December 9, 2016

Friday ~ Woohoo!

It is Friday, my last Friday, for the semester. I am feeling so anxious today — not sure why — but I am. Perhaps it is just the end of the semester getting to me or perhaps it is because I know that my fall has ended, and that means that my spring is just around the corner. And, ta-dum! Spring means my dissertation defense and my graduation from Regent University. And, that, I think is my stressor point. I am feeling the “burn” so to speak simply because I am not where I had hoped to be at this point in the month. I have not started my data importation or my analysis, and well, I am starting to panic a bit. But, praise be to God, I am trusting Him for my timeline. He has me well-covered, and I believe He will see me through each and every step of the process.

God is good, so very good. All the time, He is good. He is so very good to me! Selah!

Thinking More About Style

So, this past week has been difficult for me. I have processed A LOT of old history, old issues, and I feel better, more settled in my mind and in my opinion as to the cause and effect story that is “my life.” Yes, I have come to this place of agreement, whereby I feel ready to accept all the “trash” along with the “treasure” that has been my life for the past 54 years. Today, thus, I think I am finally at the starting line, ready to leave the past behind, and now, clear headed and forward thinking, I am ready to tackle the big unknown “future.” I am ready, so very ready.

In some ways, this “readiness,” has been a long time in coming. I have felt, “Ready,” for months now, but I still had some lingering thoughts, doubts really, that caused me to feel so unsure, so uncertain, so tentative about my next steps. Lately, however, I have realized that any hesitation on my part will cause my forward movement to stall. Therefore, it is vitally important that I agree, really agree, with the Lord’s assessment of my life, in total, in order to let the past go. For the last several years, I have blogged about my path, my journey through single hood. I have written posts that explored my inner thoughts and feelings, and where I critically analyzed decisions, situations, and outcomes that affected my ability to function normally, to be whole and well in my mind and in my body. These posts were cathartic for me, and they gave me a forum where I could examine my role in the process. In truth, the whole experience was healing for me. I learned how to deal with hurt, hardship, and then allow the Light of Christ to heal those old wounds, to finally allow Christ access to the deepest and darkest parts of my soul, my psyche. In this way, and through the writing process, I was able to let all the past come to the surface, to sort through it, accept the reality of my actions and the outcomes that came as a result, and then in the end, let them float away. I let the hurt float away.

I didn’t realize how important it is to let the hurt, the past hurt, go. I know many people who still hang on to their hurt. They bury the remnants down deep inside, and they act as if they have moved on, but with one small trigger, one word or thought, the hurt boils up again inside of them. For whatever reason, the Lord has determined that in my life, I must not live this way. The hurt has to be removed from my heart, and all of my attempts to bury it, to hide it away, simply would not suffice. No, I had to let it all come out — the ugly parts, the sinful parts, and the shameful parts — just so I could be free, really free, and ready to move on in my life.

The truth hurts. And, at times, the truth can be shockingly difficult to accept. In my own life, I have had to come to terms with so much sorrow, so much sadness, so much suffering, and in this way, I have had to accept, agree, and acknowledge what other people did to me (to hurt me) as well as what I did to myself (to cope with the hurt). Now, that I am free, finally free, I am better able to function as a minister to others. I am better able to let the “me” part go so that I can begin to see others and their pain. It is important to understand that I didn’t simply wish it away or choose to “not discuss it,” no, not at all. Rather, I did discuss it. I wrote about it here in my blog, and in doing so, I had a conversation with myself. In doing so, I gave myself license to vent, to cry, to absorb the truth, and through it all, the result was a liberation of my spirit, and the restoration of my sanity, and my sincere desire to help other people. Yes, the Lord provided a great service to me. He helped me discover who I really was under all those layers of hurt. He helped me learn about myself, and yes, even come to like myself. He showed me my inner strength, my power, and then gave me the victory to overcome some lingering sin issues as well as areas of weakness (where my enemy tempted me). I was able to finally put to bed some problems that had plagued me since childhood, to break the cycle, so to speak, so that these things no longer have power or hold over me.

In many ways, the Lord showed me how to break the cycle of addiction, and in this way, He helped me come clean, to finally be free from the control that these things had over my life. As such, I am able to walk in a new way, and this means that I can now help others who might be dealing with similar things — without getting emotionally involved or upset — as they deal and process through their hurt and sorrow.

“In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you” (Matt. 5:48 Message)

I remember Joyce Meyer saying that you cannot minister to others if you are still struggling with your own hurt. It takes time and the healing of the Holy Spirit to allow that hurt to be healed, and once it has been healed, then real ministry begins. I am at this place now, where I feel I can handle the emotional aspects of another person’s sorrow, and in this way, I can be a compassionate and considerate supporter, someone who can come alongside of them and offer them a warm hug and a tender word of encouragement.

My journey has been difficult, but the good news is that I processed through it, and now I stand at the ready, the starting line. I am waiting for the gun to go off so I can take my leave, and begin to run this race of faith with more zeal and confidence then ever before. God be praised, I am good. I am whole. I am healed. He is so good to me, so very good to me.

Self-Worth, Esteem and Identity

The reader, at this point in time, might be saying, “So what does style have to do with healing?” I would say, “Not much,” but that would not be entirely true. I titled this section, “Thinking More About Style” because style, personal style has a lot to do with how one sees their own self. One of my students did her presentation on fashion and how fashion forms and supports our sense of identity and self-worth. She viewed it from the standpoint of communication, and looked at how fashion communicates who we are to the world. In the same way, our personal style, be it fashion or hair or home, is an extension of our personal uniqueness, and yes, it supports and helps to identify our sense of “ownership.” Our style says to the world, “This is who I am,” and it communicates our impression of worth and valuation.

Over the past few months, I have explored style through Pinterest. I am addicted to that social media platform (in a good way, I mean). I love Pinterest. At first, I was tentative about it, but now I have almost 10K pins, and some 120 followers (LOL!) all because I wanted to discover my own unique style. I have decided that my personal style is somewhat eclectic, but leans toward traditional along with some modern and industrial elements. I prefer symmetry, wide clear spaces, and a lot of white (or creamy white). I don’t like junk, clutter, or a lot of things that collect dust. I am not a minimalist, per se, but I do prefer clear counters, and things put away when not in use.

As I have explored my style, I have come to realize that I like a lot of things, a lot of different things, and in this way, my style is really a mod-podge of different traits and characteristics. Likewise, in my personal dress, I tend to favor traditional over trendy. I like some trends, but mostly I favor styles that flatter my figure and that are very practical for me to wear, day in and day out. My hair, the bane of my existence (on some days), has always been a challenge for me. Now that my hair has more gray, I am stuck with coloring it or looking mousy and washed out. For the next few years, I will stick with coloring it a natural dark blonde color (it suits me). My eyewear is traditional, wire framed, and sort of oval shaped. I prefer pink to black, tortoise to silver, in frame color.

It has been a long while for me to discover that I prefer my hair long to short. I wear my hair short, most of the time, simply because when it gets long, it gets time consuming. But, I like myself better with longer hair. So once again, I am growing my hair out to shoulder length, blunt, with bangs for softness and some layers around the face (I like Cindy Spivey’s look — right). In all, my style says something about myself. I have decided that no matter how hard I try to look fashionable and upscale, I tend to look very midwestern soccer-Mom-ish. I simply cannot force myself into heels and short skirts, and I cannot get away from my jeans and Sketcher tennis shoes.

My professional wardrobe is standard black. I wear black pants every day to work, and I usually layer tee shirts with sweaters and minimal jewelry. In the colder months, I wear jackets over my long sleeve tees. I am not one for scarves, but occasionally, I will wear one. My shoes are professional and comfortable. I cannot wear heels and stand all day long, so I opt for Sketchers clogs with memory foam in them. I look a little matronly, but at least my feet don’t yell at me when I am done for the day.

In all, my style has been redefined, but in many ways, it is the same style I have had since I was first in college. I wear the same type of clothes that I did when I was 20. Granted I don’t wear the prairie look anymore (that went out in the 80s), but I do wear dress pants, shirts or blouses, jackets or sweaters, and flat shoes (Now, I like Jo-Lynne Shane’s style — see left). I wear “horn rimmed” spectacles, and my hair, while not to my waist, hits my shoulders and looks eerily similar. I have shaken things up, but I tend to settle back to this style after a while. I like my short hair, and I think it looks sporty. My Mom says I look “years younger,” but then I hear the same from people who say that long hair flatters me and I look like I am in my 30s and not 50s. I guess it is just personal preference and style choice, so if one likes short hair more than long, that is what they will say when they give their opinion.

