April 30, 2010

Finalization of Me

Oh, how I have enjoyed learning about my personality. It has been interesting and so refreshing to finally read about the whys and wherefores of my being. I am fascinated by this kind of thing, so much that I think I probably should have become a researcher of some sort. I really do enjoy solving puzzles, finding answers, and coming up with solutions. It is nice to know that there are others out there who are just like me -- annoying and irritating, and perceived as being arrogant (which I hate, but in truth, I often come off that way). I am what I am, as Pop-eye used to say. I just now have far greater respect for myself than I did before I accepted all my quirkiness as being part of my personality.

So where does that leave me? I think it simply lets me let go of the past, and embrace the future, knowing full well that I am ready to take on whatever comes my way. I have struggled to study the past, being propelled into it by my marriage crisis. I don't really like revisiting the past; I would much prefer to focus on the future. But alas, sometimes you have to go back and analyze your mistakes, just to make sure you are not repeating yourself and doomed to fail in the exact same way. I have done this, ad nauseam, and am now ready to put the past behind me. It isn't like I am just flushing the past away, it is really that I recognize and have accepted the fact that the past cannot be changed. There is nothing I can do about 10-20-30 years ago. All those events and opportunities (whether taken or missed) are long dead. They are dead, dead, dead. All I can do now is make sure I don't continue in faulty behavior patterns (habits), relive past mistakes, and follow the wrong path (not the path I was meant to be on).

Finding [the] my right path takes courage. I have had to look adversity in the face, accept the challenge, and then pick myself up, dust myself off, and start moving on down the road. I am a systems-builder, a person who finds innovative and creative solutions to tough problems. There isn't a problem I cannot solve, a challenge that cannot be met, and opportunity to large for me to tackle. I can do it, I just have to make sure I don't shoot myself in the foot first. I need a plan (I have one), a strategy for accomplishing that plan (I have one), and the guts to take it all on (I have it -- I am ready -- I can do this thing.)

Move on. Moving forward. Next phase. I am ready now. I am ready to see what the future holds for me, and excited about the potential I see. I know it will not be easy. I don't mind challenge, in fact, I thrive on the "not possible." I may act like I quit, but I never give up. I just don't give in. I am fiercely loyal, faithful to the end, and will not die until I die. I just won't lay down and roll over -- for no one. I will not do anything I see as being worthless or having no value. I am a stick in the mud, yes, a nuisance. I simply will not budge.

I have wrestled with the Lord so many times and have cried out to Him saying, "Lord, I am such a stick in the mud. I will not budge on this point." He laughs at me because He knows that being a stick in the mud is actually a good thing, in the right hand, and with the right purpose and pursuit. I am loyal, I am faithful, I can be counted on to see the task through to the end. I don't quit. My only issue is that I tend to wrestle with the Lord, which is not really a good thing, and usually ends (always ends) with Him winning. LOL! I learn a lot though and always come away having changed my mindset a bit. I guess it is a good way of wrestling, and I am glad He lets me do it. He does get tired of it, and often will ask if I am ready to give up yet. It reminds me of my older brother whenever he would wrestle with me. He was seven years older, a big tough guy, and I was this little scrawny girl. I could never win -- but it was sure fun trying to do it just the same! I am glad that the Lord loves me with my stick in the mud attitude.

My goals now have been shaped, and I am ready to start them. I have finally accepted that I am good at certain things, that I prefer to look at the world a certain way. This is no longer an issue for me, but rather more of a release. I don't have to conform anymore. I don't have to be like my Mom, who is a sweet loving patient Guardian-Provider type person. I don't have to be a manager or artisan-promoter (someone who sells themselves). I can just be my weird, very shy, and often misunderstood self, the self that works really hard, does a great job, and often can accomplish more than most people simply through shear determination and will. It is who I am. I am content to be me. I am glad, I am relieved, and I am ready to start living my life as myself -- no regrets, no guilty feelings, no inadequacies. Just me. Just plain old me.

Grace vs Truth

I met with my friend yesterday and we had a nice chat. Upon leaving, she mentioned something to me that just stuck -- you know how that is -- something you cannot leave go of and feel obligated to think on. Well, I am sure she didn't mean to do so, after all, it was just in passing conversation; but, it got me to thinking and I have been doing that since she dropped me off at home. In fact, I woke up thinking about it, and here I am now blogging about it.

I blogged yesterday about taking a personality profile test (my friend's idea). She had gotten on the subject of Spiritual Gifts and we chatted about taking those tests before. I have taken them a number of times, various ones (depending on your belief in the gifts as well as how they are classified). She then mentioned the Keirsey Temperament Sorter profile, and suggested I take it online. I couldn't find one that was free, but stumbled on the Jung Typography Test (Myers-Briggs), which is similar and also references the Keirsey's Temperament profiles. It was free, so I took it. Long story short, it said I have a Rational Temperament type. This is from Wikipedia:

"The Rational temperament is one of the four temperaments defined by David Keirsey. Correlating with the NT (intuitive–thinking) Myers-Briggs types, the Rational temperament comprises the following role variants (listed with their corresponding Myers-Briggs types): Architect (INTP), Fieldmarshal (ENTJ), Inventor (ENTP), and Mastermind (INTJ)."

I was then classified as being a Mastermind (INTJ) role variant (or type of Rational). All that to say, I tend to be "abstract in speech and utilitarian in pursing my goals. My greatest strength is strategy." (My personalization of what it says on Wikipedia)

Ok, interesting diversion, and yes I turn out to be a Rational-Mastermind almost to a tee. I found the exact same thing when I took the Visual-Spatial Awareness test -- I scored almost perfectly. I guess I am a case-in-point, LOL! Now, on to the point of this blog. As we were leaving the cafe, my friend and I were further discussing how we are (temperament wise), and she said that she was a grace person and that her friend (another friend) was a truth person. Then she mentioned Randy Alcorn's book, "The Grace and Truth Paradox: Responding with Christlike Balance." I have not read this book, but my friend suggested it to me. We talked briefly about the difference between being a truth person and a grace person, and then left until we meet again next week (boy, do I have some news to share with her! LOL!)

This topic has never left me, as I blogged initially. I mean, I went to bed thinking about it, and woke up dreaming about it. It has just stuck to me like glue.

Whenever that happens it is usually something the Lord wants me to explore, to think about, to understand. I usually go with the flow here, often thinking and then thinking, and then mediating on the Word, and somehow it all comes together for me -- I just get some new wrinkle of truth. This is the "new" truth I discovered, which was quite transformational for me.

Ta-Dum - I am a truth seeking person. I think it goes hand-in-hand with my discovery that my personality/temperament is Rational-Mastermind. As a Rational person, I am driven to discover truth, to understand truth, and to experience truth. Truth is everything to me. I am a "just the facts" girl, and I analyze (used to think I was sick and weird for doing this) everything to the nth degree. I do not make a decision until I have looked everything over closely and come to a conclusion about said thing. It is a long process for me, sometimes taking me months and months to do, but in the end, I am able to fully embrace the "truth" discovered and then move on.

As a truth-seeking person, I favor legalism (right and wrong). I have always said that I am "black and white," very narrow minded and always seeking justice. This is part of my personality too. This need for justice and fairness has caused me a lot of hurt over the course of my life, because as my mother used to say (and Mom's are always right): "Life is not fair."

The nugget of truth that came to me this morning was simply this: truth seekers embody the Law. Truth seekers are legalists who use the law to keep everything under control. They like the rigid and inflexible aspects of the law (break it and die). They like that the Law is fixed, it will not change, and in their mind, the Law has been settled -- no deviation from it.

The truth seeker person is in many ways the exact opposite of the grace seeker person. The grace seeker person sees everything with compassion and flexibility. To this kind of person, grace is given freely because they intuitively understand that the Law, while good, is not always the best and last answer to every question. Sometimes there just has to be some leeway, some give and take.

As I thought about this more, I realized that in many ways truth seeking people want to apply the Law (the moral code of the Bible) to every aspect of their lives. While it is an honorable thing to want to do that, often they do it in such a way as to exclude any measure of grace. In short, we tend to be unforgiving of ourselves and others who fall short of what the Law says. We are like the Pharisees of the Bible. We love the law, even when we know we cannot abide it.

The truth of course lays in the understanding of what the law is and isn't, and then in accepting what Grace has done and is doing now. I had a pretty good foundation in Biblical law, and felt confident that I understand all about Grace. The thing was that I didn't realize just how lawyer like I had become, and how much I relied on the law to monitor and control my own behavior.

I guess the gist of this post is this: as Christians, we are no longer under the tenets of the Law. The Perfect Law of Christ has superseded, supplanted the Law of the Old Testament (the rules and regulations). We are now under Grace, and have liberty to know that the old law, which was external, has now been placed inside of us, and is kept by the Holy Spirit of God. It is no longer up to me to keep the Law. I keep the Law because He lives within me and keeps it for me. I was not able to keep it before, I am not able to keep it now. Only the Grace of God can keep the law, and that comes through Faith in Jesus Christ, and the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.

