March 26, 2015
I am officially worn out, by the way, and even though I am tired, so very tired, I must keep moving on. Yes, in order to keep my balance, I have to keep peddling and moving on. In class yesterday, I remarked that we had six more weeks of school. My students reminded me that there are five more weeks (this is five). Oh, they are so smart! I double-checked and they are correct. My schooling for Regent has six more weeks, but my teaching contract at GCU ends the last week of April. WOW! Another semester down, and in the books!
As I think about time, and how it moves on without a hitch, I am reminded of my life, and how just a couple years ago, I never thought I would ever become a teacher. In fact, I had told my parents and my family that the reason I had returned to school to get my Masters degree was so that I could become a teacher. It was a plausible excuse, and it sounded good. The truth was that I returned to school because I felt the Lord leading me to do it. I didn't have an end goal in mind, and I didn't think about a PhD back then at all. The thought had crossed my mind, but I was in the midst of separation from my husband, and my life was all about survival. I was looking for full-time work, which preoccupied my time, and school was a pleasant thought only. In time, though, I did go to school, and I did graduate from Mercy College. It was during my time at Mercy that the Lord laid the PhD on my heart, and He began to draw me toward Regent University.
After I graduated from Mercy, I felt the Lord drawing me toward teaching, but no matter how often I applied for positions, no one would look at me. I didn't have any experience, and I didn't "show well" on my resume. Even with my business experience, and corporate training, no college gave me a second look. Though little by little, the Lord provided for me, and continued to pull me through to this road. I would pray about it, asking the Lord why He would ask me to get my Masters if He didn't intend for me to teach. After a while, and with no hope for a teaching job, I gave up, and I settled into my work as an Enrollment advisor at UOPX. The work was miserable, and I hated the job. Yet, I was happy to have good practical work, and I loved my colleagues and the environment. I loved working in higher education, and I felt that I was meant to work at a college or University. Still, I thought about teaching a lot, and everyone I knew said to me "Carol, you are such a teacher! Why aren't you teaching?"
After what seemed like a dozen rejection letters, in the summer 2012, I had received a call to teach English at one of the small business/for-profit schools in the area. I was ecstatic, and I jumped at the opportunity to interview. My hopes were dashed when I found out that they wanted me to start in a week's time. Plus, I panicked at the thought of leaving UOPX and taking a job with no benefits and no guarantee for long-term employment. My family was dead-set against the move, and they felt that it was even ridiculous to consider teaching adjunct when a perfectly good job was already had.
I prayed about it, and I felt confident that the Lord would provide for me. In fact, I was going to interview and do the "mock teach" despite what my family thought about it. I told a colleague of mine (well, several), and when I confessed my fear about leaving UOPX for this uncertainty, she said this to me "Carol, you will never know if you like teaching unless you try it out." I told her that I didn't think I could walk away from my steady employment to teach for this college. The Dean called me twice, begged me to reconsider, but I said no to her. I told her I couldn't live on adjunct pay. The funny thing was that she told me I could teach extra general education courses and that I would be able to earn enough. I didn't believe that teaching four classes would be "enough." In the end, the truth was that I was afraid that I couldn't teach -- as in unable to teach well enough. I thought that because I didn't have any materials to present, I would fail miserably at teaching. Furthermore, I couldn't imagine myself teaching English without any "field" experience. Even though the Lord assured me that He would provide teaching materials, and that I could indeed teach -- I caved into fear, to doubt, and to the unknown. I caved.
After that opportunity passed by, I found the position at CVS Caremark, and I took that job. I liked the work, the environment, and the pay. The thought of teaching, however, never left me, and even though I never felt called to teach, I did have this desire to try it out.
After a year at CVS, I started my PhD program, and I knew that it would be difficult for me to work there and complete my studies. I prayed for an open door, a different job whereby I could have flexible hours in order to focus on my studies. The Lord showed me the IA position at GCU, and pressed me to apply. I didn't do it because it was hourly pay -- and a far cry from the solid salary I was making at CVS. Still, I felt this pull toward GCU, so I applied for a dozen or so positions. Nothing materialized until late summer 2013, when I applied for an adjunct position. I interviewed (praise God) but because I lacked teaching experience, I was offered the chance to student teach (the IA position the Lord showed me). In July 2013, I stepped out in faith, and I took the job.
I have been teaching at GCU since 2013, and while I don't like the adjunct pay, the "never knowing what you will get each semester when contracts are handed out," I am content to be there. I like the school a lot. I love the students. I love the support you get from the faculty services folks. The Lord was gracious to me when I asked for the opportunity to 'try' teaching, and with that prayer, He opened the door to where I am now. Moreover, He provided a second opportunity for me to teach at ACU, and with that school, I have been able to teach a 4/4 load and bring home about what I was earning at UOPX (minus the benefits).
Despite all the Lord has done, and miraculously done, I still stress over teaching every single semester. I worry about my performance, and I fear the unknown future. Yet, when I stop and think about it, I realize that here I am, surviving it all, learning from the experience, and doing my best, my best each day. The Lord sustains me, and He helps me understand that as long as I am teaching, I am relying on Him and not resting in my own strength and ability. I am learning how to trust Him, to abide in Him, and let Him lead me and work through me.
Now I am at this transition point whereby I have enough experience to seek a full-time position as a teacher. I am not 100% in the best spot yet, but I am close. I will have two full years of experience. Most schools want you to have three to five years of full-time experience. I am adjunct, which is part-time, but I can show that my teaching load is 3/3 or 4/4 and that equates to full-time. Still, for me to find a full-time position, I need to be ABD or PhD ready. I am not quite there, but I will be soon. Therefore, I must keep on pedaling my bicycle. I cannot give up now nor can I rest for too long. I have to keep on moving toward the full-time teaching position that the Lord has in mind for me.
I have applied for two positions in Alabama, and for two positions in Arizona. So far I have not heard a word on the two in AZ. I am able to see that my applications for the schools in AL are "in progress" which just means that my packet has been forwarded to the hiring department. My only hope for a position rests with the Lord. I realize that I can apply, but the Lord must open the door. He must put my application at the top of the stack, and He must make the hiring manager like what he or she sees in my resume. I cannot control the outcome. I can apply, step out in faith, but then the rest is up to the Lord.
As of right now, I am convinced that the Lord desires me to move to AL. I have applied in two locations in the state. The preferred choice is Auburn, but I am willing to teach at any of the schools in the area. I am a dark horse candidate so to speak because I don't have the exact experience needed. I can teach English with my Masters degree, but to teach Communication, well that requires the school to look past my Masters and focus on my completed coursework at Regent. They might, they might do this, but it is an unknown. Also, I have only taught one communications course. I have plenty of English experience, but I have little communication experience. Even though I teach my English courses as more 'argumentation in culture studies,' schools may not like that I am not a traditional educator. We will have to wait and see, just wait and see.
I've given up the thought of working in Admin roles. I did apply for two jobs that were admin focused. The one closed, and I was notified that I wasn't selected. The other one is still open, and my application was forwarded to the hiring department. No word on that one, but I am thinking they probably won't consider me simply because I have spent the last two years teaching. Part of me likes admin work, and then part of me doesn't. I really do like teaching, and I really do like the control I get when I teach -- it is all me -- 100% me and my effort (well, the Lord working through me, but you get the picture). I don't have a boss standing over me, and I can do what I want (within limits). I also like the freedom I get to have my summers off (whoohoo!) and my breaks throughout the year. It is a place where I can be free to be me, and I can push myself and my students as the Lord leads me. Moreover, I get to mentor, which is my calling, and simply the fact that I am mentoring my students, well that brings joy to my heart.
