January 31, 2010

When Persecution Comes

c.1340, "oppression for the holding of a belief or opinion," from O.Fr. persecution (12c.), from L. persecutionem (nom. persecutio), noun of action from persequi "pursue, start a legal action," from per- "through" + sequi "follow" (see sequel). The verb persecute is attested from 1482 in the sense of "to oppress for the holding of a belief or opinion," from M.Fr. pers├ęcuter "pursue, torment, open legal action" (14c.), from L. persecutus, pp. of persequi. Psychological persecution complex is recorded from 1961; earlier persecution mania (1892).
~ Excerpted from http://www.dictionary.com/

It wasn't until I actually looked up this word today, that the concept of persecution or being persecuted sunk in. Sure, I have experienced persecution before...many times before. It is not a fun thing to experience, it is not a happy time. I just never thought about it as a "legal action," like in a court case. Really, though, is that not what takes place in heaven? The Word gives us an accurate picture of Satan, the Accuser, standing before the Righteous God and Judge, the Lord Jesus Christ. He brings his charge and accusations against the Annointed Ones (the People of God). I didn't think of it this way at all. I guess I only thought of it as it appeared to me.

I "feel" persecution before I really think about it happening to me. I get a feeling of heavy oppression, a feeling like something is out of sorts, not quite on target. I go to the Lord and always ask whether or not this feeling is telling me that I have done something to displease Him. I get the feelings confused a lot of the time. They are so similar in how I respond, but they really are two different things.

When I have done something wrong, something that displeases Him, I feel a sense of loss. Not necessarily chaos, but more of just a door quietly closing in on me. It is like when I was a child and my Mom or Dad sent me to my room for a time out. They took me to my room, then silently closed the door behind them. I remember sitting on my bed (usually seething mad for something I did or perceived that someone, aka one of my brothers, did to me), and watching as they walked out of the room.

This is that same way I feel when I offend God. He simply closes the door to me for a time. It is definitely a loss of relationship, and that sense of being set apart for a moment, sinks in and I know that I need to repair, to confess, to go to Him and ask forgiveness for my behavior.

Persecution is completely different. Though I do feel it, and I sometimes confuse the two feelings, the truth is that I am not isolated from God. I am not being disciplined by Him. I am being accused by the Accuser. His accusations hurt, they are like arrows being shot across a great chasm, and they sting. They do not kill me. They do not wound deeply. They just sting, and after a while, they really get you downtrodden.

Your spirit falls and you begin to "feel" his words as though they are truth. This is why we get confused at that moment. When we go to our Judge and Advocate, we hear the truth. "No, dear sister or brother, you have not done anything wrong. It is Satan, your Accuser, who is accusing you. Stand firm, defend yourself."

Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. ~ James 4:7

The key to surviving persecution is to follow James' advice. Submit or humble yourself before God. Resist the Accuser and stand firm. He will flee from you (a promise from Scripture).

Jesus promised His followers that they would suffer persecution too. Often we think of worldly persecution, the kind that comes from men (humankind). This is truth, and it will happen to us all one day. However, we are regularly persecuted by our Enemy, Satan. We must learn how to defend ourselves from his attack. In doing so, we will be far better prepared to handle ourselves when the world comes against us (and they will).

May the Lord enrich and bless your life this day. Resist the Devil, stand firm. Humble yourself before God and know that your Judge and Advocate are in your corner. You have the God of the Universe on your side this day. Praise be to the God of Heaven for His Majesty and Glory.

January 30, 2010

I've Applied!

Well, I did it!! I applied to Mercy College for admission to their Master of Arts program in English Literature. I have felt that this is the Lord's will for my life, and that this program, in particular, is where He wanted me to enroll. Mercy's program is online, and it is relatively short (only 30 units). It is also a traditional English Literature program, perfect for transitioning into teaching or for doctoral studies preparation.

I have applied for the summer 2010 session and am just waiting to receive notification of acceptance. I cannot see why they wouldn't accept me. I do have good grades, and have all the prerequisites necessary to start graduate studies. My hope and prayer is that I hear something very soon!

I am still waiting to hear on the job applications I submitted. I submitted two to the Maricopa Community College system. Both jobs would work well, though the one that is closer to me (pays a little less), is actually preferred. It is a perfect fit for me, and the hours are really good. It would allow me to continue home schooling my son, and also make time for my graduate courses. It is a job that I am well-suited for, so I cannot see why they wouldn't at the least consider my experience. I am praying that this is the Lord's choice for me (I feel that it is), but right now, I am in a wait-and-see mode.

I know for sure that the Lord has His hand on me. He knows me so well, and He knows exactly what He wants me to do for work, for life, for this season and the next. I am trusting in Him, relying on Him, and praying (submitting) my will to Him. May He be Glorified and Praised for evermore. He is my all and all, my entire sufficiency, and I wait for Him to open these doors. Only He can move these mountains; only He can do this for me.

Update: May 25, 2010

I finally heard back from Mercy College. Well, I have been receiving coorespondence from them since I applied, but I got a real person the other day. Previously, I was getting letters telling me that my file was incomplete, items were missing, etc. I did actually speak with someone when I called to say I had sent everything in, but nothing official took place.

Yesterday, I got an email from a professor in the English Department. He was asking for more information about my classes, etc. I thought it was odd, exciting, but odd. When I had applied before (to other schools or to SJSU back in 1994), the school just sent me a letter saying "Congratulations, Graduate!" I have been waiting for the same kind of generic welcome from Mercy. I am not sure why the Professor wanted more information because my transcript has all my courses listed and my grades are nearly perfect (3.94).

I worried about it yesterday, especially after I sent in my reply. You just never know if you say too much or not enough. And, you don't want to come off as arrogant. I answered his questions and then hit the send button. I am praying that whatever clarification he needed, he got from my email. Let's hope!!

Dear Lord,

You know how much I want to attend this school. You know that I believe this to be your will, and that I would never have considered this school UNLESS you directed me toward it. I applied on your insistence, and have waited patiently believing that you wanted me to go to this school. It appears as if they are looking favorably on me, just as you said they would. Now, I ask you to faciliate this application, to speed it's confirmation, and to let me be at ease knowing that I am indeed supposed to attend this school and work towards this degree. Thank you, Lord. Soli Dei Gloria!

Expectations Unmet

Have you ever met someone who has unrealistic expectations? Have you ever been the recipient of that person's condemnation when you fail to live up to their expectations?

Unmet expectations are the number one reason for disappointment in life. There are people who have walked around, bitter or angry, simply because their expectations were left unmet. They may have been unrealistic to start with or they may have been placed erroneously on another person or thing. This is often the case within families and within churches (which are biblically to be family-like).

Parents are typically the ones who place unrealistic expectations on their children. These expectations may be academic, physical or spiritual, but generally they tend to fall into one of two categories: meeting another's need or meeting another's standard.

Children will find themselves in a difficult spot, either way. They may strive to meet a parent's need or they may endeavor to live up to a specific standard. Usually, and I am generalizing, they fail to do either, and often will suffer some sort of consequence (physical, spiritual or emotional).

I was raised in a fairly normal home. My parents were loving and demonstrative towards me and my three brothers. We had lots of laughter, lots of tears, and lots of fun. My life was not always perfect, however. There were financial struggles, personality struggles, marital struggles. We had a little bit of everything for a time. It wasn't all peaches-and-cream nor was it very "Ozzie and Harriet-like." It was pretty normal, though, for the time and place (the 1960s). It was a good time to be a child, a good time to grow up, and a good time to generally live in this world.

I did have friends who came from very different types of families. My best friends were like this -- sort of normal on the outside -- but very uptight and expectant on the inside. My friend's parents were a split-duo, an old fashioned couple, with mixed attitudes on raising their kids. They had five of them, three girls and two boys. The Mom was sweet and wonderful, very agreeable. The Dad was a hard-working, no nonsense type of guy. He was a good provider for his family. He also was an immovable force, a force you didn't want to have to reckon with or confront. I didn't understand it then, but as I grew to adulthood, I came to understand how frequently the wife and the children tip-toed around just to keep "Dad" happy or even tempered or at peace. In essence, the entire family learned how to live so as to keep Dad, well-kept.

You didn't want to upset Dad. You didn't want to fail to meet his expectations, whether in school or with your work. You did what he said, when he said. No arguments, no back talking, no questions. You did it, even if it didn't make sense. You did it just to get it over with so you could move on and out from under his thumb.

Dad was a micromanager. He was a manager in real-life, and at home, he managed his home well. Now, understand this...God does expect fathers to be good stewards of their homes. He expects mothers to be good managers too. He just doesn't expect them to rule with an iron fist, without compassion or mercy, or in a way that frustrates and stresses them.

And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord. ~Ephesians 6:4

Fathers are specifically admonished to not exasperate (NIV) their children. The word (provoke is used in the NKJ) means to excite the anger of or to irritate and annoy. It comes from the Latin exasperatus, past participle of exasperare, from ex- + asper rough. In context, fathers are warned not to treat their children "roughly". Rough is characterised by harshness or violence or force. Another word is turbulent or tempestuous -- as in a turbulent sea. Fathers are to keep from provoking their children to anger, and are to refrain from causing them irritation and annoyance.

