May 28, 2016

Confirmation

Happy Saturday! Yes, it is a beautiful Saturday here in sunny and warm, Phoenix. The skies are clear and the air is warm. The high today should be in the mid-90s, but with the low humidity, the outside temperature is not unbearable. The 100s are around the corner, and the forecast is calling for mid-100s toward the end of next week. I am so not ready for the heat of summer, but for now and until the Lord moves me elsewhere, this is my life.

Today is a good day. I am blessed, so very blessed. I am sitting here in my home office thinking about all the good the Lord has brought into my life. I am officially "hired" at Ohio Christian University, and I am scheduled to facilitate my first English Composition class mid-July. I am excited to begin teaching at this school as I believe it is the Lord's provision to help me transition to full-time online teaching. I don't know if this will be the school of His choosing, but I was greatly encouraged to receive an offer for part-time work. Furthermore, while I was perusing their website, I saw that they have just added an online Bachelors of Arts degree in English. This could mean more part-time work or it could lead to a full-time position down the road.

As I think about the Lord's provision, I realize that all my worries, fears, and doubts about money are slowly fading away. Sure, I still don't see complete coverage for summer, but I do see possibilities where before there only seemed shortfalls. Now, I see that the Lord has been telling me what would be, but in my inability to fully trust Him, I chose instead to worry rather than patiently wait in faith. Lesson learned well. As of today, I will be teaching four English composition courses and one communication course. I will be Associate Faculty at three schools, two local and one distance. My continual prayer is for the Lord to open up an opportunity where I can teach full-time online. I really see this as the answer, the solution, and while I will miss working one-on-one with students in a traditional setting, I am content to teach from a distance if this is His will for me.

My desire is to teach online simply because I think it would provide a simple solution to my relocation plans. For instance, with online work, I can move anywhere the Lord leads me. Furthermore, with online, I am no longer bound to a schedule that requires me to drive to school and back. Lastly, online allows me more free time at home to do other things. Not only can I manage my home better (less fatigue, for example), but also I can write papers, do classes (as the Lord directs) and start a ministry. I can do everything He requires of me from the comfort and convenience of my own home. I really see this as a win-win combination, and I hope that this is His will. I feel that it is, I sense it I mean, so for now, I rest while He orchestrates the jobs, the schools, and the classes that He wants me to teach. He is good, and He is faithful -- always!


No Other News

So besides my job news, I am really sitting here with little to do. I thought about working on my curriculum for fall, and I may actually do that today. Or I may just rest and let the day pass by. I don't know. I am blessed to have these days off. I am blessed to have this freedom, for sure. I am not as tired as I was earlier in the week, so perhaps I am finally getting rested, adjusted to the downtime. He is good to provide this to me, and I am thankful for the blessing of time off.

In closing today, I simply remember that He is in control of my life. He is making good things come to pass, and I am resting in the security of His promises this good day. I am resting in the One who has everything under control. There is no detail unnoticed, no issue or concern uncared for or tossed aside. He knows my needs. He understands what I can and cannot do, and since He knows the plans He has for my life, I can rest in His provision. I can trust Him to provide the right job at the right time for the right amount of pay. Furthermore, I can let Him lead me because He is not going to take me into harm's way. He is not going to let go of my hand or let me try to make ends meet. No, He is going to satisfy every need, every desire, and every sincere wish for me. This doesn't mean He does what I ask of Him; no, not at all. Rather it simply means that I have turned over these desires, wants, needs, and wishes to Him. In return, He gives to me what He wants, and I graciously and without grumbling accept what He provides to me. He will sustain me, comfort me, protect me, and provide for me. He is the VINE and I am the branch. I am to abide, lean on, and trust in Him. I rest in His abilities, knowledge, and power, and then He does everything else. He is my King, my Savior, and my LORD. I rest in Him today. He is good, so very good to me! Selah!

May 27, 2016

It’s Friday!

It is Friday, and I am happy to be alive! Yes, it is a good day to be alive, to be free, and to be living in such a blessed and wonderful state of grace!! God is good, so very good to me. I am giving Him all the praise and honor today because He is good to me. I mean, HE IS SO VERY GOOD TO ME! Selah!

Truth be told, I woke up a bit stiff and sore, and I am still very tired. I am not sure why I am so exhausted, but I find that while I am sleeping soundly, I am simply not waking up refreshed. I feel tired until I get up, start moving around, and I get my first cup of coffee. I sure hope this is not an indicator of things to come. I mean, I am too young to be so tired every morning. Sigh!

Some Good News

I finally received word back on my article. The assistant editor has forwarded my paper to the editor, so unless something happens, I think I can safely say that my paper has been accepted for publication. I am “tentatively” celebrating at this time. Once I get the “two thumbs up” from the journal, I will be overjoyed!  I have been looking forward to the day when I could get one of my paper's published. I have always dreamed about being a scholarly writer; I just never thought I would actually do it. Now, I am on the cusp of being a published author, and that idea, the dream, seems more real now than ever before. I am blessed, so very blessed.

When I think about how God provided the perfect solution to me, to teach and to become a writer, I stand amazed at His goodness and His grace. I mean, He orchestrated my success, and while it took longer than I thought, His word to me is coming to pass. You see, He was clear on the steps involved in transitioning from corporate work to academic work. I didn't understand the process, so for me, I felt like things (the details) were slow in coming together. What was more difficult was that I felt like I was spinning my wheels. And, for the longest time, I never felt like I was really making any progress at all. In truth, though, everything (all those details) were coming to pass in a specific order and within His specific timeframe. I didn't understand how things work in academia. I just thought that I would experience the same blessing and favor as I did when I worked in corporate business. I expected that I would be "promoted" up faster, sooner, and without as much effort. I didn't understand that these types of blessings take much longer to realize in this very different environment.

As weird as it may sound, in higher education, the whole institution of academia, has such ingrained policies and procedures. The process from start to finish is stagnant. So thoughts of moving in and up, whether getting employed or receiving promotions or acceptance for publication, takes years to realize. In many ways, it is like Aesop's Fable of the Tortoise and the Hare. In corporate business, where I worked for many years, everything moves at a rabbit's pace. It seems like what is here today is gone by tomorrow. You get in, you get moving, and with good effort on your part, you begin to experience success in short order. The potential for success, whether in position, power, or prestige, is available so long as you are willing to put forth effort and remain diligent. Personally, I found success came easy to me, relatively easy, I mean. I worked hard, stayed focused, and did a good job. In the end, I was rewarded. But, when I moved into higher education, everything changed. It was like my forward progression just came to a halt. No matter how hard I tried, my efforts were not rewarded in the same way. It was the flip side of the story where you read how the tortoise creeps on, slowly inching its way to the end. Everything and everyone who works in higher education seems to know this fact, and they accept the truth that nothing moves fast, change takes time, and success comes on very, very slowly.

My problem was that I wanted everything to happen instantly. I understood there would be learning curves, time delays and the like. I just didn't think that it would take so long for me to see any measure of success. Of course, truth be told, I did receive plenty of "success," and I have overtime, seen a lot of good results. My mindset had to shift, and I had to slow down. I had to take things as they came to me rather than rushing out to find them. I had to put my entrepreneurial spirit on the back burner and accept how things are done, handled, and completed in higher education. My "do it now" attitude had to be replaced with a more casual, "whatever" approach. I had to take things one at a time instead of in a rapid fire sequence like I was used to experiencing. In some ways, the pace of working in higher education was not welcomed. I wanted it all NOW. As time passed, though, I came to see the blessing of going slow, of taking time, and of enjoying the process involved in teaching. I came to see that it wasn't about results at all. It was about people, processes, and putting the needs of others ahead of my own. I put my achievement-oriented personality on hold, and I embraced the compassionate side of my personality. As I slowed down, I started to relax. As I started to relax, I began to enjoy my days. And, as I enjoyed my days, I began to see the blessing wrapped up in this way of life. I am now enjoying my life as a teacher, and I can say whole-heartedly that there is no other job I ever want to do. I am content, fully and finally, content. God is good, so very good to me! Selah!

Blessing #2 - More Work

My other good news is that I logged into Ohio Christian University's email server today and I received word that I have been moved to "approved" status for associate faculty. This means that I am now approved to teach provisionally at this school. I will be assigned an 8-week class shortly, and I will work with my mentor to learn how to teach at this school. At first, I wasn't thrilled with OCU's online facilitation approach. I thought it lacked individuality, and I wanted more say in how the classroom is run. However, now that I am on break for the summer, I am seeing the blessing in this approach. In truth, I am happy to teach/facilitate in whatever way the school wants. I just want to work, and I want to learn how to be a good teacher, whether online or on campus. The more experience, the better, in my book.

If all works out well, I should have a class to teach this summer. Perhaps I will have a regular schedule through the next year where I could teach 1-2 classes. The recruiter said this was possible, but I know that scheduling is based on needs. So if I could teach 1 class, say, in fall and spring, this would be good for me. I am still waiting on Regent University, and I believe that in time, I will receive a call to teach online for them as well. I also am "in process" at Colorado Christian University. I think I have very good prospects for part-time online teaching. The key for me is time management. I need to manage my time well so that I don't let any of these schools down. Of course, my prayer is for one full-time position. But until the Lord opens that door for me, I will be content to teach at whatever schools want me. I will teach part-time or full-time and for any number of schools. I just want to earn a decent salary so I can live more comfortably. Yet, I say with Paul that I am content in riches or in poverty. I am choosing to be content this good, good day. Selah!