My desire to create a style is simply to finally accept that there are certain things I like more than others, and that throughout the years, while my stronger family members dictated a preferred style for me, and I often compromised to please them, the truth be told, I am very comfortable with my own style now. I am very comfortable saying that I tend to favor “country” over “chic modern.” I can say that I like some of the modern farmhouse look I see (Joanna Gaines, aside), but not the trendy “farmhouse” look that HGTV seems to say is the rage. I like old fashioned things, but not shabby chic ones. I like an English or Scandinavian feel — white and uncluttered — more than I like typical American country. Yes, I am eclectic in my preference, but now after all these years, I think I can finally say that I have come home, I have come into my own, and I know what I like and do not like when it comes to my own personal style and my lifestyle choices.

In Closing

As I have come to this point in my life, I am able to finally say that I like myself — all of myself. I am happy, content, and well-satisfied in who I am today. I am comfortable in my own skin, and I can now embrace my self in such a way that I can show others that healing from past hurts is possible. It is possible to no longer live as a victim, and to no longer be imprisoned in the past. Christ came to bind up the brokenhearted, to heal the sick, and to set the captives free. I am free in every way, even in my own style and sense of style, because in being free, this simply means that I am finally able to embrace the person God created and designed me to be. I am free, indeed.

December 8, 2016

Changing Times

It is Thursday, and praise be to God, I am home. This is my day off, and frankly, I am so happy to be at home resting from my long and stressful week. My students and I have been overly stressed at the ending term and coming final due dates and all that stress has caused tension in the classroom. The combination of the final semester countdown and my own enlarged workload has been a challenge for me to manage. I have so much work to do between now and the end of next week, and I am struggling just to figure out what to do and how to do it. But, praise be to God, I know the Lord will help me. He will provide a way through this narrow and difficult passage, and in the end, I will rejoice when I can finally relax and rest from all my work. Until then, I press on. I run this race of faith with endurance and God’s speed. I do what has been asked of me, and I try my best to keep my head and my heart focused on one thing only, and that is, to bring Him all the praise, the honor, and the glory. He alone is worthy! He alone deserves my praise!

Coming to Terms with My Life

So, it is a blessed Thursday, and as I sit here and blog today, I am reminded of how fortunate and favored I am this good day. I mean, I live in this lovely home, on a lovely street, in a lovely neighborhood. I work for three great Christian schools, and I have a very lovely and flexible schedule. I am finally making more income, so my bills are covered. I am not where I would like to be financially, and I cannot pay my debts off yet, but I am able to make the monthly payments, and still have money left over for some comfortable purchases (like food, clothing or new bedding, etc.) More so, I have my education well in hand, and I am about to graduate with my PhD. My car is in good shape, though a bit dinged from allowing my son to use it regularly. Overall, I have everything I need, and I am in great shape mentally, physically, and emotionally. I am stable, praise be to God, in more ways than one, and I am in this blessed and secure place in my life. The Lord has provided well, and I rest in His exceptional covering this good, good day.

I am thinking about my life in grand terms, and today, in particular, the Lord pressed on me to consider my future needs. I mean, I was praying this morning when I felt Him say to me, “Carol, what else is it that you need?” Yes, I was feeling a bit down about my life, and I was thanking Him for His provision, but still feeling as if life was overwhelming me to such an extent that I was afraid of failing everyone — everything. I heard His sweet voice ask me point blank to consider my needs, to think about my former life and my present life, and then really assess my level of happiness.

I know, happiness is just  a feeling, a fleeting and oft-sought after feeling, but nonetheless, humans (me, included) seem to make the “pursuit of happiness” our life or end goal. Happiness is defined as the “state of being happy” (Merriam-Webster), and happy simply is a synonym for many other words that suggest pleasure, joy, or a sense of contentment or satisfaction. According to Psychology Today (2016), happiness is difficult to define. In a blog post titled, “The Art of Happiness,” they write,
Ah, happiness, that elusive state. Philosophers, theologians, psychologists, even economists, have long sought to define it, and since the 1990s, a whole branch of psychology—positive psychology—has been dedicated to pinning it down and propagating it. More than simply positive mood, happiness is a state of well-being that encompasses living a good life—that is, with a sense of meaning and deep satisfaction (para. 1).
When they say that, “Happiness is a state of well-being” and that it “encompasses living a good life” and that it includes “a sense of meaning and deep satisfaction,” I find myself nodding in agreement. Yes! This is exactly how I would define or articulate happiness, at the least, in my life. I can say with great boldness that I am happy. Furthermore, I can say that I am happier today than I was previously, and that I have a sense of well-being that suggests I will be happy tomorrow and every day into my future life. Yes, I am happy. I am well-satisfied. I am content.

Interestingly, according to the writers at Psychology Today, happiness is something that is generally under individual control, meaning that in many ways, “we are the architects of our own happiness” (Caussé, 2012). Researchers studying happiness and individual control state, “Regularly indulging in small pleasures (such as warm baths), getting absorbed in challenging activities, setting and meeting goals, maintaining close social ties, and finding purpose beyond oneself are all actions that increase life satisfaction” (Psychology Today, 2016, para. 3). Thus, it follows that we can actually increase our life joy or satisfaction simply by engaging in pursuits, interacting with people, and staying involved in activities that challenge us mentally, that push us farther, and that hold attainable achievement as an end result. Clearly, happiness can be achieved, and that it can be something obtainable outside of material possessions or worth. Studies show that money, power, position, etc., can alleviate some worry or stress related to the daily issues and concerns that affect us all, but the fact remains that these things only lighten the load, so to speak. It is personal connection, personal action and activity, and personal pursuit that in the end bring the most satisfaction to a person’s life.

With this in mind, and as I was reflecting on my life thus far, I realized that my happiness is driven by several factors, and these factors are integral to my sense of well-being, my overall feeling of comfort, joy, peace, and harmony.

First, my life has purpose. I have direction now whereas I didn’t before. I have a career that I enjoy, and my professional life is settled. I know my job well, and I can set down roots and begin to develop my skills and abilities in order to improve my position, my standing, and my status. Though I am not driven to excel and become the top dog at some company, I do desire to move from adjunct faculty to full-time faculty soon. I also hope to continue to produce scholarship whereby I can research interests and concerns in order to understand the world better. I also desire to be settled as far as my place of employment, to reduce my commitment to one school rather than three or four. I know that in time, this will be, but until then, I work heartily unto the Lord, and I do my best with what I have been given.

Second, my life has routine and regulation. The previous 30 years of my life were fraught with upheaval and uncertainty. This was how my ex-husband chose to live his life, never knowing if he would be paid today or tomorrow, and always living on a “wing and a prayer.” I never was comfortable with that approach to life. I am a planner by nature, by design really, and for me, that means that I need to know when I will be paid and how much I will be paid. I budget, I make my payments on time, and I need the regularity of scheduled life to give me comfort and to bring an ease — not just of lifestyle — but of mind. I struggled so with “not knowing” and I lived in a state of constant stress whereby I wasn’t able to control anything in my life. I couldn’t control my hunger, my warmth, or even the quality of my life simply because my ex-husband didn’t work a regular job nor did he want to do so.

In my new found life, praise be to God, I work a regular job (without shame), and I cherish the fact that I get paid regularly (bi-weekly and bi-monthly). I also love my schedule, whereby I know what days I work, and what days I have off. My ex-husband would always look down on people who worked a regular job. He would say, “Only losers and those without any goals work in 9-5 jobs.” He wanted to be self-made, a self-made man, and well, in the end, that is what he became — self-made — but not wealthy or affluent — rather poor and in dire need of other people’s help. I didn’t want that for my life. I wanted to be responsible, to take care of myself and my child, and to not have to rely on others for their care or compassionate generosity.

Third, my life has satisfaction. I know my purpose. I know my calling. I know the plans the Lord has for my life and the plans are good. I know where I am going (spiritually), and I know that day in and day out, my life is moving toward the fulfillment of His will. I am working my way to my end — the glorious day of His return — and in doing so, I am content, satisfied. I am not just content in my own hand or accomplishment, but I am content in the plans He has made for me. You see, I am content in knowing that the plans the Lord has for me will bring me through this life and into the next. My salvation is assured. I am well-saved. My soul is where it needs to be, and He has satisfied it with His glorious and amazing presence. I am well because He is alive in me this good, good day.

Accepting the Truth

It has taken me a long time to come to terms with my life and to accept that that my life has been less than satisfying simply because of some poor decisions and choices I made early on in it. Some of these decisions were made in my youth, and well, since I wasn’t the most educated, informed, or even mature at the time, the decisions were made in haste and without a lot of forethought. Unfortunately, the biggest decision I made, the decision to get married, had long lasting consequences, and those consequences directly shaped and influenced much of my adult years.