So, another drum roll...that means that I am no longer a truth seeking person. I no longer seek the truth in the Law, but rather I know the Law, and I know that no one can keep it aside from Grace. Therefore, I am a grace giving person, a person who knows and understands that the Law cannot be kept, and that the only measure of freedom is through Grace. I give Grace to others because God has given Grace to me.

Kind of convoluted, but still great truth to me. I am once again set at liberty, and am living out this perfect freedom that is mine through Christ Jesus, my Lord.

April 29, 2010

Learning to Accept Myself

I am learning how to accept myself, and it is so hard to do. I have lived my entire life feeling inadequate and unable to perform well (to other people's expectations). Over the course of time, I have developed patterns and habits that have shielded me (excuses, really) and have provided a way out, you know, a way out of undesired circumstances. Now that I am about to embark on this new journey, I need to come to terms with my own self, my own personality, and all the quirks and habits I have developed during the past 40 plus years of life. Not a small feat, agh!

The good news is that as I spend more time before the Lord, opening myself up to Him, and seeking His wisdom and guidance for my life, I am slowly coming back around to my true self. The Lord has gently and graciously peeled back the layers of old onion skin, exposed the new fresh skin, and given me time to harden off (like in planting sense -- to become firm, steadfast, immovable). This entire process has been long, but well worth the time and investment emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and even physically. I have grown and changed and learned so much about who I really am -- I have actually come to like myself again. PTL!

Self-esteem aside, I have come to have a better appreciation of myself (I would say right appreciation, but I don't think it was wrong to begin with, just hidden for such a long time). I am more open now to let my inside show, and to embrace the me that has been living inside, hidden and afraid to come out every day. That fear, the fear of rejection and abandonment, has been replaced with a healthy self-esteem, a healthy sense of who I am, what skills and abilities I have, and what God-given gifts I have been blessed with and endowed. I am at a good place mentally, a place where I can accept criticism, where I can accept the truth, and even where I can revisit some old territory and get a fresh sense of vision. It is a good place, and I am so glad to have finally made it through the long dark hallway leading out from deep in my heart.

Some things I have come to know (or learn anew) about myself:
  • I am a rational person
  • I am logical and analytical
  • I love to solve puzzles and come up with solutions
  • I am highly technical, preferring technical type work to all others
  • I like to work alone
  • I enjoy other people, but also like quiet time to myself
  • I like to be in control
  • I like things to be very neat and tidy
  • I like to draw conclusions and come to settlements
  • I want things to be right, to be just, and to be honorable
  • I long for truth in all matters
  • I judge often
  • I critically evaluate and analyze things before making any decision
  • I make decisions and then I stick to them
  • I prefer decisiveness to indecisiveness
  • I am often perceived as being arrogant when in reality I am really self-confident
  • I am a pragmatist
  • I am a realist
  • I am honest about my abilities and will not do things I KNOW I cannot do
  • I will tell you the truth, even if it hurts me to do so
  • I will try very hard not to hurt your feelings, but if truth is at stake, I will choose truth
  • I prefer things to be literal, black and white
  • I like to think
  • I like to study theories and methods
  • I like to contemplate the future
  • I like to spend time thinking about problems and coming up with solutions
  • I like to live my life planned out, not happenstance, and I try very hard to keep to all my commitments
  • Lastly, I will not waste my time on anything that seems to lack value (or return on value)
In thinking about my personality type, I decided to take a profile test (actually my friend, Karen, asked me to do it--so I did!) I took the Jung Typography Test online, and was really surprised to find out that I am classified as:

Rational --> Mastermind

I am a Rational personality, with the emphasis on being a Mastermind. This type sums up me so well -- you could not have written a more close description of how I think and do things. More over, I am introverted (which I already knew). This combination means that I tend to not favor social situations, that I prefer quiet meditation, and that I choose more solitary type work.

After reading through this personality profile, and the job suggestions (careers that match it), I realized that the job I had here at home as a designer and server administrator is actually a really good fit. I have wanted to teach college for a long time, but I always imagined that I could teach, and not that I actually would do it. My friend, Martha, always used to say that "we like the IDEA of doing something, and not the actual doing of it." Truer words were never spoken because this is exactly my brain wiring. I like the idea of teaching college, but really do not want to do it. I get it now, I really get it. I can teach, for sure, but when push comes to shove, I will always prefer to let others do it instead of me. The same with being in leadership. I can be a leader, and I have been a leader (director and up) many times. I don't choose to be a leader, I don't choose to be in power -- but if need be, I will do it (that is usually what happens -- I get asked when no one else will do it). Funny how that works, but it always seems to be the case.

So here I am contemplating finding the "right" job and the one I really don't want to do is the one that fits me best. Go figure. I think the Lord waited for such a time as this to spring that little ditty on me. Yea! He does stuff like that -- waits until we are ready to accept the truth, and then voila! The truth is sitting right there in front of our noses. I love Him so much -- He is so good to me!!

As I look back over my life and reflect on what I have learned today, I came to the conclusion about a number of things. First of all, I understand now why I have never liked working from home. I have never liked being in charge of my own business. I much prefer to go to work elsewhere and do work for someone else (stemming from me not wanting to be in charge of things). Secondly, I also understand why I don't like people telling me what to do. This may sound arrogant, but I often know what needs doing, and I am usually really efficient about doing it. I don't like being micromanaged all the time, being held accountable to some false system of things, when in truth, I already have everything under control. It is a tick and pet peeve for me -- something really irksome. It is sort of: you stay out of my business, and I will stay out of yours. The problem is that often (in the past) I was employed in lower level jobs where I had someone over me who was less efficient than I was (I know arrogant, right?) It bugged the you-know-what out of me to be told to do something differently WHEN the person doing the telling had no clue about how to do the thing in the first place! LOL

Next, I have grasped the significance of what I am like, what I like doing, and what I think I am designed to do. This has been a huge hurdle, simply from the standpoint that I have been really confused about this (all of it) for such a long time. I believed erroneously that the "job" I was meant to do was in teaching college. This is the job I decided to do back when I was in college. I had left a highly skilled technical job and the last thing I wanted to do was stay in that field. To me, that was the old job -- the job before college. The new job, aka career, needed to be bigger, better, and far more satisfying. The ha-ha-ha thing of all this is that after I graduated and then went back to work, the job I ended up doing, ta-dum, was a highly skilled technical job. Rats, caught in my own mouse trap!

Yes, you see that for all my education and such, I returned to the thing I knew best: technical work. That was the job I did, it was the job I knew, and it was the job that I consistently chose. Weird, huh?

My new found understanding leads me back round to this point. As a Rational-Mastermind personality this kind of behavior is typical. We (RMs or INTJ as Jung calls them) tend to choose the work we know best. We tend to go and stick with what we know. So no matter how hard I tried to change careers, I always ended right back where I started. It is fate, it is kismet, it is destiny (according to the world); but to me it is God ordained usefulness shining through my very being. Yes, I was created to worship Him, and one of the ways I am to do that is through my practical and useful work. My issue has been with not wanting to use what I know and seek instead to try something different. Rather than rely on what I know I can do and do well, I wanted some other flavor, some other skill set that is not in keeping with my real personality. I wanted to cast off my very interests simply because they had become distasteful to me (under unpleasant circumstances). It is akin to tossing the baby out with the bath water -- you know -- rather than just changing the water (new job, new company, new people); instead, I wanted to dump the whole thing in exchange for something radically new.

LOL! Here I am laughing out loud -- actually contemplating doing a job that I once eschewed as being so unfavorable and unpalatable to me. Here I am receiving from the Lord's hand a job that is so up my alley, so meshed to my personality, and I am saying, "No thanks -- I want something different!" The Lord does indeed know me best, and I am coming round to saying now (first): "Yes, Lord...your way, always your way!" Truthfully, His way is always best!

Casting Your Cares On Him

Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. ~1 Peter 5:7

This is probably one of my favorite Bible verses, a verse I repeat to myself nearly every day. I just love the way Peter writes this, reminding us that God cares for us and that He asks us to cast (to place) our cares (our worries, our fears, our anxieties) upon Him. What a wonderful promise to us, simply to know that no matter what we are facing today or tomorrow, God cares about us and knows exactly what we are facing. He is ready, Dear Sister or Brother, to take your cares upon His Mighty Shoulders and bear your burden. Take the time now to cast whatever care is weighing you down upon the loving back of our Almighty and Merciful Savior.

Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. ~Matthew 11:29

Jesus, our most Merciful God, is offering His yoke, His hand to us, to help us as we walk through this troubled and oft difficult time. His yoke is easy for us to wear, not burdensome or heavy. His ways are gentle and mild, they are manifested in such a way to give rest to our weary souls. Why do we resist His yoke? Why do we not take the hand of the One who offers rest to our souls?

