April 20, 2018

Frustrated Friday!

Happy Friday blog world! It is a lovely day here in sunny and cool, Phoenix. I was outside emptying the trash this morning, and I thought that with the cool breeze, the air temperature felt almost "chilly!" It was so nice! Such a blessed change from our "sunny and warm" late spring days.

In truth, I am savoring the cool weather because I know that summer is right around the corner! Yes, it sounds odd to say that because in most climates in the USA, spring is March-May, and summer doesn't normally arrive until June. But here in the desert Southwest, summer begins in May. Our daytime highs will stay in the upper 90s and even the low 100s for most of the month. Then we hit the big triple digits in June, and for the next several months (July through October), we will have blazing hot daytime temperatures, clear skies, and bright intense sunshine. Life in the desert is not for the faint of heart. I guess it would be similar to any Northern Clime. I have friends in Northern MN, and they are used to 6-8 months of winter. They only enjoy a very brief spring, summer, and fall. But, a winter filled with cold, oodles of snow, and dark months is just a "normal" way of life to them.

I am finally used to the less than stellar seasonal changes. I miss the winter months, and of course, I really do miss the crisp autumns with the beautiful leaves and colors. I have grown accustomed to the long hot summers in Arizona, and while my heart still longs to move someplace very green, I am content now to remain where the Lord has me planted. Yes, I believe He has planted me in Phoenix, and while I still dream of white winters and crushing green summers, He has yet to move me anywhere but the desert.

This girl is becoming a western fixture, and despite the fact that I lived in other places during my childhood and teen years, I have spent my adult years in Northern California and Arizona. I am all West now, and while I do enjoy visits to other climates and especially to the Eastcoast, I just don't see my life as anything other than Wild and Western. Sigh!

Frustration and Faith

It is a good day, nonetheless, to give thanks to the Lord for His decision to plant me here. I feel that He has kept me in this wild place for a reason, and perhaps this West is my "wilderness journey," much like the wilderness the Israelites endured for 40 years. I don't know if that is His plan or not, but for the past 22 years, this is where I have lived, and it appears the Lord doesn't intend to move me from this place anytime soon.

I am okay with that fact. I mean, for a long time, I really was looking to move away from the desert for one reason, and that was to flee the memories that were made here. I don't have overly happy memories of living in Phoenix, and even though I can recall good times, many good times, the times that were "not so good" simply outweighed everything else. I have blogged about my first time in Phoenix, and about how I was received after leaving my home and family (which was so hard for me) without any pleasure or excitement. I felt I had given up everything to come here, but when I arrived, I was treated as if my desire and offering were not good enough. My sacrifice wasn't what was wanted. This was so hard for me, and it tainted my experience for many, many years. Later, I came to terms with the difficult life that was in this place, and I chose to endure it rather than enjoying it. Life wasn't easy, and for the most part, it really wasn't any better than it had been in San Jose. It was pretty much the same -- and of course -- I believed that the place was to blame. I didn't realize that the joy I was lacking was part and parcel of my inner life as well as my outer life. I was playing a game, not living or walking in my purpose, and despite my "brave face," I was living a lie. I pretended to be happy, but deep inside my soul, I was a wounded warrior, a suffocating misery, and I felt hopeless and abandoned.

I can remember those difficult and dark days well. On the outside, my life looked so good. I had a happy family, good extended relationships, and work that enabled me to stay at home so I could raise my son and even homeschool him. I was active in church, doing Children's Ministry, and I appeared to be surrounded by loving, supportive and caring friends. But, it was all a rouse.

My little house of cards began to crumble back in 2007 when my then ex-husband suffered a heart attack. Our marriage, which appeared to be so strong, was nothing but a weak structure built upon a shaky foundation. Even though both of us were Christ followers, our marriage was not built on His foundation at all. It was built on works, works of the flesh, and an oddly over-intense sense of obligation and duty. We "loved" one another -- not as Christ loved us -- but as was expected of two people who committed to doing so. Our relationship was predicated on the law, and our behavior and attitudes toward one another were determined by our willingness to "save face."

When our finances took a major turn for the worse, and we were already close to the poverty line, the stress of trying to keep a home, manage our "fake" life, and appear to have everything under control was too much for us to bear. I became severely depressed, even suicidal. My ex-husband refused to work, refused to do anything, and in time, chose to deal with his feelings and struggles through inappropriate relationships and wild spending and nights out with friends.

I was so alone, so very alone, and I managed to carry the burden for as long as I could before I found myself completely broken, shattered, and unable to cope. Things in our life didn't improve, because less than 18 months later, my ex-husband suffered another devastating illness, this time a brain hemorrhage, and what followed was a rapid decline into ruin. He began to outwardly seek other companionship, and he left me to deal with the devastation -- all of it.

I did my best to keep a roof over our heads, and even though I wasn't able to manage to forestall the foreclosure on our home, I did work hard -- very hard -- to make sure we always had food on the table. My son was clothed, and he continued with his piano lessons (thanks to my parents). He was homeschooled, and I managed to keep his life as normal as possible.

The saving grace in all this hardship was my relationship with the Lord. I have blogged about the fact that I returned to the Lord in 2006 and from that point forward, I began a new relationship where I surrendered fully, completely, and wholly to Him. I made Him my focus, and He helped me deal with the pain, the sorrow, and the abandonment. He helped me plan a future despite knowing what would eventually happen to me. I had no clue that my marriage would end after 25 years or that my ex-husband would ask me for a divorce. I simply didn't see that coming. I assumed that we had weathered so many storms, fought so many battles, and endured so many trials (legal, mostly), that there was nothing we couldn't handle together. I just didn't see the writing on the wall, so to speak, and I didn't realize that he had no intention of spending any more time with me than he necessary.

In January of 2010, we made the difficult decision to separate, and as I have blogged before, the decision while not easy was a huge relief to me. At the least, I felt that the Lord would provide for me. I felt relieved to not have to carry my ex-husband, his sinful behavior, and his attitude around with me. The weight was lifted, and though I was crushed at the thought of my marriage ending, in many ways, I also saw the end as a very bright light shining through a very wide open door.

Since that time, we have divorced. We are living separate lives, and we have each reaped the reward of what we sowed. In my case, I have found new life. I have a new purpose, a new calling, and a foundation that is squarely settled on His finished work on the cross. I seek no other relationship outside of His, and with His help, guidance, and provision, I have been able to create a new plan of action. In fact, just today, I took a look at my finances, and while I still have massive school loans and some debt from my many trips back East to take exams and such, my savings account is full to overflowing. I am not in desperate straits, and while I am not where I hope to be -- fully debt free -- I am making good strides toward that end. I don't own a house yet, but I do have a beautiful newer car to drive. My son is ready to graduate from college, and he is already employed to work at his school as an adjunct instructor. In all, the shambles of my former life is slowly being replaced with good things -- very good things. My attitude is settled, my heart is content, and even though I don't know what will eventually happen with my parents and their care needs, I do have the assurance that no matter what comes my way, the Lord will help me. He will never leave me nor will He abandon me to figure things out on my own. I can rest in His faithfulness and His steadfast care for me. He cares for me! He loves me! He has a great plan for my life! My future is secure in Him, and as such, I am able to be hopefully optimistic that what is planned will come to pass -- just as He has said it would.

I won't go into the details of what has happened to my ex-husband other than to say that his life has not improved. He is still suffering greatly with physical illness, and his prospects for recovery are not good. My heart breaks to see him suffer this way, and my love for him is still there. It just has changed from duty and obligation to agape love -- the kind of love that Christ has for each of us. I love my ex-husband for two reasons: one because God loves Him and died to save Him; and two, because I spent nearly 30 years (in total) married to him and through the hard and hurtful years, I saw that he, too, was a wounded warrior. He suffered greatly at the hands of many and was deeply and devastatingly wounded as a result. He simply didn't choose the best solution to his hurt. He chose to self-medicate, and while some do that with drugs and alcohol, my ex-husband did it with other addictive behaviors.