Thus, my heart's desire is to do whatever job the Lord has in mind for me. I have given up the notion of a career at this point, and I am focused on good practical work. I am content to teach so long as the Lord provides a place for me to do it. I am content to do other work as well. He knows that I need full-time salaried work and benefits. He knows my skills and my abilities, therefore, whatever door He opens, I can take confidence to know that it will be a good fit. He knows me well, so I don't have to worry about what kind of work He wants me to do. I will do whatever He brings to me, and I will relax and let Him do the providing. Yes, Lord, I let this go.
I am thinking that I will remain in teaching, even though it is hard on me physically, simply because it is where I am and my recent experience is all teaching-related. Plus it aligns with my studies at Regent, my scholarship, and my focus in communication research. However, if the Lord chooses to move to another type of work, so be it. I want whatever work He has for me, and I believe, no I know, it will be good.
So as I think about everything as it stands today, I realize that I am still in this limbo land. I am in Phoenix, living and working, but without any measure of security outside that of the Lord's provision. I would like to move to AL to be near my love, but again, that is in the Lord's hands. I feel it is His will, and I strongly desire it, but I cannot go without His provision, so I wait. Until He opens that door, and I receive a call to interview, I am right where I am. I can only keep on moving forward with His provision of a clear path. I do have tentative contracts for fall, and if that is the choice of the Lord, so be it. I can remain in Phoenix for another year. It will not hurt me to do so, but it will be another year of 100% reliance on the Lord. The Lord is well aware of my financial and security need. I trust Him to provide, and until He says otherwise, I will do the work assigned to me here, and I will be content in His provision and in His security. He is God, and I am not, therefore, He knows what is best for me. Selah!
March 25, 2015
Unmet expectations are a killer to any relationship, whether with another person or with God. When we place expectations on another person, we are in essence, saying to them "I expect you to fulfill _______ in my life." When we do this to ourselves, we tell ourselves "I will not be satisfied until I do ________." In short, we place fulfillment and satisfaction at the feet of another human being. We ask the extraordinary out of the ordinary. We ask for the impossible.
The Word says that nothing is impossible for God. The actual scripture says it this way,
Matthew 19:26 - "Jesus looked at them intently and said, 'Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.'"
The backstory is that of the rich young man. The verses preceding this one speak of the challenge of getting a camel to pass through the eye of the needle. The moral of the story, it is easier to push a camel through a tiny hole than it is for a rich man to give up his riches. The disciples, upon hearing this story, and understanding what Jesus was teaching asked him, "Who can be saved?" This response, then, is the truth -- no one can be saved of their own accord. Only the Lord can save, rich and poor, alike. Furthermore, Jesus tells the disciples that by choosing to follow after Him, they will give up everything. Peter, of course, asks the question "so what do we get?" The Lord replies, "eternal life!"
I think it is interesting to consider this story from the point of unmet expectations. The rich young man had expectations of what would become of his life. He had kept the scriptures, lived righteously, and acted in accordance with Jewish law and custom. He had lived a perfect life. But when he came to Jesus to ask about his eternal destination, he was deeply distraught when his expectations were not met with the Lord's approval. He assumed he would receive a "well done, my good and faithful servant," but instead, he was told that he had to go and sell everything to follow the Lord. What do you mean there is MORE! I have done everything, yet I have to do MORE? Yes, my good man (or woman) there is more.
This parable is often taught as a moral story to encourage faithful obedience to the Lord, thoughtful consideration of idols and idolatry, and even instruction in how to live appropriately (give away everything to follow the Lord). I think these interpretations are good, but they are not the root of the story. I think the story is quite simple on face value. We come to the Lord expecting that our works will be valued and acceptable to Him (just like Cain did in Genesis). We expect favor and blessing because of our works. The Lord sees our efforts, and pities us because He understands that while what we are doing may be worthwhile, it is human effort designed to gain Godly favor. God's favor, judgment, and blessing are impartial. He chooses whom to bless based solely on His judgment and determination. Furthermore, we know that no effort of our own will grant us entrance into the Kingdom of God, but only faith (belief) in Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross. So, why then do we strive, attempt to perform and to prove our worth? We do it because we feel unfulfilled and dissatisfied with this life, and with what the world offers to us. We seek to exchange temporal pleasures for eternal security.
I struggle with unmet expectations. I try very hard not to place expectations on another person because I know how it feels to be put in that position. Often, when you are the one doing the expecting, the person you expect to fill your needs has no clue that they have been given this "special gift or responsibility." They are unaware that you expect them to do something for you. Thus, when you discover the need unmet and launch into a tirade on why they didn't do this or that, they are shocked because they never knew they were supposed to do anything at all. Miscommunication 101 - happens all the time.
My problem is that I expect a lot from myself, and I hold myself to a very high standard. I have expectations for my behavior and performance, so when I fail to meet my own needs or standard, I have no one to lash out against but myself. I am my own worse enemy.
Striving and What Not
I prayed today, and this is the word I received back from the Lord. The Lord said "cease striving." I asked Him, "Lord, what do you mean by 'cease striving'?" While I was waiting for clarification, I went to my trusty dictionary and looked up the word. The word, strive, means the following,
2. struggle or fight vigorously.
So I asked the Lord, "Which am I doing? Am I trying to achieve something or am I contending with you?" The answer came back the former and not the latter. Yes, I assumed as much. I tend to strive to achieve (as I have blogged before -- oodles of time). I do contend with the Lord, wrestle with Him, but knowing that is a losing battle, I refrain from getting into those types of squabbles. I knew it was the first because I am a performance-oriented person, driven by achievement, and the need to prove myself worthy.
So the word today was to stop trying to do everything in my own strength. This means to stop trying to solve all my problems through human will, work, and wisdom. Trust the Lord, let it go, and let it be as the Lord leads and determines it so.
I know, I know, I know. Still, I strive. I let it go, I trust the Lord, I rest, but I cannot help but strive because I don't see anything being done.
Truthfully, I only see mounting debt, unmet expectations and needs, and dwindling security. I see depression, despair, and destruction. I see a not so happy ending, and it scares me. I see a man (well, me) scrambling to paddle and maneuver my boat in order to avoid the impending waterfall (see picture to left). I am awash in the rapids of life, and I don't like the feeling of being out of control. I like the still calm waters, the place where I could comfortably sit and let the current move me forward without much fuss. I don't like this place, where everything is all jumbled, and I cannot see anything up front of me. I feel the current pick up, I see the waves crash around me, and I can see -- I can feel -- I can imagine -- that there is a big drop ahead. I am scared, and I am panicked. I don't want to be where I am right now. I want to paddle backwards to keep my boat from going headfirst over that cliff!
As I strive, I find that I am wearing myself out. I am paddling so furiously to keep from going over the falls, but my strength is failing. I cannot stop this boat from going where the current is leading me. I cannot do anything but pick up my paddle, tuck it in, and put my head down, and let the current take me over the edge. I am too far gone, too far down the river to turn back. I have to let go, and let this baby fly.
