July 16, 2018

Proceeding as Planned

Happy Monday! It is a lovely summer day here in hot and humid, Phoenix. We seem to be having a rather active monsoon this year. While we are not getting the big BAD summer storms (the ones that cause roof damage and flooding), we are getting a lot of nice rain showers. We had a nice soft rain last night, and this morning, the skies are partly cloudy. It is humid out but tolerable. Our high today is expected to hit 103, and although it is currently 95 outside, it is really quite nice. I have my window open, and I am enjoying the nice breeze as it blows into my office space. My boys are at the window, and they are clearly loving the fresh air too. Thankfully, we are not under an air alert like we have been the past couple days. Yesterday, it was painful for me to breathe, and I struggled to really take a deep breath. The rain has cleared that "gunk" out, and I am feeling so much better, so much better today!

Thus, it is a good day today, and I am feeling especially hopeful, confident, and yes, excited about what is happening to me and around me. I am giving the Lord praise, and I am lifting His holy name to be worshiped this good, good day. He cares for me (1 Peter 5:7), and He loves me so very deeply. I am in awe of His majesty, and I stand amazed at the way He leads, guides, and provides for me! Selah!

Change is in the Wind

I had a good weekend of rest! My classes at Regent ended the week before, so I am down to three online classes now (one at ASU and two at Grantham). The slowdown in coursework was a blessing, and I was able to really spend a good couple of days doing nothing but resting, chilling out, as they used to say. It was so nice, so refreshing, and I woke up this morning, feeling better than I have in many, many months.

I am feeling hopeful as I said above, and I am sensing that the Lord's will for my life is coming to pass. By this I mean, that I am seeing changes take place around me that is giving me confirmation that I am moving in the right direction, doing the right thing, and focused on the right path -- His path. For example, this past week, I paid a significant portion of my credit card debt off. I mentioned last week that I wanted to get my credit card debt down to about 20% of my income and that for best offers on mortgages, I really needed it to be around 10%. At the start of the summer, my credit score was hovering around 685 (due to my car purchase in February), and my debt ratio was near 40%. I knew that this scenario was temporary and that over the coming months and throughout the summer, I would apply much of my savings to reducing my debt, and as a result, both my score and debt ratio would come into alignment. I am not where I need to be yet, but I am really close, and that thought excites me to no end!

More so, this weekend, I ran some numbers using an online mortgage website. I thought I was just running their scenario program, but I have received calls from a mortgage broker "wanting to finish my application!" I laughed because I am so not ready to go. Soon, though, soon. The good news is that despite not really knowing my status financially, I actually received some news back providing another measure of confirmation to me. I can qualify for an FHA home loan with 10% down and a very reasonable monthly mortgage. I was a bit disappointed in the total cost I could borrow, though, as it is was lower than what I had planned ($300K), but I have since realized that with an improved credit score (currently at 717) and a slightly larger down payment ($30k), I can hit the $300k mark without causing my monthly payment to be difficult for me to pay.

The big takeaway from all this exploration has been confidence in my financial plans. The Lord has given me what I believe is a doable and reasonable plan to get out of debt and to purchase a forever home. I will still have my student loan debt, but that is on a different project plan for pay-off (by 2020). My general financial plan includes improving my credit score, paying off all credit cards and car loans so that I only carry a mortgage and my student loans into 2019. I would say that right now, I am on track to pay off my credit cards. I am not sure how I will tackle the car issue, but the Lord has that part under His control for sure. My prayer is to see my credit score move from where it is now to about 740 by the end of summer (August). Then, I should have my taxes paid by mid-October. I could potentially "move" to my own home by the end of the year. In all, the plan seems to be proceeding just as the Lord laid it on my heart. I am so excited, so very excited!

What is Next?

Now that I am moving forward in His plan for financial success, I am starting to see that He has made a way for me that is very realistic and very much aligned with the desires of my heart. I have blogged about this fact for 12 years now, how I claimed Psalm 37:4-5 as my life verse, and how this verse has drastically and completely changed the trajectory of my life. Yes, I have made it my "go to" verse and as such, I have seen how the promises contained in it really do hold power. If you are not familiar with this verse from the Psalms it goes like this (Amplified Version):

Delight yourself in the Lord,
And He will give you the desires and petitions of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord;
Trust in Him also and He will do it.

I came across this verse during what was one of many readings of the Psalms back in 2007. I was on a regularly read-through-Bible plan (in a year), and as such, I read the Book of Psalms two times (well, really 2.5 times) in one year. I repeated this reading plan three times, so in three years of reading the Bible every day, I read the Psalms 7.5 times. I know, crazy, right? I spent from 2007-2010 reading my Bible, digging deeply into His Word, and as a result, I came to know both Psalms and Proverbs really well (I read the Book of Proverbs 36 times, or 12 times a year for three years in a row). Notwithstanding, I had these two books impressed into my mind, and since that time, I have found that the diligent study I engaged in has proved instrumental to my overall well-being and my health and welfare. In truth, I know that the Lord used this intensive plan of reading and study to prepare me for my future, a future that I had hoped would be filled with blessing and prosperity. I had no idea that it would also be filled with incredible heartache and destruction (my marriage, for example). Still, of all the verses I read, studied, and memorized, Psalm 37 has been the one hymn that has actually enabled me to find the "way" of life as I struggled to follow Him. Let me explain...

Prior to 2007, when I started my intensive reading/study plan, I was a SAHM, who worked 4/4 time in an online business (website design and hosting). My husband ran the business, and as such, he pretty much closed the contracts and then relied on me to "fulfill" them. I did the hard work, and I was paid fairly well. However, I never was paid for my work. All my income simply went into the business and my husband decided how best to spend it. In most cases, this is probably true for many married couples who own businesses. However, in my case, my husband was not a good money manager, and as such, he used my income to cover his own business expenses. In short, he didn't earn as much or regularly, but he lived and spent as if he did. I was left working 40-50 and at times 60 hours per week just to cover our mortgage and daily needs. I often was forced to feed my family of three on less than $30 per week, and toward the end of this time (2010), I had no vehicle to my name or did I have a bank account or my own income. Pretty much, I was a slave worker.

However, as 2007 dawned, several major things took place. One, my husband suffered a near-fatal heart attack. He recovered but ended up struggling with uncontrolled blood pressure (due to the medication), kidney stones, and a serious injury as a result of an exam for those stones. He was unable to work full-time for 6 months, and then as 2008 turned, he only worked 3/4 time for most of the year. Our house fell into disrepair and our mortgage was in jeopardy of being called (we financed through a private lender). I worked even more hours, and I was homeschooling as well as trying to lead in ministry at my church. 

Our continued financial problems escalated toward the end of 2008, and then as 2009 arrived, another major medical setback occurred. My husband suffered a near-fatal brain hemorrhage that left him with a speech impediment and some neurological damage. As before, he recovered, but by this time, he had begun a series of affairs on the Internet and was engaging in practices in the home that was far from Biblical or Christ-like. I was overwrought and consumed with fear of losing my home and finding myself alone. Eventually, we lost our home to foreclosure, and I was homeless -- without a home -- in a sense. The Lord did provide a temporary home, a beautiful rental home for me and my son, but the home I loved, cherished, and worked so hard to make my own, was returned to the original owner, and the case was closed.

Sadly, as the year ended, I also found out that my husband was involved with his old college girlfriend, and that he was "in love" with her. He told me that he no longer wanted to be married to me. I struggled to comprehend this fact, and I did everything in my power to stop his affair and to get him to return to me and seek professional help. Nothing worked, and by the beginning of 2010, I found myself alone, all alone. I had no income, no job outside of working in his business, and no car. I had no future. I was wholly dependent on the Lord for His provision and His security. All my Bible study up to this point, I believe, was to prepare me for the new life the Lord had planned for me.

Psalm 37:4-5 became my life verse simply because it proved true. I made the Lord my delight (my everything) in 2007, and I asked Him to give me the "desires and secret petitions" in my heart. I committed my way to Him (to following Him, seeking Him, trusting in Him), and as a result, my life changed. First, it went from bad to really bad. Then, it went from really bad to better. Finally, it went from better to the very best, which is where I am now. I am doing, living, resting in the life predicated on my desires and secret petitions. 