Update: I received an email confirmation for an 8-week contract beginning in July. This is a perfect gift -- right when I needed some extra income. God is so good to me!
Leaning on the Lord

Today's inspirational reminder is from Joyce Meyer. Joyce writes, "When we lean on God, we actually enter into His rest and can enjoy our lives, no matter what our circumstances may be." I love this quote because it reminds me why we must "lean on" and abide in the Lord. If we want to be at rest, to cease from striving in this world, we must rest in the Lord. Resting in the Lord means to trust Him, to let Him take the lead in every area and to provide for us in the way He chooses to provide. It means we must lay aside our desire to be in control, to make decisions based in human understanding. Instead, we acknowledge our need, we say aloud, "Lord, I don't know how to solve this dilemma, this problem, and I need your help to do it."

Resting has been one of the hardest life lessons for me to learn. I have struggled with resting for years, and in the past couple months, the Lord has shown me how my unwillingness to rest has caused great harm to my body. My lack of rest has taken a toll on my physical, mental, and emotional state. I have been running around on empty, and my body now is telling me "enough!" I know better, of course I do, but I still try to remain in control, to be the one who makes the decisions as to what to do, where to go, and how to do everything. I need to rest, to rest in the Lord, to lean on Him for everything. When I do lean on Him, my life seems to slow down, to that tortoise pace, and I can relax. I can find refreshment for my world-weary soul. God knows our limits, our ends, and He knows that we need to rest frequently.

As I think about my life today, I realize that for all my striving and struggling, I haven't managed to make a whole lot of difference in my circumstances. All I have done is create stress for myself. I have set myself up for pain, sorrow, and suffering -- needlessly -- all because I refused to allow the Lord to lead me and guide me into that blessed rest. My "take away" for the day is to remember that when God leads, He provides. When He provides, He guides. We need only allow Him His rightful place to find blessed peace and rest. I want to rest now. I want to accept whatever He offers me. I want to know and to be incomplete surrender to Him. I want to believe that what is coming to me is good, always for my good, for my blessing, for my rest. May the Lord lead me and guide me this good day. May I lean on, abide in, and rest in Him today and always. In Jesus' Name, amen. Selah!

May 26, 2016

Getting Ready to Go

It is a blessed Thursday, and I am finally awake! Yes, I stayed up way too late last night. I am not a spring chicken anymore so late nights (until 3 a.m.) just don't do this girls' body well. Of course, I enjoyed myself, enjoyed spending time with my good man, and enjoyed being able to share some time with him despite the time change and his current work schedule. God is good, though, and He has provided a way for us to stay connected to one another throughout these past 23 months. I thank the Lord for providing such a good friend to me, such a sweet, wonderful, and amazing friend. I cannot imagine what my life would be like without him as a part of it. I have become "accustomed to his face" as the wonderful Lerner and Lowe song goes. I am blessed, so very blessed to have this special person in my life. I am looking forward to the day when we can finally spend time together "face to face," when we can finally "do" life together. Until then, I am content to enjoy this blessed friendship as the Lord leads, provides, and guides us in it. Selah!

Moving and Going

Just yesterday, I blogged about how I was sensing the Lord's movement in my life, how things seemed to be picking up for me, and how I was feeling as if the Lord was going to bring some change into my life very soon. Today, I am still feeling this way, but I guess you could say that I am more settled now, more ready to begin this process. It is a process, after all, a process that has a beginning, middle and an end. The process isn't a quick one whereby you just "pick up" and go. No, this process, at the least for me, is a long, long, long one. I have been in the "moving process" now for six years. I have been in the "preparing to move" process for nearly ten. It seems that my mind has been focused on relocating for so long that I simply live in this "transition." I am not content to remain where I am because I am always thinking that the time might be right for me to "go." It is weird, really weird, but this is just the way it has been for me.

I've tried to figure it out. I've tried to get a handle on why the Lord would be pressing on me this need to move IF He didn't really plan for me to move. I mean, why put inside me this deep desire to move when really He just wanted me to set down roots where I am right now. I have been here in Phoenix for nearly 20 years (come November), and while I have come to terms with my life here, the truth is that I have never been happy here at all. I've never been content to live in Phoenix. I really didn't want to come here in the first place, but I saw Phoenix as the way to flee from all our problems. And, for a time, it happened. All the stress of San Jose melted into the hot summers of Phoenix. But then new stress developed, major new stress, far more intensive stress than what was experienced in San Jose. I knew I had made a mistake shortly after moving here. I knew that I had gone against the Lord's will for our life by leaving San Jose. I was sick -- almost to the point of death (twice) -- and I was so depressed that I had to go back home to get medical care. Yes, I was emotionally on the brink of suicide, even though I wasn't going to say that it was so. The only thing that kept me from committing suicide was my precious son, whom I loved dearly, and whom I believed was given to me as a gift. I was to shepherd him, care for him, and bring him up in the fear and admonition of the Lord. I knew that this was the charge the Lord had given to me, communicated to me, and I couldn't let anyone else take that responsibility from me. I stood my ground, recovered my well-being, and I returned back to Phoenix to live out a life that was never going to be blessed, never going to be happy, never going to be successful.

Of course, since that time, things have changed. I have become settled here. I have accepted the fact that this is the place of my choosing. I chose to come here. I chose to convince my ex-husband that this is the place we should live. In the end, I am the one that brought us here. I have learned to be content with this decision, and I have learned to put up with the heat and the hardship. But, inside my heart, deep within my heart, I always knew that this wasn't going to be my home forever. It was temporary, just for a time (a long time).

Now, I am a different person. I am a grown woman with a grown son (praise be to God), and I have a blessed new life. My home is shared with my parents, and while that is a trial at times, it is a good provision from the Lord. I have been blessed as my days transitioned from the old life to this new one. So much has changed for me. I have become this bold, dynamic, and positive person. I have thrown off the shackles that bound me, and I have stepped into a faith-walk that has required great sacrifice. I am growing, learning, and abiding in the Lord, and I am making plans for my future. I am still to remain where I am for a time, but the Lord has permitted me to consider life elsewhere. I have looked at cities and towns across the USA, from north to south and east to west. I have considered small towns and major metropolitan cities. I have considered what life might be like in these places, even pursued logistical planning to move on many occasions. Yet, still I remain right where I am -- no movement -- no change in my location.

I have wondered why this is so, why the Lord lets me plan a move, but then doesn't actually move me. For a long time, I just assumed it was my unwillingness to go. I mean, I have to be willing to go, and even with all the detailed plans, when it came down to it, I haven't been willing to let go of what I know as "home." Now, though, I wonder if this isn't really the case. I am sure my unwillingness to go is a part of the problem, but now I think that it is more a matter of His unwillingness to let me go. You see, I have said time and time again that I would go, that I was willing to go, agreeable to going. Yet, the Lord didn't move me. He didn't move me. There have been so many times when I could have been transferred, say with my job at UOPX or CVS, and the Lord didn't permit it. Furthermore, when I was living on my own, He could have opened doors at other jobs like United Healthcare, and permitted me to take a position in another state. I applied, I was applying like crazy, but the jobs didn't materialize, and the work never opened up opportunities for me to move.

Now, I am in this place. I am about to graduate with my PhD, and I am ready to take on a full-time teaching position. I can move, I mean, now is a good time to move. But, still, He doesn't move me. He doesn't send me anywhere. He says for me to be still, to wait, to remain for a time. So I remain. I stay. I sit still.

I am thinking today that all of this moving, this sense of moving has been for one purpose. It has been to show me that my desire to move is more about "change" than really about moving to do His work. I have always liked to change things around, to rearrange furniture, to paint walls, etc. I like the temporary feeling of 'newness,' of 'freshness,' that comes from small changes. In this way, I think of moving as changing my lifestyle, changing the way I do my daily life. It is true, of course, that change brings a sense of newness, especially when life has gotten really stale. Now, though, I do wonder if the deep desire to move was predicated on my poor decision to come to Phoenix, and my willingness to run away from the life I have had here.

It is interesting to reflect on my motivation in this way. You see, for a long time after I had separated from my husband, I couldn't imagine moving so far away from him. I know -- weird, right? I know a number of women who have been divorced and the first thing they do is move far away from their ex-husband. For me, even though I was glad to be free from that marriage, I still had deep emotional attachment to my ex-husband. I still cared for him, about him, and couldn't imagine living far from him. In time, those feelings subsided. I still see him occasionally, but we have little to do with one another. We don't talk on the phone; we text. We don't spend time together outside of the casual "hello" at a function featuring our son. It is as if this part of my life is dead now, and I have no feelings or need to remain connected to him. I am sure it is natural, the death of a loved one, even the death of a marriage, takes time to settle. The feelings don't subside overnight, and as everyone grieves differently, for different periods of time, only the Lord knows when the "time" is right for moving on.

Secondly, I struggle to leave my parents behind. I struggle now that my Mom needs more care, and my Dad is in failing health. My head says, "Just wait this out. Just wait until it is over," even if that means staying here for another five or ten years. I don't want to do this -- I don't want to put my life on hold until they pass away. I have thought about this a lot lately, especially after my brothers' came to visit this past weekend. They are very content to allow me to sacrifice my life, to give up my freedom to remain as caregivers for my parents. Yet, I am not content to do this nor do I think this is the Lord's will for my life.

