January 31, 2011

Scheduling My Life

I am a list-maker, and a notekeeper.  I have lots and lots of little snippets of paper with little notes on them.  I am pretty good at keeping them corraled in one place, but occassionally I misplace something important, and then I forget to do whatever the note was reminding me to do!  LOL!  I like to live an orderly life, very routine, with starts and stops consistent from day to day.  I prefer to know what the day will bring, and exactly what I must do to make ends meet, to finish each task, and to feel that sense of "well done" at the end of the evening.  My scheduling has been a bit wonky since I started to work at Macy's.  I don't have set hours, so each week my shifts change.  I also now have school drop off and pick ups for my son (at college), which means I have to schedule my day around those times.  Plus there are the other events in my son's life:  piano, worship practice, youth group, etc.  And, lastly, there is my school schedule which requires study time, writing and composing time, as well as seminar paper time.  I have to budget and plan my days, my weeks, and my months, so that I make sure to get everything done that is necessary for our current state of affairs.

So today, I thought I would plan out a schedule for this coming year.  I was used to doing this for my son for our home school program, but last year, we decided to graduate him early, and I let that job go.  Now, I miss the structure, and I miss the organization of it all.  Perhaps a new schedule for me will fit the bill and will help me feel more in control of the tasks the Lord has assigned to me.

I will post excerpts of it soon, but until then, I will focus on what needs doing today.

January 29, 2011

Thinking Ahead About Schools

Just another post on schools and schooling options!  You'd think I would be tired of writing about schooling, but then hey -- I was a home schooling Mom for almost seven years.  The schooling/curriculum/option thing doesn't go away when your child graduates from high school, LOL!  It probably should, and I would guess that for some parents, it does.  It would depend on what the graduate does, whether they attend a community college or go to a four-year University.  My son is at the community college, and as of yet, has not made up his mind on his major emphasis.  Although I know he will eventually decide on music, the choice of whether it will be Music or some electronic music variation is unknown.

I also think I am simply not willing to let him go on his own just yet.  He is young, only 17, and lacks direction.  I know that I am not 100% responsible for directing him, but in some ways, I still have pull, so to speak.  You see, some parents let go of their teens in high school, preferring to let them err and fall -- believing that these life lessons will shape them into responsible adults.  This does happen sometimes, but more often than not, the teen just flounders and ends up repeating behaviors until they find themselves out of school, and out of options.  The parents toss up their hands and say "Oh well, it was his/her choice, and they made it." 

I am of the opinion that until a child reaches maturity, they NEED their parents to help them make decisions. This is how God parents us, and thank His goodness for it.  His Word teaches us that the Shepherd oversees the flock at all times, never letting them wander too far away.  Paul tells us that until we are mature Christians, we need to be discipled in how to live worthy lives.  We are never given the "keys to the Kingdom" and then told "now, go have at it!"  No, not at all.  Instead, we are encouraged to stay in study of the Word, to remain close to mentors and leaders for discipleship, and take daily consistent steps of faith.

As Parents, our children need to be raised to maturity, and that doesn't happen when the hormones kick in.  Most teens are not mature enough to decide what kinds of clothing to wear or which boy or girl to befriend.  They can hardly be trusted to make an important life decision like where to go to college, especially when that choice could incur $100k or more of debt.  Parents need to actively take part in this process, and whether the school likes it or not (most don't want the parents involved except to pay the check each term), they are still responsible for their child's well-being and welfare until they are mature.

I have taken the stance that until my son turns 21, he is my full responsibility.  Yes, he has some share in that load, and as he gets older, that share will increase.  He is now at the community college, and he is responsible for his courses, homework, and grades.  I cannot do this for him, but he is not ready to be let loose to decide what he wants to do for his life's work.

He has a friend whose parents did this at age 15.  They tossed their hands up, frustrated at some of the choices their son made, and now have an adult child living at home who has absolutely no direction to go.  He works, yes; but as far as long-term goals and plans for his future -- he has nothing on tap.  I also know a family (longtime family friends of my parents), whose son has allowed his grown children to remain at home and live there without any source of employment.  The boys say they cannot find work so they stay at home playing video games.  The father is working two jobs to support the family, and his sons are living off of their Dad's hard work.  It is not fair, and these boys are lazy, fat, and believe they are entitled to remain at home forever.

My son is not this way, thank the Lord; but I want to make certain that he understands that the choices he makes today, will impact his life down the road.  He knows this, at least I think he does (well, he should because I have used it as my "mantra" over the years).  Still, he is at that point where it would be a serious error on my part to let him fly alone.  He is not ready yet.  He needs to double for awhile; he still needs his co-pilot along side of him.

So with this in mind, I am still looking at colleges for him.  Yes, I said it -- I am looking at colleges.  Many teens do their own looking, and some know right away where they want to go.  My son has never expressed any interest in schools, so I have had to do the looking.  I don't make the decision, of course.  I just look at the schools, check the financials and such, and then suggest it as a possible option.  He has to actually consider it, and then decide if it is a good choice.  I was the same way when I was his age.  I looked at some schools, but I had little help from my parents.  My parents let me do all the work, and truthfully, I was ill-equipped to handle that responsiblity.  I wasn't even ready to graduate -- really!  I didn't know what I wanted to study (other than art), and I was not even in the mindset of being a college student.  I wasn't looking forward to college, and I wasn't interested in doing anything much at all.  I would have appreciated my parents saying to me, "Carol, you need to go to the community college for two years."  I ended up there anyway, and had I asked them directly, this is what they would have said to me.  But they didn't say anything, and the left the choice up to me.  I floundered, and finally in tears, made the choice to go the CC route.

My son needs to make up his mind on a major, and I have given him until this Spring to do so.  There is no point in spending several semesters figuring this out.  You either know it or you don't and if you don't well -- then you need to do some deep soul-searching time and really be honest with yourself.  My son is a musician through-and-through and there is no getting around it.  He is at his best when he is up on stage performing with other musicians.  He loves music, he writes interesting arrangements in music, and he generally thinks music all the time.  The problem that he has is this -- he is highly distracted by other things, namely his involvement in gaming clubs.  He has left his game-playing behind, and now is an administrator on a game server.  He spends every waking hour talking online, making system changes to the games, giving permissions, etc.  He is a server administrator, which is fine -- if that is what he really wants to do for the rest of his life.  He can make good money at it, for certain -- but when I ask him if this is what he wants to do, he says no.  Yet, this is what he does all day when he is not in class.

I see his skill, and I see his gift -- but he is not using it right now.  He is bored, and when I asked him what he thought about college so far, he shrugged his shoulders and said it was "OK."  I knew this would happen, I just knew it.  He was so looking forward to college, and after he got in, he was excited about taking classes.  Now that he is in them, he is seeing that the teachers dumb them down, telling students that they don't have to even read the textbook, that they can do "open book" tests, and such.  This is not a good thing to tell a highly gifted student -- because my student will say "sweet, I can coast and not learn anything new."

Therefore, this parent is stepping in to provide some more direction and to suggest perhaps a more suitable school for music study.  My son is special and has special needs.  He is not your typical performance driven pianist.  He has deep ideas about composition and theory, but he is not deeply invested in performing Sonata after Sonata.  He would rather explore music, and develop a keen interest in those aspects that challenge him most.  I have to find a school that offers this type of music program.  Not all do that, and most are performance based.  But there is one that is very liberal in it's design and that is where I think he should go for college.

Yale University has a Humanities-type liberal arts focus, and this means that as Music majors you are not singled out for music only study.  Every study there is focused the same way, and students are given more control over their degree program.  This would benefit my son greatly, and would allow him to explore the areas of interest most challenging to him.  Of course, it is Yale, and that has it's own issues (Ivy-league, expensive, and competitive).  I am not sure if he can get accepted, let alone get the financial aid to go there.