I don't know about you, but I have experienced annoyance before, specifically at the hand of another person. I am sure you can recall at least one person in your life who just seemed to always get under your skin, who was able to annoy you or irritate you -- no matter what you did or didn't do. You simply could not please this person because they always seemed to be irritated with you, and as a result, tended to cause you to "itch!" (As an aside: my cat, Winston, is provoking me to anger right now. He has sat on my desk, knocked over my lamp, climbed on my monitor, pushed the picture above my desk askew, and generally is making himself a great nuisance.)

The issue is that we all tend to do this, some of us more than others. We all can be annoying and irritating. Some personalities are wired this way, naturally bent, to be a bit more expectant than others. Mostly, however, this type of character behavior is learned from parents. It is a reinforced behavior that is brought on by experience.

Parents who were raised by parents who had high expectations typically follow in their steps or run the other way. Rather than explore proper ways to communicate, to educate, to validate another person, they will either do exactly like their parents did or they will do the exact opposite. IMHO, the two spectral choices are equally as bad. Too high of expectations is just as bad as too low of expectations. The best choice is a biblical one -- the one given to parents by God, and demonstrated time and time again, but His very own character and behavior.

Our first Father raised His children in a specific way. He demonstrated how to do it, and even was Gracious enough to leave us a manual with instructions on how to do it His way. Unfortunately, not all parents take the time to study and read up on God's Way for raising children. Many blunder on through doing whatever is right in their own eyes. The Bible is full of examples of Godly parents raising Godly children. It is also full of stories of ungodly parents raising ungodly children. Even there are a few mixed stories, with parents following after the Lord, but their children doing whatever they chose, and living to regret it.

It is a really difficult task to try and grow up to be a Godly person AND try and meet unreasonable and unrational human expectations. I cannot imagine anyone being successful at both. In the Word, Jesus says to us that we cannot serve two masters. His example is God and mammon (or money, the world, the pursuit of such things). Actually, His example serves any terms. You cannot expect to serve God and ANYTHING OR ANYONE ELSE. You must, therefore, endeavor to serve God alone. Everything and everyone else will fall neatly into second place, right where it belongs.

Parents need to understand this point and remember that their children are not here on this earth to serve them, to meet their needs, or to be examples of their "godly" child rearing expertise. No, children are gifts from God, and like us, their one purpose is to worship the Lord. They were created for the exact same reason as you were created: to acknowledge the One True God and Worship Him. Parents whose focus is on worshipping the Lord will be able to resist the extremes of expectations. They will set God-honoring expectations, in accordance with His Word, and then discipline (instruct) their children with Grace, Compassion and Mercy. They will always remember to follow His Example and to demonstrate God-like character when loving their children (even when discipline must come -- it must always be done so with love).

The best way to avoid placing unrealistic expectations on your children is to understand your own expectations.

  • Recognize your own needs and then acknowledge who is best to meet them (God)
  • Endeavor to educate yourself in character building attributes (read His Word)
  • Practice living a life of humility (Grace-based living)
  • Remembering always that everything you have is a gift from God (thankfulness)
  • Treat everything and everyone with respect, knowing that they too have been created in His Image and Likeness (be kind and compassionate)
  • Lastly, never take another person for granted or consider them your property or a way to make up for something missing in your life. Every person is precious in His Sight and He Ransomed them all. Treat them as such -- they are just as important to Him as you are.

The God of Heaven delights in His children -- all of them -- from the littlest one to the biggest one. He watches over them and has charged us with the task of caring for them. Be compassionate and caring to those whom God has entrusted to you. Remember that you will, one day, stand before Him and give an account of your actions and behaviors in raising the children He gave to you. Shine, dear sister or brother. Be not ashamed on that day...but know that you humbly did your best to raise your children in the fear (awe and worshipfulness) and admonition (instruction) of the Lord.

When is Going Too Far Actually Going Too Far?

It is interesting sometimes. You are in need of help, say a job or car, and everyone (mass generalization -- how about everyone in your circle of friends and family) has ideas and suggestions for you. At first, you welcome their help...after all...you need the item. You need their "eyes on the street" so to speak. The more people you have out there looking, the better chance you have for finding a good deal. It makes a lot of sense, and sometimes it does prove to be a valued asset.

However, sometimes it can be a drain on your resources. Well-meaning friends and loved ones share their new found information and EXPECT you to jump on it and begin investigating. You find yourself spending all your time tracking down leads that tend to not pan out. Now, I guess you can look at it with the "glass half-empty" mindset. You can either say, "I didn't have this information before and now I do -- check it out." Or you can look at it as just another thing to do while you are waiting for that "perfect" opportunity. It really comes down to your choice -- your choice in how you look at it.

I happen to be in the exact same spot right now. Just a few weeks ago, right after Christmas was over, I made the decision to begin job hunting. I had already applied for the position I felt the Lord was directing me to submit an application. The problem: there was a waiting period for this organization. Nothing much I could do about it, it was just their hiring process (8 weeks). If I want to work for this college, I have to go through their hoops -- no short cuts, no way around it. They are an immovable mountain of bureaucracy. You want the job? Then you wait in line just like everyone else.

Don't get me wrong...I appreciate the phone calls and slips of paper delivered to me -- all with potential job opportunities. It is just that after a while, your interest wanes and you simply don't want to jump up and start investigating AGAIN. Especially if you feel that the Lord has directed you to the job He has in mind for you. You want to wait for Him, wait to see Him do what He does best -- deliver on His Word.

Not every well-meaning person believes as you do. Some Christian's are of the "do it yourself" variety. Some believe that "the Lord helps them who help themselves" is written in the Bible (and not a quote by Poor Richard, aka Ben Franklin). Some are like me, not to toot my own horn, but just like me in the sense that we feel that everything that moves, everything that has breath, everything is of God. God moves the mountains, not I. I may want to move that mountain. I may have the faith that tells me I can move the mountain...but I have enough sense to know that I am not superwoman, and that I don't possess any special skill or have a neat utility belt that will allow me to move a giant piece of rock. Nope, my strength fails me. My memory, my abilities, my work, and all my being simple fail miserably at times when I need to be strong, be able, and be ready to work. Nope, my strength comes from the Lord. He moves the mountain in my life. He changes the pattern, the habits, the ways and whyfores. He does it all, and I simply COOPERATE with Him.

I believe that the Lord has a job in mind for me. I believe this with my whole heart. I believe the job He wants for me is the job I have already applied for and am waiting for confirmation. I am sitting at the foot of a giant HR mountain, one that I cannot move. Yet, I know that the mountain mover in my life certainly can shift it. He can move it. He can make a way where there is no way. I just have to wait on Him.

The same is true for the situation with my son's schooling. I mentioned to some folks that I was thinking about placing my son back in high school. Since that moment, I have been inundated with suggestions on this school or that school. Again, don't get me wrong...but I have done my research already. I know pretty much everything about the process of getting an home schooled student back into public school. It is not an easy task -- it is a mountain, just like with the HR company. They move at the speed of dirt -- which here in AZ can be dead still or a whirling dervish. It is a mountain, nonetheless, a mountain that I cannot move. I have to wait for the Lord's hand to move it. I have to wait for His approval to even begin the process.

The Lord knows what is best for me and for my son. He knows what He wants from us, where He wants us to work, to live, to go to school. He is not fuzzy on the details. He is clear and very, very focused. He knows the order of events, and how things are to be accomplished. He knows every single objection, every single possible reason why something may or may not be. He knows it all.

I, on the otherhand, know very little. Other than feeling confident that what I am doing is correct; I know little of the details past this day. I am wholly devoted to Him and His Guidance. I cannot step my own way without stepping outside His Will. I either must wait for His Will to come to pass or I must choose to do my own thing and "help myself." I have done the "helping myself bit" for now on 30 years. My success rate has been pretty poor. I much prefer to wait on Him -- so far everything He has promised has come to pass, everything He has guided me into has been a blessing, and every day I feel at peace and have the confidence of knowing that He has it under control.

Now is not the time for bravery. Now is not the time to "take one for the team." No, now is the time to stand firm and wait on the Lord. Don't give up; don't give in. Be steadfast and wait.

That's my plan...for what it is worth. I have seen the Lord's hand moving in my life, and it is exciting. I believe that what He has in mind for me is Good, really Good. I am willing to wait this one out and watch to see the Lord's provision come to pass. He truly is Good to Me.

January 29, 2010

Experiencing Grace

What a beautiful day! I got up this morning, after the kitties decided to play on the dresser and knock things off. They are better than an alarm clock...because they jump and pounce and really wake you up fast!

After my morning cup of coffee (second cup), I am now in the office and reading emails and blogging. This is my normal day. I get up, feed the boys (my three cats), take care of some business (the kitty boxes), and make my coffee. I usually sit by the front window and have my first cup. The cats tend to congregate on the back of the chair or on the ottoman. They like to look out the front window too, so it is a warm and fuzzy way to start the morning (soft fur and lots of purrs).