My decision to get married was not a bad one, per se, but rather it was poorly made simply because I didn’t consider the long term results of my action. I didn’t consider my life partner and whether he was suited to me. You see, I found a nice guy to marry (or so I thought). When I met him, he appeared to be a young man with a future ahead of him. He had his education (so I thought), and he was working for a good company (so I thought). He came from a good family, a Christian family, and he seemed to be serious about his faith in God.

In my sheltered experience, he satisfied my simple needs. I wanted a man who loved God, lived a Christian life, worked hard, and desired to be married and raise a family. I wasn’t looking for fame or fortune. I wasn’t looking to be wealthy. I simply wanted a life that placed God at the center, and where I could live my life as I had been living it (under my parents roof). In truth, however, what I wanted was freedom from my parents control, which I thought was excessive and too strict. I wanted a purpose, too. I wanted to have a “life,” a career, and a job that I enjoyed. I wanted routine and regularity, but without the stress and the strict rules that came from my parents control. In short, what I really wanted was my own life. Yes, in hindsight, I wanted to be on my own, to be living as I desired, and to be in control of my days. Instead, I exchanged remote controllers — my parents for that of my husband — and in the end, I found myself dominated, manipulated and controlled to such an extent that I considered seriously ending my own life, twice.

I don’t blame my ex-husband anymore (I did for a long time). Rather, I blame myself and my failure to recognize that what I really wanted was to grow up and to be my own person. Had I simply chosen to get a job, move out on my own, and begin a career — I doubt seriously that I would have even paid attention to my ex-husband’s interest. I would not have found him attractive in any way, and I would have spotted those red flags more clearly simply because I would have had a more grown-up perspective, and more serious approach to life commitments such as marriage.

In my desire to be free from my parents, I ran from their home to marriage, in the hope that I would find safety and security (the two things I need most), but with some of the benefits of being a grown up. What I didn’t bargain for was the lies about his education, his job, his former life, his former girl friends and the trouble he had with them. I didn’t bargain for the over-reaching in laws that dominated and controlled our life or the lack of interest in stability and general life. Within three years of marriage, I knew that I had made such a horrible mistake. I knew that I had chosen poorly. I knew that my life, for all intents and purposes, was over. There was no hope, no way out, and no chance of improvement. I was stuck, for better or for worse, in a marriage that was not the Christian marriage I desired. In fact, the marriage was filled with debt, lies, tax issues, pornography, and lack of responsibility. There was no security and no stability. There was no Christ centered home. There was just the lust for things: sex, money, power, position, and place. My little dream world of a Christian marriage, a home and a family, was shattered long before we had even made any plans.

As I have reflected on these early experiences, I realized that the road to recovery was heaven-sent and heaven-blest. I lost my marriage due to infidelity. I lost my identity, formed through that marriage, as a consequence of the infidelity. But, the Lord restored my sense of self, and He gave me a renewed identity securely placed in Christ. As I came through the devastation and destruction of that life, I was reborn in more ways than one. I was already a Christ follower, but my devotion to the Lord deepened as I struggled to deal with my marriage, the cancer inside the marriage, and the eventual death of the marriage. The Lord used the heartbreak, the horror, and the hurt to help me come to Him fully. I fully surrendered my life to the Lord in 2006, well before the worst parts came to light. By the time that 2007 rolled around, and my life hit the skids, I was much more secure in my faith in God. Then in 2009, when the infidelity really came into focus, I was far more ready to place my faith and my trust in the Lord for His comfort and care.

As 2010 started, and the hard decision was made (whether to stay or to separate), I realized that I was strong enough to go it alone. Over the course of previous three years, the Lord helped me regain my sense of self worth, and He helped me see the deep and dark hole I was living in. His light helped me accept the truth of my situation, and with my utter and sheer devotion, I made a pledge to Him to seek Him and to follow Him all the days of my life. I committed to my marriage, and for a good year or so, I did everything possible to submit and yield to my husband, in order to show him preference, favor, and respect. In many ways, I did what Naomi said to Ruth — to humble herself before her master, Boaz — so that he would see her has worthy to be redeemed. But instead of redeeming my love and my affection, my ex-husband rejected it all the more. In fact, he turned further away from me as I turned further toward the Lord.

Although I didn’t formally separate from my ex-husband until November, 2011 — in many ways — I lived a separate life from him for approximately 22 months (January 2010-November 2011). We shared a home, but not a bed. We separated our income, and we lived separate lives but in the same house. I made the commitment to the Lord to be gracious, kind, and compassionate toward him. I did everything I could to honor him during that difficult period. I didn’t argue. I didn’t complain. I kept my commitments to the home — cleaning it, cooking for our family, caring for the inside and outside — all the while, he did nothing.  Most months, he couldn’t pay the mortgage or the utilities, so I would do that (thanks to my small income that the Lord blessed). The Lord provided security for me, and He opened doors for a career. I began to work part-time in retail (much to my ex’s chagrin), and I started graduate school online. I trusted the Lord, and I lived in horrible strain and stress as I leaned on Him for resolution. Of course, I had no idea what would happen eventually, and in time, the end did come. Our home was foreclosed and was sold at auction. I had moved out the month prior, and my ex found an apartment in the city. I took our son and the cats and some of our old things, but most went to the city dump or with my ex to his new place.

It has been five years since that move out, and in that time, my life has been blessed and favored. I didn’t come to complete terms with my life right away, even despite counseling for a year-and-half. Eventually, though, I did accept the terms. I agreed with the Lord that I played a part in the life I lived, and while my ex did inappropriate things that caused our eventual break, I walked into the marriage with my eyes wide open. I made the choice, and for all intents and purposes, I did the right thing. I honored it. I lived it. I committed to it. I kept my vow.

It is now 2016, the end of the year, and in less than five months, I will graduate with my PhD in Communication. I blog often about my dream of becoming a professor, and here I am, a professor of English, teaching online and on campus, and impacting and influencing students on a daily basis. I live with my parents now, but soon I will be on my own again. My son is with me (as well as the cats), and in time, we will be free to live someplace else, somewhere the Lord desires us to live. Until then, I continue to focus on the call the Lord has placed on my life, and I wait patiently for His deliverance, His provision that will enable me to take full charge, full responsibility, full authority over my life. He is good to me, so very good to me.

In Closing

I think about my blessings today and about how far I have come since my marriage ended. I realize now that the Lord redeemed me when my ex-husband chose to let me go. The Lord said, “I will be your husband,” and as such, He has done just that. He has provided a covering for me. He has given me security and provision. He has created stability in my life. He has given me a plan, a purpose, and a path to walk on, and in and through it all, He has been my constant and steady companion. His presence has provided such sweet satisfaction, and I have come to rely on and rest in Him. I love the Lord so deeply. I desire nothing else but the comfort of His abiding Spirit and the blessing and favor that comes from living a yielded, humble, and fully surrendered life. I am “all in” as they say. I want nothing — no — I desire nothing else because Christ is my ALL IN ALL.

December 7, 2016

It Is a Good Day

Happy Wednesday, World! It is a good day today. In every respect, it is good. I woke up early again, around 5:00 a.m., though I forced myself to stay in bed for almost an hour while I read the news, caught up on social media, and checked email. Finally, I was roused by my boys batting a Christmas ornament down the hallway. I still cannot find where it landed, but for about 10 minutes all I heard was the “ching, ching, ching” of an ornament as it was being whacked up and down the hallway outside my bedroom door. LOL! Still, despite the fretful awakening, I am choosing to treat this day as  a “good” one. Yes, God is good, and thus, every day under heaven is also a good, good day. Selah!

Giving God Praise

I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart; 
I will glorify your name forever (Psalm 86:12 NIV)

The past couple days have been stressful for me. I don’t know why, really. It is not like my to-do list got any longer or more difficult. I think it is because my semester is ending, and I see everything that must be completed by the final due date, and well, that fact just seems overly intimidating to me. I know I can do it, praise be to God, but still the volume of work seems staggering at times. I have so much to do, and frankly, there just isn’t enough time in the day to do it all. But, God is good, and therefore, I am choosing this good day to give Him all the praise. He is good, so very good to me — so very, very good to me.

Lately, I have thought about my schedule, and about the realistic opportunity for me to teach so many classes regularly. I love the “thought” of making a lot of money doing what I love, but when I focus on the money aspect, and I realize that in order to make “what I think is enough,” I would have to sustain this pace long term, well, I just cannot do it. I mean, it is too much, and with this in mind, I realize that now I am overworked, overburdened, and just overwhelmed by the amount of work that must be done.

