January 30, 2015

Loving the Rain...

It is a beautiful day in Phoenix. It is raining lightly; the sound of the drops as they hit my window are tapping a steady rhythmic beat. I love the rain. I love gray skies and wet and soggy days. There is something wonderful about a rainy day -- something that calls to us -- and makes us want to take comfort inside. Yes, I have to venture outside soon (at 2:30), but until then, I am tucked away inside my room, sipping my hot coffee, and wiling away at the time. I am surrounded by my two best buds -- my fur balls -- Ike and Winston. Both cats have settled into their late morning naps, and their sleepy, half-closed eyes, make me want to snuggle up with them and fall asleep too. I can't do that, of course. I have work to do, class to prep for, and assignments (for Regent) to work on...all before I head out the door. Yet, I so want to stay at home and just rest awhile.

As I think about the rain, I remember this verse, Hosea 6:3, from Scripture. In chapter 6, verses 1-3, we read about Hosea's call to Israel to repent,

Come, let us return to the Lord.
He has torn us to pieces;
now he will heal us.
He has injured us;
now he will bandage our wounds.

In just a short time he will restore us,
so that we may live in his presence.
Oh, that we might know the Lord!
Let us press on to know him.
He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn
or the coming of rains in early spring.

Then in verses 5-6, we hear the voice of the Lord as He tells Israel what He longs for them to do:

I want you to show love,
not offer sacrifices.
I want you to know me
more than I want burnt offerings.

Yes, the Lord is calling to His people, calling His people to turn from their sins and repent. The Lord longs for them to know Him, and Hosea likens "knowing God" to that of the refreshment of the spring rains.

I think about this story today, and I see such parallels in my life. So often I am hard headed and stubborn. I do know the Lord, I know Him well, yet I still refuse at times to listen to His voice, to abide in His Spirit, and to receive His wise counsel and judgment. I stick my neck out and I say to the Lord, "I know best," when in my heart of hearts, I know the truth -- I do not know what is best for me, not today, nor tomorrow.

If only I would return to Him and turn from my stubborn refusal to listen. The prophet states that the Lord will heal us, that He will bandage our wounds (literal and figuratively). If we bend to Him, He will restore us and He will bring refreshment to our weary souls. He will bring rain to quench our thirst, to bring relief to the parchness, the dryness of our lives. Yes, Lord, may we return to you, and may we receive your healing and restoration. Bring your sweet rains into our lives, pour them down upon us, and refresh our souls! Selah!

I think about this today because I have strayed from the Lord's counsel. Although I am not off the mark, not stubbornly refusing to go where the Lord is sending me or to do the work He has prepared for me to do -- I am thinking, pondering, questioning His judgment in all things. I am saying to the Lord, "I am not sure I believe you. I am not sure I trust your judgment, your timing, your provision." Yes, I am questioning the integrity and authority of the Lord to rule and to reign Sovereign over EVERY DETAIL OF MY LIFE. Ouch!

Let me explain...

This past week, I had the opportunity to apply for two positions at a major university. This university is in Alabama. Why in the world would I choose to go to Alabama? Yes, good question. The Lord has been working in my life over the past 6-7 months, and He has brought someone special into my life. This person happens to live in AL. I am in AZ. Yep, minor conflict --distance, predicament, challenge -- when it comes to a relationship . Yet, the Lord has opened a door to potentially resolving that conflict. He has directed me to consider moving there, to shorten the gap in distance, so to speak, and He has shown me a way to go.

The jobs I applied for are vastly different from one another. One is an administrative role, non-faculty, sort of a program coordinator type position. It matches my experience, my education, and my interests (research, etc.). It pays well. It is a FT position with benefits, and it would start (I am assuming) sooner rather than later. The second position is a one-year teaching position in my field. It offers the flexibility of a 9 month assignment, renewal for up to four years (five total). It is intensive, and it requires experience in teaching communication courses. The pay is average, and there is an uncertainty of benefits. Still, it is a teaching position at a major university, and that in and of itself is significant.

I applied for both, the administrator role first, the faculty position second. I struggled all week with the faculty role because I felt that I was not qualified nor able (physically) to do the job. I am sure I could do the job, and I know the Lord would provide for me, help me, strengthen me, etc. It was just that I am so tired from teaching right now that the thought of teaching four intensive courses each semester seemed like too much work for the amount of pay offered. I grumbled. I fretted. I discounted the Lord's counsel to me.

Last night, while I was driving home, I started to question the whole "timing" of the issue. I thought perhaps it would make more sense to wait for another year. After all, my son would be graduating in 2016, and my parents, who are in declining health, would more than likely be ready to move into an independent/assisted living arrangement. I asked the Lord, "wouldn't that make more sense?" Ahem. Isn't that like the Israelite's grumbling about returning to Egypt after the Lord had rescued them from the horrors that they suffered?

Yep, I did it. I complained, and I grumbled before the Lord.

The Lord was gracious to me. He is always gracious to me. But in truth, I felt downcast the entire night. I relented later on, but I still questioned what He was doing in my life. Perhaps He had made a mistake, perhaps I had misinterpreted His remark "to go!"

This morning, as I woke up to the rain, I started to think about the Lord's provision for my life over the past year or so. He has been faithful to keep me in check, to keep my finances in order, and to provide for each and for every need. My bank account has not run out, even though there have been times this past year when I worried so much that it would, the Lord has faithfully provided for me. Now, I sit here and I consider the thought of moving across the US, to a place where I have never been before, to a job, a life where there is so much uncertainty. It is scary to say the least. I wonder if I can do this thing...if I can pick up my life in Phoenix and transplant it over there --> over to this new place filled with hopes, dreams, and possibilities.

The Lord knows me so well. He knows my fears, my inabilities, and my insecurities. He knows what I can and cannot do. I think about these two jobs, about which one is the better fit for me (personally and academically). I think about my needs (financial), and I consider long-term stability. Which is best, if there is a "best" to be had?

The Lord called me to apply to each position, of this I am certain. Why a non-faculty and a faculty position? Why the choice? Granted, it is not like I get to choose which position to take -- I haven't even been selected for an interview. I am thinking that the Lord is offering me two paths to take. The one leads me away from teaching and into faculty/program administration. The other keeps me in teaching. Is one better than the other? Probably so. Is one more preferred? I think yes. 

