October 22, 2016

Good Saturday

It is a beautiful day here in sunny and mild, Phoenix. October is one of the nicest months to be in the desert southwest. It ranks right up there with March, in my view. Both months have about the same temperatures, with cool mornings and evenings and hot middays. October has the blessing of being the doorway to the fall and winter, whereas March — well — March is just a short segue into the heat of summer. Still, anything or anytime we find relief from the oppressive heat HAS TO BE such a good thing, such a very good thing. Selah!

Today should be a good day by all accounts. The weather is lovely, and despite the high of 96 (yes, that is our forecast for the day), I think it will turn out quite nicely. I plan to be indoors most of the day, but even still, just knowing that it is lovely outside makes up for that fact.

On top of the weather (news), I am feeling pretty well today. I had a really good night, and I slept soundly. I didn’t even wake up until close on 6 a.m., and then it was only because I needed to use the bathroom (I know — old lady ills). I slept right on through the night, and after I got up at 6, I crawled back into bed and slept until right about 8:30. My boys both came and snuggled with me, and since neither of my parents were up yet, the house was so quiet and still. I really do love to wake up to a quiet house.

Today’s plan include my study prep for my defense/conference call on Monday morning. I am not nervous at all — as weird as that may seem. I mean, I really am pretty calm about the whole thing. I guess I feel like the Lord has prepared me well, brought me safely to this place, and given me the green light to proceed, so really now all I have to do is walk on — walk on through the defense — and into the research phase of my study. I do need to be ready, and I plan on spending today and tomorrow re-reading my study plans, covering all my bases, and putting together a short handout for my professors to use as a review guide. Other than that, I am going to head into this next phase with my “guns blaring” as they say. I am going in “full bore” — ready to take on the task of finishing my PhD! Praise be to God, I will do it. He is good to me, and He will see me through it. I am confident of it. I boast only in His abilities, in His way, and in the fact that He is sovereign over this area of my life. If this is His will, He will be faithful to see me through it. I believe it. I rest in it, and I trust Him completely for my final outcome. Selah!

Thoughts on Fall and Moving

Lately, my thoughts have been focused on moving out of the Phoenix area to another place, a more mild and cool place. Perhaps it is just my wunderlust or my strong desire to fall (it is my favorite season by far). I am not sure, but it seems like my mind has been preoccupied with thoughts of moving. A lot. I mean, lately, my thoughts have been centered on moving to another place, setting up shop, and well putting down roots. Sigh!

Just today, my distant cousin posted this picture to Facebook, and I have to tell you, I had this sharp feeling, a sense that I was being pulled to take a visit up north (in this case to the northeast). This picture is of the Pack Saddle Bridge in Somerset County, PA. My Mom hails from this part of PA, and my cousin, John, always posts pictures of the covered bridges in the fall. This one is a “beaut” as they say up north.

Then, later this morning, another friend posted a picture from Arizona Snowbowl. Apparently, the post said that you can still ride the ski lift up to the top of the mountain to see the fall foliage, but that soon, the line will be closed down to all but skiers. Sigh! I’ve been to Snowbowl, but not during the fall season. I was thinking today how I would love to make the drive up north, just to drive in and around Flagstaff and enjoy the very cool fall temperatures and the beautiful change of seasons right about now. The Aspen trees are stunning in this photo (courtesy of AZ Snowbowl). I can feel the crisp air by just looking at this picture.

I marvel at the magnificence of God’s creation on days like today. I think about how the climate varies depending on where you live, and how October is typically gorgeous in most northern places. But, in the deep south, and I mean “south,” it is going to be summer soon. Yes, my friends in New Zealand and Australia are getting ready to have Christmas in the middle of the summer! I don’t know if I could handle that much of a change. I really do look forward to winter and to the snow falling right around Christmas time. I don’t know…maybe I am just feeling wistful or I am longing for a change of pace.

I honestly don’t know, but lately, I have been consumed with the idea of moving away from Phoenix. I have blogged about moving for the past 10 or so years, but it seems like the Lord is “ramping” up that desire. It seems like He is getting me prepared and ready to go. That thought excites me to no end, but it also makes me wonder about the details, the logistics, and the wherefores of actually picking up stakes and moving on. Let me explain…

God’s Will and My Move

Last night, my good friend and I had one of our long conversations. It was a refreshing change considering we have not been able to spend as much time together recently because of my crazy schedule — with work and school and research — and with his overtime. Last night, though, the Lord provided a short window of opportunity for us to chat on the phone, and it was such a blessing to be able to laugh with each other, to listen to each other, and to share with each other the deep and wonderful love that we have that is always centered on Jesus Christ and kingdom matters. One of the reasons why I enjoy my friend so much is because of our connection to God’s call and the work He intends to do through each of us. Although our calling is different, so unique, we share one thing in common and that is a deep and sincere desire to do God’s work. We simply feel compelled to pursue His calling, and we are willing to sacrifice our comforts and our joys in order to abide in and obey His voice. Thus, last night, we discussed all matter of things from politics and the church to evangelism and apologetics. Our conversation was rich, rewarding, and refreshing. I sure have missed our good, good, good discussions! Selah!

I’ve had a lot on my mind lately, mostly about moving and about being settled and what not, and last night, my friend and I talked briefly about my job prospects and the opportunities for me to find full-time teaching work. I try really hard not to focus on my need for a job, and I made the conscious decision a couple months back to not whine or complain about my lack of steady work. In truth, the Lord has provided amply for me this semester, and while I am thankful for the abundance of teaching contracts, I am stressed and overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the work. In many ways, I long for one job versus four jobs (like I have now). I really need to simplify my life, but until the Lord provides that steady position, I am content with the work I have to do. So be it, thy will be done! Selah!

I was telling my friend how I feel that the Lord is preparing me to move, and how I am ready to move, but that I feel stuck where I am right now simply because I don’t have all my little duckies in a row. I mean by this — without a permanent job — I am stuck where I am. If you have read my blog for any length of time then you know that it is pretty much full of my reflections and my restlessness when it comes to what I feel the Lord is doing in my life. Mostly, I write about my work life, home life, and school life, and I pour out my feelings about my calling, my desires and my reliance upon the Lord’s overarching will for my life. Yes, I often will say that I feel so strongly that He is preparing me, getting me ready, for a big change — and that I believe that change is coming very, very soon. In all honestly, I believe that something is afoot! Of course, I can’t put my finger on it — nor do I know what the Lord intends to do with me. It is more that I think in a short amount of time (by May 2017), the Lord will ask me to move. I believe that by next year, Lord willing, I will leave Phoenix and settle some place where the Lord plans for me to pursue His work.

It seems like almost every night, I find myself drifting off to sleep with the words, “Be prepared,” pinging in my head. I know it sounds crazy, but I believe the Lord is giving me a “heads up,” so to speak. He is letting me know that in order for me to move or to take those next anticipated steps, I need to be prepared for them. I was praying about this last night, how I feel ready and how I believe the Lord sees me as such. I feel like He has said to me, “Carol, you are ready to go.” So the idea that I am ready, but not prepared, well it just throws me for a little bit of a loop.

As I was drifting off to sleep last night, I yet again heard the words, “be prepared” echo in my head. This time, I asked the Lord, “Lord, what do you mean? What must I do to be prepared?” Unfortunately, after my question, I nodded off, and well, I never did get the answer I sought (LOL!) The funny thing is that today, I’ve been thinking more about being prepared, and I also have been thinking more about moving (physically relocating). So this morning, I asked the Lord again: “Lord, how am I to be prepared?” His response to me has been interesting, and so this is what I believe I am to do in “preparation” for my next big MOVE.