I am not sure what the Lord has in mind for me, but I pray that one job — just one job — will turn full-time and allow me the flexibility of teaching 3-4 classes rather than 6-7. I don’t know how much longer I can sustain this pace, but God be praised, I know that He knows my ends. He knows what I can and cannot handle, and He knows how much work I can tackle and still do well. It is encouraging, and satisfying to know that God, as my Manager, is the one who orchestrates my work life. He is the One who brings me favor with schools, and He is the One who says, “Yes or no” to various opportunities. I can trust in His determination, His judgment, and in the end, I can believe that He knows what is best for me.

For example, I have been thinking more about whether I should plan to go someplace else or remain here in Phoenix for a time. The more I think about staying put, the more I see the bare facts of little opportunity, in teaching that is, for me. I see skyrocketing housing prices, and I see rents following suit. I honestly do not see staying here as a viable alternative. I really believe that the only place I can go to earn a decent living is where teachers are paid well, but the cost of living and housing is less than it is here in Phoenix. I have looked at a number of places, but either teachers are paid a pittance or the cost of housing is commensurate with Phoenix. I need both aspects to fall in line with my potential earnings, and frankly, so far it has been difficult to pinpoint any place that isn’t in a cold climate. I guess that is why the salaries are so aggressively positioned. I mean, not very many people want to relocate to a cold place (e.g., Nebraska, for example).

I realize that taking a teaching position, while satisfying to my soul and my senses, was not the most lucrative financially speaking. Yet, this is what I believe the Lord provided to me, called me to do, thus I have to believe that He has a place for me. I have to believe that my path is leading me to a place where I can earn a decent living AND afford a modest home. Sigh!

O, Lord, I know you have me well covered this good, good day. Help me to not focus on what I lack, but rather to focus on the good you have brought to me. May my day be filled with joy and thanksgiving as I meditate on your Word, and consider with gratefulness the bounty of your blessings.

The Lord is good to me, so very, very good to me. Just yesterday, I was praying for some comfort, some confirmation, and thanks be to God, He provided it to me. I spent most of the day at home, struggling to even complete a single task. I did managed to get out the door and do some needed shopping, but other than that, I spent most of the day feeling down and depressed about my mounting to-do list. Still, late in the day, the Lord gave me encouragement as I spent time with my colleagues and discussed my project. It was good to have some company, to commiserate, and to not feel so alone in the process. I ended our chat session feeling better overall, but still not 100% as if I was back on track and able to focus more clearly.

This morning, however, after waking up so early again, I spent time in the Word and then prayed over my situation. I realize that I am suffering from some oppression, so the first thing I did was defend myself against my enemy who is seeking to cause me harm. Second, using the Word of God as my weapon of choice, I confirmed my calling, and reaffirmed my commitment to trusting the Lord — despite what appears to be a very difficult and challenging hill up ahead of me. I have no recourse but to remain faithful. At this point in time, I must remain steadfast. I must not fall into the trap of fearing failure. Failure is not an option, and I know this is the case. I must stay strong, but as my strength fails, I remember that I can do all things through CHRIST and His strength. I cannot do it alone nor can I even attempt this major project standing on my own determination and judgment. No, this project is His, and it has been consecrated for His praise, honor, and glory. I have said that I would take no credit in its completion, but I would give it ALL to the Lord for His praise. I know that I need His help, and without His help, I simply cannot do what is being asked of me. I reconfirmed my commitment to His glory — to seeking and praising Him — and to bringing Him glory as I work through all these things, these miserable and at times, heavy and hard things. Yet, I know He is pleased with me. He tells me so through His gentle affirmation, His kind words, and His gracious favor. I know my Father is pleased, and that thought cheers me on. I can do this, I say to myself. I can do this work because it pleases God, my Father, and in and through that process, I find joy, satisfaction, and an overall sense of accomplishment. I can do this work because it is His work, and therefore, it is His to claim, to name, and to proclaim.

I thank you, Jesus, for the good work you have in store for me this good, good day. I lay everything down at your feet and I rest in your sufficiency, your goodness, and your grace, this good day. I know that all things can be accomplished through your power, your might, and your wisdom; thus, I ask in Jesus Name for your power to infuse me, your Spirit to ignite the fire within me, and your word to settle me so that I can focus and do this good work. In all things, I give you praise. I honor your Holy Name, and I rest in your security and your provision. You are good to me, and I deserve you not. Thank you, Lord, for your blessedness, your presence, and your authority in and through my life. In Jesus’ Name I pray this today, amen. So be it. Selah!

December 6, 2016

Drained and Poured Out

Happy Tuesday, everyone! Yes, it is Tuesday, my 14th-week at GCU (16th at ACU), and I am absolutely worn to a frazzle. It is always this way, right near the end. I simply expire! I mean, I just go, go, go, and then ker-plunk, I crash. I am so very weary right now, and I have so much more to do before I can really call it quits and enjoy my blessed winter holiday. I woke up this morning with a massive headache. It was a cluster headache, caused no doubt by tension and stress. Thankfully, since this is my bi-weekly day off, I was able to go back to bed and simply rest. With Advil, and now some caffeine, I am feeling better.

My day today is full. I wish it were a “rest” day, but I have grading for all three schools, essays to read, and class maintenance to perform, all in preparation for finals. I need to make sure every student has a grade for every assignment, no ungraded errors, and rather than wait for finals to do this, I thought it would be wise to do it now. Avoid the rush, so to speak.

My dissertation is waiting for me, and I honestly do not know how I will finish it. Yet, I have this sense of peace and calm about me, and right now, I am not worried. I mean, I have a bit of a “worried” concern when the thought pops in my head, but then it quickly diminishes, and I feel fine again. It is like the Holy Spirit simply snatches those thoughts away from me before they settle in too deeply. The work I have to do is significant, and frankly, I am not sure how I will do it in the remaining time. I know the Lord has me well-covered, and praise be to God, I am good, so very good. Still, I think, “Lord, I need to be working on this project rather than resting!” The Lord reminds me that I need to rest, and that He has the details all worked out. I can relax, I can rely on His judgment and determination, and in the end, I can rest in His ability to complete this very difficult and time-consuming work. He is so good to me, so very good to me.

Waiting for His Hand

I am finding it difficult to wait. I am in this waiting mode, sort of waiting to see what will happen next. In context, I am working while I wait, which I believe it the biblical principle that most people overlook when they are in need of a life change moment. So often, we want the Lord to simply evacuate us from whatever trouble we are in, yet most of the time, the Lord doesn’t do this for us. He lets us wait, lets us sit, and while we do, He expects us to keep busy. We are to work while we wait, and in this way, we keep ourselves busy. Busy is a good thing, when it is kept within the context of waiting. Sometimes, people use busyness as a coping mechanism, for loneliness or heartache, as examples. Busyness that keeps us from engaging in the world, from impacting our little sphere of influence, is nonproductive. It simply keeps us away from the very people God wants us to influence. Instead, busyness while we wait, in context with the waiting, allows God to position us in places where we can minister to others, listen and encourage others, and help others in ways that wouldn’t normally happen because we would be so active doing other, non-important things. Consider it this way, the situation you are in — YOUR WAITING SITUATION — might be for the expressed purpose of ministering to others who are also in your situation. Think of your coworkers who would not have the blessing of your presence day in and day out, who would not benefit from your prayers or your help when they need it most. Think of the people you know who do not have hope, have not responded to the Good News, and as such, are trying to make sense of their world WITHOUT JESUS CHRIST.

Waiting in context then is a blessed condition, but often we see it as punishment, as payment for our former sinful life and choices. Rather, Paul reminds us that we are to live our life as redeemed people, bent on following the Lord, and working out our salvation according to His glorious riches. We are to live as though we are with Christ, actually living and walking with our Lord. We read in Colossians 3:1-2 (Message),

So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective.

I love this last part where it says “see things from His perspective” because it reminds me that as new creatures in Christ, our vision, our eyes, have been opened to the things of the world. We now possess the Holy Spirit who helps us choose wisely, to understand the world around us, and to distinguish between the old way and the new way. Yes, our Helper, helps us to adopt a new frame of reference, and with that adoption, we begin to see life as it really is — with all the horrors, hurt, and heartache — and then with His motivation and encouragement, we become His co-laborers as we seek to comfort, console, and communicate the love of God through our daily interactions with those around us.

Furthermore, as we wait, while we wait I should say, we are to ACT and DRESS like we are waiting for something, someone special to arrive. Paul says it this way in verses 12-14,

So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.

The Message translation really brings the sentiment home and beautifully describes how we are to act now that we are in Christ and no longer in the world. Think about it. Think about your current situation, no matter how awful it feels, how tight the perimeter is that binds you to it, and imagine if you clothed yourself with these Godly and Christ-like characteristics, day in and day out. What could come of your waiting period? What might happen to your relationships while you wait for the Lord blessed “next steps” or provision for those next steps?