Really, as sappy as this sounds, it is the truth of my life. Perhaps it is the truth of your life as well. Perhaps you have been following after the Lord, but lately, you are encountering rough waters. The days of smooth sailing and flat easy waters are behind you. Your view is like mine, narrow and winding, with unpredictable twists, turns, and uncomfortable drops. You are holding on as tightly as you can for fear of being overturned and washed away. You are trusting the Lord, but you are striving to keep your ship (or boat or tiny canoe) afloat. You are afraid, panicked, and uncertain as to what lays ahead for you. You hope the river will flatten out and be smooth again, but there is no guarantee, no assurances because you cannot see a mile down the way. You cannot see where this river goes or how big, how far, how deep it really is because your vantage is blocked, and your view is limited. You must trust in the canoe. You must trust in the safety of the net that holds you in. Your life jacket, your helmet, and your paddle. These are tools to help you, so you rely on them. But the canoe is your life. It is what keeps you out of the water, and away from the dangerous current. You are a good swimmer, but you know that if you end up in the water, the current could easily suck you down. You cannot rely on your own strength or your abilities. No, you must trust in the canoe to do what it does best -- stay afloat. You let go, and you ride the canoe. You take a deep breath and you let go.
I am in this place now. I have so many unknowns in my life, and I am struggling to let go. I say I will let go, and I will let the river take me where it wills, but then I stick my paddle back in the water and try so hard to turn myself around. I don't like what I see. I don't want to go where I am going. But I have said I will go. I have said I will do the work. I have said I will live where He leads me to live. I have said so, I have promised Him so.
What Do I Do Now?
I can either let go and let the river win OR I can continue to wear myself out trying to turn my canoe around and head up river. The river is going to go its own way. If I get turned around, then I will have a huge fight on my hands. I will not win. I could perhaps get myself over to the side, to rest a while, but then what will I do? The terrain is rough, the place is unknown. I cannot remain here indefinitely, so at some point, I will have to get back into the river and take on the rapids. I have no choice really, but to trust what I know to be true, and to take the river head on. I must go with the flow, and let the river take me to the end.
I have come to the end of my battle, the end of my struggles. I am so very tired, so very worn out. The problems, the issues, the debt -- it is all too much for me. I need full-time work, I need relief, but I don't see anything on the horizon to help me, to offer me that hope. I am trusting in you to provide. You have always been my provider, my shelter from the storm of life. But now I am fading fast, and I am overwhelmed and I am in fear of what will come. I don't know why this is, but I know that I am where I am because I believed you had a good plan for my life. I believed you called me to this place, to this journey of faith. The river has always been good to me. It has always been smooth, flat and even on the surface. I have enjoyed the blessing of calm, of peace, and of restful sailing. Now, I am in the rapids of life, and I don't like what I am experiencing. I don't like this part of the trip. Yet, I know that this is all part of my life plan, and while I am afraid of what I am experiencing, I refuse to stand on the sidelines. I refuse to go backward. I know I must go forward, no matter what is up ahead. I am committed to following after you, and in obedience, I will let go and stop trying to slow the process. I will let the process, the change, the river take me over the edge. I will trust in the security of my Lord, my Savior, and my King. He will protect me, and He will provide for me. He is good to me, so very good to me. I let this go now, Lord, and I rest. Amen, so be it, thy will be done. Selah!
March 24, 2015
Psalm 118:24 - This is the day the LORD has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.
Still, I am not one-hundred percent satisfied with this day being called "good!" Harumph!
I am guessing my feelings about the day are a direct result of my lack of sleep last night. After I had a wonderful phone conversation with a good friend, I graded 20 essays and 16 quizzes. By the time I finished, it was 1:20 a.m. I knew I had to get into bed because the carpet guy was coming this morning to clean our carpets. Well, I laid down and then waited. I mean, I waited to fall asleep. I think I finally drifted off around 4 a.m.
I woke up at 7:20 with a pounding headache, and the thought "why did we ask the guy to come at 9:00 today?" Well, as I recall, my Mom asked him to "come early" because she likes things to be done really early in the morning. I am not a morning person, never have been, never will be. My son had school early, so at the least, he is out of the house. I am sure he wasn't happy about this day either. He had to clean his room up, which I think took place sometime between 2-4 a.m. He was out of the house by 8:30 in order to make it to his 9:00 class. He isn't a morning person either (a chip off the old block).
I am choosing to see this day as good. Why? Well, how about because the Lord is good, and everything He creates is good! Yes, that is a fine reason to view the day, IMHO!
Oh Lord, help me! I am trapped in my room with two cats. No one bothered to tell me that the carpet guy would need the front door open so his hoses can come in the house. This means that, Ike, cannot free roam as he normally would. Winston, poor Winnie, is under the covers of the bed simply because the door bell rang. Ike, on the other hand, is Mr. Nosy. He has to be in the middle of everything. He is not happy being stuck in this room with me. He is crying at the door, but I will have to remain firm. I cannot risk him getting outside!
So is "no news, good news?" I hear people say that all the time, but I don't really think it is true. I mean, just because you don't hear any news doesn't necessarily mean that when you do, it will be good. In argumentation, this is a false assumption based upon correlation. The two things aren't necessarily correlated to one another. So just because I haven't heard anything from my job applications, doesn't mean that I will hear anything good or at all. I have let this go, this need to know about the job because truthfully, there is nothing I can do about it. I mean, perhaps worrying about it would give me a sense that I am involved in the process, but really, my worrying has no direct cause/effect to the outcome of whether I will be asked to interview. Weird how that is, but it is the truth. We worry over things we cannot control all the time. The worrying has no effect and will not change the outcome, yet we do it nonetheless.
I have thought about the two jobs I have applied for at Auburn University, and I cannot make up my mind which one I would like best. They are different positions, one teaching and the other administration, but they both would be good full-time work for me. I would like the one that is the least stressful, of course. I doubt either are less stress. I would like the flexible one -- teaching -- because of the varied schedule and the holidays and summers off. I would also like to keep on teaching because I do love the experience of engaging my students in dialog. Yet, so many times I feel absolutely rotten about my performance, and it is on those days, that I want to give up and give in.
The administrative position would be good because it is long-term and stable. It is a "good pay, good work, until I retire" kind of position. I like that idea. I like the thought of having a job that would have no worries as far as income and stability. Whew!
But then I think to myself "Is one a better fit for me?"
Isn't it funny (not as in ha ha, but as in curious) that we often think there is just "one" right way to go. I have blogged about this before, but the concept of "one right path" sticks with me. Yesterday on Facebook, I read a Crosswalk.com article called "No, God didn't tell you to marry your spouse." The writer was writing about the fact that some people believe that there is "one right person" to marry. I guess this is why this is on my mind today. Is there "one right person to marry?" Is there "one right job to take?" If so, how do we know when we are offered choices to make that we will make the "right choice?"
Decisions, decisions, decisions.
I have read elsewhere that the best approach to decision-making is prayer. Then it is wise counsel. Then it is pro-con list making whereby we line up the options against the Word of God, the needs of our family, etc. The outcome of the decision should be that it doesn't go against the Word, hurt our family, or cause us to sin. If it doesn't do anything of these things, then the decision could be considered a good thing.
Still, I wonder if that is the "right way" to make a decision. It does sound good to me. But then there is Proverbs 3:5-6, which says,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.