I didn't set out to become a professor, mind you. In fact, while this was a desire in my heart, I didn't say to the Lord, "Lord, make me a teacher," when I needed a job to pay for my living expenses. No, rather, I said, "Oh, Lord, please give me ANY JOB that will pay me a living wage." He answered my prayer, and as I have blogged, I worked retail for a year, as an enrollment advisor (sales) for 15 months, and as a communications analyst for a year UNTIL He opened a door for me to transition into adjunct teaching, which is where I have remained. 

In fact, I didn't want to be a teacher for a number of years due mostly to fear and an unwillingness to be trained at low pay. But, thankfully, His will prevailed, and I listened to His voice. I followed His leading, and I trusted what He said to me, and well, here I am now. I am doing the JOB I love, and the work that gives me incredible satisfaction, and to boot, pays me a decent income! It took time, though, and the pathway was not easy. It was so very hard, so very, very hard. Yet, He gave me the "secret petition" of my heart, which was to be used in a job where I could help people, mentor them, and equip them. He set teaching on my heart as a child, and throughout my youth and early married years, regularly put teaching as an option for a career. I wanted to do it back then, but my husband was against it and wouldn't permit me to study education after we were married. I put the desire to be a teacher on hold, and as I have blogged, I waited 17 years before I was in a position to apply to graduate school (for a Masters degree). The Lord provided the funding for me to return to school, and as my marriage ended, crumbled before my eyes, He set me on a new path that included both a Masters degree in English and a Ph.D. in Communication.

Zoom forward to 2018. It has been 11 years since my life turned upside down and so much has changed for me. My entire being has been reinvented according to His will, and now I work for Him alone. He is my Manager, and as such, He provides income to me, tells me how to invest it, and shows me financially how to prepare for my future. I trust His voice, and I follow the guidance He provides to me. My secret petitions for a career as a professor have been granted to me. My deepest desires for a forever home in the country, on a small plot of land, are coming to pass. I have consistently cast off the idea of purchasing property, fearing the upkeep and the ruralness, for many years. The Lord has offered me land, time and time again, but I have been afraid to take it. I would say, "It is okay. Perhaps it is better to live nearer to things -- stores, Target, Kohls -- and to be closer to civilization." The Lord prevails. He shows me properties that are both close to "things" and far from "things." He knows me. He knows my desires and secret petitions are for a country cottage, a small farmhouse (the more antique, the better), and a place where there is no "road noise" or where there is no fear of crime. I desire to live the country life, to have a big garden, and to wake up to the sound of the birds, the breeze flowing through my opened window, and where I can sit on my porch and rest.

He knows me so well, and He is now offering me such a place. I have accepted His offer, and I have said that since He knows best, I am willing to trust Him to provide it to me. I believe He will honor the petition because my ultimate goal is not to simply satisfy my desires but to honor His name. I intend to do His work in this place, to work as a teacher but also as a writer, and in this way, to produce work that brings praise and honor to Him. This place, this forever home, is for His glory. I simply am caretaker of it, and as such, I hold it with such an empty hand, gently and with gratitude saying to Him that I am blessed because He has chosen to bless me. Selah!

For now, my heart's desires are all but fulfilled. I had thought at one point in time that I wanted to have a companion, someone who would walk with me, hold my hand, and share my life. But, I quickly came to see that I am not suited to this life anymore. My heart has been pricked so hard, that I cannot open it up again to anyone else. I will forever love my ex-husband, despite the fact that he is involved with another woman and is living with her due to his ongoing medical needs. I will always see him as my beloved, and yes, despite all his failure as a provider, and his unwillingness to be the husband and father I hoped he would be, I will love him because I saw in him something sweet and good, something pure, and that was the flicker of God's goodness, and the dim light of Christianity. Yes, my ex-husband professed a love for Jesus, and though he wandered far from the Father's home, like the true prodigal child, there is hope that someday he will return. Someday, he will return and His Father in heaven, will rejoice and throw him a stupendous party. Until that time, I am following the path the Lord has created for me to follow, and I go to a place that He has prepared for me. I go to this place alone, and I go there to do good practical work. I am blessed that my son wants to follow me and that he wants to go with me and live with me. However, my heart will always be sad to think that my family is broken, and that part of my family will remain here in Phoenix, while the other part goes and experiences the blessing, the prosperity, and the goodness of the Lord as He leads, guides, and provides for us. Selah!
In Closing

As I close this blog post today, one thing is for certain: the Lord is moving in my life, and what appears to be happening is that He is granting to me another petition of my heart. He is showing me that I can receive this blessing, but to do so, I must be willing to go get it. It is not something that can come to me here in Phoenix. I have to relocate in order to possess the land He is offering to me. I must rest in His provision, and just like with graduate school, He will provide a way for me to purchase this property. He will take care of all the business, and He will help me to finance some land with a nice old home on it. He will bring me the vendors who will need to do some work (finishing and care) to bring this beautiful old home back to life. Then, I will go, with my son and my cats, and I will set down roots. I will build a forever home, a lovely old home with a deep foundation in this rural place. I will let the Lord use me however He wishes, and I will faithfully do His work -- teaching online, writing books and manuscripts -- and I will spend my days in the study of languages, music, art, and Bible as He desires me to do so. I will be faithful in this place, resting in Him, and carefully managing the property as His caretaker. In the end, I will lay my head down and as the Bible so lovingly says it, "will sleep with my Fathers." Yes, I intend to live in this place until I die, and the Lord welcomes me home with open arms. I am ready to go, but I know that for now, I must remain where I am, continue to faithfully do the work He has assigned to me, and that in time, in a short time, I will be permitted to visit this place, to see it in person, and then the Lord will open His vast storehouse and pour down His blessed provision. I will go, I will purchase, and I will live in the way He has called me, equipped me, trained me, and commissioned me to do so. Selah! It is done! So be it, Amen!

July 14, 2018

One More Step Forward

It is a cloudy and cool day here in Phoenix. The air temperature is 89, and while that sounds "hot" for most places, it is pretty cool for us. Granted, it is only 10:50 a.m., and even with the expected high to top out at 102, this mild heat is considered to be "cool" weather for Phoenix in the SUMMER! The recent rains and current cloud cover are a blessing. The skies are gray, and the air is a bit sticky, but nothing unbearable. I am sitting at my computer, and my window is open. The boys are nearby, enjoying the fact that they can sniff and smell the various smells from outside. The only negative is the road noise, which for a Saturday, is pretty loud. I am looking forward to living in a new place sans road noise soon! Yes, I am longing for a country retreat where I can sit and do my work without any noise other than that of the birds, the bees, and God's glorious nature singing out my window! Selah!

He Leads Me, Guides Me, and Provides for Me

This morning as I sit here and blog, I am thinking about how the Lord leads me to where He desires that I go. My mind runs to the Psalms, and my first thought is from Psalm 23:2, which says: "He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters." My God leads me; He takes me by the hand and walks alongside me. We travel together, we experience new things, and we move forward one step at a time. All the while, He is leading me onward. The dictionary says that the word, "lead," is a verb and that it is defined as to "cause (a person or animal) to go with one by holding them by the hand, a halter, a rope while moving forward." It also means "be in charge or command of" or when used as a noun can mean "the initiative in an action; an example for others to follow." The point is to say that as He leads, He takes charge of me, commanding me to follow, but not with harsh words (like a drill sergeant); but rather, as one who leads by example. The language is figurative and literal. The Lord literally leads me, but He also does so in a way so that I can see what He wants me to do (how to act, how to think, how to perform and so on). I take His hand, and I walk with Him. He shows me how to "be," how to rest in His confidence, and to know that where He is going, well, it is for my benefit and blessing. I follow Him willingly because I know that He desires to bring good into my life and to cause me to be a blessing to others.

What I love about these wonderful word pictures, is the fact that the Lord demonstrates His love, His assurance of protection through tangible means. He is never far away. He is never hidden unless we choose for Him to "be" that way. What I mean is that often I hear Pastors speak about God hiding from us, and while I do know the Psalms in particular, often suggest this is so, I think to myself that this is not a case of the "normals" for the believer in Jesus. In truth, Jesus didn't hide from the disciples. He lived with them, sharing meals, walking with them as He taught them. Sure, there were times when He withdrew for rest and to spend time in prayer with the Father, but generally, He was always available to His followers. I know that many Christians experience a withdrawing of intimacy with God. I hear many people say "God is so distant, I feel so alone, I don't think He hears me," and I want to say to them, "So what have you done?" The truth is that if we follow Christ, we have ready access to Him personally 24/7/365, but if we sin, walk habitually in sin, or place Him as a secondary concern (run to Him when we need Him only), we can experience great distance and a feeling of isolation. However, if we place Him first and foremost in our life, and if we seek Him first as Matthew 6:33 says, we will find that He is our constant companion and traveling friend.

