December 31, 2010

The End of a Long Year

2010 is coming to an end.  It will close out tonight, and tomorrow will be the first day of the New Year.  It is an exciting time for me because it brings closure of a sort to my life.  I have been on this journey for several years now.  I started it back in 2006 when I came face to face with the death of a young friend.  It was a moment that caused me to sit up and take notice of my own life.  The shortness of her life, brought to a close at so young an age (only 30), required me to evaluate my own life and a number of choices I had made.  I spent the next two years in deep reflection and study of God's Word.  Throughout this time, I came to understand my own neediness as well as the Lord's blessing of Grace upon my life.

The following years were spent in constant conversation with the Lord, and this in part, enabled me to survive some difficult and devasting situations within my life and my marriage.  Not only did I survive a widow-making heart attack (my husband's), but also a brain hemmorhage/stroke that was called "life ending" (again, my husband's).  Both illnesses required a year recovery, and resulted in major financial turmoil for our family.  We lost signficant income opportunities, and lived near the poverty level (and on Medicaid for our health expenses).  The same year as my husband's stroke, I came face to face with infidelity and the ensuing failure of my marriage (then 24 years).  After agonizing details were revealed to me, I had to come to terms with the fact that I was going to be single, and nearly 50 years old.  My identity was firmly established as wife and mother, and though I continued in the role of Mom, I had to re-identify myself as a working single parent.  It was the most difficult thing I have ever had to do, and in hindsight, it was the single most traumatic event to occur in my life.

This past year has been spent learning how to be single.  I have had to relearn how to manage money, and I have had to establish myself as a working person.  I am working PT now, but looking for FT work.  I am also a graduate student, responsible for my own student loans.  My life has taken a new turn, and I am now a confident person.  I know myself, and my identity is firmly grounded in my faith in Jesus Christ.  I am ready to tackle most anything, and my trust of the Lord is secure.  I have come so far in such a short amount of time.  I have learned that I can be dependable, and that I am able to provide for myself and my son.  I can manage money, pay bills, purchase necessary items, and live frugally/modestly within the boundaries and guidelines of Scripture.  I know now that I can manage a home, care for my 17 year old son, and make financial plans without fearing any repercussions.  I can do all that God asks of me because everything is depdendent upon Jesus, and His Grace.

God has chosen to redeem me from the pit of circumstance, and I am no longer the same person.  I have been rescued, and God has changed me into something useful, practical, and good -- for His Kingdom and His Glory.  I am blessed, abundantly blessed, and through His Grace, I am now able to contemplate all things in accordance with His will for my life.  If He says go, I go.  If He says stay, then I stay.  I am His and He is mine, and together we will do His Work for His Name and His Glory.  Amen and Amen.

Happy New Year 2011!  God has great plans for this next year, and I am excited to see them come to pass.

December 30, 2010

Gaming and other Goodies

My son got a PS3 for Christmas.  It has been a major controverisal issue in our family, the not allowing gaming consoles in and such.  My DH has not allowed any type of game, though computer games have made their way through the "No Fly Zone."  We learned quickly how addictive they can become, and we struggled for a time with our son, who picked "Call of Duty" as his number one obsession.  We took the computer away, forbade him to play at friends, etc., and generally tried to manage his game addiction.  It wasn't until last year that my son finally stepped up to the plate and took control of his gaming interest.  In the ensuing months, he has moderated his time, choosing other interests instead of the games, and mostly has beaten his obsession with them.  This whole matter was my doing, really.  I talked DH into getting a PS1 years ago, but back then our son wasn't really interested in games at all.  I gave in when our son begged me for Battlefield 1942, which he had played at a friends house.  I bought it for him when he was 12, and well the rest is history.

Over the course of time, these games have functioned in more ways than simply to divert his attention.  He has made online friends (which is a bonus since he is an only child).  He has learned an amazing amount of programming language, even to the point of working as a contract programmer from time to time.  He has also built games for his friends, and has one particular game that is very popular now (gamers play it from all over the world, and email and contact him for bug/problem fixes).  Though he plays the games in team match (with other players), he uses this time for social/friendships.  It is a weird thing to consider that he has made friends around the world, and that they share interests like this.  I guess it is how social friendships work in the 21st century.

Since he demonstrated great restraint, and was able to hold down a part-time job this fall, I decided to purchase a PS3 for him.  He has wanted one since they came out, and has championed their benefits (outside of games) for a long time.  Now that I am able to buy things based on my own opinion, and I don't feel compelled to say no because my DH thinks this or that, I am more open to accepting ideas and weighing the consequences.  The console was purchased as a surprize gift, and my son has used it well.  He has enjoyed playing with his friends online, moderated his time, and generally had a lot of fun with it.  It is so hard to be the only one of a social group without these things, especially when you are 17-18 years of age.

Today, we are going to Best Buy to get a headset.  I guess it is necessary so he can talk with his friends online.  He plays with two other teens from Northern AZ, and then when he is on the computer, he plays with other teens and young adults who live all over the world.  We have never had issues with sexual predators, which was why we didn't indulge his interest at first.  We never had problems with any kind of involvement at all, and my son has made nice friends.  I think it has to do with his church activities, and the fact that he was home schooled.  He is well-grounded, very devoted to God, and seeking to serve Him.  The games are a social outlet, and something he finds relaxing.  I used to draw when I was his age; he plays games.  I think we have finally put them in their proper place, and are using them as they were designed to be used:  for fun, for friendship, and for relaxation.

Speaking of the above, I realized today that my life is about to take a drastic change.  As we head into 2011, I am positioned now for full-time work.  I have blogged about working for almost a year, but in that time, I have not gotten very far down the "getting hired" road.  I have cited many reasons, but now understand that I was not ready to work in the job the Lord had in mind for me.  He needed me to understand His plan for my life, and how He works in it and through it.  The job couldn't take priority over His work, and until I was of the same mindset as His Holy Spirit, I wasn't getting closer to full-time work.  In truth, I have viewed the "job" as the end-all and be-all of my life.  It was the one thing I needed to get me over this hump, and out the door and on my own.  I couldn't do it with a job, and therefore, the job was my focus.

Recently, I have come to understand things better, and to realize that the job was not just to provide income, but that the job was to prepare me, to train me for His work.  He has a work for me to do, a specific thing, and I am working towards it.  I am going to graduate school as part of this preparation, and the job will provide training for me as well.  It has to be a specific job, and not just any job.  I can work in any job, and I can earn money, but that is not the Lord's directive.  I have been told to wait for a specific kind of job, and that timing required patience on my part.  God was working to move me, to change me, and to help me understand what He wanted from me.  I was slow to grasp the signficance of waiting, and slow to understand how the practical and spiritual worked together.  I get it now, and I understand what He is doing.  I am ready to take the job of His choosing, and I know that it will be hand-selected for His purpose and work.

This means that I am set, I am ready, and I am waiting for Him to release this job to me.  He has it ready to go, and I now get my part in it all.  He has always said to me "Carol, just do the work you are assigned to do."  He says this often, and it doesn't matter if it is in relation to Macy's, school, or home stuff (parents, DJ, shopping, etc.)  God gives us purposeful work to do each day, and we are to be obedient to do it.  Whether we are washing clothing, burping babies, tending sick children, or running errands -- we are doing the work God has assigned to us.  The work will change too, as our children grow or our parents age.  The work may include outside of the home work too.  It may be a full-time or part-time job.  It may be like in my case, a job that will prepare and train us for ministry.  The work is immaterial -- the attitude and willingness everything.  We are to do our assigned work cheerfully, and as unto the Lord.  This brings Him Glory, and we receive blessing for our obedience.

I got my signals mixed up there for a long while, and I thought the work was everything.  I focused on the dailyness of my home, my life, my work, etc.  I didn't see them as part of His overall plan for my life, and that they were simply components of His will.  Now that I have my head on straight, I can do whatever work He has in mind, and do it with the right attitude.  I am blessed to have received this knowledge from the Lord.  It has released the burden of working, of looking for work, and of the long grind of work.  I no longer think of it this way, but instead I think of it as part of bringing Him Glory, and that my part, however small, will indeed count in His great plan and commission -- in His Kingdom work.  Praise God forevermore -- He is so Good to me.

December 29, 2010

Feeling Better, Finally

I must have slept five hours yesterday afternoon.  I think it really helped because I actually do feel better today.  I think I "sweated" this illness out of me.  I was so sleepy yesterday right after lunch so I laid down on the sofa.  I woke up about 2 hours later and thought I was going to burn up.  I moved from the sofa to the bed, and slept another 2-3 hours.  When I got up, I still felt crummy, but was coughing less, and generally didn't feel that malaise from the morning.  I woke up today without a cough, and seem to be more like my old self.  I am praising God for rescuing me from the throes of this sickness (which has been lingering now for about three weeks).  God is so good to me.

I am glad to be better because I have so many things on tap for this week and next.  I want to try and get some projects started around the house before graduate school begins again.  DJ's school starts on the 18th, and I really want to be there for him.  I am so looking forward to celebrating his college start.  I remember the first day I took him to Kindergarten.  I cried and cried as I left him there.  He did fine, but I was a mess.  I knew that he was so ready for school, but the Lord had not agreed to place him at Indian Bend Elementary school.  He was enrolled at a local Christian School, but when it came time to pay tuition, the money wasn't there for us.  My husband's parents had agreed to pay for his education IF we sent him to Christian school, but when the time came, they decided that they couldn't (or had never agreed to such an arrangement).  It left us enrolled in a pricey school with no means of support.  I took him out of that school and enrolled him in our local Kindergarten without my DH's approval.  I knew that it was wrong to do so, but I felt like I was in a corner and just didn't know of another solution.