Hmmm. Lean not on your own understanding...what does that mean? Wouldn't my pro-con list be my own understanding of matters? If we are to trust in the Lord, first and foremost, and acknowledge Him (as knowing what is best), then I would say that anything we do in our own interpretation may be "wrong." This leads me to believe that it is better to follow the path of peace in decision making than to use human wisdom.
Is human wisdom wrong then? No, I don't think so. I think it is more a matter of praying about the decision, seeking the Lord's counsel, and then trusting Him to lead you into the place of peace. If you have peace, then you can know that you are on the "right track." Sure, from this point, you can make pro-con lists, discuss with others, validate your approach with scripture, etc. But without peace to guide you into all truth, then I think we run the risk of "leaning on our own understanding." John 16:13 says,
Hmmm. So the Holy Spirit will guide you in all truth. He will not speak of His own volition, but He will tell you what He has heard [from God]. And, He will tell you about the future. This seems to me to say that if you want to know what will be, then you must seek the Lord's counsel through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Okay, so is there one right path to go? I am not sure, but the Word says that the Lord will guide us in our steps (our path).
Moreover, we read about guidance in the following verses...
Okay, so clearly the Word is instructing us in the truth when we are encouraged to seek the Lord first regarding any question on the path we are to take or choice we need to make. However, are we talking about paths (as in direction) or character training (as in my integrity or righteousness?) Good question. I think the answer is both.
We are to seek the Lord for our character-building (again something we do not do, but more so, what the Holy Spirit does in us). How we walk, thus, is in direct correlation to our relationship with the Lord. If we are walking in His way, seeking Him, trusting Him, etc., then our outward behavior, manners, and our inward conscience should be aligned. Furthermore, any decision we make or need to make would be considered in light of our relationship with the Lord and our desire to accomplish His will. It would also be a direct result of our desire to please the Lord, and in pleasing Him, we would want to seek to do all the things the Word tells us we should -- for our good and for the good of others. Therefore, I would say that we are to seek the Lord first, trust in His voice and in the Holy Spirit's peace and comfort, and then acknowledge that because He is God, He does know best for our lives. Once we let go of our need to use human wisdom to figure things out, to decide what is best, then we can rest and He will direct (guide and lead) our steps.
So then is there ever a reason to worry, to doubt or to fear when it comes to making a decision or choice for our life (be it marriage, a career change, birth of a child, relocation, etc.)? I think not. I think that if we have done what the writer of Proverbs says in chapter 3, verses 4-5, we are doing the best thing we could do -- we are seeking the Lord for His guidance and wisdom. But, we are not just leaving it at "asking God what to do," but rather we are "trusting or believing" God for what He tells us to do, knowing that it is "right, good, and proper" for us to do it.
When I think about my decision to move to AL, I am reminded of the steps I took before I applied to these positions. First off, I sought the Lord's wisdom on location. Second, I inquired as to the timing of such a move. Third, I did consider my family needs. Fourth, I studied the practical aspects of making a move. And, last, I made sure that I was not seeking my own way or will, but rather, I was seeking what I believed was the Lord's way and will.
My decision-making process, therefore, seems sound. Still, I worried about the outcome, the details, and the what-ifs of making such a bold move. I also questioned my own motives, my wants and my desires. I vacillated between teaching and admin work, living here or there, and of course, the timing of it all. I came to the point where I felt I had made a mistake in taking such a step of faith. Perhaps I was short-sighted. Perhaps I was being too bold. Perhaps I was guiding my own steps rather than letting the Lord guide me.
I had peace, for sure, but did I have "enough" peace. Did I have the right kind of peace to ensure that I could follow through on such a move?
When it comes down to it, this is what I know...
Whether I go or stay, I do so with the Lord's permission and His provision. I cannot go on my own so therefore I am free to be bold. If I erred in stepping out, then it was an error in my faith in the Lord, believing that I was to go forward at this time and to this place. No harm, no foul. I stepped out in faith. The Lord didn't open the door, but that doesn't mean He won't do so in the future.
How will I know if my boldness paid off? I will wait and see what comes to pass. If nothing, then I know that I stepped out in faith, but the timing or other details were not "set." If one of these jobs does come to pass, then I will know that the prompting I felt from the Holy Spirit was "spot on." What if it is the former rather than the latter? I guess that is simply part of the life lesson. Learning how to walk in faith, to step out in boldness, and to be faithful are all lessons we must learn. We each learn them in different ways. For some, the lesson comes from merely considering the move. For others, it is taking a step and applying for a job or visiting some new place to "scope it out." And, for some, it is to go, to walk about, like Abraham, leaving everything behind and walking in faith without knowing any outcome or expecting any blessing other than that which comes from a keen desire to walk in obedience to the Lord.
I pray that my faith will be like Abraham. I feel like my faith is weak, so weak. I struggle, I strive, and I stress over every detail. I suffer needlessly most of the time simply because I worry about the things that are out of my control. I shouldn't do it, yet I do. I know better. I know what it does to me, how it makes me feel, and why it is not good for me (health-wise). Still, I try so very hard to figure it all out, to know the outcome, and to expect the result. I want to expect nothing but the pleasure of obeying my Lord. I want to believe that He is pleased with me when I trust Him, lean on Him, and abide in Him.
You might ask me if I seek Him for worship and adoration or do I seek Him for blessing and provision?
Yes and yes. I do both, but I know the latter seems to be more of a "desire and need" than the former. Ouch! It is something I think about often, and something I do consider deeply. My devotion to the Lord should be because of who He is, and not because of what He does for me. BAM!
Yet, He does so much for me. It is difficult not to focus on the provision and blessing because it seems that there is so much of it. At the least, this is true of late. The Lord has blessed me richly, abundantly, and with great favor. I haven't done anything to merit it, yet the blessing comes to me. Lately, the blessing has been stifled a bit, slower to come, not as frequent. Why is this? I don't rightly know, but I do wonder about it.
Blessing and favor are in His hand. He chooses whom to bless, and His timing for blessing is perfect.
Yes, I have no control over the blessing or the timing of it. I do know that I can stop the flow of blessing by sin. Yes, if I am willfully engaging in sinful behavior, in lust or in other evil desires, then the flow of blessing is stopped. One cannot be blessed if they are outside the specter of grace.
I don't think this is the reason at all. Therefore, if blessing and favor has been stifled or slowed, there must be another reason. I do not know, but because of the Word of Romans, I can take comfort in the fact that the God of all Blessing freely chooses to bless whom He chooses. I have no control over the blessing or the timing of the blessing. I am simply a recipient of His marvelous and mysterious grace.
As I consider this day, whether I feel it is a good day or not, the fact remains that God is good, and that everything He does (past, present and future) is good. I can rest in this fact alone and know that I am blessed, favored, and that my life pleases the Lord. I seek Him diligently, trusting Him with everything I have, all that I am, and all that hope to be. Matthew 6:33 says,
So whether I come or I go, whether I live in Phoenix or in Auburn, whether I teach or I administrate -- I can take comfort in the knowledge that He will give me whatever I need, whenever I need it. Selah!
