August 26, 2014
I woke up feeling refreshed, which completely surprised me given the fact that I went to bed last night completely exhausted. Yesterday was my first full day of teaching. I had a good day, my classes went well, and my students seemed to like my content and style. However, teaching for five hours took its toll on me. My personality is introverted, but after many years of professional work, I have learned how to "turn on" the extroverted part of me (to get through meetings, presentations, group events, etc.) Small bursts of extroverted feeling do not bother me much, but long sustained periods drain me, literally drain me.
Last night, after I ate some dinner and sat down to check email, my eyes started to lose focus, and my head began to swim around. Just as I was ready to hit the sack, my son came home from school, eager to tell me all about his classes. He is a Junior at ASU West, and yesterday was his first full day of classes. He was all excited about his professors, his coursework, and the opportunities he will have this semester. So -- an hour later -- I was finally able to close my eyes and rest. I don't think I moved the entire night.
As I woke up this morning, the first words out of my mouth were "Thank you, Lord, for giving me T-TH's off this semester!" I remember back to when I was looking over the teaching schedule last Spring, and I was considering teaching five days a week (two classes on M-W-F and two on T-TH). The Lord kept pressing me to find classes on M-W-F. I was able to finally work out a schedule whereby all my teaching ended up on three days. At the time, I was thinking that this was to facilitate my Regent coursework (giving me teaching days and study days). Now, I see that it was to give me "down days" -- days when I could rest and relax, recoup, from all that extroverted expenditure. Yes, I will use these days for my Regent studies too, but I think in the grand scheme of things, I will use them more to recover from all that extra energy I expend on my days in class.
God is good, so very good to me. He knows me well, and He knows what I can and cannot do. I hear Him say this to me: "Carol, I have you so well covered. I know what you can and cannot do. Trust me and rest." Yes, Lord, help me to trust you and to rest in you.
After I spent some time relaxing this morning (aka -- drinking my coffee and watching the news on TV), I came in to my office and sat down to check my email. My pay email arrived from GCU along with some other junk messages. I didn't bother to open it up, knowing that it was just a breakdown of how I will be paid this semester (in 8-9 periods, usually every two weeks). I read some other mails before clicking on the pay period ones. I needed to add the pay days to my calendar and align them with ACU's pay periods (1st and 15th). As I was checking the pay breakdown, I noticed that my contracted amount was adjusted upward for my ENG 105 class. I knew that GCU did this for courses over 50 students (that class had 53 students enrolled as of last week), I just didn't think that they would adjust my contract (Why? I don't know. I guess I just didn't put two-and-two together). WOW! I was so blessed!! Once I calculated my GCU pay along with that of ACU's contracted pay, my bi-weekly payout is almost exactly the amount I was making when I worked at CVS Caremark last year. Grant it, this is only for four months, but still it is four months of solid salary, and it is about $600 more per month then what I was expecting.
To say that I was relieved would be a huge understatement -- I was RELIEVED!! I have struggled with adjunct contract work for a year now. The whole idea of working on contract scared me -- so much so -- that I quit GCU at the end of the fall semester 2013 to take a horrible full-time salaried position working for a company I had no interest in (content-wise, nursing services), just to have regular pay and benefits. I hated that job, I hated the commute, and I hated the feeling that I had run away from a God-given, God-ordained, and God-provided opportunity SIMPLY because of the nature of the work, the nature of contract work. It only took three weeks of being miserable before I turned around, before I made up my mind to go back to where the Lord placed me (yes, I did a Jonah for three weeks). Once I returned to the job of His choosing, everything fell back into place, and I had peace, such great peace.
Sure, the idea of not having money in between contracts bothered me. I still panicked over going an entire summer without any pay. In fact, I have had to trust the Lord this entire summer, resting in His provision each time I looked at my dwindling bank account. I would see the money going out, and my heart would race. Oh, Lord, when will this feeling of insecurity end? Then today I opened up an email and bang! -- the Lord showed me His provision. The Lord showed me that all along He had me so well covered. Oh, Lord, when will I rest and trust you completely?
I think about the Psalms, about all the times when David praised God for His provision and His goodness.