Of course, the Lord had another solution and that was to home school him.  I had friends at church who would have helped me get started, but I didn't want to do that, and I felt that this was a better choice.  In hindsight, his time at Indian Bend wasn't bad (it wasn't good either), and when we eventually did home school him, I knew the mistake I had made.  Years later, I am glad I did listen to the Lord and home school him part of his education.  He got a fine education with Charlotte Mason, and the Ambleside Online curriculum.  He graduated early, and now is enrolled in the Honors program at Paradise Valley Community College.  He did so well on his entrance exams that he also received a two-year scholarship to attend for free (I pay for books only).  God is Good, and He prepared and planned this for my son.  I am glad I listened to Him, and now can enjoy the blessing of His Hand.

It is funny how things happen the way that they do.  I wanted my son to attend Christian school, yet we didn't have the financial resources to send him there.  My friends who went there either could afford it themselves or their inlaws or parents paid for the school.  Our local school cost $500 per month (back then), and that was almost our mortgage payment.  We have never made a lot of money, and it never has come in consistently (some months more, some less, and some nothing at all).  We never could enter into a payment program because there was no way to be honorable and say "OK, we can guarantee that we will pay on the 1st or 15th each month."  The money was never ever there for us.

I am now at the point in my life where I am considering these types of arrangements.  I have the money, it is there for me now.  I can do it, if the Lord wants me to do so.  I don't have to live in fear or regret that the money will not be there.  I am also frugal (always have been), and very careful about what I spend money on, so if the Lord directs me to a payment plan, I know the money will be there to honor the agreement.

It is a huge relief for me now to know that I can do this.  Whether I actually do is another thing completely, but the very fact that I can is a huge deal for me.  I can enter into arrangements, I can make payments now.  I am blessed, and for someone who never knew if she would have $2 to spend today or tomorrow, it is so comforting to know that there is money in the bank, money in my account, and money to be used for food, gas or a bill.  God is so good to me.

I never recognized how awful it was to live the way we lived.  I had gotten used to it, and I thought it was normal.  It bothered me greatly in the beginning, and for the first 10-15 years.  I hated it, but felt there was nothing I could do to change my circumstance.  After a while, you just give in to it, accept it as your reality, and live under the oppression of being poor.  The worst part is that you are poor through a choice, not due to the events of life.  There are poor people who are poor because they lack education or opportunity.  Then there are poor people who choose poverty because they don't want to work, or they simply think they have the "in" on some new way, some "hot" opportunity.  This was our choice, believing that money and wealth could be earned without doing the hard work.  We believed those hawkers who said "try this system or method because it worked for me."  We bought dozens of systems, and none of them earned one red cent.  We listened to the gurus who said to trust them and that we could be millionaires and retire young.  It never worked.  After years of listening to the wrong people, people who gave bad and ill-gotten advice, we found ourselves in the midst of poverty, and at a point where we couldn't get ourselves out.

The Lord was gracious to us, and made sure we never lost our home.  Our electricity was turned off, the collectors called, and the gas man was at our door -- but we still lived in our home.  We ate minimally, making the most of $20-30 dollars per week (for a family of three), and always had something to eat.  We gave up extras such as medical needs (never going to the dentist or doctor).  We lived hand-to-mouth, wore clothing bought for us by other people, and relied on other people to fix repairs or provide necessities (mostly my parents, but my husband's helped as well).

Then one day, I woke up.  I woke up out of my slumber and saw the mess my life was in, and I saw what was left of my marriage and my family.  I had been lulled into a deep sleep by living a life whereby there was no way out, no hope for a brighter day.  When I woke up, I realized just how far down we had sunk, and just how hard it would be to overcome the poverty.  I knew I couldn't do it myself, and I knew tha I couldn't continue to rely on family and friends.  I trusted the Lord that day, and He rescued me.  He lifted me up, and set my feet on the solid rock of His Salvation.  He saved me from the circumstances of my life, and He set about to right them, to create new ways, new paths for me to follow.  The way was not easy; in fact, the way was crushingly difficult.  I had to accept the fact that my husband was seeking the affection of another woman, and that he was not interested in keeping our marriage and family in tact.  I had to deal with the emotional pain as well as the psychological scarring that results from a betrayal.  I had to walk through the fire of ordeal after ordeal, and I had to come clean.  I had to be honest with myself and others.  I took a lot of criticism about my honesty, concerns about my brutal truth, and had to listen to well-meaning folks tell me to "stop saying" certain things.  The truth was not pleasant, not nice, and it looked ugly.  It was marking my witness and testimony, and they felt it was marring Christ. 

I saw it differently.  I had lived a lie from the time I married.  I knew it, and I buried the truth back then, and every day after that day.  When I accepted the truth of my own life, it meant that I could no longer live in the lie.  I had to come clean, and that meant 26-28 years of hiding the truth.  My family had no knowledge that I had hidden the truth for so long.  I got really good at covering it up, so they assumed things weren't really as bad as they were.  But, I didn't want to live with any lies anymore.  I wanted the truth, the ugly awful and distasteful truth to come out.  In doing so, I felt liberated and I was made free.  I could start over, not hiding anything, but honestly saying "yes, I did this or that."  There is great freedom when you can live and walk in the truth, even when it is ugly.  You don't have to hide in the shadows, and you don't have to make up stories.  You can just live, and that is what I wanted more than anything.

The Lord honored my truthfulness, even though I ruffled a good many feathers, and upset a lot of people.  My healing took place in an unusual way.  My counselors said that they had never had a client who was able to withstand the truth so well, and not be shattered by it.  I stood there, took my lumps, and accepted what was, and God made a way for me to get through it all.  In less than a year, I was well on my way to recovering my lost identity, and was able to build a new life for myself.  It still hurt, and it took alot of self-discovery time for me to understand patterns, emotions, and choices I had made.  I had to change, and change quickly, and that process was hard for me.  In the end, however, it was truly a complete overhaul of the person I once was.  I think of it this way:  I built a house upon the foundation of the Lord.  I did it with good intention, but the house was never built properly, never erected correctly.  When the storms of life came upon it, it began to crash and fall down.  I fixed it up, propped it back up, but it never stood upright.  When I came to the Lord and asked Him to rescue me, He didn't just fix that house.  No, He tore it down all the way to the foundation, and He started over.  He rebuilt my life, again upon His very Foundation, and in doing so, He erected a home that is strong, able to withstand life's storms, and that can weather through the time.  His house is fine.  His house is good.  And, His house will endure.

I am blessed today to have been given such a chance to start over.  God didn't choose to fix one or two things in my life; no, He chose to fix everything.  In doing so, He made me a new creature in Christ Jesus, and the person I am today in no way reflects the person I was previously.  I am new.  I have been reborn, and I am wholly devoted to Him.  No other God.  No other Lord.  Jesus, only and always -- Jesus.

December 28, 2010

Under the Weather

I am still recovering from whatever this is that I got hit with right before Christmas.  I was feeling so much better yesterday, and even went out and did some after Christmas shopping.  Today, I feel totally wasted, just drained, and unable to do much of anything.  Macy's called and wanted me to work today, but I said "nope."  I need these four days off to recover or else I will head into Semester 2 still being sick.  I cannot afford to be sick longer than just these couple weeks.

I have books to purchase today.  My son's books will cost about $200 and I don't know my list yet.  His includes a rental title -- I guess you can rent textbooks now.  I think we will do this because it seems so silly to purchase a science book that we will use for just one course.  I have to check online to make sure the books are available, but hopefully we can get them and save some cash by renting some of the titles.

Other than book purchases, I am going to undo our tree today.  The cats have ruined the tree (last year, it was jumped into and knocked over), and most of the branches are bent down.  I have wanted a new tree for the past couple years, so next season -- a new tree will be in order.  This one will go back in the box for the time being.  I am also tired of picking up ornaments, and hearing the bells jingle all the time.  I am ready for the decorations to be put away, and for my home to get back into good order.

My brother sent a photo to Facebook showing his white Christmas.  He recently moved to North Carolina, and they got snow on Christmas day.  It was beautiful.  We may get snow on Friday.  There is a very cold weather system coming in off the Pacific and it is supposed to bring freezing weather to Phoenix.  We will have snow in the mountains, that is for certain, but we will see if the snow gets down to us on the Valley floor.

Tomorrow, my folks and son and I are going to see "True Grit."  I don't really want to see it, but my Mom and son do -- so we will go and use our movie passes.  We are also going to see "Narnia," but I am not hip on using the 3-D glasses.  Oh well -- gimmicks!  I guess both movies are supposed to be very good.

Right now, I am sitting here still in my PJs (at 10:11 a.m.) and drinking my second cup of coffee.  I am tired, but not the sleepy tired.  I am bone-weary tired, and I think I need to take it easy today.  That is all I have planned, and I will only do the tree if I actually feel motivated to do it.