I don't know, except for what the Word of God tells us: there is no one who does good. The Word tells us that we have all fallen short of the glory of God, that we have all sinned and gone astray (our own way). In short, we do not want to take any yoke upon us, and especially not the yoke of a Savior. We would rather continue to bear the heavy burden and the yoke of slavery, instead of the one that would lead us to liberty and freedom. Our yoke, the yoke that we are born into is a yoke of slavery to sin and death. Romans 6:23 tells us "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." Our chosen way, our chosen path leads to death; but God's free gift, His free way out (His yoke) leads to eternal life through Jesus Christ.

I have experienced this yoke of slavery. I have experienced what it feels like to be worn down, feeling so helpless and overwhelmed. I know how hard it is to try and keep your head above the water, and not drown in your own sorrow and misery. I have been there, done that one many a time. But, the day I took His yoke upon me, was the day I found true freedom and liberty. It has been a long process of learning how to walk along side of the Lord. When you take His yoke, you agree to walk with Him (as two cows or oxen walk together -- yoked at the neck). The yoke is a training tool, not an item of prison or penalty. Oxen were yoked together so that the younger, untrained animal would learn how to work the land along side the mature and experienced animal. The young oxen would learn how to do it's work, it's job, and would not struggle to run loose and into it's own way. So it is with us when we choose to be yoked together with the Lord. He is the Master who trains us how to live a life of humble submission, how to walk with Him, to learn from Him, and how to ultimately do work for His name. If we can humble ourselves and take His yoke, we will learn how to be like Him.

Unfortunately, many believers in Christ simply will not do that. They will accept the gift God has given to them -- namely eternal life -- but they will not choose to take His yoke on them. They want "their cake and eat it too" so to speak. They want to be freed from the penalty of sin (which is death), but they do not want to be saved into eternal glory. Rather, they want to still be able to tread upon the dainties of sinful life (to choose really, to dance about it, to dip their toe back into that cesspool -- should they ever choose to do so again). It is quite a sad state of affairs when a child of God chooses to accept the hand of the Savior, but reject the way He chooses to train them up. You cannot have it both ways. Jesus said it this way:

"No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon." ~Matthew 6:24

You simply cannot serve God and man (yourself or some other person). It is impossible to be loyal to two different, opposing forces. It is a natural law, a law seen throughout nature and creation. Polar opposites do not attract; they repel one another. It is exactly the same way with us, for we will either serve God or we will choose to serve another master. Which master will it be? If you take His yoke on you, then you will have chosen to serve God. If you choose to keep the yoke of slavery, then you will have chosen to serve the master of this world or Satan. It is quite a simple thing when you really think about it.

Cast your cares on God today. Choose to serve Him, and take His gentle and mild yoke on you. Learn from Him and He will instruct you so that you can live out this life here on earth, AND be prepared to spend eternity with Him in His Glory.

April 28, 2010

How do I love thee

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, --- I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! --- and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
~Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Happiness, Part Two

After I posted the previous blog entry (on the "Pursuit of Happiness"), I sat back down at my computer to reflect on what I had written. These thoughts came up into my head: "I cannot imagine being any more happy than I am right now." I mean these words--I sincerely mean them.

Right now, in the midst of my life change and all the unknowns out there, I am completely, totally, 100% satisfied in my self, in my inner being, and in my life. There is nothing that could come to me that would bring any more "happiness." There is nothing I need, nothing I lack, nothing I want. I am completely and utterly filled with joy, peace, rest, contentment. I am satisfied in the present circumstance, and I am satisfied in the future promise of change. I am content. Yes, I can say that today, I am content in all things, whether the events of the past, the present condition, and the unknown of the future. I am content in all things. Amen, so be it, thy will be done.

The Pursuit of Happiness

I read on a blog recently that the "purpose of life is to be happy." I thought about that for a moment and then shook my head and said, "No, I don't think so." I have never been one to believe that our purpose in life revolves around ourselves, our being "something." This "Happiness Doctrine" doesn't jive with Scripture, and it is a purely worldly philosophy, one that seeks to place all focus upon the self, upon self-motivation, and and self-achievement.

The writers of the Puritan Catechism (and The Shorter Catechism) say that the "chief aim of man" (or purpose in modern words) is this:

Q: What is the chief end of man?
A: Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever

1 Corinthians 10:31: Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.

Romans 11:36. For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.

Psalm 73:24-26: Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: but God isthe strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.

John 17:22, 24: And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one... Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.

The purpose of man's life is to glorify God, end of story. In doing so, man will receive joy or "the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires." (Merriam-Webster) Happiness, according to the dictionary is a state of mind or feeling that is "characterized by contentment, love, satisfaction, pleasure, or joy." (Wikipedia) The two emotions are similar, in fact, happiness stems from joy, which in the Greek means to be happy (Chara). So to be happy requires that you find joy. Joy comes from your relationship with God, and is part and parcel to fulfilling your purpose in life.

When you seek to find happiness within your self, then your entire focus shifts to what you want, what you need, and what will make you content. This is the beginning of narcissism, which simply means "the personality trait of egotism, often used as a pejorative, denoting vanity, conceit, egotism or simple selfishness." Furthermore, egotism is "the motivation to maintain and enhance favorable views of oneself. Egotism means placing oneself at the center of one's world with no direct concern for others, including those loved or considered as "close", in any other terms by the 'egoist'." (Wikipedia)

I know that most people who are self-centered would not say they are egotists, but in truth they are exactly that: self motivated, self interested, and self driven.

In our modern world, this behavior is highly sought after and desired. Many people seek their own fulfillment. They do this through business deals, through personal relationships, and through material possessions. People seek to be made happy, and they seek it through everything EXCEPT a relationship with the Lord.

If the writers of the Puritan Catechism (and the Shorter Catechism) were correct, then the pursuit or aim of one's life should be to glorify God. In doing so, they would find what they seek: joy, contentment, happiness (stemming from joy), satisfaction. They would be happy, not in things of wealth, or in personal relationships with others, or in a business or occupation; but rather in the fulfillment of their ultimate need: reconciliation with a loving and desirous God.

I think it is funny that so many people, even Christian people, buy into this worldly philosophy, and actually think that somehow it is OK with God to seek after happiness. They do not have to look very far into Scripture to see that this pursuit is not condoned. In fact, our Lord Jesus Christ tells us what to expect as His followers, and in truth, it is not happiness (John 15: 18-25):

"If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’b If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates me hates my Father as well. If I had not done among them what no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have seen these miracles, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’"

The word "hate" means "an intense feeling of dislike. It may occur in a wide variety of contexts, from hatred of inanimate objects or animals, to hatred of oneself or other people, entire groups of people, people in general, existence, or everything." (Wikipedia) I don't see any relationship to happiness here at all. The thought of being hated or strongly disliked, to me, would not make me happy, and would for sure, cause me great distress. But, this is the view our Savior told us to take, to know and to understand that if we followed Him, we would not find happiness in anything other THAN HIM. The world and the world's systems are the antithesis to Christian doctrine and belief. [Note: Antithesis (Greek for "setting opposite") is a counter-proposition and denotes a direct contrast to the original proposition.] We are not to be seeking happiness or joy or satisfaction in the world or in it's philosophy or systems. We are to find our source of joy in the One who died to save us, in God alone.

Yet, even with a basic understanding of Christian doctrine, many Christians continue to seek happiness in things outside of their relationship with the Lord. They believe that they can have both: they can have peace with God AND peace in the world. Yet, they shortchange themselves because as soon as the world discovers they are Christ followers, trouble and hatred follow swiftly. Then the Christian begins to doubt their relationship with God, seeking only to find satisfaction within themselves. They rationalize, "Well, God isn't saving me from this present trouble, and I would have a far easier time of it, IF I didn't follow God so closely." This is Satan's ploy to distance ourselves from God, to keep us from experiencing His Grace in such a way that we come to understand that He is our Source and Sufficiency. We don't need things, other people (out of proper context here), and material wealth to be happy. We need the knowledge of our Savior, His finished work on the cross, and the contentment of our place (our purpose) in God's system, God's universe, and in God's plan for His people.

I cannot stress it enough: seeking to be happy is a worldly pursuit, and it will not deliver true joy. It will bring only fleeting experiences that one might call "happiness." These, generally are, periods whereby there is little upset, little hatred, little difficultly. In short, there will be fleeting episodes of peace, but not the kind that will fill the soul and give the mind rest, to give that sense of satisfaction that says "I know my place, I know my purpose, I know exactly what I was created to do." Moreover, it will not give long term contentment whereby you can utter, "I am completely and solely happy within myself, my surroundings, and with the outcome of my life." No, the pursuit of happiness is an endless drive towards the objectification of the SELF, putting one's own self upon that throne, and then bowing down and worshipping the creature and not the Creator. It is emptiness, it is futile, and ultimately it serves no real value EXCEPT to distance and perhaps eternally separate the seeker from the very thing they truly seek: God, Himself.