Yet, something has led me to Yale, and I have read their website, studied their music department FAQ, and come around to the thought that Yale just might be of the Lord's choosing.  Hmmm...I am not sure, but there is something in my heart that says, "Let him go, Carol -- trust me!"  Yes, Lord!  If Yale is your choice for him, then so be it.  I will trust you, and I will let him go wherever you lead him.  Praise be to God -- He is Good and His Mercy endures forever.

January 27, 2011

Looking Forward

It's been an interesting day so far.  I woke up later than usual, and was somewhat of a grump.  I didn't sleep well, had a lot of dreams (weird ones), and generally didn't feel like I got enough sleep, even with nine full hours.  I got moving with my cup of coffee, and a couple chocolate donuts, and then sat down at my computer to check email.  My monitor was all wonky -- with the screen shifted to the right, and everything hanging off the edge.  I was able to get it to reset, and so far it seems fine.  However, it is just another reminder of my computer failing on me (I cannot turn the power off because the button will not start it again).  I don't want to purchase a new computer yet.  I have been wanting to switch from a PC to a Mac for a long while now.  I need a large monitor/computer to counteract my eyesight issues (decreased vision in one eye, increased fibrous floaters, and the possibility of Macular Degeneration -- both my Mother and Aunt have it).  The 27" IMAC would be a good choice for me, but it costs $1699 at the minimum.  I may have to purchase a new monitor in the mean time, but what if my computer fails too?  Oh, the thought is too much for me.

I must have had three separate dreams, all of them disturbing to me.  The first was with me as central character.  I was travelling through the upper western US, Utah mainly, and I was lost.  I stopped at a gas station for gas where I met a young couple with a baby.  I asked to use their map, but instead they asked me to get in their car.  I drove with them a while until I realized that I was going the wrong way (well, out of my way).  I asked to be let off, and I woke up.  Weirdsville, eh? 

The second dream found me at a summer camp with my family.  I was there with my parents and siblings, and we were packing to leave.  I just remember feeling as though I was left behind or going to be left behind.  My Mother told me to go and take my things and get them packed, but I couldn't find where our luggage was stored.  I walked into someone elses room, only to find their things and not mine.  I walked back out of the room and woke up again.

The last dream found me and my son at one of the first apartments I lived in with my DH.  It was in Campbell, CA.  I liked that place, it was nice, and it was in such a good location (a 4-plex about 5 minutes from where I worked).  I was making dinner, and there were some strange people looking inside the back window.  When I looked at them, I saw a man and he was staring at me.  He then pointed up, like to say they were looking at the flat above me (there was none).  I walked back to the oven to resume what I was doing.  I then woke up again.  By the way, I didn't recognize that man.  He was about my age with light brown hair and a mustache.  He had a nice face but wasn't familiar to me.  He had jeans and a blue tee shirt on, very casual attire, and he just was looking into my back window.

So were my dreams were significant?  Hmmm, perhaps.   At the least, it is fun to think that way.  I tend to do this, dream in cycles and in repetition.  I dream in three's, for whatever that is worth, and I can always recall them with great detail.  In guessing what they might mean (and with my expertise in dream interpretation -- yah, right! LOL!), I would suggest the following themes:
  • Being lost is always a clue that you are on the wrong path, seeking the wrong path or heading in the wrong direction (spiritually speaking)
  • Seeking direction from a person or a road map means that subconciously you are trying to find the answer to some problem or situation
  • Fearing being left behind is just fear, being afraid that you will be stuck or lost and not be able to find your way out
  • Seeing people looking at you or trying to communicate with you reminds you that other people often are used by God to help you find direction or find answers.  In my case, the man was pointing upwards, almost to say "Look Up" or "Go Up".  I think his face was there to show me visually that I need to always be looking up towards God, to remember that no matter how confused I may feel, God is always my answer, the source of all direction and guidance.
Well, there you have it -- my attempt at analyzing my own dreams (LOL!)  I probably did a pretty good job of it because I am so used to having images like these at night.  They always are little vingettes, stories really that start and stop in the middle of a sequence.  I think for me the truth comes down to the following:
  • I am on a journey, moving forward, but at times I may feel a little bit lost.  My roadmap is my Bible, and my Guide is the Lord Jesus Christ.  When I feel uncertain or as if I took a wrong turn, I simply need to look to Him for clarification and He will help me understand my life or the events within my life.  I don't need to panic or be afraid, I just need to ASK.
Dear Lord,

Help me today to understand if I am lost or on the wrong path, and if so, how to turn myself around and get back to where you want me to be.  I trust you and I look to your Word for guidance this day.  Amen, so be it, thy will be done.

January 26, 2011

Teaching College Courses

Yesterday, I wrote that I had found my passion, the one thing that I felt was "IT" for me.  Today, I am going to blog about teaching college courses.  The two really do go together, because you rarely get to be a Literary Critic without having some teaching experience.

After my blog post, I spent some time considering how I might enter into teaching college WITHOUT preparation.  In most Masters of Education programs, the students will have at least one semester of teaching experience.  Usually, this comes at the very end of their coursework, right before they graduate.  In Masters of Art programs, often the students work as Teaching Assistants for one or more semesters.  This gives the student time to spend in the classroom, work alongside a seasoned teacher, and observe their routine and teaching skills.  Since my program is online, I am not able to work as an assistant, and my program doesn't offer any teaching as part of the required curriculum.

When I was considering the University of Texas for my next level of schooling, their emphasis on teaching was a big factor for me.  First of all, it was required of all PhD students.  Secondly, their entire structure was on producing college teachers.  I liked that this was the focus, and that from beginning to end, the student would have ample opportunity to teach college courses.  However, now that I am leaning towards an online program, I am once again faced with the problem of how to gain experience teaching.

In Arizona, colleges require teachers to have a Masters of Art or Education degree.  In many other states, teachers only need a Bachelors degree.  It is a bit of the "chicken and egg" riddle -- what comes first?  You need both a MA or M.Ed AND experience to get a teaching position in Arizona.  I will have the MA, but not the experience.  I cannot get the experience without completing the MA.  I need both, and will have my MA next May.  So how can I get a teaching job now, so that I have classroom or online experience to further my study and career?

Well, I took the chance and applied for two teaching positions with The Anthem Group.  This is another paid-for-type school that offers college programs (usually technical or medical).  I applied for positions teaching College Success Courses and Computer Applications.  I can do both, and they only ask for a BA degree.  I also applied for the position of a technical writer.  They are in need of someone to develop a technical writing course, and I think this is something I can do.  Will they consider me as qualified?  I don't know.  I did change my resume per the technical recruiter's suggestions (less words, more bullet points).  I will have to trust the Lord on this one.  If nothing comes to pass, so be it.  If they call me for more information, then hooray!

January 25, 2011

I've Found my Passion -- At Last!

I cannot believe it but I have figured out what I am passionate about, and I am loving the truth (or the revelation of that truth!)

I am a pretty quiet person, and I typically describe myself as a thinker, someone who likes to read deeply and then sit and think on the thoughts and ideas within the work.  I like Philosophy and Ideology -- I love Theology, and all things related to the study of God and His Word.  I like to explore ideas, think about what might be truth or what is clearly falsehood.  I love to debate, to discuss, to converse -- but often find that people rarely want to listen, they are just more interested in what they have to say, and not in having dialogue.

Today, I realized that I am a Rhetorician, a person who likes to speak and/or write persuasively.  I like to debate with words, and to study words and ideas.  I am also a Philosopher or a person who likes to offer views about ethics, morals, metaphysics and logic.  Lastly, I am an Idealist who cherishes the pursuit of noble goals.  Combined together, I am somewhat of an enigma, a puzzle or riddle because when people see me or meet me for the first time, they tend to think I am slow-witted.  I don't speak clearly or well (I often stammer or use the wrong word).  I sometimes babble, and I struggle to be concise.  I tend to over-do explanations, and I tend to prefer to write my answers out (whenever possible).  I simply don't present well (hence my horrible experiences in interviews).  I am not a good public speaker, and I would prefer to write long protracted essays about subjects most people really are not interested in reading.  I am out of character, out of form, and generally, not very employable.