I pray for him regularly, and I maintain a friendly relationship with him. I pray that he comes to a full and complete surrender before he faces Christ at the judgment seat and that in the time he has left on this earth, he can be healed and made whole. I pray this with my whole heart because healing and wholeness are what Christ died to provide to us, and it is a FREE gift of grace. It is part of the salvation process and it is widely made available to all who ask for it. I wanted to be healed. I needed to be healed, and now that I am, I have such joy in my heart. I still struggle with depression, and I still find myself at times thinking rather dark thoughts. But, overall, I am good. I am happy (in that fleeting sense), and I am able to see purpose now where before I only saw pain. He saved me as a child, and He saved me as an adult. In the first case, I needed to be saved from the penalty of my sins, and in the second case, I need to be saved from myself and my own destructive behaviors formed as coping mechanisms (to handle the abuse of my childhood and teen years). More so, he is SAVING ME (progressive sense) daily as I lay my life at His feet and surrender to His overarching will and purpose for my life. I am being saved -- each day -- and for that fact, I am grateful, blessed, and yes, favored (as in awe that He would even do such a thing for a wretch like me).

In Closing

As I close this blog post today, I sit here and I think to myself, "What an amazing life I have!" God has truly reshaped and reformed my life, and now I am a different person. There are still shards of the old me left, but mostly these are deeply embedded aspects of my personality. Everything else has been made new. I am new, brand new, and my life is heading in a direction I never thought possible. He has given me a path to follow, and for now, that path is keeping me in the desert. I don't know if this is where I will remain permanently, but I see now that whether I am here or there, the plans He has for my life will come to pass. The place doesn't matter. It is the position I take -- surrendered at His feet -- and it is the passion that I allow to develop for the things that matter to Him. I am to do His work, for His praise, honor, and glory. There is no other purpose in life than to worship the LORD God Almighty and enjoy His blessed presence forever. Amen! Selah! It is so! There is no other way, no other way!

To God be the glory for the GREAT things He has done!

April 19, 2018

Thankful Thursday

It is a good Thursday in sunny and mild, Phoenix. Spring is in the air, and the mild weather is a nice change of pace. This week and most of next, the air temperature is forecast to be in the high 70s to low 80s. For mid-April, it is a STUNNER as they say. The temperatures normally are pushing mid-90s by this point, and with the warmer weather comes the thought of summer. I know! It is just too soon for summer, for sure!!

Many folks in the midwest and east are bracing for more snow, but here in the desert Southwest, it is business as usual. The skies today are blue with just a smattering of clouds in them. The sun is shining outside my window, and well, it is another lovely day here in the Valley of the Sun. As I sit here and blog (it is only 9:45), I am thinking about the way my life has turned out, how the Lord has brought such goodness, such restoration, and yes, beauty from the ashes of my life. He is good to me, so very good to me!
Spring Has Sprung!

It is April 19, 2018, and I am thinking that my spring is zipping past me so quickly that I haven't really had time to enjoy it. Just yesterday, I was out and about, running some errands, and while driving over to Scottsdale (near my old neighborhood), I started thinking that the days, weeks, months, and years are moving far too fast to enjoy them. As I maneuvered through the street traffic, I thought about the fact that I have been teaching online for almost two years now. WOW! More so, I marveled at the thought that this past January, I made the transition to teaching 100% from home just so I could be able to help care for my parents. Moving from campus to online has been a difficult transition for me, but I am getting used to the routine now of how to manage multiple courses and schools and meet all the accelerated deadlines. God has been so good to provide plenty of work to me. I am employed at four good schools, and the job volume seems to have settled into a manageable amount. Right now, I have seven courses in progress (two at Regent, one at ASU, and four at Grantham). I am in the process to be assigned courses at Liberty, but like everything they do, this process is taking a long, long, long time to complete. Sigh! In short, God has provided a way for me to care for my parents AND still earn a good income to care for my son and me.

The transition, however, has not been easy. It has been difficult to find a quiet place to do my work (I need my own space -- office, I mean). I also find that my days are blurring into one another, so having a set schedule is vital for my sanity as well as for my productivity. My daily routine has really changed, and that change has been more difficult to handle than I thought it would be. For example, I no longer drive to GCU every other day, and as such, I no longer have a set schedule (class times and days per week) like I did for the previous four and a half years. I don't have "prep" days anymore so my "to-do" is all about grading rather than presenting new lecture material. My life is different now, as I mentioned, and while I feel blessed to teach, I do miss my old life. I guess you could say that I am a creature of habit, and I don't do change well; I just don't always warm up to change right away.

The good news is that I am coming around to the benefit and the blessing of being able to work from home. I love the fact that I get to work with diverse students, mostly military. Also, I feel well situated in this environment, and the fact that I am helping these students achieve their goals and dreams for a life post-military is one of the reasons I smile each day. So while I do miss the on-campus hub-bub, I do not miss the drive or the standing and speaking that took such a physical toll on my body. More so, I do not miss the sameness of the courses (most semesters I taught ENG 105/106), and while I did come to love some aspects of these courses, after a time, I found the monotony of the curriculum boring (I had little control over the coursework). I longed for some variety, and at GCU, more variety and options for selecting courses were not always options for adjuncts.

Now, though, I teach such a variety of classes (some literature, some writing, some education) -- they are all different, all unique, and all written with different focus or intent. The variety makes what I do fun, and the students that move through my courses are constantly changing (thanks to an 8-week format). I really love the fact that each term is brand new.

Thus, while it feels sort of surreal some days to be teaching from home in my PJs, I firmly believe this is where God intends for me to remain. He has opened this door, and in this season of my life, it is a good fit for my skills (moreover, I appear to be doing a good job at all my schools, so that is testimony in and of itself). I am content to be used by Him to minister and to encourage whatever student population He deems best, and for now, this is the population He has chosen for me to reach.

He is good to me, so very good to me. Selah!

Endless Possibilities

With all this in mind, I think about the days and their speedy progression. I am without much control over my life, and the little control I do have consists of my daily routine. I struggle some days just to make sense of my world and reading the news, well, that just makes me sick. I face the uncertain future like anyone else, and I hope or try to remain hopeful simply because of my faith in God. I am wholly dependent on Him for His provision as well as His protection. He is my everything, and I rest and rely on Him for my every single need.

What is more interesting is that lately, I have become more nostalgic about my life here in Phoenix.  As I mentioned above, I was driving over to my old neighborhood yesterday, and I couldn't help but remember how I felt when I first moved here. I mean, I passed by one of the local elementary schools, and all I could remember is thinking that "perhaps someday" my son could attend this school (it was in a lovely area of Scottsdale). I remembered taking my then 3-year old to the school park to swing, and I remembered our first home nearby. My son was little, too little for school, but I had so many hopes and dreams for his life back then.

My mind was a flutter as I passed by all the old haunts. So many thoughts, so many feelings welled up inside of me. Mostly, I marveled at the traffic and the way the city has grown up around these pockets of homes. The homes still look the same -- lovely -- all decked out for April flowers and showers. This part of Scottsdale is known for its showy flowers each spring. I rarely venture over to this side of the city, but yesterday, the Lord put it on my heart to take a little drive, and well, this is where I ended up. It was lovely, just as I remember -- the petunias and the bougainvillea especially vibrant. I thought to myself that "this is why I love the desert!"

In truth, my thoughts about Scottsdale and living here in this area have changed recently. For many years, I hated this place. I loathed the desert. I detested living here, and I felt that my life was difficult and filled with such hardship all because I had moved here. Yes, I blamed this place, this horrible place for all the misery, for all the pain, and for all the trials I suffered in and through my personal life. I guess in some ways, I had a good reason. I had such high hopes when I moved here back in 1996. I believed (erroneously) that Phoenix was the Savior of my life. I believed that moving here would bring new hope and new life into a dying relationship. I wanted to move here to save my marriage. I wanted to move here to start over. I wanted to move here simply to flee the horror of what life had become in San Jose. Sadly, I was naive, and I was wrong.