March 23, 2015
I had a breakthrough of sorts last week. I started to feel better about my life and the plans the Lord has for my life around the mid-point of Spring Break. I have had an issue with teaching for a long time, and I came to terms (finally) with the fact that there are aspects of teaching I love and aspects of teaching I loathe (isn't that the case with every job?) In truth, I don't think there has been a single job I have held throughout the course of my 30-40 years working where I said "I love this job!" No, most of the time, I would agree that I liked parts of the job, but not all of the job. I know I should be thankful for "the job" because frankly jobs are hard to come by and I am glad I have one (KWIM?) Still, I wonder if it is possible for me to have a job I love -- 100% love -- or if that is just a pipe dream and a wishful feeling.
I remember someone famous saying once that when you are doing your "dream job" then you will be happy. I don't remember the exact words but the message was that there was a job that would "fit" and once you experienced that "fit" then you would feel good, enjoy your work, experience satisfaction, etc. I know that for some people they have actually experienced that kind of job. My dad is such a person -- he still says that he loved his job as an Engineer -- and that every day of his 50 plus years working, he was happy. Now, that is not to say that he didn't have stress or pain or difficulty because he certainly did. I think he felt that he was doing a job that he enjoyed -- the actual work -- and that brought him great happiness and satisfaction in his life.
I tend to view this whole "dream job" in the same way. I don't think there is a perfect fit job out there, really I don't. What I think is that there are jobs that align with your personality or experience or skill and when you are in those kinds of jobs, you feel in control or satisfied. You experience happiness as a result of the work you do because the work you do aligns well with YOU.
I have struggled with fitting in to jobs. I have struggled with fitting into life. And, I think I have struggled most whenever I have chosen a job based on factors other than "good fit." Let me explain...
I had a boss once who told me that people stay in their job for three reasons:
- They like the position (the work, the tasks, etc.)
- They like the pay
- They like the people
He said that people will stay in the job so long as they have two of the three going for them (good pay and people, good position and pay, good position and people, etc.) However, if they find that they only like one of the reasons, then they will not stay in the job nor will they find job satisfaction. The key is to find a job that provides any combination of the two of these things.
I know that in my recent employment history, I have struggled to find all three things.
- GCU/ACU - I like the people
- CVS - I liked the position, the pay, and the people (most of them, but not all of them)
- UOPX - I liked the people and the pay
- Macy's - none
- Web Design - I liked the position
So here is my issue - in my present line of work, I struggle with liking the work. I am not paid enough to live on and while I do like the people (colleagues and students), the bigger issue is job satisfaction and wage. I like other things about the job of teaching, but mostly it is just the variable schedule and the fact that I get my holidays and summers off.
I am teaching college because it is something I always wanted to do. I wanted to try it out in order to see if I liked it. I have been teaching for two years, and while I like the flexibility the most, I do not enjoy the lesson prep or the low pay.
I have applied for other positions, positions that are more administrative with the hope that I could make more money and find more satisfying work. So far I have had no success in making it past the HR screener. This means that I am stuck in my role as teacher for a time -- that is -- until the Lord chooses to move me into a different position.
I can remember asking the Lord for permission to try teaching. I remember saying that I wanted people to see me as a Professor. I wanted to be "accomplished" in something, to finally have a career where I could be proud to say "I am a teacher" whenever I was asked "so what do you do?"
Vanity of vanities...
The Vanity of Life (Ecclesiastes 1)
1 The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.
2 “Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher;
“Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.”
3 What profit has a man from all his labor
In which he toils under the sun?
4 One generation passes away, and another generation comes;
But the earth abides forever.
5 The sun also rises, and the sun goes down,
And hastens to the place where it arose.
6 The wind goes toward the south,
And turns around to the north;
The wind whirls about continually,
And comes again on its circuit.
7 All the rivers run into the sea,
Yet the sea is not full;
To the place from which the rivers come,
There they return again.
8 All things are full of labor;
Man cannot express it.
The eye is not satisfied with seeing,
Nor the ear filled with hearing.
9 That which has been is what will be,
That which is done is what will be done,
And there is nothing new under the sun.
10 Is there anything of which it may be said,
“See, this is new”?
It has already been in ancient times before us.
11 There is no remembrance of former things,
Nor will there be any remembrance of things that are to come
By those who will come after.
I am guilty of the sin of pride. I admit it. I wanted a job whereby I could show the world two things:
- My achievement
- My education
Ever since I was a child, I have been told that I would never achieve anything of value nor was I smart or educated. I heard these remarks from my family, from my friends, and from my teachers. These two things, two statements were burned into my brain to such an extent that I believed they were true assessments about me. I set out to prove all those naysayers wrong, and as a result, I have finally arrived at the place where I can shout them down. I am a professor, and I have an advanced education.
But just like the words in Ecclesiastes, I have found that this path to prove the Negative-Nancy's in my life wrong, has not brought me any measure of joy, of pleasure, or of satisfaction. I admit that I have enjoyed my studies -- I love the intellectual challenge of studying at advanced levels -- but the satisfaction of achieving my goal of becoming a teacher/professor has not fulfilled me in any way, shape or form.
I can say that other work, other achievement has done that, but only occasionally. I enjoy solving problems, figuring out solutions, and learning new things. I like the challenge that comes from achieving personal results, personal goals. I don't like party-lines and politics nor do I like pleasing people (I do, but not to get ahead).
I was saying this to the Lord this morning..."Lord, why don't I have peace about this path?" I mean, I don't feel chaos or anything. I just don't have a settled peace and a feeling that everything is right, is good, is the way it should be. No, I don't really feel anything. Perhaps it is because I am overworked. Perhaps it is because I am struggling to figure out the details of what lays ahead. Perhaps it is because I am worried about the next couple months and how I am going to make ends meet?
Well...I may not have the answers today, but one thing is for sure...
The Lord has me well covered, and He knows the plans He has for my life. These plans are good, very good. Of this I am certain.
He is good, so very good. All the time, He is good.
March 22, 2015
I am exhausted today. I woke up with a pounding headache and with this intense feeling of being unwell. I laid in bed for an extra hour, missing church again, but feeling as though I couldn't drag myself to get up and get dressed. I know I am tired, so very tired, but still I felt an extra measure of fatigue this morning. Sigh!
I have a lot on my plate today, but I am steadily working through my to-do tasks. I have a paper due tonight, and I need to write two more sections (about a couple paragraphs). I need to run it through Grammarly, but my hope is that I will have it finished, edited, and checked well in time for the due date (11:59 p.m. EST). This paper will satisfy assignment number 2 in my Advanced Theory class. It is a short critical review of a deeply dense and difficult book called, "The Social Construction of Reality: The Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge" by Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann (1966). The book is a must read for most graduate students in Sociology and Communications (perhaps other disciplines too), but to say it is an easy read, well that is a major understatement! I struggled through the book, and then read about half-dozen scholarly articles and book reviews in order to help me make sense of it. Now, I have to write a 3-4 page review. Oh my goodness! Lord help me today, Lord help me today!
As I sat down to write this post, this verse popped into my head:
If I needed to be reminded of my role in this social order (i.e., Berger and Luckmann), this verse is a good one to do that. It speaks volumes to me. Jesus is the Vine -- the source of all sustenance -- and I am merely a branch, lowly, yet connected to the central delivery system of the Vine. Curiously, the Vine doesn't produce fruit on itself, but rather, the Vine causes the fruit to blossom and grow on the branches. If you look at any grape vine, you will see this to be the case. The grapevine itself is woody and hardy. It has strong roots, and when trained properly, will splay out its branches to either side (like a man hanging on a cross). The fruit grows on the branches, and it is here that the Vinedresser tends to the needs of the branches. He will prune them, stake them, or pluck them at the right time in order for the branch to continue to bear plenty of fruit. The branch doesn't do anything to cause the fruit to grow. Nope, that is the work of the Vine and the Vinedresser.