Yet, I am passionate about what I love, and I love to think and to write persuasively.  I love these two things more than anything (under Jesus, of course).  I think I should have been born three-thousand years ago (and as a man -- because women generally didn't read or go to school back then!)  Oh, how I would have liked to study with Plato or Hippocrates or listen to Augustine or even Luther.  How I would have loved to listen to Jonathan Edwards' sermons or been there under Spurgeon's tent (as in meetings, meetings -- folks!)

So here I am, this enigma of a woman -- who at age 48 is finding her passion and devoting her life to studying Literary Theory and Theology.  Why, you might ask?  Well, the Lord has need of it -- for one.  Also, I believe so strongly in the words of Psalm 37:4-5 (ESV):

Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act.

When you make the Lord your delight (pleasure, enjoyment); then God will give you the desires (what you wish or long for) of your heart.  If you commit (entrust, put Him in charge of) your way to Him and trust (have confidence in) Him; then He will act (do it).

I have found this to be true, and I have learned from Him that so long as I keep Him as my delight, He will act on my behalf.  He will be in charge of my life, of my way, and in doing so, He will bring His will to pass.  It is not a novel concept, but it is something that many Christian's fail to experience.  God truly will bless you with the desires of your heart (the Amplified says "the secret petitions" which can mean those deep innermost thoughts that only you keep).  God will act on your behalf; but only if you put Him first in your life.  And placing God first doesn't just mean on Sunday's or when you have devotional time.  No, it means every moment of the day.  It means to reorient your life to be His servant, and in that manner, doing exactly what He directs you to do.  You relinquish control of your life, you give Him authority to lead you, and you enter into a trust relationship whereby He can use you for His Kingdom and His Glory.

Oh, how marvelous it is to be passionate about something of the Lord's choosing.  God knew that I would one day go back to school to become a college Professor, and in doing so, that He would show me what to study.  I knew it years ago, but I lacked confidence to do it.  Now with God has my Guide, I am savoring the journey, engaging in the type of debate I love to discuss, and learning so much wonderful information.  Is it useful?  Well, yes and no.  The type of study I am pursuing is useful in the sense that it will gain me practical employment one day.  It is useful in a theoretical way, to teach students how to discipline their minds, and engage in serious study.  Hopefully, it will also be useful for His Kingdom -- if only in the sense that I will have influence where I work, and in the work I do.  Of course, from a straight Biblical perspective, the debate is immaterial.  However, since I am fully devoted and committed to Jesus Christ, then I think I do play a vital role in shaping the discourse.  If Christian's sit out the debate and never participate in dialogue, then they miss great opportunity to share the Gospel message with those who are living to die.  Let us not be afaid to discourse with others, and to debate honestly with the intention of bringing Light into a very dark place.  God is so GOOD to me.

January 24, 2011

Was Feeling a Little Lost, But Now I'm Found

The past couple days have been really tough on me.  I lost my way there for a bit, and was feeling totally confounded.  Today, though, I think I have found my path again, and I am feeling good about it.  Funny, how that works?  You feel all out of sorts, and you wonder why?  Later, after much discernment and ruminating on the whys and wherefores of your SPOT, you figure out that you took a wrong turn, and you need to turn around and head back up the trail.  This is exactly what happened to me.  I was hiking down my path (or up it), and then I took a wrong turn.  It looked OK at first, but the farther I got down the trail, the more I realized that it was leading me away from where I needed to be.  Instead of immediately turning around, I floundered a bit, trying to find another way out.  Then when I was at my lowest, I just turned around and started to retreat back up until I got the place where I took the wrong turn.  Now, I am walking ahead and I feel good again.  I can see the horizon, and I think I am on the right path.

My wrong turn happened last week.  Twice really (once before).  The first time was when I started to feel overwhelmed at my financial situation and began to fret over the lack of full-time work.  Even though the Lord has promised to provide for me (and He has), I started to think that I needed to find a job NOW.  I got out my resume again, and started sitting at the Careerbuilder website every morning.  I applied and was immediately rejected.  The more I applied, the more I got rejected.  I started to feel so deflated and then the bills came in, and the money went out, and with no more coming in -- well -- I panicked.

On Friday, I took a call from a recruiter who promised to work with me to update my resume, help me find a job.  I went to her office, met with her, and had a nice visit.  However, after that visit, I was sick to my stomach.  I just knew it was wrong.  I was panicking again, and this path was not at all what the Lord wanted for me.  I waited to hear back from her, but she didn't even email me as she said she would.  Then I sunk low thinking that I was back where I was last year -- without any financial support and feeling so out of control.  I cried out to the Lord, and asked Him why?  Why is this happening AGAIN, Lord?

No response.  None.  I was alone for a moment.  I cried more, and more and more, and then finally realized that either He wasn't listening to me or I was in the wrong place (far from where He wanted me).  That was when I started to trudge back up the path, and find my way again.  This time though I found the path, and started to walk on it again.  Everything cleared, and suddenly, I was in the pink again.  I still don't have answers, and I still don't have full-time work.  I have bills that need paying and no money to pay them.  I don't like it, but I am not afraid.  I know I am on the right path, and that the Lord will provide for me.  I am resting in His care, and trusting Him to keep me covered.

Today has been a good day for me.  Today has been something of a unique day.  I started out with a big unknown, and ended up with some clear direction.  I am starting my graduate classes, and so far so good.  I was afraid of them at first, of how hard they would be, but now I see that they are just more of the same.  I can do them, just like I did last semester, and just like I will next.  I will get good grades, and I will focus on my assignments and I will turn them in.  I will do it because God knows me well, and has chosen the best program for me.

I am content to remain at Macy's through my Master's course.  This is a struggle for me because it means I will have no way to support myself, but I am trusting that things are not always as they seem when it comes to the Lord.  If this is His will, then so be it.  I will work PT, go to school FT, and work towards graduation in 2012.  I can do this because He has made a way for me.

I have also considered returning to Old Dominion University.  I was set on moving to Texas, but now think that staying here might be a better idea.  It's not my idea, it is the Lord's.  My son is very happy at school, and there are two good Christian colleges near us with Music programs.  I think my son is leaning back to Music school, and this means that there are good programs within 20 minutes of us.  This would be a good choice for him, and I think he needs to do this now.  He loves our church and is very active there.  He has great opportunity to perform for worship and be involved in ministry.  I want him to be involved in these things, and since I can do my schooling online from anywhere, well, then this makes good sense too.

I have given over control to the Lord now, and that means that if this is what He wants -- so be it.  I will do it, and I will go wherever He says.  He knows me best, and He knows what He wants me to accomplish.  I will trust in His plans and know that they are good.

January 23, 2011

Win Some, Lose Some

Well, I had an interview on Friday with a very nice gal (can you still say that?) from the technical recruiting firm.  She actually went to my high school AND college in my old home town.  Talk about a small world.  Anyway, the interview went well, and I enjoyed meeting with her.  However, I am feeling less inclined to work for her agency now that I have had some time to percolate the events.

I think the main issue is this:  I don't want to do this kind of work anymore.  I have got to admit this because hiding behind my resume, and continuing to post applications in this field simply is unfair to me and to the prospective employer.  I am a Web Developer or Producer or whatever you want to call it now.  The problem is that this is a JOB that I did because I needed to work from home.  I put my skills to use to do something practical so that I could stay at home and take care of my son, who had learning issues and needed me to be home for him.  I never wanted to do this job, and I really never liked doing it.  It paid money, I did it because it suited the time and the need; but, it wasn't the THING I was passionate about.  it was good practical work.

I have been praying for good practical work (1 Thessalonians 4:11:  "aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you") for nearly a year and a half.  I believe that this is what the Lord desires of us, to do work that feeds our families but not work that requires that we give our all to some employer, to spend hours and hours working like a slave for some company.  This would be slavery, and for many of us, we are enslaved to our work, to our credit cards, to our need for enjoyment, etc.  We are enslaved to no one save the Lord Jesus Christ, and therefore, the work we do must be His Work first (Kingdom work), and practical work second.  Any job that requires more from us that what we give to the Lord, replaces Him as King of our life.  I am confident that this is the truth, but many of us, give in to the pressures of an employer or the fear of losing work, and we slave away making money for the company.