As I weigh the pros and cons of each, I see the Lord's hand print on this process. You see, I have vacillated before, between types of "work" and the Lord has graciously given me opportunities to try on "different hats." Yes, I have tried on various hats over the course of the last 5-6 years. Each hat had its good and bad aspects. Each hat stretched me in a different way. Now, I must choose which way to go because there can be no turning back. I must walk one way only.

Administration is a good fit for my skills, my experience, and my education. It pays well, and it is a stable job. It offers the opportunity to settle down, to get situated into a role that I could do for the rest of my working career. It wouldn't tax me like teaching (the emoting part kills me). It would be an easy 40 hour work week (not that the work wouldn't be challenging, because it would). No days off, no summers off. It would be 12-month with vacation and holidays, of course, but no extended breaks. In some ways, the routine is comforting. The idea of being in a job where I know what to do every day, can control the outcomes, and can use my skills to their best, is inviting to me.

The teaching position fulfills a life long dream of mine to be a Professor. I have been teaching for two years, and while there are aspects I love, I have to admit that it drains me. I struggle to make ends meet, and I find that I am worn out daily. Plus, the instability of the job is tough for me. I need the money, the benefits, and the steady work. Adjunct and non-tenure positions are a come and go business. If the school doesn't like you, then you are out. The benefits of weeks off during summer, holidays and breaks is enticing, especially since I am so tired all the time. But the pay is low, and the variable schedule, while appealing, is temporary. The workload will be grueling, the task daunting, and the challenge to emote draining for me.

Which road do I choose?

In the past, I have been presented with several options like this before. I have been asked to choose the easy way or the hard way. Twice now, I have chosen the hard way. I purposely chose the hard way because the hard way proved a shorter duration (like ripping the Band-aid off quickly -- pain, but then it is over!) Plus the hard way netted huge character development, strength, and dependency upon the Lord. In short, I took the hard way, and I grew to depend on the Lord, I survived some mighty battles, and while bruised and battered, I endured. Good choices...

Now, I am thinking if it is in my best interest to continue the hard way or should I take the open door that leads to the easy road. I mean, why not? The easy road might be a refreshing change of pace, might provide a different kind of challenge to me. I don't know. I am not sure.

My stubborn head and heart like to get knocked about, like to do things the hard way. I have been this way since I was a child -- choose experience over instruction. Most of the time, the lessons learned have been instrumental to shaping me, to developing my character, and to building endurance and perseverance. Yes, there has been value in those choices.

Now, though, it seems the Lord is offering me a different path to take, an easier path, and I am second-guessing His provision. I am saying to Him, "really, Lord?" What are you doing, Lord? Why are you letting me choose this time around? Can't you just provide a job that fits me and that meets your criteria? Oh, I pray it is so, I pray it is so.

Two paths lay ahead. One is easy, and one is difficult. One will meet my needs with sufficiency, while the other will challenge my determination and my abilities. One seems practical, one seems impractical and impossible. One will give me rest, peace, and time to focus, to recharge, to relax. One will keep me straining at the bit, working hard to overcome, and stressed to perform well. One is a perfect fit. One is not. 

The decision has been made.

Yes, Lord, I see your point. I see your wisdom, your provision, and your grace. I see your way, your hand, and your will. I will take the easy way today. I will take the way of least resistance, and I will trust you to navigate the waters filled with unknowns, with details, and with challenges (temporary). I will rest in your security, and I will know that you have made this way possible. I thank you, Lord, and I pray that you will provide everything I need to accomplish your will in my life. You are God, you know my coming and my going. You know what I can and cannot do, so therefore, I rest in the security of your provision and your grace. Selah!

January 28, 2015

Dealing with a Critical Spirit

I have a critical spirit. I am struggling with critical discernment, and it is eating away at me. Interestingly, my critical spirit is not turned outward, but rather, it is turned inward. I am critical of myself only, and that means, that I hold myself to such a high standard in behavior, in expectations, and in performance, that it is impossible for me to achieve, to excel, and to overcome. Let me explain...

I am sure you have encountered individuals with critical spirits. Generally speaking, these people are no fun to be around. They are judgmental and complainers. They often sense failure, and they seek to point out every instance of unmet expectations. People with critical spirits are difficult to be around, and they tend to see the glass as half-full all the time. Most critical spirited people are critical about others more than about themselves.

The Bible speaks out about critical judgment. In Matthew, we are told not to judge others lest we find ourselves judged. We know that critical judgments tear down both the receiver and the giver of the criticism. Therefore, we are encouraged to judge rightly, and to always consider our words carefully, using seasoning to soften the criticism, if and when it is warranted.

Dealing with a critical spirit can be a challenge especially when the critical spirit lives inside of you. In my case, I know that one of my spiritual gifts is discernment. Discernment is the ability to determine if truth is really truth or if a person speaking truth is really speaking Biblical truth. Often discernment will accompany other gifts such as prophecy or interpretation. It is vital to discern truth, especially Scriptural truth, to ensure the accuracy of the message, the integrity of the interpretation, and the successful outreach of ministry. However, discernment can turn inward, and individuals with this gift can become hyper-critical of themselves, sensing failure, shortcomings, sin, etc. And, while it is valuable to be introspective, and to reflect on matters of the heart, too sharp a lens can pick apart flaws and characteristics to the point where they are excessively detailed, finely scrutinized, and carefully determined. Yes, what is a God-given beautiful and useful gift can become a monster if used outside the light of Scripture or without complete reliance upon the Holy Spirit for accurate interpretation.

So, I am stuck in this loop of hyper-criticism. It is funny, really, when you think about it. My strength as a student and teacher is my ability to analyze situations and determine outcomes. Yes, I am an expert at solving problems. Although I am not perfect by any means, I am good at what I do, and I know it. However, when I am outside my element, so to speak, and I am working in a manner that is not in my area of strength, I struggle to overcome, to be proficient, and to do a good job. The more I feel I am failing, the more I tend to criticize my every thought, every move, every decision. I focus on the minutia of detail, and often because of my close proximity to the situation, I cannot "see the forest through the trees!" Yes, I am blinded by my close examination and I pass judgement on myself and I come to the conclusion that I am wrong, a failure, a loser (ouch!)