I marvel at this fact, this truth. God wants to be our friend. I hear Christians say "I don't believe this is so," but they are wrong, so wrong. They don't want God to be their friend. They either want Him to be an absent parent so they can do what they want when they want (like when the parents are out of the house and the teenage son or daughter does things that they know are forbidden) or they want Him to be the stern disciplinarian, taskmaster, drill sergeant who is distant by choice. Yet, I see Him as a friend, a close companion, and a true Father. He is loving, kind, good, always available, and always ready to help me learn something new, attend to some need, or discover some deeper purpose or reason to be like Him. He is good to me. He loves me deeply, and He cares for me so completely. He is my friend, and I love that I can have a personal conversation with Him, share my thoughts (silly as they may be), and know that He hears me, enjoys listening to me, wants to be with me, and longs to help me discover how to be more and more like Him. He is my everything! I take joy in His presence, His being there, and His willingness to allow me the blessing of knowing Him this way.

In my relationship with the Lord, I am wholly dependent upon Him for many things. I mentioned that He leads me onward, but He also provides guidance and provision to me. He leads, guides, and provides for me. When I say "guides me," I am using the word as both noun and verb. In noun form, the word means "a person who advises or shows the way to others" or "a thing that helps someone to form an opinion or make a decision or calculation." Similarly, in verb form, the word means, "show or indicate the way to (someone)" as well as "to direct or have an influence on the course of action of (someone or something)." The Lord guides me in both ways. He advises me and shows me the way to go, but He also influences my course of action, the choices I make and the decisions that ultimately will determine my direction in life. He provides wisdom to guide my opinions on matters, and when I need expert advice on financial matters, for example, He helps me sort through the details so I can act wisely, with prudence, and with justness. He is my Guidance Counselor, my Financial Advisor, and my Estate Planner. He guides me so well, and I am able to make good choices for my life.

Moreover, He provides abundance to me. I know that there is controversy about this word, "abundance," in the church today. Many Christians are split on the "gospel of health, wealth, and prosperity," and they believe (erroneously) that the only true way to walk in this life is in poverty. This is false teaching as much as the "name it and claim it" teaching that suggests you can "name that car," and it is yours! No, no, no! Neither way is correct. But, we must be very careful to NOT diminish His abilities to provide for us simply because we are worried about accepting a doctrine that is different from what we learned as a child or how our church teaches on matters of financial abundance. The scriptures are clear that God is a good provider (Matthew 7:9). He always knows our needs, and the Bible tells us that He is careful to provide for the birds of the air and the beasts of the field, and likewise, He is careful to provide for us as well (for instance, the manna in the wilderness). Thus, the Lord is a good provider, and He is able to produce wealth and security for His children. He is willing to do it as well, but only if we are wholly dependent on Him, trusting Him, and seeking His will in every matter. 

Many Christian people do not have comfort in life simply because of the choices they make. For example, they overspend on the income they receive each month. They make bad financial decisions or listen to people who are not preaching biblically about financial matters. They work in jobs that pay so little that they can barely eek a living, and they refuse to move in order to improve their circumstances. Much of their sorrow is tied to their own decisions. And, while this is the case for many in the church, there are many other cases where the Lord has chosen to hold His people back, to keep them from prospering for a season. These are individual cases, not the rule. Remember that God deals with His people in two ways: individually and corporately. It is important to not mix the two approaches because God doesn't always treat everyone the same way. Sometimes He chooses to lift up a person, promote them, give them glory, for a reason. Other times, He chooses to keep them humble, and He allows them to have less for a reason. But, we must not think that this is a corporate treatment -- we must be all glory or all humble. Often, it is an individual blessing that is based on individual obedience.

In my walk with the Lord, I have seen this very thing play out time and time again. I lived pretty horribly for all of my married life. I had no wealth, prosperity or even protection. My ex-husband (not to beat a dead horse) wasn't a careful planner or provider. He sought wealth as a means to make him feel better about himself, and he used every ounce of income to pursue unwise programs and people who were falsely promising success with "get rich quick" schemes. I found the constant wealth-seeking to be so distasteful that I often recoiled at the thought of another scheme. In this way, I turned my back on my then-husband, refused to support these efforts, and in many ways, caused a huge breach in our relationship. This breach grew in significance until the marriage split in two. I simply couldn't abide by what I felt was ungodly practice and worldly wisdom. I didn't want to be rich, just comfortable. I wanted to live a God-honoring life, predicated on obedience to His word, and sustained by His provision. Sadly, after 30 years of marriage and life-long poverty, my marriage ended. I walked away, not because I wanted to do so, but because I had no choice. I made a commitment to the Lord to follow His way and since that day, my life has turned around, and I have experienced His good fortune and blessing in every area, every way.

I don't mean to say that I am rich today because I am not. But I am in a much better financial situation than ever before and the plan I have laid out for me is assured and is good. I am moving in the right direction now, trusting the Lord for His financial blessing and provision, and looking to Him for every single need. I am fortunate that I have a good view ahead of me, and unless the Lord wills for me to do something different, to change directions, I do not see anything "dark" on the horizon. I see safety, security, and success (moderate) and I believe I will spend my remaining days in comfort.

He leads me. He guides me. He provides for me.

Today, I look forward to my future. I see hope on the horizon, and I envision His goodness continuing to carry me through to the end of my days. I trust in His provision because I know that all provision comes from Him and that no matter the form (whether personal income, property, estates, etc.) the Lord is the One who delivers and meets our needs. He may choose to use the government, individuals, corporations or other entities, but He is still the One who is in Authority and in control of all things. He is Sovereign. He is King Jesus, and He is on the throne of Heaven. I submit to Him, to His authority and control, and I wait upon Him, resting, trusting, and believing in faith for His good, good provision and His good, good, grace to flow down to me. I think of Psalm 133 where the psalmist writes about unity in the body of Christ. He describes the feeling of unity as though it were precious oil poured on the head of God's Old Testament priest, Aaron. Verse 2 says (speaking of unity),

It is like precious oil poured on the head,
running down on the beard,
running down on Aaron’s beard,
down on the collar of his robe.

Similarly, I think of God's blessing. His blessing flows down upon His children like oil poured on their head for anointing. It is a wondrous thing, and the blessing flows down, covering us and providing for us in multiple; nay, unlimited ways.

I am blessed today as I sit here in my comfortable home, typing on my comfortable computer, and resting in my comfortable corner office. My window brings in the comfortable air, soft, sweet, and buzzing (the sounds of the Cicada's in the trees). The gentle morning has faded into noontime, but I sit here and marvel at His goodness, His blessing, and His prosperity. My life is good today because He is good, and as a Good Father, He lavishes good gifts upon all of His children! Selah!
In Closing

As I close this blog post, I let go of the worry, the doubt, and the fear I hold onto most days. I rest securely in His hand, and I know that He leads me to a good place. He guides me with wisdom and assurance so that the decisions I make are "definite" and will be for my prosperity and not for my destruction (Jer. 29:11). He provides for my every single need, and in doing so, I can live comfortably, moderately, and in quiet humbleness and submission as I seek to do His work and His will. He is good to me, so very good to me! Selah!

July 13, 2018

Steady on!

It is a good Friday here in sunny and mild Phoenix. We've had several days of monsoonal storms, and the rain has brought our temperature down nicely. The rub, though, is that with the moisture comes humidity. Our humidity is up to the point where it is a bit sticky but still tolerable. The good news is that we are drying out, and the next 10 days seem to be more normal for us (sunny and warm and dry).
Proceeding as Planned

With those thoughts in mind, and my window open (I love the fresh air), I am sitting here at my computer, thinking about how much I am enjoying my life. I am in a really good place, and while I have some lingering BIG issues (taxes and debt), my life in sum seems to be moving on steadily. In fact, so far this month, I have made some hefty payments to my credit cards. The plan is to pay off the small ones (Target and Kohls), and then pay down on the big ones (Sears, AA, and Apple). My goal is to have all these cards zeroed out by next month. This will leave my bank card with the biggest load, but it is also the card with the lowest interest rate and the highest credit limit. Then, with some extra effort, I will tackle that card and by end of September, should have it reduced to 1/3 its load. My end goal is to reduce my credit cards to less than 10% of their limit, and thus, improve my credit score so I can qualify for a USDA Rural Home loan (zero-down, low-interest).