I have been struggling a lot lately with "doing" the work the Lord has called me to do. I don't know why I do this, but I guess it is because I am a "Type A" personality, and I have this driving need to be in control. I also think it is my deep need to avoid failure, and that being in control, to my mind, is the sure-fire way to avoid failing at anything. Once you let go, let someone else control the details, well then, you are placing your trust and your faith for not failing in someone else's abilities and not in your own. I don't want to fail in my courses at Regent. I don't want to fail as a teacher, to let my students down. I don't want to fail my parents in their time of need. I don't want to fail as a Mom, and to see my son hurt or walking down the wrong path. All of these worries and concerns consume me, and at times, my heart and my head overflow with feelings of fear, of failure, and of faithlessness. Yes, I am a person who fears failure most of all, and the constant battle to achieve, to overcome, to endure, etc. is taking its toll on me physically. O, Lord, I need your great mercy this good day!
Why am I so afraid of failing?
The author gets to the root of the problem quickly when he discusses what is called a logistical failure. Generally, the reason people fear failure is not the loss of tangible resources such as money, position, career, etc., but rather it is because failure reminds of us what it feels like to be "an inadequate, child-like or vulnerable self" (para. 9). He writes,
You can fill in the blank with your own worst nightmare — stupid, weak, unworthy, etc.
This is exactly my problem. I can fill in that blank with the following words: stupid, unworthy, not good or smart enough. Yes! My childhood experience was that I was not smart enough or as good in school as my classmates (so said my teachers). Those childhood memories are still bitter to me, and while I think I have let them go, it is at times when I am pressured and pinched, that they seem to surface again. I begin to feel inadequate, and as a result, I strive to overcome through hard work, diligence, and effort.
The author cites that often our fear of failure stems from family values "gone wrong." These are values that in and of themselves are actually good, but when used in a negative way, can have dire effect on children growing up in the home. I relate to all of these values:
- Humility (You think you’re all that? You should be ashamed of yourself.)
- Security (A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.)
- Having it all together (If you don’t know what you’re doing, don’t bother.)
- Being selfless (If you fail, you’ll have wasted precious resources on yourself.)
- Not taking more than your share (You should be happy with what you’ve got.)
- Hard work (If you fail, it’s because you didn’t work hard enough.)
- Perfection (You only get one shot at this. You’d better get it right!)
The author notes that the way to overcome fear of failure is to recognize where the fear comes from and then confess that you need help to let it go. When speaking about feeling unworthy or inadequate, he says, "The more you accept these feelings, the less they’ll control your behavior."
I realize that what I struggle with most is points 6 and 7. My father, whom I love, was the one who pounded both of these "values" into my head (my brother's heads as well). His need for hard work and perfection stemmed from his upbringing on the farm during the depression. Moreover, due to family trial, he was judged by his father and his step-mother in his work ethic, so he learned to work hard in order to overcome their feelings of rejection toward him. My father's work ethic was notable, and even now at 81, he still works hard and always produces near perfect work. Despite his physical limitations, he never gives up nor does he give in. He always works hard and overcomes whatever obstacle is in his way.
My problem, of course, is that I am not my father (nor my mother). I am me. God created me uniquely as His own creation, and He gave to me certain skills and abilities in order for me to do His work. I am part of the vine now, a branch that is producing good fruit, much good fruit. Yet, I struggle with being a "perfect branch," with always doing the right thing, working hard, and producing acceptable work. The issue is that as part of the vine, I am not able to produce good fruit without the Vinedressers help. I cannot do it, I cannot do it. I can try all I want to push out fruit, but it is not going to happen. I do not have within me the capability to create fruit. I can only let the fruit bud and blossom. I can only let nature (God) create the fruit, and bring it to fullness in His time.
Thus, as I consider this truth today, I am reminded that as a Child of God, I am responsible for what He has given to me, to do what He has empowered me and enabled me to do. This means that I must let Him do this work. I must not try to "push the fruit out," but rather, I must let God create the fruit in me. This way, I cannot take any glory in fruit bearing. God, alone, receives the Glory, for He is the great and almighty Vinedresser!
March 20, 2015
As I sit here today, I am convinced that the plans the Lord has for me are GREAT. I have struggled so much the past couple months as I have tried so very hard to understand what the Lord was asking me to do. I had impressions only, strong feelings and emotions that seemed to be guiding me toward a certain way, a certain path. I prayed, and prayed, and prayed, hoping that I would receive some confirmation so that I would know for certain that I was to go this way or that way. In the end, I had to step out in faith, and trust the Lord to lead me to place of His choosing. I think the hardest part was trusting Him without knowing for sure that I was going where He wanted me to go. Let me explain...
I have read so many articles on the Internet and in Christian magazines that all seem to discuss the nature of the Lord's will, and how it is possible for the "believer" to know what the Lord was calling them or asking them to do. I struggled so with "knowing" because I wanted to make sure that I didn't make any mistakes or miss any opportunities that the Lord had planned for me. I thought that I could mess up the Lord's will by misreading the signposts or just by missing the signs completely. I really believed that it was up to me to figure out the Lord's will for my life. I believed this was the case, and I felt so strongly that I spent most of my time trying to "guess" what the Lord was asking me to do. I could say that I became preoccupied by the thought that I might miss His direction, and then I would end up somehow on the wrong path.
The funny thing is that through all the struggle and striving, I ended up learning a valuable lesson. I came to understand that it is not up to me to figure out what the Lord wants me to do. Nope. It is not something I can do in my flesh. The only way to understand the Lord's will for my life (or yours) is to listen to His voice, and then obey what He says to you. In short, it is up to the Holy Spirit to convey the Father's will to us, and the only way we can receive that inspired word is through a humbled, a surrendered, and an obedient posture. Yes, we must humble ourselves and let the Lord lead us, guide us, direct us. Scripture is very clear that it is the Lord who does the leading, and not the other way around. It wasn't so much that I missed that point because I know the verses that bear testimony to this fact. Rather, it was a mistaken belief that somehow it was up to me to do more than just listen and obey God. I believed that I had to do "work" to find His will. I was so busy working, busy trying to understand, and trying to get it all straight when all I needed to do was submit to His authority, and to let Him lead me to the way He wanted me to go. Once I did that, the fog cleared and the struggle ceased. I found my peace again -- His peace -- and that peace comforted me and gave me renewed hope to believe that He knew what He was doing, and that He would do whatever He determined was best for my life.
I still don't have all the answers as in 'black and white' details, but I have a peace that whatever comes, it will be good. I also have confidence to know that until that time, I am right where the Lord wants me. I am right where I belong, and I am doing the "work" He wants me to do. This means that the job I am doing as a teacher is pleasing to Him. Furthermore, so long as the Lord hasn't directly told me to look into doing something different (a different kind of work), then I am good to stay in this profession for however long He chooses for me to do it. What a relief! I blogged about feeling so overwhelmed that I considered leaving teaching and choosing instead to return to administrative work. It made sense to me at the time, and I even applied for a couple admin positions.