Oh, the joys and trials of living with Carol Hepburn! Buyer Beware!!

As I consider this problem, and how it is effecting my daily life, one thing is for certain: I am in full control of my abilities. I can choose to stop looking inward, and begin to look outward at any given moment in time. I can take the spotlight off myself, and shine it outward (where it belongs) and allow the Holy Spirit to control those inward determinations (Is He not a far better judge than I?) Moreover, I can choose to teach myself an important lesson, and that is that God's grace is sufficient for all my needs -- spiritual, physical, mental, and emotional. God provides for me and He knows me so well. He understands why I hit myself, criticize myself, doubt myself. He gets it, He really does. And the blessed good news is that He has already provided a way out for me. Yes, He has provided the perfect solution for a critical spirit --> His MARVELOUS GRACE.

I am set free through the grace of Jesus Christ. I have been washed in the fountain of His blood. I can never meet His expectations in this life or in the next. No, I am fully incapable of meeting the Lord's standard. Therefore, whenever I impose my own standard and try to live up to it, I am saying, in essence, that my standard is higher than the Lord's. My expectations are better than His. He has already accepted my shortcomings, my failings, my frailty...why can't I? He has already determined what I can and cannot do, so why do I still try to be perfect? I know I cannot do it, yet I stress and struggle to be perfect.

I humble myself before the Lord humbles me. Yes, I must admit my pride is the root of all this trouble. I have become so introspective that I am no longer seeing anything clearly. If I tear myself down, how then I will serve the Lord and build up His church? I won't be able to do it because I will be self-focused on my own faults. If I look outward, and I stop the scrutinizing of myself, then I can begin to see and to meet the needs of others.

I am ashamed of myself for placing such a high priority on my own self-worth, my own self-value. Yes, I am valuable. Yes, I am worthy. But only in the Name of Christ, and only by His atoning sacrifice. He alone is worthy to be praised. Not I. Not Carol. No, I realized today that I am spending an inordinate amount of time complaining and griping about my failings, about my flaws. Yet, I am doing nothing to correct them, to counteract them, to keep them in check. Woe is me, woe is me, woe is me!

Today, I make the choice to start seeing myself as the Lord sees me, to value myself as He values me, and to use my gifts, my talents, and my abilities to praise and honor His Holy Name. I give up, I give in, and I let go. I rest. I rest in His sufficiency, and in His abilities, and in His judgment. Only He is able to judge rightly, to discern correctly, and to interpret accurately. I trust His judgment, not my own. I trust His approval, and not some arbitrary standard I create for myself. I look for His affirmation and encouragement because He knows exactly what I need to be encouraged. God is good, so very good to me this day!

January 26, 2015

Stepping Out in Faith

I normally write my blog in the early morning hours because it is relaxing for me to do, and I love to spend time sitting and thinking about deep thoughts before I have to get busy with the day at hand. Today, though, was extra busy for me, and I found myself pressed to complete my assignments and get ready to teach my literature course at GCU. Everything worked out well for me. My class at GCU seemed to go well and my study time this evening was eventful. In all, I would say that today was a very good day, a very good day indeed.

Perhaps the reason I am feeling confident is because it is week 4 of 16 weeks of teaching at GCU, and of my studies at Regent. I have passed the fail mark (if there is such a thing), and I am feeling more confident in my teaching, my lesson plans, and my approach in the classroom. Plus, I haven't lost any students, which is always a good thing, always a very good thing (LOL!) So while I am feeling a bit relieved about my teaching load, I am still swimming under the weight and pressure of mounting doctoral study assignments. Somehow, I am surviving the onslaught, and I am feeling rested, relaxed, and ready to tackle the coming weeks and months. Let me explain...

I am not sure why I have a boost of confidence, but suffice it to say, I do. I feel BETTER. I feel more CONFIDENT. I feel more IN CONTROL of my "to-do" list. I am feeling, overall, as if everything seems to be working together for my good (Romans 8:28). This new found sense of confidence seemed to burst on the scene this weekend. I was still dragging about, feeling generally overwhelmed (I blogged about it), and thinking that my ship was barely afloat. Then something --  something unusual and very God-like -- happened. I cannot really put words to the experience other than to say that it seems I did something that God asked, and the result of my obedience, was this sense of utter peace and joy. Yeah, well it sure sounds good to say it was so...but truthfully...I really don't know anything at all.

I do know this, however, and that is that I stepped out in faith this weekend, and I did something I really wasn't sure about doing. First, I know the Lord has been moving me out of AZ, but the timing of that move, the destination of that move, and the final approval of that move have not been forthcoming. This weekend I felt the Lord give me the "go ahead" to begin thinking about moving. I started to think about moving, to consider the opportunity for moving, and to begin the process of moving. Yes, I stepped out in faith, and I applied for a job in another state.

Second, I created a website for myself that showcases my teaching, writing, and research abilities. The job I applied for asked for an online portfolio, and while I did have my website setup, it hadn't been updated in a long while. Furthermore, it was geared more toward marketing and sales than education. I chose a new format, wrote new content, and added a number of research articles along with some seminar ideas, video, and teaching content.

Third, I started thinking about my dissertation topic, and I took steps to order books that the Lord seemed interested in purchasing (yes, I felt that I was to purchase these specific books). I also began to think more clearly about my topic, my focus, and the work the Lord has for me to do. I made some lists, bought some items, and generally sketched out a plan of attack.

Fourth, while I panicked a bit about my application, I started to think about my life, my role, and my ministry calling. I prayed about my way, asked for the Lord to guide me, and to show me clearly so that I would know I was on the right track, doing the right thing, and in the right time or moment.

Last, I realized today that my life is moving at a much faster pace than I normally like. While I am happy that the Lord is moving me to a new city, a new job, and a new life, I am not comfortable with the pace He is taking. I had to deal with that fact today, but through prayer and meditation in the Word, I came to understand that the Lord's timing is not always going to please me. He knows what He is doing, and as such, I have to let my desire to control outcomes go. I have to let it go!!