Ready vs. Prepared

First off, it is important to understand the difference between being ready and being prepared. I think of it this way, like when you may have a big trip planned. You make the plans, buy the tickets, mark the date off on your calendar, and make arrangements for your time away (from work or home). Then you wait. You wait until you get within striking distance (one-two or three weeks) from your anticipated holiday or business trip. You are ready for the trip. You have made the plans, you understand the need or desire, and you are waiting for the actual departure time. However, you can’t just show up at the airport and get on a plane without some preparation ahead of time. Well, you could of course, but most of us wouldn’t do that or couldn’t do that very well. No, for most of us, we pack our things, we make extra arrangements for the kids or the pets or the house, and we arrange for our departure (do we take our car and park it at the airport or do we get a friend to drop us off?) We are ready for our trip, for sure, but we need to prepare to go, and that often takes time, some planning, and even some purchases (new clothes, a new suitcase, for example). Sometimes we have to plan and prepare for a trip long in advance of the departure date. Other times, we can toss a jacket and backpack in the car and just go. With this in mind, in order for me to move, to relocate, I need to plan, prepare, and then go (in that order). I need to have a plan in mind, approved by the Lord, and then I need to prepare my way so that I am “ready” for my “pack and go” date.

Right now, I feel ready to move. I think I am mentally ready, spiritually accepting of the mandate, and my heart and mind are both willing to entertain physically leaving my home and moving across the country. Yet, I cannot go just yet. I cannot toss my things in the car and up and move “just like that!” I have a friend here in Phoenix who recently relocated to Colorado. She made the decision to move and within 3-4 weeks, she was gone. Just like that! I have thought about her move, and how she was able to pack her things and relocate with such ease. I would love to be able to do that, but then she had no real encumbrances, no job, no home, etc. It was easier for her to pack her belongings in her car and simply move someplace else. Not so for me. I have quite a lot of things that tie me to Phoenix, and until I am prepared to let these things go (as in close them out, cancel the lease, etc.), I am where I am for a reason. Yes, I am stuck where I am for a time until the Lord provides me with the resources I need to close out my life here.

This is the spot I am in now. I feel ready to go, but I am not prepared to go as such. I have ideas in my head, thoughts and dreams about going, but I have no real plan in place. I have what I think is His plan, the idea of it, but I don’t really have anything set in stone, so to speak. I simply have the desire, the will, and the pull toward moving, but I don’t have anything concrete as of yet.

Specific Plans

This brings me back around to the conversation I had with my good friend last night. He mentioned to me that he felt the Lord might be opening a door for me to teach full-time at Regent University. I am adjunct faculty right now, and I would love, love, love to teach for Regent on a permanent basis. Yet, I know that this is not a reality, per se. I mean, unless the Lord intends to move me to VA Beach, I really don’t see this happening anytime soon. But the thought was a nice one, and I loved that he felt he could share it with me.

I’ve been praying for a full-time position for several years now, and frankly, I made the decision a few months back to let it be, let it rest, and to accept that for now I am set as an adjunct instructor. I am okay with adjunct, and I like the variety, the change each semester, and the fact that I am pretty much come and go as I please. Yet, I know that for longterm security, I need a full-time faculty position — somewhere — and I need to have that position in place before I can “up and go.”

Just the other day, I was over on Twitter and I read a “tweet” that said something to the fact that sometimes you have to step out in faith — go before — the Lord has everything laid out for you. Actually, it was Richard Blackaby who tweeted this comment:

Don't wait to advance until all of God's instructions make perfect sense to you. You might never leave the starting block! Get moving!

At first, I thought, “No, that is foolishness.” I mean, I don’t want to run out ahead of God and take a chance that I could be mistaken in my feelings or my thoughts. But today, I am thinking differently. I thought about the Old Testament patriarchs and how often God told them to go, but that He didn’t always give them clear instructions on what to do, where to go, or even how to get there. He simply said they were to go and they were to have faith that He would provide for them along the way.

I have heard the Lord tell me to go several times now, but I have not actually “gone” anywhere. I have waited for His provision, and in waiting for His provision, I have tarried in this place. I have not found the provision I needed, and in this way, I simply convinced myself that His timing wasn’t perfect or that I misread His intentions or His plans. Now, I am thinking that perhaps God doesn’t provide the resources until we take the step in faith that says, “I will trust you for these resources.” In this way, God didn’t give me what I didn’t need or use. You see, had I stepped out in faith, I have full confidence that He would have provided what I needed — when I needed it. But, since I didn’t go, I didn’t have need for the provision. Thus, I have remained in this place, sitting here waiting for the resource to come to me.

I am not about to go running out willy-nilly without a plan, that is for sure. However, the Lord has told me to go, and I have not gone. I wonder whether this is why I am still here, still waiting, and still struggling to make ends meet. Perhaps my promised provision is not here in Phoenix, but rather it waits for me at the other end of the stick?

Hmmm.  I need to think more about this idea and to decide if this could be true or not. Right now, I have heard the Lord say to me — be prepared — and that tells me that I am to start making plans, start the ball rolling, and start lining all my ducks in a row. I am to wait for His leading, His guiding, and His providing — of course — but I am also to be prepared, to be ready, and to be at the waiting line for His command to go. Until that time, I have work to do. I have so much work to do.

In Closing

As I wait for the Lord, I also realize that I must be ready, be prepared to go. I must look for His provision where He will provide it, and if that means I have to go without provision in order to demonstrate my faith, so be it. Thy will be done. However, until I am confident I am to physically move, I will continue to wait for His blessing, His deliverance. I will look up, and I will wait. He is good to me, He will show me the way. I am confident of it. Selah!

October 21, 2016

Friday, Oh Friday!

It is Friday, and I am home! Whew! This week is over! Can you hear me say, “I am blessed to be finished for the week?” No, well, let me say it louder: I AM SO BLESSED TO BE FINISHED FOR THE WEEK!  Yes, this has been a tough week, and even though nothing major happened to set me off or cause me difficulty, it just seemed like this week was a massive pain in the behind, if you get my drift? I worked my little proverbial backside off, and frankly, I am bushed, beat, and barely making it. The good news is that I am home (yay!), and that I’ve got my feet up and I am resting. Sweet praises — I am resting — and it feels so, so good! In truth, God is good to me. He is so very good to me.

It’s Been a Good Day

Today has been a good day overall. I mean, I finished my week strong (praise be to God), and I completed all the tasks and assignments set before me. I really didn’t do the work, you know…He did. He did this work through me, and as such, I give Him all the praise, the honor, and the glory. He showed up today, BIG TIME, and He made a way for me to overcome all the challenge, all the trials, and all the difficulty I was facing. He did it in such a way that I had to stand in awe of His mighty power, authority, and incredible rule over me. Yes, He did this good thing, and I am so thankful for His help. I am absolutely thankful for His amazing help.

I am ready for the weekend, and I am ready to prepped for my Monday morning conference call. I’ve got my ducks in a row, and praise be to God, I will do this defense, and it will go well for me. I feel it. I feel it in my bones as the saying goes. I absolutely feel that I will do well come Monday. Until then, however, I have a lot to do. I have work, work, work. I am ready for it. I cannot really explain it other than to say that somehow the Lord has come over me, and in that way, I am empowered to do work. I just am ready. I feel so powerful right now, and with that I mean, I feel in control, dynamic, and ready to tackle whatever comes my way.

I cannot really explain the change from this morning, though. I was beat down, worn out, and oh so very tired. Then on my way to school, I just starting to pray — and I mean — really pray, and wham! I felt the Lord’s presence, and then He just did what needed to be done. I let Him lead me through my classes, teach and reach students, and then I drove home and all the while, I was praising His name. He just showed up. I am in awe of Him, and I still feel sort of giddy, just giddy. I am always amazed when He does this for me. I don’t deserve this goodness or grace, yet, He does this anyway. He is so good to me, so very good to me.