Last, I have waited here until my son graduated. First, it was until he finished high school. Now, it is until he finishes college. I didn't want to uproot him in the middle of his schooling, so I waited. I waited until I could get all my little ducks in a row. I needed the money to move. I needed a job to move. I needed a place to live. It seemed like there was always a reason why I couldn't go. I didn't have the resources (I still don't). I didn't know where to go. It was always something, always something.

Dissatisfaction and Moving

As I think about moving, I hear myself saying, "If you are so dissatisfied with life in Phoenix, then why don't you go somewhere else?" Yes, I should take my own advice. I have complained, griped, and stated boldly that I wanted to move, and yet I do not move. I have tried, planned, imagined, envisioned the whole process, from start to finish, and still I do not go. Why? Why is this so? I guess partly it is because I don't want to repeat the past, especially the mistakes I made in the past. Let me explain...

My cousin recently lost her husband after many years of marriage. They had relocated to Phoenix a few years back and were happily living here. They had bought a lovely home with a pool, had a fishing boat, and for the most part, were enjoying their semi-retirement. Then her husband got sick, cancer, and he died. She couldn't bear to live in the house anymore so she sold it. She left her family (my family) and another cousin with whom she was very close to move to the other side of the country. She has been there now two years, and she says she is happy most days. I can tell that she is not really happy. She has a lovely home near the ocean, and she seems in good shape. But, she is not happy, not really happy at all. I felt that she was moving to leave the hurt memories of her life here in Phoenix behind. It was her way of dealing with the loss of her husband. She packed up and she changed scenery. I think she really did want to go, really wanted to try this new place out, but in hindsight, I think she realized what she gave up to move. Despite the pain, the suffering, and the sorrow here, she gave up family and friendships simply to find solace in a new place.

I don't want to do this same thing. I don't want to leave Phoenix and go some place else simply to avoid the pain I experience here. I don't want to try a new place, hoping it will solve all my problems, when the place is really not the problem at all. It is the mindset. It is the way we think and feel when we are in the midst of trial, turmoil, or temptation. Yes, I think there are times when we place a lot of faith in a move, when we think the move will change our circumstances and improve our life. The problem is that while this might be true to some extent, it might also not be true at all. Moving to move is never a good idea. I guess -- unless you were young and had no life to begin with -- then moving may be fun, exciting and an adventure. But when you are my age, in your early 50s, moving comes with a great cost. There are many things to consider when starting over, and the place, while important, is really the least of the concern.

I have looked at more than 500 homes over the course of the past ten years. I have imagined purchasing them, living in them, decorating them. In all of these homes, from inexpensive to very expensive, I have never once felt like I was "home." I never once thought, "this is it!" No, I saw lots of potential, lots of nice neighborhoods and country life, but never once did I feel like I had found the place where I would be content, happy, and settled.

Am I placing more emphasis on the place, the city or town, then on the work the Lord has called me to do?

That is a tough question, but one that I think is worthy of pondering. You see, I do think that I have placed a lot of emphasis on the place. I have put "place" at the top of my list, my needs list, for the past ten years. I pray, "Lord, where will I go?" I ask Him to clarify, to show me, to lead me to this place so I can go there and do His work. Yet, I already know what He has said to me. I can do my work, I mean His work, anywhere. I need to be within driving distance to an airport, but I also can live anywhere because the work I do doesn't require a specific place. I will work on my own, do my own work, so there is no "organization" with whom to be employed. Furthermore, outside of teaching, whether on campus or online, my only "need" is a job at a college or university. I can teach anywhere, so long as I can get hired (LOL!)

Moreover, the place is not critical to anything I do. So in essence, I am free to move about the country as the Lord opens doors for me. I don't have to go to Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, or Atlanta to do practical or ministry work. I can do it right where I live -- so here in Phoenix or there in the deep south. I don't need anything special to do this work. I have everything I need. I have my computer, my books, the Internet, etc. I have what I need, short of a house and an office, but other than that, I am good to go. I can pack my things and move tomorrow. I can set down, sign up for Internet, plug my things in and presto! I am back in business.

Furthermore, as far as my son goes, he is in a similar way. Of course, he prefers to have super fiber optic high speed Internet for his stuff, but generally, he needs a room to sleep in and work in. He can work from home as a musician, studio recording engineer or he can get a job doing some other practical work. He is pretty flexible. He doesn't require much to be moved either. This makes both of us very adaptable. Yes, we do have some preferences, but as far as needs go, we are easy movers.

Preferences -- That's the Rub!

I have always said to the Lord that I am particular. Well, in truth, He says this to me. I am particular, which just means "exceptionally selective, attentive, or exacting" or "fastidious or fussy" (Dictionary.com). I know what I like, and I want what I like. Well -- I would prefer to have what I like -- let's just put it that way. The Lord knows that I am intensely focused, very detailed oriented, and as such, I tend to want things to be a certain way. I am a bit OCD, which doesn't really help me much, and can get in the way when it comes to making decisions. Also, I tend to vacillate for a time. I analyze everything to the "nth" degree so my mind becomes pre-occupied by details. This tendency can get me stuck in a rut for a time, and until something shakes loose, I will continue to fixate on the details. Usually, it is a crisis of sorts that pulls my head up, and then I see how deeply I have been digging for answers in the wrong places. Then, after some fresh air, the answers come to me, and I realize that I almost missed the clues simply because I was so determined to figure things out my own way.

How do I stop this madness? How do I find my contentment in what I have and not in what I may have down the road?

I think the key here is to recognize the pattern of behavior. I need to realize three things:

  1. Moving is not about the place, it is about the mindset, the mental ascent that agrees to consider things from another perspective.
  2. Moving is not about the place, but about the people who live IN the place.
  3. Moving is not about adventure, though adventure can be part of the package. Rather it is about purposed and productive work -- going, doing, being -- is purposed and it is planned.
This means that moving is never about changing the scenery, leaving problems behind or looking for a place to solve a current issue or concern. No, moving is always part of the process of growing. It is part of the process, that is all. It is not the end-all or the be-all. It is simply part of the process of life.

Now that I have thought about it more, I realize that I have looked to the place in some ways like that of a desired outcome. I looked to the place and thought, "my life will be better there." Now, this is not to say that moving to a new place will improve your circumstances, because there are times when it can do that. For example, if you take a promotion at work, moving to a new office could net you more income, more responsibilities, better career options, etc. Moving, thus, could be a step up to a higher quality of life. But, there are no guarantees. Happiness doesn't reside in places or things, rather it resides in the Lord and in His work. The key to happiness is to be settled and content in your relationship with the Lord. The natural outflow of that relationship will be to generate happiness or contentment (satisfaction, fulfillment, etc.) in every area of your life. This means that what matters most to the Lord is for us to be content in our relationship with Him first and foremost. Second, the Lord desires that we find part of our sense of happiness in the relationships with share other people. Our families, our friends, our church, our peers and coworkers all contribute to our overall sense of happiness, of well-being, of contentment. Things can provide satisfaction too. Jobs, for example, can provide challenges too, in a good way, so we can derive satisfaction from them. Working and serving people in ministry can also bring us great joy, a sense of accomplishment, and a feeling of valuation and worth. But, happiness itself is not to be sought in anything save the Lord.

Thus, I realize that all my efforts to move, to relocate, were partly fueled by my desire for change. I have wanted to experience "newness," a fresh change of pace, and moving was the thing I felt would do that for me. Now, though, I see that while moving in and of itself is part of God's plan for my life, it is just part of that plan. It is not THE PLAN. No, the plan involves His work, and therefore, I have confused moving to a new place as being integral to the plan itself.

My head gets it. I understand what I have done, and why I was doing it. Now, I need to retreat some to reflect on this truth. I need to realize that God hasn't moved me yet because I wasn't ready to go. I might have been willing, and even, agreeable; but I had the wrong mindset. I was placing too much emphasis on moving, and not enough emphasis on what the Lord was asking me to do once I got there. I wasn't thinking KINGDOMLY, rather I was thinking very WORLDLY.

Setting Everything Straight

Now that I have my mind back in check, I realize several truths that need to be considered further.
  • God has provided a great career track for me. As a teacher, I have the opportunity to do work anywhere in the country, even from home, and I can do this work until I am ready to retire.
  • God has opened doors for me here in Phoenix, though temporary and part-time, but nonetheless He has blessed me in my career start.
  • God has provided opportunities for me to grow as a scholar, a researcher, and even now a published author -- all as part -- of His way of making me ready to become a Professor.
  • God has made it possible for me to remain here, temporarily, while I complete my degree. He has given me comfort, shelter, and a way of life that is conducive to being productive.
  • God has made new friendships for me, mostly at a distance, so that I would see that my life is not tied to a single place. My life is filled with many good people who live all over the USA.
  • God has ordained a special friendship for me, a loving companion-like friendship that has provided for deep emotional support and love.
  • God has given me the blessed option of caring for my aging parents, and He has provided a way for me to do that now.
  • God has made a way for me, for ministry and for work, and this way is beginning to take shape, to come to full and to fruition.
  • God has given me every gift I need to be able to do His work. I am well-approved, ready, and prepared (equipped and trained) to begin His work.
As I think about all that the Lord has done for me, I realize that where I am today is part of this process. You see, whether or not Phoenix was the "best" move for me to have made back in 1996 is really immaterial at this point in time. It is "what it is" so to speak. It may not have been the best decision, but it was a decision made, and a decision lived. My life has produced good results regardless of where I have lived. I mean, God used my life here in Phoenix to bless others. I may have endured great suffering, difficult and trying relationships, and even the failure of a marriage here in Phoenix -- but PHOENIX -- wasn't to blame. The place was just that -- a place -- where I happened to be living at the time. The place is nothing. It is a dot on the map of life.