Now, that I am fully awake, I am ready to start my day. I like to check email and then blog a bit. Usually, the Lord puts something on my heart and I write about it. Most often, it is after a conversation we had while sitting in the comfy chair. I try and spend a bit of quiet time with Him first thing each am. I don't do Bible study or devotions; I tend to just sit and thank Him for His Blessings and Grace. I am always reminded of how special, how lucky (if luck had anything to do with it), and how blessed I am by His Presence.

The mere fact that I am alive and am able to enjoy my simple little routine, is testimony to His Being. His Being There, I should say. He is in control of everything, and He has a firm grip on my life. I am comforted to know that everything that passes by me, everything that touches me, everything that causes me to stir or pause or wonder...is carefully sifted through His Fingers. Nothing that comes to me has not passed His Muster (inspection). Everything He Plans for my day or week has already been Approved by Him. It is good to know that I can rest assured that my days are accounted for, my time is limited, and my experiences are solely controlled by Him.

Now does that mean that I won't ever experience anything bad...of course not. It simply means what the Word says it means: nothing that happens to me is uncommon to man. In short, every emotion, every pain, every possible situation that man can experience, is a possibility in my lifetime. Will I experience it all? No, thank the Lord. But, I may experience some of it. I have confidence and comfort, however, to know that nothing that does come my way will overwhelm me or overtake me. He has Overcome -- I shall overcome as well.

This sense of "everything is OK' is not of my own doing. There is no power, no ability, no mind control strong enough to give me this sort of confidence. No, this is GRACE at work in my life. The comfort, the joy, the peace, the goodness I feel...it is all an outworking of God's Marvelous Grace in my life. He has done this for me. He is doing this through me. And, He is doing this because He Loves me and Cares so deeply for me.

I am blessed today because the Creator of the Universe Loves me. I ponder His In-finiteness and I stand in AWE of Him. He is God. I am so thankful today that He IS GOD. He IS GOD, and because HE IS, I can rest and have peace and know that I am loved.

God Is So VERY GOOD to me.

January 28, 2010

UGH! I did it again...

I am one of those people who has a very hard head (metaphorically speaking -- my mellon squishes just like everyone elses!! LOL!!) Today, was another lesson in being picky, and looking down my nose at something the Lord wanted me to consider. I know...ya'd think I wouldn't do this again...at least not right after my car buying experience. But, sometimes I am just a nut, a hard nut, and sometimes it takes me a couple times of falling out of the tree to really get it.

My lesson for the day was about my son's schooling. I have been really agonizing over this decision, and have not trusted the Lord's judgment. I knew His decision was a good one...I even agreed with Him right away. It was just the more I thought it over, the more questions popped into my head. Now, the Lord doesn't really mind us questioning Him at all. Abraham questioned God. Moses questioned God. Oh my goodness...David questioned God. God actually doesn't mind questions, so long as they are more about logistics and details, and not about His Integrity.

You see, He does know what is best, and often His best is shrouded in mystery. Some parts of it are clear as a bell, while other parts are still a bit foggy. This is just the way it is with spiritual things. Paul spoke of this mystery in 1 Corinthians 13, when he was writing about love. He referenced how we often look into a mirror, only to see things darkly (or murkily). We see ourselves, but when we look away, we forget what we look like. It is like this with some of the ways of God. Sometimes we look into His Word and we see it -- we get it. Othertimes, we look and we see it, but then we look away, and it all goes fuzzy on us.

God knows that this experience is related to our fragile minds and the limits of our understanding. We have the Holy Spirit of God living within us, yet we still don't always get things correctly, even with the very Best Teacher guiding us.

This was the case with me. The Lord had asked me to consider a specific school, a school that would fit my son well, and one that he would be admitted to mid-year (even after six years of home schooling). I looked it over. It looked good. For a moment, that is. It looked good until I started poking around for details, and with some answers in hand, started to question His Integrity of the decision. It was like..."Well, this looks O-K-A-Y...but I am not sure it really is a good idea, kwim?" Zap! Wrong word choice. Ouch! The Lord is so very Good to me, and He is very Kind and Gentle. He always is Patient. He sometimes, however, gets Irritated when we think we know better than Him.

Yep, I stepped right into the doo-doo of the day. I didn't mean to do so, I just did it out of habit -- a really bad habit. It took me about a day and a half before I realized that what I had done was the source of the chaos in my life. Yep, I had turmoil. I lost my peace. I felt strangely on the outside of things, just for a short while, and it felt really, really bad to me. I prayed, I asked, I confessed. I pretty much did everything in the book to try and figure out where I went wrong, and what happened to my peace. Finally, hard knocks and all, I got it. I realized exactly what I had done, and learned another really valuable lesson.

The Lord's Will is Perfect. His Plans are Perfect, and His Decisions are always Perfect.

The way I learned this lesson (or re-learned it) was through an experiment in frustration. In my desire to find a better choice for my son's schooling, the Lord showed me what it would take to home school my son next year. Now, understand this...I had planned on home schooling him already (months before). I had curriculum chosen (even purchased). It wasn't as though I had nothing set up. The problem was that some things have changed since then. My son has gotten more confirmed in his desire to go directly to the University for music study, rather than through the local community college. This is OK by me, but I hadn't considered their requirements (in general yes, but not specifically). The curriculum plans I had in mind would have worked just fine had my son gone the JC route. Going full-time to the University, well that meant taking some extra hard courses over the summer and next year (repairing some deficiencies).

This was all doable, for sure. The problem, though, is that I will be working full-time outside the home. I will not be a SAHM who is able to handle the extra workload. The Lord knows this, and in truth, I know this as well. I just wasn't thinking as clearly as I should have been nor was I thinking AHEAD. I was fixed on today, and not looking down the road another year.

The school the Lord suggested to me would have eleviated all that worry. My son would graduate and be accepted to the University with no questions asked. This particular University, though willing and open to home schoolers, is known to nit-pick on math and science courses (believing erroneously that home school courses are not as "good" as public school ones). They penalize home school students and make them jump through a ton of extra hoops, just to be accepted. A PS student, even a mediocre student, will get admitted without any questions at all. It is totally unfair, but it is what it is.

So here I was, agonizing over the extra work, when the thought popped out of my mouth (don't you just love it when you speak the truth to yourself?) I heard myself say: "Well, this doesn't make any sense at all. It is far too much work, and (gulp) it would be easier just to go to that other school." Before the words were even out of my mouth, the light went off, the bell rang, and I knew exactly what I had done. I had discounted the Lord's choice simply because I thought I could do a better job (even a half-better job -- working and trying to home school). Yikes!! Talk about being foolish and arrogant -- I was both!

I was confronted with my own shortsidedness, and knew immediately that the Lord was right in this decision. I was shooting my mouth off, without all the facts, and acting like I really did know better. He showed me up, and showed me (rather non-chalantly, I might add) that He really did have it all figured out. Swallowing hard, I said I was sorry to Him, and asked Him to forgive my foolish heart and mind. I do so want His Way. I know it is best. I know He knows what is best for my son. I just didn't realize that what I was doing was offending His Sense of Integrity.

End of story...I learned this lesson...and hopefully it will be the last go-round on this point...at least for a while. I sure do hope so...it is not fun, that is for sure.

Walking with the Lord

As I sit here, eating my cereal and sipping my hot coffee, I am thinking about my walk with the Lord. I have known the Lord for a very long time. He has been my best friend for a while now. It has not always been this way, friendship I mean. For a long time, I walked "alongside" of the Lord. This may not sound strange, like "so what's the difference?" But really, walking with the Lord and walking alongside of Him are two very different things.

When I first became a Christian some 30-years ago, I walked alongside the Lord. I thought this was perfectly normal. In fact, I don't recall being taught that there was any difference, and that it was just fine to walk my own way (so long as I "took" the Lord along with me). I think back on it now, and I shudder at the thought of it. I really thought that life was supposed to be this way, me walking any which way I please (of course, trying not to sin). I occassionally considered the Lord in my choices. I did pray, I did read my Bible. I just didn't think He was interacting with me on a regular basis. It was like He was up in Heaven, interceding for me, but not really active in my "walk." I did my best, and when I needed His help, I prayed and He jumped into action and submitted that prayer to the Father on my behalf.

This "walking" approach netted me very little gain. My life was pretty awful back then. I was living in chaos, trying my best to deal with difficult people and difficult situations. I didn't always control my tongue. My thought-life was out of whack. I did whatever I thought best, and tried hard to not do those things the Bible said not to do.

The funny thing is that this type of walking was the same type of walking I saw all around me. I was attending Bible churches (and even a conservative Baptist church), and the people all seemed to do the very same thing. They weren't living out their faith, walking in their faith, or even trusting in their faith for whatever outcome was needed. They were pretty much cleaned up versions of the people I saw around me. They didn't smoke, didn't drink, didn't cuss...they went to church, they gave money, they volunteered in activities. They were a "different" type of person, at least that is how they appeared.

I was exactly the same way -- cleaned up on the outside, but pretty dirty on the inside. I lived this way for a lot of years. In truth, I was disatisfied with my life, my inner spiritual life. I didn't know why I wasn't filled with joy, I just knew that joy wasn't a component of my daily walk.