Psalm 84:11 - For the LORD God is our sun and our shield. He gives us grace and glory. The LORD will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right.
Psalm 34:8 - Taste and see that the LORD is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!
Psalm 100:5 - For the LORD is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and his faithfulness continues to each generation.
Psalm 118:1 - Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.
Yes, the Lord is good to us. The Lord watches over us, and He is faithful to provide for our needs, abundantly and sufficiently.
Philippians 4:19 - And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.
As I was praying this morning, I heard the word of the Lord: "Carol, rest in me. Trust me to provide for you." I responded with "Yes, Lord! May it please the Lord to do so!"
My prayer today is to rest. I ask the Lord to let me rest in Him, to completely rest in Him. I am at the end of my strength -- the thought of teaching this semester, completing my doctoral courses, ministering at Church, supporting my family -- is too much for me to bear. I am physically worn down, weary from the weight and the burden of it all. Yet, I am compelled, as if a force outside of me is pulling me forward, moving me toward some distant goal, some distant place. I feel myself moving through these "things," these tasks, often without any real doing on my part. I move through the days, I submit the assignments, I create the lessons, I show up, and I teach. I do all that is asked of me, yet I don't know how I do it. I just do it. I cry out to the Lord: "Lord, I am so tired. I am so very tired. I cannot do this anymore." The Lord replies to me, "I have you covered. I have you so well covered."
The Lord is my Shield. He is my Buckler. He is my Strong Tower. I run to Him, and He saves me. He captures me and says to me with great joy: "I have you. I will not let go of you." I rest in Him because He is able to do all things through me, ALL THINGS, regardless of my skill, my ability, my talent. I am nothing; He is everything. I rest in Him, I look to Him, I trust in Him, and I rely upon Him. He supplies all my needs, and He covers me with His grace so that I can do whatever He asks of me.
I rest in Him. I rest in Him. I rest in Him.
August 24, 2014
My morning started off great. I had a good night's rest, and I woke up refreshed (Hallelujah!) I enjoyed a quiet morning at home alone. My parents were at early church, and my son was performing as part of the worship team at our old church, Scottsdale Bible. The house was quiet, and I was able to enjoy the solitude before getting ready to head over to our 10:00 service.
Second service at Paradise Church was awesome. Our worship team was back in full swing (after some members returned from vacation). The message today was shared by Pastor Sharon Sherbondy, our Children's Ministry Director. Sharon is an amazing woman of God. She has been at our church for about a year, and during that time, she has made a huge impression not only in our Children's department but throughout every area she has ministered. Today was special because Pastor Sharon is leaving us at the end of the month. She is our last remaining full-time ministry leader, and she is leaving to go to Nashville to be closer to her children and grandchildren. She believes that the Lord is calling her forward to serve in an unknown capacity at this time. Her message today was a mingling of her testimony along with a heavy dose of her faith in God as He leads her forth in uncertain times. I was blessed, so very blessed by what she shared. In fact, I came home thinking that her testimony so closely aligned with my experience that I took this morning's message as direct confirmation for me to continue doing what I am doing -- following hard after the Lord. Let me explain...
I have known Pastor Sharon for a short while only. Since I don't have young children anymore, I do not hang out with the families who make up Children's Ministry. Therefore, unless our paths cross, I generally do not mingle with the leadership from other ministry areas. It is not that I don't want to mingle, it is just that our circles do not intersect that often, not to where we would form deep friendships. However, over the last month or so, I have come to know Pastor Sharon more closely as she has stepped in to help fill the communications leadership role at the church. As I am the webmaster and social media guru for the church, I take my direction from Sharon and our Office Manager and our Chairman of the Board. During these informal meetings, I have witnessed God's blessing and movement in Sharon's life, and I have been blessed to experience her joy and her love for the Lord.