It is really exciting to see this plan come to pass. I have talked about paying my credit cards off for several years now, and since I returned to graduate school, I have had to use my credit cards for living and traveling expenses. I winced every time I had to put airfare and hotel costs on my cards. I would pray for the money to pay them off in 3-6 months, but that just never happened. I rolled the debt around, and now, some three years later, I am finally clearing those balances. I should say that the fact that I have carried the debt and paid monthly payments has benefited me in other ways. I am considered creditworthy, and my credit score (before buying my new car) was at 750+. It has since tanked due to that purchase and the fact that I have these higher than normal balances. Hopefully, now that I have slashed my debt in half, I should see a nice jump in score. I would like to have it back into the low 700s for the loan process, but I am happy just knowing that my debts are being reduced and soon will be a thing of the past! Praise God!

My work life is moving well too. I received an email asking if I was interested in applying for a full-time position at ASU. This open spot is contingent on budget approval, but it is my current job, just with a salary and benefits. I went ahead and applied, never knowing if this is what the Lord has in mind for me. If so, God is to be praised. If not, so be it. I figured there was no harm in submitting my papers again (third time is the charm, so they say!) I am thinking that if I were to be hired full-time, even for a year, this would be a blessing to me. I could let go Liberty, which sadly hasn't produced any work for me at all, and I could rest easy with Grantham, Regent, and ASU as my go-to schools. But, if the door doesn't open, then I stick with what I have, working steadily and looking to the Lord for His provision and guaranteed care for all my needs.

One thing I am hopeful of and looking forward to is the fact that should the Lord provide a loan for me to purchase a rural property back east, my monthly expenses would not increase any. I could effectively pay all my expenses, property mortgages, taxes, insurance, and utilities out of what I currently pay for rent. This means that once I have zeroed my credit cards and paid off my car, I would be able to live very, very comfortably on my part-time income (at all four schools), and still, have money left over for emergencies and retirement. I see this plan as possible, doable, and very realistic.

My timeline for moving is as of now 3-6 months, but could push to 9 months, should needs require it to be so. I mean, should things change and warrant remaining in Phoenix for additional time, my goal would be to be fully relocated by the beginning of May 2019. I am okay with the idea of moving sooner rather than later, but I am also okay with the idea that I could remain here through April and then plan to move at the start of the summer, next year. I am at the mercy of the Lord's will, so if this is His plan, then so be it. I am good either way.

I feel pretty confident that the Lord will provide a place for me to purchase soon, like within a couple months. However, whether I go permanently or simply visit monthly, it will be as 'needs must.' For now, I am working to this shorter time frame, and I am thinking that I will go "visit" in September and then begin the loan process shortly thereafter. Once the loan is approved, the house/property purchased, then I will need to engage a contractor to complete all the work (the place I am looking at now needs some finishing work, minor changes, etc.) I see necessary. I don't want to move into a place that needs renovation; I'd rather fix it up and then move in order to save time, hassle, and inconvenience.

The outlier in all of this planning is my parents and my son. Right now, my folks are set on remaining here in Phoenix. They don't want to move, and I understand their feelings. They are comfortable here, in this house, and they have their church across the street and their friends nearby. I know that moving is a disruption and that it would mean a big change to their comfort level. But, I also know that I cannot sustain their life here on my own. I cannot cover the cost of assisted living (which is about $4500 per person, per month) nor can they live on their own anymore. Thus, for the interim period (and until things change), we remain as we are, trusting the Lord to cover their needs and to keep me steady and moving forward in His plan for my longterm success and livelihood. Second, there is my son's work, which is part-time at several places (one church, his old school, and then contracted work). He is contracted through December but may have work set for spring as well. He is open to moving along with me in 3-6 or 9 months, so really, the plans seem to hitch on my folks and what the Lord determines is best for their end of life care.

Notwithstanding, though, is the fact that no matter what, I intend to go where the Lord sends me. He is driving this bus, so to speak, and my life is not on hold. I believe I am where I am for a reason, and that my life in sum is working out according to His perfect timing. I am not settled here, and I am not stuck in this place forever. I can go wherever I desire, but for now, His plan seems to be to keep me here for a time, and I am agreeable and willing to remain for as long as He asks me to remain.

Some things though that seem reasonable for me include 1) finding a property that suits my needs; 2) continuing to prepare my financial portfolio so I can qualify and be approved to purchase said property; and 3) completing the necessary repairs/renovations in order to create a very hospitable and comfortable home for my longterm stability. As I am looking at older homes (for quaintness and cost), I realize that many of these homes will need modification in order for me to do my work (on the Internet). Most of the properties seem to be updated, generally speaking, already have satellite and Internet, and have electrical, plumbing, and heating in working order. I am seeing cosmetic needs that include such items as repairing siding (clapboard really takes a beating in the harsh winters) along with porches that need painting; windows, doors, and outbuildings that are in poor shape; roofs, gutters and drainage that needs to be replaced, cleared or addressed (for proper run-off). I see these items as deferred maintenance, and I understand what that is like. When I owned my house, sadly, I didn't have the money to attend to these needs. My ex would try to barter services or would simply say he was "working" on a solution. Nothing materialized, and in the end, we had roof leaks, interior damage and termite and siding issues that made the property look shabby and uncared for, despite my efforts. I refuse to live this way again, so my plan of action includes caring for everything that has been pushed aside so that the property is "move-in" ready. From the date of move-in, I will take good care of the house, garage, gardens and such, and then make sure that all needs are met in a timely fashion.

So, really, I am right where I need to be. I am at the mid-point or a smidge past it on the grand timeline, and I am slowly, but steadily pressing on. I believe that in a very short amount of time, things will change for me, and I will see my future in bright lights shining right up ahead of me. Until then, I hunker down and do the work -- all the work -- the Lord asks me to do. I take the jobs He provides, and I keep studying, planning, revising, and considering options for homes and such, as He leads, guides, and provides for me. He is my King, my Money-Manager, and He is all-wise, all-knowing, and all-powerful. He is able to bring me what I need and to do mighty things in order to make my life and this change possible. I am able to follow His lead, and as I watch for His signs and wonders, I take heart to know that He is at work in and through me, but He is also moving things -- people -- in order to prepare my way. He is showing me where to go, how to get there, and what to do once I am there. He is showing me good choices for homes, possible properties to purchase, and as I lean into Him, listen and abide in Him, I am coming to see the blessing of His counsel, and how privileged I am to be able to rely on Him for His intervention in my life. I don't call these shots! In fact, I don't have a say in the matter, outside of what I like/don't like (cosmetics and such). He determines the best course of action, and I obey willingly. In doing so, I am assured, confident, and can know precisely just how to do things, how to approach things, and how to handle things regardless of my knowledge or understanding of them. He is good to me, so very good to me! Selah!
In Closing

I close this post today in awe of my God, my awesome and majestic God! I love the Lord so much, and I have found Him to be so very good. Many people do not see God this way, and many people fear Him and prefer to keep Him at arm's length. I am not one of those people. I believe what the Word says that if I draw near to God, He will draw near to me. I have experienced this fact, and the more I draw near to Him, the closer and more intimate He becomes to me. I have come to experience His love, His friendship, and His goodness in ways that are beyond my comprehension and expectation. More so, I believe that what I expect, while seemingly good, is a paler version of what He intends to give to me. He always gives MORE than what we think, imagine or dream. Thus, I have had to learn to accept more, to let Him bless me more, and to cheerfully and gratefully receive more simply because it pleases Him to do so. I am ready now to accept His best, all of His best, and I am ready to begin this next step of faith -- to trust Him to resolve the debt, the tension here at home, and the financial forecast -- so I can go and do His work in the place of His choosing.

I am ready, Lord! Please send me!

July 11, 2018

So Much Change

It is midweek, and that means it is Wednesday, July 11. I have had a couple of really good days this week, and so far, I am on track to finish all my grading and wind up my two summer courses at Regent University. I am ready for a break, and even though I will not be "off" for the rest of the summer (I have two classes at Grantham and one at ASU still in progress), simply slowing down from five classes to three is a huge relief. In fact, I anticipate that I will have three classes from now until August, and then if everything goes as planned, will be back into full-swing with 6-8 classes for the fall term (I know I will have three for sure, two at Regent and one at ASU for the first 8 weeks of fall). My life seems to be settling down, and I am starting to feel more in control. I am not sure what happened or even why it happened, but the past couple days have been illuminating, to say the least.