Phoenix Rising and Falling

I had visited Phoenix twice before moving here, once in 1987 when I came for a business trip and visited my husband who was here at a sales conference, and then again in 1994-95 when I came to visit and help care for my Father-in-Law while my Mother-in-Law travelled to New Zealand to speak at a women's conference. Both visits pretty much confirmed to me that Phoenix and Scottsdale were spectacularly pretty places. The vista was not like anything I saw in California, and while it was definitely more rustic than where I was living in San Jose, it also was breathtakingly beautiful in a very wild way. More so, I believed that this city held prospects for a good future (cheap housing, clean living, good family areas, and such), and that it would be a better place to raise my child than in the gang-infested section of the South Bay where I lived (because that was all I could afford).

As I drove back to my old area, I couldn't help but think about those thoughts, and as the memories percolated up from the recesses of my mind, I found myself feeling wistful, sentimental, and in some ways, ashamed of my heart and my attitude. I mean, life was not a bowl of cherries in San Jose, and moving here to Phoenix, did offer some new chances for a better quality of life. In fact, if truth be told, our life did improve financially for a short while. When we left San Jose, our rent was $1300 per month (our friend had just raised it to $1500, which was way beyond our meager ability to pay). We arrived in Scottsdale, rented a lovely little townhome, and our rent dropped to $800. Later, we found a nice home in South Scottsdale, and our rent went up to $850, but we had gained a bedroom and a backyard. Later, we bought a house and our mortgage for a time was set at $600 per month. In all, we were in better financial shape, and for a time, our life appeared to be vastly improved over what we had back in Northern CA.

But as things often do happen, life intervened (so the saying goes). My ex-husband made some very unwise business decisions, engaged in some practices that put us at risk, and then began looking elsewhere for companionship. The rest, as they say, is history. In 2010, we separated. In 2011, I moved out, and then in 2012, our home went to auction (foreclosed). Our life, our hopes, and our dreams of a better future burned hot like a funeral pyre. In the end, I went my way, and my ex-husband went his way.

Phoenix Rising Again

Zoom forward to 2018, and well, so much has happened to the three of us. My ex-husband lives with his girlfriend and is suffering from a difficult disease that prevents him from doing the type of work he wants to do. I live with my parents and my son, and as I have blogged almost daily, seem to be recovering from the ashes of my former life. My life is getting better each day, and I am the recipient of His good favor, blessing, and continual approval. In short, I am recovering nicely despite the challenges and sad events of the previous 20-some years.

More so, our son is all but grown now. He will be 25 this year, and over the many years we have lived together (almost eight on our own), he has faced challenges, difficulties, and yes, even some hardship. He is a trooper, though. He is doing so well, and as I begin to think about my own next steps -- moving, living alone and so forth -- I cannot help but wonder what his life will be like post-college. I am excited at that thought. In less than three weeks time, my son will graduate with his bachelor's degree from Arizona Christian University. It has been a really long road for both of us, and so much of our life over the past seven years has been rocky and uphill. God has graciously provided for each of us, made a way for us, and cared for us, and now that he is about to move on to new venues, part of me is excited and part of me is scared at that thought.

I believe God has a great plan for his life as much as I believe He has a great plan for my life. I am well-set with teaching, and my son is well-set with teaching (and other work) as well. In all, we are positioned to have a good life. But, things are so unsettled right now, and there is much that is still not clear for either of us. For one thing, while I know the work I am to do, I still do not have a strong feeling about the place where I will live. I mean, I am good where I am, and things are OK for us (all of us -- my parents, my son, and me). But, long-term, this life cannot continue on, and as the days pass by, it is obvious that my folks will need another "solution" soon.

Yesterday was a good day for me. I mean, I spent the morning at home, resting and working on the computer. I took a drive later in the afternoon to clear my head, pray for my life, and well, just decompress from the stress I am under. In the afternoon, I completed all my work, and spent the evening, praise to God, doing what I love most -- chilling out while watching The Hallmark Channel. Yes, I spent the day in an easy manner, and I was able to rest in the evening with a good program ("When Calls the Heart," Season 5) that was uplifting and emotionally satisfying.

In all, as I reflect on my life today, and think about all that has passed by during the previous days and weeks, I am reminded of the truth of Scripture. God has promised to never leave us or abandon us. He is faithful, He is constant, and He is DEPENDABLE! I may not know what tomorrow will bring for my life, but I can say that for certain, it will be OKAY because my Heavenly Father is the One who controls all the events, details, and circumstances. Whatever I face, His will is good, and His best is intended for me. I can rest, I can relax, and I can remember the good and the bad in my life without reliving the past hurts or the emotional trauma. I can live free from my emotional connections, and in this way, I can come to a place of complete restoration and healing. In fact, it was just last week when one of our pastor's at Scottsdale Bible Church asked the congregation this question:

Do you want to be happy or do you want to be whole?

His message on Sunday was about the cultural saying, "Whatever makes you happy." His remark stuck with me because for so long I have sought happiness as the goal of my life. Yes, my happiness (joy and contentment) is in the Lord, but there was a part of me that longed for "happiness," that fleeting emotional feeling that simply makes you feel "good." In my world, that feeling equated with safety and security, but also with the assurance that everything would work out "right" for me. I wanted so desperately to be happy in my marriage, to have a happy family, a happy home life, and a happy future. Yet, I didn't get any of that happiness at all. Instead, I received hardship, lots of hardship. I was lonely most of the time, and I always felt insecure and even abandoned despite the fact that I lived with a husband who committed to "love, honor, protect" me from harm. I never felt safe or secure in my marriage. I never felt truly happy -- blissful -- like the Hallmark Channel says it should be. I never had a "soul mate," and in truth, I never really even had a friend in my husband. A friend loves you, cares for you, and looks out for you -- all marks that a husband (and a wife) should do.

So, the thoughts of happiness in my life, in things and in people, ended up disappointing me. I never was happy. I am still not happy. But, praise God, I am content, and I am good. Not in things -- people or places -- but in God alone. He is my joy, my source of contentment, and He is the One true thing in my life. I can count on Him. I can believe in His steadfastness and faithfulness, and I can rest in the assurance that in Him I am always, completely, and without any hindrance, safe. He is my King, my Shepherd, my Rock, my Refuge, and my Redeemer.
In Closing

My mind is somewhat nostalgic still today. I am remembering the good parts of the life I have. For now, I have good practical work to do (lots of good work). I have a nice temperature controlled home, and I have a future that is positioned to bring me prosperity. I am not happy, but that is okay. I am content. I am at peace. I feel rest, and I experience the joy of the Lord, who is my strength, my shield, and my provision, regularly (constantly). I know the plans He has for my life, and I know that He only desires my good -- my wholeness, my healing, and well-being. He is working out the details now as we speak, and in time, His plan will be revealed to me. Until then, I soldier on. I keep on "keeping on," and I remain faithful, obedient, humbled, and sweetly confident that my Lord is able to take care of my needs. He is able to handle whatever concerns me today, and in this way, I can experience the rising as His wings gently lift me from the ashes of my former life. Yes, I am rising again, being lifted up and with His constant care and affection, I am able to soar to new heights and to scale new mountains. He has made me whole, and for that reason alone, I bow before Him and I worship Him.