I see now how I have made the place into something more mysterious and magical than it really needs to be. I am often the one who will say to others contemplating moving that there are many "good places" to live in the US -- if you are willing to consider them as such. Sometimes we think the only quality of life is in this place or that place. And while that may be true if you are seeking worldly things (hype, money, fame, etc.); for the Christ-follower, however, the place is just a spot where the Lord allows you to rest, to catch your breath, to learn something new. It is just part of the journey we take, following after Him.

In this way, I see that my journey is to follow Him from where I am today to where He wants me to be tomorrow. Spiritually, I am to follow Him all the way to Heaven. I am to follow Him until the end of my days, and that may mean that I stay put in one city for 20-30 years. Or it may mean that I pack up and go every couple years. It really will depend on His desire for ministry, for work, for meeting the spiritual needs of the people in the places He chooses for me to go.

I guess in all, I have come to understand that wherever He leads me, I will go. I will live, do, work, play, and be content -- but not in the place -- but in the fact that I am doing what He asks me to do. I will work unto the Lord will a full heart and a willingness to go and to do His bidding. He is my Lord. I go and I do as He commands me to go and do. Selah!

May 25, 2016

The Lord Moves

You know that saying that goes "the Lord moves in mysterious ways," well, after yesterday, I think it is truth. I mean, yesterday, the Lord gave me such a GREAT day. I had a fun time working with one of the doctoral advisors at Regent University, and I got to meet some prospective students. It was so nice to be able to give back to my school in this way. Then, I received some great news regarding my paper that I had submitted over to the Journal of Instructional Research. It looks like my paper is going to be published this August. In all, the day was more than I had expected, and yet, for my part, I really did nothing special, nothing at all. The Lord moved through the process, made a way possible, and in the end, simply allowed me to "tag" along with Him. It was an exceptional experience, and praise be to God, it gave me such a good sense of well-being, of wholeness, and of healing. I feel as though everything in my life is coming together, as if the Lord is moving to pull all these separate parts into one cohesive whole. I am excited to see what He makes come to pass next, and I am ready to tackle the next steps, to enjoy the blessing as He moves through my life and makes it into His very own possession.

Counting the Cost

Just yesterday, I felt confident that I had "figured" out my next steps. I mean, I felt like so many things were falling into place that for certain, I had discerned the Lord's plan for my life. Then, later in the evening, after I had time to rest some, I realized that my life is not about a serious of steps. No, my life and the plan the Lord has for it is not about following a map. You see, in my mind, I tend to visualize my life as a journey one takes, starting at point A (for example) and proceeding to point B. In this way, I am the traveler walking on a path that is taking me to my destination. I stop along the way, I see this site and that site, but I keep on moving toward my goal, my final resting place. I guess this idea is correct in some ways. The Apostle Paul writes that we are to stay strong, finish the race set before us, and in this way, the same idea comes to suggest that we are on a course of some sort. In this course of life, we are journeying along the way, doing the work the Lord has for us. Yet, lately, I have thought about how often our life doesn't follow a prescribed path. It sort of meanders around, sometimes stopping for long periods of time, and other times, moving at a very fast pace. I have been thinking if perhaps the journey part is true -- meaning that as Christians -- we all walk a path that leads us to eternity (from faith to faith, glory to glory). But, our physical journey, our road, is not always mapped out and clearly defined. Often, we stumble and bumble about, going here and there, and not really making a straight line of progress from one point to another. I have always thought that this tarrying was a diversion, a messed up signal and a tactic of the enemy to thwart our progress to God's glorious end result. Now, though, I am starting to think that this is really how our lives are to be, that it is not about getting to the destination (a particular place on a map), but rather that it is to enjoy our life where we are and for the time we have been given. There is work to be done here and now, today and tomorrow. Yes, there is work to be done over there, and there, and there (figuratively pointing to places on the globe), and the time is at hand. Still, not every one is called to go overseas to ministry. Not everyone is called to pastor a local church. How does it really work out, this faith life, this walk, I mean? How does God call and use people? Is there really a pattern, a set way or is it rather haphazard and random?

Yesterday, I was asking the Lord to help me understand my calling and my message. I wanted some clarification on what He was asking me to do (ministry-wise), and so I was reading online, on websites and blogs that had articles about ministry callings. For one, I know my calling (as a prophet), and two, I know my message (to help the church communicate faith more effectively in this postmodern age). I have received both by personal revelation, meaning that somehow the Lord has communicated to me that this is how I am to function in His church, and that I am specifically to attend to this ministry focus (communication). I have known for a time that my studies at Regent were not to build me up or make me a professor. No, I have known that my time was to prepare and train me to engage in communications as a ministry. Thus, I went to Regent to study to be a minister who understands the theory and practice of communication for the expressed purpose of helping the Church, God's church (the people who make up the body of Christ), apply this knowledge to their own skill so that they can become more effective communicators of faith to this generation.

My question to the Lord was really more along the lines of "how" to do this work. I mean, I understand what I am to do, just not how to do it. I get the reasoning, the rationale, and I get the importance of the work (overall), but I lack specifics that will help me begin to do this work. How do I get going, how do I start, where do I start, and when do I start? As I put my questions to the Lord, I felt this sense of awareness that the work I am to do is to start now, like today. I also got the impression that the work I would do would require some measure of sacrifice, some cost, and that cost would be great, very great. I also came to understand that within that cost was great blessing, great blessing that would offset the cost and give me the comfort to know that it (the work) was all worth it.

So, after praying about it, reading some on the Internet, I determined that whatever the Lord intended to do with me, He was going to do without letting me in on all the details. Yes, I realized that He was going to do it rather haphazardly (hence, my opening dialogue). I had envisioned this very ordered, structured path to follow --> Get my PhD, find a job in a ministry, start "doing" the work. Instead, the Lord has not shown me any path to follow, outside of getting my PhD. No, instead, it appears that I will do this work along side of my teaching career. I will teach students English Composition full-time, and I will earn a living as a professor. But, along side of that good and noble work, I will also engage in communications ministry, not through a church (as in an actual church), rather on my own.

It makes sense to me because I have been feeling that the Lord intended for me to work from home. I have been looking for work from home teaching jobs, applying to them, and I do believe this is His planned provision. Working from home would allow me the time to do both things -- teach and ministry -- without overloading my body too much. I am comfortable being on the computer for 8-10 hours a day, so I can see this as a viable provision. Of course, I need to find that "work from home" job, and so far, I don't have any leads on it. Moreover, as the Lord prepares me, I realize that the plan He has for my life is rather random in appearance. I will not work for some ministry organization that is already doing prepared work. I will do something unique and only as He leads. This means that I will not have any boss over me, save the Lord. I will go and do and speak and preach and teach -- all as He leads me. I like this idea, of being independent and not under the authority of a organization a lot. I like the idea of simply producing work that is pleasing to the Lord, that is directed toward whatever goal He has in mind for me. I feel this way, praise God, and I think I can comfortably live a good life, doing practical work (teaching) and ministry work (Communications).

More so, as I think about doing these two things, practical work and ministry work, I realize that in order to do them to the Lord's approval, I have to let Him do the work through me. Like my experience yesterday demonstrated, I thought I had everything figured out, and then the Lord just did what He wanted and I received the blessing as a result. I didn't do anything. I just "tagged" along with Him. Now, I think that this is how He prefers to do it. I cannot really put it into words other than to say that it makes sense to me. He goes where He wills, and I follow Him around. It is like my cats when they follow me in the morning. I determine what work to do, and they just hang with me. I know that sounds crass to associate "hanging out" with the Lord because a lot of young people in this generation will say that about the Lord. You know, "Jesus is my homeboy" for example. This is not what I am talking about at all. I am talking about the way the disciples followed the Lord, how they hung out with Him, lived with Him, and how they did everything with Him as a companion. They left their lives, their families, etc., to follow the Lord. They counted the cost in lost connections, but the blessing they received was far more valuable to them. In this way, I see my life. I have left behind so many things that entangled me, snared me, and kept me from living a life fully and wholly devoted to the Lord. Now as a single person, a woman who is her "own person," I am able to follow after the Lord without waiting for permission from my parents, my husband, or a boss. I can go and do whatever work the Lord asks of me without waiting for approval from someone in authority over me. Furthermore, I can put His work first in my life. It takes priority over everything else. I don't have to do work assigned to me, work that is not approved by the Lord. Instead, I do the job of His provision, for the hours of His choosing. Then, I rest. I do not allow worldly ideas, worldly desires, or worldly visions consume my time. I do the work, and I move on. I rest in between, but my mind is fully focused, fully engaged in His work. There is NO OTHER WORK for me to do, than the work He assigns to me.

It has taken me a LONG time to come to terms with this spiritual truth. I remember Him saying this to me a couple years ago when I was in between jobs. I needed a job, a different job, and I wanted something that paid more money, offered better "perks," was closer to home, etc. I had all of these "must needs," and the Lord said to me that there would be NO job for me except for the work He assigned to me to do. I did get a different job, and I did work in that job for a year, but in the end, I left that job to start teaching, and since that time, the matter has been closed. No matter what work I do (as in practical, good, provisional work), it will never take the place of the WORK He assigns to me to do. The practical job is inconsequential to ministry.