Trusting In His Timing

I guess it started last weekend. I had pretty much convinced myself that I was on track to move and that I was set to begin this next phase or journey soon, like within 3-6 months. I also felt pretty confident about the place, the actual destination, but I still had some reservations as to the logistics of such a move. For one thing, I wasn't sure if I should wait for the Lord to provide some means so I could buy a house outright or if I was to use the USDA Home Loan program and purchase a house with their zero down (rural) loan. The more I struggled to think about the whats and whys, the more I simply became confused and weighed down.  It wasn't until Monday, really, that the skies began to clear (figuratively), and I began to sense that things in my life were about to change and change BIG time.

First, I felt assured that the Lord was doing something in and through my life last week. I blogged about how both my son and I are on board with this decision, and for the most part, equally excited about moving to a new place, a different climate. But, then over the weekend, I wasn't prepared for some panic over the details, and well, with that sense of panic came a boat-load of doubts. Sigh!

Then, as the week started, I was so focused on my grading (classes ending, wrapping up and so forth), that I simply became overwhelmed at the idea of moving someplace to downsize, both in scale and economy. More so, some of the properties I was feeling directed toward needed a lot of work, and well, while I am okay with some fixer-upper effort, I simply was feeling out of my league with major work (hiring contractors and the like). In short, I sort of melted down right in the middle of the move, and with that meltdown, I stopped all forward progress.

More so, as I continued to pray, trust, and rely on the Lord for His insight and wisdom, I began to feel as if my plans, the plans I thought were His, were really just a figment of my own imagination. My wants.  My desires. My needs. I started to really doubt the veracity of His will, and I began to feel this sense of hopelessness as I considered what I would be left with -- should I not go -- and remain where I am longterm.

In all, the weekend and the start of the week proved rough. But, praise to God, after some heart and soul searching yesterday, and some battles of the wills (mine and His), I woke this morning feeling better -- like really better. I mean, it is as if a huge weight has been lifted from my body, and for right now, there is clarity of purpose, clarity of vision, and clarity to help me see what my next steps must be.

As I move into the middle part of the week, I think what has been bothering me the most has been the uncertainty of how I would pay for such a house (well, any house). Given my situation at present, my debt burden, and the fact that I am working so hard to clear enough income to pay my loans and such, I feel out of sorts whenever it comes to thinking about how I will ever purchase a home. Last week, one of my students shared her experience using the USDA Home Loan program with me. She included it as part of her final essay in class, and as I read her words, I was immediately cheered to think that I could definitely qualify for such a mortgage, and that right now I have enough "down" to actually purchase a house. I need to work on my credit, and I need to erase my credit card debt (down to less than 25% of my income). But, I feel better knowing that 1) I can qualify based on my moderate income and my credit score (over 700). I also can purchase a home using the guaranteed loan program because I am looking in rural areas that are eligible for this type of financing.

Now, with that part under control, I simply need to address the fact that I will have to work multiple jobs in order to make enough income to pay a mortgage, but that really isn't an issue at all. The key is to live in a place that is reasonably priced, and where my son will have access to work. Right now, I want to get my ducks in a row, and then I want to make a start toward making this plan come to pass. I believe that the Lord desires it, that it is part of His will for me and my life, and that because He has given me approval, I am able to move forward with this plan and begin to make the necessary changes in order to move within the time frame He has suggested. Now, I must trust Him to provide for me, and in doing so, I must rest on this matter. He has made it possible, He has given His permission, and I am ready to go, but I must be provided for -- completely -- so I can actually go and do His work.
Plans Coming to Pass

As I think about this fact, that His plans will not be thwarted or diverted, I can rest in the knowledge that whatever the Lord wills, it will be. I mean, if He desires it, then it is so. I struggle some with this concept, but when I stop and give Him praise for His sovereignty, then I remember that He is able to make a way where there seems to be no way at all.

This week is a good case in point. I have been dealt a heavy blow with tax liabilities, and last week, I received a demanding letter from the State of Arizona saying I owed them another $550 dollars. I had already paid what I said I owed on my tax form, but apparently, once the IRS reassessed my return, my state return was altered, and I owed AZ more money. I received the bill on the 2nd and was told I had to pay the bill by the 9th or face credit collections. The last thing I need is collection agencies running after me, especially after the fact that I have had no debt collection at all (not me personally), and I have paid every bill on time for the past 10 years. I paid the fee as soon as I received the bill, but I was left with this awful feeling that the more I work, the more tax I owe. It is a double-edged sword. I need to work more, to make more money so I can live better, but the harder I work, the more I owe in taxes and well, the combination works against me.

I was feeling so down, just thinking about my future, and I lost hope for a bit as I shifted my focus from the Lord and His abilities, and started to look at my dwindling resources and my empty hands. Thankfully, I righted myself and got back on track. I remembered that the Lord doesn't send His prophets and people out to new lands without the provision to get there and to be settled in the new place. He always provides everything that is needed. As I began to put my mindset back to where it belonged, I started to feel better. It didn't happen overnight, and even with all the prayer and confession of dependency, it took a good couple of days to get my head and my heart and my hands back to where they need to be. I was reminded of this saying that my farmer grandfather used to say "you cannot plow a straight furrow looking backward." The idea is that you cannot move forward in a straight line if you are always looking behind you (or around you).

God has called me to come forward, to accept His mantle of grace and provision and to go to a new land to be settled there and to do good work. I don't know what He plans to do specifically, but what I do know is that the job I have now is the job I will have there (teaching online). I also know that He intends for me to write books, periodicals, articles, and such and that I need a bit more freedom to write and to think and to process these types of projects.

More so, I need to live within my means, and while I am not living at the poverty line, I do need to live moderately. To do so requires a home that costs me less than $300k and that has a lower tax burden so that my actual payments each month, with a mortgage or without, are under $1000. I cannot hope to live this way here in Phoenix, but I can live this way in many places in the USA. My son has specific needs, and he needs to be located near major cities such as Nashville, New York, Boston, Chicago, or Atlanta (Austin as well). As a musician/recording engineer, he needs to live where he can do good practical work.

For now, we can make ends meet in Phoenix, but only with my parents help, and their needs (care and such) are starting to cause us to rethink our options. This simply means that I need to prepare my head to move. I need to prepare my home to move. I need to prepare my life -- all of it -- to move. The Lord has called me forward, and I must go. I have a destination in mind, and with His provision, I feel confident that I can do what He is asking me to do.

As I begin the next steps -- planning and preparing to go -- I must be still and wait on the Lord. I cannot dump my family on a whim. I have to know for sure, for certain, for positive (as I like to say) that where I think I must go is actually the plan He has chosen for me. Until I am 100% assured of that location, I rest in the matter. I let Him show me, guide me, provide for me, and in this way, I will receive the testimony I need to see with the clarity of vision and purpose the life He has for me -- just over there -- just on the other side of the country. He is good to me, and I know that the plans He has for my life, well, they are good too!
In Closing

This post is closing now, and as I think about these things, I treasure the fact that the Lord has graciously shared enough detail with me in order to help me follow His leading. I feel confident that He is directing my steps, pointing out the path, and showing me where to go. What I still lack is the assurance that I have this path figured out, as if they were identified and marked on the map. There are so many options, so many good ways to go, and with His general guidance in directing me to a specific region, there are opportunities abounding within this small territory. Which place suits me best? Which house fits my needs? Which town will provide the relationships and the friendships I so long to have? Which location will be near a good church home and other needed services? The questions never seem to be answered, but what I do know is that in time, in a short amount of time, I will know more and then I will have a much better assessment of the actual location, the real destination, and the possible home that the Lord has set aside for me. Until then, I rest. I sit still, and I wait for Him to provide more light, more knowledge, more wisdom, and more understanding of these crucial next steps.

July 7, 2018

Learning About Me

It is a good Saturday here in hot and humid, Phoenix! Yes, it is hot (102 now, but expected to hit 110), and humid (near 20%), and while this combination doesn't seem "hot" to many that live in humid climates, for Phoenicians, the temperature and humidity tell us that the monsoon season is upon us and that we should expect storms to form soon.

We love the rainy season, and while we do get rain at other times, mostly in the winter months, we expect BIG storms to form once the temperatures are above 110 and the humidity builds to the point where it is today. The dew point is still low (53), so perhaps we will see some storms today, tomorrow, or by early next week.