But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31, New Living Translation)

April 15, 2018

Slowing Down Today

It is a good Sunday in sunny and warm, Phoenix. I am sitting at my home computer, blogging a bit, while I wait for my church to begin at 11:00. I am not feeling well, sort of a stuffy head, ears, and nose. I think it was from my two driving trips north this week. The change in elevation and climate PLUS the change in the pollen has really caused my allergies to go into overload/attack mode. I feel fine, not really sick, just stuffy and like I am under water. Hopefully, this will pass without creating havoc with my immune system. I don't really need a cough/cold right now! Sigh!

My week was nice, despite the fact that my two days away from home really caused me to fall behind in my work. Still, it was so nice to spend time with a good friend and colleague up in Flagstaff. She and I met halfway to spend the afternoon together. It was so restful, relaxing, and restorative to spend time with her. I feel this way whenever I am with my colleagues from Regent. There is something about hanging out with other Ph.D.'s that really helps settle the mind. I guess it is because we are all in the same research/teaching boat. We understand what is required of us, and we manage so many tasks -- caring for families, trying to take care of students, and meet the requirements of our jobs. It is a lot of work, hard work, but we love the calling and the mandate, and well, we just do the difficult work regardless of the paycheck or fame.

Saturday, I drove my Mom up to Prescott so that we could attend my new niece's bridal shower. It was a windy day, hence the stuffy head, but so nice. The party was a huge success, and my new niece-in-law was really surprised. My sister-in-law, my nephew's Mom, came home with us, and we spent the evening together. It was so good to catch up on all her family's doing. Her kids are spread all over the US now, so we simply don't get to see them or hear from them as much as when they were all living in Southern CA.

This morning, I am in the house alone. My son is over at his church, doing his worship thing, and my parents and SIL are across the street at my parent's church. I am loving the peace and quiet. I really needed this quiet time just to recharge. This is my introverted personality, and all the go-go-going has taken a lot out of me this week. I love the quiet in the mornings, especially, and I love the fact that I can do whatever I want without anyone charging in and asking questions or wanting something from me. I don't mind, I mean, doing things for others. Please know this...it is just that I never get any time alone, and I need some "me" time each week. I like to spend Sunday mornings before church getting my week in order (the new week). I like to check my emails, get my calendar updated, and even pick up the house a bit, all before church. I don't know why this is the case, but I rest -- relax -- and I feel more at ease knowing that everything is good. My week prior has been closed or will be closed out by EOD and my week ahead is planned and prepared. It makes me feel somewhat in control, and the Lord knows how much a lack of control drives me into deep and dark funks. Yes, I am so Type-A and I am highly organized and productive because of my drive to be on top of my game -- always -- on top of my game.

Knowing My Limits

It has been a good week, as I stated above. I learned a lot about myself this week, mostly I learned that I am not as tough as I thought I was and that I am desperately in need of control over the minor details of my life. I also learned that in all my striving to perform, I can simply undo all the good that God has brought to me when I don't stop and rest. Like REST. I am speaking of both physical and spiritual rest, and this week, I felt the hard burn of a lack of physical rest, for sure. I also experienced struggles with spiritual rest, something that I normally do not worry about much, but for some reason, my enemy really was hard pressing me, and well, I faltered as a result.

Thankfully, the Lord was my ALLY and as such, He kept me upright through the trial. I am doing better today, but I am still not where I need to be, e.g. REST, yet. My prayer today is to let the battle go, and to remember the words from 2 Chronicles 20:15 (Amplified):

He said, “Listen carefully, all [you people of] Judah, and you inhabitants of Jerusalem, and King Jehoshaphat. The Lord says this to you: ‘Be not afraid or dismayed at this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God’s.

Yes! This battle is not mine, and I cannot win it on my own. This battle (spiritual) is the Lord's and thus, I must let Him lead the charge and defeat the enemy. I simply do not have what it takes to win this offensive. Yet, the Lord goes before me, and I do not need to be discouraged, no matter what appears to be on the horizon (Deuteronomy 31:8). I am reminded of the words of the Lord as recorded by Moses:

The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.

The fear and discouragement I feel today is part and parcel of my position in Christ. What I mean is that where I am today, as a Christ follower, simply reminds me that the testing and trials around me are part of God's provision for maturity. I am to be "conformed to His image and likeness" (Romans 8:29), and in order to be transformed and to become more like Him, I must undergo testing and trial. It is how diamonds are formed, you know. The beauty of the diamond only comes after millennia -- under extreme pressure. I am being made more like Him and in order to do that, I must endure the pressure of time, of commitment, of people, etc. These daily pressures, while somewhat managed by my need to control and schedule, cannot be completely managed. I must allow some of that pressure to have its intended result. I must be polished and made into the thing of His choosing -- the design, the quality, and the character -- of His Son, Jesus the Christ. It is painful, terribly uncomfortable, and at times, overwhelmingly difficult. Yet, I endure because He endured the cross for my sake. I endure because I know that in doing so I develop patience and persistence. I develop skills that will help me remain faithful and steadfast over the long haul. In short, I am where I am today because it is God's perfect design, plan, and providential decision that is it is GOOD for me to do so.

My fear gives way to my faith, and my discouragement is replaced with His commitment to me -- He will not leave me alone. He will be faithful to me. I can rest in this fact alone, that my God goes before me, and as Psalm 139:5 states, the Lord "hems" me in. Yes, he goes before and follows after us, and the blessing is that His hand rests upon us.

In closing today, I am reminded that the Lord is not a distant, impersonal being. He loves us deeply, cares for us completely, and longs to spend eternity with us. Thus, when I feel alone or overwhelmed, it is more a fact that I am not looking to, trusting in, and relying on Him. I am seeking my own way, or at the least, looking to my empty hands for the provision or my limited mind for guidance. I need to look up, as the Psalmist says in Psalm 123:1: "I lift my eyes to You, the One enthroned in heaven."

This morning, as I prepare for Worship, I sing the words of Psalm 5:

Give ear to my words O Lord
Consider my meditation
Harken unto the voice of my cry
My King and my God
For unto Thee will I pray
My voice shalt Thou hear
In the morning
O Lord in the morning
Will I direct my prayer
Unto Thee and will look up

Give ear to my words O Lord
Consider my meditation
Harken unto the voice of my cry
My King and my God
For unto Thee will I pray
My voice shalt Thou hear
In the morning
O Lord in the morning
Will I direct my prayer
Unto Thee and will look up

Give ear to my words O Lord
Consider my meditation
Harken unto the voice of my cry
My King and my God
For unto Thee will I pray
My voice shalt Thou hear
In the morning
O Lord in the morning
Will I direct my prayer
Unto Thee and will look up

O Lord in the morning
Will I direct my prayer
Unto Thee and will look up

Yes, O Lord, I lift my voice to you today. I direct my prayer to you, and in response, I look up and wait for your mighty hand of deliverance and your peaceful rest as I abide, trust, lean on and rely upon you. You are my God, my King, and my Savior, and today, I place my entire being -- all that I am -- into your faithful and caring hands. You alone are worthy to be worshipped, and it is to you, ALONE, that I make my requests! Selah!

April 9, 2018

Monday, Monday...

It is a good Monday here in sunny and warm, Phoenix. The skies are blue, and the air is mild and pleasant. It looks like it is going to be a really good day! I am sitting at my desk, drinking my first cup of coffee for the morning, and frankly, feeling the burn, so to speak, from the late night hours. I have been working until 12-1 a.m. the past couple nights as I play catch-up on grading and student discussion interactions. Yes, such is the life of an online professor! In truth, I prefer campus interaction because it is easier than what I must do to show my presence in the classroom each week. Still, I am not complaining. I am thankful for the good practical work that the Lord has chosen to provide for me. I am good. I am good. I am tired
but so very good.