I didn't get this at all, and whenever I would share this with friends or family, they would counter with how blessed I was to teach, how God clearly had called me to teach, and how He was providing teaching work to me. All of this was true, of course, and yes, I am blessed to teach. But, every single time I put more emphasis on my teaching -- whether in the class or outside the class -- or in looking for a full-time job, nothing happens at all. If I elevate teaching or make it the focus as though it is the "ministry work," the Lord reminds me sharply that it is NOT what He called me to do. Teaching is what He provided for me to do, and yes, He has blessed me in the application of it. I am called as a prophet or as "a person regarded as an inspired teacher or proclaimer of the will of God" (Dictionary.com). A prophet is someone called by God for a specific purpose and ministry. I do not proclaim to know the mind of God or speak on His behalf in all biblical matters -- not like the Old Testament prophets and the Apostles did. No, I just mean that God has anointed me for a particular ministry, and that ministry requires speaking with His authority regarding certain matters that do pertain to the Church as a whole. Honestly, I don't really understand it other than to say that God does call certain people to "offices" and these offices are biblically grounded (such as Apostles, prophets, pastors, evangelists, teachers). I don't know why God has called me as such, but since I was a child, I have known two things: one, I love God and two, I love His word.

I do take my calling very seriously. I do understand that I cannot set it aside or refuse to do what the Lord has asked me to do (like Jonah). No, I must engage in this work whole-heartedly and with the intention of allowing the Lord to move as He desires. This means that as of today, I am ready to begin this work, this special and wonderful work. I am ready to let everything that hinders me fall to the wayside, and I am ready to embrace my calling fully, completely, and with the assurance that He has something specific, special for me to do.


Discerning the Will of God

The hardest part for me has been to discern the will of God for my life. I mean, how do I know what is His will for my life (specifically)? I often think I understand it, only to find that I was wrong. I made some mistake in the interpretation of His expressed will for me. I hate it when I make mistakes like this, when I say something only to be proven wrong. I hate it when I think I have it all ordered, all mapped out, and then BAM! life intervenes, and I go zooming off in a different direction. One thing is certain, and that is that despite all the "fits and starts" (and there have been many), I have been heading in the same direction now for ten years or more. Yes, I would even say that I have been heading in the right direction for the majority of my life. Some cases in point:

  • As a child, I felt a deep kinship with God from my earliest years 
  • I loved going to church, being at church, singing hymns, and learning about God in Sunday School
  • I had imaginary friends, whom I communicated with all the time. These friends kept me company so I wasn't alone (as the youngest child and only girl, I was normally alone a lot)
  • I grew up in a time of relative ease, in freedom, and while I suffered a lot with emotional and physical abuse, I always believed God was with me
  • I professed faith very early on and I became an ardent follower even though I didn't understand more than the fact that God was very important to me and that I HAD to do certain things (like go to church, read my Bible, study to learn about Him and His word)
  • In my young teens, I formed friendships that kept me safe from the world and worldly influences
  • In my teens, I was isolated and alone most of the time, but as a result, I spent a great deal of that time in study, in prayer, and in quiet solitude
  • I received my calling at 17, and I felt His presence in a different way than before. As a result, I became enamored of His word, of studying it and knowing it deeply.
  • I was baptized in my early 20s, and after that experience, I became "on fire" for the Lord, seeking to know Him more deeply. I started in-depth bible studies and became convinced of the necessity of living a righteous, holy, and pure life.
  • I was active in ministry, working with children for years, and developing the ability to teach children the Word.
  • I was called to home school my son, and while I initially rejected the idea, I finally embraced it when he was 10. My life changed as a result -- fundamentally and wholly changed -- as a result.
  • At the age of 44, I experienced God in a personal way, a deeply transformational way and I became further convinced of the need to live a Godly life by forsaking all worldly attachments.
  • I embraced a life of spiritual distancing from all worldly influences, choosing to become an oblate for a time (someone who is not part of a religious order, but who lives a life similar to a nun or priest -- forsaking the world for a life with God)
  • I spent three years studying the Word, hours per day
  • I became convinced of my need to live wholly devoted to God, to be about His business (work) and to change every aspect of my life in order to fulfill my calling
All of this is to say that it will be 10 years next June when my life changed for good. In 2007, my ex-husband suffered one of three major life illnesses that forever changed the trajectory of my life. I didn't know then that the Lord would remove me from my marriage. I didn't know then that what was a difficult road, would become even more difficult as the medical crisis lead to a marital crisis, which eventually led to divorce. I had no clue that the Lord was preparing me, training me, and equipping me to deal with the death of a marriage. Furthermore, I had no idea that the Lord was moving me to a life of single devotion, of complete and utter dependency upon Him. 

Today, I look back and I see all the the Lord has done for me. I see how from the earliest memories He was my constant companion. He never left me alone. He saved me time and time again, and He set me aside to keep me safe. I have always looked back on my aloneness as a negative thing, when in truth, it was a positive thing. I have always loved being alone. I love the quiet, the peace, and the solitude. In fact, I desire quiet more than anything else. I do enjoy gatherings, and I do like being with people, but I would much rather be alone -- just with the Lord -- than to be part of the noisy bustle of life. Even in the noise, I am often deeply reflective, thinking, sitting quietly by myself. I don't mind it, really. I don't have a problem being all alone. I do get lonely at times, but I am not willing to give up my alone time with the Lord for the crash and bang of being in the midst of people. No, I think I could have lived as a prophet many years ago, alone in the wilderness, and been perfectly content. Well, maybe.



Making Peace with my Calling

I think I am finally at peace with my calling. I mean, after all these years, I am finally at peace with the fact that I am what I am, where I am, and doing the thing I am doing -- all because of the Lord's provision. He has made this life possible, and He has formed me to be this way. I do believe I have been set apart in this way since my birth. I have always been this way. I am comfortable being this way. I have always felt different, not accepted by others, and as a result, I have always lived on the sidelines, the wallpaper, so to speak. I've always seen that as a sad thing, being the wall flower in the room. But now, I see that I am the way I am because God ordained for me to be so. He has a perfect plan for me, and I am content to be the person He has created me to be. I don't want to be anyone else or do anything else. I am content to be just the way I am, and for the rest of my days, I will walk on this journey with the Lord by my side. Just Him and me. We will walk, we will tarry, and we will enjoy this life. So be it. Thy will be done. Selah!

The goodness, I guess, is that in this way, I don't have to keep on looking for the way to go. I can just let it happen, let it develop as He leads. I don't have to plan anymore or prepare for the next 30 years. I simply have to abide in Him and let Him lead me as He desires. I am okay with giving Him this place, and with finally, letting go of my need to control my circumstances, my surroundings, and my outcomes. He is good. I trust Him. He will do as He pleases, and I know that whatever comes my way, it will be a blessing. It will be good. He is good to me, always so very good to me, and I rest in the knowledge that His goodness is from before time began. He is GOOD, always so good. Selah!

May 24, 2016

Today is GREAT!

Well, it is Tuesday, and I am home and enjoying this good day. Yes, it is summer vacation, and I am thankful to have these days "off." I don't have anything to do -- nothing -- and that is such a weird feeling right now. I mean, the past couple summers, I have been in classes so I had reading, discussion board posts, or papers to write. Now, I am sitting here thinking "what will I do today?"

God is good, of course. He has given me something to do today. In fact, I have an online chat session scheduled for prospective doctoral students at Regent University. I volunteered to help out, since one of my professors had to step aside due to another time commitment. I am not sure what I will contribute, but I will give it a go, nonetheless.

I also have been asked to interview for a PR story at my school (COM Arts). It is weird to see how God is using me. I am happy to do it, though I feel a little apprehensive about sharing my feedback/story with the department. Truthfully, my story is not that exciting, so I am not sure what to say about it. I am praying for the Lord to lead me, provide words to say, etc., so that I don't have to share too much information. You just never know...I mean...how the Lord intends to use my story. I pray He is honored, and I pray that He keeps me hidden. I know that is weird because I have this "love/hate" relationship with the spotlight. I like to receive acknowledgement for my achievement, but I don't like to be in the light. I like to be hidden, to be back behind other people. Yet, then there are times when I do get jealous or envious of the attraction other people seem to have. I mean, it is not like I want to be a celebrity or anything. But, then sometimes I feel so undervalued. It is a mean cycle, one that gets the best of me at times. I surrender it all to Him because I don't want my pride to get the best of me (and it easily can and does!)

Now that I am officially A.B.D., and I am waiting for feedback on my proposal, I am thinking of all the things I get to do with my life. I mean, the majority of my schooling is behind me now. I am finished with my courses, and I am working on my research. I have a paper accepted to a journal (pending revisions), and I am planning my fall semester of classes. It is as if the rest has arrived. I mean, REST, as in resting finally, stopping to sit a spell and enjoy the blessed rest. God has been moving me into these positions, challenging me, giving me growth opportunities, and now I am standing around -- waiting -- for the next train to arrive. I need to finish my research project, graduate with my PhD, for sure; but also, I need to enjoy the blessed days of "nothingness" because they are His gift to me. I look to His hand of blessing, to His gift of rest, and I say, "Thank you, Lord. Thank you for providing a good long summer of rest for me." He knows I have worked hard, struggled, striven, and now I am at this place where I can settle down, just relax and let it all wash over me. I can rest. I can relax. I can "chill out." Yes, I can enjoy this time, realize that He has provided it for me, and simply let whatever is to come next, come to me. He is good to me, so very good to me.