Where I am Going

Yes, the Lord has a good plan for my life. He knows all the details, and He has everything planned out. The plans for my life are good, of this I am certain, but the timing is what concerns me most. I am trusting Him, stepping out in faith and waiting for Him to provide, to work a miracle, and to lead me to that place with security and provision. I know He will provide for me, and I know He will show me exactly what to do, and He will tell me when to do it. For now, I rest in the assurance that I have heard the Lord tell me to 'go,' and with that word, I listened and I obeyed.

January 25, 2015

Possibilities are Endless

It is a good Sunday, and I am glad to be at home. The house is quiet and oh so very still this morning. I missed church today due to some oversleeping and general feelings of malaise. I am struggling a bit with finding a new church home, and I am tired (can I say that any more loudly?) It seems that my workload, stress, and class assignments are coalescing to create a long and laborious semester. Yet, despite the feelings of overwhelm, I press on and I stay fixed on the plans and purposes I believe God has in mind for me.

I woke up this morning thinking about my life and about my current situation here in Phoenix. I have blogged about my work life for the past couple years (a quick scan of my archives shows that my posts are most often about my school, my job, and my family). I am trying to figure out what the Lord wants me to do, where He wants me to go for a full-time job, and when I am to begin taking steps toward that new place, that new horizon, that new life. I know His timing is perfect, and I believe that He will let me know when the time is right. I am keen on not missing the sign or signs, even though I feel unsure of what I am waiting or watching to happen. I believe that "with God all things are possible" (Matt. 19:26), and as such, I am certain that nothing is outside His control or His hand of mercy and blessing. I feel a bit off kilter, almost like a person on a train ride, feeling the jostle of the wheels against the steel tracks, and the shifting weight of the cars as they lunge forward and then stop. I feel myself swing to the left and to the right, not certain what is going on, but feeling secure in thought that the movement is simply the Lord pushing and pulling me forward. Yes, I feel as though my life is in motion, and I am a passenger on the Lord's Express, going where He leads me. I am going to the place of His choosing, and while I may not like the way the train is moving (metaphorically speaking), I sense that I am where I belong, that I am right where He wants me to be. I must hang on, trust Him, and rest in His security and provision. Amen, so be it, thy will be done. Selah!

Open Doors - Job

It is no secret that I have been looking for a full-time job for a while. I have been in flux since 2009 when I stopped working as a Website designer and started looking for a job that would provide for me and my son. I didn't expect to be unemployed for 18 months (working only part-time at Macy's) nor did I expect to lose my home and find myself on my own, but that is what happened. It took a while for me to figure out what I needed to do, and how to go about it, but eventually, Praise be to God, the Lord led me to the position of His choosing at the University of Phoenix. It wasn't a perfect fit, mind you, but it was good honest work. I liked it. I liked my colleagues, and I liked having a real job with a real paycheck. Of course, the job was stressful, and it ended up not being a good fit for me (long-term wise). It was a good transition job, and I believe now that it was the Lord's provision for me at that time and season of my life.

Since starting at University of Phoenix, I have worked in three other positions: Analyst for CVS, Analyst for Nurse Wise, and Instructor at GCU/ACU. Of course, I am currently employed as adjunct faculty, and it seems the Lord has me placed in this role for a short while only. I have been praying about the next step, the next job -- because frankly -- I cannot live on Adjunct pay for much longer. I am blessed, fruitful, and content to teach -- but -- the pay is a struggle and the bills do not go away at the end of every month. The Lord knows my needs, and He has me well covered. I am content to know that He will provide for me. He is good to me, and He cares for me. I can rest in His security and provision. Praise God, He is good, so very good to me!

The Lord has provided a series of jobs for me. Over the past four years, I have followed a path that seems to be moving me into various positions, almost as if the Lord were giving me the opportunity to try each one out.

In truth, I never had much career intention growing up. I wanted to be a wife and a mother. I did have some passing fancy, just ideas of what I might like to do (become a doctor, a teacher, a lawyer, an artist, and a curator). I never pursued any path in particular, that is until I went back to school in 1990. Since that time, my education has aligned with becoming a Professor. My practical work aligned (previously) with being an artist or designer.

Since 1982, I have worked:
  • Full-time Corporate (NuTech) - 1982 to 1983
  • Full-time Corporate (CompuServe) - 1984 to 1985
  • Full-time Corporate (Britton Lee) - 1985 to 1990
  • Part-time Self (Graphic Designer) - 1993 to 1996
  • Full-time Self (Web Designer) - 1997 to 2009
  • Part-time Retail (Macy's) - 2010 to 2011
  • Full-time Higher Education (UOPX) - 2011 to 2012
  • Full-time Corporate (CVS) - 2012 to 2013
  • Full-time Higher Education (GCU/ACU) - 2013 to present
Now, I am looking for the next job --> and I am trying to decide which path to take.
  • Full-time Higher Education (Lecturer/Professor) 
  • Full-time Higher Education (Administrator) 
  • Full-time Corporate (Communications)
I have considered going back into corporate work, but whenever I lean that way, I get the feeling that the door is closed. My education aligns with higher education (college or university work), and I feel that this is the path I am on and where the Lord intends me to stay (for now).

Open Doors - Location

It is hard to believe, but 2014 will mark my 18th year of living in Phoenix, AZ. I moved here with my husband and then 3-year old son back in 1996. We left San Jose in order to avoid legal issues associated with my ex-husband's business. We also chose to move closer to his parents, with whom we believed we could help (due to health issues). We also were under the impression that if we came to Phoenix, my husband's parents would help us buy a house (a luxury we could not afford in CA). Moreover, my ex made the decision to enroll in school here in AZ so there was the possibility of a new career, new life, new start waiting for us.