As I close out this very short post, I simply give up a sacrifice of praise today. I thank the Lord for His goodness and His grace, and I rest now in His utter and complete sufficiency. He is good, so very good to me! Selah!

October 20, 2016

Moving and More Moving

It is a blessed Thursday, and I am sitting here at my computer thinking about how wonderful my life is at the moment. Yes, I am choosing to be thankful today. This week has been a difficult one, and here it is now Thursday, and well, the week is almost behind me. I was thinking about this fact today, how I am stressed, struggling to manage my overwhelming schedule, and feeling so unwell. I thought to myself, "Carol, if the Lord felt that this work was too much for you to handle, He wouldn't have given it to you." Then I thought about His abilities and mine, and I realized that when I get to that point where I can no longer do what is being asked of me, I have to remember to look up and wait for His help. The Word says it this way in Isaiah 40:31 KJV:

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

I started to think about this fact, how whenever I feel faint or weary, the Lord expects me to look to Him for help. Early this morning, I prayed for strength, and I prayed for the ability to handle my growing to-do list AND to complete all the tasks assigned to me. I was thinking how often I would crumble beneath the weight, cry out to the Lord, and say, "Lord, I cannot do this work! Take this from me!" Today, though, I heard myself say, "Lord, this weight is too heavy -- help me to carry it!" I thought about those words -- help me to carry it -- and I realized that too often we want the Lord to lift our burdens off of us completely, to release us, and to let us walk away from our problems. I know that the work that has been assigned to me is of His doing, thus I cannot walk away from it. I need His help to complete it. I guess I had one of those epiphany moments when I realized that in the past, I would have cried, stomped my feet, and begged the Lord to relieve me of the burden; but today, I am willing to endure the hardship, the trial, and the difficulty so long as He is the One who is managing my life. I guess you could say it is all in your perspective, praise be to God, and my perspective has been altered to shift the focus from my needs, wants and desires, to His overarching will and plans for my life. Yes, I have come to see that His way is blessed. His way is filled with peace, joy, satisfaction -- but also -- His way is filled with hardship, trial and difficulty. The good news in all of this realization is that our Lord has said to us in Deuteronomy 31:6 NLT:

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.

And I take comfort in the words of Paul as reminds me in 1 Thessalonians 5:24 (NLT), "God will make this happen, for he who calls you is faithful." God will see to it, He will provide for me, and He will see me through the ups, the downs, and all the various in betweens until that day when I am engulfed in His marvelous presence. He is good, so very, very good to me! Selah!

Planning for Today

It is a good day, therefore, to be at home, to be at rest, and to be thinking about the good things the Lord has in store for me. I woke up feeling better (hurrah), and I am finally feeling as though I have rested some. I’ve been dragging back and forth to class the past couple days, and today, I finally feel like my old self again.

Yesterday, was such a bear. I mean it. My students sensed it, and I struggled to make it through my classes. I put on my best “game face” possible, but even still, I was just worn out. I felt so beaten down, and the thought of having to teach more classes, well, just sent me over the edge. I cried out to the Lord while driving home from work, and I said to Him, “Lord, I am losing my mind! I can barely put together a coherent sentence these days!” It was true, I mean it. I was struggling all day yesterday to even make sense. I think this happens when your brain is on overload. I would say things or thoughts would blurt out of my mouth — weird thoughts — and I found myself struggling to keep my composure. I have to tell you that I have never experienced that before, so it scared me some. I just felt words come out of my mouth, and in doing so, I startled myself. I cannot really explain it, but after a short while, I regained my composure and then I felt better. I wondered about it all day long, wondered how I could lose control like that, and how I could function as a teacher if my brain was so fried that I couldn’t even sound intelligent.

Praise be to God, the good news is that whatever was wearing me down passed, and today, I feel better. I really do feel much, much better. Still, I think about my limits, and how yesterday, I felt so close to my limit in every area. I simply felt like I couldn’t go on. I don’t mean like in a fatalistic sense or like when a person is depressed and considers suicide. No, it was more like when you’ve run a race and you are out of breath. Your legs ache, your body shuts down, and you stand there and you know you cannot take one more step. This is how I felt — like I was physically, mentally, emotionally — at my limit. I had breached the threshold and I couldn’t go on.

In hindsight, I am guessing that I learned a mighty lesson from the Lord. I tested my boundaries, and I found out that I was right at the edge of the chasm, the gulf between what I can do and what He must do. I was standing there, looking over this gulf, and I realized that my path was leading me into “impossible” territory. No way, no how, could I breach this gap without some help, without His help. And, praise be to God, it was in that moment when I knew that I was, once again, trying to control everything, carrying all my little boxes around with me in order to keep my ship afloat. I laid them all down at His feet, and I willingly left them behind me. I knew in an instant that the only way to cross over that gap was to let my Lord carry me — just me — no baggage, no carry-on’s, no personal collections. I had to leave everything I care about, desire, want, and yes, need — behind me. I had to trust Him enough to say, “Lord, I will go it alone with you. I will leave all of these people, places, and personal things behind me. I will trust you to care for me, to provide for me, and to safely deliver me to my final destination.” It was difficult, but I was so unwell, so tired, so beaten down by the weight, the worry, and the war (between me and my enemy). I really was so very tired, so very, very tired.

The Lord delivered on His word to me. He promised me protection and provision, and in good form, He delivered what I needed most. He gave me blessed rest. He helped me survive my hard day, and then gave me a peaceful night to sleep well, to be restored. In all, while I am still exhausted, I feel so much better. I am giving my Lord all the praise this good, good day because He alone deserves it. He alone is worthy to be praised! Selah!

Making a Go Alone

It is a curious thought, but I have come to believe that the Lord intends to send me on this journey alone. The more I think about my life, the more I see the reality of my path. This path, the path the Lord has set me on, is a difficult one. It is a path that few people can endure. I don’t mean to say that I am special or more able to handle the hardship, etc., I simply mean that this path is challenging, and I realize that I have been uniquely created for it. Let me explain…

Yesterday, I had that epiphany moment when I realized that I had come to a place where the only way to cross over or continue on the path was to allow the Lord to carry me. I realized that I couldn’t carry anyone or anything with me. I had to leave everything I loved, cared for, wanted and desired behind me. I had to walk on singly, trusting the Lord, relying on the Lord, and abiding in the Lord, and that in order for me to do what He was asking me to do, I had to let go of all the “comforts” I crave. I had to walk on without my family, my son, my home, and all the “things” that I tend to clutch when I feel threatened or unwell. I had to cling to the Lord alone, and in that way, I had to place all my faith in His abilities. I had to acknowledge that I can do nothing in and of myself, but that any work that is produced is now done so through His ability alone. I had to lay down my pride of self, my intense esteem, and my view that sees me as smart, intelligent, and scholarly. I had to accept His hand of blessing, His offer of help, and in doing so, I had to accept the cost that is associated with it.

As I process this all, and I begin to think about my future, I realize more now than ever, that my future is not about teaching, working, living — rather — my future is about His work. Everything I do from this moment forward is not about me. Everything I think, I consider, I hope for or even dream, is all about the fulfillment of His will. I want nothing but His work, and in this way, I am no longer working to support myself, to satisfy my needs, or even to bring me solace. I work unto the Lord, and in this way, I agree with Paul who said in 1 Corinthians 10:31 (ESV), “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” I do not boast, rather I simply say that at this point in time, I feel like everything I am doing from teaching literature and composition courses to working on my dissertation to caring for my parents to mentoring my son — is all about one thing — and that is bringing praise, honor, and glory to my Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.  He alone is worthy to receive our praise, and He alone is able to bear our burdens, to carry the weight of our sorrows, and to create within us the discipline, the determination, and the dedication to do this work, His work. He will most certainly bring all the good work He has started in us to completion. He is faithful — He will complete His task — praise be to God! He will do it. He is the GREAT I AM.