God has rescued me so many times this past year, and as I consider His gift of Grace to me, I know that He will continue to offer His blessed hand to me.  I am waiting to hear on a job -- thinking that after January, I might hear some positive news.  I am content to continue to work at Macy's for as long as the Lord determines, but He knows that I will need FT work to sustain our life.  We live simply, but even at a modest level, we need a certain amount each month.  I am not making that amount yet, and as soon as I am able to do so, then I will be ready to be on my own.  The Lord knows this, and He has provided a way for this to be.  I must be patient and wait for Him to move in my life.  He has done so much for me, and He has provided abundant Grace to me.  He will provide for me.  He knows me, and He knows what I need.  I rest in the security of His Hand, and I trust that He will provide exactly what I need, when I need it.  Selah (Pause and calmly think of that!)  Amen, Lord Jesus!

December 27, 2010

Making Plans for 2011

Well, I feel better -- finally!  I still have this nagging cough, and get winded pretty quickly, but I think I am over the worst and on the mend.  I have four days off, and then work Thursday evening (6-9), and all day Friday.  I have New Years Day off, and then seem to settle into a evenings and weekends only shift.  I think it will be OK until I can find a full-time position.

Today, after showering (which always helps), I cleaned my house a bit, did some laundry, and generally tried to straighten things up.  It looks better, but not great.  I need to do some thorough cleaning, and some major decluttering before I can actually attempt the repairs that need fixing.  I have a huge list, but most are easy repairs that I can do myself.  A few will need some outside help, and those will also require budgeting.  The little things though can be easily purchased at Home Depot or Walmart, and then I can do them as I am able.

This is my partial list-in-progress for 2011:
  • Painting inside (all walls and trim) using Ralph Lauren's Natural Canvas and an all-purpose white. (I ended up using Walmart Soft Beige and White -- cheaper and it looks the same!)
  • Carpeting in the living room, hall, bedrooms, and office (soon to be family room) with Martha Stewarts berber from Home Depot (a nice carmel color)
  • Laminate flooring for the kitchen, dining and laundry area using Pergo's Hickory color.
  • Kitchen redo with white cupboards (painted), Expresso brown laminate counters (from Home Depot), and a very general repurposing of the cupboards and panty stuff (clean, clean, clean)
  • A new curtain for my laundry area
  • Curtains for my living and dining room using a natural color and nice black rods (saying good bye to the mini blinds that my cats like to destroy)
  • A new front door to replace the very old one that has 9-windows in it (unsafe and really falling apart) in favor of a solid wood or steel door with just lite panels at the top (painted to match my outdoor colors)
  • Bathroom updates including new vinyl stick tiles, vanity and toilet (all Home Depot).  New light fixture, shower curtain, some fresh caulk and a nice mirror to replace the gigantic one that spans the entire wall.  Fixing the wall damage too. Easy redos that shouldn't break the bank and make the bathroom look newer (style wise).
  • Master Bath redo needs similar, but not as much work.  New toilet, pedastal sink (to remove the hanging old style that you would find in 1940s style homes).  New grout for the shower, a new curtain, mirror and light, plus paint and it should be done.
  • Repainting my kitchen table and chairs (currently dark green) to white.
  • Some new towels and rugs plus accessories to freshen the place up.
  • The rest is reorganizing, tossing away, giving away, and repurposing so that I am reducing the amount of furniture and clutter in my tiny 1000 sqft home.  My goal is to have less work (dusting and cleaning), and a more presentable home when guests pop by (and not cringing that the toilet looks like an outhouse -- it is old, rust stained, and ugly -- though I clean it daily).
Other projects include some landscaping pavers to make a little walk from the driveway to my front door, a new side fence, and painting my house (replacing the damaged siding).  My roof needs repaired and that will require a professional.  I have that job slated for late spring/early summer -- before our Monsoon winds hit.

In addition to my home repairs/renovation, I also need to update our computers, and get a new phone.  I am moving my office from our large bonus room to the 3rd bedroom (currently used for my son's pianos).  This will give me a proper work at home office, and also allow us to repurpose the bonus room as a true family room (with sofa and TV).  My tiny living room then can house an acoustic piano and be more of a formal entry instead of walking right into the TV.  I think the space use will be more functional, and it will also make it much easier for me to keep my home tidy.  My son's room needs updating to accomodate his computer and pianos, but he has needed a new bed for years (and he complains about his back, so the time is right for a new mattress set).  We can easily move his pianos and computer into his room with a twin bed instead of a queen.  He doesn't mind, and it will give him his own space, more for hanging out with friends and not just sleeping/dumping clothes all the time.

Overall, these are things I have wanted to do for years, but was never allowed to do them.  The last time I painted was in 1997 when we moved into this house.  I have not had the resources to buy paint, let alone fix repairs.  My parents have helped a number of times, but now that I have some money set aside, I am going to put it into my home.  The Lord has graciously provided this house to me, and I have not taken the best care of it.  It needs some work, and now is the time for me to do it.  This will not only make for a more pleasant home to live in, but also prepare me to sell it when the Lord is ready to do so.

December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas 2010

I am up this chilly morning, and sitting here blogging while I await my 17 year old's arrival from bed.  I remember the mornings when he would be the first up, barely before the crack of dawn, and how I would struggle to get out of bed and get our morning going.  Now, I can barely get him up!  My how the times have changed.

Last evening we spent the time with my parents.  Church was good, and my son played piano along with the Praise Band.  The service was packed, and it was nice to see most of the people we know (including our neighbors and their entire family -- PTL!)  Afterwards, we went to my parents for a light dinner, and then opened gifts.  It was very nice.  My folks gave each other lovely gifts, and it was so sweet to see my parents together.  They have been married 54 years, and though they don't always get along (and argue at times), they love one another deeply, and are committed to one another.  My Dad was cute -- he had bought my Mom two cards, because he sealed the first one without putting the Starbucks card in it.  So he went and got her a second one.

My son and I got some nice things too, and we had some good laughs.  I am blessed to have such wonderful parents.  They love us completely, and rely on us a lot.  I am blessed to be able to help them out, and to live so close to them.  I have talked long about moving away, about starting over, and about seeking my own way (under the Lord's provision), but it seems that the Lord has chosen for us to remain right where we are for now.  My parents need us, and I have always known this, but with the stress from my marriage, and my husband's family ordeal, it had become intolerable for me to stay here in Phoenix.  God's Grace has kept me here, and His provision has made it possible for me to survive and keep myself together.

As I look into the future, I have great hope for His continued provision.  I know that He has everything I need in His hand, and that He will provide in His time.  I am waiting with expectation, which is what the Bible tells us we are to do.  We are to believe in His Provision and Timing, and then wait with the attitude that what we need is on it's way.  We are to look forward to it, to anticipate it's arrival, and then be expectant -- celebratory ahead of time.  This gives God honor and helps us to be faithful -- hopeful -- and gracious receivers of His Manifold Blessings.  It is hard sometimes, especially when LIFE hits you hard or you are struggling with illness, physical infirmity, poverty, or oppression.  It is hard to keep your chin up, and remain hopeful.  The key is to focus on Jesus, and to know that He is God.  It works, try it -- you will see that in Jesus, everything is as the Word promises, and everything will be just as it has been proclaimed.

My goals have not really changed, though my eyes have been opened to see what God is doing for us.  I have been looking to where He asked me to look, waiting for opportunity to move, and thinking positively that He would open a door for us there.  I have applied many times, and scope out the entire scene.  I have my ducks in a row, and yet, God has chosen to keep us here, and to provide a way for us now.  What does this mean for me?  I am uncertain, but I think it means that God has determined my life and that He knows exactly what needs to be now, and tomorrow, and into the future.  I am resting in Him, therefore, whether I go or stay, God is my source and my provision.

Many times the Lord has said to me that He has provided what I need already.  Of course, I look to my hand and I see the deficiency of it.  I am missing some key items like steady work, but I do have many things I need already in hand.  I have a roof over my head, and I have family around me.  I have PT work, and I have savings now set aside for some major purchases and outstanding bills.  I have school under wraps, and my son's school is all set to begin.  I have a blessed church family, and my son is involved there.  I am good.  I have everything I need right here, yet still it is not PERFECT according to my definition of perfect.  My marriage is gone, and every day that I remain living together with my husband who no longer desires anything from me except for provision (food, clothing, and shelter), it smacks me hard.  He spends more time developing work relationships and relationships with other women, then he does with me or his son.  He is a casual border in our home, rarely paying for his own way, and living off the blessings of God.  We speak minimally to one another, just the facts, and even then not much esle is said.  He complains a lot, and doesn't like how I choose to deal with our now almost grown son.  He thinks I let him slide, get away with too much, and generally indulge him.  I see it differently.  I see it as relationship maturity, whereby our son no longer needs his daily life managed.  He is responsible for his own mistakes now, and I have to let him make them.  Of course, I don't want to see him get hurt, but managing his time to the extent that my husband would like, is simply controlling him, and that time is gone.  I will not do that to my son, I will not let him be manipulated and controlled, and set up a pattern of such for his life.  No, he is a fine young man; a man who loves God, and who is endeavoring to figure out God's will in his life.  He is young; yes, this is true, but he is also a good boy.  He has no vices (well, none that his mother wants to know about), and he is active at church.  He is good, and I am blessed by his loving attitude, and willing spirit.

My life is relatively calm.  I have work to do, and money coming in now.  I still am seeking a FT job, but this has not come to pass yet, either here in Phoenix or elsewhere.  I believe that a job is on the horizon, and that it is just a matter of God's timing and provision.  I am waiting patiently with expectation, and it will come when God is ready, when I am ready, and when everything is working together for my good (to accomplish His will in my life).  Until then, I must wait.