Lastly, as we read Paul’s exhortation in this chapter, it becomes clear that while we are waiting, while we are busy at our work (whatever work that may be), we are to work with a certain attitude, a certain appreciation of the position we are in. In this way, we give God the glory, that while we are brought low, patiently experiencing hard times or difficult ways, we are working unto the Lord. We are working for God, doing what He asks of us, and in this way, He is given all glory, praise and honor. 

In verses 23-24 (Message), we read:

Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you’ll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ.

Yes, our real master is God, and whether we receive our “rescue” now or later, there is a reward for faithful service waiting for us at the end of our journey. Our “ultimate Master” is Christ, and when we live as though He is here with us, present, active, and alongside of us, we realize that we are no different then the first disciples. We are like them in that we spend our days doing whatever work is necessary in order to fulfill our calling and our mandate. We work heartily for the Lord, choosing to humble ourselves and do work that is boring at times, difficult, and sometimes even hostile. Yes, we work for our Master and our Lord, and by clothing ourselves (dressing up) for the occasion, we bring Him honor and praise. With a proper perspective on life, as a Child of God, we should come to know and to recognize that we no longer work for ourselves, and we no longer determine our way. We are now following the Lord whole-heartedly, and by that, we must understand that we are no longer able to go where we please and do what we want. Rather, we are led by a yoke, and in this way, we must go where our Master goes, we must stay in step with Him. 

It has taken me a long, long time to see myself and my life through this new lens. I think the reason why I struggled so with it was because many people who say they are Christ followers are not. They believe in the Lord as Savior, but they do not follow Him. They go their own way, worship when they feel they must, but generally they live worldly and white-washed lives. They are forgiven for their sins, but they haven’t surrendered to His call. 

I learned the hard way that true followership requires sacrifice, and that sacrifice is not just my time, but it is every part of my life. I lay my life down, ownership of it, and I pick up my cross and I follow after Him. I take on His work, His burden, His call, and in this way, my life is no longer my own. I do not call the shots, I don’t go where I want to go, but in everything I do, I follow His plan, His path, His purpose and His passion. Proverbs 16:9 (NASB) says, “The mind of man plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps,” which clearly tells us that while we may make plans, it is the Lord who actually leads us, guides us, and provides for us as He directs our way. 

Waiting Patiently for His Provision

As I wait for the Lord to provide for me, I realize today that I am in a most blessed position. I am tired, yes so very tired, but I am also in a place where I can rest. I realize that often I let my situation get to me, and in this way, I lose my perspective. I stop seeing the matter from His vantage point. Instead, I start to see it, to look at it with disgust, with dissatisfaction, and with disappointment simply because it doesn’t seem to be working out for me. My plans aren’t coming to pass as I had hoped, and even though I know He is directing my steps, I want my plans — my way — to come to pass now.

I read Psalm 140 this morning, a Psalm of David, where he cried out to the Lord while he was in the midst of great adversity. David begged and pleaded with the Lord to vanquish his enemies and to give him the victory over the evil of his day. I thought, “How odd, Lord, that you would lay this psalm on my heart this morning.” I mean, I am not in the heat of battle. My enemies are not seeking to destroy me. For goodness sake, I work at three lovely Christian schools, and I am finishing my PhD at one of them. I am in such a sweet, wonderful, and blessed place right now. I said, “Why this psalm, this day, Lord?”

In verses 1-5 of the Message, we read:

God, get me out of here, away from this evil;
protect me from these vicious people.
All they do is think up new ways to be bad;
they spend their days plotting war games.
They practice the sharp rhetoric of hate and hurt,
speak venomous words that maim and kill.
God, keep me out of the clutch of these wicked ones,
protect me from these vicious people;
Stuffed with self-importance, they plot ways to trip me up,
determined to bring me down.
These crooks invent traps to catch me
and do their best to incriminate me.

David was in a difficult spot. Clearly, his circumstances were far more serious than mine are today. He was dealing with people who wanted nothing more than to destroy his life. His heart was torn as he had to live amidst such vile and wicked people.

In verses 12-13 (Message), after David has poured out his complaint to the Lord, he remembers the goodness of God, and in a like manner, he shifts his perspective from his current situation to a more heaven-centric one. He focuses on who God is rather than on his present discomfort. He says, 

I know that you, God, are on the side of victims,
that you care for the rights of the poor.
And I know that the righteous personally thank you,
that good people are secure in your presence.

As I read this psalm this morning, I sat there thinking to myself that despite my discomfort, it is in no way as serious or sinister as that of King David’s. In truth, I live a modest, yet comfortable life. I am in a good place, and I have a good future filled with hope ahead of me. I struggle, this is no lie, yet my life is blessed, favored, and well-guarded. I am in a good place, praise be to God, and in this good place, I am safe. In many ways, I am secure in His presence (v. 13). I am secure. I am safe. I am sound. I know that God cares for me, and that He understands — knows and is aware — of my present need. He knows me well, and He knows my next steps. He has my life all figured out, so while I may feel overwhelmed today, unwell in some ways, I know that my God has this — this life — well directed. I can rest in His presence this good, good day.

In Closing

I had a rough start today, but here it is mid-morning, and I am feeling better. Thanks to the Lord’s provision for me, I am in this very safe place. I am living in this very controlled and wonderfully comfortable place. I have no reason to complain, to gripe, or even to find fault because the Lord has dealt generously with me (Psalm 13:6). Yes, He has made a way for me, and while I wait and must keep busy until He provides my next step along the path, I can take comfort in knowing that He has me well-covered, so well-secured, and that I am safe within His presence this good, good day. He is good to me, so very good to me! Selah!

December 4, 2016

Deciding Today

It is Sunday, and I am at home for a short time before I will head over to my parents’ church for a farewell celebration for their interim minister. I wasn’t going to go, but I woke up thinking that it would be the “right thing to do,” so I will do it. There is a lunch offered afterwards, and well, it just is a nice thing to do — to say goodbye and thank you — for his almost two years of service to the church and to my parents.

My hope today is that I can finish all my to-do tasks before I turn in for the night. It is almost 8 a.m., and I am already hard at work. Yes, my work never seems to end. I try not to think about it, but there are days when I think to myself, “What have I gotten myself into?” In truth, I really do love my life — all of it, and I don’t think I would even want to change it (except for the full-time position part). I really am very happy and content to live my life as it has unfolded.

I woke up this morning, thinking about my life, wondering about my future, and after spending about an hour in prayer, I decided to accept my life as it is — for good or for bad — and simply let it unfold as the Lord desires it to do so. In fact, when I read my email this morning, K-Love’s verse of the day happened to be my life verse, Psalm 37:4-5, which says,

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

I took this verse as my “life verse,” some ten years ago, and I have come to experience its truth. I have made the Lord my delight,  my all, my Source and my Sufficiency, and in this way, He has given to me all the desires within my heart (His desires, first, and then some of my desires, second). My life is full to overflowing right now with gratitude, and as I sit here and think about my options, my plans, and my desires, one thing is for sure: I desire nothing but the Lord, and all His delight and good pleasure. I really do not desire anything else. I mean, what else can I possibly want save the Lord and His love, mercy, goodness, and truth?

The Lord has sustained me through difficult times. He has upheld my honor, provided a good path for me to walk on, and throughout the ups and downs, helped me make sense of my world. In this way, I have come to terms with much hurt, hardship, and heartache. I have learned to accept my “lot” in life, and I have come to this place of comfort, of care, and of control. I feel good about the direction of my life, and as I rest in it, I realize that if nothing were to come of my life from this point forward, if I never left Phoenix or changed jobs, for example, could I be happy and content right where I am? The answer to that question has taken time for me to articulate, but I believe I could say today that, “yes,” I could be content and happy to remain fixed here in Phoenix. It is a difficult thing to say because there could come a time when I may find myself all alone. My son will invariably grow up and leave home. My parents will come to the end of their lives at some point in time. This means that I will have to be able to deal with the loss, the loneliness, and the longing for family. For a long time, I thought I couldn’t handle it. For many years, I believed that I would die should I find myself all alone. Now, however, I realize that being alone is not all that bad, really. I actually enjoy my alone time, and I enjoy the freedom that comes with being alone. This doesn’t mean that I want to live in isolation; rather, it is simply an acknowledgement that I have the freedom to choose how to live my life. I can live in community (in fellowship with others) by choice, and that simply means that I don’t have to be alone, unless I really want to be alone. It is not a life sentence, rather it is a choice to remain alone, to remain solitary for moments in time.

Solitary Singleness

I have wrestled with this concept for a long while now. I have come to enjoy my aloneness, but for a while, I was afraid of what that might mean for my life. I believe that as Christians, we were made for companionship, for community, and that God desires us to live in community as a demonstration of His love and care for His family.