Today's message was special for me. Not only was it spiritually moving, but it was also confirmatory in that my experience over the past 8-9 years closely aligned with the events shared by Sharon. In fact, I would say that her experience -- finding her self suddenly single after 25 years of marriage, being a SAHM/Homeschooling Mom, learning how to live on her own (from paying bills, to buying a home, to raising her children), to receiving God's call, to realizing finally that she was utterly and hopelessly dependent upon God for His provision -- was a duplication of my own. While the events that led up to her deepening relationship with the Lord were different from mine, the outcome, the expression, and the complete revelation of God's centrality were the same. Yes, Sharon represents yet another changed-life that confirms my own experience, my own journey, my own deepening relationship with the Lord. I have been blessed to have met several individuals whose life stories were so similar, so completely akin to mine that I found myself crying out, "Thank you, Lord! Thank you!"
You see -- while I am convinced of the nature of God, of His willingness to break through the fourth wall (to interrupt time and space to reach us), of His grace and His mercy to touch us and change us -- there are times when life bears down so heavily that I forget what He has done for me, through me, and in me. It is in these times when I need to hear witness from others, when I need to listen to faith stories that call to my remembrance the goodness, the completeness, the greatness and faithfulness of our GREAT God.
The Intentionality of our God
As I sat and listened to Pastor Sharon talk about her experience, her transformation, one thing became clear to me -- the events of my life, specifically the recent changes that have taken place -- are not unplanned, not happenstance. In no uncertain terms have the recent events "just happened" to me. I am exactly where I belong. I am doing the work He has called me to do. I am meeting with the people, I am in relationship with the people, and I am living in fellowship with the people of His choosing. God has orchestrated the details of my life, and He has brought certain individuals to me for a purpose. I count my students to be among those that the Lord has brought to me for mentoring, for teaching, and for building up. I also count my friends at church as well as my friends from Regent and the Internet as people specifically assigned to me for blessing and encouragement (mutual).
In fact, the Lord has recently brought certain people into my life in such a way that I am experiencing great joy in friendship, in companionship, and in solidarity (the spiritual union and harmony that the Lord desires). Yes, my life is richly blessed by people, lots of people, who not only need me to love and to encourage them, but in whom I depend on for their love and their encouragement. I am being blessed in ways beyond measure and beyond count. My life is rich and it is full to the brim and overflowing. I am good, so very good.
As I reflect on all of these things, I confess that Pastor Sharon's message shook me to the core and made me think about my life. I began to think about how much I have doubted the Lord this past week, how much I have complained to Him about the workload, the teaching assignments, the doctoral coursework. I have also struggled with relationship building, with understanding how to be a friend, how to share myself openly with another person. I have also had to process the end of my marriage, the finality of the divorce decree arriving, and what that means for me as a single woman. I have questioned the Lord on His plans for my life, where I am to go to teach, to live, to do His work. Am I to remain single or am I to marry?
In the past, I answered this question with such ease -- if the Lord brought someone to me with whom He wanted me to marry, then yes, I would marry. If not, I boastfully said, then I would remain single. It is not that I have changed my mind, but the reality of being single has caused me to think more deeply about that statement. I am single now, officially and legally, single. I have spent the past four years rebuilding my life, learning how to be whole, and leaning 100% on the Lord for His provision and His security. There is something about being dependent on the Lord that makes you realize just how well-covered you are, and the thought of giving that up or letting another human take that role, well, it just causes you to wonder whether you are willing to do it. It is not that I believe a human man can take on any role that belongs to the Lord -- no, may it never be. It is more that I am considering if I want to share my life that closely, that intimately, with another person. I just came out of that life -- be it I have been living singly for four years -- so the idea of jumping back into closeness, proximity, well, it scares me. Of course, there is part of me that greatly desires that kind of relationship. I do desire to be married again. I do desire to spend my life with a person and to be able to be in that kind of love relationship. I guess it is panic on my part to think that now that I am single, I may very well have that option again, someday.
So all of this change, all this heaviness and burden, wears down on me and I feel overwhelmed and unprepared. Yet, Pastor Sharon's message was so hopeful, so uplifting, and so encouraging, that I found myself confessing my doubts and my fears to the Lord. I know my Lord well. I believe in Him, and I rest in His great NAME. He has given me His NAME and there is great power in that NAME. I am like Moses who asked God for His Name:
Exodus 3:13-14 - But Moses protested, "If I go to the people of Israel and tell them, 'The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,' they will ask me, 'What is his name?' Then what should I tell them?" God replied to Moses, "I Am Who I Am. Say this to the people of Israel: I Am has sent me to you."