Who knows! Rain, clouds and any weather change would be such a blessing, such a blessing!

Feeling Blessed

It is a good day, though, and I am sitting here at my home computer, enjoying the quiet. I don't have my window open due to the warmer weather, but my room is comfortable and yes, very quiet. I've got one kitty on my desk, paws crossing over my keyboard, and the other one is snoozing under the bed. My parents are in the other room, and I hear the TV program they are watching. My Mom is resting (probably asleep) and my Dad is sitting in the chair working on one of his Sudoku puzzles. He is having some issues with fluctuating blood pressure, and I can tell he is concerned about it. He has been to the doctor once, but the doctor didn't seem very concerned about his condition. I am worried that it is his heart, but at 85, the medical establishment doesn't seem to care about the welfare of their elderly patients. I think most doctors find their older patients annoyingly difficult, always complaining and always frustrating to treat. My folks are no different than their peers, but it does seem sad that they are cast off, treated as children, and often given some placebo (pat answer) to problems that cause them great concern. Sigh!

Nonetheless, I am grateful for what I have, and for the fact that my family is here with me. I may get really frustrated at times, and even angry when we cross swords, but I thank God for the blessing of being able to share my days with my parents. Many people my age would give anything to have one day back with their parents, if possible.

The time, though, is coming to an end, and that means that I know I will need to think more progressively about my upcoming move. I haven't shared this news with my parents, mostly because I know they are not willing to move with me. They simply do not want to go, but I must go wherever the Lord leads me, and that means that I cannot remain here out of care and concern for them. If the Lord calls me to go, then I must go. I know He will care for them, provide a way for them, and help them. I am hopeful that they will see that their best interest is met with me and that they should relent and move along with me wherever the Lord leads. This is my prayer, of course, and until I have all my ducks in a row, I am keeping the whole "moving" idea on the QT.

My son is on board, and in fact, as I was praying last night, I thanked the Lord for His openness in allowing my son to be brought into this plan. I have held my thoughts about moving to myself, and while I have shared some ideas, mostly I have given hints that are sort of open-ended and not very specific. I have said, "someday," "perhaps if the Lord wills it," and so forth -- just phrases that suggested my openness toward and my willingness to move, but nothing concrete or specific. However, a couple of weeks ago, my son brought the subject up in conversation, and I asked the Lord if I could share my thoughts on the matter. It turned out to be a great conversation, and I found out that what I had been thinking aligned with what he had been thinking. In this way, we were both thinking the same thing, and that fact was such a confirmation for me. Since then, it has been so nice to discuss moving with someone who cares, is interested, wants to go, so to speak. I haven't told anyone in my family, other than as mentioned above, in passing that I may "someday" relocate.

The blessing is that I am able to share more details as the Lord reveals them to me. Honestly, I have no "concrete" specifics yet, but I have more firm ideas, more direct thoughts, and more positive approaches toward moving, in general. What I mean is that I don't have anything "concrete" or set in stone at this point in time, but what I do have is a very general and strong feeling that I am to go, and that the Lord will provide for me. I feel like I am moving forward, despite not really taking any steps toward actually moving. I am still "thinking," but I am thinking more directly than ever before. It is hard to explain, but in the past, I had this non-specific sense that I was to go somewhere else, to not remain here in Phoenix, and to begin the process of looking for possible homesites. I choose several states that seemed plausible, for different reasons, and I spent the better part of a year scoping them out. I bookmarked properties, considered them, checked distances to necessary stores and such. I envisioned how I might live there, decorating the rooms, choosing colors, etc. I tried to visualize the move, but I never had a feeling that one place was favored more than any other. I just "looked" and with each passing month, I found myself overwhelmed and feeling frustrated. Which place? I would ask the Lord for clarification, for help in knowing if this state was preferred over that state. In the end, the decision defaulted to His way. I simply stopped thinking I had any say in the matter, and I let Him impress a region upon me. I say, region because this is exactly what happened. I asked where -- specifically where to go -- and the Lord said to me, "there." It was like He drew a big red circle on the map, and said that anyplace within these boundaries was acceptable.

It took me a while to grasp what I thought He was telling me. I mean, my interpretation skill had to kick into high gear to discern His will, but in the end, I think I figured it out. He was simply saying that while I could relocate to anyplace I wanted, there were some places that offered better services, better options, and were "better" territory for ministry than others. There were oodles of factors too -- taxes, friendliness to retirees and so forth, but the idea was that when all things were considered, there was no real "favored or preferred" place, just several good areas where I could settle and find a good quality of life.

Once I had figured this out, I began to experience a calmness and sense of peace. I also could sense the difference, I mean. I was able to think more rationally about one place in particular, and when I would think about it, I simply had a sense of peace to go along with those thoughts. I would switch back and forth, and I would notice that I lost that feeling of calm. After a while, I figured it out. Whenever I was searching in the region the Lord suggested, I felt no stress, no anxiety, or even no real doubts. I just looked at different properties, liked some, passed on others. But, when I would look at other regions, I would see houses, but feel nothing inside -- like the place was okay -- just not something I wanted to consider. More so, I would feel apprehensive and doubtful that the place (the area) was a good fit. In all, this is just to say that sometimes the Lord does lead us with a sense of peace, calmness, and an overall good feeling. I don't like to focus too much on feelings, but I think the Lord does provide a "sense" of wellness to help us feel like we are on the right track.

So, as I have come to this place now, I feel good about it. What is more, my son feels really good about it as well. It is not like we have any connection to this place, but we both are excited about going there, at least for a time, to explore and be established. I think the Lord is clearly directing our steps, and while we are still in the formalization process, it feels really good to know that we are committed to His way, and we are following His leading as He guides and provides for us.
Life Lessons and More

Over the past several months, I have felt this weird sense regarding one of my jobs here in AZ. I don't mean to say anything bad about the work I do for this one school, but lately, I have sensed a feeling of pressure, almost as if my style of teaching is not really preferred there. I have enjoyed teaching for this school, and since they pay me well, I have simply gone along with "their style," and followed their lead. But, as I am often asked to give my opinion on matters, curriculum design and such, I have found that my input is not valued. It is almost always turned down, or better yet, dismissed as though I was out of my field. I have experienced this sense of pejorative treatment before. It has to do with the fact that my degree is in Communication and not in Rhetoric. Most of my colleagues at this particular school are degreed in compositional studies, and while only a few have a Ph.D., most behave as if they know best. I hate to say it that way, but I cannot think of anything better to describe the treatment. It is not hostile, but just dismissive. I have come to the point where I feel it is best to simply keep my mouth shut, to not participate anymore. I wondered why I was the only woman to join the committee, and that all the other faculty was male. I felt the same way when I was interviewing at GCU for the position in the COM department. The men in the group simply were not open to having a strong woman take a role in the department.

I am not complaining, per se. I am thankful for the work, thankful for the opportunity to teach at this school, but sadly, I simply do not feel welcome there to do any work OTHER than quietly teaching. The funny thing is that I prayed over my schools as I considered moving, and this one school seemed to be problematic. What I mean to say is that this is a state school, and I wondered if I could move to another state and still teach for them. I know that they hire faculty to teach online that do not live near campus, but in this department, it appears that all their faculty is local. The Lord has intimated to me that this school will drop out of the mix, should I move out of state. I was concerned about that fact since I make such good money, and I am regularly offered contracts. Yet, if the Lord calls me to go, I must go.

I asked the Lord to help me to understand, and that if I needed to let go of the schools, would He make it obvious to me. Yesterday, I thought about this fact, how I am feeling dismissed as I teach, and how the faculty is not overly friendly to me. I started to wonder if this was His will, His answer to my prayer. It is not like I am to be fired or let go, rather, it is more than I needed to see this school as a good paycheck, but that when "push comes to shove," I am not embedded in the program or considered valued to such an extent that I wouldn't want to quit should I end up relocating to another state.

What is more is the fact that two weeks ago, I asked the Lord to close all the doors here in Phoenix that needs closing. I wanted a clean break, should I go, and I wanted to leave with my head held high. I wanted to close out my accounts, pack up my things, and move when He said it was time to move. I didn't want to linger or to feel like there was anything holding me back. Now that I have experienced, yet another dismissal of my ideas, I am starting to see this school and the program in a different light. I am ready to let them go when the Lord says to do so and to not feel slighted by their omission of my skills and abilities. It is so similar to what happened at GCU last fall. I was in contention for a full-time job, but I was overlooked, passed over (for the umpteenth time), and when all was "said and done," I walked away from campus with a sense of closure. I knew my time there had ended, and I needed to move on to brighter futures and greener pastures. I think the same thing is happening at ASU. I love the program, and I have learned so much from my time working there, but the camaraderie is cliquish, and in that way, it is really easy to see who is in and who is out. I am out, and frankly, there is nothing I can do to change that status.