Leaving my family behind was very hard for me to do, but I was committed to my marriage, and I believed that the Lord would provide a way for us. In the end, moving to Phoenix was difficult. In hindsight, I believe that had we stayed in San Jose we would have figured out how to make our marriage work (distance from my ex's parents would have been better than living close to them -- lesson learned the hard way). Of course, many things would have had to change for that to happen, mainly (1) my ex would have had to give up his idea of being self-employed or (2) I would have had to give up my desire to be a stay at home Mom. We couldn't live on one salary in CA, and my ex refused to give up his business dream even though we were almost bankrupt with creditors following hard after us. I wasn't willing to give up my desire to be at home because I believed that my son, then 3, had serious issues and needed to be at home and not in a day care setting. In the end, I chose to leave my parents and my home to go live in Phoenix because it was the only way I could remain at home and care for my son. I made the sacrifice of my parents and my family to come to a difficult place, with difficult family relations, and with no assurance of support (financial or moral) for the sake of shepherding my child (whom I believed was a gift from the Lord -- and for whom my calling -- at least in part was to care for him in this way).

Now my parents live here, with me and my son, and I am considering leaving Phoenix to go to another place. My Mom has wanted to leave Phoenix for a long time (almost before they moved here in 2000 -- she came for my Dad's health -- but she has been vocal about not liking the heat). My Dad is content here. He likes the weather, and he is happy in our shared home. However, both of my parents are struggling now, and they both need more care. I am the primary care giver for them, and I am considering moving away from them. Weird as that may sound, I believe it is the Lord's will for me. Does this mean that my parents will move with me? I don't know at this point in time. I know they would prefer to stay here because they have friends and church support. Yet, in truth, I am not sure if they would want to stay here if I were not close by. Do I stay here until they can no longer take care of themselves? Or do I go where the Lord is leading me, and trust Him, to meet and provide for my parents care?

Where Do I Go?

Right now, I am in Phoenix. I do not believe this is where the Lord intends to keep me. A couple years ago, the Lord began to impress upon me that He was going to move me to another location. I was still married at the time, and when I shared this news with my ex, he shut me down. He was not interested in moving, and he would not consider the Lord leading me (or us) to go. Yet, despite his lack of interest or willingness to go, I kept feeling the Lord pushing me to consider places in the SE USA. I would wake up in the middle of the night or in the very early morning hours with this feeling that I needed to go get on the computer. I would go into the office and sit at my computer and begin to research these places. I would look up city data, study houses and economy, schools, jobs, etc. I felt the Lord saying to me "Go look at this place. Consider this place." I obeyed. I kept copious notes on the places, saved pictures, data, etc. I did thorough research on cities where I thought the Lord was leading us to live.

Of course, never did I imagine that the Lord was preparing me to go and not my ex-husband. I continued to hope, to pray, to imagine a new life for us, for the three of us.

Then my marriage ended; then I found myself single.

How could this be, Lord? How could I start over? How could I live alone?

Now I see what the Lord was doing. He was preparing me to go; He was giving me time to process the idea of going someplace new. In the interim, before He moved me, He had a lot of work to do. He had to get me to trust Him completely, to rely on Him, to place my faith in Him. He held me tightly as my marriage crumbled, and I found myself a single woman. He took hold of my hand, and He showed me that my life was not over, that there was more for me to do. He laid a plan in front of me, and He asked me if I would trust Him, if I would follow Him, if I would go where He sent me.

I said yes.

The Lord began to rebuild my life, from the inside out (as the song goes). I learned what it meant to be a Christian, a true born-again follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. I devoted myself to study of the Word, to learning from Him. I leaned on Him, looked to Him, and became wholly devoted to Him. He helped me. He held me up, and He showed me how to live my life as a single, wholly devoted woman of God. Little by little, He rebuilt the shattered parts of my life. He helped me deal with lingering psychological issues, cleaned up the fragments of the pain and sorrow I experienced in childhood. He helped me see my life as a new creature in Christ. I was made brand new -- brand new.

In the ensuing time, the Lord sent me back to school. I completed a Master degree. I am almost finished with a Doctoral degree. I have lived on my own and with my parents. I have purchased two new cars (all on my own). I have opened bank accounts, credit accounts, travelled across the USA, and I have learned to be independent.

My life, the broken parts have been healed, and I am different than I was before. I have learned how to communicate more effectively, how to minister with more empathy, and how to be content in all things. I am a new creature, a new person, a new woman.

Now, almost 8 years later, I am ready to go. I am ready to step out in faith and go to where He is leading me to go.

As I consider my next steps, I have to think about what the Lord intends for me to do. Am I to remain single for the rest of my life? Am I to remarry?

Open Doors - A New Life

It is all so confusing. One day last summer, I met someone online. I thought it was a friendly conversation, but that conversation turned into something more significant. I wasn't looking to meet anyone. In fact, I was stubbornly adamant that I was going to spend the rest of my life alone. I was content to do it. I was content to live as a wholly devoted daughter of the King. Then BAM! The Lord asks me to have a conversation with a man -- online -- with someone I didn't know. Red flag, red flag -- danger Will Robinson! I know "so what's the big deal?" Well, for me, it was a HUGE deal. I didn't have male-female relationships. I didn't have conversations with any men that were not sanctioned by the Lord, my husband or a "need" (such as a work or church relationship). Nope, this girl didn't have convo's with the opposite sex -- ever!

The funny thing is that the Lord asked me to "consider" a relationship several months prior to that first meeting online. Yes, back in January, I felt the Lord asking me to consider the possibility of not being alone. I wasn't interested; I was not going there. Yet, I obeyed, and I said "I would consider it."

Then came the decision to divorce. ACK!

I had put off the idea of filing for divorce for nearly three years. I didn't want to initiate it. I didn't want to file. I knew there was no restoration happening, and I knew I was stubbornly refusing to let go of my vow because I didn't want to break it. Once I consented to the divorce, things moved rapidly. My life seemed to be kicked into high gear, and before long, I was a divorced woman. I don't brag, I don't say that in delight. It is just a fact. I am divorced. I am learning to live with the stigma of being divorced. I digress...

It has been seven months since I started that conversation, that very innocent conversation. My life has changed dramatically, and I am in love. Yes, I say it honestly and with intention. I am in love.

This whole love/romance thing is something I don't do. I have never had romantic feelings. I have practical feelings, friendship feelings. I don't fall in love. I like people. I am loyal to people. I am supportive, encouraging, genuine with people. I don't fall in love -- like with the fireworks, the romantic feelings, the passion and intensity.