God has revealed Himself to me in a similar way. I am not sure why the Lord has chosen for me to know Him as I AM (self-existent, without beginning, without end) or why He has chosen to remind me daily that it is He who sends me, who works in me, through me, and for me -- to will and to work for His good pleasure (Phil 2:13). Yet, the Lord does this for me. I hear Him speak His Name to me, to tell me that it is I AM (the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last) who is asking me to go forward, to trust Him, to rest in His work (Rev. 22:13). Still, I falter, I fall down, and I forget. I do not rest, I do not trust, and I do not do the things He asks of me. I struggle so with understanding, with comprehending, with trusting Him and with believing that what He is telling me is true. Why? Why do I do this?
The short of it is that I am flawed human flesh, and that no matter how many times the Lord reveals Himself to me, I will doubt the authenticity of the encounter. I will not believe until I see the burning bush, the water separated and the dry land appear. The Lord is gracious to me, and He loves me so completely that He brings people to me, people experiencing similar transformation so that I can draw inference, parallels to their testimony and experience. In doing so, I am able to step back and reflect. I can say "A HA!" I see it, I get it, I am not alone in this work. You are working in them exactly as you are working in me. God is great, God is good. All the time, He is so very good.
The Lord Makes Himself Known to Us
Sharon mentioned that in her experience, the Lord gave her a word to describe His work in her life. This word summed up the way He interacted with her over the course of her broken experience. For her, the word she heard the Lord say was "attentive." The Lord was attentive to her needs (watching over her carefully, paying close attention to her needs). The Lord did the same thing for me -- He provided abundantly for my financial needs, for my security, for my goals, my dreams, and my aspirations. He has been very attentive to me.
As I thought about my experience with the Lord, about my transformation journey with Him, the word that has always come to me has been "good or goodness." According to A. W. Pink, "The original Saxon meaning of our English word "God" is "The Good." God is not only the Greatest of all beings, but the Best" (para. 3). Moreover, Pink writes, The goodness of God is the life of the believer’s trust. It is this excellency in God which most appeals to our hearts. Because His goodness endureth forever, we ought never to be discouraged: "The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble, and He knoweth them that trust in Him" (Nahum 1:7).
My number one issue has been trusting God. I can recall way back when I began this life-altering journey a conversation I had with the Lord regarding my ability to trust Him for my everything, my welfare, my life. While I believed I trusted the Lord (and I did), I didn't understand that the level of trust I had as a child, a young person, a middle-aged woman -- would not suffice -- given the parameters of the work He had in mind for me. Neither did I grasp that when my life took its most devastating turn and I found myself single, that the trust relationship I had with the Lord would not last, would not support me, would not be strong enough to see me through to the end. No, the Lord knew that the only way I would be able to fulfill His plans for my life was for me to come to more than a saving trust, a saving knowledge of His love for me. He knew I needed the saving kind of trust that gets you out of the boat (thinking about Peter) and the kind of saving trust that brings you to the cross of your own crucifixion. My level of trust was going to be increased -- it needed to be enlarged -- if I was going to do the work the Lord was calling me to do.
So today, I am a recipient of that growth, that transformation, that deepening of trust that has moved me from where I was over there to where I am today. The Lord is not finished with me yet, and the direction I am moving in will require ever greater amounts of trust. I give praise and testimony to His Goodness. In doing so, I am replacing discouragement with faith and with the knowledge that the Lord, the One who is I AM, is the ONE who calls me forth and who leads me on.
God is good, so very good.
August 23, 2014
Since my divorce is now final, I have been asked numerous times if I would take (or had taken) back my maiden name (Buel). I chose to keep my Hepburn surname, mostly for convenience sake because even when the Judge signs the decree to give you your maiden name back, you still have to go through the process of changing every single legal document, credit card, permanent record, etc. To me, it was more a hassle than a benefit.