My next steps are before me, though I don’t really know where I am going now. I sense the movement, but since He is carrying me forward, I cannot see the ground beneath me. I must trust Him, believe in Him, and know that He will never let me fall. He has me so well-covered, and in this way, my rest and my security are 100% in His hand. The plans that I have for today include spending time preparing for my dissertation proposal defense on Monday, and of course, preparing for my Survey of Western Literature class that also begins on Monday. I will be teaching two large courses at Regent University, with almost 50 students, and frankly, that thought alone overwhelms me. I mean, I presently have 128 students on campus, so with an additional 50, I am looking at close to 180 students this semester. I’ve done it before, of course, but I wasn’t researching or writing a dissertation at the time. Still, if the Lord has seen fit to give me all these students, praise be to God, I will do my very best to help them, to teach them, and to guide them. He is my King, and He knows my ends. He knows what I can and cannot do, and I am resting in this knowledge now. I am no longer worrying about the work load. Rather, I am simply letting Him carry the weight of the workload. I will do the work, grade the papers, interact with students, teach the material — but He will bear the burden — and He will receive the praise for the outcome. He will receive the precious reward of a job “well done.” He is good, so very good to me. I do not deserve His grace or His mercy, but today, I am thankful for it. I am so thankful for His love, His presence, and His abiding comfort. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me! Selah!

In Closing

As I close out this post today, I marvel at His goodness toward me. I don’t deserve it. I am the least of His workers, and I am frail, fragile, and at times, fearful of my own shadow. Yet, He has called me forward. He has asked me to do this particular thing, to walk on alone, to trust Him to provide, and to look to Him for my security, my everything. I have made Him my heart’s delight. I have made my one desire be about Him and Him alone. I cast all things aside, all encumbrances in order to follow after my Lord and my Savior — my King! I don’t know what tomorrow brings or what my life will look like in 1, 5 or 10 years from now, but I do know that I will be right where I am today, settled, centered, and fixed upon His glorious grace. I will be His servant, His worker, His child — always seeking to please the Father — and always seeking to bring Him praise.

October 18, 2016

Good Morning!

It is Tuesday, and I am at home. Ah...home! I didn't sleep well last night, mostly I tossed and turned, and then I woke up with a crick in my back. Yes, I am stiff, sore, and oh so, slow this morning. It is good that I am at home so that I don't have to rush out anywhere today. Yay!

In other good news -- it is my birthday today! Nothing special on tap for my day, though. My parents may take me to lunch later (after the termite man comes to vanquish those little buggers from the garage ceiling this morning). We already celebrated my Dad's 84th birthday on Sunday so there is no 'big' plan afoot. My birthday sort of gets attached to his (always has) since I was a teen. As a little child, I had my own special day, with parties with friends and such. But, since I was about 17, we've just done a "family" birthday on the weekend before or after our actual day. I don't mind really. I'm busy with work and school so my time is rather limited. Still, it was a nice weekend celebration, and my brother who lives in San Diego, drove over to spend Saturday and Sunday with us. My nephew and his girlfriend came along later, went to dinner with us, and then spent the evening visiting with me and my dad. It was nice of them to take time from their busy lives to come and visit us. In all, my weekend was nice, slow-paced, and fairly restful.

Today, though, I am sitting at my desk, trying to figure out why my back hurts so much. It is just one hip (or the backside of my hip) that really hurts. I am guessing it is the way I laid last night. Perhaps I just stayed in one position for too long during the night. I don't know; I just don't know.

New Roads to Walk

My class at Regent University has officially ended (Saturday). In all, it was a very good experience. This was my second "online" class, and the experience was enjoyable, not too stressful, and overall, not too challenging. I really liked the format, and my students were just great. I am set to teach two new classes beginning next Monday. At first, I was set to teach two sections of English Composition I, but now I will teach one composition class and one Western Literature course. My chair emailed me yesterday to ask if I would be willing to swap classes. I guess he has an easier time finding adjuncts to teach composition than to teach literature. I love literature, by the way, but I don't always feel I have enough time to read all the works. Still, I want to be flexible with this school. I really want to keep on teaching here until I retire. I love this school so much, and I feel so confident that the Lord intends for me to stay here long term.

Of course, this means that I need to scramble some this week, prep for a different class, and get my little ducks in a row at the last minute. It is good that my other classes are in a lull right now. My 105/106 composition classes are in draft week, and my communication class is half-over (only tomorrow we meet). This means that I have pretty much a free week to get everything in order.

As I was driving over to campus yesterday, I really thought about how I am going to manage all my classes and work on my dissertation. I decided that I needed to create a weekly schedule, similar to what I used to do when I was homeschooling my son. I created a weekly chart in Excel, and each day listed out the assignments or topics covered. This gave me a "week at a glance" and I found that I was able to stay on track more easily than with a linear listing of things to do. I plan to create a schedule like this today, and then see if it helps me feel more in control each week as I move from three different campuses and six different classes.

I guess in some ways, I have to make a schedule like most elementary school teachers do. You know, one of these types of schedules.

I've never been a fan of the spiral bound type of planner books, so I just create my own using Excel. It has always worked for me, and I have to admit that I was able to manage my son's schedule well. When we did Ambleside Online for our curriculum, I had to teach him 13-14 subjects per day. It was a lot of work, so having a planner pad was critical to our success. Now, that I teach college, I normally just follow the syllabus, but with the online forums and classes beginning and ending at different times, I need a better system so I can keep everyone and everything straight.

This idea of creating a weekly planner popped into my head while I was driving to GCU. I was praying over my need, and the idea just came to me. God is so good, so very good to me. I mean, this happens to me all the time. Sometimes I will be praying for a person and I will get this idea of what to pray over them. Other times, I just get an idea about something, and it is the solution to the problem I have been stressing over. I know that I am not that smart nor do I have an "inuit" button in my head. No, I give the credit to the Lord for His leading, guiding, and providing of all things -- even solutions to small and rather insignificant problems. He is good, so very good to me! Selah!

Thinking About Tomorrow

As I was driving home, I started to think about my life, long term. I am pretty well set now on my career (praise be to God), so my thoughts were more to what I would like to see for my life, in general. Now, that I am 54, and I am almost ready to graduate with my PhD, I have started to think more and more about where I would like to settle down, put down roots, and spread out. My brother and I were talking about this over the weekend, and he asked me if I wanted to settle here in Phoenix. I said that at this time, I really didn't want to stay here, and that I felt that the Lord was not intending on keeping me here for too much longer. We talked about plans, places to go and live, etc. The funny thing is that he and I have different ideas about what we want long term. He wants to retire, live on his boat, take it easy, and simply live minimally. I really enjoy working, so I don't plan on retiring anytime soon (well, I can't really even think about it for a long, long while). I have worked very hard to get to this point, to earn my PhD, and as such, I plan on using my degree for as long as possible. My career as a college instructor has been by far the most satisfying career choice yet, so I really want to keep on teaching for as long as it is possible to do so.

With that in mind, we were talking about places to retire. He wants to stay by the beach. I am thinking country, well lets just say, midwestern-like towns or cities. I would like to be near a major city, but not live in one anymore. I would like to live in a suburb where there is easy access to everything, but you still have that small town feel. Of course, I want to have some trees around me, at a minimum. I have pretty much decided against the "land" idea for now. I love the idea of living on a mini-farm, having some land, etc., but now I realize that my ability to care for property, even forested property is limited. I don't want to live in a brand-new house, you know the kind, where the neighbors are right next door to you. I think I would like a house that is mid-century, built in the 1970s or so. I would like it to be in one of those nice neighborhoods where there are no sidewalks, but lots of trees.