It wasn't until just a few years ago that my life turned around. I met the Lord and began walking with Him. It was a night/day type of experience, one that I call my "Damascus Road" (in reference to Paul's experience). I was changed from a person who liked God, into a person who loved God. I stopped walking in my own way, trusting in my own understanding, and leaning on my own abilities. I started walking in His way, trusting in His understanding, and leaning upon Him -- for everything, for every need, and for every moment of the day.

My life changed. I became a new person. I became a friend of God.

I cannot imagine spending my days any other way. I have no desire to do anything outside 0f His will. I do not want to walk or think or talk without Him. I desire to know that He is pleased with me, pleased with my actions, my thoughts, my work. I want Him to have first place in my heart, in my mind, and in my soul. He gets first choice in all things. It is His way, not mine.

I have to tell you that living this way is the way of peace. I lived in chaos for so long, and I thought it was normal. Now, I live in peace, and know that this is NORMAL. The Prince of Peace lives within my heart and I have His peace in every area of my life. My outside circumstances might be chaotic, but my inside is cool and calm and very collected. I am at peace. I have His peace. I am living in it, experiencing it, and loving every moment of it.

The Prince of Peace is key. To have peace in your life, you have to have Him. If you don't have Him living within you, you will never experience this kind of peace. You might get whiffs and smells of it, but you will never have it surround you and keep you.

Dear brother or sister,

Are you experiencing His Peace? Do you have peace, the kind that gives you bold confidence to know that no matter what happens today, you will not be rocked? If not, consider whether or not you are walking with the Lord? Are you in control or is He? If you are in control, know that you will never have His perfect Peace in your life. You have to let Him be the driver, you have to trust Him in all things, and you have to let go of your hold on this life. The Word says that whoever loses his life will find it -- let go of this life and find the true life that comes from walking with the Lord.

January 27, 2010

More Thoughts about School

So today is a new day, and I am thinking more about enrolling my son in this public charter school.

It is another one of those dilemmas that I am facing right now. Besides choosing between job offers (if both are offered), I am considering what to do with my son for the rest of his high school. He has been home schooled for six years. Home schooling was really a great thing for him, up until last year. This past year has been mostly wasted. Last year, was our biggest struggle.

I am not sure if it was the curriculum choice or simply the fact that my son is bored. My son is bored. He is incredibly bored. He is highly gifted, probably more exceptionally or even profoundly gifted (in specific areas -- his development is asynchronous). He has been a challenge to educate and to raise since he was a child. Don't get me wrong, he is the most wonderful and delightful boy ever. He is so awesome, so sweet, and so interesting. I love him to tears, but educating him has been a huge challenge.

For the most part, we allowed him to educate himself. We made use of whatever tools and resources we had -- whether that be the public school or charter school or home school. We did "teach" him subjects, but as far as learning anything of value, that has seemed to come on it's own and through his own interests.

He is 16 now and a junior in high school. Had we left him alone in the public school system, he would be a sophmore. He was skipped one grade at a charter school, and we kept him there for home school. Right now, he is reading college level books. He is pretty much taking college at home (my own made up courses). I am teaching him the way I was taught at San Jose State University. I am using my professor's model of teaching -- a bit Socratic, a bit of a mentor.

The problem is not so much the approach or the materials, but just the interest. My son is not interested in much of anything when it comes to school. I am sure it is a boy-thing, a teenage boy thing. He is interested in programming. He is interested in music. These are the two things that tend to drive him.

On the music front, we have that pretty well-covered. He has a digital grand piano, a keyboard, a computer with Finale (music notating software -- very expensive but a free donation from his piano teacher). He has two electric guitars, an acoustic, and a borrowed bass from a friend. He has his teacher's cello as well as an old 3/4 size violin. He wants a soundboard, a grand piano, a new computer, and a real drum set. Oh yes, and a saxaphone.

On the programming end, he has his own computer (different from his music computer) that he earned while doing some contract work for a professional programmer. He has read every computer book at the library. He mostly writes gaming modification type programs (for fun), but through this process, has learned to program in C++. He also knows every other language except for GUI (he has asked to learn how to program GUI next). He is probably 2-3 years ahead of any community college programming course. He is working professionally for a friend who runs a gaming server community and for my brother, who has his own multimedia software company.

My approach to teaching him, since about 8th grade, has been to make sure we covered the basics, and then let him be interest-driven. He has already completed high school. I could graduate him now if I wanted to do so. He has read enough history, English, science, and completed four years of math -- he could graduate now. I don't want to do that because he is not ready to handle the pressure of college or the responsibility of the demands placed on college students. I still remind him about assignments, I still remember to take him places. He is a bit of an absent-minded professor -- he forgets easily, gets distracted easily, and ends up spending hours and hours working on one little thing, much to the exclusion of everything else.

He is your typical highly gifted, highly motivated person. He just isn't interested in traditional school.

My concern for him is this...once I start working outside the house, he will either be left home alone all day or have to go to some school. If I leave him home, I am asking for a recipe in disaster. He will do the work I assign, that is for sure. He is a very good boy. He will just spend hours and hours on the computer, with no parent to say "enough -- go practice piano for a while." If I put him in a high school, then I am basically looking for a place to babysit him for 7-8 hours a day.

He would do well at the community college IF I were home to help him, IF I were able to take him there and pick him up, IF I managed his schedule (kept his assignments, etc.) I cannot do this. I have to work, and that work will be away from home.

My son actually likes the idea of going to school. He doesn't really want to start college (except for music classes). He likes the idea of being with other kids. He knows he will be really bored, but then he is bored now.

I have contacted a school that is in far north Scottsdale. It is about 28 minutes from us now, but if we move closer to Scottsdale (good for either job), then it will be 20 minutes commute. There is no bus transportation, but they do have a carpool system. This school is supposed to be college-prep. I doubt it seriously, because I am teaching my son college-style, and no high school, whether public or private is teaching anything other than "high school" (the high school level I had when I was 16!) It does offer activity so that is something of interest.

I have confirmed with their enrollment person that they do have space for him. Now, it is just up to him (and my DH) to decide to go there. I personally am Ok with the decision. My son has about 4 months left of this school year, and 9 months of the next. It is not years and years...just months. Plus there is a summer in between, and he is always very active over the summer months (missions trips, youth activities -- he wants to work at Harkins -- there is plenty for him to do). It is just this year and next that I need to get under control. I know it will be OK, regardless of the decision.

The Lord has great plans for this boy...He does know what is best.

January 26, 2010

Dilemmas

Ok, so here I am...sitting and waiting (like yesterday's post). I have actually done some moving forward, but it seems like I am just creeping up, and not really walking at a steady pace. Perhaps this is what the Lord wants for me at this time in my life. Perhaps I am not ready for a steady pace, yet?

I have applied for two positions within the Maricopa Community College System. One position is right up my alley, so to speak. It is well within my experience, and would be fairly easy for me to do. The hours are convenient, and the location is close (within 15 minutes of my current home). The second position pays better, and is a farther drive. This job is something I would like to do. It is within my experience, but it will require odd hours (starting later, coming home later). It is also about 20 minutes from a potential homesite (about 25 minutes from my current location).

I am trying to process both opportunities in my mind. I am trying to figure out the logistics on them, and wondering which position is actually better for me. Is it better to make more money (which seems like a logical question, one with a very easy answer: YES!) or is it better to take the close to home job, with easy hours and less stress (stress just in coordination of school/home/work/church activities?)

My son is the issue, really. He has been homeschooled since the end of 5th grade. I believed and still do, that this was what the Lord wanted for him. He is highly gifted, and was not thriving in the public school. We had tried charter schools, and even with smaller classes, the experience was not a good one. Home schooling has fit my son. He has excelled and done very well. However, in the last few years (high school), I have seen him struggle with boredom. He is simply not engaged in his studies, and he is not having fun anymore. It is more of just routine, duty, getting through the day so that he can do what he likes: programming games.

The thought of putting him back into public school has crossed my mind several times. Once, when my husband had his heart attack; and then later when he had his stroke. I knew then that it might be a possibility, it might be something we would have to consider. My DH recovered, and we continued to home school.

Now that I am starting to plan my life as a single mom, I am having to rethink home schooling. I had hoped to put my son at the community college for the fall. I am rethinking that plan, considering whether or not he is ready emotionally for the task. Academically, he will do just fine. He needs challenging classes; but, socially, well...it would require a lot of commitment from him to make sure that he gets to class, does his assignments, and keeps to the schedule. I am just not sure he is ready to tackle all that on his own.

If I get the first position, it would be easier to have him go to the JC on a part-time basis. I would be home by 4:30 each day. I could do some home school/some college. This was my initial plan. However, now I am wondering if even that will work for him. He is clearly bored, clearly not interested in school anymore. He does want to go to college -- that is a given -- and if he had the chance to just study music -- well, off he would go. He is just not there yet, he still has two years of high school, and I am in a dilemma as to what to do next.

Yesterday evening, the Lord directed me to a charter high school in Scottsdale. I knew of this school because some church friends attend there. It is far away from us -- way up north -- about a 30 minute drive. It is a very good school, gets high marks in college prep studies, etc. It is just so far away. To clutter up matters, I have no idea if they would even take my son. I scanned their website and they only require a report card, a transcript, and a current test score for placement. It is a small school, with only 250 students. It would be a safe place for him.