Today, I realized this fact when I was talking on the phone with a dear sweet gal at Regent University. I was sharing my story, in brief, and getting "prepped" to participate in the online information session for prospective students. I thought, "This was me just three years ago." And now, I am finished (well, almost). My life is my own again, it is all mine, and I am free to go and do and see whatever God desires of me to go, do and see. Yes, my life has just received the rush of His Godly Breath, and I have been renewed, reinvigorated, and refreshed to think about next steps. What do we do next, Lord?

As I think about my next steps, my mind shifts away from school work, teaching, and even the day-to-day business of living to His plans, His marvelous and merciful plans. What do you want me to do next, Lord? What do you have in mind for me? Where do you want me to go? The Lord has a great plan for my life. He knows me well, knows what I can and cannot do, and He has several things He intends for me to do to accomplish His work. Yet, for now, I am to rest. I am to let this go, and just enjoy the days He has given to me. I know that He will care for my needs -- all of them -- and He will open doors that were formerly shut. He will make a way for me to go, and this good day, He has a plan for me to follow. May I follow where He leads. May I go where He directs me to go. May I do what He asks me to do, and in all these things, may His name be praised forever more. Amen. So be it, thy will be done. Selah!

Moving On

So I am moving on. I am getting ready to move on and I am unsure where He intends for me to go next. Perhaps it will be to physically move across state lines. Perhaps it will be to begin to think about a new job, a full-time faculty position online. Perhaps it will simply be to consider His perfect will in regard to ministry opportunities. I just don't know. What I do know, though, is that His will is perfect, and by that I mean, that whatever the Lord determines is good for me, it will be blessed. It will be good. It will bring about good results. I don't have to "do" anything in His name. I don't have to try to do what I think He wants me to do. No, I just let Him do it. I rest in the knowledge and in the fact that He is far better able to accomplish His will than I am. He is really, really capable. I can just let Him use me in whatever way He desires, and then He will do it. He will make it happen.

I started to think about being promoted, you know, being lifted up, and at first my response was "No, thank you, Lord. I don't want to be in the spotlight." Then, I started to think about it some more. I started to think that perhaps the Lord wanted that spotlight, and because I am unwilling to be made the focus, I am keeping His light from shining into the places where He wants it to shine.  I started to think how my flesh yearns for approval, for priority at times, and while I don't want to become prideful or arrogant, I also don't want to practice false humility. I am flawed. I am often foolish. He knows this about me. He still uses me, despite my oddities and personality quirks. Just now, I thought to myself, "What if the Lord needs me to be in a position where I get some attention? Will I hide my light under a bushel just to avoid the glare from others looking at me?" May it never be. No, I will not do that, even if it is uncomfortable or unpleasant. I will trust Him. I will believe that if this is what He wants, then I have to let Him use me -- however -- He desires to use me.

The other day, I was praying about ministry and such, and I remember saying to the Lord how I wanted to be used like Joyce Meyer or Kay Arthur. Not that I wanted an international ministry or to be the spokesperson for such a ministry, just that I want to be like these great ladies who preach and teach the Word with such conviction, such complete authority. I want to be able to be like them -- bold, fearless, and unwilling to say no to the naysayers. I want to be strong, be active in ministry, and be able to communicate my faith with such unswerving faithfulness. Then I thought, "Oh, but I don't want to be lifted up like they are, open to scrutiny and criticism, always being in the spotlight." I realized that I cannot have it both ways. I cannot be in the spotlight and not in the spotlight. It doesn't work that way. You either are or you are not. There is not in between ground.

Just now, I thought about Christine Caine, whom I like a lot, and how God has transformed her ministry over the past couple years. She travels all over the world, speaking, teaching, preaching to women and men in conferences, and how she is this little bitty person, such a little person, yet with such a great heart for missions, ministry, and the Word. I thought, "I could never be like her, Lord. I don't want that much attention, always being "on," and always being watched by thousands of people. I am too messed up. I make too many mistakes. I say too many stupid things. No, I am better off in the background, just keeping busy for the Lord.

It was like this flash of a camera went off in my mind. I thought just for an instance, that perhaps this is what the Lord desires from me. Not that He has a mind to move me into such a high profile place, but that He may desire to use me in a way that does impact the lives of many people. The Lord may desire that I be willing to be used to shine His light into very dark places, and if this is His will, then I have to do it. I have to let Him do it. I cannot keep Him hidden. I cannot do this, not to my Lord, who has done so much for me already, and who has such an amazing plan for my life right now.

Yes, Lord. You may use me in anyway you desire. You may take me to the pinnacle of success, to the top of the mountain or you may keep me down low in the valley. Whatever you desire from me, I will gladly give to you. I will go and do this work. I will speak, teach, and preach the Word as you lead me. I will stand in the fullness of the scrutiny and the harshness of the bright light, and I will let you lead. You desire it, so be it. Who am I to stand in your way?

Lord, Lead Me On

It is weird to say this, but I have this sense that this is what He intends to do with my life. I am not saying that I am going to be famous or anything of the sort. Rather, it is just that He intends to use me, and He intends to do it in ways that will make me feel uncomfortable. This is why I have to rest. I have to stop striving or trying to make His will come to pass. I have to let it come to pass. I have to let Him lead. I cannot force His hand or even attempt to cobble together something pleasing to Him. I have to let go, let Him lead, and let Him BE the center of all the attention. I can do this. I can do it. I just realized that if I allow Him to be the center of attention, I can HIDE behind Him. I can stand in His shadow, in His reflection. People will not be looking at me, but they will be looking at Him. I will be overshadowed by His mighty presence, and I am OKAY with that fact. Have at it, Lord. You be the lead. You be in the limelight. I will stand behind you and let you have all the glory. I have no issue with you taking everything on because I trust that you will handle it. You will protect me, and you will keep me safe. You will make me enjoy life, rest in your blessing, all the while I am working hard to see your plans come to pass. I am okay with this idea, Lord. I am okay with it.

Now, that I realize that He is in control, that He is the One who is making the plans, I can let go of my future. I don't need to know what tomorrow will be because I know the One who has all this figured out. I can trust Him. I can rest in Him. I can let Him lead and guide me. It will be good. It will be marvelously good.

Dear Lord,

I have been wondering about this fact for such a long time. Why, I mean, why I desire the spotlight, but then I do not want to be in it. Why must I go and be the light that shines in these places? Why must I be the one who will be the focus of some attention and scrutiny? Then the truth dawned on me this morning, and I realized that I simply need to let you go and do these things. You use me, and I am used -- for whatever purposes -- you desire. It is okay. I am good with it. I am willing to be used to let you have your way, to accomplish your purposes, and to make your will come to pass. I ask now, Lord, that you will promote, move me, establish me, and create in me whatever changes you need in order for me to do this work, this special work. I rest in the process. I let you do this work. I simply agree with you that it must-needs be done. I agree with you that you have determined that I am the one to go and to do it. May your will be done this day in my life. May your work be brought to completion. And, may you be praised and honor in every word, every thought, and every deed to Jesus' glorious and mighty Name, Amen.

May 23, 2016

Thinking in Possibiliites

It is a good Monday in warm and sunny, Phoenix. Our weather is lovely, just lovely. We are expecting "normal" temperatures, which just means low 90s for the next ten days. I cannot believe it is so pleasant outside, but it is. Thank you, El Nino!

Today is a good day, and not just because the weather is so nice outside. It is the start of a new week, and I am ready to enjoy my life. Yes, I was reading a short devotional last night in my Joyce Meyer Everyday Living Amplified Bible. Joyce shared a brief story about how, as a hard worker, she would often pass up opportunities to appreciate the work she was doing. It wasn't that she stopped doing hard work, but rather that she took time when she had finished her work, to appreciate it. The scripture reference was from Genesis 2, whereby God says that after His creation of the universe, He rested. He saw that His creation, all His work, was good. Joyce was saying that we need to stop and take time to reflect on the good in our life. Otherwise, we can easily walk through life without ever enjoying it. I liked this devotional because it reminded me of something important -- life is a gift -- every day is a gift.

Furthermore, God has granted us a number of days, a set amount to enjoy the life He has given to us. It is up to us to choose to enjoy life. This day, therefore, I am choosing to enjoy my life. Rather than complain about it, see the "lack" or the less than perfect circumstances, I am going to choose to celebrate, to thank God for His best, and to remember how blessed my life is -- day in and day out. He is good, so very good to me! Selah!

God of Possibility

I woke up this morning feeling better, more rested, though not 100% refreshed. I struggled to fall asleep last night, and since I wanted to get up today to wish my brother a fond farewell, I am in less that wide-awake shape. I am tired right now, yawning tired. You know, I feel like I slept, but I am not awake yet. As I laid in bed this morning, I couldn't help but think about all the promises God has made to me, as in personally revealed through His word. I have received such confirmation, time and time again, as I pray over situations, opportunities, and options, and God has faithfully provided, delivered, and kept His word regarding His promises to me. I was thinking about God, and I was thinking of how I often see the "empty rather than the full" in life. I see the missing part, the part that has not been fulfilled yet, rather than the One who is able to doing the filling. It is like looking at a donut with a hole in it. I may say, "This donut has a hole in it, therefore, it is not best, not complete." I look at the missing part, rather than looking up to the baker who made the donut with the hole. I choose to see the result and not the possibility, the end and not the beginning. In doing so, I often see only the tangible, what is right before my eyes, and not what is in process, the unseen parts that require eyes of faith.