My idea of the next 30-40 years is so different from my brother's idea. I think it is because of my degree, my return to school, and the fact that I spent so many years working in jobs that were not of my own choosing. You see, for so many years, I worked in jobs that were either given to me or where I was told that I "had" to do the work. I didn't really have any choice in the matter. I let other people tell me what kind of work suited me, my personality, and my skills. So often, these well-meaning people, had no clue as to the "real me," nor did they care much about whether or not I was happy. They assumed that I would want to do a type of work simply because it was something they would enjoy doing. I would justify their choice by saying, "Well, something is better than nothing!" Or, I would try to be grateful that the work was provided to me. In truth, however, I never was allowed the opportunity to express myself, my opinions, or my own wants, desires, and wishes. In the end, I was miserable, always so miserable.

In hindsight, I realize that people can only push their way on you IF you let them do it. I had been brow-beaten, hard pressed, and due to manipulation and control, I learned it was better to give in and compromise that to continue to be "contentious". It would have been far better for me to tell these people, friends and family members, to simply mind their own business, but I wanted to be liked, to be a friend, and to be considered a "good team player."

Now, though, I am through with all of that mindless bashing and my life is my own. I make or break it; I call the shots; I determine the outcomes. Of course, I rely on the Lord and His leading, and I wait for His provision of work, of the path to follow, and of the course or direction He would like me to travel. In doing so, I have come to accept myself, to accept what it is that I believe God is calling me to do, and I have learned what I can and cannot do. I am content now, happy, and I am ready to move to a place where I can live comfortably, easily, and with modest intention.

Until the Lord provides that open door, I am settled here. I hope He will provide a full-time job soon, but until that happens, I am content to just "think about," "imagine," and "dream" about my future life.

Some things I am settled on for now, though, include:

  • Teaching full-time either on-campus or online as a college professor
  • Living in a city or town that is close to a major metropolitan center
  • Purchasing a modest home, mid-century (60s-70s), in a comfortable suburban neighborhood
  • Moving to a moderate climate, some place with four seasons, so I can enjoy spring, fall, and winter
I know that what I want and desire, is of course, simply wishes and dreams. I am fully surrendered to the Lord on these matters, so I am okay with whatever He provides to me. My prayer, my hope, and my future are all fitted together according to His overarching and supreme will for my life. This means that I am to wait for His lead. I am to let Him guide me to the place of His choosing, and in all things, I am to watch for His provision. When He says go, I have to go. When He opens the door, I have to walk through it. I cannot tarry. I cannot doubt. I cannot hesitate. I have to be ready, be prepared, and then I have to do what He is asking me to do. I have to obey His command, follow His lead, and trust in His provision. He will do it, He is faithful, and He keeps His promises.  Selah!

In Closing

As I close out this blog post, I rest in the security and in the provision of knowing the God has me "well covered." I am fully covered by His grace, and while that means, I am saved and forgiven, it also means that whatever my need or needs, His grace is always sufficient. I look up, I wait patiently, and I rest in the knowledge of whom I place my trust. I trust in the Lord God Almighty, the Maker of heaven and of earth. In this way, I place my trust squarely and securely on and in the One who is able to make all things come to pass. He is able. He is good. He will do what He has said He will do. Selah!

October 16, 2016

Blessed Sunday

It is a beautiful day here in sunny and mild, Phoenix. The skies are clear, and the air temperature is warm (not too hot, yet). The high today and through next week is expected to hit the mid-90s. Truthfully, I am ready for cooler days. It seems odd that our weather has remained steady in the 90s. Normally, our average temperature in October is around 75 (with the high in the mid-80s). November typically sees high temperature ranges from the mid-60s to 70s. It just seems so off to me, I mean, given we are midway through the month and we are still hitting close to 100. AGH!

When I lived in San Jose, our normal daytime high during mid-October would be in the mid-60s. We would have rain some days, but mostly we had lovely cool and crisp weather. I sure do miss San Jose — especially right about now. My favorite time of the year is fall, and while I enjoy moderate climates with four distinct seasons, San Jose had by far the most “perfect” weather of any place I have lived. Of course, I hated the earthquakes and the traffic. Even now, San Jose is crowded, and the cost of living is sky high. I couldn’t make it there on a teacher’s salary for certain. I couldn’t afford rent, either. Sigh!

I am glad I lived there when I did (the late 1970s-1990s). Now, though, I am ready to move to another place, to another city where I can experience life in a new way. I guess you could say that I am ready to move on. I’ve been thinking a lot about moving, and about relocating for work for many years. I think the truth is that I am simply ready for a “change” of pace. I long for a different view, a new perspective, and a change that will bring some challenge to me. I hope to move next year, in May or early June, Lord willing. Of course, I will have to have a job by then, and I am dependent on the Lord for His provision to that end. Until I do move, I am mentally visualizing the whole process. I am thinking about locations, houses, decorating, and so forth — just so I can prepare myself for the real thing —when it happens, I mean. God has this well in hand, and with that assurance, I can rest in the details. He knows where He wants me settled, and He knows what my next steps are to be. I let this go, and I let Him bring the plans to fruition. I let Him do what He must, and I relax now as He prepares my way before Him. He is good, so very good to me!

In other news, I am home today on this blessed Sunday. My brother is visiting us from San Diego so we all stayed home from church to spend time with him. Tomorrow is my Dad’s 84th birthday, and my brother came over to go to dinner with us (tonight). I am thankful he is able to come to visit. I am thankful that he is willing to give up his time to come to visit. He is very busy with his business, yet he still makes the trip 2-3 times each year. My parents appreciate his visiting too, and we usually have a nice time together.

I can’t visit too much today since I have to complete my grading for my British Literature class. My prayer is that I can get everything done today so that I can post final grades by Wednesday (the due date). I also have to get myself prepared for the week, and I need to start to prep for my next series of courses at Regent University. I have to admit that I am busy with teaching. I do love that I am busy, though. I would rather be busy than be not — so praise to God — and thanks to His good name for His great gift of teaching contracts! Selah!

Thinking About Next Steps

My life is full right now. Mostly, it is full with teaching responsibilities and my dissertation, yet I have other things to take care of as well, and in all, my days, my weeks, and my months seem to be planned out. I don’t mind, really. I have never been very comfortable with the “go with the flow” way of life like some of my family and friends. I guess I am a planner by nature, and I like to know that my little ducks are all in a row, so to speak. I would rather be planned than not planned, and as such, I am very comfortable with boundaries and such. It is funny, but lately I have thought about planning and styles and the like simply from the standpoint that I have come to this place in time (in my life, I mean) whereby I need boundaries, fixed and stable boundaries. I need to know that what I expect to come to pass — will — come to pass, know what I mean? Some people are totally okay with flexible routines, schedules, and with not really knowing what each day will bring. There is always a measure of uncertainty in life, and I am not really talking about unforeseen circumstances or the chance for good/bad to happen. I get that, I do. I don’t have an issue with the variability of life. I know that my days belong to the Lord, and in this way, I am at His mercy and under His grace. I understand that my days are numbered as well. He knows my beginning and my end. It is just that lately I have come to realize how much I need to control the details of my life, in so much as I can control them. What I am getting at is this…for some people, being in control is a matter of power or authority whereas for others, being in control is a matter of comfort and routine. Let me explain…

I am part of the latter group. I need to know that certain things will happen each day at their appointed time. I am flexible, for sure, and I can handle change. I simply prefer to live a very controlled life that is predicated on what is already known. So for example, I go to bed at the same time and I wake up at the same time every single day. Sure, I may be off sometimes, but generally you will find me in bed by 11 and awake by 7 every single day. More so, I eat lunch and dinner about the same time every day as well. I find comfort in routine. I enjoy my boundaries, my “fixed zones,” and in this way, I find that I can rest and relax because I know what to expect.