Academically, I don't know what it would be like. My son is so far ahead of his peers academically, yet he still is such a young boy at heart. I know he would fit in well, and he probably would have fun there. I just am trying to figure out how to do it, how to handle getting him to school, getting me to work, and all those pesky details. Logistics!! The thorn in my side is always logistics!!

So what to do? Well, as in everything I do, I defer to the Lord. It is always easier to do things His way, rather than try it my way (been there, done that one so many times -- with utter failure and disaster as the result). I want His way, I want His way in everything. It is just that I cannot fathom how this would work or why He would choose this path now. It seems inconsistent with everything else going on in my life. Or does it?

Perhaps it is really not inconsistent at all? Perhaps it is just me wanting my own way, wanting convenience over His provision? Perhaps I don't want this provision. Perhaps, just perhaps, I want the Lord to provide another way?

I am thinking back to my post about my new car. I didn't like the color (picky, picky, picky) and the Lord allowed me to suffer a bit, struggle looking over other cars, even coming close to purchasing one that would not have been as good -- all because I didn't like the color (face value) of the provision coming from His hand. I learned that lesson, but did I really learn it? Did I really accept the fact that I was being too picky? Wanting too much? Expecting everything to be perfect?

The Lord is perfect. His will is perfect. His timing is perfect. His provision is always perfect -- it is perfectly given, perfectly timed, perfectly suited to the task or need. It is not always PERFECT on face value. Sometimes the Lord provides imperfect gifts to us, not because He doesn't want to give us the best, but because sometimes the gift is really PERFECT in hindsight. Sometimes things look wrong on the outside, but after a time, turn out to be right on the inside, KWIM?

I found this to be true with my counseling sessions. I kept saying to the Lord, "I don't get where we are going with this line of talk?" and yet, in the end, it made perfect sense. The outcome was exactly what was needed, even if the interim process seemed convoluted and out of frame.

Perhaps the same thing is true with this situation. The school itself is fine. The location is fine. The provision is fine. It just seems out of frame right now. However, in time, it may prove to be a perfect fit for my son.

I guess this is one of those times when you have to do as Proverbs 3:5-6 says:

Trust in the LORD with all thine heart;
and lean not unto thine own understanding.
In all thy ways acknowledge him,
and he shall direct thy paths.

Yes, I think this is a fine example of when it is good to lean not on your own understanding, and rather, lean upon His. He knows what is best for my son. He knows which position is best for me. He is providing for us both, and while, it might not look "perfect" to me -- He knows the outcome and He knows what He wants to come to pass in my life and in my son's life.

Dear Lord,

Help me to accept the paths you have chosen, even when they don't make sense to me. Help me to trust you and to know that you have everything under control. I don't have to always "know" the outcome before I start -- I can lean on your understanding, and rely upon your judgment. Thank you, Lord for all you are doing in my life right now. Thank you for your provision and for your promise to me.

January 25, 2010

Does Waiting Mean Sitting Still?

Yesterday, our Pastor said something that caused me to scratch my head. He always says things like this -- he is that kind of speaker -- the type that can communicate well, and leave you with questions to ponder long after the sermon ends. Yesterday was one of those days. The message was on John 21, and centered around Peter and Jesus' reunion on the beach.

You remember the story: Peter and John and James and some other disciples go fishing. After a long night of no success, they see a man on the beach who tells them to cast their net on the other side of the boat. They do so and haul in a boatload of fish. When they come ashore, they see that it is the Lord.

Our Pastor's message was about reconciliation, the reconciliation between Peter and His Lord. If you can think back a moment, you will recall what Peter had done, and why he so desperately needed to be reunited with Jesus. Peter had denied His Lord three times, right before Jesus went to the cross. Jesus had foretold this to Peter -- Peter knew it would happen -- yet Peter didn't believe the Lord's warning to him. Instead, in Peter-like fashion, he blundered on through, not listening to the Lord, not heeding what He had said to him. Peter did what his impulsive nature led him to do: deny the Lord.

The Word says that Peter wept bitterly after the cock crowed. He didn't listen, He didn't heed. He did what he thought best at that very moment, and the Lord's word came to pass. Now, days later, he was sitting on a beach, and was confronted with the Lord's presence. The Lord was there for one purpose, and one purpose only. He was there to comfort and reassure Peter. He was there to say, in short, "Peter, I am not done with you yet. I have work for you to do. You need to pick yourself up and stop moaning and wailing and feeling sorry for what you did. I forgive you. I need you to get moving again."

Peter did what the Lord asked of him, and great things followed. He became the prophesied ROCK which Jesus used to build His church on. Peter became a different person. He became strong and powerful and a man of great speech and wisdom. He started the church and he died for her. He became the very man Jesus said He would become...but ONLY after his beach encounter with Jesus.

Peter messed up royally. Peter did the unpardonable thing...he rejected Jesus, His Lord and His Savior. Peter did this out of fear, not out of betrayal. Judas was a different story. Judas betrayed the Lord. Peter simply reacted out of his human nature and shrank back in fear. Once he did it, he knew immediately how weak he was in his own flesh. I am sure Peter thought "What good am I? I cannot even stand up in front of a little girl (a servant girl) and say I was with Jesus." Yes, Peter acted like many of us would do, especially when confronted with great fear (fear of pain, fear of death). He ran away.

The good news of this story is that Jesus didn't run away from Peter. He didn't leave him to live with his doubt and fear. No, He found him on that beach and took the time to minister to him. He knew that Peter would play a very important role in His Kingdom, and that he needed to know that He was still loved and accepted and wanted.

The point of this post is about waiting on the Lord. This is the question that I scratched my head at, and the reason I am writing now. Our Pastor, amidst retelling the Gospel account, said this "Why did Peter and the other disciples go fishing?" The point being that they had already seen the Lord twice, so they knew He was about and was still on Earth. They had been waiting, sitting still in the upper room (twice He visited them there), so why were they out fishing on this particular day. His response: because they were fishermen and were more than likely in need of both food and good work. His thought was this...if the disciples were waiting for the Lord, they could either sit still and do nothing (and wait for another appearance) or they could do what was needed at the moment (get some food and perhaps sell some to make some cash). They chose to do the later, and as the story is concluded we see that the Lord appeared to them while they were doing their daily work.

I asked the Lord..."Lord, what is the difference between sitting still and waiting and working and waiting?" His reply to me was this...

Sometimes the Lord does ask us to sit still, literally, to stop what we are doing and stand still. Sometimes we need to take a break, take physical rest, or actually take some time off to process change or new instructions. Sometimes our waiting is figurative, and not literal. Sometimes the Lord asks us to keep on doing what we are doing, WHILE He prepares change for us. Sometimes we need to go fishing (or to work or to school or to do the shopping). Sometimes we need to keep on keeping on...and rest in the knowledge that the Lord is at work doing what He needs to do.

It really comes down to two things: His timing and His ability.

The Lord's timing is perfect. We don't always like His timing. We would prefer things to happen in our own time. Sometimes the Lord's timing is Biblical, meaning that the thing occurs in "time" (an unknown period). Sometimes the Lord's timing is physical, meaning in our time (like at 2 p.m. today). Timing, therefore, is a tough thing to grasp. We cannot know when a thing will occur, so we must rest assured that it will, and leave it at that.

The second part is really key, IMHO. And, that is to know that regardless of the timing (though the two do work together), God's ability is never to be questioned. The Lord is able to do what He chooses, and He is able to do it precisely when it is necessary and critical to do so. The Lord's timing does not affect His ability to do a thing. He is always able to do what He says. He is always able to bring a thing to pass.

In the case of Peter, the Lord's ability to appear to Him was not specific to His timing of it. It didn't matter whether Peter was sitting in that upper room, feeling all sorry for himself or not. The Lord could have appeared there, just as He did twice before. He chose instead to appear to him right in the middle of his fishing trip.

The same thing is true for you and for me. No matter what the problem or circumstance you face this day, the Lord is able to appear to you, to meet you, to take time with you. You don't have to sit still and wait for Him to show up (unless, of course, He has asked you to be still for a bit). You can be at work, be at school or be at home today, and the Lord can show up in your life. All you need to do is to look for Him. See Him standing on that beach (figuratively speaking). He is calling to you to cast your net aside and let Him perform something miraculous in your life this day.

Dear Brother or Sister,

Are you waiting on the Lord? Are you sitting still and waiting for Him to appear? If so, consider this...is your waiting specific of the Lord's instruction to you? Did He ask you to sit down and actually wait (be still?) If not, then get up and get moving. Do something today that will help make your life better (even if it is cleaning the bathroom or doing the laundry). Get moving. Get up and go about your day. Know that He is able to handle whatever you need without your sitting still and waiting for Him to do it. He can show up in your life right in the middle of your work week or when you are making dinner. The Lord doesn't need you to be still, unless of course, He has called you to a specific rest. Get going, trust that He has everything under control. His timing is perfect and He is able to do whatever needs doing in your life this day.

Praise the Lord for He is ABLE to do whatever needs doing today!