Socrates once said, “Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” It can be very easy to fill up your life with busy activities that account for nothing in the end. The busy life doesn’t necessarily equate to the fulfilled or satisfied life. I don’t want to live a busy life without purpose, and I think that is the key. I want my life to be filled with purposeful activities, with events and individuals who matter to me and to the Lord. Thus, my life, whether single or solitary, doesn’t have to be empty, lonely, or even less than satisfying. It can be full, filled with wonderful moments, and cherished memories. Yes, it is a choice to live a solitary life, but that choice doesn’t necessarily mean emptiness.

I have always desired to understand the Apostle Paul’s statement where he says that he has learned to be content in richness and in poverty. I wanted to be able to say, “I am content” and really mean it. In many ways, I have come to learn contentment, and while I have never been abased or had to live in the meanest circumstances, I have experienced enough highs and lows to realize that what satisfies the soul is not meat or wine or even comfort, but the Lord Jesus Christ, Himself. The Lord is the fulfillment of all our earthly desires and needs and wants. If we fill ourselves with His presence, with His purpose, then our life will be satisfying to us. We will feel settled and content.

Lately, I have come to this place of contentment, whereby I am able to see that all my striving for more, longing for more, wanting of more, really was just my own desire saying that I needed something plus Jesus. I do not. I know this fact is true. I need nothing else but the depth and breadth of my Savior’s love.

The rub in all of this is knowing, accepting, acknowledging that when one is face to face with the Lord, seeing Him in His glory, envisioning Him as Lord and Sovereign, one comes to understand that there is the Lord, and then there is everything else. Everything under the sun is meaningless (Eccl. 1:1-11). It is all vanity.

What is more is the fact that as I have looked into the mirror and seen His reflection, I realize that while there are good gifts to be had in the world: good things, good times, and good people, in the end, there is His work, and the outcome of that work is everything. C.S. Lewis urged his listeners to consider first things first, and stressed that by placing first things first (meaning the Lord), everything else would fall into place, into proper order and place. Matthew 6:33 says the same thing: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” for in doing so, “everything will be added unto you.” You see, when we place the Lord first in our life, and I mean really first, we come to realize that in truth, there are no seconds. There is nothing left to know save Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

I guess you could say that I have resigned myself to spending my life in whole-hearted devotion to the Lord. I simply desire nothing else but my Lord and His will and work in and through my life. I long for nothing else but His approval, His desires to fill my heart, and His love, grace, and mercy to guide my thoughts, my words and my deeds. I desire Jesus alone.

Living Wholly Devoted

It has been a long time since I committed my way to whole-hearted devotion. In fact, I made a vow to the Lord a long time ago that said that I would be wholly devoted to Him — if He would care for me, love me, and provide for me. Yes, I made a vow. I promised the Lord that I would place nothing on the throne room of my heart except for the Lord. There would be no idols tempting me to lay down before them. I would forsake all others, seeking only to follow the Lord with my sincere and complete devotion. In this way, I chose to pursue what is called in Catholic terms, the life of an oblate. Oblates are individuals, either laypersons or clergy, normally living in general society, who, while not professed monks or nuns, have individually affiliated themselves with a monastic community of their choice (Benedictine). I am not Catholic, but my heart identifies with this idea of a life of service, of pure and undefiled service to the Lord. I do not believe we are called to live as hermits or even as solitary sojourners. Rather, I believe that God places the desire of whole-hearted devotion into the hearts of some people, and these people respond to that call with a sincere desire to glorify God in every area of their lives.

I first came to understand the role of oblate while searching for devotional material online. I had read the “Rule of St. Benedict” back in 2007 as part of my classical reading study group, and I was completely interested in the way of life of these early monastics. Then, when I studied Medieval literature at Mercy College, I once again was introduced to the Rule, and I found an affinity for the Benedictine way of life. Granted, I am not Catholic, and I am not saying that I believe in Catholic doctrine or dogma. No, it is simply that the rules as they were instituted sought to glorify God through practical and spiritual work.

I was seeking clarification as to my spiritual calling one day, and the Lord pressed upon me the OSB, or guidelines for Oblates of St. Benedict. I read through these “rules,” and found that I desired this way of life, deeply longing for it. Yet, since I am not Catholic, and I have no desire to attach to a monastery or Abbey, there was little point to it. Still, the desire has persisted, and even to this day, I will sigh with great longing and wondering if my life might have turned out differently had I been introduced to this way of life when I was young.

Now that I am in my 50s, I realize that the rules are simply guidelines that demonstrate the love of Christ in tangible and productive ways. This is my heart’s desire. Moreover, as an oblate, there is a spiritual community that provides support and encouragement in order to provide strength, resolve, and discipline to all. I struggle with the idea that the Church, Christ’s church, is not doing what it was designed to do. More so, I feel that God’s people are not living their lives as an expression of His holiness nor are they bringing His goodness to the world as Christ’s mandate in scripture commanded. For many believers today, living a holy and non-world centric life is optional. There is too much out there to enjoy, and for many, this means the opportunity to live in the world, be a part of the world, except for Sundays and special Church holidays.

The Rule of St. Benedict governed every day life. It provided structure through prayers, fasting, and scriptural study so that the Benedictine monk or nun was constantly immersed in religious thought and practice. The focus was on good works, on doing good works, not for the earning of salvation, but as an expression of God’s love through His gift of salvation.

I have come to desire this simplistic focus for my life. I long for this way of life, whereby my entire being is consumed in the pursuit of His glory. I want to know what this feels like, to live this way, and to shun or forsake all other avenues in the pursuit of it. I don’t know why this is or why I am willing to give up everything in order to have it, but the desire is there, in my heart, and it has not waned in 10 years.

Perhaps this is why I have always preferred to be alone. Perhaps this is why I am now content to be alone. It is not that I desire isolation or to become a hermit, it is more that I just am OK with being on my own, with my thoughts, and that my life has such meaning especially when I am in prayer with the Lord. I want to spend all my time, all my day, in prayer. I want to focus my life on what I believe the Holy Spirit is asking me, nay calling me, to do. I want to be “all in” as they say, and that means to not allow anything or anyone to deter me from this desire.

When I was married, I had this epiphany moment when I first came to see this way of life as possible for me. I tried to share it with my then-husband, but he rejected it out of hand. He wasn’t interested in pursuing whole-hearted devotion to the Lord or a way of life that was predicated upon good works. In his view, I was becoming a lunatic. I was losing my perspective, and I was becoming as he said, “Primitive” in my thinking. I thought I had found the “golden goose,” and I wanted so much to pursue this line of work. I wanted to lay down my goods, give up my worldly ambition, and simply choose a more simplified life. In fact, I did just that…in time. I quit the family business, citing issues with honesty and honor. I found good practical work in retail whereby I could do honest labor for honest wages. I began to shake off all the worldly attachments that had pulled me down to the lowest depths, and in return, I found powerful and passionate desire surrounding my love for the Lord.

As an overall result, my marriage suffered. I lost my husband to another woman. I lost my home, my family connection, and my identity — everything — that was connected to my relationship with my husband. The Lord graciously upheld my rights, and He provided a way out for me, but in return, I promised Him that I would continue to keep Him as my focus, my soul’s delight.

Now, I am on the back end of that experience, and I am still whole-hearted and completely devoted to the Lord. I long for nothing else. I can imagine no other life than the one I have because this life fills me completely, satisfies the deep inner longings that I have, and provides me with purpose, with goals and achievements that all seek one thing: to bring glory to God, forever. Amen.

Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen (1 Peter 4:11 NASB).

December 3, 2016

Looking Good, Feeling Good

It is a blessed Saturday. I am feeling well, thanks in part to a good night’s sleep and some Advil, last night. I crashed right after dinner, and with a solid backache (all day), I really didn’t feel like doing much online. I needed to grade papers, and since I wasn’t able to sit at my computer for longer than a few minutes, I had to put that task off. This means, of course, that I am behind the 8-ball today. I will have to make up grading in order to keep to my schedule and begin my analysis work on my dissertation today. Sigh!

Still, I am blessed or feeling blessed. My son is on his way to Indiana today. He was in Wisconsin last evening, performing alongside some professional musicians for a mini-Christmas tour, and then today, the entire group is driving down to Indiana for the next stop. Tomorrow, they will all head into Michigan, and then on Monday, he will fly home. I hope he gets to really experience the life of a professional musician. This mini-tour might just do him in (LOL!) He texted me to say he was loving the cold, but knowing my son, I am sure he is not “loving” the drive from state-to-state. My prayer, is as always, that he comes to recognize the Lord’s will for his life, which I believe is firmly centered in professional music. This means that I believe the Lord desires him to become a professional musician, among other things. The days of earning big bucks in the music business are dead and gone, so what I am talking about is earning a decent living doing something you love. It is not about fame, fortune, or even fantastic opportunity. It is about using your gifts and talents in a way that brings honor to the Lord.