I am uncertain whether we will remain in this home or move out.  I do have the money now to move out, but not the full income to support us.  We remain here, in this unpleasant state for this time until God chooses to move us away.  I have finally accepted that after 15 months, my husband's feelings and intentions regarding our marriage are consistent to what he said --  that he no longer wanted to be in relationship with me.  I have waited for him to return.  I have been kind, and have provided a good home, a gentle response (no yelling, no arguing, nothing but gentle words), and I have demonstrated my faithfulness by remaining his wife.  I have provided what I could to make our home better, more functional, and more pleasing.  I have remained true, yet he has not.  He has continue to remain in fellowship with his old girlfriend.  Though he maintains they are friends, I have found out that her marriage is not good, and that her husband thinks she is having an affair.  I see this as indicative of what has taken place.  She has turned away from her husband to mine, and my husband has turned away from me to her.  They haven't met officially, but they share emails, FB, and phone calls.  This is what happens, this is how marriages unravel slowly, and how hearts are broken and lives destroyed.  It is not always a one-night stand, a fling in the sack.  It often is relationship based, and begins with friendship.  Our Pastor has talked about this, how vitally important it is for men to have male friends and women to have women friends.  It is not safe for men to have intimate female friends, and vice versa.  This is Satan's way of undermining the integrity of marriage.  I am a victim, first hand, and I can tell you that I think this kind of deterioration is far worse than an out-and-out extra marital affair.  That kind may smack hard, but the end comes quickly.  This kind is the slow death of a love, and it is like watching someone you care about die from a lingering terminal illness.  It is sad, and it rips at you daily.

Yet over the course of these many months, I have found my strength in the Lord, and I have come to depend on Him.  I have found that His Hand is good and that His blessings are complete.  I lack nothing today, and I know that tomorrow will be the same.  God has provided everything I need to live a single life, and He has helped change my mind, my heart, and my soul so that I can accept living on my own.  I am ready to begin this life, and ready to say good bye to what I thought would be the only life I would live. Now, I see the potential for God's choice for me, and I am excited about what He desires for me.  I can no longer live in the past, and I am eager to embrace His future.  Does this mean that I can casually walk away from my marriage?  No, of course not. It does mean that I can walk away and know that through this entire process, I have given everything possible to keep this relationship alive (at least my side of it).  I have acted fairly, and been true to my vows.  I can walk away now knowing that I did my best, tried my hardest, and gave my all.  It wasn't enough, and that is what I will have to live with for the rest of my life.  Failed marriage is not what I wanted on my marque.  Nope, I never even considered it when I got married initially.  I would never have seen this one coming at me, but here it is.  I accept it now, and I walk on.  God has it all in His hand, and it will be good.

As I think of the Gift of Jesus this Christmas Season, I am reminded of all that He has done for us.  I am blessed to know my God, and to be in relationship with Him.  I am a child of His Grace and Mercy, and I thank Him for His life, and His blessings on me and my family.  I thank you, Jesus for your gift of life and your rich blessing of eternity.  You are the REASON FOR THIS SEASON, and I give you all the Praise.

December 24, 2010

Oh My Goodness, It's Christmas Eve!

I woke up this morning feeling as if a I had been hit by a Mack truck.  I coughed a bit last night, but other than that, I simply feel exhausted.  My body has ceased to follow instructions, and I am struggling now to even type out letters on the keyboard.  I am hoping that a hot shower will do justice, and help me feel better -- but I just don't know.

The past several months have taken their toll on me physically.  With graduate study, and working PT at Macy's, I simply am suffering from stress overload.  Plus the physical nature of working retail has hit me hard.  I have blogged about this before, but for those who have never had to work retail for a prolonged period of time, well the physical stress is hard to describe. The longer you work in a place like this, the harder it becomes to do the work.  Though you learn how to best maneuver through the job tasks, and you learn how to portion everything out, the burn out rate is high, and you get to a point where you cannot do it anymore.  This is where I am now, and even though I have met some very nice friends, I am tired all the time.  I am ready for some new work, a different kind of challenge, and a job that will require less of me physically.

I am ready, Lord -- I am ready for a new job.  I am sorry to complain so much, and to not be as thankful for this work as I should, but you know my heart.  You know that I have worked so hard at Macy's, doing more than my share, and always keeping a happy face on.  I have made good friends, received a lot of praise from supervisors, and generally gotten nice comments from customers.  I am thankful for this job, and for the opportunity to earn some needed money.  Now, Lord, I ask for a job that suits you, and will provide for us in a different way.  I know you have the perfect job at hand, and you know what I need most.  I ask in your Name that you bring me the job of your choosing, and I welcome it and readily receive it today.  In Jesus' Mighty and Merciful Name I pray this now, Amen.  So be it, thy will be done.  Selah.

December 23, 2010

It All Makes Such Good Sense

Last night I worked at Macy's until about 12:30 a.m.  I was so weary driving home, that I had to open my window and let the rain in just to make sure I stayed awake.  When I got home, I crashed into bed, and didn't really stir until about 6:00 this morning.  I was supposed to go shopping with my Mom, but I wasn't feeling up to it, so I stayed in bed a while longer, and then eventually got up and got moving around 10.

After getting dressed, I got a phone call from my MIL asking if we would come to their house for Christmas day.  This was a turn of events for us, and after a quick conversation with my DH, we decided that it was a good thing to do.  They are moving soon, sometime after the 1st of the year, and this will probably be our last opportunity to say hello/goodbye.  It seems strange since we have lived within 10 miles of them since coming to AZ in 1996.  Our relationship has always been rocky, for a myriad of reasons, but we have endeavored to keep family relations going, traditions in tact, and get togethers frequent.  It has required work on both sides, but that is what families are for, and that is how relationships survive for the long-term.

This change of plans required that I go out and get lunch materials for Saturday.  I am having dinner with my cousin and family later on, so I hadn't planned on anything except for our traditional cinnamon roles and OJ at breakfast.  It is not a big deal, and I will do this shopping tomorrow am.  For now, though I am pleased that we will be able to make amends and let things be.  It is God's will, I know, and I am trusting Him to reconcile and resolve the remaining tension so that we can be supportive and nurturing as God's children are commanded to be in the Word.

This whole change has caused me to think some things through, and I have been blessed to recognize God's hand on this as well as every other instance in my life.  I met my Mom for lunch, briefly (she ate, I sat) and we talked about some things.  Some unfortunate happenings have taken place in my parents lives just recently, and this has changed my focus a bit.  Moreover, considering my situation and where I am right now, well -- all of this seems strangely odd, yet perfectly matched.  I discussed my situation with my Mom and we chatted about the things they are dealing with -- I am very close to my parents, so it is normal for us to be open about things.  There are no real answers, so we just talked and confessed our trust in God for His timing and provision.

As I was leaving these thoughts ran through my head:
  • Over the course of the last year, God has provided income to me.  It has come in small doses, and over time, has increased to where I am now in a pretty solid financial place.  I marvel that I have never run out of money, and that I have bought everything (well, almost) that I needed.  My cup truly runneth over!
  • My work at Macy's has been the most difficult for me, but it has taught me to perservere, and shown me that I can make an impact in a place like this department store.  I am well-liked by my peers and managers, even to the point where I am greeted with hugs and words of thanks for all I do.  It is nice to be recognized, and to be needed -- and even though I find the work so hard on me physically, I have made a way there, and credit this as God at work in and through me.
  • My graduate schooling is paid for, thanks to financial aid.  My son's college (2-year) is paid for thanks to a scholarship for outstanding honor students.  We will both graduate with honors, and will be able to pursue the next level of study (me, PhD; him, BA) with confidence of continued scholarship and need-based awards.  This is God's provision for us, and there is no other way to say it -- it is His will, and He always provides a way for His will to be accomplished.
  • I have taken over the majority of the bills and responsibilities in my home.  I didn't think I would be ready to do this, but thanks to a special gift from my graduate school, I received unexpected income that has paid most of our bills to date (and will for the next couple of months).  I am no longer afraid of being responsible, and I know that I can manage money well, and still live a modest and comfortable life without constantly fearing that the money will run out.
  • My search for full-time work has not yeilded any opportunties yet, but I am confident that I am on the right track now.  The Lord has led me to a company that I think might fit me well, and I have applied for two positions, one FT and the other PT.  The PT position would be wonderful, and would allow me to work from home (both would really).  It would work well with my graduate schooling, and will pay far more than Macy's.  It would be a perfect solution to my job needs, and would look great on my resume while I finish my MA.  After that point, my resume will be more modern, up to date, with current work in my field.  I feel that this would open more doors to me, and provide opportunity for me to really excel with my new education.
  • Lastly, as I consider everything going on right now, all I can do is say that it seems to make perfect sense to me.  I don't understand it all, or why some sad things must always accompany happy things, but I can say that I see God's hand all over these details, and that somehow, I believe everything will work together for our good (individually and corporately).
Dear Lord,

I cannot explain how you have managed my life this past year, so all I can do is give you praise.  You have manage the details, provided everything I needed, and made it possible for me to accomplish various aspects of your will.  I trust you Lord, I lean upon you, and now choose to continue to abide in/with you for these other things, still unknown to me:  a job (PT or FT), my parents needs cared for, continued grace in school, my housing situation, DJ's success in school, a second car (and driving lessons), and mostly a deepening trust in you as Lord and Mighty God.  You alone are worthy to be praised, so I lift my voice and praise you now.  In Jesus' Name I confess these things, and I trust you Lord for your provision of them.  Amen, so be it, thy will be done.