January 24, 2010

Sunshine in AZ

It is a beautiful day here in Arizona! The sun is rising and the clouds are all but gone. The rain is over for now. There is a chance of rain again next week, but for today, it is lovely AZ winter weather (high about 60).

The Lord has been so Good to me. Yesterday, He brought me a solid, used car. I cannot tell you how I feel right now. The first thing I did when I got up (after feeding the cats and putting my coffee on) was to look out the window at my new car. It is such a beauty.

At first, I wasn't thrilled with the color. In fact, this car was one of the first the Lord showed to me. I was on http://www.autotrader.com/ and looking at any used car in my price range (under $5K). This one was right at the top of the screen. I felt Him prodding me to look at it, so I did. It was cute. It was clean. The color was, well...orange! I am not an orange person. I am a brown person or a blue person, but definitely not orange! Some people like orange; some people don't. I am in that latter category.

I remember wrinkling up my nose at the color. Then I said "I am sorry, Lord." I am particular. He knows this about me. He knows that being particular and being picky are two different things. Particular means "dealing with or giving details, as an account or description, of a person; detailed; minute." For me, it simply means that I am specific about how a thing looks or works. I am into the fine details. I notice little blemishes and other tiny things. I am not so bad that I will discount something on that basis, it is just that I tend to see these things first. A picky or fussy person would reject something on face value, simply because it doesn't meet their standard. I am more about noticing the details, and not so much about rejecting them all together.

In this instance, though, I did not care for the color of this car. It was perfect in every other way, but the color was just wrong, wrong, wrong.

The Lord is so GOOD to me. He knows me. He understands my nature. He accepts me being particular and always tells me that He can "work with me" on it. He is so GOOD.

Naturally, I skipped over this car and kept on looking. I looked, I looked and I looked some more. I even took a couple test drives, and came close to purchasing a very nice older BMW (until my Dad's mechanic said -- "no way!") After becoming so frustrated and thinking that there was literally NO CAR out there for me, the Lord prodded me again. This time, He showed me the car and said "Go check it out."

WOW! I am so glad I listened. It was perfect, and in truth, the color is not orange at all. It is a lovely rust color (with gold glittery sparkles). The car, while not blue or black or some other color I would have chosen first, is really lovely. It is in excellent condition, with just a few very minor dings and some paint scratches. I can buff them or get some touch-up paint and you would never even know they were there.

I learned my lesson on being "picky." I let my particular sense turn into fussiness. This is a no-no when it comes to the Lord's provision. It is ok to focus on the details, to scrutinize and to be careful. The Lord wants us to be careful stewards with His gifts. He has no issue with "need to know details." He doesn't, however, want us to be so picky that we overlook a gift because it has a few dings it. Hey, He doesn't overlook us and we are pretty well damaged!!

As I look out the window today, I see my new car. It is a symbol of what is to come. I now have reliable transportation and can actively seek work. I don't have to rely on my parents for transportation to and from church or other events during the week. I can go to the store when I need to go, rather than waiting for when it is convenient. It is a GOD-GIVEN gift and I am so thankful to the One who provided it to me.

Yes, I have to say...I think COPPER is a lovely color. I am well-pleased with the Lord's choice in a car for me. He does know me best! PTL!!

January 23, 2010

God is SO GOOD to me!

I am a car owner again!! PTL!! My car hunt today turned into car buying and I came home with the little Kia Rio (pictured in this morning's post). It is a super fun car to drive, very zippy, yet not too frilly. It is a no-nonsense car, nothing special on the inside, but still loaded with those musts (a CD player and cold A/C for our hot AZ days!) It doesn't have power windows or locks or seats or anything of that sort. It is just a plain little commuter car. Perfect for me and perfect for my 16 year old son.

The Lord has promised Good to me. He has promised me a car, and He kept His promise. There were times when I wondered if He was going to bring me one -- I mean -- we looked at a lot of rough ones before finding this one. Then I wondered if I could even find one in our price range. We ended up getting a sweet deal from the Kia dealership (I stuck to my guns and the Lord pressed hard on the sales manager -- he caved and we went home with car in hand!) The Lord knew exactly how much money I could spend, and how much would be needed for tax and license and insurance. It just worked out perfectly and now I have a great little car to take me to and from work, church, and shopping (not to mention cello/piano lessons, youth group, Awana, and chamber rehearsal).

Yes, God is Good. He knows exactly what I need, and provides for it exactly when I need it most. I am praising Him now, thanking Him for His provision of a car, and worshipping Him as God and King!

Car Hunting...Again


I am off on the hunt for a car today. I have scoured Craigslist.org, viewed everything on autotrader.com, and asked everyone I know if they know of a good used car for sale. I even visited a used car lot (interesting experience to say the least!) Now, I am going to a dealer. Sigh!

I have only been to a dealer once, years ago, and it was not a pleasant experience. That was then, and of course, this is now. I am desperate to get a car, and the used ads are not giving me anything good to go on. You know what they say...don't go to a dealer when you are desperate?? Yes, this is probably true, but what can I do. I need a car, I cannot get to work without one.

I have prayed over this decision, and feel that the Lord is OK with it. I emailed a dealer yesterday, and one of their sales people called me back. Inventory is very low at dealers right now. Obama's Cash for Clunkers program was such a big hit, that the dealers took in a lot of trade-ins. Where are these cars now? Crushed or either shipped overseas. This leaves buyers with under $5K to spend with fairly little choice.

I have an appointment at 11 am today to test drive a 2004 Kia Rio 4-door sedan. It has low-miles, and appears in good shape. It is so hard to know, but the pictures do show well. My hope is that it is in good driving condition, and that the dealer is willing to get me out the door for about $4500. This leaves room for us to get insurance and come under our budget.

The good news is this: the Lord knows how much I need a car. My entire life is predicated on getting a used car. I have a to-do list from the Lord and item number 1 is a car. So He knows how important it is for me to get a good car. I am trying very hard to not be too picky. I can't really help it, because I have not had a used car of my own since I bought my first car back in 1982 (a really sweet Triumph Spitfire). I have always had my DH's cars and whatever hand-me downs were given to us as a couple. My DH always got the newer car because he had to commute to work. I haven't had any car in about three years, so just having my own is a big deal for me. I want it to be clean and sharp (I take care of my car -- wash and polish it, keep it clean on the inside), and want to feel special when I drive it (I want to have that feeling of pride -- not a haughtiness, but more of feeling satisfied with the car you have been given).

So...rain or no rain...I am off to the dealer to look at used cars. My prayer is that I will come home with a new car today!! PTL!!!

January 22, 2010

More Thoughts

I just got back in from a trip to Target. I am not a big Target fan, as some people are. It seems that there are Target-people and Walmart-people. Target-people look down on Walmart-people, who by their very character seem somehow "less than" other Target-people. Don't get me wrong, I am not a fan of Walmart, either. I just happen to know some people who will not shop at Walmart, no matter how much money they can save on a particular product.

I do almost all my shopping at Super Walmart. I like that I can do my grocery and other shopping in one trip. My mother almost always favors the Target store down the street. I personally think I save money at Walmart. Mom likes Target, though she will go to Super Walmart if the need arises.

My son told me about the "Target-people" thing when he got back from his winter ski trip. Apparently on the ride home, the conversation turned to Target and everyone EXCEPT my son said they favored Target. My son preferred Walmart (though he is like me and will shop either place without too much thought). I was surprized that so many people think Walmart is somehow a lower class store. I am a comparison shopper so I rarely buy brand items. I have no issue buying either Walmart or Target store brands. I go for what is least expensive and still works for me.

Don't ask me why I decided to post about this topic -- LOL! I just thought it was funny that so many people were that preferential in their "giant box" stores!!

On another note (no pun intended), my cello lesson was cancelled for the day. My teacher is not feeling well, so she cancelled her lessons. That was actually OK for me, because I didn't get much practice in yesterday. We had major rain storms and even an electricity outage (due to a palm frond landing on our neighbors portion of the electric wires -- three loud booms -- house-shaking booms, and then no power! Scary stuff!) We also had several tornado warnings -- a rarity in Phoenix. Apparently, they did have a tornado in Scottsdale (north of us) that did some damage to the Russo and Steel car auction.

Well, that is my story for today. Not much going on. Cloudy skies, rain off and on, and windy conditions for today. It's a good day to stay in the house.

Well, at least for a while. I do have to go to Walmart! LOL!!

January 20, 2010

Deliverance is Near


The Word of the Lord came to me. The Word spoke truth into my mind. I am reminded today that nothing is impossible for God. The God of the Universe is able, more than able to solve my dilemma, to rescue me, to deliver me from the hand of my enemy. He is more than able to do anything I ask or expect of Him (according to His will). I must trust Him and rely on Him and KNOW that He is God.

I got it, I get it, I am getting it (I know, my English teacher would cringe right now!) I see His hand moving in my life. I feel His presence. I am not alone. I am not afraid. Yes, I am frustrated right now; and yes, I really, really would like things to move just a wee bit faster...BUT, I am content. I know that God's plan is working. He is moving mountains in my life. He is making my life into something of His own choosing. He is changing things up, moving things around, and generally suiting them to His needs and His purposes.