Of course, nothing came through on those jobs, but I struggled to know if that was the right way to go. I mean, I have believed that I was to teach since I was a child, but I never felt "called" to teach. I was confused about being called to do something and choosing a career because I liked it. I know that I am called as an exhorter (encourager). This is my ministry gift, my spiritual gifting, and I use it all the time (thank you, Lord!) I felt that I was also called to full-time ministry, to missions work, but over the course of my life, I have never had the opportunity to do that work. Instead, I have always served part-time in ministry, and I have over the course of my lifetime, spent the majority of time teaching children at church. It is just now at this second-state of my life that I am teaching young adults in college courses. The weird thing was that for the longest time I tried to reconcile my education (my Ph.D.) with my ministry calling and my career choice. In my hardcoded and INTJ brain, I wanted to apply my education to my career. It made sense that way, and it made it really easy to explain to other people why I needed a Ph.D. at this late stage of the game.
In the end, however, I came to realize that whether I teach or I work in an office, I use my spiritual gift to bless others. In the classroom, I teach students, but I also mentor and encourage them. In my family, in my home, and in my church, I do the same. I ministry to other people and I use my gift to lift up and enfold others. In many ways, I am involved in full-time ministry because I use my gift all the time, and I do not reserve it for "church" or "outreach" or "missions" work.
Teaching students is something I do because the Lord has chosen to provide this path for me. I struggle with teaching because I am outcome-oriented, and since I do not get to see the results of my efforts, I always feel like a failure. Yet, I am not failing at all. I am just sowing seeds and letting others (other teachers) reap the harvest. It is just like the person who sows seeds of God's word into other people's lives. Often they do not get to see the result, but that doesn't mean that growth is not taking place. A good friend shared this with me last evening, and his words made such good sense to me. I realized that I am part of the process only, not the whole process, and that God uses me however He chooses. My role and responsibility is to be His servant, to obey His word, and to do whatever He asks me to do. So long as I am doing what He has called me to do, then I am good. Furthermore, the Word tells us that we are to love God and love others, so my ministry in whatever capacity that might be, is to do these two things. Again, I am pleasing to the Lord so long as I am faithful to do this work -- to love Him -- and to love others because of Him.
Today has been a good day. This week has been a blessed week. I am refreshed and I am renewed. I have so much hope, peace, and joy today because I know that He is in control of my days, my weeks, and my months. I rest now securely in His shelter and His hand. He alone is God, and I am thankful that He is who He is, and I am who I am. God be praised always!
Which Way The Wind Blows
2nd Chapter of Acts
Feel a Feeling
Say a Saying
But you'll still be lonely
If you think life is only for this moment
Do a Doing
Mourn a mourning
Still won't get you off your sorrow
So go ahead and cry, but you can't pry a look at
You don't know which way the wind blows
So how can you plan tomorrow
You don't know which way the wind blows
So how can you plan tomorrow
Run a Running
Hide a Hiding
Whenever you hear the truth
And when you ask for the proof, you won't listen.
Praise a praising
Build a building
Trying to get peace into your life
And you don't even know wrong from right
Oh, Where is your wisdom
You don't know which way the wind blows
So how can you plan tomorrow
You don't know which way the wind blows
So how can you plan tomorrow
Die a dying
By believing and receiving
Forgiveness from Jesus who took the sin from sinning
You don't know which way the wind blows
So how can you plan tomorrow
Jesus knows which way the wind blows
So how can you plan tomorrow
Believe Him and receive
You don't know which way the wind blows
So how can you plan tomorrow
You don't know which way the wind blows
So how can you plan tomorrow
March 19, 2015
It is raining today. I know that for most parts of the country, rain is not a BIG DEAL, but to those of us who call the desert our home, it is a very BIG DEAL! Praise the Lord for His blessed provision of rain this very good, good day!
I woke up this morning to the sound of rain as it hit against my window. I think it started to rain a steady stream sometime during the night, but I am not sure. I know that I woke up to gray skies, and the gentle rap-rap-rap of the rain as it fell softly to the ground. I love the rain. I love it when it rains, especially during non-monsoonal months. It is not uncommon for storms to pass over us, but generally, they stay to the north or the south, and rarely make it all the way into the Phoenix metro area. Rain for us is a delight, a lovely provision that reminds us of springtime, and the goodness of God (at the least, it does to me!)
This is a good day, a very good day. I am struggling still to fathom how the Lord will provide for my needs this summer, but I am choosing to place my trust and my faith in God alone, and not in the works of man (i.e., a job, a career, a windfall, etc.). It is difficult at times, and I know that the Lord knows me well. He knows how I struggle with provision and with security. He knows how my fear of running out of money can often consume me, so much in fact, that I can lose my focus, and become fixated on worry, on doubt, and on fear of what "might happen." I know why I do it, of course, and I understand my motivation. My fixation on provision stems from two factors, really. The first is that I am a single woman attempting to navigate the unknown waters of this life without a companion to stand beside me. The second is that I am in the midst of transition, moving from one way of life and into the next, and that change (in career, in job, in educational status, etc.) has caused me to realize just how much I am sacrificing right now to accomplish what I believe is the Lord's will for my life. Thus, these two factors are constant reminders that I am walking a path that relies on the Lord's provision for my life. I have no companion (i.e., husband) nor do I have a stable job to look to for help. As such, I cry out with the Psalmist every day,
I will lift up my eyes to the hills—
From whence comes my help?
My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
He will not allow your foot to be moved;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, He who keeps Israel
Shall neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is your keeper;
The Lord is your shade at your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
Nor the moon by night.
The Lord shall preserve you from all evil;
He shall preserve your soul.
The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in
From this time forth, and even forevermore.
Yes, from whence does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.
I lift my eyes to the Lord of Hosts knowing full well that my security, my provision, and my trust rest in Him alone. I am in that "uncomfortable" place right now, a place whereby I am forced to reconcile my behavior and my attitude with what I say I believe (faith). Do I really believe that the Lord is my sufficiency, my ALL IN ALL? If so, then why do I worry, why do I fear?
Good questions to ask. In truth, I struggle with this very thing because while I say I believe, while I say I have faith -- often -- I behave as if I do not. Ouch!
It is interesting to ponder, to think about the reasons why I do what I do. I know that some people are not "into" self-reflection (so be it). I happen to reflect a lot, and I find that introspection is a good thing, so long as it doesn't lead you into depression or despair. When we reflect on choices, on attitudes or on behaviors, we have the opportunity to grow through the process of introspection. If we allow the Holy Spirit to guide us, we can actually learn quite a bit about ourselves, learn to live with or let go of the things that hinder our walk or keep us from moving forward in the Lord's will for our life. The key is of course to allow the Holy Spirit free reign to use our experiences, our memories, and our perspectives in order to change us, grow us, and shape us into the person God desires us to be.
In my case, I feel that introspection has benefitted me greatly. Over the course of my life, I have spent a great deal of time in reflection. I have learned a lot about myself -- the good, the bad, and the ugly -- and I have come to understand what motivates me, challenges me, encourages me, and empowers me to do, to work, to achieve all things within my life. I have also uncovered my greatest needs, my deepest wants, and my strongest desires -- all of which -- I have surrendered to the Lord. Of my needs, wants, and desires, these two things are foremost: protection and provision.