As I think about this change in status, I stand amazed at the way the Lord is answering my prayers for closure. I am seeing, in small ways, the little threads that have held me to Phoenix be pulled away. I am beginning to see endings, and while nothing is finalized at this point, I can see how things might play out should I remain here. I see that the Lord is "tidying up" for me, closing things, shutting down opportunities, and generally clearing the way for me to go. It brings me such joy to have confirmation like this and to know that He is giving me a gentle out, a clear path that is smooth and walkable to follow.

Right now, what I desire most is a new life. I pray this often, and it sounds so weird to hear the words come out of my mouth. I will be sitting here typing and I will exclaim: LORD, I love you so much! I don't deserve what you are doing for me. I need a new life so badly! Or, I might just say, "Lord, please give me a new life!" Weird, right? I mean, I have a very good life. I have plenty to eat, to drink, and I have a roof over my head that doesn't leak. I am warm in the winter, cool in the summer, and I have oodles of good, practical work. I have no reason to complain or no reason to want a new life. Yet, sometimes I will catch myself saying these words two-three, maybe four times each day.

I need a new life!

I sometimes feel guilty that the words pop out of my mouth like this, but then I remember that often, I have a similar issue when I praise the Lord. I might be at the grocery store or Target, and I might be wandering up and down the aisles doing my shopping when I will say, "God is so good!" It just happens to me, and I am sure people near me think, "Oh, she is a crazy lady!" I cannot help it! His words just pop out like that, and I give Him praise spontaneously all the time.

A New Life

I am not sure what I mean by "new life," other than what the words actually connotate: new + life. I have a good life here, but it is not my own, and I think this is really the crux of the matter. I share a home with my parents, and while I am my own person, do my own thing and work, I live under my father's rules and headship. He is 85, and I am 55, and frankly, we do butt heads constantly. I need my own place so I can be the head and not the tail (as Deuteronomy 28 says). I love my Dad, and I respect him, but there are times when his way and my way and the Lord's way do not mesh well. I want to go and live as the Lord leads, and I want to pay head or homage to no one other than the Lord. I want to submit, to yield, and to follow Him -- to live His way -- every single day, and that means to not live in a home that is at cross purposes to that pursuit. My son feels the same way, and he told me last night how he needs to get out of his room (just like I do). We live in our corner of the house, trying to produce good work, but frankly, we need more space -- lots more space -- and we are constrained to live as the Lord is asking us to live in this very small and confined space.

More so, I want to live differently, in a different place. I want to live in a four-season climate, and my parents want to remain in the desert. I want to enjoy snow again, to have fall leaves, and to be able to spend more days outside, gardening, hiking, and enjoying nature. Nature is important to me, and I need to spend time outside -- it is my preferred time to pray, to think, to commune with God. I cannot do that here because of the dirt, the dust, and the desert. I live inside a 10x10 room, and I am about ready to burst from the scene!

Lastly, my life is wholly devoted to God and that means I am 100% committed to His way of doing things. I am tired of sharing my home with my parents, sadly so. I love them, deeply and truly, but their lives are so restricted and set in stone. They do the same thing, every single day, and their lives are at the center of this home. I am working hard to make my own way, my own life, and frankly, the time has come to go. I need to go.

In Closing

In my hopes for a new life, I am resting securely in His will. I am trusting Him to provide for me and to guide and direct my steps so that I can know confidently that where I go, I will be blessed. I want to experience His best in and through my life, and that means to humbly submit and yield to His ideas, thoughts, and desires because I know that His way is preferred, always preferred. I want His best, and to ensure I have His best, I have to relent. I have to yield, submit, and prefer Him over all other people, things, ideas, and views. He is my only attraction now, and with Him as my center and focus, I feel assured that I can go and do His work and be provided for, blessed, and comforted throughout my remaining days. He is good to me, so very good to me! Selah!

July 5, 2018

Happy Day After!

Happy Thursday! It is July 5th, the day after our 242nd Independence Day, and I am sitting here, thinking about how thankful I am to live in a country that promotes free thought, independent thinking and action, and while not 100% open to all people, ideas, or worldviews, is still a place where individuals can find their niche and pursue their passion with intensity and tenacity. I am thankful for America the Beautiful, and despite the fact that our nation often looks a bit rusty on the outside, we still have a light that shines brightly, and serves as a safe haven for people from all walks of life who come here to seek a brighter future for themselves and their families.

I didn't post anything yesterday, simply because I was focused on grading and making sure I had all my final grades updated. I am still not finished with my grading for one of my courses that ended on Tuesday, but I am close and should be done by early afternoon. I spent most of my day grading, and I didn't even watch fireworks last night (though I did hear them from my room). My son posted this video late in the evening, and I thought I would share it since it is pretty cool (well, he is pretty cool).

I love the fact that he created this video, played our National Anthem, and did it all in his less than 8x8 music space. I have promised him that when we move this fall, he will have double that size of a studio space. He just needs more room for his synths and other recording equipment! Sigh!

Notwithstanding, I am a proud Mom, and I am so happy that my son is able to see the beauty in our country and that while he has a different view on life than I do, we can agree that we live in a good place and that God has blessed and provided well for us.
Making Things Work for Me

As I sit here today, I marvel at the goodness of God. I woke up at 10 a.m. today (as has been the case the past three weeks). I am not sure why I am having issues falling asleep at night, but lately, I have not closed my eyes until close to 1 a.m. This means that with my normal 9-hour routine, I am sleeping in until 10 a.m. each day. I am so thankful that I do not have to get up and go to work outside the house! I mean, I am so thankful that I can work from home, and that I can call all the shots, so to speak, do what I want and when I want to do it. I am not tied to the phone line or IM system as I was when I worked from home for CVS. I am free to be on the computer for an hour or 12, and I can stop in the middle of the day to go to Target or simply lay down to rest. I am 100% free to do my work, and I love that with this freedom, I am able to do as much or as little work as I desire. I guess it is a good thing that I am a workaholic, as my son says, and that I tend to work harder and longer than necessary. In truth, I probably do work 40 hours at a minimum, with some weeks pushing 50, but I have the choice to work in the morning, afternoon or evening. I tend to do all my work in the late afternoon and evening.

I was thinking about this fact the other day, how I love my work, my job, and how I cannot think I would enjoy doing anything else -- well -- except maybe to be an artist or writer. I love being a teacher, and I love being a college teacher, in particular. It was always my dream job to be a college professor, to work 2-3 days a week, and to have plenty of off-time for study, research, and writing. I had envisioned being a professor when I was first in college back in the late 1980s-90s. I wanted the job so badly, and I had even applied to graduate school. But, life intervened as I like to say, and I ended up pregnant with my son. I took 17 years off to be a SAHM, homeschool advocate, and in the interim, found a sideline that provided a way for me to stay at home and still work. I was a web designer for nearly 13 years, and I loved the job, but not the clients! Sigh! I really loved designing -- the technical side of designing -- but I didn't like sales or working with persnickety clients! I left that job when my marriage ended in 2009, and for a time, wandered aimlessly until the Lord opened a door for me to return to graduate school (in August 2010), and then gave me a new vision -- the plan to become a college instructor. I worked part-time and full-time at jobs that just didn't fit me well until He moved me to doctoral studies and gave me a temporary job as an adjunct professor.

I have been an adjunct teacher for five years now, and to say I love it is an understatement. I didn't always love it, in fact, I would say that in the beginning, I was really scared of the job. I panicked, hyperventilated, and generally stressed over my performance and the low pay. But as the Lord was leading me, He was also providing for me, and in combination, I survived those early days. I completed my Ph.D., and I have found steady work as an adjunct teacher through online programs. I am able to teach more classes than on campus, and as such, I can make a solid living.

My colleagues and peers are seeking permanent positions with tenure (long-standing employment), but the Lord has only provided part-time work to me. I have stressed over the fact that I don't have anything solid longterm, but the Lord has reminded me and assured me that my temporary work is part of His overall plan for my life. The funny thing is that I have come to be pretty confident in this line of work, and while I never know what contracts I will have or how many, the Lord always provides enough work to keep me employed and to meet all my needs. I am well-covered by His manifold blessing of grace, and His prosperity rains down upon me and keeps me well-watered. He is good to me, so very good to me!