For artists and musicians this often means performing or producing artistic work. The world screams that artists, all types, are lazy buggers who never want to grow up, when in truth, they are among the hardest working people I know. My of my artist friends work in multiple jobs just so they can do the thing they love. Often, they sacrifice and they suffer due to a lack of income. I want my son to choose his path wisely, but I have never wanted him to do a job simply to get a paycheck. I did that for years, and I was so dissatisfied with my choice. I loathed going to work every day, and in the end, the stress of working in a job I hated really took a toll on my health. I am now doing a job I love, and while the pay isn’t great, and I am not going to be wealthy as a teacher, I am doing something I am proud of and where I know my work matters. In many ways, I believe that I chose the “better” portion as scripture says (of the role of Mary and Martha). I chose to do work that honored the Lord first and foremost rather than work that simply produced good results.

My prayer for my son is the same. If the Lord is calling him into music, then so be it. I will support him, literally if need be, in order for him to follow the Lord’s desire. I know the Lord will provide, so I don’t think of it as a life sentence or of letting my adult son off the hook. No — not at all. He is responsible, and he is a good worker, so I have no doubt that the Lord will use his hard work and strong ethic to produce good work through him. This work, will no doubt, bring honor to the Lord. I believe it is so or will be so. Selah!

In other news, I am enjoying my Saturday. I slept in some, and then I got on the computer to check email and make sure my little world wasn’t spinning out of control. I received an email from Kohls’ reminding me that my Kohls cash would expire on Monday, so I did some online shopping earlier today. I bought three things, my Christmas gift to me, I guess you could say. I bought a new bag for school/work, a pair of dress boots, and a nice wool blend winter coat. All three are really for my spring trip to VA. I want to look nice, but also be warm, so I invested in a pea-coat for my trip. The boots are just cute, and they will do double-duty with jeans or my dress pants. The bag was really a bonus find. It is big enough to carry my laptop and my necessary items so that I can take one item on the plane with me. Furthermore, it also does double-duty as a briefcase for my spring classes. I should be able to carry one bag to school and no longer have to lug a purse and a briefcase from class to class. With my Kohls cash and today’s bonus discounts, I once again saved $300. My total outlay was $63 with tax. Not too shabby, if I do say so myself.

In all, I am in this very good place. I am enjoying my life immensely, and I am looking forward to seeing the good opportunities the Lord has in store for me and my family over the next 3-6 and 9 months. I am, of course, really looking forward to defending my dissertation. One of my colleagues from my study group, defended his research yesterday. He is the first in our group to be crowned “Doctor.” Now, it is up to the rest of us (the remaining 3). We are all in the middle of research, and we are all planning to graduate in May. God is on our side, and we are all confident that what He has begun in us (as in His work), He will be faithful to bring it to completion. The Lord is good, so very good to us. Selah!
As I close out this short post today, I give thanks and praise to God above for His mercy and His grace. He is good, so very good to us. He loves me, He cares for me, and He provides for me. I cannot even begin to bear the testimony that would bring Him the honor He desires. My words fail me. My thoughts betray me. And, my heart stumbles, and I fall so short of His glorious praise. Yet, I will lift my voice this good, good day, and I will praise the Lord with every fiber of my being. I will bring the full offering into His temple, and I will sacrifice my self at the altar for His praise and His honor.

My Lord receives all my praise. My Lord deserves my worship and my unending sacrifice. My Lord is worthy of my every breath, and with my every breath, I will bring Him praise, I will sing of His good name, and I will rejoice in His grace and His mercy. He is good, He is so very good to me! Selah!

December 2, 2016

Creating Space

It is a cool and clear day here in Phoenix. The sun is beginning to peak through the high clouds, and with a nip in the air, it certainly feels like fall is in full swing. I woke up early today, not sure why, but I did. I have been trying to sleep until 8 or so, but lately, I wake up closer to 6 a.m. I guess it just means that I am well-rested, and that I don’t need as much sleep now as I did before school began.

My need for sleep has always been an issue for me, but lately, I have been able to rest on my days off as well as my evenings. Some nights I am burning the candle well toward midnight, but those days are getting to be few and far between. The good news is that even with the amount of work I have to do, what I am finding is that with my evening hours set aside for grading and other school-related work, I am able to finish all my tasks without over taxing my system. I guess that is why I am feeling so well-rested. I am focusing on what I must do each day, and once that is completed, I am taking some time off to just relax. It has been such a good thing to relax, to just rest, and I am thanking the Lord for His provision of down-time.

It is Friday, and that means that I have my three classes at GCU today only. I am “technically” finished at ACU, but will need to meet next week for “finals” (our presentation days). My teaching over there is completed, and praise God, I am relieved. This was a challenging semester, but still enjoyable. I hope my students took something from my class — even just the knowledge — that I deeply care about them and want the best for them. In all, I am glad I am on the countdown toward Christmas. After today, I have one and one-half weeks left at GCU and at Regent. Then, I am on vacation until January 9, 2017, praise the Lord!

So in all, it is a good morning. It is very quiet in my house. My parents are still asleep, and the clock has just ticked over to 8:05 a.m. I’ve been up for an hour, fed the cats, watered them, cleaned their box, took out the trash, and made my first cup of coffee. Now, I am sitting at my desk and enjoying the blessed peacefulness. My son is off on his mini-tour of the Midwest today. He is near Green Bay, WI, and he texted me saying he was “loving” the cold weather. I am praying he has a wonderful time away. This is a professional music “gig,” so he is a bit nervous as to what is expected of him. But, God knows this is a good thing, and I have full faith and confidence that he will do just fine, just fine.

My Home

I am starting to settle into my small space. I purchased some new items for my room, and they are slowly arriving from various manufacturers. The other day, my order from Ikea arrived. At first, I wasn’t sure I liked the curtains. They were very long — too long — for my window, and the material was starchy stiff. I decided to wash them first, and I am so glad that I did. Granted, they needed to be ironed, and even after a good ironing, they are still a bit wrinkled. But, they look nice. I really like how they soften my window. My duvet cover was such a wonderful hit. Again, at first, I wasn’t sure I liked it. It is very soft, which is nice, but it just seemed rather plain on my bed. Now, after a couple days of use, I really love the look. Overall, my room has this wonderfully warm and soft feel to it. And, since I spend so much of my time in my room, I really like the “feel” that these new items bring to my space.

I am still waiting for my new coverlet to arrive. It is white, which is what I have wanted for a long time, but even with my current quilt, I think my bed looks lovely. My boys are happy too. Ike, in particular, has taken a fancy to my comforter and he spends most of the day sleeping on my bed now. Winston likes my new curtains (hence why the blind is up), and he now wants to sit in the window to look outside (even with no real view). In all, my purchases this past Black Friday were a winning combination. Not only did I save a lot of money (yes, I know — but you SPENT money to save), but I was able to buy some things to help create a special place for me, my own special place.

I am still working on my desk/office area. I feel a bit crunched in this corner of the room, but I am not sure what to do to remedy the situation. I really want to declutter some, to clear some of the space or at the least, give the allusion of more space. Right now, I am thinking still of purchasing a new desk, something small, but sturdy where I could sit and do my work.

I found this one at Target, and I like it. I like the hairpin legs, mostly. It is very small, only 42” wide, but I think it would work for my iMac. I like the color too. It would match my white washed storage cube (under Lenny’s fish tank) really well. The key is whether or not I could find a place for all my books. My current desk has built in cubbies where I have all my books (close to 60). I would lose this space by going with a more sleek and modern styled desk.

I can purchase the bookshelf that matches my cube for about $100. It would make a very nice set in this room. I would then need a good chair, and truthfully, my room would be complete. However, I am still considering a new headboard. Right now, I have a green metal headboard (sort of seafoam green). I considered painting it, but I just looked and at, I can get a lovely tufted headboard in sort of a greige color (gray-beige) for $100. I have wanted an upholstered headboard for some time now, so my mind is thinking…why not?

One thing I want to be careful of doing is buying something that I will be disappointed in over time. Whatever I purchase now has to last me for a while. I don’t want to buy cheap items, but I also don’t have the budget to purchase anything expensive.

The only thing missing would be a new dresser, but frankly, in this room, I just don’t have any more space. If I did, I might just purchase a good retro look dresser like the one I found that matches the bookcase above. The problem is that according to reviews, there are over 180 pieces to assemble, and well, that is just TOO many pieces for this girl. Still, I am thinking a dresser in a salted oak or natural finish would look good. I may just try to find a chest of drawers at a garage sale instead. I don’t know. For now, I think with the headboard (wish list), bookcase, and new desk, my bedroom/office would be complete and would look lovely.

