You can easily spend more like $450k, but it is not necessary to do so. Some areas are out of reach simply due to locality, but generally speaking, housing is the most expensive part of living here. Then there is the tax issue, and well, in AZ we have low property taxes. In Illinois, for example, the cost of a property might be low (under $200K), but the tax is often more than the mortgage. This is crazy!
So in all, as I think about moving elsewhere, I realize that I am in a pretty good place right here in Phoenix. I have everything I need except for my own place, my own home, and my own things. But, overall, I am in a comfortable home with a good environment. I am in a good way, and I am ready now to be settled.
I guess I just need to let my desire go. I need to realize that what is best for me is to relax and rest and to know that if the Lord desires to move me, He will do it. Until that time, I can take comfort in what is right in front of me. I am good, all around good, and I have a good life thanks to the Lord and to His goodwill toward me. He is good to me, always so good to me. Selah!
I am not 100% sure the intends to keep me here in Phoenix, but if I just look at what is in front of me, it seems clear that this is where the blessing is, and with that thought, I can take heart to know that so long as I am in this blessed place, perhaps it is best for me to be thankful for it.
December 8, 2017
So today is Friday, and this is my last official "Friday" on campus at GCU. I wrapped up my COM class yesterday and had some tearful moments as I said goodbye to these students. I had prayed on my way to class for the Lord to show me His goodness. I was tired yesterday, overwhelmed with my other work, and really feeling down about my life. I am in this very good place, I know I say that often, but the realization that I am leaving one school to transition to online so I can be of assistance to my parents, really hit me hard. I know it is the right thing to do, but part of me is so sad about this fact. Part of me is so very sad about what I see happening around me. In fact, I was driving home from campus, and the tears just started to flow -- I am sad to think that my parents are entering the last phase of their life here on earth. I don't know their end, as the Bible says, but I can see the signs, and I know that each day is a gift. It is precious and good, and that tomorrow could literally be their end.
As I said my goodbyes, I had several students tell me how much I meant to them, how I made a difference in their life this semester. I simply marveled at the goodness of God in that moment. I had prayed all semester for a chance to pour life into my students, and most days I felt so useless, so fake, so not GOOD. Yet, the Lord did something special, and praise to God, these students were blessed by the experience. My heart is filled to overflowing today as I think that I am making a far greater impact on the lives of my students that I realize. Selah!
This morning, therefore, I sit here and I thank the Lord for His best for me. He has provided a good life, a very good life, and I am blessed beyond measure. I have more work than I can handle, and I have bank accounts full to overflowing. I am in this good place whereby my needs are met with sufficiency. I have no lack, and praise to God, I do not see a lack in my future.
The Lord has promised good to me. He has promised me that I would always be well-covered, and He has given His covering in the form of good practical work, a lovely home, and a family to keep me company. Daily I know I am loved. I may not always like what I see, and I do experience frustration at times, but mostly I know I am where I am supposed to be. I am in this good, this safe, and this special place. I know my future is secure. I know my future is settled. I know what I will be doing for the next 15 years, and I know now how I will do it. I didn't before, I mean. I had hope that I would be an online English teacher, and I had hope that I would be able to support myself this way. But, I still was thinking there would be some campus work or that the Lord would bring me some faculty position in my field. Instead, He brought to me exactly what He promised -- multiple online teaching jobs -- each that pays well. And, while I do not have an office, per se, I do have what I need to do this work. I have a quiet space with which to teach and grade. I am looking forward to the day when I have a real office, with bookshelves, and where I can sit and look outside and see something other than a metal shed. But, until that time, I will do my work, this good work, and I will thank the Lord for His provision, His goodness, and His grace. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Selah!
My future is secure now. I see the path clearly, and despite the fact that I don't see one job as the "end all and be all" of my life, I do see a good future with secure potential. I see the hope of purchasing a house, paying my bills, and buying a new car. I see a simple life, nothing grand, but a good quiet life whereby I can do this work and begin to enjoy every single day, to cherish the days as a gift from God. More so, as I wind down my campus commitments, I can begin to treasure this special time with my son. He is 24, after all, and soon he will be graduated and off on his own adventures. I have little time to spend with him, and well, I am thankful that the Lord has provided a way for me to encourage him, mentor him, and enjoy his friendship during this last season of his college life.