Still, I have thought that I needed to do something extra, some extra work in order to help prepare for my future and eventual retirement. I mean, I can make a good living as I am now, but I simply will need more money to have a solid investment plan and retirement when I finally get to age 70 (in 15 years). At first, I thought perhaps I would do some consulting work. I had an opportunity to work with a client a month or so ago, but she was so busy and we played telephone tag, and finally, I gave up. I thought, "Nope. I am not chasing anyone -- not anymore." The consultant idea fizzled, and while I was disappointed at that fact, now I see it was for the best. My work style is 100% independent, and I do not want to do any work that ties me to a client or a client's demands.

Lately, I have thought more about writing and research, and I have asked the Lord if He intends for me to publish. I have felt confident that I would publish, but the Lord has been clear that I would not write academic articles (some, but not many) nor would I receive any fame (recognition) from them. I was disappointed at that thought because I do long to be recognized and to achieve a measure of success. However, I also realized, this week in fact, that my field of specialty is really not special at all. I mean, I am not a communications teacher or scholar, not like my friends, I mean. I teach English courses, and I do not have any specialized interest or focus to my Ph.D. Thus, my interests run very far afield from what my colleagues pursue, and as such, I really don't have anything at all to write about, LOL!

What is odder is the fact that since being hired to teach at Liberty University, I have struggled with the idea that I will be teaching COMS 101 -- Public Speaking. I am not a Speech teacher -- never have been, really never want to be one. Yet, this is the only class I seem to be offered, and while I haven't taught yet (no students were enrolled), I seem to be set to be a COMS 101 professor. Weird, huh?

Last night, as I was praying, I heard the Lord speak to me in that way that He does, and He said that I would be writing books for my secondary living. I thought that was interesting but scary. I mean, what would I write about? Who would want to read my books? The thought came to my mind that perhaps I should write about what I know best, and that is my fear of public speaking. You see, as a child and an adult, I had this intense fear of speaking in public. It was so bad, that in middle school and high school, just the thought of having to answer or stand up in front of the class caused me to become ill. I would throw up, be sick on presentation days, and so forth. In professional life, things didn't get better. I would become so fixated on speaking that I would stumble over my words, and eventually ramble and not say anything at all.

I laughed in my heart to think that the Lord would want me to write books about speaking in public, after all, I am not a public speaker. But, then the idea sat with me a while, and I realized that one of the reasons the Lord gave me those first contract jobs at GCU was to help me overcome my fear. He put me in a classroom of 20 students the first time out, and before I left that school to teach online this past January, I was regularly teaching 80-100 students (3 times a day, 3 times each week)! I learned how to remain confident in the classroom, to present lectures, and to even engage with my audience. I wasn't the best teacher when it came to entertaining students, but mostly my students said they really loved my classes and that they always enjoyed them, and made a point to come to them. I would say that right now I am able to speak to any size audience without much fear. Sure, I would be anxious to start, and uncomfortable while waiting to go on, but once I got started, it would be business as usual. I would be able to teach, to preach, and to speak to any size group with ease.

Despite this fact, though, I am not really qualified to write books on the subject. What is more is the fact that I am not even sure if there is a market for such books. I mean, the texts we use in my courses are pretty good so what would my writing add to that literature? I guess there is a market for people like me, you know, people who are just average folks and who have a fear of speaking to groups. Sure, there is Dale Carnegie and Toastmasters, organizations that are and have been devoted to helping people become professional presenters, but this is not my focus either. I don't want to compete with these groups, and with the work, they have done for years. No, I am thinking that there is a niche market out there for groups, for individuals who need some handholding when it comes to learning how to speak confidently in public. Thus, I guess my first book idea will be about public speaking and my fear and how I overcame that fear with the Lord's help.
His Way is Best

As I think about this idea, writing a book on public speaking, I do wonder why the Lord wants me to do it. I am game, so to speak, and I am willing to be His transcriber -- typist as my friend Mary says -- and simply write the words that He places in my head on paper (er, computer). I do know this -- whatever the Lord plans, it will come to pass. Proverbs 19:21 (NIV) says, "Many are the plans in a person's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails." Likewise, Job speaks of the Lord's plans when he says, ""I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted" (Job 42:2, NIV). What I know is this -- the plans the Lord has for my life -- are sure, complete, and will be effectual. If the Lord desires for me to write a book, so be it. If the topic of the said book is on the fear of public speaking, so be it. I will write whatever He asks me to write, and in this way, I will do His work, in His way, and according to His will. He is good to me, so very good to me, and He does know what is best for me moving forward. Selah!

I am convinced that the only way to proceed is to acknowledge Him and His way. I mean, this is what we read in Proverbs 3: 5-6 (NIV):

Trust in the LORD with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.

I believe that if we trust the Lord (belief in Him, in His abilities, His veracity, His God-head status, and sovereignty), then we pay homage to Him -- we worship Him, acknowledge His status and position in our life. When we do this type of behavior, we come to a new level of understanding, and we begin to see our life in its fullness (completeness). We are able to better grasp the significance of the events, the life situations and circumstances, and we can often find a way around the prickly parts, even to find an escape path when needed. Mostly, though, we come to rest and rely on Him for His ability to direct our steps (to show us the way to go). When we follow His leading in this way, we find that our paths are made straight. This doesn't always mean easy-going, no bumps or hills, rather straight as in to meet their objective. We find that our path from point A to B straightens out, and we follow a better route to come to our final destination. We take fewer twists and turns, fewer ups and downs, and less circuitous routes, so to speak. Our life begins to move into higher gear and we accomplish far more than we thought possible simply because we have made Him Sovereign over every thought, decision, and desire. He takes control, and we move into a submissive secondary position. In short, we begin to experience the freedom to ride along with Him rather than remain in the control seat, decision-maker role that often causes incredible stress, fear, and frustration.

I am utterly convinced that given the choice between my way or His, I would still choose His way. I mean, I have experienced such goodness, greatness in fact, and amazing grace, mercy, blessing since I turned my efforts over to Him, released my grasp and hold of my life and placed my entire being (faith, feelings, and future) into His capable hands. He gave me freedom, the ultimate kind of freedom, and He said that in my freedom, I could go and do whatever I wanted, pleased, desired -- so long as I kept Him as Number 1 and submitted my will (my attitude, heart, and mind) to His leading.

More so, as I think back on the challenges I faced in my early life, especially in the years I was married, I realize that there was a clear difference in how I lived my life. I often felt under such extreme pressure, and my days were filled with angst. I was so stressed, almost to the breaking point, and I never felt like I had any power of my own to control my days, weeks, months, and years. I had no future hope, and I felt like my life was all about toiling -- hard pressing work -- with little actual improvement. But then, when all hoped seemed lost, I repented, turned myself around, and made Him my top priority. In doing so, I began to experience freedom, true freedom, where I was able to be liberated from diminished thoughts, released from captive emotions and given the time to heal and to come to this place of complete surrender.

I have walked in surrender now for almost 12 years. It was like a breath of fresh air coming into the dank and dying stale air I tried to exist in, and once I inhaled enough of the good air, I was able to see my life more clearly. The sin was exposed; the sadness revealed. And, while my marriage never recovered, I ended up walking this path alone, but as time has progressed, I have come to a place of amazement. I stand in awe of God for His never-ending goodness and grace. I marvel at His friendship, His companionship, and the way He chooses to interact with me personally. I feel His presence as one feels their own skin, and He is with me, near me, always available to me. He is never silent or distant; He is always here, always ready, always on, and always active.

In Closing

As I consider my next steps, moving to another state, setting up a home and so forth, I know that I cannot do any of this forward movement without His connection. I need Him to lead, guide, and provide for me, and I need His intervention to make His plans come to pass. 

Today, I rest securely in the knowledge that He is not sending me to a distant land to suffer, to sort things out on my own, or to try to make His work come to pass. No, He goes before me, and He prepares a place for me. He has said, "Go this way, Carol," and I follow His voice. I listen to the sound of His voice as He clearly directs my steps, makes my paths straight. I listen carefully, I rely on what I know to be true, and I set my cap in the direction of His hand. I go where He sends me; I live where He tells me to live; I do the work He has prepared, trained, and equipped me to do. Selah!