I really do not like to make these kinds of decisions. If I knew where the Lord intended for me to settle, it would be easier. I mean, will I have my own office or will I continue to share a space with other living areas? The answer would help me know whether I should invest now or wait until later. Sigh!

I do need to do something, however. My back is telling me I need to do something soon. My memory foam seat cushion is helpful, but my back (lower) is really hurting today. I am not sure if it is the pillow, the bed, or my old funky chair. I hate to invest more money, but how much longer can I put up with the pain? Yes, a new chair is going to be here soon. I have to do it, I just have to do it.

Blessed Freedom

I am enjoying my new found freedom today. It is not as if I was set free recently, rather it is more that I have taken hold of my freedom and started to walk in it. Let me explain…

Lately, I have blogged about how difficult it is to live in a shared home with my parents. I love my parents, and I enjoy spending time with them, but with every mixed generational situation, there are times when the closeness is just too much for me. I need my SPACE. Hence, the introductory part of this post. I really need my own space, designed and created to maximize my productivity, yet soothe my weary and tired little mind and body. I live in a very small space — roughly 10x11 or 12 — and in that small space, I have to sleep and work. It is a challenge at times to feel rested, well set, and able to focus on the tasks at hand. More so, I need quiet, and that is probably the most difficult or challenging part of living in a family unit. My son is a musician so he normally has music blaring in the room next to me. My parents, on the other hand, are getting hard of hearing, so they have the TV turned up and it is ON all the time. This leaves me, hiding out in my small and not-so-quiet space. UGH!

This past week or so, I made the conscious decision to relish my situation, to embrace it rather than hate it. In this way, I started to look at my life through a grateful heart and lens. I began to think about what blessings I do have and how my cramped space is the least of my worries. In truth, I live in a small space, but there are people around the world who live in less comfort than I do. What this means is that rather than complaining about my conditions, I decided to enjoy them, to relish the fact that I have a comfortable place to do my work. More so, I decided to improve my small space, to make it the best it can be, and to not wait until some later day, but to begin to do it now. My recent purchases are toward that end. I don’t know how long the Lord intends to keep me planted in this place, but until He moves me elsewhere, I have to be content. I have to be happy. I have to find my “bliss” right in the here and now. It is hard some times, but I know that my life is in His hands, and that means that He does understand my needs well. He has provided this life for me, and as such, I cannot look negatively on it. The Word reminds us to give thanks always, so that means to be thankful even when the situation cramps our style a bit, as it does mine. I am choosing to be thankful this good day. I am choosing to appreciate the fine details, the design elements, and the desire I have to create a private and personal space where I can rest, relax, and recharge from my hard days as a professor and doctoral candidate. He is good to me, so very good to me. Selah!

It Feels Good to be in Control

I hate to say it this way, but it feels so good to be in control again. I have been at the mercy of others for a long time while I transitioned from part-time to full-time faculty. I am not full-time, per se, but I teach a full-time load, and I am finally earning enough income to live with a bit of ease. I am not where I want to be yet, but I am well on my way. In fact, I would say that I have turned a blessed corner, and that I am heading toward the open door. I am getting ready to graduate, praise God, and with that graduation, I will be a fully fledged “Doctor of Philosophy.” My goal, my dream, my desire has finally come to fruition, and I am so close to being done. This means that I will be open, ready, and agreeable to taking on full-time faculty work. Soon, very soon.

Until that time, I am enjoying my freedom, creating a pleasing and lovely space with which to work, and thinking positively that in a very short amount of time, I will be engaged in full-time professor work. Yes, I will be full-time faculty somewhere very soon. Praise be to God, very, very soon. Until that time, I am patiently waiting, patiently finishing my work, and patiently learning how to rest and rely on the Lord. He has provided a measure of grace to me recently, a sense of well-being, of fullness, of satisfaction that I cannot explain in any other way that as a gift from His blessed hand. I simply feel like I am in control, like I am doing what needs doing, and I am doing it well.

For so long, I have felt as though I was at the mercy of others, others who had power over me. They called the shots, they told me what to do, and they withheld grace simply because they had the power to do so. Now, I am the one holding the reins. Yes, I realize that the Lord holds the reins always, but I feel as if He has said to me, “Here, Carol: take the reins for a while. See how it feels to drive the team.” I feel like the Lord has granted me permission to feel like a leader and not a follower. It is not that I demanded He give me charge, rather it is like He said, “You deserve this now. You have earned it, so I want you to learn how to be a good team leader, a good driver.” I am still hesitant, but with the Lord by my side, I realize that at any moment I can say to Him, “Lord, take the reins from me,” and He will do it. I hold these reins with care and with deep gravity because I know that I am not in the position through my own effort. I am here because He has said it is time for me to learn how to be in control of everything, to be in charge of others, and to take full responsibility for not just myself, but for those under my care (those He has placed under my care). In many ways, I feel like I have been given a great gift, a gift of responsibility, and with that gift, I am ready to take charge, to step up to the plate, and to strike the ball with all my force and ability.

My prayer is for a humble heart and attitude, and to remember how far I have come, through the ups and downs, the hurts and heartache, and how I am now in this place because of trial, experience, and yes, even tragic events. I am well-seasoned, and I am ready to be promoted to the place of His choosing. I am starting to see how the Lord works to grow His children to maturity. Once we are of a certain age, we begin our training phase where we apprentice with a more seasoned worker. Then after a time, a successful time of learning our trade, we are promoted to journeymen. After a time in this role, if we succeed in our learning and training, we are granted the master role. In all, we serve the Lord as our Master, but we do learn how to lead and equip others. We must process through these roles in order to take on more complex tasks and to be given more responsibility in God’s church. I have been an apprentice for a long time. As a graduate student, I was learning the craft of my profession. As an adjunct teacher, I have assumed the role of journeyman, whereby I was mentored by full-time faculty, observed and given feedback in order to help me become a better professional. Now, I am ready to move into the professor role, full-time that is, and thus I will become a master teacher. My prayer is that I can handle this responsibility with grace and with gratitude, never forgetting how I got here and the cost associated with it.

Moreover, as I move from journeyman to master, I realize that the possibility for promotion and success increases the longer I am in this role. This means that perhaps I will entertain a profitable mark as a scholar, and as such, I will publish many articles. Or perhaps I will gain a solid following as I endeavor to become the best teacher possible. In all, I will do this work because this is the work the Lord has given to me. I will do it to  my best ability because I want to please the Father more than anything. It is my work, surrendered to Him for His praise, His honor, and His glory. Selah!

Taking Hold

As I take hold of these reins, I am reminded of the grave consequences of error, of mistakes and missteps, and of mishandling the responsibility given to me. I am trusting the Lord to keep me safe, to secure my path, and to prevent me from failure due to my own shortfall or short sightedness. Yes, I am trusting Him to lead, to guide, and to provide for me so that I cannot fall prey to arrogance, to foolishness, or to greed.

Last, as I consider this wonderful opportunity to move into a full-time role, I take care to remember how hard I have worked to get to this place in time. I have sacrificed everything — my family time, my freedom to go and to do, and my financial well-being — all in order to pursue what I believed the Lord was calling me to pursue. Now, I am ready. I am ready to embark on this new path, to take this next step of faith, and to move into this wonderfully exciting position. May God be pleased, may He receive all my praise, and may everything I do be for His glory and honor always! Selah!

In Closing

As I close this blog post, I am giddy with excitement because I believe the Lord is about to move me very soon. In fact, I would say it this way: I believe He is about to reveal His will to me, and to show me where He is sending me. I believe He is about to take me by the hand and settle me in this new place, with a new job, and with a new outlook for my future life. I believe that as He reveals His will to me, it — all of this — will finally make sense to me. I will see how my former life, my long suffering and patience, and my sacrifice of devotion to the Lord has worked together for my good. I will see how the past and the present have come together, fused, to prepare me for my future. In all of this, I will know for certain, for sure, that I am to go and do specific work, to live in a specific place, and to conduct business and engage in ministry all because of His specific calling and mandate for my life. Selah!

My life has been transformed, and I am in this wonderfully secure place, right where I belong, doing the thing I was meant to do, and through it all, I am sensing His praise, His pleasure, and His good will in and through my life. I am sensing that the Lord is pleased with me, that He is agreed that I should go and do certain things, and that it is His good will and good provision that I be made ready and that the resources I need are released to me. Yes, I feel that good things are about to happen for me, for my life, for my family, and for my future. He is good, He is good, so very good to me!