December 22, 2010

Family Traditions

I just got back home from breakfast and shopping with my Dad.  I think we have done this for nearly 30 years, and it always is special.  We go to breakfast and then decide what gifts Mom would like.  I usually suggest some things, and then Dad agrees or disagrees.  He is pretty agreeable, so Mom almost always likes what I get her (er, what Dad gets her!)  It was nice, and since my Dad is getting older, just another way for us to stay connected.  I love my parents, and I am so blessed that God chose them for me.  I don't always agree with them, and sometimes they get on my nerves (and vice versa -- you know, family), but I would say that 9 times out of 10, I feel blessed to have been given such great parents.  God has truly given a great gift to me, and I am amazed at the tender mercies that are mine each and every day.

I am fading fast today...made it through shopping, and power walking (with Dad on his scooter), and now think I am ready for a nap.  Still coughing and with laryngitis, I feel sick.  God is good to me, and I know that I will make it through my evening shift at Macy's tonight.

Jesus is the reason for the season, and despite all the Christmas wishes and good cheer -- He is the only reason to celebrate.  I turn my eyes toward Jesus, and there they firmly rest.  It is in no one else, in no other name, and in no other person that I will ever find safety, security, peace, and hope.  Jesus, Come Lord Jesus -- rescue us and bring your sweet peace to us this day. Amen.

Resting in the Lord

Well, I think I am finally getting over this flu/cold bug.  I came down with it over the weekend, and I thought for sure that I wouldn't finish my school work, especially my papers.  I did it, though, and I turned everything in on time.  PTL!

Moreover, I actually took care of my son's college, making sure that all his papers are in order, and the school had his residency set correctly.  He received his scholarship, so he is enrolled for Spring as an Honors Student (PTL!)  This means that as long as he keeps his grades up (A-Bs), he will continue to get a scholarship for waved tuition.  I know he can do it, and I am thanking the Lord this provision.

Yesterday, we also visited our Orthodontist for a retainer check.  My son's teeth shifted last summer, after missing a week of retainer wear.  They are good now, but not where they should be.  He knows this was his fault, and he knows that it just is what it is -- still, disappointing for me and his grandparents who paid the bills. 

After visiting the college and the Orthodontist, we stopped by Walmart.  I was hoping to get a special gift for my son.  It had been on special, and silly me, I thought it was on special through Christmas.  Nope, just three days, so I missed the sale.  We ended up at Best Buy and came out of that store with a PS3 and some Blue-Ray DVDs and a couple games (he bought them).  Since he had gotten into college on a scholarship, this was his present (saving me about $1000 out of pocket).  He knows he needs to work hard this semester to keep me happy (and to keep his award), so this gift was an early Christmas treat.  I cannot describe the look on his face when I told him he could pick one up.  I have never seen him so mystified.  He just couldn't believe that he was getting a PS3.

As I came home, I marvelled at our day.  I was sick as a dog, barely able to speak, and yet we took care of some major business.  My school was finished on Monday, and Tuesday we did some shopping.  Today, I am going with my Dad for breakfast and then some shopping for Mom.  The rest of the day is resting, and getting ready to work the 6-12 shift at Macy's.  I have to work tomorrow too, but just from 6-9 p.m.  Then I have off until Sunday, and my next week schedule is not bad.

I have decided to not continue on at Macy's after the 1st of the year.  I hate to just quit, but truthfully, I don't think I can do it anymore.  My feet have become used to the work, and I have managed my time well enough to keep from getting sick.  I need to help my son transition to college this Spring, and I also need to spend some time working on my home.  I want to be ready to sell it, should the Lord move that way come May (when our lender will want out of our contract).  I will need to do these things -- paint, make repairs, etc.  Some will need to be done professionally, but some I can do myself.  I will do as much as I can, and then leave the rest to the Lord.

I will also continue to look for more work after Christmas.  I have several applications submitted, but no responses yet.  I am sure something will come to pass when the Lord's timing is right.  Until then, I rest in the security and knowledge that He is God, and that He has everything in order, and under control.

As I think about resting in the Lord, this thought comes to mind.  I am tired.  I am so tired of struggling to hold it all together.  I am tired of fighting against adversaries and enemies, and I am tired of standing up and swinging His Sword.  I must endure, I must go on -- but I am battle-weary and battle-worn.  Therefore, I need to rest (emotionally) in the Lord, knowing full well that He is able to provide what I need, when I need it.  Emotional anxiety takes its toll on me most quickly, and I am weakest when I become burdened with emotional cares.  I cast them on the Lord, but I must leave them there.  I must lay my head upon His breast -- as the beloved disciple did -- and lean into Him, believing that He will care for me, and in turn, His Grace will supply all my needs.

Resting in the Lord, trusting in Him, and leaning upon Him -- these are all aspects of FAITH.  Believing that He is God, that He is able to supply all our needs, and that He is true to His word, this is what it means to "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved" (Acts 16:31).  I believe Lord, and I lean into you this day.  Amen, so be it, thy will be done. Selah (pause and calmly think about that!)

December 20, 2010

Rethinking the Past

It is almost that time of year when we re-evaluate our year, add up our blessings, and meditate on choices we made that didn't turn out quite as we planned.  I typically go through each year without much review.  I tend to make decisions in real-time, and then much later on, sit back and reflect on them.  This is my 2010 list of Regrets, Reviews, and Rejoices (in no particular order):
  • Rejoice -- I am almost finished with my first semester of graduate school through Mercy College's distance learning program.  This semester has been incredibly challenging to me, considering that I have been out of school for almost 20 years.  I think I have done well, and hope to get good grades.  I have enjoyed my courses, I have learned a lot about Chaucer and the Romantic poets of the 19th century, and I improved my writing skills (polished them up -- they were pretty rusty).  Overall, I think grad school has been a major plus, and I am rejoicing for both the priviledge and opportunity to pursue my MA degree.
  • Rejoice -- I finished home schooling my son through high school this year.  It was a hard push to get through to the end, and there was a lot of uncertainty about where he would go for college and when he would start classes (fall or spring).  Now that he is enrolled for Spring 2011, I am rejoicing for the provision of a scholarship, and for the Honors program at our local community college.
  • Rejoice -- I am thankful for Macy's, and for their willingness to be so cooperative with my schedule.  I have complained about the work (it is hard), and the low pay (it is very low), but generally, I have enjoyed working there.  I have met some nice people, and the income generated has helped to pay some bills, and keep my pantry stocked.  I am rejoicing for the blessing of practical work.
  • Regret -- I regret that I haven't been as honest as I should have been over the years.  In the most recent months some issues have come to light that now have caused me a great deal of pain.  This is a perfect example of not addressing communication issues when they first arise, and then trying to pretend they don't exist.  At some point, they will come back to bite you, and well, I got bitten pretty badly.  My regret is not being truthful years ago, when first pressured into some things.  I should have said "no" and stuck to my guns.  Being immovable sometimes is the only answer, and there are times when it is not good to be flexible.  I was too flexible, and I allowed people to take advantage of me.  Afterwards, instead of addressing the problem, I just ignored it.  This sent the wrong message, and never resolved the tension -- just plunged it down below the surface, where after so many years, it boiled over. 
  • Regret -- I regret that I didn't take more pride in my own self-worth, and fight to keep my rights as a woman of God.  I gave over much too quickly and easily, especially when under pressure from strongwilled individuals.  Had I stood my ground, the enemy would have left me alone.  This is a promise from Scripture, and instead of trusting the Lord to provide a way out -- I gave in, I gave up, and generally, I just quit trying to be the person God created me to be.  In the interim, I suffered greatly in my Spirit, and bent to the wishes of others (became a people pleaser).  Now, I am through with that behavior, but the ramifications are long-lasting, and there is much baggage left to sort through, and finally let go.
  • Regret -- I regret that I didn't say "stop" when I saw my financial future go south.  I should have said "enough" when the money was running so low, the credit was out of control, and the collectors were calling.  I should have gotten off my duff, and done something about the situation BEFORE it came to the point of having no credit, no money, and no potential for success.
  • Review -- Overall, I am pleased with the progress that my life has made over the last year.  It has not been easy, and I have had to deal with a lot of criticism regarding the way I chose to handle the changes in my life.  Many people feel that I am too open and honest about my family situation, my marriage, my hurts, etc.  I don't know -- time will tell if I will live to regret these choices.  I can only say that the person I am today is 100% stronger than the person I was a year ago.  I am confident of the Lord's ability to provide for me, I am trusting in His provision, and I am seeking Him continually for His wisdom and direction.
  • Review -- I am excited about the Lord's work in my life (not just spiritually), and I am eager to begin the plans He has in mind for me.  There is much work to do, and the harvest is ripe, so I am ready to do my part.
So in hindsight, I have made a lot of grievous mistakes.  I trusted people with whom I should not have trusted a nickel; I believed people who were not telling me the truth; and I behaved badly when pushed and pressured to do things I didn't want to do.  I didn't do the right thing, because often I was trying to keep from having to do what others wanted from me.  Had I simply said "no thanks" and walked away, I would have overted the boiling cauldron, and could haved pursued right living.  I know the mistakes I have made -- personally, relationally, and spiritually.  I have confessed, and I have sought forgiveness.  I am free from guilt and condemnation, but I need to remember that Satan likes to continue to condemn us.  I need to stand in God's Grace, and walk in His Blessed forgiveness.