Lastly, as I close this blog post today, I am reminded that God is a Faithful God. He keeps His promises, and He loves us so completely, forgives us eternally, and longs to be a friend and companion to us daily. He is always with us, and for this fact, I give Him praise. Yes, today, I thank the Lord for His abiding presence, goodness, and friendship. He is good to me, He loves me, and He is with me in ways I cannot even explain or describe. I am so thankful for His presence, this feeling of knowing He is always with me, and the results that come that enable me to hang on, to work hard, and to keep my faith to endure to the very end of time. He is good to me, always so very good to me! Selah!
December 7, 2017
In all, I have three online courses that are set to run through the end of January. I am feeling pinched, worried that I will not be able to keep up, but if the Lord has opened this door then so be it. I have said to Him before that I would teach whatever course He assigns to me. I will do the work He provides, without complaining about it. Right now, that means I have my two Regent courses wrapping up (week 7 of 8), and I have my four on-campus courses ending (week 14 of 15). In all, I will have a short break over the holidays, but Grantham will continue on a monthly basis (no break).
He is Good
I sit here and I marvel. What has the Lord done for me? I mean, earlier in the fall, I was wondering if I would be teaching on campus and online again. I felt the Lord was clear that I was to teach online only. I thought, "But, I don't have enough courses right now?" It was shortly thereafter that I received the call from Liberty to interview, and as of now, I am in "process" to be hired for spring work. If this school delivers, I should have more work than I can handle -- again -- more work than I can possibly do well. The Lord has blessed me with an overflowing coffer, so to speak. My cup surely runs over with His goodness and His mercy.
I am ready for a break, for sure, but I am also eyeing my first student loan payment that is due in a couple weeks. I need the cash -- BIG TIME! I need to make oodles of cash now, and I need to do it quickly.
As I think about that looming monthly debt, I realize that I can only do what the Lord assigns to me. I feel so out of things right now, sort of like my world is spinning out of control. For one, I am fully immersed in teaching English and not my field, Communication. I had hoped to be hired as faculty for COM at GCU, but that position went to someone else. Thus, as of today, I am teaching English only at four different schools (soon to be four). I teach Composition and Literature, just as the Lord said I would. I have occasionally taught Communication, but the Lord has been clear with me. I would be an English teacher, not a COM teacher. It is hard for me because my colleagues are all working in their field, teaching, and researching, and many are presenting at a conference. I am doing none of the above, yet I hold the coveted COM Ph.D. It is so weird, so very weird. Yet, I realize that this too is for a reason, and this is exactly what the Lord said would come to pass. I am an English teacher, and this is the "good practical" work I would do until I retire at age 70.
I am okay with this fact, but there is part of me that sees my life grinding to a halt while my peers are zooming past me. It is so hard to be overlooked, overshadowed, left behind. I must remember that this is for His praise, His honor, and yes, His glory. All I do is for Him, and the work I do is to bring Him praise. Always it is for His praise. So today, I sit here contemplating my life, and I realize that what I have asked for has come to pass. I asked the Lord for a way to work from home. I asked Him for permission to stay at home so I could be of more assistance to my parents. I asked Him to teach English and not Communications, and I asked Him to provide enough income so I could comfortably work and not "overwork" myself through the end of my teaching days. He has done this for me. He has answered my prayer, and I am receiving His blessed gift. It is not quite what I expected. It is not the fancy job with a title I had hoped for, but it is good. It is good to work, and I am thankful for it.
Now as I plan for my day, I think to myself, "Lord, what else is there for me to look forward to receiving?" I wonder what will be next? Will I simply teach from my bedroom all my days? Will I ever have a proper office?
My prayer today is to relax, to rest, and to recognize that His will is coming to pass and that He is making it possible for me to live a very good quality of life in a very good way. I don't have to worry about how He will do it, I just have to attend to what He has asked me to do. I do my share of the work; He provides the rest. I do what is asked, and I am faithful to do it well, and He blesses my effort. It is good. It is good. It is good. Selah!
As I close this blog post today, I say to the Lord, "Thank you!" Thank you, Lord, for your marvelous provision of grace, for your on-going support, and for your gift of blessing that covers my needs too well. May my heart and mind be transformed this day by the knowledge that I am well-covered, blessed, and in a highly fortunate position. May my days be as you order them to be, and may I rest now in your abiding presence and in the knowledge that you have your hand resting on me. I lack no good thing. He has me well-covered, and thus I say this day, "Thank you for your good, good gifts, Lord!" Thank you, Jesus!