The Lord knows me well. He knows my heart, my mind, and my desires. He knows what matters to me and to Him. The good news is that I believe the Lord orchestrated this meeting for a reason, for a purpose, for His mutual will. He brought someone to me who fits me so closely, so perfectly, so completely that I cannot imagine spending a day apart from him. My feelings for this man are deep, are grounded not in passionate lust, but in mutual submission to the Lord and to His will for my life and his life. Yes, I feel that this may be the Lord's doing, and I am overwhelmed in my soul and in my spirit to think that the Lord may be calling me to move across the US to a place where I can be near this person.

So what does this mean for me, for a job, for relocation?

Well, I have found a job in a location that places me very close to the person I love. Hmmm...

I don't have the job. I haven't even applied yet. But there is a job that I would enjoy doing, that aligns with my education and experience, that would provide well for me, my son, and my parents. Yes, and it just happens to be within a hour of the man I love. What are you doing, Lord? Is this your will? Is this your intention? Or am I just fooling myself into thinking this is your will?

I am patiently waiting for a signal from the Lord. I am patiently waiting to find out what the Lord wants me to do. Should I apply? What if I am rejected? How would I feel? How would he feel? Is it worth stepping out in faith? What will my parents think? What if I get accepted, interviewed, offered the job? What if I step out in faith and the door is closed to me?

I don't know if I could handle the rejection at this point in time. It is far easier to "think" about a job, to "think" about moving across country, to "think" about getting married then to actually begin to take steps toward it. I am scared, and I am worried about what the Lord is doing right now. The train I am on is jostling me back and forth and the rattle of the tracks is deafening. The Lord is moving, and He is pulling me forward. He has told me to "go" and I have said "yes" to Him. But I hesitate...I falter.

Dear Lord,

Only you know the outcome you have planned for my life. Only you know where I am to go, what job I am to apply for, and what the timing is for your grand plan. I struggle today with believing that this might be your will, your answer, and your provision. I need confidence today. I need a boost of faith to get me over the hurdle and to let go of the past, of my current life, of my need for control. I ask in your Name, Lord Jesus, that you would make my way clear. Remove any obstacles from my path, and show me what to do. Lead me to your provision, your "promised land," and make it possible for me to go where you are leading me WITH the full provision of your will, your way, and your wisdom. I ask this in Jesus' mighty, merciful and majestic Name, Amen. So be it. Thy will be done. Selah! (Pause and calmly think about it!!)

January 22, 2015

Tired, but Pressing On...

Yeah, this was me last night. I was up late working on a paper for my COM 705 Advanced Theory class. It was one of those difficult "short" papers that doctoral professors like to give to their students. The parameters were stiff with the page length mandated at "no more than three pages." The task was brutal, but the purpose was clear - be concise and to the point. I was confident that I would finish up with plenty of time to hit the hay, and still get my required 8-9 hours of sleep. Or so I thought...

I thought I was good to go -- that is -- until I dreamed about theory all bloody night long! At one point, I had a dream about eating in a restaurant, ordering pancakes, and after breakfast, finding my way to the bathroom (OK, so not the most lovely of dreams). I stood in line for what seemed like an eternity only to learn that the people in front of me were not finishing up their business and the people behind me were cutting in line (oh, how rude!) I left the restaurant in a huff, but not before giving the manager a piece of my mind, and demanding that they "fix the bathroom situation pronto" or else they would be losing my business (literally and figuratively). I left the place without paying the bill (something I would never do).

I am not sure what that dream has to do with theory, but interspersed between the images and dialogue were thoughts of theory and theoretical application. Needless to say, my brain is so "dog gone" tired today. The good news is that I did finish my paper. It needs a little polishing before I turn it in tonight, but overall, I think it is a good first paper for this course. I am praying my professor thinks so. At this point, I don't really care (well, I do, but not as much as I normally care) because this professor is a bit stringent on the little things, and frankly, with my work load for teaching and studies, something has got to go, and I am in favor of letting those annoying "little things" be "it!" I digress...

It is funny how easy it becomes to prioritize when you are slammed and up against the wall. I mean, when you have freedom and time to dilly-dally, it seems that procrastination rules. When you are hit with a tough workload, deadlines, and a limited amount of time to complete tasks, you find yourself able "to delegate and to delete" unnecessary items fairly quickly. For me, the first thing to go is my perfectionist tendencies. I cannot be a perfectionist when time is limited. I don't have the luxury of reviewing papers, critically analyzing them over and over to ensure that every period or comma is correct. I have to submit them for grading, and that means at times, I submit them with errors. Oh errors! How I hate errors on papers! It is one of those "little things" that I cannot manage when I have other, more pressing, things in the fire. It is a matter of picking and choosing your battles, so to speak. You have to attack the enemy before he attacks you, and that means that sometimes, you let the little skirmishes go in favor of the major battles.

I don't like any battle, and I would prefer to remain safely on the sideline. However, in this life, the Word clearly reminds us that we will face battles of all shapes and sizes. John 16:33 says,

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world."

Yes, our Lord was good to remind us that life is hard, and that our path, the path we take as born-again believers is not always going to be easy. The road is marked with many trials and sorrows. We are encouraged not to lose heart, but we must not fail to recognize that hardship, difficulty, and tribulation are part of the Christian's daily walk.

I don't like hardship. I don't like trial. I don't like sorrow.

No, I want peace, joy and love. I want my life to be filled with balloons, puppy dogs, and cotton candy. Yes, I want the child's life of play, rest, and relaxation. The Lord, however, may have called me like a little child, but He is not content to leave me in that condition. Paul writes in 1 Cor. 13:11,

When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.

and in verse 12, he states,

Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.

While I don't agree with Thomas Hobbes assessment on life, that it is "nasty, brutish, and short" (from The Leviathan), I do feel that at times, life in general, is trying my patience. Let me explain...

There are those in certain strains of Christianity that preach that life is always blessed, always good, always filled with optimism and with opportunity. I actually believe in the goodness of God, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the potential of wisdom, of knowledge, and of maturity to foster a good, a Godly, and a goal-oriented life. Yet, notwithstanding, there are too many instances in life where the former is not always possible. I know too many people who live miserable lives -- through no fault of their own. Yes, there are times when we "muss up the works," when we make bad choices and we then suffer the consequences of those bad choices. Still, there are times when life sucks the joy, the peace, and the love right out of you.