You wouldn't think that God has needs, but He does. God doesn't need anything, this is truth. He needs us to do His work. He wants us to be a partner with Him in His ministry to this world. In short, He needs to use us in specific ways. He chooses whom He will use. He then does whatever is needed to make us fit for that task. This whole process of become useful is an act of His marvelous Grace. It is not really anything of ourselves. No, it is all of Him and it is all for His Glory.

The problem we have is that this process takes time. Sometimes it takes a long time, like with Moses (nearly 40 years of preparation). Sometimes it takes what the Bible calls "time," like in the case of Paul (three years). Sometimes it is immediate, especially when God can call on a servant whose heart and mind is ready to receive the task. Timing is up to God. He determines when things will be, when they will come to pass. And, the rub in all this is that often God's timing depends on other people.

I know, what a weird thought, but it is truth. You see (speaking to myself here), people often complicate the plans of God. God is Gracious and doesn't always make people do what they should. No, He waits and waits and longs for them to respond to Him on their own. In some cases, the person God needs to move, is simply not listening to Him. In some cases, the person is listening or at the least is available to listen.

Man has free will, and as such, he can choose or not to choose to cooperate with God. In my case in particular, I am waiting on a job application. It is a very good job, a perfect job. However, I cannot rush the process. There is a person, a real-live, flesh and bone person who sits between me and a job. Now, I believe that this is the job God has in mind for me. I believe it because it is so perfectly suited to my skills that you simply could not make it up (well, God could and perhaps He did??) I have to wait. I have to continue to pray that the person who makes the decision on applicants will be tender towards God's Spirit. I have to pray that this person will consider my resume above all the others. I am not asking God to put me into a position I am not qualified to have -- just that He would facilitate the interview and soften the heart of the HR person.

The same is true for my car search. I blogged about this a few minutes ago, but the truth is that I cannot control my circumstances nor can I control people. I can only do what the Lord asks of Me. I can only trust Him to move, to provide, to faciliate my needs. I must walk in faith and by that I mean...I must walk with a single-minded purpose, knowing that God is in front me of me, directing my steps. I am not trying to figure my steps out, no...I am only to walk in the steps the Lord has pointed out to me. I walk; I follow. He leads me; He guides me; He directs me. In doing so, I am able to go where He asks me to go, and do the work He has purposed for me to do.

Walking sometimes is hard. Today it is hard. Tomorrow may be easier, but today is hard.

My faith rests in the One whose hand is guiding me. I don't understand it today, but I see His hand and I know Him. I know He loves me. I know He will not let me wander or go astray. I must walk behind Him, following after Him. He will lead me through this forest and out into the bright sunshine.

Back to Square One


"Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these." ~Matthew 6:27-29

The car hunt is back on again. Yesterday, I spent the morning taking a possible car to my mechanic. The lady who was selling it, was kind enough to allow me to have it checked over. I was glad I did. My mechanic found $1500 worth of repairs, all critical for registration (2 sensors that would keep the car from passing inspection). The lady was trying to sell this car at top dollar, and I doubted she would come down that much in price. I had to walk away.

I came home, rather disgruntled, not so much because the car failed, but because I would have to continue searching for more cars. I hate looking for used cars. I simply detest the entire process. My mechanic offered this advice: "Go buy a new Honda." "Yes, Sparky, and are you going to loan me the $25K to do that? Nah!"

I have limited funds right now and inventory is low. A used car dealer we visited this weekend said it was due to Obama's "Cash for Clunkers" program. I didn't realize that those cars were turned in for cash (got that part), but were then crushed for metal reuse. They were not resold as used cars! If you look at the dealer's websites, they have no used cars for sale under 10K. All the low cost cars have been trashed or sent overseas!!

My choices are limited. My options are few. Yet, without a car, I cannot get a good job. I need a job so I can provide for myself. My credit score has been damaged over the course of years (due to my DH's business), so I cannot go out and buy a new car. I cannot get a loan. I need a good used car for under $4K. I have been told that people in my position will not buy a $4K car, but will take that money and put it down on a newer used or new car. It makes sense and IF I had a good job, I would do the same. I would take that money and go and buy myself a $15K car, something with a good warranty. But that is simply not going to happen right now.

So what does a girl do? Well, this girl is a praying girl, so that is what I am doing. The Lord knows that I need a good car. Not just any car, but one that I can drive for a long while. He knows that I need a car now. He knows inventory is low, He knows that I have limited funds. He is well-aware of my situation. I must trust Him and know that He is God. He can move mountains, and therefore, He can move this mountain in my life.

My prayer is this:

Dear Lord,

You know that I need a car. I need a good, reliable car; something that I can drive and feel safe in. I have limited funds and my hands are empty. I cannot find a car nor can I go and buy one on my own. I need your help. I need you to provide a car to me. I am asking in the Name of Jesus, for a car. Please provide me with a good car today.

Amen (and selah!!)

January 19, 2010

Thinking about Tomorrow

It is raining again today -- two days in a row -- whoowhee! Here in AZ, we tend to go all hog over rain. I know, it seems such a routine thing, but since we don't get rain all the time (we should, we just don't due to the Jet Stream -- if it is north, it misses us), the little we get is a cause for celebration.

As I posted yesterday, I love the rain. I love gray skies and clouds hanging low over the mountains. I think rain makes everything smell better and look cleaner. Sure, too much rain can make a mess, but a good soaking does wonders and really makes everything look so new and shiny when the sun finally does pop out. Rain...it is such a nice change.

So here I am today, blogging and drinking my morning joe and getting ready to get in the shower. I am thinking about today and about tomorrow. I have plans today, not much really, but some exciting developments. Yesterday, my folks and I went and looked at a used car. It turned out to be very positive, so we are taking it to have our mechanic give it a quick once over. If he says it looks good, then we will buy it and I will be an "official" car owner again! Hurrah!!

Tomorrow, I have cello and AWANA. I am hoping that I can get my new car and then register it, insure it, and be able to start using it to get me to where I need to go each week. I have been so reliant on my parents these last ten years. My folks retired to AZ n 2000. I had a car then, but only off and on during that period. The last three years I have been carless. My DH has used the car for his work, so that meant that I needed to get a ride with my parents regularly throughout the week. They were not disagreeable to it, but there have been times when it has caused frustration for them. They love to help out, but being "on call" gets old, KWIM?

That is why tomorrow could be a big day for me. It could be the day, my first day of real freedom. A day when I am no longer beholden to my parents, a day when I can come and go as I please and not have to "arrange" my schedule so I have transportation. I know that for many folks, having a car is really not that big of a deal. In many citities, urban transportation is readily available and it is very reliable. Here in Phoenix, everything is spread out, so getting to the grocery store is a good hike (often not even doable for most people). A car is a necessity in Phoenix, especially in the hot summers or during the monsoon season. A car, in short, is critical for home, for work, and for life.

As I face my tomorrow -- this one and all the rest -- I think about how things will change for me. I will no longer be dependent on anyone else. I will be able to pursue a job, return to graduate school, get involved in ministry, and at the least, take my cello in the trunk to lesson (rather than strapping it to my back and walking to my lessons). It is a little thing, I know, but for me, it is transformational. I see it as a new frontier, a way out. It is like you are sitting by the roadside, looking down the road to where your future lays. You can walk it, for sure; but, it is a long walk. So you sit down and wait. You wait for a ride, a bus, someone who might stop and help you. You walk some more. The walk is wearing you out, and you think..."If only, I could get in a car and drive myself...then I would be able to get there so much sooner." Sometimes it is good to walk, sometimes it helps you think clearly. Sometimes, though, you need to get moving, and then walking or running simply will not do. You need to move, and to move now.

I liken my journey to this very word picture. I have been sitting by the side of the road for so long now, just waiting for someone to come alongside and help me get moving. The Lord has done this for me. He brought people to me who would help me, who would care for me. Now, I am strong and able, well-rested and ready to get moving. Now, I am ready to tackle the work He has set before me. I am ready...I just need to get going!

Update: May 26, 2010

I have been going back through my older posts and adding updates to them. So much has changed with me personally, and I want to make sure I am noting what God has done to help me through these dark and difficult times. Over the course of several months, I have grown incredibly strong. But, more than this, I have become confident in the Lord, and in His Plans and Timing. When I wrote this post, I did think I was strong. Funny how that is...I did feel strong, but it was not the kind of strength I possess now. It was a quick strength, the kind that works when your adrenaline gets pumping. We all possess this kind of strength. It is the kind that kicks into action when fear or failure or some horrible thing is happening and you just have to survive. That was what I was experiencing back in January, and I thought it would last me forever. Unfortunately, since then, I have learned that the adrenaline strength is given to us when we need it most. It was never designed to sustain us. It was temporary, just enough to cause us to get through whatever circumstance we were facing. Now, five months later, I have developed true strength, the kind that lasts, the kind that can go the distance today as well as tomorrow.

This new strength only comes after much trial. It is like the weight-lifter who lifts regularly and notices their endurance increasing. They take pride in what they have accomplished, but if they were to go through a contest or some extreme situation where they needed long-term strength, they know they couldn't do it. That kind of strength only comes after much training, much practice, and much discipline. This is the kind of strength the Lord desires we develop. It is difficult to do that simply because "doing it" means we must endure great trials and often enormous suffering. However, the trial and suffering has it's good result -- we become hardened, strong, and diligent. We become the kind of people the Lord needs -- people who won't give up or give in, who will go the full distance with Him.