Dear Lord,

There are so many people who are self-seekers. They believe they are entitled to happiness, especially here in America. Our founding fathers promised that we all would be entitled to the pursuit of happiness, not happiness in itself. They knew and understood that happiness was to be found in a relationship with God, and not in other things. In our modern world, however, sincere brothers and sisters are seeking happiness and trying to reconcile this need with what you tell us is to be. Your Word clearly tells us that we will not find happiness in this world. Our happiness is therefore bound up in You and in You alone. My prayer today is for my brothers and sisters to study your Word and accept this fact: contentment and joy will only come through a life bowed and humbled before a Holy God. Serving the Lord and others will bring them the joy they seek. May their hearts be turned back towards your truth and away from the doctrines of this world. In Jesus Name I pray, Amen.

April 27, 2010

Give Praise!

Psalm 100

A Psalm of Thanksgiving.

1 Make a joyful shout to the LORD, all you lands!
2 Serve the LORD with gladness;
Come before His presence with singing.
3 Know that the LORD, He is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;[a]
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.
4 Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,
And into His courts with praise.
Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.
5 For the LORD is good;
His mercy is everlasting,
And His truth endures to all generations.

April 26, 2010

More Planning

It is another beautiful day here in sunny Arizona. The day time high is expected to be in the 80s. It is a PERFECT spring day (spring for us; summer for others!) The flowers are still in bloom (my cactus is blooming -- I wish my camera was working so I could take a picture of it -- it is lovely!), and the birds are everywhere (especially the little hummingbirds). I just wish I had a garden.

I love to garden and used to keep a fairly large one (in San Jose, CA). The weather in SJ is very favorable to growing things, and with the moderate climate and wet seasons, pretty much anything you stick in the ground, will grow. When I lived there, I had four four-by-four foot garden boxes. I raised all sorts of herbs and vegetables, along with citrus and grapes. My garden was pretty much my entire back yard, with the exception of a large ugly slab of concrete. I decorated the concrete with loads of flower pots and junk furniture -- very shabby chic. I really had a wonderful little place to retreat to during the spring-summer and early fall months.

Since moving to Phoenix (and Scottsdale), I have not had the pleasure of living anywhere comfortable. By that, I simply mean, all the homes I have lived in (from apartments to rental homes to my own home) had a north-south exposure, with the backyard facing south. This means that in the summer, you get the very hot summer sun in your backyard. Without some structure for shade, it is nearly impossible to do anything out there EXCEPT swim, if you are lucky enough to have a pool (we don't). I tried gardening with shade cloth, but everything just died on the vine. I also tried to create some raised beds, but the dirt in my yard is a close to concrete as possible, so digging was a chore. Ah--how I miss my fertile and oh so green yard in San Jose.

Now that I am contemplating moving to another place, I am more keen on sighting the home properly. I need a home with either north-south exposure (but home flipped) or east-west exposure. East-west would be preferred because then the hot sun beats on the side of your home, and if you are fortunate, your neighbor's home will shade you well. I am hoping to also have a home with some grass, and a spot in the back for a small garden. I would love a pool, but am unsure if I can afford one. The cost and upkeep on a pool is really expensive and with my limited budget, probably will not find a home with a pool. Oh well!

It is fun to look at homes. I enjoy doing it (always have), and am so glad that you can do it online. It saves so much time and hassle (no realtors, no open houses, no showcases). You just get on one of the big real estate sites and voila! You are connected to the MLS service and can see everything available in your town (or prospective town). I am having a good time imagining what a new home might look like, though I am also very realistic about what I could afford (either in rent or future purchase). My hope right now is to find a place that will work for me and my son. It needs to be large enough to handle all his music equipment and my cello. It also has to have space for a piano (acoustic grand). Other than that, I am very flexible.

My plan is to start looking for a place very soon. I need confirmation on a job, and then I will be able to really start looking seriously. I have applied to YET another position through the Maricopa Community College District office. In all, I have applied five times this year. Two of those positions have been filled, the other three are JUST starting interviews (one after nearly 5 months of the job posting closing -- I guess they REALLY ARE THAT SLOW!) My goal would be to be hired for one of these jobs. Two would pay well, and be full-time. The third is a part-time position that still pays OK. It would work for me.

I am confident that the Lord knows exactly what kind of job I need. He knows that I need to move (for many reasons) and that to do that I need His Provision. I am totally reliant on Him to provide me with a job, a home, and a way to start over. I cannot do anything until He moves and then I know that everything will just "click" and fall into place. I know this is the case -- and that patience is what is called for right now. The Lord's timing is always Perfect. He knows my needs. He will deliver me from the hand of my enemy, and He will provide a way out. I know this. I trust Him, and I believe that His Word to me is true.

Dear Lord,

I am relying on you to bring me a job. You know my needs best, so please provide adequate work for me to do. I want to live honorably before you, to be responsible for my own keep. I want to work so I can eat and live quietly among the people. I am asking now that you will guide me to the job you have in mind for me, and that you would facilitate my interview and hiring. I believe that this is your will, so I ask this in your name, knowing full well that whatever we ask according to your will, will be given to us. Thank you, Lord, for your promise in Scripture, and for being faithful to me. In Jesus Name, Amen.

April 25, 2010

Decision to Stay

[I am adding a blog note here because I have re-read this post several times, and each time, it is right after a serious head-on collision with some aspect of the "plan" I think the Lord has for my life. I cannot say how many times I have made the decision to stay in Phoenix (versus moving to IL) -- but it has been at least three times since January. Each time, the Lord brings me back to this post where I see my decision to stay, and then read my update saying that I am to go. Oh, when will I remember that a decision is a decision, and that the Lord takes our word very seriously. I said I would go to IL, I said I would go there because I believed He was directing me to go there. I promised I would not change my mind, yet sure enough, I did. Several times, in fact. Now, I have suffered the consequences of that change of mind again; yet this time, the hurt was harder, and not just on me, but on my son as well. I learned my lesson the two times before; but I guess this time, I needed to really feel the smack of it for me to realize that my word counts -- at the least -- it counts to God.]

Today was a good day for me. Our church is continuing on in it's series called, "Quarter Life," and today's message focused on liberation and freedom (Isaiah 58:1-12.) It is a funny passage, whereby Isaiah preaches to the Israelites about their false sense of religion, and about how they "think" they are doing what God wants, when in reality they are not. I liked our Pastor's message, it was good and simple (honest and direct). The point being that often we remain trapped in bondage to things or to people simply because we refuse to do what God wants us to do. Instead of doing what the Word says is right, we choose to do things that we "think" look right on the outside (while deep on the inside, we are doing our own thing, getting our own way). It is the opposite of what James called "pure and undefiled religion."

In thinking about today, and then reflecting on where I am at in my life (at present), this thought popped into my head, "Lord, I am in a really weird place right now." It is often this way, thoughts will pop into my head at the strangest times (I was driving home from church). I was thinking about my life, and how I am living in my home, with my husband and son, but have no real confidence that my life will ever return to "normal." In fact, I believe the opposite. I have not seen anything that would give me confidence that my husband plans on sticking around, or that he even desires a relationship with me. The weirdness comes in this way: every Sunday we drive to church and then sit together. I mean right next to each other just like every other married couple. If that is not Isaiah 58 -- I don't know what could be any more similar!!

As I thought about my situation this is what came to mind -- why is this happening? I mean, I have given options, made ultimatums (in this case, set boundaries as to what I would accept). I have patiently waited for him to do something positive, to choose to want to remain part of our family. Instead, he chooses to do what he wants, to go his own way--all the while living under this roof, eating prepared dinners, and wearing freshly washed clothing (that I have washed). It is like he has no intention of do anything other than what he wants to do, and IMHO, that is keep the "appearance up" of being married. It is so darn weird.

Yes, it is unfair too, and our Pastor spoke at length about injustice, and how we are to treat one another with respect. I find myself scratching my head all the time because on the one hand, I am in this limbo state of not knowing what tomorrow will bring. On the other hand, I have made my decision that I will not live this way forever. I have been waiting for the "shoe to drop," so to speak, for him to say: I am moving out or I want to try and stay together. One way or another, either would work now. I just cannot continue to live in unresolved tension, which is what I have here in my home.

I have blogged about the plans that the Lord has for me, and I am confident in them. The issue has been whether to stay put or to move somewhere else. I have done all the research, factoring in every detail, and had made up my mind that the best choice was to move someplace else. Part of me wanted this simply to do something to end the stalemate. But, then there was another part that felt that it was more about "running away" and less about doing the Lord's will.