Plus, if I went back to Buel, then I would miss all those great introductory remarks whenever anyone meets me. Are you related to Katharine or Audrey? Have you ever met Katharine Hepburn? Yep, I get asked these questions almost every single time I mention my name. It is an easy ice-breaker, for sure. So until such a time as someone offers me a new last name, I will remain a Hepburn.
I woke up today feeling GREAT! I had such a good night's rest last night, and I feel very refreshed and ready to tackle the day. Of course, it is almost noon, but I do feel ready to tackle what is left of the day (LOL!)
I have some homework to do for my Regent Studies, and I have to get a game plan in order for GCU. I will have four classes to teach next week, so I have four sets of PPTs to create for Monday. I feel good about the process though and I am confident that next week will be super, just all-around excellent (positive thinking -- I'm Possible!!)
On tap for this weekend:
- Some reading and reflection (for Regent)
- A website analysis (for Regent)
- Class power points (ACU, week 2)
- Class power points (GCU, week 1)
- Class policies and procedures (GCU)
Just on another divorce line of thinking...
I have been asked by a couple people if I will tell my in-laws that their son and I are officially divorced. It is a difficult question for me because I certainly do not want to be the one to break that news to them. My ex, more than likely, will not tell them unless he absolutely has to do it. They know that we are separated (have been for four years now), but they do not know that we started the divorce process this year. Both of his parents are in their 80's and they are unwell physically. I am of the view that they probably do not need to know this information. In truth, it would hurt them more than help them. Still, it is an interesting question to ponder.
August 22, 2014
Today was extra special for me. I was so very tired when I got up this morning, my head-ached, and I felt that my teaching materials (power points) weren't long enough to fill the required class time. It is so hard to know how much material and time to prepare for each day. Sometimes I think I have plenty, and then other times, I worry about being too short (not enough). On top of those feelings, I was weary from spending too much time online the night before. I didn't get to bed before 1:30 am (working on these PPTs and my Regent school work). Needless to say, my brain was fried, even after sleeping a good 8 hours during the night.
As I was driving over to ACU this morning, I laid my teaching frailities at the Lord's feet. Honestly, I am so tired of stressing over my abilities, worrying about if my students like me (respect me), or if I am doing a good enough job. Teaching is difficult for me. I cannot control the outcome, and as an INTJ personality, controlling outcomes is one of my key abilities. I strive to always control the outcome. Results, performance, analysis, etc. -- these are things that come very easy for me. I am able to focus, to drive my time and my attention toward producing good results. In teaching, however, while I can control my part of the equation, I cannot control the student, their behavior, their learning, OR their outcome (achievement). What bothers me the most is not being able to control all the parts of the equation. I want to be in charge from start to finish, to oversee every single part of the performance. I don't want to fail, I don't want to perform badly, and since I cannot control my students and their learning experience, I stress extra hard over my part. It is vicious, and it wears me down.
This behavior, I do not believe, pleases the Lord. I don't think He wants me to be so stressed over my performance all the time. I think He does want me to give my time and my attention to my work, but not in an excessive or abnormal way. We should be careful in our approach to our work, and yes, I believe that doing our "best," flawed as that may be, is honorable. I believe, though, when we let the focus shift from the Lord to ourselves, it is then that we find ourselves in trouble.
Anything that takes primacy over our focus on the Lord is idolatry. Merriam-Webster defines an idol/idolatry as this:
the worship of a physical object as a god
immoderate attachment or devotion to something
I think we would all agree that many of the things we focus on are not worshiped as a god. It is the second definition, the "immoderate attachment or devotion to something," where we can see the overlapping issue. Is the person or thing we are attached to, devoted to, causing us to shift our focus intently from the Lord to ourselves or this one thing? If the answer to that question is yes, then I think we may be struggling with an idol/idolatry situation.
The WORD says this about work-related idols:
Psalm 115:4 - "Their idols are silver and gold, The work of man’s hands."
Work in any form can become an idol if we allow it to do so. Even psychological work -- thinking about work, fixating on performance, driving goals, unceasing attention or worry over achievement, etc. These are all part of the worldly culture of man that elevates performance and achievement and success above that of a humbled, God-focused life -- intent on the love, the devotion, the worship, and the service to the Lord.