You see, when I do this, I often focus on all that is incomplete in my life. Instead, if I looked to the One who is able to complete all things, in His time, and with His provision, then I should see the prospect, the project as a work in progress. It is not completed YET. It hasn't been brought to fulfillment YET. It is not finished, YET. So often we see the world around us, and we know that things are not finished, but we think negatively that they will never be finished. We don't believe good things will come to pass in our life time because there are so many bad things all around us. We come to believe that just because we live in a fallen world, EVERYTHING that comes to pass must also be fallen. This is faulty thinking because it presumes that a Good God, a loving God is not able to bring goodness into His creation after the fall. It says that what has happened in eternity, will always be now. If we think this way, then we tend to always view life with hatred, with disgust, with a sense that it must be "gotten through" in order to experience the goodness that waits for us on the other side (Heaven).

I am not sure where this line of thinking came from but I think it is probably born out of the past two hundred years of fundamentalist religious belief. You see, I don't think that our ancestors believed this way. Sure, they recognized hardship, but they also recognized goodness. They saw the world differently than we do. They saw the entire creation as a gift from God. Now, we tend to see it as something awful, and many Christians, especially evangelical ones, tend to see the world as half-empty. There is no hope, no future, no good because we are living in the end times. I am not going against Scripture here, but I believe we can either live without hope, as though life is miserable and mean OR we can look to the goodness of God and see that despite the fallen nature of the world and the people who live in it, there is good to be found, hope to be held onto, and the promises of Scripture to believe in. Yes, I choose to see good. I choose to be hopeful. I choose to look up this good, good day.

Moreover, as I contemplate my life, I realize that I need to keep an open mind along with open expectations as the Lord fulfills His word to me. I need to see the places where there is filling to be added, where things are not complete yet, but where there is work being done. I need to remember that as He completes one area, He moves to the next, and begins to complete there. He is always moving, filling, and bringing fullness, completion to all the parts of my life where there is lack. This means that I am being made into the person of His choosing. I am being changed. It is not once for all, but a process of daily, of continual change as I place my faith in His abilities each and every day. As I look to Him for His grace, I receive grace for this day. As I wait on Him to provide, I receive faith to keep on waiting. As I consider the future and the empty spaces that are yet to be filled with goodness, I receive patience to wait for their filling. It is active faith that produces results. It is patience that endures that sees the outcome. It is hope in the One who is able to do all things as He promised them. I must wait. I must be patient, and I must endure whatever trial or situation or circumstance I am in this day. In the end, I will rest. I will see His goodness. Until then, I will choose to see that even in present lack, there is future goodness. It is coming to me. I must look forward to it, with eagerness and expectancy. He will not disappoint. He will provide. He will surely keep His word to me this good, good day.


Praising God This Good Day

This means that I can choose to give Him praise this good day or I can choose to grumble and complain. I am choosing to praise God, to give Him all praise because I know that no matter what I am going through this good day, He has made a way for me to endure it, to triumph over it. I must simply look for the way, I must simply be open to allow Him to provide the solution to me. Often, I think I need to figure things out, to make His word come to pass, when in reality, I must simply allow Him to fulfill His promises to me. He doesn't promise me some good, and then say to me, "Now, go make this happen." No, He says to me, "I will do it. I will make it happen." Thus, the Lord is the giver of all good things, and the producer and fulfiller of all good things. He is in every part of the promise, from beginning to end. Thus, if He says to me, "You will have a full-time job" then I can rely on His word that I will indeed have a full-time job. If He says, "You will go and live here or there" then I can rely on Him to provide the place, the home, where He has said for me to go and live. He has not told me once to figure things out, to make the situation improved. He has simply said it would be, and in His time, it has come to pass.

For example, when I needed a good job, the Lord provided to me. I did have to wait until that good job was available, but it did come to pass. He said it would and His word was fulfilled. He said I would have a paper published, and here I am waiting for my paper to be published. It has taken 9 months, and by the time the paper is published, it will be 12 months of waiting. Still, He never said to me "Go get your paper published." No, He simply said "They will publish it" and His word is coming to pass. The same is true for my teaching positions. The Lord didn't say "Go find job as a teacher." He simply said "Apply here." I did, I applied, and then I waited. The job materialized. It came to pass. Often, I get impatient and I try to make His will come to pass now. I want to believe, but I want His will to come about in my way, through my efforts and my knowledge and understanding. Proverbs 3:5-6 AMP says,

Trust in and rely confidently on the Lord with all your heart
And do not rely on your own insight or understanding.
In all your ways know and acknowledge and recognize Him,
And He will make your paths straight and smooth [removing obstacles that block your way].

You see how often we rely on our own insight and understanding of matters. We take His word to mean, "Go and do it, figure it out, make it happen," when He is saying to us "trust in and rely confidently in Me for I will do it." I think we get into the business mindset, that worker-bee mentality that says "The Boss has told me what to do, and I better go and do it or I might be fired." This is not how God works. No, He shares His glory with no one else. Thus, we simply must receive His promises, believe that they will come to pass based on His integrity and authority, and wait. Just wait for them to be completed, fulfilled. 

I think about how I do this -- get busy trying to make His will come to pass in my life -- when I need to rest. I need to "trust in and rely confidently" on the Lord. If I did this more often, my life would be less stressed for sure. Sigh!

I am thinking today that I am going to start practicing faith in this way. I am going to remember all the promises the Lord has made to me, and instead of trying to use my mind, my intellect or my understanding to figure it all out, I will simply accept His gift, and wait for Him to deliver it to me. It is like when we purchase something from Amazon. It is bought and paid for, but it has not arrived. We know it is coming because we ordered it ourselves. We have assurance, a guarantee from the company that it will arrive by such and such date. In a like way, we have assurance and a guarantee from God because of His word to us. He has said it, so it must be. He cannot lie. Therefore, His word is His guarantee. Do we believe what He says to us? Or do we discount His authority and integrity?

I do this often. I say I believe, but in my heart and my mind, I think "perhaps the Lord didn't really say that to me or perhaps the Lord didn't really mean it the way He said it." Oh, doesn't that just sound like my enemy, the snake in the garden, the one who put the lie into the minds of Adam and Eve. He has not changed his tactics, he doesn't have to do anything different because just like our fore-parents, we fall for the same exact line, time in and time out. I am choosing this day to believe the Word of the Lord. I am choosing this day to accord to Him all authority, integrity, and truth. After all, the Word says, "I am the way, the truth and the life" and that tells me that as the TRUTH there can be no lie in Him. Paul says that it is impossible for God to lie, and I believe this statement. He doesn't lie. He doesn't tell half-truths. It is always true, always right, always good.

He is holy.
He is righteous.
He is good.

Thus, this good day, I am choosing to give Him praise for His finished work in my life. It is not completed YET, but it is in process. My life is actively being changed, day in and day out, and I am coming to know Him progressively as I journey with Him. I am learning to abide, to rest, to trust and rely on Him for every need. I am looking to His hand of blessing, of goodness, of mercy, and of grace. I have the help I need this good day, and I can do everything He asks of me. There are many things I must wait for, be patient for His timing, but there is good work, practical and useful work that can be done today. I look to His hand, I wait upon His deliverance. I am waiting for Him. I am resting in Him. I trust Him, I abide, and I let this all go because He is good. He is so very good to me.


May 22, 2016

Changes Are Afloat

Blessed Sunday! It is a glorious day here in sunny and mild Phoenix. Yes, I am using those words together -- sunny, mild and Phoenix -- impossible! Our mild weather seems to be the result of El Nino. I read the other day that cooler and wetter weather is expected for much of the USA. I am excited to think that perhaps, just perhaps, we might have an unseasonably cool summer! Woohoo!

It is a good Sunday, and I feel blessed to be here and alive and well. I am home this morning, visiting with my brother, who lives in San Diego. He drove over yesterday to spend time with my parents, and to celebrate Mom's 83rd birthday. It has been nice to visit with him. I am not sure what our plans our for the day, but for now I am resting. I feel rather tired from not sleeping well the past couple nights, and I am looking forward to "chillin" out a bit today. I don't have any plans on the schedule EXCEPT to rest and enjoy this blessed day. God is good, always so very good. He knows that I need some downtime after all my hustle and bustle writing my proposal last week. It will be a good day to just do nothing so as to enjoy the breezy and cool weather.


Good News!

Late last night, after the family (my other brother's family) left, I checked my email to see if anything "important" arrived in my box (instead of the normal "spam!). I was surprised to see an email from the editor at The Journal for Instructional Research (JIR) congratulating me on the pending publication of my article, "Ethnography of Communication in Praxis in the Literature Classroom." I had submitted my article for an informal review back in September 2015, and then was asked to submit it for formal peer review in April. My article came back as accepted! I am so very excited at the prospect of getting my first academic writing published. I am waiting on some feedback from my Theory professor (whom I wrote the paper for several semesters ago) because the peer review comments were unclear, and I wasn't sure what I needed to revise. I am hoping she will give me some direction on what I should add or say to the editor when I submit the final copy for publication. In all, I am blessed, so very blessed. I felt confident that this paper, in particular, had the "chops" to make it to publication. I am super excited to think that I will be a published author come this fall, 2016. God is so very good to me, so very good to me.