I believe the Word reminds us of the hardships of life simply to help us understand that the Lord desire is for us to not avoid hardship, trials and suffering, but rather to learn to bear up under it. In James 1:2-3 we read,

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.

And again in 1 Peter 1:12-13 we read,

Dear friends, don't be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad--for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world.

So while I really would like to take a break, to have more rest, and to find my plate less full right now, I know that the present trial, the present hardship, and the present sorrow is only a light and momentary affliction. The result of my steadiness, my bearing up, will be to bring me to the fullness of stature, the completeness of maturity that is desired by God through Christ Jesus. In Ephesians 4:11-13, Paul writes,

Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God's people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God's Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.

Paul reminds us in Romans 8:28-30 that we have been chosen (called by God) for this specific work,

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.

The purposes of God are clear - we are to be brought to maturity so that we can withstand the onslaught, the battle between two warring factions, between the Children of Light and the children of darkness. This present darkness, these troubling times, are all within the plans and purposes of God, the Father.

In Psalm 57:2, David writes,

“I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me.”

Today, I struggle with fatigue, with feelings of being tasked too harshly, yet when I think of my brothers and sisters in Christ who live under incredible pressure, pain, and persecution, I thank God for His merciful hand of deliverance. I may be tired, but I am whole. I may be overworked, but the work I do is for the Lord. I may feel overwhelmed at the tasks assigned to me to complete, but I know that these tasks are part-and-parcel to the calling I fulfill within the Body of Christ. Therefore, while I am tired, I press on...I press on toward the upward way!

I’m pressing on the upward way,
New heights I’m gaining every day;
Still praying as I onward bound,
“Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.”

Lord, lift me up, and let me stand
By faith on Canaan’s tableland;
A higher plane than I have found,
Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.

My heart has no desire to stay
Where doubts arise and fears dismay;
Though some may dwell where these abound,
My prayer, my aim, is higher ground.

I want to live above the world,
Though Satan’s darts at me are hurled;
For faith has caught the joyful sound,
The song of saints on higher ground.

I want to scale the utmost height
And catch a gleam of glory bright;
But still I’ll pray till rest I’ve found,
“Lord, lead me on to higher ground.

January 21, 2015

Moving Forward Despite the Odds

What an interesting day I have had so far. It is a typical Wednesday, and I am sitting in my office preparing for my 3:20 p.m. Short Story class at GCU. I have about 20-30 minutes before I head out the door, but "miracle of miracle," I am ready to go (dressed, prepped, and even fed!) I cannot believe that this morning I was able to complete so much work and not feel the rush of running out the door late (which almost always happens to me).

It is weird really because we have friends in town, and our normal routine (my parents, mine and my son's) are all skewed a bit as these old family friends come over each day and visit. I don't mind it at all, and it has been really nice to see them. However, there is a disruption to the routine, and that can cause problems, especially when the schedule is already full (as in mine -- with teaching and with school work).

On top of the minor disruptions, I have been stressing about my courses at Regent this semester. I am struggling to understand the parameters of my one course (assignments mostly), and the expectations of the Professor. Every Professor is different, I get that, but this one is slightly AR (not using the word here, but suffice that she is very particular about the little things). I am feeling pinched to make sure I understand each assignment, what is required, and then scheduling the reading and writing to meet those immovable deadlines.

This morning I woke up feeling unwell. Nothing major, just general malaise and a stomach ache. I am not sure what is going on, but my guess is that it had something to do with cleaning Lenny's fish tank on Monday. I may have gotten fish water inside me -- somehow -- not sure. Anyway, I wasn't feeling myself this morning, and I was a bit grumpy about our friends stopping by so early in the morning. Instead, I found that they weren't coming until the afternoon -- so that was a relief. I didn't have to jump in the shower right away, and I could relax a bit and drink my coffee. It turned out fine in the end because I relaxed, had my breakfast and lunch, and still had time to get ready for work, prep for classes, and check in on BB for my own schooling. More so, I was able to relax a little bit on the assignment parameters for the one class I have in Advanced Theory. One of my peers told me what this Prof normally does each week, and with a sigh of relief, I let that worry go.

The good news, if there is such a thing, is that while I am still facing a mountain of work, I am more relaxed now and I am looking at this pile of "stuff" with the attitude that it will all get done in the end. No sense in ratcheting up the pressure needlessly...

On other fronts, I have been worried about my parents well-being now that they are getting older and experiencing some health issues. Today, I spoke with both parents about my Dad's sisters. It seems that my Dad's sisters are also having some problems (the same kind and intensity). They are all close in age, but the realization that I am not alone in dealing with memory issues, etc. was comforting. My cousins are in the same boat, and we are all working together to create a positive outcome for our loved ones. God is so good to have given me that reminder because I needed to hear it today. While I am sad that my older aunts are having these issues, I am reminded that this is the time in life when older folks (past 80) start to decline in heath and vitality. It is a part of life, and while I don't like it, it is what it is -- just the season of life.

I think if anything it reminded me that I am not alone in this struggle, and that while I may find the burden of care overwhelming at times, it is not without its joys. I do love living with my parents, and I do enjoy helping to care for them. However, I also see that a time is coming when my care will not be enough and that is problematic. Yet, today I felt confident that no matter what happens, the Lord will provide for my parents and for me. I feel so much better today -- just in general -- and I am thinking that this is the Lord's doing to keep me on a steady keel, so to speak.

C.S. Lewis once said "Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.” I agree with this statement. I believe so strongly that the Lord has a good plan for my life, and today, for some reason, I am convinced that my destiny is prepared and planned. In fact, I feel so bold that I can say that I am now not concerned with what I will be doing work-wise in 6 or 9 months. Nor am I concerned about where I will be living in that same time period. It is as if the Lord convinced me that nothing in my life is out of order, unplanned, or unprovided -- everything is as it should be -- and that gives me great comfort.