I thought about the nature of idolatry, of idols, and I knew right away that my fixation on my work/performance was crossing the line from being conscientious to abnormally focused. I did the right thing, right there in the parking lot of the campus -- I confessed to the Lord that I have made my work (teaching) an idol. I have fixated over the process, the performance, and the praise of teaching when I should have let it all go, laid it down, and let the Lord lead me through each class session. I made the commitment to Him saying that I would do this from now on.
After making that commitment, I experienced such relief, such peace, and I had two really great class sessions. Did my students miraculously get involved in class? No, not really (well, my freshmen did -- my Jr's and Sr's -- not so much!) The big discovery was that I was relaxed, and relaxing makes all the difference in a class. It helps you be more in tune with your students, more animated, more lively. The students do respond to your face and your actions more so than your words. My personality type is not expressive (overly) and I am not a hyped-up teacher. I am very sober and intentional. I am trying to be more responsive to my students, to send the message that "I care about you and your thoughts." When I relax in the classroom, then I am able to relate to them, focus on them, and be "in the moment." It is such a good thing, such a God-thing.
Today was good, and I am hoping that next week will also be good. I see no reason for it not to be good every day -- so long as I remember to allow the Lord to lead me in my teaching. I don't want to stay bound up, pressured, and feeling like I am failing all the time (lies of the enemy). I know the Lord has me well covered, well covered, and I am endeavoring to rest in His work, His way, and His will. May the Lord be praised today and forever more! Amen.
August 21, 2014
First, I am thankful that it is a Thursday. Thursdays are one of my days off during the semester. I purposely looked for courses to teach that fell on MWF just so that I would have two days off each week. I knew that I would need those days to recuperate from teaching (as an INTJ -- I need downtime to reflect and feel refreshed) and to complete my doctoral schoolwork.
Second, I am thankful that I can spend these days unwinding, decompressing, and relaxing. I can also use the time, the quiet time, to reflect on changes in my life, on events and circumstances that I am facing as well as to consider the options or next steps the Lord reveals to me.
Taking time to reflect is important. Reflection allows us to process events and to consider how those events influenced or are influencing our attitudes, our behaviors, and our choices.
This week has been stressful for me. Not only did I begin teaching at a new school, but my own doctoral courses began with a big bang. I quickly felt the pressure mounting, and I began to feel the sag of the weight bearing down on me. I struggled to doubt, and I felt inadequate and not up to the challenge of teaching four college courses. Yet, the Lord sustained me. He provided everything I needed, and I endured. I patiently endured the uncomfortable feeling of pressure, and I am now experiencing the joy of relief.
Yes, the Lord is good to those He loves. The Lord provides exactly what we need, exactly when we need it.
Eccl. 3:11 - Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God's work from beginning to end.
This is one of my favorite verses. I love the way the writer says that even though we cannot see the plans the Lord has for us (the whole scope of His work), it doesn't mean that what God has done and accomplished is not good, not beautiful.
We are a work in progress, just as God's plans for eternity are also in process. Often we rush to judge the work the Lord is doing in our life. We want to see the end result NOW. We do not want to endure trials or suffering, we do not want to wait for Him to move, to create or to change our situation or our circumstances. We believe erroneously that when we come to faith in Jesus Christ, and He begins to do His work in us, our lives will mysteriously change, will improve, will become better right away. However, this is not always the case.
Our lives are messy, often filled with damaged relationships, brokenness, and sin issues that need to be addressed. The whole process of salvation takes time (from saving grace to sanctification to eternal life) and depending on our previous (BC LIFE) there is much work required to help us move from the old life into the new life (daily yielding, submission, etc.) Moreover, as we come into a deeper relationship with the Lord, as we learn to trust Him more completely, our lives will change and we will begin to move in-sync with the Lord's will for our life. We will come to know our purpose, to see His plan, to understand what He wants to do in us and through us. This is an exciting time, to comprehend the Lord's choice for our life (be it a life partner, a new career, continuing education, more developed ministry role, a possible relocation, etc.) When the Lord begins to direct our steps (Prov. 16:9), and we begin to follow Him in obedience -- wonderful things happen. We see CHANGE IN ACTION. We see our movement as we pass through phases or stages, as we traverse the Lord's chosen path.