After much thought today, I realized this: I am presently doing the Lord's will. I am seeking Him with my whole heart, I am following after Him with great zeal, and I am focusing on Him alone as my source and my provision. I am also being attentive to the needs at home. I am being kind and compassionate towards my spouse. I am patiently enduring this trial, trying "oh so hard" not to give in to anger, bitterness or wrath (none of which will Glorify God). I am waiting, and waiting, and waiting some more -- hoping that the Lord will show me clearly which direction to go or move in. Until then, I am doing what I can do that is part of His will. I have applied to graduate school, I am continuing to home school my son, and I am focused on the work He has for me. By all accounts, I am doing everything possible to satisfy the Lord's requirements for me -- I am being submissive to His will and trusting that His way will be revealed.

Through all this mess, there has been wonderful Grace, and that Grace has enabled me to do things I would not normally be able to do. I have been able to rest securely in His Hand. I have been able to trust Him completely, knowing that my days are accounted for, and my life is planned and prepared for His Glory. I am standing in His Grace and soaking it up, and I am giving it back out as best I can. I am doing all these things, er, rather He is doing them through me, and the result has been tremendous spiritual growth and development. I have not been happy at the waiting part, and I have grumbled a bit (well, a lot), but I am still here--waiting for Him to move. I am sticking to Him and I am looking solely for Him to provide a way out.

Twice now, He has shown me the way out. Twice now, I have tentatively received it, only then to reject it. Partly this is because I have wanted to bring Him Glory, and I know that through my suffering, He is glorified. However, He has consistently told me that there is an open door for me, and stubbornly I have refused to walk through it. I kept trying to pry open the other door, the door I thought was better. He kept pointing me towards this open door, and I refused to go where He said to go. I did promise to go, don't get me wrong. I actually said "Yes, Lord, I will go where ever you send me." Yet, in truth, I did not go. I kept sticking to my guns and waiting for Him to open that other door.

So today, epiphany in mind, I decided to take the easier way out, and walk through the open door. This is the way that has been offered to me. It is the way that is right here, right in front of my eyes, and it is the way that seems clearly applicable to my life right now. I guess I just didn't want to take the easy way, fearing that it would be somehow not good enough. I finally decided that every door that God opens is GOOD. Every way out is Perfect. I chose to exit out of my struggle, my turmoil and choose the way that clearly points me to stay right where I am. This means that I will not be moving away from my home, just yet. I may be moving to another home, but I won't be leaving this city. I will stay here until I finish my graduate study and am better prepared to take on a full time job. Right now, I have too many "what ifs" in the fire, and the pot needs stirring. I cannot dump the pot out because it is critical to keep it cooking for a time longer. I must wait, yes, I must wait--and then the Lord will open up that other door. For now, I will do what He is telling me to do, and I will rest in the knowledge that I am doing His exact and expressed will for my life.

I am pleased, I am relieved, and I am glad that this decision has been made. I still don't have all the answers, and I am still living in limbo, but perhaps that is the next piece of the puzzle to be found. Perhaps this decision was critical for the rest to fall into place? I think so, at the least, I want to think so.


Ok, so much for making a decision to stay. I have to say that I was greatly relieved of the pressure to choose the other day. I spent most of the day thinking about staying put, thinking about finding a job, and then thinking about how I would be able to make a living here in Phoenix. The more I thought about it, the more I started to get that "sinking" feeling -- like I was trying to keep a boat afloat after it suffered a small hole in the bottom. The boat was sinking, but I kept on bailing the water out. It was like I was getting no where, except sinking into the water deeper and deeper.

Today, I woke up and went through my normal routine. In doing so, I sat down at my computer and felt the Lord press on me to go and check the status of the positions I have applied for at the local community college system. I did it and much to my chagrin -- two of the remaining jobs (five in total) were being interviewed for internal candidates. Drats! That can only mean one thing -- the jobs were posted and were expected to be filled by people already employed by the college district!

So, snag in the road, and what do I do? Well, after feeling really lousy for a few minutes, I prayed and then said, "Lord, I know your will for my life, and that the plans you have for me are good. Please direct my steps and lead me to the job of your choosing. I accept the reality of my situation today, and know that I must find work now."

It didn't really take that long to see Him do this. As usual, the Lord did things in His own way. My son crawled out of bed (the blessing of home schooling), and came out all disheveled and looking grumpy (not normal -- well, the disheveled part is pretty normal). I asked him what was wrong, and it took a while to get him to tell me how he was feeling. After some Q&A, he said how much he wanted to move away from here. I took that to mean that he just wanted our life settled (yes, he fell in love with TN a year ago -- but he is only 16 so I think he gets that you cannot just pick up and move, willy nilly). I know that this present darkness, this awful time in our home, has taken it's toll on him. He has acted very bravely. He has told me that everything is OK, but I have seen the signs. I have noticed his lack of interest, his unwillingness to do everything he normally would do. I have seen his attitude change, and even his relationship with his dad diminish. I have tried to run interference as best as I can, but the affect of our marriage crisis has indeed hurt him. It was to be expected. I was prepared for it. I just feel so awful about it.

We talked some more, and then my son (the prophet -- just kidding) said something very wise to me. He said, "Mom, how can you expect God to send you to Africa, if you are not willing to move across the country for Him?" Ouch! From the lips of babes, you know. He was right. God isn't calling me to Africa, but I do believe He is calling me into International Ministry. I have shared with my son what I believe the Lord is going to ask of me (down the road), and told him that I am ready to go wherever the Lord leads me. I thought it was funny, though, that at this point -- when we were both in crisis, my son would utter something very profound. In truth, he hit the nail on the head. I have waffled over making a decision to move, any move, simply because I have never ever had to make such a huge life choice. I have analyzed this situation until I want to throw up, considered every option, and prayed over every single little aspect (whether real or imagined). In the end, when push came to shove, I chose the easier way out. I chose to not do anything at all. The Lord used my son (I think) to remind me that I had made a commitment to Him, a commitment that said "Yes, Lord, I will go where you send me." You see, I uttered the words of Isaiah many times: "Here I am Lord, send me." The Lord took me at my word to Him and has been preparing my heart, my mind and my life for service and ministry. I have known this for a while now, I have seen the work happening in my life. I just wasn't ready to accept the reality of my life.

My son is ready to go (my greatest fear was that I would be ruining his life, changing things so much, asking him to leave friends and family behind); he wants to go. I want to go too (when I really confessed it). I guess I had hoped for another outcome. I guess I wanted everything to magically disappear and return to normal. The problem, of course, is that the Lord has told me that I cannot have my "normal" back. I cannot return to the life I had, not the way it was, to be exact. I had to remain as I am now, with clear head and heart firmly focused on the Lord. My DH, whom I have waited to return to the Lord, has chosen to go his own way (in a semi-religious way, but not really doing what the Word says he must do). I have lived in QUASI-land, as I like to call it--this half married, half separated state, for almost 9 months (longer if I really admit it -- more like five years). Now, I am faced with making a life changing decision and it is so hard to know what to do. Do I go or do I stay? My heart says "follow the Lord, of course;" but my head simply questions "How can I do that? My hands are empty -- I have no job, no income, no way to go or even buy a home?"

I cannot tell you how this has stressed me out. Then add in all the difficulties here at home (personalities, relationships, spiritual oppression) and it has been one horrible journey from discovery to acceptance. I just cannot tell you how very much I want all this to end. I pray about it every day, I ask for it to end. His word to me is always "Soon. Very soon."

I do not know what I would have done without His Marvelous Grace at work in my life. I cannot tell you how often I wanted to just run away from everything and everyone, how I wanted to hide and not come out, how I wanted to pretend that everything was OK (just tell myself lie after lie). In the end, the Lord has had His way (again!) I want so much to please Him, to be used by Him, and to bring Him glory. I want so much to do His will, and to know that my life is planned and purposed -- even when it looks so bleak and smells really, really stinky. Yes, the Lord is Good to me. I love Him with all my heart, and my heart's desire is to be in relationship with Him, to be united in body, in soul and in mind. I live for Him because He lives for me!

"Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He will give you the desires and secret petitions of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord [roll and repose each care of your load on Him]; trust (lean on, rely on, and be confident) also in Him and He will bring it to pass." Psalm 37:4-5

Classical Studies Group

My classical study reading group is starting back up again. We are currently reading "Sir Gawaine and the Green Knight". Our next book will be Chaucer's "The Canterbury Tales." If you would like to read along with us (we are predominately a Christian adult reading group), please visit our blog at:

for more details.

April 24, 2010

Testings and Trials

Whew! I have just passed my test, and I am relieved!! If you have had to face a difficult exam, and then finished it, knowing that you did well, then you know exactly how I feel. I have been in exam mode now for some time. Unfortunately, I wasn't aware, initially, that I was even taking any sort of test. This wasn't a normal test; but rather, it was a spiritual test, a test of my faith.

I have been spiritually oppressed these past couple days. I recognized it after two rather bad days. The oppression wasn't fierce at first, like normal. It came on slowly, and then wham!, hit me like a ton of bricks. I tend to spin around when this happens, and the first thing I do is take stock of myself. I ask: is this something I have done (is this discipline from the Lord?) No. Is this temptation from Satan? No. Then, by default, this is a testing of my faith.