As I think about my life today, I marvel at what the Lord has done for me. I marvel at the lengths I have travelled to get to this point in time. I marvel at the hard work, the determined effort, and the results -- the better than expected results -- that the Lord has graciously allowed me to experience. In truth, I stand amazed and in awe of our great God. He has done this, He has permitted this wonderful experience, and He has made this way possible. I am so absolutely excited to think what other changes He has in mind for me. Perhaps this summer will be the turning point, the time when things begin to shift and move in my favor. Not that I haven't had His favor and blessing, but rather that these long awaited changes (job, move, etc.) will begin to inch closer to me (or me toward them). I am excited to think what God may have in mind for me in the next year. I am especially excited to think that once I finish my research this summer, I will be one-step closer to graduating. Yes, I am also ready to graduate with my PhD. God is so good, so very good to me.

Moreover, as I consider my life, where I am now, and where the Lord seems to be leading me, I realize that there is a JOB on the horizon for me. I don't know where it will be (as in the school) nor do I know what I will be teaching specifically, but I feel confident that it will be good. I feel like all the waiting, the applying for jobs here and there, was simply "stall tactics" on the part of the Lord. He has had a job ready for me, but the timing and particulars had to come to pass in the right way. I have had to relinquish a lot of my own desire, and I have had to submit to His perfect will in the matter. I tried to find work doing corporate communications, but that was a no go. I tried to find work teaching, but every job application has returned void. I felt so lost for a time, I questioned whether I was where I belonged, whether I was on the right path. Now, I see that I am right where I am meant to be, and that it was just the timing of things that seemed to cause me confusion. God had me in His tender care, and I had to wait patiently for Him to make ready these next steps.

As of right now, I am convinced that I am right where He desires me to be. I am right where I belong, waiting for the best job, and completing these last remaining tasks. You see, I feel this sense of peace about the whole process. I feel this sense of wellness, of everything being OK, and as such, I feel like it is going to be just fine -- EVERYTHING -- I mean. Everything will be fine. I am no longer worried about the job. I am no longer worried about making ends meet. He has a job on the horizon, it is there -- right there -- and all I have to do is wait for it. I have to patiently endure. I have to keep a positive and hopeful outlook, and I have to let Him bring it to me. I don't have to go find it, rush after it, but rather, I simply have to let it flow, let it rush down and meet me right where I am today. In this way, He will provide. He will sustain me. He will guide me. And, in doing so, He will see to each and every need in my life. I am free to rest, free to relax, and free to realize that He does really have me so well-covered. He is good to me, so very good to me.

My Next Steps

One thing is for certain: I am to teach English. I am comfortable spending my days teaching students how to write academic essays. In fact, I love teaching writing. I cannot think of anything I would enjoy more than to teach writing, research writing, developmental writing -- all aspects of writing -- to students. I think writing is the perfect "fit" for me. I enjoy the writing process -- oh my goodness -- just look at my blog. I write every single day, every day. I have written almost 2000 posts over the past 10 years. I love to write. I love to produce articles, to write essays, to study and research. In fact, I was just saying to the Lord how much I enjoy writing, and how I would like to write scholarly articles as much as possible. In fact, I was praying about it, saying to the Lord that I had four or five ideas of research papers I could write RIGHT now. Of course, I need to finish my dissertation, BUT as soon as I am finished, I will have plenty of good things to research. My prayer is to continue to be published, to write articles that deal with a wide range of subject areas. Mostly, these papers will be related to communication study, to linguistics and language, and to faith-based communication. I see this as my little niche, the place where I can comfortably write theory, applied research, and the like. I am not going to compete with the biggies out there who seek to publish in the large journals. No, I am content to publish in small journals that are well-suited to my style and to my interests. I don't need the fame, but I would like to be able to contribute to scholarship, to my field of study. Should the Lord permit me to become an academic writer, then I will write whatever He desires for me to write. Selah!

Why I Think This is So

1) I have a number of interests, and as I said, most of these interests are in the cross-section between linguistics and communication. I want to study language, meaning making, and how we process language. I am interested in sociolinguistics and neurolinguistics, so my plan is to slowly proceed down these steps. I think the Lord approves since this desire has been on my heart for a long time. My plan, then, is to finish my PhD, rest a little while, and then begin a Master's program where I can study Linguistics. I feel pretty comfortable in this sub-discipline, and I think it aligns well with my teaching of English. If the Lord opens a door for me to study formally, so be it. If He chooses to have me study something else that is similar, so be it as well. I am okay with whatever He desires for me to study.

2) I feel really ready to publish in my field of English. I feel really ready to begin to publish articles that are an infusion of communication theory and language theory. I feel that the Lord will carve out a little place for me to study, to research, and to publish. I won't be well known in my field, but I will be well-received. I am thankful for His promised blessing of reception. I simply want to write, publish and present at conferences. Whether anyone comes to know me doesn't matter. So long as He is pleased, then I am content. I want Him to receive the praise and the adoration. I want Him to receive all the glory and honor. So be it, thy will be done. Selah!

3) I am ready to relocate to a place where I can set down roots and have a writing studio. Yes, I want to have a room where I can write. I never thought I needed such a place, but the Lord has pressed on me that I will need an "office." This office will need to be the size of a bedroom, and it needs to have a good sturdy desk along with lots of book cases. It also needs a window that looks out on green space, a lovely view, because I need to look outside and see grass, flowers, and trees. I am thinking that the home He brings to me will have a first floor study area. It will not be part of another room, like my office is now. I think this is to facilitate several things. First, I need space to write. Second, I need quiet and solitude. Third, I will be teaching from home so I need to record videos and presentations for my students. And, fourth, I need an environment that is conducive to writing.

Right now, I am seeing an office that looks like this:




I am particular about my office space. I cannot share it with other people. I cannot have music playing in the background. I cannot have noise. I need peace, quiet, and my own little "bubble."

If the Lord chooses to provide me with a house, and I believe He has this in mind, He will make sure that I have a first floor room that will serve as my official office for teaching, writing, and ministry. Yes, of this I am sure.

The house I would like to have is a farmhouse. I would like to live in a small village, where I don't have neighbors next to me. I don't mind neighbors, I just need to look out my window and see country fields, gardens or trees. I also want to be able to leave my windows open. I don't want to live all closed up like I do here in Phoenix. Everything is locked. Every window and every door. The alarm is set when I leave. I want to have my door open, my windows opened, and to enjoy living in safety again. Of course, I will be careful. Yes, I will have an alarm system, but I want to live some place where I can leave my door open and not worry about crime.


Making Some Plans

As I think about these next steps, I feel confident that the JOB is right around the corner. I am settled on teaching at GCU and ACU for one more semester. I feel, however, that there is a full-time online teaching position ready for me. It may come to pass this summer. It may come to pass in the spring of 2017. Either way, it will provide solid income, a heady amount that will take care of business, but also provide for me to start saving for retirement. Furthermore, I am realizing that the key to success is to relocate to a place where I can purchase that white farmhouse for less than $100K. I am not into fancy, big or the latest and greatest. Nope, I just want old fashioned charm. I am looking for a house that was built in the late 1800s to early 1910s. I want charm, so woodwork, wainscoting, and crown molding are key. Furthermore, I don't want modern. I want a home that has updated mechanicals, but I want traditional, old fashioned, and that means no blown out walls and open concept living areas in an old home. Nada, no way.

Moreover, as I consider the place, the house, and the property, I do realize that I cannot be too far from civilization. I need solid Internet to do my work, so the community has to have infrastructure to allow me to have Internet for school and work. Also, as I think about space considerations, I realize that I don't want a lot of space inside. I need at a minimum a living room, dining room and a kitchen. I need a first floor study/office. I need a bathroom (half or full) on the first floor. I need laundry. Upstairs I need at least three bedrooms. One for me, my son, and a guest. Other than this, I would like a garage, if possible. Storage is important, but I can do attic or cellar or shed. I would like a cellar for bad weather, but I don't need a finished basement anymore. I just need a place to store Christmas stuff, seasonal clothing, etc.

Lastly, I would like about 1/2 acre. I thought about more land, but I am content with a small plot where I could garden. I don't want to spend hours mowing, but I do want to plant flowers. I need some outdoor space, but not a lot. Just enough to have some space to move around, sit and enjoy the weather, etc.

My needs are modest. I have looked at furniture, and I am content now with whatever the Lord provides. I was picky there for a while. I wanted Pottery Barn and leather. Now, I am thinking a nice chenille sofa and chair would be comfy. I am also thinking sturdy is good. I need sturdy tables and chairs. Good beds, dressers, and the like. Nothing fancy, just long lasting so I don't have to replace them. I don't need electronic gear -- I have a good TV, my computer, laptop, etc. -- so I am good to go. Really, that is it. I would like simple. Plain. Comfortable. It works for me.

When will the Lord provide this to me? I am not sure, but I think by next year, I will be resettled in a home of my own. It will be a good fit for me. It will accommodate His plans, and it will meet my needs with sufficiency. He will provide for me. I need to be patient and wait. I will wait, Lord. I will wait for your blessed provision. You are good, so very good to me.

As I close this blog post, I think about all that has transpired. I think about how content I am now. How I am okay with this new direction, this sense that says to me "this is the way to go." I rest in His guidance, and I know that where He leads, He will provide. I don't want anything but His provision. I know His way is best, and I surrender all thoughts, feelings, desires, and wants so that I am only looking to His hand for blessing. He is Jehovah-Jireh, and He will provide. I believe it. I believe it is so.