I have blogged about them both over the past 10 years, but suffice it to say, I am still at odds with the fact that my greatest need is to "have enough" material (i.e., food, shelter, clothing, etc.) and sufficient protection (from the world). I have learned (through introspection) that my need for security has always been high. As a child, I lived a relatively easy life, but I was fearful of the unknown. Perhaps it was because I was the baby of the family. Perhaps it was because I was tormented regularly by my three older brothers. Or perhaps it was that I was often left alone, and that loneliness caused me to fear everything, to be timid about walking alone, going places alone, and being alone.
As an introvert, I value my alone time. I love to be alone (within reason), and I find the quiet time when I can be alone to think, to ponder, to question, a blessing. But, still I need people in my life. I need companionship. The Lord said that it was not good for Man to be alone (man/woman), and He was correct. Man (and woman) was designed to live in companionship, in fellowship with God and with others. I need fellowship, companionship, and friendship. So while I enjoy my alone time, I also need to be with other people. I need to laugh, to love, and to listen to the needs, the wants, and the desires of people the Lord has placed in my life.
Fear is a BIG DEAL to me. I am often afraid, and I struggle with being afraid. I worry about details, about knowing what will be, what will come, because the 'unknown' aspects of life scare me. Yet, I walk alone often, and I go places by myself. In order to not be homebound, I screw up my courage, put on a brave face, and venture out into the BIG UNKNOWN. I trust in the Lord for my safety, for my security, and for my surety. He is my sufficiency, and as such, I rest knowing that His word to me is true:
Deuteronomy 31:6 - "So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the LORD your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you."
If I am honest with myself, and I do try to be honest, then I have to admit that the reason I married my ex-husband was not out of love or out of companionship, but simply it was to avoid being alone. I was lonely, so very alone, and I was afraid of everything. My ex appeared to me to be a strong source of protection, and I trusted him for my security. I often was afraid at night, and I longed to sleep with someone who would keep me safe. I know it seems wrong to feel that way, but I was very young when I married, and frankly, I know now (in hindsight and introspection) that one of the motivating factors in my decision to marry was to avoid being alone. Yes, I know -- not a good reason to get married. My heart told me that I was making a mistake, but my head wanted to be free from the fear of being alone.
I grew up in a middle-class home. My father was college-educated and was a good provider for our family. My mother also took some college courses (later on) and was a good homemaker/keeper. I had a good childhood, relatively speaking, and I never worried about my next meal or if my shoes or clothing would last. No, for the most part, I always had "enough" as a child. I could count on my father to pay the bills and my mother to fix the meals. I could live as a child in our modest home and feel comfortable knowing that my needs were met with sufficiency.
After I married, however, that feeling of protection and provision changed. I can remember the day it happened, almost as if it was yesterday. My ex-husband and I were living in a rented apartment in Cupertino. It was a nice place, and we had fixed it up with a mish-mash of his stuff and my stuff. We had very little to start our new life, but thanks to hand-me-downs from family, our little home was comfortable. We lived in this apartment for 8 months before I found out that my ex-husband couldn't afford the rent. I assumed we were okay since I didn't pay the bills. I was working for CompuServe, Inc. back then, and while I didn't make a lot of money, I did earn an hourly wage. He was working for a major magazine in managerial sales, and he was earning good money. For all intents and purposes, we should have been fine, but we this was not the case. He broke the news to me one day by saying simply "We have to move. We can't afford to live here any longer." I was shocked by the news, hurt by it, and worried about where we would move to on such short notice. We started to look for a new place to live, but everywhere we turned the cost for rent was the same or higher. In fact, the day my ex showed me where we could live, I burst into tears. Our apartment in Cupertino was nice. It was a large complex, and we were in a two-bedroom place (did we need two bedrooms?) The new place he showed me was in a seedy part of San Jose, clearly unsafe, riddled with crime, and generally run-down. He said it was "all we could afford." I cried and cried and cried because I didn't understand how we could go from a nice place to a place where I would be afraid to sleep at night, afraid to come home from work, and afraid to live during daylight hours.
My heart sank that day, and I knew then that my future was not rosy, was not hopeful, but was instead, filled with insecurity and unmet provision.
In the end, we did find an apartment that was in a nicer part of town. We lived there for five years. During that five year span, we struggled financially. Constantly, we had financial problems. There were collectors, debts, and always, the money ran out. Food was scarce, and at times, there were weeks when all I ate was noodles with sauce, peanut butter, and mac and cheese.
In 1990, we moved from our apartment to a rented house in a seedy part of town. We had cats then, six of them, and frankly, I think the apartment manager wanted us out. The neighbors complained about the noise, and we were pressured to move. We did move into a house in San Jose where we stayed until we moved to Phoenix. It was smack-dab in the middle of two warring gangs. There were drive-by shootings, and generally, the area was marked by high crime. I was thankful for the home, but in truth, the house itself was not safe. It had issues, scary issues, and I was told later on by neighbors, that it had been used as a drug and prostitution house. Also, someone said that there had been a murder in the home. I knew the day I moved into this house (the house was purchased as a fixer upper and was owned by a friend) that something was wrong with it. I spent the next 6 years living in fear -- on the outside and on the inside.
The best day of my life was the day we left San Jose. In truth, it was the worst, but I was so happy to leave that house. I had nightmares every night I lived in the house (as did my then small son). I saw things, felt things, smelled things -- shadows mostly, in mirrors, in the hallways -- and always I felt this eery sense that I was being watched. I hated it, hated every minute I was in that home.
Arriving in Phoenix, I hoped that my future would change, that I would no longer be afraid and live in need/want. Unfortunately, the next 15 years were more of the same. In the end, after my marriage ended, and I moved out, I found myself alone and without any provision. My two greatest needs were provision and protection, and at age 49, I had neither.
The Lord is My Sufficiency
It has been four years since I moved out of the home I shared with my ex-husband. Since that time, I have lived in a lovely rented town home (for 18 months) and a rented home (with my parents and son). So much has changed for me in the past four years. I have learned how to be alone (finally), and I have come to terms with my need for provision and for protection.
Over the course of time, I have learned that no one, no human will ever be able to meet my need for provision and for protection. I have also come to learn that no job will ever provide the kind of security I need. And, while a job is a good thing, it is not to be my sole focus or my endeavor. Rather, a job is to be considered "good practical work," meaning that it is a means to an end. I work unto the Lord (Col. 3:23), and the job I do (whatever it may be) is to provide financial and material resources for my family (me and my son). It is not to be the basis of my security nor is it to be the reason I work, I strive or I achieve. It is good practical work to be done to meet the needs -- the provision aspect -- of my life. Furthermore, I have learned that it is not right to look to another person for protection. Should the Lord choose to bring me a protector, so be it. However, until that time, I look to my Father in Heaven as my ROCK, my REFUGE and my STRONG TOWER.
In sum, as I consider today, and as I watch the rain pour down out my window, I am reminded that manna from heaven is the Lord's provision for my daily needs.
Exodus 16:4, 5 - "Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you. And the people shall go out and gather a certain quota every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in My law or not. And it shall be on the sixth day that they shall prepare what they bring in, and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily.”
You rain down bread from heaven. You have given me enough bread for each day, and in some ways, you test me to see if I will trust you with what you provide. I have struggled, have strived, and have strained against you regarding your provision, and it has been a difficult battle. Help me this day to let go of my need for more, and teach me Lord, to be content with your daily provision for my need (for today and for tomorrow). I ask this in Jesus' Name, Amen. So be it, thy will be done! Selah (pause, and think about it)!