Some fundamentalist Christians believe that you should work for yourself or work from home for that very reason.  I did work from home, and I liked it a lot.  I liked having my son nearby and my husband home.  I am not able to do this anymore, so I need to seek outside employment.  The problem is that the jobs in my field, technology, seem to come with 60-70 hour weeks.  I simply will not do that anymore (I've done it before, and it nearly killed me stress-wise).  I cannot work in jobs like this, and honor my committment to my Lord and to my family.

Furthermore, the Lord has specifically provided a way for me to accomplish graduate school, and He has consistently told me that nothing is to get in the way of my finishing school.  He knows that I need to work, but the jobs I have applied to have all required a full-time attitude, and a willingness to travel, to work long hours, etc.  How can I keep my committment to Him and still work so I can feed my family?  That is the BIG QUESTION, and the one that seems to not be answerable for me at this time.

I cannot live on my financial aid package.  It helps greatly, but it is not enough to live wholly upon.  Therefore, I have been working PT at Macy's, but this money brings in groceries and gas.  It doesn't bring in enough to cover expenses.  No, I need another $1k per month to come in to do that, and right now, I don't have it; nor do I have a way to earn it.

My DH is working, but his contribution is low.  In a right-sided situation, this would not be even considered an issue.  My DH would provide the bulk share of the income to cover the expenses, and then I would contribute what I could to round things out.  This is how IT SHOULD BE simply because he works FT and has no other concerns (like education, etc.)  However, in my upside down marriage, and in my uncertain future, the responsibility for making ends meet falls to me.  It always has, and it always will.  The problem is that right now I am convinced that I am doing what the Lord wants me to do, and that leaves little time to do what the world thinks I should be doing -- working FT.

How can I do both?  How can I work FT and go to school FT and still remain healthy, whole, and devoted to my Lord and my son?  Well, there is God's Grace for one; but still this is not what I think I am meant to do right now.  The Lord consistently tells me to concentrate on three things:  school, learning French (to pass the proficiency exam), and cello.  Plus I am to assist my son with this first semester of college, just to help him transition into school and so on.  He never includes working in this list, never.  He will tell me to do my assigned hours at Macy's.  He will say, "Carol, just go to work and do your assigned task today."  Or He will say, "Just work the hours the computer has given to you this week."  It is sort of like, "Now, go to the grocery store."  You know, just plain direction -- not specific to the point that would demonstrate that WORK is more important than anything else.  If anything, SCHOOL is more important in the grand scheme of things.  I know that my schooling is my path out -- He has said so.  The way out for me is through school.  This means, as I take it, that the open door I seek is on THE OTHER SIDE OF MY SCHOOLING.  Until then, things will not be set, I will not find satisfying work nor will I find a job that is of His choosing.  I must wait, and I must focus and I must complete my studies.

I know this, yet the pressure to find work is overwhelming me.  Truthfully, I am tired of looking for work.  I am tired of submitting my resume.  I am tired of everything related to the "job hunt."  I want to stop, and I want to just be a graduate student and enjoy my studies.  I want to learn French again, and I want to be a better cellist.  I want to do all these things, and I don't want to work anywhere anytime soon.

So I guess that is the truth of the matter.  I am content to work my hours at Macy's, and I am dedicated to my studies.  I don't know how the gas bill will get paid tomorrow or how I will pay for my car insurance.  I have the money, it is in my savings account, but I cannot access it.  I have transferred too much money out of savings to live on this month, and my bank has sent me a notice telling me to stop.  This means that the money is frozen in there until 2/1.  I have to wait, but Geico won't wait, SW Gas won't wait.  I am stuck.  I need more money today, but I have no way to get more until next week's small paycheck (not enough to cover the expenses coming in).  Plus I have the mortgage looming on me -- 2/3 -- and my savings will be needed to pay that bill.  Then I will be flat broke, and have no money to live on except Macy's until I get my financial aid money from Mercy College (perhaps in February or March).  It is a tough spot to be in again, and I am tired of being here.  I want to work, and I want to make money so I don't have these issues.  I don't know how to do both without the Lord's direct intervention, and right now He seems to not want to do that for me.  He seems to be waiting, so I must wait too.  Oh, how hard it is to wait upon the Lord.  Yet, I know it is right, and always best to do so.  He is GOOD and His timing is PERFECT.

January 21, 2011

A New Wrinkle

Last night, I watched "The Patriot" on DVD.  I had not watched the entire movie, having only seen bits and pieces on cable TV.  I found the DVD for $5 at Target and bought it to add to our collection.  I thought it was a good movie, though probably not historically accurate.  I will be studying American Literature this semester, and the focus of the course is on social-cultural cohesion in the America's.  It will be interesting to read some other viewpoints on the history of America.  Still, Mel Gibson was his usual self, and the movie itself was engaging as far as it's emotional story.  As I finished watching the movie, I popped out to the office to check my email, and found that I had a voice mail from a recruiter.  I had applied to a firm that hires contracted IT professionals, and I guess they liked my resume (finally!)  They do not always have full-time/permanent work, but they do place professionals in short-term assignments.  I guess it is like a temporary employment agency where you work for them, and not the corporate entity.

I am excited at the possibility of working in my field.  I have no knowledge what position they think I would be suitable to performing, but at the least, I am glad for the opportunity to interview again.  Moreover, I believe that their lowest paying position pays somewhere around $12-15 per hour.  That is $4-7 more than what I make at Macy's, and it would provide a better chance for gainful employment long term.  I am blessed.

I will give them a call this morning, and hopefully they will want to schedule an introductory interview with me.  I am open to working in any job they might have, and I actually think I like the idea of working temporary for a while.  My focus is on my schooling, so being able to go to a job where I am not locked into it, is a good thing.  My skills get the brush up, and I can update my resume with more recent work -- but I am not stuck in a job I won't like or that has a difficult environment.  It is a very GOOD thing, and I am thanking God for this provision today.

On a second front, I am considering my options long term, and I have decided that the Lord's will and plan is for me to go to the University of Texas.  I was convinced that this was His plan last fall, even so much so that I began to tell my family about this plan.  Then fear sunk into me, and I retracted my words.  I waffled and later attempted to figure out how to remain here in Phoenix.  I never felt quite right after that point, never really had any peace.  I had nothing really, just a feeling that I wasn't on the mark 100%, but that I was OK.

Texas is a good choice for me, simply because this program is only 24 units beyond the MA, and specifically trains you to be a professor.  It is like a teaching college degree, where you study and write your dissertation ALONG with learning how to be a classroom teacher.  I like the practical and theoretical aspect, with the emphasis on the practical over research.  Moreover, you can petition the advisor to accept 6 units of your MA towards the PhD, so that means I would have 3 semesters (2 classes each) to finish the coursework, and then perhaps a year of writing a dissertation.  This enables me to graduate much sooner, and also opens up doors so that I can be PLACED in teaching positions at Universities around the country.  Every graduate in their program has received a teaching assignment upon graduation (tenured-track), which is HUGE.

As far as the other details, well I simply do not know yet.  I just feel that this path makes sense.  It is the field I am most interested in pursuing, and it is the shortest program for completion.  It requires a move to Austin, but the time involved is only 3 years versus 5-6 some place else.  I feel that this could work for me, and I appreciate the Lord's thinking of this program.  I would never have found it on my own nor would I have considered it initially.  God is GOOD that way.

Lastly, this brings up some choices for me now.  I have to decide whether it is best to try and sell my home now or wait until I graduate from Mercy College.  I was planning on remaining here, working and repairing my house, and then placing it on the market when the sales picked up.  However, now I may have to move sooner (not sure why), so I am considering planning out those repairs now.  It doesn't matter to me because I see myself leaving Phoenix temporarily in the near future.  My house is just a house now, and my life is fully in His control.  If He chooses to open this door, so be it.  If not, then so be it as well.  God is in control, and He is the One who determines my timing, my coming in and going out.  He is GOOD that way.