How do I know that this is a test (or was a test)? I asked the Lord and the word I received back was this: endure. James 1:2-4 says:

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."

Our faith is routinely tested, but the tests and trials come in various sizes and strengths. Sometimes the tests are small, and fairly easy to pass. Sometimes, they are giant rock-size, the kind that feel so heavy and oppressive, whereby we feel we are being crushed by the very weight of the trial. The Word tells us that this will not be the case (being crushed), yet at times it sure feels like a crushing blow. 1 Corinthians 10:13 reminds us of this promise:

"There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it."

The problem is that often we don't recognize that we are being tried, and then we don't take authority over the tempter. We have the authority to squash Satan's attempts, we just don't do it. We languish, we suffer, we cry and sorrow. We even become angry at God for allowing such trial or testing to come into our life. We wander around, confused and dazed, praying and asking for the reason why we are being so harassed. The answer is not rocket science, as I like to say, but it is pretty clearly written in the Word of God. Our faith is continually tested so that we will learn to endure. By enduring these kinds of trials, we will produce perseverance, and grow character traits that will Glorify the Lord.

Our testing is to produce works within us that bring Glory to His Name. This is why James said we are to consider it a joyful thing whenever our faith is being put to the test. I think the reason we don't feel that way is simply because we consider tests to be of one sort of kind only. I often think my faith is tested when I am confronted with an unbeliever, and I am called to witness to them. I like this kind of faith-test. I get to use all my spiritual knowledge (pride and puffiness about knowing God's Word). But that is not when our faith is tested, oh no, oh no. Our faith is often tested when the accuser stands before God and hurls insult after insult at us. It deepens when we listen to those insults and begin to doubt ourselves, our position and authority in Christ Jesus, and then we drown in self-loathing (self-hating or cursing as the Bible calls it). We begin to insult ourselves, and by extension, we insult the very One who died to Save us. We insult the One who loved us so much and counted us worthy to be saved from utter desolation, complete despair, and eternal separation from Him.

When we curse ourselves, when we dwell on guilt of past wrongs, we allow our accuser to gain a foothold in our life. In doing so, we actually give him permission to accuse us, to demean us, and to make us feel unworthy. The Lord has told us not to do this, not to believe the lies Satan tells; yet, we do it, and usually it is when we are at a vulnerable point in our life.

When our circumstances are such that we are hard pressed on all sides, we are easily put off our guard. Our mind is filled with other thoughts besides those of our Lord. We are easily confounded and confused, and this is when Satan strikes at us. We often wander into this place without thinking, we walk in with our shield of faith down, and our sword (of the Spirit) holstered. We do not enter in with the full armor of God on, nor with our sword ready for attack. We are defenseless, are helpless, and often depressed (or anxious, fearful, doubtful). We are a prime target, easy prey. The Word tells us in 1 Peter 5:8:

"Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour."

Easy prey, easy pickings. Our response is usually lacking, and we often get beaten up before we even have a moment to regroup and fight.

This is not the way of the Spirit. The Word above tells us to be sober (alert) and vigilant (on guard, watchful). We know that he is waiting to attack us, so be on guard. Be ready. Be prepared.

This is exactly what happened to me this past week. I let my guard down, began to allow thoughts of despair, doubt about God's plans, and then I was attacked mightily hard. It all started for me with a reminder of my situation (within my marriage). I am trying very hard to deal with my life, to be patient while the Lord moves things around and makes a way for me to be a single, self-sufficient person. His timing is perfect, so these things (what I need) have not all come to pass yet. I am waiting for a job, confirmation on income, as well as some other direction so that I can take the next steps in setting up my life as a single person. It is a difficult and hard spot to be in, and I am enduring it.

Last week, however, I came across some writings that hit me hard. I have tried to not think about what is going on, in the sense of dwelling on it. I know the truth, I know what is going on, but it does me no good to constantly think about it. In fact, the more I dwell on it, the more I sink back into despair. This is exactly where Satan wants me because then his spirits (Lust, Fear, Anger, Bitterness, Betrayal, and Hurt) can do their deeds: they can harass me. And so they did. I suffered bitterly on Wednesday, and then again on Friday, even entertaining thoughts that were not glorifying to God. I finally gained my hold back, but not until the battle was pretty well won (in their favor). Thankfully, the Lord is victorious, so even if this battle was going badly, He will always win.

Today, as I reflect back on what took place, I see clearly that this was a testing of my faith. On Thursday evening, I lay prone before the Lord, confessing His Name and proclaiming my devotion to Him. I surrendered all to follow His Will. I believed that in doing so, I was given a mighty test of faith. I failed miserably, well at first. The goal of these types of faith tests are to get us to no longer see God as our sole reliance. Instead of casting all our fears on Him, we take them on ourselves. Our hand is all we see. We turn from the Savior back to our own sufficiency. In doing so, we cut ourselves off from the Grace of God, which is what we need to stand firm and endure these types of attacks.

It took a little while on my part until I realized what was going on. Once I figured it out (you would think I would be ready, huh?) I turned back to God, pick up my sword and steadied my shield. It is always our Faith in God and the Word of the Lord -- our two defenses, that enable us to defeat Satan's attacks. Why we stand there, bloodied and beaten, shield at our side, and our sword laying next to us, I will never know. We should know better, we should know what to do; yet, time after time, we seem to fall into the same trap. I am thanking God, though, for His Marvelous Spirit, who reminds me time and time and time, yet again, to pick up my shield and wield His Mighty Sword. Whoosh! Satan and his minions are defeated -- they flee!

Oh, Lord, thank you for your Precious and Mighty Word. I cannot stand any enemy without it, and your Shield of Faith protects me. I am surrounded by powerful tools, yet often, I do not use them. I suffer needlessly, when I could stand victorious in your Name. I pray now that I will remember that you have not left us alone, helpless to defend ourselves against these vicious attacks. You have Graced us with the Power of God, and we must simply draw upon your resources. We will have victory because You are Victorious. You have overcome, and we will overcome in Your Name. Thank you, Jesus for your Powerful Authority, and for giving us the Spirit of the Living God, who directs us, guides us, comforts us, and empowers us to stand strong and who enables us to defend ourselves from evil. You are so Good, and You are so very Good to me.

April 23, 2010

Thinking about Tomorrow--Again!

I just got off the phone with my Mom--family news, as usual. Mom calls me fairly often (3-4 times each day), just to chat. I don't mind it, but know that pretty soon I won't be able to take all her calls. Once I am working, I will be able to speak with her only once per day (in the evenings, probably). This won't be difficult for me, but it will be difficult for her. Mom counts on me, and always seems really down that I don't have any "news" to share with her.

The truth is that I don't have any news. I am not a newsy person, if you know what I mean? I don't gossip. I don't pass on information about other people, unless it truly is of concern or interest (like sharing a graduation announcement or something like that). I am not really interested in the intimate details of other people's lives either. I just never have had much time to sit and chat.

It is a weird thing because I know a lot of people who like to chat. I am just not about chatting. I would much rather take a nice long walk, by lake or creek bed, and simply walk. I enjoy the silence. I like the quiet. I like to listen to music, to look at art, and to study buildings and other sights around me. I am an observer, really, and that is just my nature.

My Mom is very social, always has been, and I think this is why she likes to chat so much. She doesn't have many friends here, just a few, and with her age and her friend's ages, well--they mostly chat about physical ailments and the like. I guess it is what happens naturally when we age.

I have been thinking about tomorrow (not really Saturday), but rather all my tomorrows. I have been thinking about how my life will change once I move. I already know what my life will be like when I get full-time work, but now I am thinking more about my schedule and routine as far as what will change once I physically change homes.

I like to think about new homes. I am all about design and craftsmanship. I love old homes with wonderful woodwork, and lots of character. I love natural materials such as clapboard siding, slate roofs, copper gutters and downspouts. I am not interested in the "new". I really do not care for the look of new homes. I much prefer homes that were built hundreds of years ago to those that are being built today. I don't like modern furnishings, though I do like some modern art. I prefer sturdy items, things that will last, to those designs that look like they will break if you sit in them incorrectly.

It has been fun to look through the real estate websites and see all the homes that are currently for sale. I have look through many, many, many listings. I have learned to identify what I like and what I don't like, and then decide whether such a place would work for me (given my particular situation).

But, with all this looking and thinking and dreaming--I am now tired of the process. I am ready to get moving, to relocate if need be, and to begin the next stage or season of my life. I am ready to step out and to be the person I know inside I really am. I want to be me. I want to be the person I am, and no longer hide or try to be someone I am not. I simply want to be me.

This new stage in my life is just like an open book, with pages and pages that are blank and ready to be written. I am ready to start writing the story of my life, the next years, and want so much to get down to business. My prayer is that I can do this soon, very soon, so that I can move past this place, the place where I have felt stuck for so long. Only the Lord knows the timing of such a move. Only He knows when it will be. Until then, I have to continue on right where I am and focus on the needs of the moment.