I realize that it is impossible to know everything or to manage all expectations. I get it, and like I said, I understand and accept the variability of life. However, I also know that it is possible to live by fixed rules. It is a choice, really, to either live by a routine and schedule or to choose to live without one. Some people really like to “wing” things, and that is okay by me. However, I cannot do that without causing stress and upset (internal). I need to have my ducks in a row. Perhaps it is my OCD tendency, or perhaps it is just that over the course of my 54 years, I have come to learn that I am most settled and satisfied when things are stable, secure, and steady.

In my marriage, I lived without fixed boundaries for almost 30 years. In this constant pressure-cooker of an environment, I suffered great harm. In fact, I would say that I lived in a constant state of stress from the moment I married until the moment I found out I was to be single again. In the interim, I lived without boundaries, without fixed plans, and that variable setting caused me to suffer internally, mentally, and physically. The after effects of stress produced pain, headaches, stomach aches, and a nervous condition along with a deterioration of my mental state. In truth, I was a nervous wreck, and the longer I lived in this way, the more detrimental it became to my well-being.

Praise be to God, I am no longer in that place, but I still suffer with a lack of boundaries here in my home. Mostly, this is due to the fact that I live with my parents, and our life (collectively) is driven by their needs. I guess what I have come to realize, is that at this point in time, I simply need to live where I control all the outcomes and where I am not reliant upon anyone else. I need to be in control, and this means, in control of how I spend my days, how and where I live, and the way in which I live each and every day.

It has been a long time for me to accept my “lot” in life, and to come to terms with the fact that I struggle with control and with giving or letting others control my life. I am no longer willing to sacrifice or compromise in key areas of my life. I will always compromise, of course. And, yes, I will always sacrifice my time and my attention as the Lord leads, but I can no longer comfortably live where I am not able to call my own shots, so to speak.

It is weird to finally articulate it this way, but I have thought about this for a long, long time. I am simply not well-enough nor am I willing to place myself under any additional stress. I need to be at peace, and to create a place of rest whereby I can practice restoration of my mind, my body, and my health. You see, stress — prolonged and long term — stress can have life-shortening results. I have suffered from post-traumatic stress syndrome since I was a child. Then, I lived under another individual who controlled my life to such an extent that I had little authority over my own day. Now, that I have been set free, I have come to realize that in order to be well, really well — healthy emotionally and mentally — I have to be the one in control. I have to decide where I live, how I live, and the way in which I live so that I can manage my stress. This means that while there are times when I will not be in control, I understand that I have to work extra hard to make sure that all the other times are controlled (to the best of my ability).

In short, I have come to the place in my life where I am ready to say that I have to have “things” just so or else I will suffer physically, emotionally, and mentally again. It is not that I am complaining or saying I am weak, per se, it is just that I have accepted the fact that all the years of harm have made it impossible for me to live a normal life. My “normal” is a life that is clearly bounded, defined, and well-ordered. I have to live this way or else I cannot function. I will suffer physically, and as such, I will lose my sense of wellness.

Making Starts

I think what I am saying is the truth because the Lord has helped me come to this realization over the course of the past 6 years. In hindsight, I always thought it was odd that the Lord didn’t provide immediate solutions to me. Instead, He measured out His provision almost like a doctor prescribes medication for a medical condition. He gave me a little bit at a time, measure by measure, until I was able to handle more and more responsibility, and could take on the stress of a full-time job or of living on my own. As I reflect back on those early days, I remember how I was so desperate to be in control of my finances that I would beg the Lord to provide a job, any job, to me. He didn’t do it right away, and even though I would pray about it, time and time again, He said no or “not now.”  As I would pray about it, I would hear His still small voice say to me, “Rest, Carol. You must rest now.” He made me patiently wait to work, to move out on my own, to take on more and more control until I was ready to do so. I thought I was ready, but my Lord knew what was best for me. He made me wait because He knew that I needed to rest — I needed a really long, long, long rest.

Learning to rest was hard work, and in time, I did come to learn what “resting” means to the Lord. I learned that I needed downtime, physical and mental downtime. I needed time to heal from my emotional wounds, and I needed time to learn how to be single again. I struggled mightily at first, but in time, I came to appreciate the quiet solitude, the freedom to come and go as I please, and the power to say, “No,” when I didn’t feel well enough or feel up to doing something asked of me. As the days, weeks, and months wore on,  I came to enjoy my new found freedom. I came to enjoy living my life as I determined best. It was difficult for a long time, and I often wondered if I was making a right choice, a good decision, or whether I was following the Lord or my own selfish desires. In the end, though, I learned that I could discern between His will and my own. I learned that I could trust Him to provide for me, and I learned that in trusting the Lord to guide me through the decision making process, I could rest assured that He would also lead me to His promised outcome and reward. I learned that leaning on, trusting in, and relying upon the Lord was everything I needed to insure that I would not end up worse off than I started. I learned that the Lord was really my Good Shepherd, and as such, He was there to protect me and to keep me safe.

In all this process, I have been healed from so much hurt, the feelings of abandonment, and the disappointment that comes with significant failure. I’ve learned my boundaries are fixed by the Lord, and that in that way, I have had to learn where I begin and end, and where He begins and ends. You see, in this relationship that I share with the Lord, there are things that are in His purview and then there are things that are well within the limits of my own abilities. I had to learn what I can and cannot do, and in a like manner, I had to learn what He is able to do in and through me. In this way, I learned boundaries from Him. I learned how to lean on, abide in, and rely on Him for my everything. I learned proper order of things, what is my will and what is His will, and what I should do daily as part of our relationship. I learned how to be in relationship with the Lord, if that makes sense. I learned that our friendship is dynamic and not static. It is not about me always having my way or about me never taking any responsibility. No, rather it is about the way in which we walk together, Him and me, and how our journey processes along despite the hiccups, the odds and ends, and the trials that appear to come at me from a distance. I have learned how to be a companion and a friend to the Lord, and what matters is that this friendship is predicated upon His will for my life. I didn’t become His friend of my own accord. He granted me permission to be His friend, and it has been through His grace and mercy, His goodness, that I have been able to walk with Him as a friend, a companion, and a fellow worker walks.

As I begin to think about moving, physically moving, I realize that I cannot take this next bold step of faith until I am ready, really ready to do so. The Lord has said to me that I am ready, yet, I feel at times so overwhelmed by the process of it. I worry about it, fret over it, wonder and think (ponder) about the logistics of it. Yet, from deep inside of me I feel so strongly about moving, about being on my own again, about being in control and being responsible. I feel this movement swell within me and I believe that the Lord is telling me to “get ready, to be prepared, to make plans” because the time is coming when I will be given the “all clear,” the green light, and I will go. I will leave my parents home, and I will move across the country to settle in a new and unknown place. I will go to a place where I have never been before, and I will engage in business there (teaching), and I will live there for the rest of my life. I will conduct business, I will meet new people, and I will set down roots in this place of His choosing. I will no longer see my life as my own, but rather I will see it as His perfect and precise will for me, and in this way, I will know with such certainty that I am exactly where He wants me to be. I will be free, finally free, from the cords that have bound me to this place in time, from the pain and the sorrow of the memories of a life lived without joy, and from the oppressive influences that have followed me time and time again because of my unwillingness to stand for the Lord, to follow after Him, and to trust and rely upon Him. I will be free, and I will be at peace, at rest, and in a place of utter security. I will be safe. I will be protected. I will be provided for, cared for, and nurtured. I will be where He wants me to be, and in that thought, I find such hope, such goodness, mercy, and kindness.

Moving on is hard to do, but sometimes moving on is the best thing one can do. New doors are waiting to be opened, new opportunities are ready to be tested. In all, my life has become new again, brand new. I am excited, filled with eager anticipation, and so ready to step out and to go where He is sending me. He is good to me, so very good to me. Today, I give Him praise. I honor His holy name, and I lift up a sacrifice of praise for the Lord, my God, is good to me. He is good, so very good to me. I love you, Lord. Thank you for the privilege and for the opportunity to know you as my Lord, my Savior, and my Friend.