January 20, 2011

Change is Beautiful

I used to believe that change, any kind of change, was difficult and unpleasant.  I liked being a creature of comfort, and change signaled to me that I was going to have to shift from my couch-potato status and DO something (move, get active, pickup, anything that required effort on my part).  I liked living in my cocoon, even if my cocoon wasn't a very nice place to be.  It was safe (or so I believed) and warm (again, believed), and I thought I could rest from the weariness of the world.  However, change itself rarely bumped me from my cocoon shelter.  It would simply shift the nest, make me move slightly to the left or right; but it didn't really make any significant alterations to my current status.  That is, until I experience the kind of change that the Lord allows into your life -- life altering change that causes you to wake up from slumber, rub the dust out of your eyes, and begin to see the world as it really is.  This change brought around a newness of life for me, and it made me aware of some things that I needed to address.

Of these things, the biggest area I needed to address was my identity.  My identity was that thing that made me definable and recognizable.  It was the characteristics, the beliefs, the values, that I held as being part and parcel to me.  My name, a key component of my identity means "lord" (from the Greek for Carl or Karl) as in one having authority over himself (or herself).  In the Bible, names hold great meaning to the Lord; and the Hebrew people chose names carefully.  A name could set a person on the right track for life or it could identify them in some way that would cast them out of Jewish society.  A name, therefore, was vitally important to the God of the Bible.

The Word tells us that God has given to each of us a new name, and this name is known only to Him.  At the day of Revelation, we will be given our new name, and this is the name we will carry with us through eternity.  This name will reflect our new character in Christ Jesus, and will demonstrate key attributes we developed throughout our time here in Earth.  Our old name will be put away, just like the old man was sealed up into a casket and buried.  Our new name will be the name by which we are identified in Heaven.

In finding a new identity, I had the option of choosing another worldly format, a person-type of my own choosing.  I could be bold, adventurous, or contemplative.  I could be assertive.  I could be WOMAN.  I could be pretty much anything I wanted to be, but I knew that I would be only another shell representing what I thought God wanted me to be.  Instead,  I chose to have my identity shaped by Him, and to accept the identity of His choosing.  In doing so, I was given a new purpose, a great plan to follow, and a new sense of self.  My identity became grounded in Jesus, and in His Work, and I began to let go of all those things that the world says one must keep hold  or strive to accumulate.  I took hold of Jesus and I became the person of His choosing.  I am glad I did.  I like the new person I am, and I am looking forward to the name He will give to me on that day when I stand before Him.

The second area I needed to address was my unwillingness to let go of control.  My need to be "lord" over the details of my life caused me a lot of stress and frustration.  I needed to learn how to let the Lord be LORD over every area of my life, and once I did, I was immediately released to walk in freedom from the tyranny of stress.

The next area was my desire for wealth and financial security.  I still struggle with this one a bit, but the desire is waning, and I am becoming more accustomed to letting God be my Financial Planner.  This need was driven into me by my husband, for one; and then by my own lack of trust in the Lord.  In my husband's case, it really wasn't something he did, but rather something he didn't do.  He was like most normal young men when I met him -- ambitious, desirous of achieving a good position, and sincerely wanting to provide for himself and his family.  This was back in the early 1980s when it seemed that every young guy I knew drove a Porsche or BMW.  They owned houses, boats, and flashed a lot of cash around.  Jobs paid well then, and money was being made on the stock market.  Young professional men made good money, and had nothing to do with it, but find ways to spend it.  All of my husband's friends were successful, all made very good income, and all were considered wealthy.  Our mistake, and I take the blame for this as well, was to believe that since everyone was getting rich, we would get rich too.  We bought into Pyramid schemes, multi-level marketing programs, and every "you can do it too" tape system.  Nothing "did it" and we ended up in debt, with little income, and with this nagging fear hanging over us that we would be evicted.  I worked, of course, and we lived on my scrawny per hour wage.  We were strongly united, believing that money would come to us if we only did the right system, worked a certain way, and kept faith that it would happen eventually.

The problem with this line of thinking is that it negates a very important principal, and that is the God is the decider of who is rich and who is poor.  Many people, Christian's alike, do not like to believe this but truthfully, if God is God of everything, and His word tells us that every cattle belongs to Him -- then we must believe that every dollar or yen or euro is His as well.  God blesses whom He chooses to bless.  If you are not studying God's word and applying Biblical principals to your financial life -- well then -- you are gambling and playing the races (hoping you will score it big).  Resting in God, trusting in Him as Provider brings financial security.  It may bring wealth or it may bring a satisfied modest life.  Even in poverty, the Lord will richly bless those who trust in His Name.  This is a promise from Scripture, and resting in Him alone is the only way to uncover the true wealth of God's kingdom.

The last area I had to address required the most time for me to accept, and that was my dependency on other people, especially my family.  I am close to my parents, and the thought of walking out on them (as in moving away or following another path) scared me.  I didn't want to disappoint them, and I didn't want to leave them behind.  I had to learn that God's plans may move me, and in doing so, that my parents would be OK without me near.   Furthermore, I would be OK without them near.  It was hard, and still is, to consider leaving, but now I understand that I must do the work the Lord has for me, and that may include moving to another city.

Reshaping my identity, replacing my trust in myself or others, and relying on God for His Provision has been the major change I experienced over the past two and one-half years.  It was not an easy process for me, and I struggled against His will for a time.  Now that I am on board with His plans, I can see that all of this was for my benefit.  I am strong now, and I am better able to handle difficulty without falling apart.  I can go where He sends me, I can rest with confidence.  I can soar high on eagle's wings because the Lord is beneath me keeping me afloat.  I trust in the Lord, and He does marvelous things for me.  So be it, thy will be done today and every day henceforth.  Amen, amen, amen.  Selah!

January 19, 2011

Deed is Done

I did it.  I cut my hair today.  I like it, and think it does look better than before.  I feel much better (lighter), and I have already received rave reviews from other customers and friends.  I guess that is testimony that is good enough for me.  LOL!

I just got back from Walmart.  I need to color my hair (natural color) and highlight it still, but hope to do that tonight.  I am content, very content.  I thought I would freak out a bit with the new look, but really it feels so comfortable for me.  It has been three years of growing out my layers, and lots of struggle to get my hair to do normal things.  When it is short, it seems happier (LOL!) and that means that I can pretty much wash it and go.  I am glad I did it, and now I think I am really ready for this new year.

I Think I Get It Now

I am laughing on this titled post because I *think* I have written this before (at the least, I have said it) perhaps ten or twenty times.  I like to say it a lot:  "I get it now."  I think that I really do get it, I mean, when I say that at the time.  The funny thing (yes, ha ha) is that most of the time, I get a little bit of that clear headed sense, but not the entire picture or thesis or circumstance.  I grasp some part, but not the whole of it, if you KWIM?  We like to think we "get it" and we like to say "I've got it all under control."  The truth is that we rarely get anything at all, and we almost never have things under control.  It is a human flesh thing, one of those aspects of our pride that shouts out to the world:  "I am OK." 

Oh Lord, I am not OK, and I don't get it, and I struggle with the dailyness of life, and with trying to keep my ship afloat."  I want to get it, and I want to feel in control, but as soon as that feeling comes, it seems to flit away again.  It never stays for long, and I *think* that is because those feelings are human fleshly feelings, and are based on our circumstance and situation, and not on the truth of God's Word or on our relationship with Jesus Christ.  God wants us to focus on Him, and to trust Him.  This means we are not to rely on our feelings or thoughts, but on His Word -- Jesus Christ.  Jesus promised us in John 16 that He would give us two things:  joy and peace.  Joy and Peace instead of sorrow and tribulation -- however -- these come to us as a reward for our faith in His Name and when He is revealed in Glory.  For now, we have sorrow and tribulation, but the Helper brings us peace and joy regardless of our outward situation.