I would much prefer to be moving, but the Lord knows when that will be. I must be content to wait for His Hand, and rest in that knowledge -- He is Sovereign. He knows me best. He knows what must take place, and how He wants everything to work together.

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. ~Romans 8:28

April 22, 2010

Feeling so much better today

Yes, today has been a bit better. I had a good cello practice session (hooray) and I also spent lunch with my parents (and son) and got to goof off a little bit. It is always nice to goof off, every so often.

I am settled with my plans now, and think that the recent unrest (uneasy feeling) I have had was due to my not wanting to let go of my control. It is so hard to relinquish control, to give it up, especially when you have felt that you really have had no control for years. I know this is not true, but it has been how I have felt. In reality, you always have control (unless you are in prison or someplace like that where you have no power to come/go as you please). I had the power to change my life, to change my circumstances, and to do something about what I was seeing and not liking. I just chose not to do anything other than complain. When you complain all the time, and then do nothing but complain, the person or people who hear you begin to tune you out. They tell themselves, "Oh, there she goes again. Just ignore her and she will stop yelling. She won't really do anything about it, she just likes to complain a lot." This is true, at the least, it is for me.

I tried to voice my objections, to have my say, and I did often. I just never put my "money where my mouth is," you know, I just never did what I said I was going to do. If I really was fed up, I should have done something about it. Instead, I looked the other way, and allowed behaviors and actions that I didn't like to rule over me. I gave up, I gave in, and in a way, I let someone else control me.

I have no one to blame but myself, and I know it now. I have made significant change since that little revelation, and have worked very hard to regain control over myself. I feel more empowered and in control than I have been in years. It feels really good to know that the "buck stops" with me. However, in God's eternity (and here on Earth), we are temporarily in control of our lives in that the Lord has given us partial responsibility for ourselves. We are responsible for our behavior, our attitudes, our character development. We are responsible to live by His Commands and to obey Him. Yet, we are not really responsible at all, because in the big picture, God is Sovereign and we are not. Though He Rules, He gives us a measure of independence and expects us to use it wisely. We are to be about doing things His way, and not our own way.

The problem arises when we want to take on more responsibility than He has accorded to us. We want to be little gods, determining our own outcomes and doing our own thing. This never works to our favor, and usually brings about disaster in our homes and families. We need His hand on us, and we need to bend the knee and allow Him to be Sovereign over us.

I have learned this Sovereignty thing through humble submission (and sometimes not so humble submission, kwim?) I have learned much through the school of hard knocks. I have learned a lot about myself, my stubborn pride and my refusal to let go, as well as also about my more sensitive side, that side that is so keen on being in fellowship with Him. It has been give-and-take, a mighty ride, and now I am glad to be riding the wave of His Sovereignty. I am really glad to be firmly in His Hand, and to let go of the reigns for a time (for a long time, I hope).

I am now looking forward to the plans the Lord has for me. I want so much to see what I believe IS His plan to come to pass. I want to experience all He has in mind for me, and to do the things He has shown me. I hope that everything will come to pass just as I believe it will, and I am looking forward with excitement and anticipation to His provision and care for all my needs.

Now, if I can only reconcile this time thing -- His time --I mean. I still want everything to be right now, but I know that His timing is always perfect. I will rest in this fact today, and hopefully tomorrow, will see that brighter future heading my way. May God be Praised forevermore, for ONLY He is Worthy of Our Praise.

April 21, 2010

I Did It Again

Agh! I wandered off that durn path again!! Why does this always happen to me? Even after a couple really terrific days, I found myself back to my old thinking habits. I should know better by now, I simply should have enough experience (the school of hard knocks) to tell the difference between feeling great and feeling crappy. Today was in short a CRAPPY day. It was CRAPPY from the get go, and it only went down hill shortly thereafter. Why? I mean, I am so fixed on making sure I don't stray off this path, and yet, "plop-plop-fizz-fizz," and there I go -- right off the path and into that plot of weeds -- AGAIN!

I guess it is just part and parcel of being human, but in truth, I don't like it. I don't like it one bit, and I want to stop doing it. I want to stay fixed and focused and moving in the direction the Lord has in mind for me. I don't want to flounder and struggle and end up all twisted around (which seems to be a weekly thing for me).

Dear Lord,

I am so tired of this behavior. I am so tired of starting off following you, only to find myself lost in my own way. Please help me to stick to you like glue, to keep my eyes firmly fixed on you. I cannot do anything without you, and I am tired of being responsible and in control. I want you to be in control of my life, I want to follow you and to do what you want me to do. Please help me to surrender my will to yours so that I can rest and be at ease once again. Amen, so be it, Amen.

How to Deal with Children Who Are Bored

I am a Mom to a gifted student. As such, I have had to deal with the "I'm bored" whine many a' time. However, my student generally doesn't even tell me when he is bored. He will simply show me. It happens quite suddenly, with one day being a good sort of day, and then the next seeing virtually no progress at all. One day will quickly turned into a dozen, if I do not step in to help him out.

Boredom is generally described as "an emotional state experienced during periods lacking activity or when individuals are uninterested in the opportunities surrounding them." (Wikipedia) C. D. Fisher [describes boredom] in terms of its central psychological processes: “an unpleasant, transient affective state in which the individual feels a pervasive lack of interest in and difficulty concentrating on the current activity. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boredom

The two main issues with boredom are lack of interest and lack of activity. At times, one or the other will be the primary motivator for the "I am bored" cry. Usually, it is both at work together: not enough to do, and content that lacks sufficient challenge to engage the mind. The key for parents, whether home schooled or not, is to make sure that their children are engaged in their studies and have plenty "to do" each day. This is the best way to counteract boredom.

I know that I get bored when I do not have enough to do each day. I love resting, as does the next person, but I also know that I tend to like a lot to do. In fact, I function best when my plate is very full. Some people would find the amount of work I prefer to do, too much. I like having a long "to do" list and then the time set aside to work steadily at checking each item off.

The important thing for parents is to determine how much is "enough" for each child. Some children need consistent levels of activity (the same each day), while others prefer more flexibility (some easier days mixed with more challenging days). The goal should be to level load the schedule, to find that happy balance where the child is fully engaged and completely occupied with their studies.

Charlotte Mason suggested this type of schedule in her Original Home Schooling Series. She advocated masterly activity (as opposed to masterly inactivity -http://www.amblesideonline.org/CM/M303.html), a term that suggests that even in free time, children need to be engaged in work they can master (structured learning). Though she greatly encouraged free play for young children, students (ages 6 and up) were to be fully engaged in activity every day (all day long). They were to be at their studies, reading and taking notes. They were to be out walking, field guide in hand. They were to be drawing life, whether from a nature walk or a still life grouping of objects. They were to be pouring over maps and atlases and globes. They were to be fully interested in learning about life, about the world, and about the people God had created to inhabit the Earth. There were no real "down times" in a Charlotte Mason school. There would be free reading periods, handicrafts and life skills -- things she felt were necessary to keep the mind happily occupied until it was time to rest (for bed each evening).

Our children do not have this type of life nor are they able to spend it in quiet study. They are shuttled off to school where information is droned into them; returned home to piles of home work. Often then they are left to their own devices (which tend to involve computer or video gaming devices). Some do have outside activities; some will do sports or music or art. But, many children are corralled all day long in a room with ineffectual teaching methods and materials that simply fail to engage the mind in any serious study.

Children today are born with boredom looming ahead, and with our fast-paced emphasis on "things", most will never learn the power of masterly activity.

Some things I have found that work well for gifted children (and all children):
  • Consistent daily application of studies
  • A good routine
  • Sufficient books to challenge the mind and engage the will to learn
  • Interesting things to read and to do
  • Varied activity
  • Student-led discovery
  • Gentle learning methods and techniques (CM's "science of relations")
  • and a devoted habit of always observing and experiencing life, in general
In teaching my only child, I have focused on these items throughout our home school program (and even before). I have always made learning central to whatever we do. I don't force this learning on my child, but rather allow him to experience what he chooses from each opportunity. It has proven successful, though not always quantifiable. I cannot always get instant feedback, so there is some maturity that is required on the part of the parent (you have to "wait" a while). This has always been the case: I may not see results today; but in time, I will see them and be blessed by them. Waiting is key; patience is a must.

April 20, 2010

Sense and Sensibility

This is one of my favorite movies (and books!) I just finished watching the DVD for the umpteenth time, and still found myself wistful and teary eyed at the end. I just love Emma Thompson and find her screenplay to be spot on to the sensibilities of the book. Hugh Grant is delightful, and Kate Winslet is so much, Marianne.