News and Notes

I had a good weekend. I did do a lot of grading, but generally, the weekend was nonplussed. I didn't have any major issues to contend with and I was able to check off every task on my to-do list before Sunday evening rolled to a close. I feel accomplished, I feel good about my productivity. I am struggling to manage my time some, but I hope to get a revised plan in place this week, and well, then I will be set to begin my summer! Yes, it is weird to think that next month, around the middle of May, most schools begin their "summer sessions." I am already set to teach British Literature at Regent, and more than likely, I will receive a summer offer from Liberty (we will see!) I will receive contracts from Grantham for the summer, and I pretty much can count on two contracts at a time from this school. I am not sure what the need will be at ASU, but whatever the need, I am ready to accept the offer they provide.

In truth, I will accept all contracts offered to me. The Lord has graciously provided for me, and I have committed to Him that I would accept all work -- and I would trust Him -- to help me meet the requirements and excel at the tasks at hand.

So far, He has been faithful to keep me well employed. I am thinking I would like a bit of a break, but I am not willing to let any opportunity for income pass. I trust Him to keep me well, and I know He will not overload me or make my life so miserable (with work) that I lose my joy, my peace, or my focus.

As I move toward summer, the Lord has placed the idea of writing a paper on my heart and mind. I don't have the topic just yet, but it will be a published paper, and I will need to spend some time this summer working on the research or literature review in order to make submission deadlines for fall. I don't know the discipline yet, but I am thinking it will be in English and not in Communication. I await His lead, and I look forward to writing scholarship again soon!

In other news, I think I am losing weight! WooHOO! I started Atkins last Friday, and while I haven't really done that well over the weekend, I have noticed a drop in weight already. More so, I have noticed some of the symptoms of ketosis (smelly urine, for example -- weird metallic smell) and fatigue. I did drop 2 pounds, so the scale says, and today, I am anxious to see what, if any, change has occurred since Saturday. I know I am losing water, which is what always comes off first, but that is okay. I have felt pudgy and bloated, so even losing water is such a blessing to me. My goal is to hit the weight loss trail hard and see some significant change between now and my nephew's wedding in June. I hope to lose 10% of my body weight, and yes, that means 16 pounds of fat! I know I can do it. I've done it before, and while Atkins works well to jump start my loss, I am really thinking of turning back to my old standard WW for long-term success.

I lost 35 pounds on WW back in 2001. I was on the program for a year and it worked for me. I lost about 16 pounds during the first four months of the program (4 pounds per month), and then I lost the remaining weight over the rest of the year. In all, by my 1 year anniversary, I had dropped 4 dress sizes, and I was back to my youthful and pre-pregnancy weight.

My plan this time around is similar. WW says a good goal is to tackle 10% of your body weight at a time. This is a small, yet reasonable goal and most people can actually do it with consistent application of the program. I am using Momentum, the old, old, program that I used back in 2001. It is no longer part of the official WW, but you can find the calculators as well as points for most foods online. I use a website called http://onemorepound.com/ to help me track foods. I don't have a tracker, though I have download several APPs that do track points. I am simply writing my foods down to keep my points and remind me of where I am each day. I have used both MyFitnessPal and Atkins to track foods before, but frankly, I think writing down what I eat is easiest and best, at least for the short term.

I am also trying to work out, and while I haven't started at the gym, I am ready to do it. I bought some new clothes to wear, and now all I need to do is just GO and do it. I wanted to start today, but since I am feeling so fatigued, I think I will start tomorrow. I do have weights and plenty of DVDs here, so I have no excuse for not working out, LOL!

In other exciting news, my son is set to graduate from college. I am so proud of his effort. He has been "in college" since 2011, and after 7 years, four-degree changes, he is finally going to get his Bachelor's degree! I know, I know -- crazy, right? Well, he started at the CC when he was still in high school, and he attended for two and a half years (two were free). He didn't graduate with his AA like I had hoped, but he transferred to our state school for one year of not so great experience. After a disappointing year at ASU, he ended up at Arizona Christian where he has done well (not great as in all "As" but well). He had to make up a minor degree in Bible, hence the extra years, and now he will graduate with a BS in Music Technology. In the interim, he has come to really develop his skill as a musician and technologist. He has also become a teaching assistant, soon to be an adjunct instructor. More so, he has found his niche and now works part-time as their sound engineer for all major events and chapel. But, what is really wonderful is that he has come to a place of ownership, of his skills and abilities, but also what I call his "God-breathed" talent. He is a dedicated musician, but he also has a special ability to present music and art in a way that creates intimacy and releases worship. I cannot really explain it other than to say he has developed a style that "help" people get into worship. I am so pleased that God is using him in this way. A case in point is his final concert that is on the 26th of this month. He showed me his concert flyer that he made and had printed, and I was blown away by the beauty and composition of it. He also had me listen to his music for the concert, and again, I was so amazed at the quality and the content of it. He has grown as a musician, a student, a Christ follower, and a man through his time at ACU. God really knew what He was doing when He opened a door for my son to attend there on scholarship. I give all praise and honor to God for His blessed and provision of education!!

In Closing

As I close this blog post today, I cannot help but sense that God is moving and beginning a new work in my son's life as well as in my life. I have been overwhelmed, depressed and oppressed lately, and as Joyce Meyer says, "when you feel beaten down, hang on because your breakthrough is about to happen!" I feel that what is coming at me full-steam ahead is something marvelous and wonderful. It is more than I can comprehend, but God knows what He is doing. So while I am still panicked over my tax bill, and I am still unsure how I will teach all the classes He is providing to me, I believe that all of this big UNKNOWN is going to be made clear in very short order. I trust Him, yet I do not see how things will work out. I believe He is able, in His power, and through His sovereignty to make a way that seems hidden. I am resting in His finished work -- in my life -- and I am letting Him take the lead in every area. What He desires, wants, and plans are exactly what I desire, want, and plan (as in implementing). He is good to me, and I am amazed and in awe of His goodness, His good work in and through my life today.

April 8, 2018

Sunday Musings

It is a good Sunday here in sunny and warm, Phoenix. The skies are clear, the air is warm, and there is a sweet breeze that makes the morning seem oddly perfect -- for April -- I mean! My good friends in Illinois are bracing for more snowy weather, and frankly, the fact that it is going to be near 90 today, doesn't really bother me at all. In truth, I am content to remain where I am planted, and even though I prefer to bloom elsewhere, with trees and green lawns, I am willing, agreeable, and yes, content to remain right here in the Valley of the Sun.

Phoenix, by all accounts, is a lovely place to visit mid-Spring. It is sunny and mild, warm even, and if you love to golf or play tennis, then this is the place for you! Of course, you also have to enjoy the heat, and soon enough, we will hit the 100 mark. In fact, I believe within the next 10 days, our forecast is to reach near 100 (98-99, I think).

I am more of an all-weather girl, but I admit that I don't like being cold. I grew up in cold places like Rochester, New York and Chicago, Illinois. But I also lived in warm places, too. I spent the majority of my life in California (21 years) and now in Phoenix (22 years). So, I guess you could say that I am more of a warm and sunny girl than a cold and snowy girl!

It's ME Time!

For many years my tagline under my email was "Warm and Sunny." I am not sure why I did that, but I simply signed my posts this way. I changed it a number of years ago, but now I am thinking of embracing my warm and sunny moniker again. I am embracing the ME that is, and that means to embrace the parts of me that often remain hidden and overshadowed.

I decided to do this the other day. I was having a rather Fitzy start, and I was frustrated with my progress. I was trying to do my best, but I was feeling less than achievement motivated. As I struggled to figure out what was wrong, I decided to rearrange my room, work on my desk area, and make my workspace more conducive to the life I have now, the life I have as a professor. I asked my Dad for some help, and while he was willing to help me, he wasn't really agreeable to it. I mean, it was like he begrudgingly would help, but when he started to quiz me on details and I started to explain, he simply became annoyed at the lack of details I was providing to him (details I didn't have yet). He was not in a mood to help, and I could tell it was so. I realized right then that I need to be on my own, you know, alone. I love my parents, and I see their needs, but frankly, this almost 56-year old girl needs to be in her own place and take full ownership of her life.