God is Good to me, and He knows me well.  He knows that I still rely on my feelings far to often, and that I need to stop looking to the temporary, and focus on the eternal.  His will for my life is coming to pass, and I and doing what He asks of me.  There is nothing more for me to do, nothing more for me to worry or fret about, and nothing more for me to control.  He is guiding me daily, and I am trusting Him for every need.  In this way, I let go of my striving, and I abide in Him, just as John writes to us in his book.  Abiding in the Lord means to rest securely, to lean back upon Him.  John, the beloved disciple, was always portrayed as leaning upon Jesus' breast (or chest).  This was a common position in the Greco-Roman world -- people reclined at dinner, they literally laid down to eat.  It was a way to share fellowship, to be close and to demonstrate your attention to the person near you.  It was very familial in that regard.  We are to be likewise, to lean back upon Jesus as if we were intently focused on His Words to us.  We are to peer into His eyes, to look closely (though we cannot see Him -- we have His Spirit within to help us have this kind of relationship) at Him while He is speaking to us.  By placing the focus upon Jesus, we are less distracted by what is going on around us, and we are sure to hear every message, every word of encouragement, and to receive instruction for our specific lives.  When we sit distantly from Him, we miss so much fellowship.  We also miss His instruction for our lives because He is far from us.

I have learned that abiding, resting and leaning on the Lord, provides the assurance of getting the message correct.  I learn directly from His Word, and as His Holy Spirit guides me and teaches me, I am able to receive correction, and grasp depth of understanding.  I cannot "get it" unless I am right next to Him.  It is impossible to understand the will of God, and know you specific purpose in this life, unless you are right next to His Precious and Glorious Presence.

So back the my thesis topic of "I get it now."    This morning as I read the Word, and then came back to the computer to check my schooling, etc., the Lord reminded me of some things I wrote last year.  I took the time to revisit the last five or six months, and I was so shocked by the depth of sorrow, the pain, and the hopelessness I felt then.  I remember writing a post back in July, where I really felt like I understood why I was suffering so much, and why I was stuck in a difficult place for so long.  Funny, because when I wrote that post it had been almost one year of being in a difficult place.  Now, it has been almost a year and a half, and guess what -- I am still in that difficult place.  Nothing has changed. 

Everything has changed.

My circumstance has not been altered since last summer, but my heart, and my mind have been changed to align with His will.  My attitude has become maleable and agreeable to His will.  I am ready to do His will, and I am at rest in His will.  My outward circumstance is the same -- no movement, no job, no bettering or worsening of the entire event.  It is status-quo, and it is the same old, same old thing.  Yet, I am so very different inside, and I am far more confident, far more bold, and far more willing to "give it a go" now.  I have learned to let go of things, to let things be, and to rest and relax in the Lord.  I am trusting Him daily now, believing in His ability to provide for each and every need.  I know that His timing is perfect, and that He will always do what is best for me.  When I am overwhelmed, I rest in His Grace.  It is sufficient, and I can do everything He has asked of me.  If I need anything, I do as John 16 says and I ask the Father in Jesus' Name.  The provision is there, the protection is at hand.

So what exactly is IT that I get now?  I think it is this:
  • In this life we will have sorrow and tribulation (this is a promise from Scripture)
  • This sorrow and tribulation are for our benefit because they enable us to develop a strong trust in the Lord
  • Moreover, through this process of learning to trust the Lord, we become strong, faithful, and obedient servants
  • We learn how to deal with difficulty, and not give up or give in -- we endure
  • We bring glory to God through our attitude during suffering, so the more understanding we are of it, the more we are able to express joy through it (like the Apostles did)
  • Lastly, the process we endure is called Sanctification and it is a work of the Holy Spirit.  It is for our good, and for His Glory.  It is not always pleasant, and it can be incredibly difficult at times; but, it will result in a perfectedness on the day we stand before the Lord.
Therefore, whether I live here in Phoenix or move some place else; whether I work PT or FT; whether I remain married or end up single -- all of these temporal things are of no real consequence in the Lord's overall will for my life.  Yes, He determines where I live, and yes, He desires for married people to remain married -- but in the scope of His Eternal Work -- they are simply the daily part of living, a part of living that is common to man.

I spend so much time focused on the daily, and I think now I understand that the "daily" will always be with me.  I will never have a perfect life.  I will never have everything I want or think I should have in life.  I may achieve greatness (in human terms) or I may live a modest unknown life.  I may do this or that, but for eternity, my path has been marked out and chosen for me.  My life is not about here and now, though I must remain in it.  My life is bound up in His Name, and in doing His Work and in living for His Glory.  There is nothing else that matters, and while the Lord doesn't ask me to abandon this life (may it never be), He does ask me to trust Him for it.  He knows my needs, and He has plans to cover every possible thing.

I am to abide in Him, and He will abide in me.  In this trust relationship, I will learn from Him, and become like Him.  It is the only way for me now.  I want nothing else but for Jesus Christ to be Glorified.  Amen, so be it, thy will be done.

January 18, 2011

Trusting the Lord

I finished watching NCIS tonight, and now I am waiting for my son to phone to say that he is ready to be picked up from church.  He has an opportunity to work at church again, this time learning how to do tech services.  This is something he wants to do for a potential career, so I am hopeful that he can be authorized to learn how to do this job.

On the hair front, I am contemplating what I will do once I get my hair cut.  I know, big deal right?  Well, it sort of is when you think about it.  Your appearance, while not being the sole source of definition of your being, does play an important role in your self-confidence and esteem.  I identified myself for a time with the way I was before I was married.  Back then I wore my hair long -- it was a comfort measure for me -- especially while I was navigating through last year's painful discoveries and difficult trials.  Now that I am starting a brand new year, and looking forward to the great things the Lord has in mind for me, I am ready to let go of the past, and jump feet first into my new future.

I don't know what that future looks like, but I do know this:  it is going to be GOOD.  God is GOOD and as John 15 teaches, if we abide in Him, then He abides in us.  Therefore, His Goodness abides in us as well, for He is Good.  This Goodness then permeates every aspect of our life, and we experience the Goodness of God in every area, every detail, and in every path and event.  God is Good, and I am so glad that I abide in Him, and He abides in me.

I believe that the plans the Lord has for me are GOOD.  I know what I am to do, or at the least, work towards completing over the next few years.  I don't know the exact details, just a firm direction and a committed heart that tells me I am to GO THIS WAY (as opposed to that way, kwim?)  God has directed my steps, and set a path before me, and it is up to me to follow that path.  I don't know what turns are up ahead of me, what roadblocks, or even what hardships will be there -- but I know that God is with me, and as long as He is hemming me in (in front of me and behind me), I can go where He is directing me to go.

Letting go of the past is difficult.  Last year, I had to let go of my identity as a wife, and embrace my life as a single person.  This was hard for me to do, but I have done it.  I may not like this outcome, but I can live with it.  This year, I am committed to doing His will at all cost.  Therefore, I embrace change with a new attitude.  Instead of being fearful of the unknown as I was before, I move forward trusting the Lord for His protection and provision.  I may falter, which I am certain I will, but He will be there to lift me up, and to help me along the way.  I am not alone, and I don't walk this path alone either.  He is always with me, promising that He will never leave me nor abandon me.

I think about the things I need to let go of still, and several come to mind.  The first is old habits and patterns that were part of the "old me."  These need to be replaced with new habits and behaviors fashioned after the Lord.  I am trusting for this to be, and I welcome this change in my life.  Second, I need to let go of everything that I hold so dear, and trust the Lord for His provision and protection.  This is an ongoing process for me, and I am doing better at trusting Him for these two things.  The last thing is really the hardest and that is to let go of my self, all of my self.  You see, I spent Fall 2009, and all of 2010, learning to find myself again, to recreate my identity, and to let the Lord establish me in His Grace.  My identity is in Jesus now, and it is GOOD.  But now, I have to let this go as well, and choose instead to embrace Him first and foremost.  This means that while I never will lose my identity, I am choosing to lay it aside in favor of His will and His wishes and desires for my life.  I say that this is what I want, but I still cling to the reality of my life (house, car, school, hair, etc.)  It is time to let these things go as well, and embrace the future the Lord has for my life.  I am His and He is mine, and together we will accomplish His will for my life.