In Closing

As I close out this blog post today, I marvel at His willingness to show me how to become the person He has created me to be. He is patient and kind to me. He cares for me, loves me, and shelters me as I learn how to walk on after Him. He helps me, always seeking what is best for me. He goes before me, prepares my way, and makes all things possible so that I can be successful in what I do. My hand prospers because He has made the way smooth. He has clarified my purpose, and He has shown me the truth of His great mercy, His goodness, and His abiding love. He is good to me, so very good to me. I give Him all praise, all honor, and all glory this good, good day! Selah!

October 15, 2016

Happy Saturday!

It is a beautiful Saturday here in Phoenix. The sky is bright blue and the air temperature is hovering just around 73. Our high is still forecast to hit the mid-90s, which does seem high for October. Still, it is lovely outside and that means that today is shaping up to be a great, great day!

I have a lot of work to do today. My British Literature class is ending and that means that I have to get all my grades posted by October 19. I have essays to grade along with some exams, but overall, I am blessed to have this class over now. It has been a good experience for me. One thing I have noted is that it is very difficult for me to respond to student posts during the week, at the least, in a Literature class. In a composition class, the problem seems to go away. I pretty much know my subject well when it comes to writing, but in a literature class, I have to know the material ahead of time, and well, it is my ability to read all the material before each week that has caused me trouble. In hindsight, I think it would have been better for me to not take on this class until I had the chance to read all selections. But, then I would have missed this opportunity, so instead of waiting until I was ready, I just leaped into the fray! Oh well, live and learn!

My next set of classes are first year sequence/composition courses. I should be able to handle these classes along with my other teaching duties. I think I will be okay, Lord providing, so for now, I am resting in this matter, and as they say, I am “letting it go!”

Fruits of One’s Labor

It is really funny how October brings thoughts of the harvest. Lately, I have marveled at the fruits of my labor. Yes, I mean “fruit” as in produce. I have worked very hard this past semester, and I am at the mid-point, ready for the semester to end. It is odd to think this way, how in just 6-8 weeks, my fall semester will be over. This means that I will be well into my dissertation, and I will be preparing for my final defense (and graduation). It is crazy to think how quickly my time as a PhD student and candidate is wrapping up. I have my defense date set on the calendar now, and in less than 2 weeks, I will begin collecting my data and starting the final push through to the end of my research project. I will also be completing another semester of teaching, and with that feat, I will be well into the middle of my 4th year of teaching college courses.

I was thinking about this yesterday, how just four years ago, I was struggling to know what to do. I still worry about my path, as in “am I in the best place,” but I have relented and accepted that at this point in time, I am where I am. I mean, I have passed the “point of no return,” and in that sense, I cannot go backward, but I must go forward. This truth was brought into focus clearly when I interviewed at United Healthcare last summer. I was selected to interview for a good job, a job as an analyst, and a job in which I would have been a good fit. However, after the interview, I realized something wasn’t quite right, and then while I was waiting to hear back on whether I would be called to interview again, I knew in my heart that I was meant to be a teacher. Granted, I am not the best teacher I can be, and I do make stupid mistakes some times. But, I knew when I was speaking to the manager that I was in the wrong place — wrong fit — so to speak. I heard myself speaking to him, and all of a sudden, I thought to myself, “I am such a professor!” Yes, I couldn’t help but put on my professor hat, and when I did, well…I just knew where I belonged. No matter how much I mess up in this way, at the least, I can feel confident that I am where I belong. I was meant to be a teacher — for good or for bad — and I am determined as such to stick this way out.

I’ve thought a lot about this fact, how I am teaching now, and how I cannot really do anything different with my life. It is not that I want to do anything different, it is just that I am content to remain in this path, and as such, I feel that this is where I belong. I wonder sometimes how my life would have turned out had I stayed at CVS Caremark. I liked that job a lot, and I enjoyed my coworkers immensely. But, that was before I started my PhD, and in hindsight, I see that I made the best choice when I decided to give up the stress and the schedule for teaching English at Grand Canyon University. Yes, I cannot imagine doing what I did — keeping my grades high — pursuing scholarship and such while working 9-5 in corporate business. God was good to me, and He provided a way out of that situation. I was blessed to exit, but even with the open door, this way, learning how to teach, etc., has been a tough “row to hoe,” as they say. I have had a steep learning curve, and frankly, I still don’t always feel like I am a superstar when it comes to teaching college classes.

My fruit has been hard-pressed, hard-borne, and with it has come a lot of painful experience. In all, though, I can say that I have learned to endeavor, to rest and to trust in the Lord for His provision. I have had to let go of my need to produce, and instead, I have had to accept that I am helping students produce. It is a weird change for me, to no longer be the producer and to become the agent that activates production in others. Yes, I have learned agency, and in this way, I have learned what it means to come along side another and to work to benefit someone other than myself.

Jehovah El Roi - The God Who Sees

Today, I was thinking about God and the way He has helped me specifically to overcome adversity and uncertainty. One of the names of God is Jehovah El Roi, which means “God who sees me.” We see this name used by Hagar after she flees from her mistress, Sarah. Sarah has treated her badly, and God had told Hagar to return to Sarah and to submit to her. He promised that He would take care of her, and that her child would be the father of a great nation.  In Genesis 16:13-15 (KJV) we read Hagar’s response to the angel that was sent to comfort her,

And she called the name of the LORD that spake unto her, Thou God seest me: for she said, Have I also here looked after him that seeth me? Wherefore the well was called Beerlahairoi; behold, [it is] between Kadesh and Bered. And Hagar bare Abram a son: and Abram called his son’s name, which Hagar bare, Ishmael.

As I read this passage of scripture, I am reminded of how often God sent angels to minister to people who were in the midst of trial, of circumstance, and of misery. In the case of Hagar, she was used and abused by Abram and Sarah in order to circumvent God’s promise of a child. Hagar had no rights of her own so when Sarah said for her to go and sleep with her husband, she had to obey. Likewise, when Abram took Hagar and she conceived a child by him, she had no rights over her body or the outcome of the encounter. After she conceived, and then later when Ishmael was born, Hagar was treated very badly by Abraham and Sarah. Yet, God saw her pain and ministered to her. He was faithful to her, and He kept His word — He delivered on His promise to her.

In a like way, I have seen God keep His word to me as well. He has been faithful to me, and He has seen me in the midst of my distress. As I reflect back on my life, especially the past 10 years or so, I realize that often God sees us in the middle of painful life experience. I think back to what my life was like in 2007. My ex-husband had suffered a major illness, and as a result, was not able to work more than part-time (at best). The medication he was given was causing him to faint, and he was so unwell that he slept most of the time. I was carrying the ball for us, bearing the weight of keeping our home and house afloat. I had a 14 year old son back then, and my life was miserable and uncomfortable. In a year’s time, thereabouts, I would come to find out my ex-husband was having online affairs, relationships with women via the internet and phone. I would also have to deal with his brain bleed (stroke), and the aftermath of another life-threatening illness. I was home schooling my son, working from home as a website designer, and trying to manage other responsibilities including helping to care for my now deceased father-in-law. My parents needed my help as well, and I was run ragged, pulled in every direction as I tried to manage my life, keep all my balls in the air, and make sure we had a roof over our heads.

Since that time, so much has happened to me. I mean, I went from being married to separated to divorced. I left my work-from-home job as a website designer to return to graduate school to study English Literature. I then worked in several jobs, part-time and full-time, until I was able to transition into teaching college courses as an adjunct instructor. I graduated with my masters degree and I am about to finish my PhD. My son graduated from home school high school, transitioned to college, and is about ready to graduate with his bachelor’s degree in music. My parents live with me now, and while I am hard-pressed sometimes for lack of privacy and my own “life,” I see the Lord as my provider (Jehovah-Jireh) and as my protector (Jehovah-Sabboath).