The weekend has been busy so far, and now I see that the time has come to move on. I mean, I cannot do it now, right now, but I need to do it soon. I am not sure how this will be, how the Lord will provide, but I am ready to move, to go, and to live in my own way, with my own things, and under my own authority. It is hard to share a home with family. Especially when there are too many chiefs and not enough Indians as they say.

As I came to terms with my decision yesterday, I realized that I have been short-changing my life by giving up and in so as to remain in a good relationship. I have compromised so much just to keep our home life mellow. I don't want to compromise anymore, and I don't mean that I am not willing to compromise, oh no! What I mean is that I would like to see some mutual submission, which is what the Bible asks of us all, especially as we live in community with our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are to mutually submit, to yield, and to desire and want what is best for others. I do this now, but I don't always get my turn at what is best if that makes sense. In short, I am taken advantage of and living with less than I need and while that was okay when I was a graduate student, it is not okay now that I am a fully employed professor. I need my own place, my own space, and to do my own thing. I am ready, I am so ready to be released and set free.

In all this thinking, I am starting to see my life as it should be. I remember when I felt the pull of freedom the first time. It was shortly after my ex-husband dropped the bombshell on me that pretty much ended our marriage. He was dissatisfied with our marriage and he wanted out of it. After 25 years, he wanted a different lifestyle. I was left with all the shattered remnants, and I remember thinking, "what now?" The Lord provided a way for me then, and He gave me a new lease on life. I had to walk through the dark and difficult days that lead to our eventual divorce and my moving out, but He gave me a new vision, new purpose, and new goals to seek and achieve. In the end, I began to see that my life had far more good in it, and there was far more good to be had in the days and weeks and months to come. I simply had to trust Him, follow Him, and allow Him to lead, to guide, and to provide for me.

Freedom never tasted so good.

I regret the loss of my marriage, I do. I regret the damage that was done as a result of his actions and choices. But I do not regret the growth that has come as a result nor do I regret the way in which I have developed as a human being, a Mom, a daughter, a sister, and yes, a professor. I am a new person, born out of the fires of a destroyed marriage, and as a Phoenix, I have risen from the ashes of my old life to live a new life predicated on His will and His work.

Paul wrote in Galatians 5:1 (Berean Study Bible), "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not be encumbered once more by a yoke of slavery." His words echo those of Jesus who reminded his disciples that the Master can set any slave free. In John 8:36 (Holman Christian Study Bible) we read, "Therefore if the Son sets you free, you really will be free."

Jesus came to set the captives free. In Isaiah 61 (Message), we read the prophetic words:

The Spirit of God, the Master, is on me
because God anointed me.
He sent me to preach good news to the poor,
heal the heartbroken,
Announce freedom to all captives,
pardon all prisoners.

I am free today from the penalty of my sin because the Son of God came, lived, died, and rose again to set me free. What is more (if there could be more) is the fact that in freedom, I now have the daily grace to cover my actions -- my thoughts, my words, and my deeds -- and I live in total and constant freedom. I am redeemed and as such I share a blessed relationship with Jesus, my Savior, and my heavenly Father. The Son has set me free spiritually, but I experience that freedom in every area of my life.

I am no longer a slave to sin. 
I am no longer tied to a human master who commands and directs me as he wishes or desires.
I am no longer obligated to perform service, duty, or obeyance to people as they demand it of me.
I am no longer required to live a certain way, to remain a certain way or to look a certain way.

I am free to be me, and it feels so good!

But as Paul said in Romans 6:1, we are not permitted "sin just so grace may abound." This simply means that while I am free from the tyranny of headship, lordship, and ownership, I am not free to do whatever I want whenever I want to do it. No, not at all. My Lord is my Head. He is my Authority, and His word guides -- is a lamp to my feet (Psalm 119:105). This means that as His follower and child, I am to submit myself "willingly" to earthly masters. I am to give my allegiance to the government set over me for my protection. I am not to bow down to my masters here or consent to do anything that contradicts or invalidates the word of God. I am to remain humble, and to yield and submit as it proper, especially when it concerns others in the Family of God.

I take my freedom as a great gift, and I use it with grace and dignity. I don't lord it over others, and I don't ravage it, misuse it, or apply it in ways that God has said lead to temptation and sin. No, I am respectful of it, and as such, I realize that the freedom I live in today was bought with the most precious price possible -- the very blood -- the very life of Jesus, the Messiah, the Christ.

Freedom Means to Me

The dictionary defines freedom as "the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint." This definition suits me well. I lived for many years in an environment where my rights to be myself were constrained. I was told how to dress, how to speak, how to live, how to work as well as hindered from doing what God called me to do. I lived in shame, and most of the time, I felt unwell, depressed, and anxious simply because I couldn't be myself. I had to hide who I was because my ex-husband's family didn't like the rough parts of my personality or they simply didn't agree with the Holy Spirit's gifts and leadings in my life. Thus, I lived in the shadows of others, feeling oppressed and as if my life wasn't valued or worthy unless I did exactly as I was told.

Those boundaries have been shattered, and the barriers that kept me from following the Lord completely have been broken down and removed. Now, though, I still will engage in this self-defeating behavior. I will choose to be placed under another's yoke in order to avoid conflict. I will choose to be agreeable despite my own inner feelings and objections.

The Lord has set me free -- from sin; the penalty, the power, and soon (someday) the presence of sin. This means that I have been called to walk in the light, no longer flirt with the darkness and that I must stand in the purchased freedom that He gave to me. I cannot go where others desire I go nor can I do what work others think is best for me. More so, I cannot live my life as others think best. I must only do as He asks of me, and that means to live in His presence, day in and out, and in doing so, I listen, heed and follow His word, His commands, and His guidance as He seeks to use me in a way that not only pleases Him but also accomplishes His specific will for my life.

Change is good. Change is welcome. Change opens new doors, brings new opportunities and presents new challenges. It is good, all good, and with change, there are new vistas to scan, new horizons to see, and yes, new places to explore.

I am ready to embrace the life the Lord has for me, marked out for me. I am ready for His hand of blessing to fall upon me, and for His door to beckon me to open. I am ready, Lord, ready to be used as you desire and used for your glory, praise, and honor. I am ready to experience whatever change you have for me, set out for me, and while change generally causes me to feel uneasy, I am trusting you, believing in you, and remaining firmly in you so that I can process these changes and move through the days ahead. I want to experience this new life, this new way, and I am ready to let go of the past and past things so that I can receive all the new, the good, and the wonderful things you have ready for me to receive.

I ask now, Lord, that you would prepare my heart and mind for this new life. Make whatever changes you have in mind, and make me moldable, changeable, and shapeable as your mighty and merciful hand sculpts and fashions me. Not for my name or praise, but for your Name and Praise only. You are God, and I bow before you today to worship, to praise, and to submit to you!

As  I close this blog post, I am in awe of my God. He has promised to never leave me nor to abandon me. Yet, there are days when I feel so alone, so alone and so afraid. He calls to me, He reminds me that He is with me and that I must remain steadfast, steady, and faithful. He is with me, and I give Him praise for His constant presence. I know that what must pass is difficult. I know that the path I am on is not easy, not smooth, and not always carefree. It is hard, it is rough, and at times, it is a far climb to reach the peak, but I walk on, resting in Him, trusting in Him, and believing in faith that He is guiding me, leading me and that yes, He is providing for me. I am cared for, loved, cherished, and wanted. He has a good, no a GREAT plan for my life. I am ready to embrace that plan, to begin for that plan to come to pass and to do the things He has promised me that I would do.

Psalm 145
A Psalm of Praise, of David.

I will extol You, my God, O King,
And I will bless Your name forever and ever.

Every day I will bless You,
And I will praise Your name forever and ever.

Great is the LORD, and highly to be praised,
And His greatness is unsearchable.