Praise God for He is Good, and His Mercy endures forever.

Changes for 2011

Well, I made the decision to cut my hair.  Yep, cannot believe I am actually going to do it, but I called and booked an appointment for tomorrow.  I have been disatisfied with my hair for awhile now, and last fall, I decided to get it cut shorter (sort of a bob).  It looked good for about three weeks, and then started to look draggy again.  It has since grown to my shoulders, and truth be told, I look really old and haggard.  I don't want to look old, and whenever I look into the mirror, all I see is deep crevaces in my face and lots of dreariness.

I debated whether to get my hair cut into a shorter bob, but here is the deal:  my hair is very fine.  It tends to grow forward, and it falls into my eyes constantly.  I tuck it behind my ears, which just shows off my gray hair.  Moreover, it is so flat and lifeless.

I used to wear my hair in a short pixie style.  After about fifteen years, I decided that I looked like most of the older women I see in Scottsdale.  I grew it out, but never found a style I really liked.  I am now returning to a pixie cut, and think the short snappy style (with highlights) will make me look younger.  I am not out to look like a model, just as nice as I can for a woman my age (48).

Here are some cuts I have tried and my review of them:

Pixie Cut - This is the style I am going for now.
Keira Knightly, btw - beautiful
New for 2011

Short Bob Style - Jessica Alba
This is the cut I chose last fall. 
It looked cute for a couple weeks and then grew out horribly. 
Plus it fell into my eyes constantly.  Still a cute cut.
2010's Style

Medium Bob Style - Gywneth Paltrow
This is pretty much how my hair looks now,
but it has to be pulled back, up,
or barretted to keep it out of my eyes.
Current Style - 2010 into 2011

Super Short Pixie Cut - Jamie Lee Curtis
This is how I have worn my hair for the past 15 years. 
Pretty similar style, sometimes a little longer than this. 
I got really tired of it, and wanted something different
so I grew my hair out and went with the medium bob style above.
Style for 1993-2008

My goal is to have a hair style that suits my faee shape (oval - long).  My hair is super fine, but I have a lot of it.  I normally have to put lots of gel or wax in my hair when I wear it short.  The bonus is that it stays all day long, and always looks great.  The long style I have now just drags my face down, and really accentuates my wrinkles and dark circles.  I look really tired and old.  I am ready for a new style, and that means letting go of my desire to be 16 again (and wear my hair long).  Oh well, change is a good thing, and I am ready for it.

I have my hair color to do tonight, and then cut tomorrow.  Afterwards, I can frost my hair myself because it will be shorter again.  Oh, will my parents flip out!  They have been wanting me to go short again, and I have been very disagreeable about it.  I guess I was tired of having people tell me what to do, and after the long hard year (2010), I needed some time to explore my own feelings about my appearance, and come to terms with several key facts:
  • I am 48 years old
  • I am thin (thank you, Jesus for helping me lose some weight) but not skinny
  • I am shapely, with ample areas on top and bottom
  • I am not a model
  • and I am OK with the fact that I have lumps, bumps, and a fair number of jiggles now
I think it is part of the aging process.  I don't want to alter myself drastically, just look nice.  I wear nice clothes that fit me well, I wear a modest amount of makeup, and I like to color my hair.  Modest improvements to help make the OLD GIRL look her best.

I am excited to see if my hair turns out this way.  I am confident that I can take care of it better than what I have now, which seems to constantly be a headband or clip.  I can do this, I can do this -- I know I can!

It's Noon and I am Missing My Boy

I keep looking at the clock and thinking about my boy.  He is having lunch at college today, and I am feeling lonely.  I know he is having the time of his life, and is learning how to be a grown-up.  He has taken such responsibility over the past year, and I am so proud of him.  He has managed his time, learned how to be an employee (soon to be hired again), and is now a full-time college student.  God has richly blessed our life, and I am in awe of Him.

As I sit here and blog (and try not to get too weepy on myself), I am thinking about the plans the Lord has for my life.  The past year has been one of major upheaval and change.  I had hoped to find FT work right away, but that never materialized.  I have been successfully employed at Macy's, and working PT there has helped cover minor expenses.  I am reliant upon a school loan and some money from family to get me through, but all in all, I am doing OK. 

Now, I am set to begin my second semester of graduate school, hoping to teach English in college, and I am wondering what I should do next.  I have looked at numerous graduate schools, and considered them all.  Some were not good fits, and some didn't seem to be of interest to me.  Others schools were plausible, given the right parameters, and that is where I am today -- trying to sort through these "plausibles" to determine which one suits the Lord's work best.

Of the schools I am considering, three remain on my list:
  • Regent University -- PhD in Communication (Professional Writing & New Media)
  • Old Dominion University -- PhD in English (Professional Writing & New Media)
  • University of Texas at Austin -- PhD in English (Rhetoric)
As you can see, of these three schools, the focus is on writing.  This is my strength and what I enjoy most.  It is also where I believe the Lord has need of me as far as ministry work goes.  The first two schools offer online hybrid programs, which consist of online classes during the year and summer institutes for residency requirements.  UT at Austin is an on-campus teaching program, which offers a different type of preparation than these other schools.  All three offer research opportunities, but only UT specializes in teaching.  Moreover, UT is recognized for their placement of graduates and this is a bonus to me.  The negative is of course that I would have to relocate to Texas for two-three years while I worked and finished my PhD program.

It is a difficult task to focus in and choose a path when you are so uncertain of the outcome.  However, I know that this is the plan the Lord has for me, and teaching is part of it.  I have considered teaching here in AZ, but the door seems closed to me.  I have looked to work online, teach online, and that path seems difficult.  I am not certain if this is what I am to do, but it was once the top pick (last fall) until I became fearful of leaving my family behind.

Last year closed out with a thud, and a lot has changed since then.  My attitude about moving has shifted greatly and I am now all the more settled on the idea that I will need to move some place else for good work.  I am less concerned about my parents welfare because I honestly believe that they will be in  a position to move into assisted living (or with me) very soon (in 1-2 years as well).  Perhaps this is what the Lord has in mind for me?  I know this, UT has the program that would benefit me most, and would require the shortest amount of time to complete.  Furthermore, they offer a great Music Technology program for my son.  He could easily enroll there and get a great education.

Hmmm.  I wish I knew for certain, but I do believe this:  I know that every single door to corporate jobs has been closed to me.  I have applied to more than 150 jobs over the past year and half, and with the exception of working at Macy's, nothing has come to pass.  I am a PT employee, and a FT graduate student, and I believe this is the Lord's will for my life.

Today is January 18th, and I write this down so that I won't forget it.  I do that, forget things, and I don't want to forget this today.  I want to remember that I decided to consider moving to Texas back in November, and now here I am in January, considering it again.  I need to make up my mind by December 2011, so I do have time to percolate this idea.  More so, the Lord has time to make changes in my life, to move things around, and get me ready -- should this be His path for me.  Until then, I will focus on the tasks He has assigned to me -- regardless of PhD graduate schooling:
  • Finish my MA at Mercy College
  • Study French and pass the CLEP exam
  • Focus on cello and music study
  • Supporting my son in college (helping and cheering him on)
Other than these four tasks, I only have working at Macy's, and being a good Mom and daughter.  I can do these tasks, and I can consider school options because I know that His Grace is enough, and that I am determined to do His will no matter what sacrifice is necessary to make.  God is so Good to me, and I love Him.