Update: June 2011

As I think about the mistakes I have made over the past years of my life, one thing I am constantly reviewing is whether or not I was totally in control of my judgment or whether I was being influenced by others (well-meaning or not). The truth is that as I look back on my life, I realize that for a fair portion of my younger years, I was heavily influenced by others -- other peoples opinions, advice, and/or permission to do things. As a young adult, I never grasped the seriousness of the fact that I was totally in control of my choices. I believed that I did or said what I was supposed to say or do. Often, my opinion was swayed by what other people thought about me or wanted from me. I was weak-willed, and afraid to say "no" out of fear of rejection.

Now, I am so very different. I have come to learn to take responsibility for my actions, and I know that at times, I still care deeply about what other's think of me. The main difference is that now, while I still care, I do not base my decisions on what another person thinks or wants me to do. The advice may be good, and the idea worthy -- but unless the Lord builds the house -- all who will build in vain. I am determined now to do only those things I feel are Holy Spirit blessed and directed. I may still make errors or false assumptions, and I may go astray a bit -- but generally speaking -- I will be doing so believing in the Lord, and placing my trust in Him. Knowing God the way that I do -- I know He will not allow me to go too far off the mark, and that His Spirit will gently remind me to turn around, head back the other way, or simply wait for His leading.

Now I am in control, and that control rests with the Lord Jesus Christ. I am determined to knowing else but Jesus Christ and Him crucified (my paraphrase of Paul's words!) This means that whatever I do, where ever I go, and what ever job I end up doing, I will be doing it with one intention in mind, and that is to please my Father in Heaven and to bring Him glory through the power of Jesus Christ.

God knows how I have struggled personally over the course of my life, how I have been led astray by well-meaning people (and some not so well-meaning), and how I was naive and very childish early on (thanks to my parents sheltering of me). I learned to grow up the hard way, through bad choices and bad decisions, and I am living with some of the affects of those decisions still. It hurts me to think I blew so many good opportunities in my early life, that my life could have turned out so differently. Yet, here I am and I am living today and not in the past anymore. This means that while I am not pleased with the outcome of my life (the events, etc.), I am pleased with the changes that have been wrought in me due to the blood of Jesus. I am a different person today, and I am fully in control of my destiny. I go where the Lord leads me, and I do what the Lord asks of me. In this way, I am assured that I will end up where He wants me to end up -- finishing the race, running the course, and ending this journey strong and steadfast.

May God be Praised today and forevermore! Amen, so be it, thy will be done. Selah! (Pause and calmly think of that!)

December 16, 2010

DJ's School is Set!

After months of waffling and weaving, DJ is set for school.  We just got back from PVCC (our local community college) where he finished enrolling in classes for next Spring.  Moreover, he got his scholarship award.  Special thanks to our friend from church who used to work in the Honors Program -- she got us the form, helped us get it turned in, etc. Without her help, we would have lost access to it due to thinking it didn't kick in until next Fall.  God is so Good to us!

DJ is enrolled in five classes, though will take only 13 units.  He was pretty non-plussed, but I think the head cold had more to do with it than anything else.  Now, he can call himself a college student!

This Spring he will take:
  • Career Skills -- required by all students
  • Introduction to Psychology
  • English 101
  • American Jazz and Popular Culture
  • Kung Fu (the only class he really wanted to take!)
I think he will do just fine, and hopefully, next semester he can enroll in more music courses.  However, God has this all figured out, so we will just let things be.  God is so Good to us!

December 15, 2010

It's 2:38 p.m. and I am thinking Oreos!

Well, I actually already thought about them, and then went to the kitchen, and ate two -- YUM!

Today is Wednesday, and I survived my late shift at Macy's.  I did just fine working in Jewelry.  It was a little hairy to begin with, but after I figured out how to work the keys, I did OK.  Then I ended up in Lingerie/Childrens/Womens before coming back downstairs to help put clothes away in Young Collector (my regular department).  I was beat when I got home at 12:30 a.m., but overall had a good night (I met some new people, hooray!)

This morning, besides sleeping in and then crawling out late (after 10), I pretty much just took it easy.  I went out at lunch, washed my car (at the hand wash), and then stopped by BK for my son (and JB for me).  I am now home, contemplating beginning my paper for my Reason and Imagination course.  I did all my source work yesterday, and today I need to write my analysis.  I think I will wait until tonight as I tend to do my best work after 6 in the evening.

I went back on my word about not applying to anymore jobs for a while!  I was online this morning and the Holy Spirit just led me to a job that I think might be "IT."  Yes, I know -- how many times have I said that about a job, and then it turned out to be nothing at all?  Too many, so I am hestitant to say a word now.  But somehow this is different, really different.  I am so completely at peace with the process, and by that I mean that I am OK with the outcome regardless of what might actually come to pass.  In the past, I was tentative, believing that I had to get this job or that one.  When neither came to pass, I felt rejected and hopeless.  It seemed like that pattern just kept on repeating over and over again.  I was getting depressed until last week when I had a good chat with the Lord about it.  I realized then that I was trying to find a job on my own.  I have been saying here (on this blog) as well as in person that "there are no jobs in Phoenix."  The Lord has shown me oodles of jobs, and I have applied for many of them (nearly 100 or more).  However, none have turned up anything.  I asked Him why and this was His reply to me:  "You wanted to see jobs that you could do, so I showed them to you."  Yes, Lord, but why haven't I gotten hired yet?  His reply again, "Because these are jobs you are seeking, and not the job I have in mind for you."  I didn't get it until yesterday.  I thought we were "sympatico" so to speak, on the same page.  I thought I was trusting Him for a job, and He was showing me jobs in which I could potentially get hired.  Nope.  He was just answering my question of whether there were jobs in Phoenix.  He has repeatedly told me that there is "no job here in Phoenix."  I was confused to say the least. 

This past week, well, just yesterday, it seemed to make sense to me.  I realized that I was trying to make His will for my life come to pass.  I was helping Him find me a job.  He helped me, of course, to see that He didn't need my help, and that the jobs I applied to were good, but not the right fit for me.  I see it, I get it.  Oh, I am so dense some times.  After much mediation on the matter, I quietly asked if there was a job of His choosing out there, and His reply was, "Of course."  Now, I want this job because it is His choice, so I said so.  Those little words, that small change in attitude, garnered great results -- my mind shifted focus, and my efforts became more fixed on doing His will, and less on getting a good job.

The job I applied for today is in my field.  It is not IT, which I have considered as my field for so long.  It is within Marketing/Communications, which is a field I have worked in for about 20 years.  Though not directly, I have provided marketing and communication services as a support person through my husband's business, and then I provided web marketing services through my own business (for 10 years).  I am also a writer, and this is why I am going through graduate school (studying English).  I thought I wanted to teach, but in truth, I simply want to write.  I didn't put two and two together until the Lord and I discussed graduate school (again).  I have been waffling on upper level schooling for about a year now.  I wanted to pursue English, and then Rhetoric.  The Lord has wanted me to pursue Communication.  I was open to this initially, caught His Holy Fire on the subject, and then went off to explore other options.  He has patiently waited for me to come back around to it, and after reviewing and considering perhaps 10 graduate programs, I realized that Communication is my thing.

I was set to attend Regent University come 2012, but then I wanted to see what else was out there.  Now, I am back on board with His choice for school, and as a result, my efforts for seeking a job have shifted as well.  I am becoming conformed to His will, and my mind is being aligned to match His choices.  I think this is how it is supposed to be, cohesive and integrated with His will.  The other way, the way I was doing things, always seemed fractured with parts fitting the whole and parts seeming out of place.  Now I see how everything needs to work together to conform to His plans.  This is what Romans 8:28 means:

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to [his] purpose.

God causes all things, everything, to work together (not fractured, not split apart) for good.  This means that whatever He plans and purposes, it will fit together.  Therefore, His choice in graduate school will fit with my career.  His choice in my career will fit together with my life (where I live).  All of this will work together for His Kingdom purpose, and since I will be apart of that purpose, then everything about my life, my school, my work will fit His ultimate goal for me.  It just doesn't work any other way (believe me, I have tried it).  I am on board now, and I see what He is doing (from the standpoint of causing things to work together).  Now, I just have to wait for Him to cause the right job to come together and fit with my schooling, my life, and my designed/created purpose.  It is all up to Him, and He is more than able to bring all this to pass -- for good (mine and yours and the kingdom of God).  I am blessed.  God is so Good to me.

December 14, 2010

Full Steam Ahead

Today was such a good day.  I woke up after passing a fairly uneventful night.  I felt rested, and was able to enjoy my morning, follow my routine, and generally, laze about until about 10 a.m.  I spent the afternoon working on my paper (paper 1), and getting all my source quotes written down.  Tomorrow, I will start the writing process, and should be able to knock out a 5-6 page paper in 1-2 days (I need 10-12 double spaced, or about 2000-2500 words).