I can give testimony to this because it is exactly what has happened in my life. More so, I can witness this same experience as I watch my friends move through the changes in their lives. I see the same patterns, the same behaviors, the same outcomes. Yes, my friends are on vastly different life plans -- some are in full-time ministry, some are living modest lives, some are contemplating major moves -- but they all are being changed internally in the exact same way.
I was blessed to have interviewed 10 people for my ethnography project this summer. These were people in my church who consented to share with me their life experiences as our church travailed in crisis. I spent anywhere from one hour to four hours with each person, discussing change, discussing God's plan for them and our church. In the end, I came away filled with excitement -- not for the church and the struggles it is having -- but for the individuals who are being changed by the mighty hand of the Lord. This change, this movement encouraged me and reminded me that what I am seeing in my own life is not special to me -- no -- it is consistently apparent in the life of believers who have yielded and surrendered their will to the Lord.
As I reflect on my life, where I have been and where I am going, one thing is for certain: God has created something beautiful out of something really, really messy. The Lord took the disparate strands of brokenness in my life and created something lovely, something useful, something good. I am the recipient of that process. My life is beautiful. It is good. It is filled with blessing, and my life is active and alive -- and now I am capable of bringing encouragment and influence into the lives of the people I meet. God has done this through me, He has changed me for His will and His glory. I am blessed, so very blessed.
Today I look back over the closed chapter of my married life. My divorce was finalized last week, and my decree arrived in the mail yesterday. The life I chose for myself back in 1982 has now ended. I am single again after 30 years of a very difficult and trying marriage. I am at a point where I can look backward, reflecting on my choices and seeing the resultant actions, and I can learn from my mistakes. I can also use my experience to help others, to encourage others, and to influence others to make better life choices.
God has created something beautiful from the mess of my life. He has made me new. He has given me a renewed sense of self, a renewed purpose, and a renewed perspective. I am walking in a new way, going in a new direction, and moving forward into a very bright and shiny new future.
The Lord has done a mighty work in my life. He has great plans in store for me, and though I struggle at times, and I feel burdened beyond belief, I rest securely in His grace and in the knowledge that He loves me and He cares for me. God is good, so very good. All the time, He is good.
August 20, 2014
I has been an almost surreal experience for me.
The entire process from start to finish, from discovery to dissolution, took five years (August 2009 to August 2014). In that time, my life has been transformed. I am a different person. Every part of my life has been reshaped, turned upside-down, and flipped inside-out.
The life I have today is blessed, so blessed, and it is so good. I cannot even begin to describe just how good my life is, how content I am to be living it, and how much I look forward to every new day, every new opportunity, every new possibility. Yes, God is good. He is so very good. He covered me, He carried me, and He gave me confidence to become the woman of His own choosing. I am good. I am so very good.
Romans 16: 25, 27 - Now all glory to God, who is able to make you strong, just as my Good News says. All glory to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, forever. Amen.
August 19, 2014
Hard rain, flash flooding, damaging winds -- this is what life is like in the desert during the monsoon season. Both lanes of our I-17 are shutdown in multiple places due to flooding. It is a good thing that I don't have to travel up toward Prescott or Flagstaff today. I am thinking about my friend's, the Collins', who need to drive up north to take their middle daughter to NAU on Thursday. I am praying that the rain subsides and the freeway opens up again today or tomorrow.
Praising God for the rain (we so need it), and for His protection of life this good day. While the rain and the flooding overwhelm us at times, most Arizonans know enough to be safe when the monsoon comes each summer. Yes, we do have stupid motorists who insist on crossing flooded roads. And, yes, we do have times when people get stuck by accident and need to be rescued (this happened a couple days ago when 20 vehicles got stuck in the roadway as a flash flood was occurring). Generally, we don't see loss of life during the monsoon storms -- not like during the summer with toddler pool drownings -- when will people learn to watch their kids around water?