One generation shall praise Your works to another,
And shall declare Your mighty acts.

On the glorious splendor of Your majesty
And on Your wonderful works, I will meditate.

Men shall speak of the power of Your awesome acts,
And I will tell of Your greatness.

They shall eagerly utter the memory of Your abundant goodness
And will shout joyfully of Your righteousness.

The LORD is gracious and merciful;
Slow to anger and great in lovingkindness.

The LORD is good to all,
And His mercies are over all His works.

All Your works shall give thanks to You, O LORD,
And Your godly ones shall bless You.

They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom
And talk of Your power;

To make known to the sons of men Your mighty acts
And the glory of the majesty of Your kingdom.

Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
And Your dominion endures throughout all generations.

The LORD sustains all who fall
And raises up all who are bowed down.

The eyes of all look to You,
And You give them their food in due time.

You open Your hand
And satisfy the desire of every living thing.

17The LORD is righteous in all His ways
And kind in all His deeds.

The LORD is near to all who call upon Him,
To all who call upon Him in truth.

He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him;
He will also hear their cry and will save them.

The LORD keeps all who love Him,
But all the wicked He will destroy.

My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD,
And all flesh will bless His holy name forever and ever.

April 3, 2018

Change is Difficult

It is a good Tuesday morning in Phoenix, Arizona. I am sitting at my desk on this sunny and mild day, thinking about my life. Yes, I am THINKING about my life, and in specific, all the change that has taken place over the past 8-10 months. I mean, I am in this very good place, but my life has been hacksawed and torn up, so to speak. My routine has been upended, and my pace, my purpose, and my entire focus has shifted from graduate student -- bent on graduating -- to graduate and working professional. I know it should seem like "easy street," after all, no more classes, studying, exams or papers, right? But, there is something comforting about routine, about knowing your end, where you will go next, and that the process you follow is the same. Let me explain...
Dark Days and New Ways

I can remember how I felt when I passed my qualification exams in February of 2016. It was like I was so relieved to have passed my exams, and I was so excited to begin my dissertation. Yet, there was a part of me that was scared straight, as they say. I was afraid of what lay ahead of me, and the comfort and routine of taking classes and working part-time, well, it was all behind me. At this point in my graduate career, I had completed ten years of post-secondary education (four with a Bachelors, three with a masters, and three with a PhD). I worked during this time (the latter part, I mean), mostly part-time, but for almost three years, I held down a full-time position. Needless to say, my life revolved around my school schedule. I had classes to take (two at a time), and I had my residency with Regent each summer for three years. Thus, my entire life was ruled by my goal to graduate with my PhD in Communication.

My life was in gear, running smoothly, and my days, nights, and weekends were filled with my assignments. I checked everything off my to-do list daily, and in the end, I prepared and passed my qualification exams. As I looked down the road, I could see the end in sight. I had to propose, write, and defend a major research project and then once I did, I would graduate from school. The process of switching gears from student to researcher was hard for me. I lost my balance for a while, but thankfully, I still met with my small group and my dissertation chair regularly, so I wasn't completely cut loose and left to float on my own.

However, after all the push, I did complete my final research, defend it successfully, and I matriculated out of school in May of 2017. I graduated. I ended my academic career on a high note, graduating with a 4.0 GPA and a really stellar research paper. But, I was also let down. So let down. All that hard work, and for what?

I know, sour grapes. Not really, I guess what I mean is that as I finished what I believed was the penultimate experience of my life, I simply stood on the mountain top and said to myself, "Is this all there is?" and "What is next for me? For my life?"

I don't know if you have ever achieved such a high goal and felt this way, but I can tell you it is a mixed bag of emotions. I felt so happy, so glorious happy to have finished, to have completed what was the impossible, and at the same time, I also felt so sad that my journey was ending. I didn't feel positive about my next steps, and my future seemed so "blaise" compared to what I had just worked so hard to complete.

At first, I assumed it was the natural deflation that happens after a big success. But, now I think it is akin to the feeling of changing gears, and the changing process that occurs as life ebbs and flows. I wasn't prepared for the depression. I wasn't prepared for the feelings of unworthiness or the feelings that my life suddenly had no real purpose. My friends and colleagues seemed to rebound better than me. They had families, children to look after, and new jobs to start. I simply returned to my work, my good and practical work, but I had little focus, little to-do each day other than "grade." In short, I felt that my hard work netted me nothing of great value except for a boatload of debt.

I was happy for my colleagues who seemed to move on so easily. They all went back to work, changed jobs (some were hired as full-time faculty), and mostly they seemed happy, content, and relieved to have graduate school over and behind them. I simply felt overwhelmed. I was still teaching as an adjunct instructor, and I had no real prospects lined up for full-time work. What was more was the fact that the Lord seemed to be content to let me remain as an adjunct. In fact, I received two more schools after graduation -- Grantham University and Liberty University -- thus netting me four part-time positions. As a result, my income improved without my status as professor changing. This outcome, while such a blessing, seemed to foreshadow more depressed thoughts. I mean, was I to remain as an adjunct, never to be promoted to full-time status? How sad, how anticlimatic!

In the end, I have "endeavored to perservere" (as I say to my students). I have stayed on the path where the Lord placed me, and I focused on what was right in front of me. I stayed the course, so to speak. I didn't deviate from it. I didn't try to figure things out on my own. I just have waited, patiently, waited for some new plan, new purpose, new way to go.

Recovering from the Darkness

I think what has been most difficult for me is the depression. I really didn't grasp how depressed I was until the other day. I was dealing with my tax issue (ObamaCare), and I spent almost three hours on the phone with various IRS agents, trying to make sure I did my taxes correctly (I did, sigh!) The whole process of paying a very large tax bill has really hit me hard. I felt so miserable, even though the last agent I spoke with gave me some advice that I think was God-sent. I don't know if she was a Christian or not, but she was kind to me, and very gentle in her approach. She simply said to me, "Carol, you have done nothing wrong. You did exactly what you were supposed to do. You just got triple-whammied by your change in household, income, and the ACA penalty." She went on to say, "A lot worse could happen, so just do what you can do, and don't let this bother you." I know she was trying to make me feel better about having to pay such a major tax bill, and in hindsight, I do think she spoke words of life into my deflated soul. I mean, there is nothing I can do about my tax bill.

As I reflected on her words, I came to see what she was saying to me: I was socked with the high bill because my head of household status changed (I lost my dependent), my income improved (praise God!), and I nolonger qualified for subsidy for ACA (the rub -- even if I did qualify through most of the year, the fact that I earned more in the 4th quarter simply invalidated the rest -- it is the law!). Thus, as I hung up the phone, I was still steaming about the debt, but I also realized that this lady was telling me the truth. This wasn't my fault. I didn't do anything to cause it. It was one of those unfortunate circumstances that happens to all of us. I didn't see it coming at me, and now that it is here, while I don't like what is happening to me, there is nothing I can do but REMAIN. I must endure this trial. Yes, I have to go through this trial, and with the Lord's help, I will come out on the other side free and clear of debt.

In Closing

Yesterday was so dark, so difficult. I really had horrible feelings running through my mind. I countered them with the word of God, and I did recover my sense somewhat, but frankly, I felt as if my entire life simply crashed, came to a brickwall, and while I had survived, I was left I was broken and bleeding.

Today, I feel better. Still not wonderfully happy, but better. I see that this is the nasty side of life. More so, while I believe God is good, and that He has such a good plan for my life, I also know that there are times when He doesn't remove us from the challenges of life. Sometimes, He uses these challenges to sharpen us, to hone us, to make us mature. I don't like this part of the process, the transformation process. I don't like the way it feels. I don't want to endure. I want to be released. I want streamers and party poppers and all the glitz and glam that comes with the joy of the Lord. I want to be happy all the time, and I don't want to deal with these problems -- these kinds of problems. Yes, I want all the cream, and none of the curdle.