Last night, as I was driving home, I felt the Lord pressing on me to pray for my life and for the life of a very special friend. As I was praying, I felt like I was repeating myself. I kept asking for the Lord to give us both confidence to know the Lord's will for our lives. I asked the Lord to make it so clear, so absolutely clear so that there would be no doubt as to what we are to do or where we are to go. I am feeling that answered prayer today. It is not as if the Lord turn a spotlight on and showed me where to go, what to do, or how to live. No, it is more that I feel inside this boldness, this confidence, and this sense of "rightness." I have no answers, just impressions. The feelings are powerful, and they are washing over me, and lifting me up out of the doldrums. The other day, I was feeling so down. I was feeling like my school work was crushing me, my teaching was ineffectual, and the pressure of being caregiver at home was becoming unbearable. Then, just like that, those feelings were replaced by this sense of "everything is OK" and even though nothing has changed right now, I feel confident that it is changing or that it will change very soon.

Hopefully, when I speak with my friend, I can find out if he feels the same way. That would be super sweet if that were the case. If not, well, then I will keep on praying in the Spirit for whatever the Spirit wants me to pray. God is good, so very good.

Well, that is my post for today. I am off and running to school. Today is a good day, a very good day!

January 19, 2015

Thinking About Tomorrow

It is a great Monday! I am so thankful for school holidays. Today is Martin Luther King day, and I am blessed to be able to stay home from class. I am struggling with some cold/flu symptoms (all my students are sick), mostly just a nagging and persistent headache and slight chills. I feel like I am starting to come down with some thing -- sort of that feeling where you think you might be getting sick -- but you are not in the full throws of illness yet. I am thankful for this day because I can stay at home and work on the computer. I have a number of items on my to-do list and it helps having another day where I can just hide myself away and focus on getting my tasks done. God is good, so very good to me. He loves me, and He meets my needs with such sufficiency!

My parents have some friends in town this week, and it has been nice to visit with them. I don't have a lot of free time to spend, but it was nice to talk with them and find out how they are doing (they used to live near us in San Jose). Whenever my parents friends come to Phoenix, it is a nice reminder of my life, and all the time that has passed. In truth, I have very happy memories from San Jose (not all, but most). I enjoyed living there, and I loved our house (my parents).  Those were good days, the long hot summers, the cool wet winters, and all the in between lovely days when the weather was absolutely spot-on perfect.

Today, I am feeling wistful. I am thinking about the past, the present, and the future. My life is changing, so much of my life is in flux right now. It is exciting on the one hand, terrifying on the other. I feel like the Lord is moving out ahead of me, and making a path for me to follow. I cannot explain it, but is seems as if He is moving me to where He intends me to live. I have believed in my heart for the past six or seven years that I would end up in the Southeastern USA. I didn't understand it then, just that it seemed like the Lord was suggesting to me a possible relocation to this part of the USA. In fact, when my ex husband had his heart attack in 2007, I felt convinced that we were to move to Tennessee. My ex, of course, had no interest in relocating anywhere. He was adamant that we were going to stay put in Phoenix, end of story. It was hard for me back then because I felt this so strongly, that there was a reason why we needed to move. Yet, at that time, my marriage was in tact, and my life was set in Phoenix. Still, I couldn't shake the feeling that the Lord was calling me to the East coast. I did, as Mary did, and I treasured up the words in my heart. I mediated on them, and I believed that if what I was hearing in my Spirit and in my heart was from the Lord, then somehow the Lord would bring those words to pass.

So much time has passed since those days (June 30, 2007), and so many things have changed since then. I am divorced, of course, and I am a full-time doctoral student and adjunct professor. I am now at a point in my life where I am starting to look for positions at other schools. The desire to move has never waned, though I have considered a number of other states for possible relocation. Besides TN, I looked closely at NC, GA, FL and IL. I have always felt a pull back toward IL, but it seems to be fleeting. Perhaps it is because at one time I thought my son might want to study music at Wheaton College. I am not certain, but I always felt a pull in that direction. I am open to going wherever the Lord leads me, and that may be anywhere there is a position. It seems though that the SE is His preferred location as that is where He seems to be pulling me most often.

I think at first it was hard to imagine moving to a place where I didn't know anyone. Now, though, the Lord has provided a number of friendships in these places. It is almost as if He knew that I would need support and encouragement so He made sure to bring me friends, colleagues, and peers in these states. I feel like I could go anywhere in the SE and I would know someone now. God is good that way, so very good...

As I think about tomorrow, one thing is for certain -- the Lord is moving -- and that always means change. I have blogged about change so often, how whenever He moves, I always feel so out of sorts. I think this time is the same for me -- He has moved -- and I am starting to feel the momentum pick up. This says to me "be prepared, Carol," and with that, I know to hold on tight. The Lord has mighty plans for my life, and whenever He starts to move me in a particular direction, "things" start to happen quickly. I can think of a couple possibilities right now, the most likely, is a job. I have been looking for work, casually, because I am contracted through the end of April. However, I have felt strongly that the Lord may intend for me to move this summer. This brings up a whole host of issues, but I cannot focus on them now (like my parents, my son, etc.) I believe that if the Lord moves me, He will take care of all the details of my life. The Lord delights in the details of my life, and He knows my fears, my worries, and my concerns. He is Lord of all, and that means that I can rest with security, knowing that His Grace is sufficient. I am well-covered.

I am excited about what the Lord is doing in my life. I don't have all the details mapped out, but I do feel like He will reveal these plans to me soon. I am praying for a job, a specific job, and I am praying for a specific location. The Lord knows where He wants me to work. I don't have to worry about the destination because the Lord is in control. The Lord knows the life He has in mind for me, so I don't have to worry about the details that go along with His move. I just need to trust Him, to rest in Him, and to let Him go --> to let Him be Lord over every detail in my life.

Dear Lord,

I look to you this day. I trust you, and I believe in my heart that you are calling me to move. I believe you have given me permission to move. I am waiting on confirmation of a job opportunity, and the timing necessary to apply. I am looking up, and I am waiting for you to move me. Until then, I am resting in the knowledge that you are God, that you are able to do what you intend to do, and that you will do what is best for me, for my life, for my future. I ask that you would give me confirmation on this particular job, that you will give me confirmation on this particular location, and that you would make it obvious, clear, and without a doubt, essential that I take this step of faith and apply. I believe your Name, your Word, and I ask for your Will to be done in my life. I ask all this in the matchless and merciful Name of Jesus, Amen!