One of the things that always gets me is the injustice towards women portrayed throughout Jane Austen's writing. It is clearly evident that she felt strongly about the male dominated society she was a part of, and historically speaking, living in legacy to her forebears. It has only been in our modern history that women have had any rights at all. In her century, as in previous ones, women were little more than mere adornment. They were superficial add-ons, a necessary burden to the men in the society. Yet, throughout Ms. Austen's stories, we see very strong, independent and willful women being triumphed and praised. Though they often are seen quietly, demurred, and obedient, underneath that prim and proper exterior, lived the heart of a true lioness.

I love these stories, and think the screen adaptations (both major film and through the small screen of the BBC, A&E, Masterpiece Theater) have done a fantastic job of recreating life as it was according to Ms. Austen (and Mr. Dickens -- another of my favorite authors).

Anyhow, just waxing philosophical before bedtime tonight. Oh, how I love the English countryside (Devonshire) and long for the green hills of the country.

Looking Around You

Another fine day! I think this makes day four or five (not in a row) of feeling good. I am so blessed!!

I woke up today with a very stiff back (my bed is awful), but generally no headache (hurrah!) and no sinus pressure (it seems like every day has been a 'sinus day!') I am still dealing with some women's stuff, but other than that, I feel pretty good.

I even slept in, which is super amazing. I normally am up around 6:30 each day, mostly due to the cats crying for their food. But, today, made it to 8:30 -- oh, how sweet it is. I think this is due to a switch in cat food. I know, can you believe it, that something so simple could have such a profound affect on my boys.

Gus, my semi-siamese, half-neutered male, has had tummy troubles from the get-go. He was abandoned by his mother at 3-4 weeks, and I found him (was given him) and raised him. I noticed then that the had cleft palate issues, difficulty sucking and swallowing, and generally seemed to be a poor nurser. I had to improvise just to feed him, and it worked. He gained weight, grew up, and here we are. However, along the way, he has had numerous issues that have remained (some asthma, some digestion). I think it is all part-and-parcel to his being a runt, and probably (as mother does know best) not a thriving kitten.

We have struggled with his behavior as well as his physical ailments. It has all rolled into one thing, and now it is just "normal." Last week, though, I started to count the times he threw up his food. It seemed to be like every meal. I started to pay attention to the food, undigested at most. I also started to notice that when he does eat, he doesn't chew his food. He just swallows it whole.

I did some research on the internet, and found that a better quality food can often help calm a sensitive stomach. I switched my boys over to a good IAMs brand food. They were not too crazy to leave Walmart and 9-Lives behind; but, I thought it was worth the try to see if it would help Gus. Funny thing--it did, and it helped Winston and Zachary too.

I am feeding them according to the package directions (so 1/2 cup each per day), and the food is not being devoured. There is some left in their bowls the next am. What I am noticing is this: less throw up, better poops (less stink, better formed -- like my vet always says). It shows me that they are digesting the food more completely, less waste (which is what stinks). Zachary's stomach has stopped making noises completely (he had terrible bowel sounds at night), and Winston seems very content to just laze the day by. Gus has thrown up once since last week, and that was after I gave them a mix of the old food and the new food (thinking they were not eating the new food -- I caved and gave them some can food). As soon as he ate it, up it came, completely undigested.

I am taking some pats on the back for this move. It has helped a lot, and a side benefit is that the boys don't seem to pounce on me or stand over me glaring at me to get up and give them food. Good deal!

As I look around my life, aside from the cat food issue, I am beginning to see signs of the pressure valve being released. I cannot really explain it other than to say that it appears to be as if the pressure cooker I have been in for almost three years now, has let off all it's steam. I am feeling great relief, and seeing it all round me. I am seeing the world a little differently now. Instead of worrying about today or tomorrow or the future, I am sitting here thinking only about what needs done today. I wish I could take credit for it, like I got myself so figured out and am "believing it" to be so (as in some mind over matter attempt). I just cannot do it. I have done nothing but surrender to the Mighty Will of God. I thought I was doing this before, surrendering I mean, but I clearly wasn't. I never felt this way, well only once before. I felt this way when I went to the dealer to purchase my new car. It was like I did it, but I wasn't really doing anything at all. I went in with head knowledge (knowing the price I wanted to pay, the car I wanted to drive, etc.), but when the negotiations began, the words came out of my mouth, but I wasn't the one "driving" the contest. It was God, the Holy Spirit, putting strong words into my mouth, and the dealership folks were just stunned. They just stood there and could say nothing back to me except to finally agree to my offer. I walked out of there with a new car (new to me).

It is the exact same way, though I am not negotiating any deals today. I just feel like I am doing the normal thing, but someone else is working through me. I feel like I am going about my business, but the thoughts that come into my head, the control is not my own. I simply feel as though I am totally under His Sovereign Control. And, I must say--it feels SO VERY GOOD.

I don't want this to stop, this feeling, this sense of His Presence. I am so at ease right now. After so much hardship, turmoil, and stress -- this is AWESOME freedom. I want to stay in this place and never move from it. Oh, Lord, may it never be. May I never return to the control of my hand again!

April 19, 2010

School Progress

We are about half way through the end of our term 3 (due to end the second week of June). I am really pleased with my son's progress of late. He has struggled so much the last few years, and I, in my desire to help him, have actually made things worse. Instead of continuing to challenge him with difficult work, I often gave in to his whimpers and softened up our curriculum choices. Whenever I stuck to my guns and made him read difficult books -- wham! great progress took place. It has taken nearly six years of trial and error to figure out what works for him and what doesn't. I messed up a lot in those six years, often by second guessing myself and then going with something easier.

In hindsight, I see now that the path the Lord chose for us to be on (viz a vis home schooling) has been perfectly designed and choreographed. Had I simply stayed the course, I think we would have done even better than now. But, the past is the past, and as such you cannot go back and redo things. I am committed to finishing our last year at home with the curriculum we started with originally. The more we follow this curriculum, the better he does. The more we deviate, the worse he does. It is not rocket-science, that is for sure. So my opinion now has changed--where once I was uncertain if our path was the best -- I am now 100% convinced that it has been heaven sent and graciously blessed.

My View on Ambleside Online

My son is highly gifted, but not in a traditional sense (like kids who can get straight As without having to work at it or those who can read a book and recall instantly every detail). My son is gifted in processing and spatial awareness. This means that he tends to get things rather quickly, so keeping him challenged has always been, well, a challenge! In spatial awareness areas, it has meant that he needs a specific type of challenge. He needs thinking materials versus straight information downloads. He needs to chew on things, turn them over and around, and then come to terms with them. The meatier the book or subject, the better.

This need has driven our choice of curriculum for the past six years. When my son was first home schooled, we happened upon Ambleside Online (http://www.amblesideonline.org). This curriculum is available for free, and is based on the teaching philosophy and methods of Charlotte Mason. Miss Mason was a 19th century British educationalist and philosopher who created a teaching curriculum for home education. Her six-volume work is called "The Original Home Schooling Series," and has been in print for nearly 100 years.

Charlotte Mason's teaching methods are enjoying a great following, especially among home schooling families who long for the gentle life of Victorian sensibility. Though designed during the late Victorian period, her writings evolved into quite elaborate theories during the war years (WWI and II) and afterward. Much study has been applied by scholars to analyze and review her 'suggestions towards a curriculum' -- the nuts and bolts of her writings that focus on the teaching of children and youth.

Ambleside Online /House of Education (which was the name of her secondary school program) offers curriculum for children ages 6 through 18. The curriculum is quite advanced, when you compare it to traditional public school programs. Children begin reading (being read) classical literature and historical fiction. They start Y1 with Shakespeare, poetry, art and composer studies, natural history as well as learn foreign language. By Year 4 (4-5th grades), they are reading about citizenship through the Lives of Plutarch (Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans). They have studied mythology, and are reading such books as Robinson Crusoe and Kon-Tiki (both are typically assigned in high school). The emphasis is classical, but the method is far from rote and memorization (drill often used in classical classrooms). The primary mode is what Miss Mason called her "Science of Relations," which simply meant that we all share a relationship with history, with science, with fine art and literature. In such a way, we are able to make connections through our exposure to the work -- we do not need to be taught such things, we instead learn instinctively by observation and experience.

Children come to recognize a work by Monet or a poem by Robert Frost. They are able to distinguish between characters in various Shakespeare plays. They develop a keen sense of vocabulary and an appreciation for complex language. In general, they are able to speak well, to think deeply, and to interpret literature or history or any specific type of writing with ease.

Interestingly enough, when we started using this curriculum, our son's abilities to read, to think, and to analyze deep things was non-existent. Granted, he was only 10 at the time (how deep can you get at 10? LOL!) But, in reality, it took us less than one year of reading more complex literature and history, to begin to see such development take place. Now, we are near the end of our time with this curriculum, and the growth we see has been tremendous. Yes, he still has some specific weaknesses (in writing essays and such), but his ability to understand complex writings is phenomenal. I am blown away by his ability to read difficult texts (college level) and then speak intelligently about them. For that, I am indebted to Miss Mason and her 19th century sensibilities and her strong desire to see children well-educated.