I am eating roasted chicken, blogging a bit, and enjoying my evening.  I work tonight from 6:45-12:15 a.m.  I am in accessories/Fashion Jewelry.  I have never worked in this department so I hope that I will do OK.  I swapped with someone who wanted to work my Monday shift. It is actually OK because I really needed last night off. My son was sick (still is), and I had to finish this week's homework.  I was able to get all my assignments turned in, and then prepare for this week.  God is so Good to me.

I am still resolved to not look for more work for a time.  I simply am overwhelmed, and now it seems that the jobs I am applying for are already filled.  I think I need to settle back down, and just wait for God to move me someplace.  He knows my needs, and I certainly have been active in my faith.  I am not just sitting on my hind-end, but I have been working PT, and posting resumes as the Spirit leads me.  I have been casting my net, so to speak; but so far, I have only returned little fish.  That BIG FISH is out there, just waiting to be caught in my net, so I will keep watch, and wait for the right moment to toss the net again.  God is Good that way.

Lastly, and this is a shorter than usual post, I am thinking a lot about my future, and my life, and my family.  I guess Christmas does that to you.  My brother has moved across the country, and is living in North Carolina now.  He will spend Christmas alone, away from his family.  I think this is so sad, yet I support him in his decision to take a job so far from home.  My other family lives in Southern California, and they will be together with their significant others (my oldest brother has four grown children, and three of the four will be home).  My other brother is alone as well, but will probably drive down to spend the holidays with his brother.  My parents are here in Phoenix, and we will spend the day together.  My DH will be in limbo, I think.  I don't think his parents will invite him to their home, and while he is welcome at my parents, I don't think he will want to come.  We will go to my cousin's house for dinner, and that should be fun.  It is hard when families are fractured, and are so separated by time, by distance, or by choice.

The New Year looks bright for me.  I hope to take two more classes from Mercy College.  The more time I spend online at their campus website, the more I come to appreciate the Lord's choosing of Mercy for my graduate program.  This is such a very fine liberal arts school.  It is small, and very intimate, and the atmosphere is so nice.  I just really like it, I like my classes, and my teachers have been great.  I am blessed to be able to go here, and know that this school will serve me well as I continue to pursue my upper level graduate work.

God really does know best.  I tend to second-guess Him.  I tend to ask Him alot of questions and interject my own way into things.  He always is patient with me, but truthfully, when I stop and consider His way -- it is always far superior to my own.  He knows me best, and He loves me most.  I am blessed to have a God who is personal, who is caring, and who ultimately wants only His best for me.

December 13, 2010

I am SO BLESSED!

I woke up this morning, singing Praises to the Lord! I am so blessed by His Goodness, and I simply cannot stop thanking Him for His provision and protection.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. ~Psalm 107:1

Yesterday was my son's Senior Recital. He performed beautifully, and I made it through my part without much trouble. I had some problems, some space issues (with the cello, it is always about space), and missed a few notes, but generally, I did OK. I made some horrible mistakes, but I was nervous and when I am nervous, I miss notes. Oh well, I don't think anyone thought it was awful (my part, I mean). I am just glad to be done, that is all.

As I was in the shower today, I was recounting all the blessings of God. His hand has rested upon me, and I was reminded of this Psalm. I cried out to the Lord and He delivered me from my distresses. I give thanks to Him for His Goodness, His Mercy, and His Great Love. I am nothing without His Love, and I live and walk and function solely within His Grace. God is so Good to me.

December 11, 2010

Senior Recital Tomorrow

Tomorrow afternoon is my son's Senior Recital. I had hoped to record him, but he has decided to record himself using our Church's soundboard and video camera. I think he wants to make a professional DVD of his performance. It is OK, really, I don't mind. I think I am ready to play my parts:
  • An Invention by Bach (rearranged by DJ Hepburn for cello, piano, and violins)
  • Christmas Time is Here Again (cello and piano)
  • O Come, O Come Emmanuel (arranged by DJ Hepburn for cello, piano, and violins)
  • Handel's Hallelujah Chorus for piano, cello and violins
In addition to our part, my son is playing:

  • Fantaisie-Impromptu in C-sharp minor by Chopin
  • Fantasy in D minor by Mozart
  • Arabesque No. 1 by Debussey
  • Carol of the Bells (Ukrainian Bell Carol, traditional, arranged by DJ Hepburn)
It should be a great day, and I am so excited to be a part of his senior program.

December 10, 2010

I'm Dreaming of a New Cello

Yes, Bing would probably not like the fact that I changed the words to the song he made famous, but I am dreaming of getting a new cello for Christmas.  I have been looking at cellos for about 6 months, and I have settled on a couple of makers thus far.  I have thought about purchasing it from Southwest Strings in Tucson, but I have heard that big box music stores are not the best place to get good instruments.  Though I am looking at good makers, still, there is a lot to be said for setup, and the professional who is doing the work.

This is why, I think, I have settled on purchasing my first real cello from LindaWest.com.  She is a cellist who now sells cellos out of Santa Barbara, CA.  I have read very good things about her, and I think she is the right person to help me pick out my first cello.  Furthermore, she will set it up so that it is ready for me to play (to the best of my ability and the instruments ability).  I have listened to her cellos (she offers midis so you can hear what they sound like -- I especially like that alot), and think she knows her stuff.

I have the money set aside.  I was going to use it to move out of my home, but the Lord has not chosen this path for me, and has suggested instead I save this money for a cello (well, I am not sure if that is what I am to do, just that I am not to move out nor am I to spend the money -- so there).  I am leaning towards a Sheng Liu cello, which is Korean made.  It is a good intermediate cello, comparable to Eastmans' 305 line (good for students and advancing cellists).  It won't break the bank, and it can be customized to fit my needs.  I think I like it so this is what I am going to pray about and then consider purchasing after the first of the year.

The Big Shebang 2010!

Tonight is the Big Shebang, our churches youth overnight at Laser Tag/Ice Den.  This is my son's favorite youth activity, and he looks forward to it every single year.  It usually is a pretty well-attended event, and both Jr. and Sr. high students are invited (plus friends) to attend.  He just left (@ 9) and will not be home until tomorrow around 6am.  From 10-5 a.m. they are all over the valley playing games, going to JumpStreet (which has one of the largest trampolines in the valley -- perhaps anywhere), and then to the Ice Den for 2am Broomball.  He will come home beat, sleep until mid-day, and pretty much be wasted.  Sunday is his senior recital, and he has to play at church as well as perform in the afternoon.  He says he is up for the challenge, and I don't doubt it.  He is enjoying his last year in school.

Next week, we go and meet with the advisor at Paradise Valley Community College.  We are going to register for classes for Spring 2011.  We had planned this a while ago, and then mid-stream, he changed his mind, and decided he didn't want to start college yet.  After thinking it through some more, he decided that it would be OK to start in January.  I am thinking we will take easy classes to begin:  German 1, Digital Photography, Studio Recording or Music Theory 1, and Kung Fu (his choice).  Next fall, he can begin General Ed courses and work towards his AA in General Stduies (our CC doesn't have a music degree that transfers so he will just take basic music courses that will transfer anywhere).

I am really pleased because I think this is a good option for him right now.  He is ready for college, but still has some lingering issues and self-discipline challenges.  I think easing into college is best, and he seems to agree with me.  Furthermore, with me working either PT or FT, I need to know that he can handle his courses without me being there all the time.  He has done great with my work schedule thus far, and I have no concern really about him doing full time on his own.  I know he can do it, and now it seems, that he knows it as well.  PTL!

I have applied to a couple more positions via careerbuilder.com.  I am hopeful on one in particular as I think it might just be the job for me.  I won't post it here, but I am praying over it, and trusting the Lord for His guidance as to whether or not it might be His will too.  I pray that it is, and that this would be the job for me.  I can only submit my application, trust the Lord, and then wait to see what happens.  God is so Good and He has been so Gracious to me.  I continue to give Him all the Praise because of His Goodness and His Faithfulness to me.  I am excited to see what He has in mind for me, and I know that whatever comes to pass -- it will be GOOD!

Blogging is Good for Me

I had an OK night, tossed mostly due to leg stiffness (worked two shifts at Macy's and that is usually what does it). I slept in, though, thanks to the boys being better than usual. I am blogging, but still in my PJs. I will get in the shower next, and then have to do some Walmart shopping, cello practice, and school work. Later I am off to lesson and chamber group. Our recital is Sunday at 2 p.m., and I am in good shape. I feel confident that I can play these songs, and that I will not mess up the group. Hooray, and Praise the Lord for that boost of confidence.

Other than this short post, here are some photos of my boys (snapped today).

Ike sleeping in my arms (after attacking my bulletin board,
and generally being bad while I was typing on the keyboard)


Ike waking up when I snapped his picture (and thinking, "How rude!")


Two minutes later, upon hearing the bells jingle on the tree -- what do I find?
But Ike, with paw stuck and being caught in the act of removing ornaments from the tree.

Ah, my life with cats!

December 9, 2010

New Tactic on the Job Front

Well, I am changing tactics on job hunting.  I have been looking for full-time work for over a year now.  I have applied to hundreds of positions, but nothing has come to pass.  I am working PT, PTL!  However, to successfully live, I need FT work.  I just recently went through another go-round with applications via Careerbuilder.com.  I have applied to several positions, and so far I have gotten several emails (a good thing).  Though I was not considered, at the least, I got notified right away.  I have been sitting and waiting on the Community College and other private companies for months -- with no word as to whether they even got my resume.  It is an awful thing to just be left hanging.  I would much rather get the email right back so that I can just keep on moving, then to sit there and stew over a potential job that has no real potential for coming to pass.