When I was in the middle of this life transition, the Lord came to me and He promised that He would take care of me. He promised me that He would provide for me and that He would protect me. In truth, He has done both. He has faithfully kept His word to me. He has delivered on His promises. 

My life has seen the miracle of the Lord’s faithful word. I have come to believe that what He tells me is truth. It has not been easy for me, but the Lord has been my steadfast defender, and He has made a way for me. I could list out all the ways in which He has provided to me, but the list would be too voluminous to share. Suffice it to say, whatever need I have had, He has seen to it. He is Jehovah-Jireh, and He is the Lord or God who provides to me. Selah!

Today, as I sit here and I think about all the Lord has done for me, I marvel at His goodness, His graciousness, and His guidance. I am where I am today because the Lord has provided a way for me to go. He has protected me from harm, and He has met my needs with sufficiency. I still struggle to accept His gifts and His offerings at times, and I suffer some when I deny His desire to provide for me in certain ways. Mostly, I do this because I don’t understand what He is saying to me. I think I know what is best or I am afraid of what He is offering to me. Often, I have to step out in faith to trust Him for His provision, and sometimes what He is asking me to do is similar to Moses and the children of Israel when they were asked to leave what they knew (and hated) for that which they did not know and feared. Yes, the Lord often will ask me to trust Him to see me across the figurative Red Sea, and I will falter because what appears before me is a freaking HUGE lake. Yet, from His perspective, it is a tiny stream and He has provided a way for me to cross over safely. How I doubt His abilities, His securities, and His provision for my life. Sigh!

My plans for today are minor compared to the plans the Lord has for my life, in general. I am stepping out in faith this good day to trust Him as my leader and guide. He is Jehovah Raah - Our Shepard who tenderly leads us, who loves us, and who will keep us safe!

In Closing

As I close out this post for today, I marvel at His goodness. I give Him praise, thanksgiving, and honor this good day because He has truly seen to all my needs. He loves me, provides for me, and cares for me. He is my God who sees me in the midst of my distress and pain. He provides what I need, when and where I need it, and He does everything with goodness and with grace. He is my God, my protector and defender, my strong tower — and — He is my provider, my sustainer, and my portion. My needs are met completely, satisfactorily, and with measure upon measure by my Lord, my Savior, and my King. I worship I AM this good, good day! Selah!

October 14, 2016

It is Official!

Miracles of miracles - I have a date set for my proposal defense. As of this morning, I will be defending my dissertation proposal on mediated communication within the American megachurch. I am excited as all “get out,” and I cannot wait to begin my research phase. It is a little scary for me to stop and think that in less than two weeks, I will be on a conference call with three professors, and I will be defending my proposed research project. I have been working on this project for almost a year and a half, and here it is, just two weeks until I get a “yay or nay” to take the next step. If, Lord willing, my committee is pleased with my work, I will begin the data collecting phase of my research. I have no idea, really, of how long it will take to collect website data from 15 megachurch websites. The process itself should be really interesting, and regardless of what I find eventually, I think the whole experience will be phenomenal. I mean, after all, you only get to do a dissertation once in your life (well, most folks anyhow), so the thought of that fact just makes me go all “giddy.” The Lord has me well-covered, and I am sure everything will work out for my best. He has this in His blessed hand, and I am trusting Him to see me through to the end. Staying strong through to the finish line! Selah!

Preparing My Mind

It is a good day, then, to reflect on all that the Lord has done for me. I am in awe of His power and His presence, and I stop today to give Him my time (my worship time). He is worthy of my time, my attention, and my praise — so I stop what I am doing — and I lift up a sacrifice of praise this good, good day.

I am not sure if you have had to give a defense before, but it is a weirdly odd practice. In truth, unless you are a lawyer or you have been called to give a deposition at some point in time, you probably wouldn’t normally do one. A defense in argument is simply stating your proposed position and then making a clear argument as to why your position is valid. I teach my English students how to defend their position on various topics as part of the curriculum used for composition II classes. I love this format, and it is my preferred composition class whenever possible. I guess you could say that I love argument (not arguing, mind you), and that I love the logical and analytical way used to present a defense.

The dictionary defines the word, “defense,” as “the action of defending from or resisting attack” or as “the case presented by or on behalf of the party being accused or sued in a lawsuit” (Dictionary.com, 2016). Merriam-Webster includes “an argument in support or justification” as part of the definition of defense, and in my case, this last part fits my proposal well. In my proposal defense, I will be defending by argument (with facts and justification) my method for analyzing megachurch websites. I will lay out my case for my project, my research questions, my choice of population for study, and my proposed approach in order to be granted permission to proceed to the data collection and analysis phase of the research itself. It is very logical, ordered, and the process used, ensures that (1) I know what I am doing, and (2), my research is worthy of the time, the attention to detail, and the overall cost associated with producing scholarship. My prayer is that my committee will feel my preparation time in writing my defense has been worth it, and that I have made a strong argument or case for my research study.

Only the Lord knows the outcome, but my heart and my mind are convinced that I am doing exactly what He desires me to do. This means that my entire proposed project is of His design. I am trusting Him for the outcome, and as such, I am trusting Him for the presence I need to defend my projected research. He is good, so very good to me! Selah!

Thus, between now and the 25th of October, I need to prepare my mind for my defense. Mostly, this just means to get my little ducks in a row, to lay out my case in a very logical and ordered fashion, and then walk my committee through the entire process. I can do it; I know I can! He is good — He will guide me, lead me right on through it, and provide the “stamina” needed to finish well. I believe it in faith; I claim it in faith; and I rest in it — yes, in faith. He who is faithful will see me through to completion. It is so, it is so!

My plans, therefore, are to proceed with my project in a very straightforward manner. I am going to work my way through each step and make sure to thoroughly detail and take notes along the way. I am confident that He will help me to “dot the eyes and cross the tees” as the saying goes — so that I am covered — and not lacking any sufficiency in the method. It is a challenge, of course, or I should say, “it will be a challenge,” to manage my schedule. I have a lot of work to do starting in November, and with school in high-gear, well, my time is going to be “slammed.” But, praise be to God, I am endeavoring nonetheless and I will do this work. I will do it with His help alone.

He is my ROCK, my REFUGE, and my STRONG TOWER. He has me so well-covered, praise be to God, so well covered. In truth, I have November as a good month for research. In this month alone, I have the 11th as a holiday and the entire week of Thanksgiving off. This means that I will have one three-day weekend to collect data and then analyze it. I also have essays to grade, classes to manage, and the like, but somehow the Lord will prevail. He will see me through it all. I believe it. I believe it.

So with this in mind, today, I give Him thanks and praise. I pray,

I am ready, Lord. I am ready to do this work, and I thank you that this is the work you have chosen for me to do. I ask now that you will see to all the details, the dates, and the data collection. I need you to manage this project, and I give you all the praise, the honor, and the glory this good, good day. You alone are worthy to receive all praise, so I lay down my desires, my needs and my wants, so that you can be honored in this work. You will take the credit, not I. You will receive the praise, not my name. I give all things to you, and to you alone, for you are so worthy to receive recognition, honor, and praise today. I ask for your blessing, your provision, and your goodness over my project, my proposal defense, and my process as I undertake this final step in my PhD program. I ask this all now in the name of Jesus, Amen!

In Closing

As I close this blog post today, I am humbled at His mighty work, His provision, and yes, His goodness toward me. I cannot even begin to tell you how much it means to me to be at this final place, this last hurdle, and to know that I am so close to finishing what has been the biggest dream of my life. The Lord has truly granted me the desires of my heart, and praise be to God, I will give Him all the glory because of it. He is good, so very good, and I will shout out with the rocks and the stones in order to give Him praise this good, good day. Amen!