Sadly, what I want is not real life. It is a fake, surreal life that is manufactured for television, LOL! I want my good life back. My happy, rock solid, and easy-peasy life back. But, this is not to be. The Lord has purposed me for better days, and He does have a good plan for my life (Jer. 29:11). I have to be strong and courageous (Josh. 1:9), and I have to stay fixed (Matt. 6:33). I have to not give up, not yet anyway. I have to stay this course, remain faithful, and continue to trust in Him, rely on Him, and place all my faith, my tiny nutshell of faith in Him, and in His abilities to do what He does best -- rescue us, perform great miracles, and make wonderfully awesome things happen. He is able, I believe it. He can help me. More so, He will help me. He will hold my hand through the next weeks, and He will guide me and help me to know what to do. If I need a person (a counselor) to help me with my tax issue, He will bring one to me. If I need someone to give me support, He will provide them to me -- out of the blue -- He will open doors, shower me with His presence, and I will be able to endure. I will be able to remain as He has called me, commanded me, and created me.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phil. 4:13), and even on dark and bleak days when I feel so overwhelmed, I remember the words of David who said in Psalm 61:2, The Message:

For wherever I am, though far away at the ends of the earth, I will cry to you for help. When my heart is faint and overwhelmed, lead me to the mighty, towering Rock of safety.

Oh, yes, Lord. Today, I need to go to the ROCK of SAFETY. Today, Lord, I need to run into your mighty and towering Rock. Save me, Oh, Lord, and keep me safe. I cry out to you, and I place my entire hope and faith in You and in you alone! Selah!

April 1, 2018

He is Risen!

Happy Resurrection Day! It is good Sunday here in cloudy and cool, Phoenix. The skies are gray, but the air temperature is mild. It is an odd day outside, but the Lord's Day is always blessed, and today being, Easter, is doubly-blessed. I am giving praise, honor, and adoration to the Risen Lord, Jesus!

I wish I could say that I feel as well inside as I do on the outside. I was all set to attend early morning services with my parents today, but instead, I remained home due to either a migraine (alone) or some bug (hoping it is not the case). I got up, dressed, but a headache and an awful nauseated feeling would not go away. I ended up back in bed for three hours until they returned home after church and brunch. My head still hurts, but not as bad as it did last night and this morning. I was able to eat something and that seems to have helped as well. In all, my morning didn't go as planned, but I was able to get my pork loin into the crockpot (Trisha Yearwood's recipe), so at the least, dinner will be prepared for me.

It is 10:51 a.m., and I am sitting here at my computer, ready to watch my church's live service at 11. It is not the same as going in person, but I am thankful that I can attend with everyone else and enjoy the music and the message of this glorious celebrated day. He is alive, He is not here! He has risen, indeed!
Plans for the Day

As I sit here today, I marvel at the goodness of God. I look up to His mighty power and position, and I rest in the security that exists because of His love for me. I am saved. I am good. He is good, and the plans and the future He has for me, well it is good, too. I know that there are times when anxiety, stress, and worry overtake me. My thoughts consume me, and I panic about details that I cannot control. I think thoughts of the future, and because I cannot know what will be tomorrow, I struggle to understand as best I can the plans as I know them. I try to grasp the importance of the place where I am today. I mean, I can only draw an inference, understanding the facts at hand. I cannot count on future possibilities because, in truth, they are only possibilities, only potential outcomes. Thus, while I reach forward as Paul said, I must also remember that where I am today, my experiences that have happened in my life to this point in time, they are all I have to "go on," all the data I can use to rest in what is not knowable. I consider it this way:  if you don't know what tomorrow will be like, but all your previous days have been good, do you choose to look at tomorrow with the hope that it too will be good?

For some of us, no matter how many good days we have had, we still remember the bad days that were intermixed, interspersed in between the good ones. Our attitude is colored with a negative lens, and for me, this simply means that no matter how many times the Lord has showed me His goodness, I still find that I fear the unknown. Rather than saying that for 90 days, God has consistently shown His goodness to me, so the likelihood that He will continue to show His goodness is probable; I, instead, say that there is a chance, though, that I will not see His goodness again. I don't focus on the previous 90 good days, but the highly improbable one bad day that could happen if that makes sense.

It is irrational thinking, and why I think this way, I honestly do not know. I mean, I am a pretty logical person. I love logic. I love rhetoric. I love arguing causes or probabilities. I really do love the social science hypothetical approach to life. Yet, I still buy into irrational thinking, and I still choose to doubt the veracity of the Lord's word to me or His intentionality. I do it all the time; I confess it now because as Paul said -- it is sin. Yes, when we know better, when we are born again and when the Word of God is well situated in our life, we know clearly right from wrong. Thus, when I do this thing, this type of behavior, I am doubting God, and in this way, I am sinning against His person -- His holy and marvelous Person. He is a God of Integrity, a God who keeps His promise, who is faithful, and who is so trustworthy.

I prayed today, during my church's service to have this "thing" removed from me. When I prayed, I wasn't sure what the Lord wanted me to confess, so I only wrote down the words, "this thing," but now that I am blogging, I realize what "this thing" is, and it is something I do regularly, but I need to stop doing now.

Oh, Lord! I confess my bad habit, which is what it is, to discount the 99 times you have saved me out of fear that the 100th will not follow suit. I confess my inadequacy in trusting you, resting in your abilities, and in believing you completely. You have never failed me. You have never let me down. You have never left me on my own, left me to figure things out or make my own way. You have consistently, 100% of the time, helped me. You will not fail me, you have promised me as such. Yet, I fail you. I do not believe, I do not trust, and I do not listen. I am sorry, Lord. Please forgive my foolish behavior, and help me now to stop doing this "thing," and in turn, to place my entire faith -- all of it -- on You and in You alone. I ask this now in Jesus' Holy Name, Amen.
In Closing

As I close this blog post today, I am reminded of His love for me. He loves me. He cares for me. He has such a good plan for my life. I am humbled. I am brought low, and what is more, I am crushed in this place of isolation. I didn't really realize it until this morning that the place where I walk today is a place of loneliness and isolation. It is not really physical isolation per se, but rather, it is spiritual isolation. I feel alone. I feel as though I am walking on a long road by myself. Yes, the Lord is with me, and I feel His presence, but I am not walking with anyone else. I am all alone, and as such, the days and the nights are lonely for me. I simply do not fit in, and I do not feel as though my life has purpose right now. I am not complaining about my work, my job, which I love.

More so, it is just that I feel as though the valley is far more difficult than the climb up to the mountain if that makes sense. I accomplished so much last year. I graduated with my Ph.D., and the climb to get there took so much effort. It was so difficult. I made it. I triumphed. But, then as I walked down the other side, I began to see that the valley where I am at now is just a very large plain. There is not much here, not much challenge, not much acclaim. I am in this place for a reason, and I think it is part and parcel of His will for my life. My colleagues have received offers of employment, tenure-track positions, lucrative book deals, and opportunities for fellowships to conduct research. I am a lowly adjunct instructor, teaching online at four good schools, but there is no fanfare, no glory.

In truth, this is what I asked Him for, this is what I said I wanted. I said, "no glory, Lord. You are to receive it all," and as such, I am experiencing what it feels like to be cast aside, looked over, and not considered valuable. It is hard to take, but I asked; no, I wanted this so that He would be honored and praised. I guess I just didn't think it would feel so bad, you know. I just didn't think when the celebration ended, I would feel so lost and so alone.

My heart is weary today. I am worn out. But, I know this: my Lord lives. Today and forevermore, He reigns, and as He is risen and exalted, someday I will be with Him -- eternally with Him. I rest in the knowledge that this life is temporary and that what is coming is eternal. I rest in the fact that my Lord lives, and because He lives, I can surely and securely face tomorrow.