This is how I feel today. I have suffered much, but I have overcome. I am so very strong and capable, yes; I know this. But, now I have a different kind of confidence. My confidence is not in myself or in other people, no; my confidence is only in the Lord. I have learned what the Psalmist said is true:

"Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help." Psalm 146:3

It is a sad truth, but there is no hope in men or princes or principalities. Man, all humankind will fail; but the Word of the Lord stands true. Jesus, the TRUE AND FAITHFUL ONE is the only one who can save us, and who can safely lead and guide us through this life and on into the blessed next. My faith and my trust reside in Him alone.

Soli Dei Gloria

January 18, 2010

Rain

It is raining today. I love the rain. Our forecast is for rain all week. How Glorious is the Lord to provide rain to us? We are behind in our rain total for 2009, so hopefully 2010 will be wet and soggy for a while (it helps us get through the long hot summers).

The rain reminds me of God's provision. God has thought of everything, you know. He sends the rain to water the plants and feed the animals. He sends it so that we can grow food. The rain is so necessary -- for without it --everything would die.

God's provision is like that -- it is a critical necessity -- and without it we would literally die as well. Whether that provision is something as basic as food and water or the more eternal, aka salvation, we all need to rest and rely upon God's provision.

Just today, I was thinking about His providing for me. I am in a tight spot right now. I have very little resources at my disposal. I am in the midst of separating from my husband, I have no job, and no car to find a job. I am a stay-at-home mom who has home schoooled her child for the past six years. Though I have worked from home previously, I have not had to seek full-time work outside the home for nearly 20 years. I am willing to work, but right now with the economy and job loss forecasts, well...it is not the best time to be a SAHM looking for work.

My DH, while paying our bills, is barely paying our bills. His work, consulting, has dried up yet he is not looking for more work. He seems content to continue to get by on the bare minimum, which leaves us in a difficult predicament. We are relying on the generosity of family, and needing money for food. I have been in this place before, many times, but never quite this exact same way. I have always been "low" on supplies, but there was a check coming, the potential of filling up the pantry at the end of the week, etc. This time, there is no "check" in the mail or client who will pay his bill. Thankfully, my family has provided some interim support to me. They are standing beside me and have helped me so that we do have food (not a lot, but enough for today and tomorrow).

As I think back on the past month (considering Christmas and all), I see how God has used the kindness of others, to provide for me. He has taken what little was offered, and then stretched it out to meet multiple needs. He took one gift and not only provided Christmas for us, but has also used it for food, for miscellaneous expenses, and to buy some much needed curriculum for my son. God took what was there, and then multiplied it so that it would bless me over and over and over again.

I have never directly seen this work in my life. Sure, I can look back and see the times when the Lord has provided for one need. But, not like this. I mean, this is like a miracle at work. It is like Elijah and the widow's oil not running out. How can one small amount cover so many needs? Only by the Grace of God.

So today as I look out the window and see the rain come down, I am reminded of God's faithfulness to us. He sends the rain. He also sends us money (at times) so that we can buy the basics we need to keep our families fed. His blessings pour down from heaven just as clearly as the rain falls from the sky. Our God is faithful. He never forgets a need. He never overlooks anything. He knows what we need, and then provides it to us. And in typical God-like fashion, He usually provides abundantly more than what we asked or expected. Our God is so GOOD. There is no other God like Him. He alone is God and He alone is GOOD.

January 17, 2010

Praying for the People of Haiti

My heart is just filled with compassion for the suffering people of Haiti. Today, at our church, we spent significant time praying for the needs of the Haitian people as well as for the safety of the rescue workers, doctors and medical staff, and the military who are attempting to distribute aid.

There is nothing like seeing the devastating imagery on the news to cause you to stop and thank the Lord for His Mercy and Compassion. Though I do not believe in a God who punishes people, I do believe in natural disasters and a God who shows His Nature through His Love and Goodness in spite of the devastation. My God is a God of Love and hears the cries of the people, especially those who are dying and are all alone. My heart cries out as well, asking for Him to send help, to provide support and encouragement, and to enable those on the ground to do what they do best, be it military, doctors and nurses, or missionary/support personnel.

Our God is a God of Grace and His Mercy is ever anew.

Dear Lord,

Pour out your riches and blessings upon this country. Lift up the people who are suffering now and send them your care and comfort. In the name of Jesus, I pray...Amen.

January 15, 2010

The Love of God

Last night, while I was tucking my 16yo into bed (well, not really anymore -- we say prayers and then our good nites, etc.), our closing conversation turned toward the devastating earthquake in Haiti. My son is very sensitive, and often, has great concern about natural disasters and other human-scale events that cause suffering and pain. It is a good thing or a God-thing. His heart is tender towards God's creation, and he is easily moved by the things that cause hurt.

As we were talking about the situation in Haiti, my son asked how he could help. He is getting ready to go on a winter retreat (snow boarding and retreat). He wanted to donate his spending money to help the people who are suffering. I was touched by his generosity, and assured him that we would indeed help in some way (he actually needs his spending money to buy dinner on the way to/from CA). I think the thing that touched my heart was that he was so willing to go without, to not have more than necessary, so that he could offer some help to those who clearly had nothing.

It is a wonderful thing to see the Love of God demonstrated in the hearts and minds of your children. This is what parents hope for, pray for, and trust in the Lord, to produce in their off-spring. Seeing God's love poured out upon our families and then seeing our families pour out His love on others -- well, it is the Great Commission and the Great Command, all rolled into one.

Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. ~Deut 6:5

"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" 37Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' 40All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." ~Matthew 22: 36-39

God loves us with perfect intention. We are, in turn, to love Him and others. We cannot love others perfectly, nor can we even attempt to love Him in any way, any shape or any form, like the way He loves us. We can try, though, and we can rely on His Grace to stand in the stead and make up for our weak and pitiful attempts at loving the One who made us.

God is Gracious and Compassionate. He sees the hurt and suffering and death in Haiti. His heart is tender and affectionate towards these people. He doesn't like it when His creation suffers through natural disasters. He gives His great Love and His mercy, and He often provides direct intervention through the hearts, the hands, and the resources of others. God sees the need; He knows the hurt. He is well-acquainted with the suffering and pain.

My prayer this day is that not only will God's love be poured out on the people of Haiti, but that also the workers will receive great care and concern as they do the work necessary to help save those trapped and dying. May the Lord richly bless those who have taken the time to respond to the call for help.

January 14, 2010

School Update

Well, we survived our Christmas Break and are now back on our schedule. We started term 2 shortly after Thanksgiving, and got in about 2.5 weeks before we took time off for Christmas/New Years. Term 2 is going well...so far.

Here is a brief update:

Bible - DS is not doing his reading, so I am going to have to get on his case a bit. He normally is a good Bible reader, but I switched him from reading online to using the 365-daily Bible. Perhaps switching him back to a printed online schedule will work better.

Math - we have finally finished Unit 1! Hurrah!! DS has to take the unit exam today, but has maintained an A average in this course (Precalc). I am pleased so far. We will not finish this course this year (over 300 lessons), so I plan on re-enrolling him next year for the second half. It still counts as 1 credit, but we will spread it over 2 years. Not a problem, and so long as he doesn't zone out on me, we should be A-OK.

Science - Geology is ho-hum, but the video series is good (through http://www.learner.org). DS likes it and is learning a lot about the earth.

Russian - has gone by the wayside. We started strong, but are not getting to it each day. I think he would do better if it were online and not on audio CD. Oh well...we will keep trying to see if we can finish part 1 of Y1 this year.

English and History - we are doing well with HEO Y11 Lite. This is my own version, but is similar to what is posted online. DS likes all the books, and is keeping up with his reading. He is giving good narration. I am pleased.

Composition - I just purchased The Elegant Essay (IEW) and will work with him once it arrives. This is a short, 10-unit course, on the fundamentals of essay writing. DS can write well, but hasn't done any real essays. We did complete Jensen's format writing, and he did do all the assignments. He needs more work and practice on writing expository essays. This course should prepare him for next year (Stobaugh's British Literature).

Government/Economics - DS has read almost all the AO/HEO books listed for these subjects. I ordered PowerBasics Government and we will work through this course this term/next. It will just cover all the basics on Government. As far as Economics goes, I plan on having him read A Beka's text book. It should be a simple, straightforward look at basic economics.

Other than this...he is continue to work on his programming skill, volunteering at Church, and is progressing on his music studies. All in all...we are accomplishing what I had planned. I have cut back on the pressure a bit, and am now thinking he will attempt the ACT test this spring/early summer. I would like him to take it several times before we apply to schools. Not sure how that will work or if we will even be able to do it. I am hoping DS will consider the community college as a stepping stone. I have discovered that Scottsdale Community College has an excellent music department, and that all their courses transfer over to ASU. This would be a good thing...and give DS time to mature before being dumped into a 30K+ University.

Oh well...life and school must go on!