Well, anyway, this is what I have determined as far as job hunting goes here in Phoenix.  First off, I am definitely over-qualified for many jobs; but my experience is very broad, which right now seems to be what is killing me.  I don't have specific experience, and that is putting me outside the range of getting interviewed.  I have attempted to apply for positions below my skill, but then I scare people off -- they think, "she won't stick around because she has so much experience."  It is hard to get through to employers that when you are unemployed -- any job -- is worth sticking around.

Secondly, I have decided that I cannot get the job I want (or think I want) without my MA degree.  Every job I look at longingly specifically wants a Masters degree.  So I know what I must do -- I must finish my program, graduate in 2012, and then have the credential to change careers.  Until then, I need good purposeful work that pays well.

Thirdly, since I would like to teach, I need experience.  I need some method of experience in the classroom or online environment.  I am not sure how this will happen, so this is the big IF out there.  I need to get experience some how, and then with my MA, should be able to get hired at a college as an adjunct teacher.

Lastly, I have determined that my best approach to PhD studies is through Communication and the Arts.  I have wanted to pursue English, but I think the path is so fraught with difficulty.  I am older, and I am not able to live on campus and survive on a fellowship grant.  I need to work, and that means that I need to take a degree that is more applicable to both teaching and business.  This degree (via Regent University) will do that, and I think it aligns nicely with my undergraduate degree and Masters.  In short, I should be well prepared to teach college English or New Media (Communication) or work in a corporate environment (perhaps still within some educational branch).  I think it is the right direction, and that this path will afford me the most opportunity for a job, a good job.

Until then, I will work at Macy's.  I will complete my studies, and I will continue to look for purposeful work that will help support me.  It might be in IT or perhaps education or some combination of both.  I will trust the Lord to open a door for some teaching experience, but until He does that, I will do the work assigned to me.  I can do nothing more because all of this rests in His hands.  Besides -- I am so tired of looking, and I do not want to get depressed any further.  God knows my needs, and I think it is time to let the reigns go, and let God lead me where He wants me to go.

I have also decided that for now, my place is here at home, and in Phoenix.  God is doing something within my home, and He is shifting attitudes, and making a way.  I don't know the outcome, but that is not within my perview.  I simply am willing to allow Him to do what He wants, and accept His determination on the outcome of my life, my husband's life, and that of our son.  It is Good, always Good when the Lord God reigns and leads.  I am settled, it is done, and I know His will is Good.

Burning, Again

The past couple days have been incredibly difficult for me.  I have had time off from Macy's, which is such a blessing right now (with school and recital and other things, it has been nice to have less hours scheduled for work).  I have been working nights, and think that nights suit me better than days.  I thought I wanted to work days, but after doing that for several months; I have come to realize that really, I like my days at home.  I like to do my housework, be with my son, and take care of daily needs during the day time.  I enjoy this time, and feel like it is less "work" to go in the evening (if that makes sense).  I recently switched my availability so that I am only getting evening and weekend hours.  It works better now, and I am less in pain (backwise).  I am now working 2-3 evenings a week, plus either Saturday or Sunday.  My hours still are 20 or less, so I am content that this schedule is doable, and that I can accomplish everything I need to do for school and life, in general.  I am blessed.

I am also doing really well at Macy's.  After a sort of rocky start, whereby I didn't get on well with the managers (they are all driven for sales, which is a key characteristic of management at Macys), I have settled into a more comfortable routine.  I go in and do my job, that is all.  I don't complain, I don't engage the other sales people.  I simply smile, help the customer, and do the work that is assigned to me.  It is difficult at times, hard and laborious, but overall, I am used to it now, and I can competently do it.  I think the Managers like me, at the least, they say they do.  I am getting left alone, which simply means that I am making my goal, selling credit when I have to do it, and generally, because of those two things, I am considered "OK" by the Store Manager.  It is a good thing, really.

Moreover, I am doing well in my school classes.  I am managing all my assignments, and will begin my end of term papers today (and through next week).  Then I will be done for the semester, and hopefully, will get As in these classes.  I would like to maintain an A average simply because I plan on going to the next level, and I need a 3.75 or better average to be considered as a candidate for PhD studies.  I think this is very doable, but you never know until those grades are posted.  I am working hard, doing the assignments, and trying to be "online" enough so that it appears I am actively involved.  I think it will be OK, and I am trying not to fret over it too much.

Lastly, I think I have finally gotten over recital issues.  The Chamber recital was postponed due to my teacher's illness, and this Sunday, my son's Senior Recital is schedule.  I am playing several songs, but I am not really nervous about them.  I feel like I can do this, and I think it will be OK too.

The other day the Lord said to me, "Carol, your life is not as bleak and hopeless as you think."  I guess from my vantage point, it appeared this way, and I was complaining (well, lamenting is a better word).  From His perspective, things are mightily different, that is for certain.  God sees the totality of my efforts, He sees how I am doing when it comes to accomplishing His will, and He knows my heart.  Therefore, His judgment is superior to mine, which is limited and at best, short-sighted.  God knows what tomorrow will bring, and He also knows the plans He has for me.  I, in turn, know nothing.  I try my best to do what pleases Him, and I hope that my heart-attitude, and my willingness to submit are good enough.  Of course, I can do nothing that is good, but you know what I mean.  My attempts are always going to be futile unless they are surrendered under His precious fountain and flooded with His Grace.  I know this, and I try so hard to remain in this state of Grace.  It is more a matter of me walking away, and not of Him taking it away -- it is more just that I still want my way, and not His, and because of that, often I find myself in a not-so-very-comfortable situation.

This is where I am today.  I know the truth.  I know that God is true and faithful, and that He keeps His promises.  Throughout His word, God tells us this.  He shows us His faithfulness.  And, He reminds us that He is truthful to do what He says He will do.  Our problem is that we believe otherwise.  We tend to view things from our vantage point, which often looks like:  1, God is not doing what He has said to us; and 2, that God is not being truthful or faithful.  We might see His Goodness, but we do not see the other two points.  The truth of the matter is that often (I am speaking in generalitiies) we don't see God's faithfulness because He has not completed His work.  Whatever He may have promised to us is in process, and we are only seeing the dailies, so to speak (when filmmakers shoot film, they review the daily work -- called dailies).  These daily snips of film reveal the days work only.  The production is not complete until the filming is finished, and then the editing department takes over.  We see the completed project when we go to the theater, but all the work necessary to complete the picture has taken place over several years.  This is how it is with God.  We only are shown the daily work, not the completed picture.  We have to wait for His work to be done (in our lives and in the world).  We don't like waiting, and we want to see the finished project.  The problem is that often we see the dailies and draw conclusions that say "this is how it will be" when we really know that the plot can change in the next few frames.  This is especially true when we consider that we do not know the script because we didn't author it. 

You see, God is the Author and Finisher of our faith.  He writes the script of our lives, and then directs the action over the course of our days.  The finished project comes to completion at the end of time -- when Jesus returns and we are all given our glorified bodies.  Until then, the film of our lives continues to be shot.  It follows the course outlined in God's script, and since we are just the actors who are reading the lines (figuratively), we only have the day's dialog.  We only know today, and not tomorrow.  Thus, if we attempt to figure out what tomorrow will be by using the day's work, we run the risk of missing the boat, coming short of the mark, or simply believing in error.

This is exactly what I have done.  I am a big picture person.  I see the end before I recognize the details that come together to make up the end.  I want to see the movie of my life, I want it to be over (finished as in the project being done).  I don't want to wait for tomorrow's lines or the course of action to take place.  No, I want to read the script, and then offer my suggestions to edit the content.  God says (gently), "No, you may not know this, for this is my Work in your life."  Yet, this is what I want, and this is what I attempt to do every day.  I am sure it frustrates my God, and I am sure He looks at me and knows how much it frustrates me.  Why?  Why must I always want to be god?

Well, after three really bad days where I thought my life was hopeless and futile, and where I basically told God that I no longer believed He was truthful and faithful to me -- I am stuck in this pretty awful place -- and feeling pretty ratty to boot.  I don't want to be here, and truthfully, I do believe God keeps His promises.  I do believe that He is faithful and true.  I just understand now that what I want, I cannot have.  I want to be god over the details of my life, and He says, "no."  I want to direct some of the action, to take control, and He says "no."  I want, I want, I want.  It is all about me, and I know better than to be this way.  I have been here too many times, and I have felt this pang of sorrow and anguish.  I know better -- yet here I sit again.  UGH!

Dear Lord,

I get it now.  I understand what has happened, and why it has happened.  I understand that I tried to get involved in your script, your shooting schedule, and with the plans you have as Director over my life.  I wanted to be Producer, and that is not my role.  I wanted to be Editor, and that is not my role either.  You have given me the role of Actor, and that means that I am only to act out what has been directed.  I am not allowed to edit the script, to do my own thing, or go my own way.  I am to follow the script, and that is where I am most comfortable, and most suited.

I am sorry for acting this way, and trying to do this with you.  I know better, and I ask your forgiveness for behaving this way.  I ask now to be restored to my place in the production, in the grand production of my life.  I will act what you direct, and I will trust that as AUTHOR AND FINISHER, you are able to direct the details of my life, and produce something that is very GOOD, indeed.  I ask this in Jesus' Name, Amen.