Why can I not rest? Jesus tells us in Matthew 11 that we are to come to Him to find our rest. He specifically calls to those who are laboring, who are weighed down with heavy burdens. He beckons us to come and rest. He says in verses 28-30 NLT,
Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.
Sometimes I think that I purposely choose to bear the heavy burden. In my heart, I long so to give up my burden, to take His yoke, and to rest in Him completely. Yet, in my mind, I want so much to be in control, to do things my way, to make sure that everything I do is "just so!" Why do I do this? Why do I make things so difficult for myself?
I believe it is because I have some performance anxiety and performance issues. I know this about myself. I recognize that as a child I suffered with a fear of failure. In fact, I probably still do to some extent. I certainly have failed in my life, and I certainly have made mistakes -- oodles of them. However, I have also learned from many of those mistakes, and I have also come to accept the fact that while I am not perfect, and I don't have to be perfect, there is part of me that desires it nonetheless. Why do I want to be perfect?
Today has been one of those super crazy days -- where everything seems to go weird, off-kilter, out of balance. I started this blog post in the morning, and I am just now finishing it at 3:45. In between, something happened to me, and I realized the answer to that question of why I seek perfection. Funny, how sometimes the Lord does that to us (or for us), how He gives us time to process events, and in reflection we come to see the very answer we are seeking from Him.
So why do I want to be perfect?
BC - before Christ, I would say that the main reason I wanted to be perfect was to prove to myself and others that I was worthy of their love, their respect, their time, etc. Yes, I had great needs as a child. I needed to be affirmed. I needed to feel wanted, necessary, important. As a Christian and as an adult, I may still have some inklings of these needs, but most, if not all of these needs were met with total sufficiency at the CROSS.
AC - after Christ, I believe the main reason I strive for perfection is because the Word of God demands it or so we allow ourselves to be led to believe. Let me explain...
1 Corinthians 10:31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
Paul tells us that whatever we do, the dailies, the normals, the basics of our life -- we are to do everything for God's glory. Some may say that to do "it all" means that we must apply every Scriptural principal to our lives, we must live by a long list of DO's and reprimand ourselves when we succumb to the opposing DON'TS. In short, we must abide by the very ink of the law, and we must live our lives against an impossible standard. We must be PERFECT, never failing, never falling, never messing up because we have the Glory of God to uphold.
Yet, in reading Scripture and taking this verse into context, we see that this view of human perfection is the antithesis of what the WORD tells us. Can we really be perfect? Can we really live by every tenant of the law? Absolutely not.
Instead, what this verse is really saying to us, in a nutshell is this:
We must surrender everything we do to God. We must allow HIM and HIS GLORY (His GOODNESS) to permeate our day, our week, our month, our very lives. In doing so, everything we do, must be yielded to Him and the work that is performed or results is His Work. In this way and I believe in the ONLY way, will God be Glorified in and through us.
My desire for perfection, to be perfect, to perform perfectly is a corrupted view of God's presence in my life. In my weakness, He is made strong (2 Cor. 12:19). Therefore, no matter what I do in this life, I will do it imperfectly. I will make mistakes. I will make little mistakes and big mistakes. Sometimes I will make granddaddy-sized mistakes -- life altering, life changing, humiliating mistakes. Yet despite my failings, the Lord's rest for me is always sure. I can rest. I can know that He is responsible for bringing His own glory to pass. It is not up to me to do anything good because I am not good. All that is good within me is there because of the very presence of God in my life.
As I wrestled with this truth today, I realized that I have been set free from the burden of trying to be perfect. Yes, that heavy burden and unbearable yoke was cast off me at Calvary's cross. I am free, and the yoke I wear now is easy. The burden I carry is light. He does the heavy work in me and through me. I rest. I trust. I let go, and I let Him have all the glory for only He is worthy, only He is worthy of that glory.
Thank you, Lord, for helping me learn this lesson today. Thank you for reminding me that this work I do (teaching for example) is not about my success, but about your glory. I let go now. I let go of that yoke and burden (the need to be perfect), and I rest in your sufficiency. I trust you to do your work in me today and tomorrow and every day hereafter. You alone are worthy to receive my praise. You alone are worthy and good.