First Day of School

Today is the first day of school for my son, DJ.  He is taking 13 units at the Community College after graduating last June.  I had hoped to enroll him last fall, but didn't have all our paperwork in order (to get a state ID, etc.) and so we had to wait until this Spring to begin classes.  He is going to work towards his A.A. degree in Music Technology (at least for now), and will take more theory/harmony courses in the fall.  He is very excited to be in class, and truthfully, was ready for a school experience in 10th grade.  It has been a very long two years, and I think he will do a fantastic job in these courses.

I had a hard time dropping him off, and felt a little bit weepy over it.  But, I remained in control, and made it home without shedding a tear.  God is so Good to me.

January 17, 2011

Learning How to Live in the Moment

Ok, so today was pretty good.  First off, I actually woke up feeling pretty good.  My legs ache a little bit, but nothing terrible (I don't even feel the need for Advil, so that is a GOOD thing).  I spent most of the day out running around with my Mom.  I took my car over to Chapman's Garage for an oil change, and ended up needing two new tires and a front end alignment.  Oh well, what a way to go, eh?

I did pick up some dry cat food (Hill's Science Diet Hairball Control -- the best food for my boys), and a laptop case for my son's new laptop.  We purchased a backpack type only to find that it was too small for his 17.3" Dell computer.  So back to Walmart, and home with a Swiss Gear padded briefcase type that fits his laptop and has storage space for his books.

Tomorrow is the first day of school, and my son is excited to be heading off to college.  He has two classes tomorrow, English Composition and American Jazz.  He has already gotten his course syllabus for the Jazz class, and I think he was a little shocked about the amount of work expected of him (I tried to prepare him, but you know, 17 going on ADULT!)  I am happy for him, and know that he will do just fine in school.  He has to earn a 3.2 GPA to keep his scholarship, and I am certain he can do it.

I am struggling still with knowing what I am supposed to do for work.  I have gone back and forth since before Christmas on whether or not I should continue to submit applications for work.  I have submitted some new applications only to get rejection emails back almost instantly.  Needless to say, it is depressing for me, and it makes me wonder if this is something I need to let go of and rest in the Lord for His provision.  I am OK with doing this, but I also don't want to give up -- IF this is something I simply must endure.  You know, times are hard for many people and sometimes you have to press on.  I want to press on, but only if it is the right thing to do.  There is also the thought that after a year and half and no work -- perhaps my answer is not to do any full-time work?

I am confused, and right now, uncertain as to whether I am doing the right thing.  I don't know how many more rejection emails I can take.  Do I simply give up and stop looking for work for a time?  I cannot really make it on my own, and that is the crux of the problem.  If I remain in my present situation, I am bringing in less than I need to sustain myself in my home.  I need about $2k per month to be able to live modestly in my home.  This amount of income would cover pretty much all my bills, and pay for food, expenses.  If I made 3K, then I would have money for savings.  The more the merrier, KWIM?

Working at Macy's is not cutting it financially.  I am doing my best, working as many hours as I can without jeopardizing my grades.  I know I can work full-time, but it will make it harder on me to complete my courses.  My classes this semester are tough, really tough, and I am uncertain if I can actually keep As and work more hours or in a more demanding job.  So what do I do?

I am conflicted too because I have promised my son that I would take care of us.  I promised him that I would have the money to pay for all those things we have had to put aside over the years.  I am not talking about excessive wants, but the simple things of life that most of his friends have.  I cannot do it, I just cannot do it, without a full-time job.  But no job is coming forth, so I am stuck where I am right now.  I cry out to the Lord and ask for wisdom to understand, for clarification so that I can be certain I am on the right path.  I feel that I am doing the right thing, but I haven't seen any progress yet.  Is this how Abraham felt when the Lord promised him a son and it took 20 years for it to come to pass?

I love the Lord greatly, and I desire to do what He wants for me.  I wish I knew for certain, I wish I had this all figured out, and could follow a map to "do the Lord's will."  I know the general will of the Lord, and I know what I believe is His will for my life (specific).  It is the here and now, the dailyness that seems to cause me such confusion.  How can you feel directed and guided by the Lord, and yet feel so lost and clueless?  Sigh!

Dear Lord,

I love you, and I trust you today.  I know you will help me to figure this all out, and that I will know what I am to do about finding work (should I continue?), where I should live (stay here or move?), and what I need to do each day.  Thank you, Lord -- I know you will help me now.  I ask this in Jesus' Name, Amen.

The Grace of God

As I drove home from Macy's last evening, I gave Praise to God for His Goodness and His Marvelous Grace.  I had just finished three (3) full days of working retail (after a two evening stint).  In truth, I should have not been able to walk out of the building.  In weeks past, I barely could make it through a two-day schedule (two 8-hour days) without my back and feet throbing with pain.  Moreover, my monthly cycle started and that normally brings on a severe back ache, migraine, and a general feeling of tension.  This month, while I did have some aches and pains on the first of the three days of work, I had no PMS symptoms at all.  I simply had no distress, other than some stiffness and soreness.

I expected the worse to hit me last evening AFTER I got home and settled in.  Normally, once I sit down, my legs begin to seize up on me, and then every movement out of the chair or sofa causes extreme pain.  Again, I came home from dinner stiff and sore, but not with the debilitating pain I normally experience.  I went to bed about 9 p.m. and slept pretty heavily until 12 a.m..  I drifted back off to sleep and eventually got up at 7 a.m.  My thighs are sore, like after a good workout, but other than this (and my monthly cycle which came this morning), I am feeling OK.

I am giving God all the Praise for this work because there is no other way for me to have survived such a long and grueling work week WITHOUT His intervention in my life.  I had prayed for His Grace last week, well really when I first got the schedule off the computer.  I said then, "Lord, I cannot do this week."  He said, "Yes, my Grace is sufficient."  Well, He was right, of course!

God is my Protector.  He makes sure that I am "covered" all the time.  He says that to me, and I think He is sounding sort of hip (modern).  "Carol, I've got you covered," you know, like some cheesy comment from a friend ("Hey baby, you're covered!")  LOL!  I think though that He means literally "covered."  It just sounds funny when He says it (and that is the first thing I think of when I hear those words.)  In the Old Testamant, the Cheribum and Seriphim (the Angelic beings that surround the Lord's Mercy Seat and are in His Presence continually) fly with their wings covering their feet, and their eyes.  They cover themselves out of fear of the Lord (respect, awe), and in many ways, God's Grace does the same thing for us.  It is a covering, that protects us from harm, surrounds us, and keeps us in His Presence so that we do not suffer  needlessly (or in some cases, so we can suffer for His Glory).  We need to remember that when we are standing in His Grace, He is Covering us, just as His Angels cover themselves up in His Presence.  We are wrapped up with Angel's wings so that we are safe, are secure, and are always kept from harm.  God is Good this way.

God is also my Provider.  He is the supplier of all our needs, and He makes sure that our resources are kept in check.  He is the Resource Manager, as I call Him, who is there at-the-ready to supply us with whatever we need.  If we need anything, we go to Him with our petition, and He meets our need.  Sometimes we do have to wait, and sometimes He will say no to us -- but only for things that are out of His Timing or are not part of His will for our lives.  No, pretty much everything we need for daily life is supplied to us (Matt 6:32).  Therefore, our cup always runs over (Ps. 23:5).  God doesn't just supply the basics, as the words of Jesus illustrate in Matthew 6; no, most definitely not.  He supplies us with abundant Grace, and abundant life (John 10:10).

When I rest in these two attributes of God, then I am demonstrating my trust of the Lord.  You see, God desires that we trust Him, but to do that we must first KNOW Him.  By knowing Him, I mean that we must know that He is God, and then we must know about Him (understand His characteristics, attributes, way).  The more we come to know about Him (not just Bible history), the more we learn that He is TRUSTWORHTY.  Trust in God is imperative, and it should be the number one characteristic we seek from Him.  When we trust Him, we cease striving for the things of this world, and we begin to be conformed to His way, to His likeness, and to His image (to think like Him, to act like Him, etc.)  We can not do these things, be like Him, until we are firmly established in a trust relationship with Him.

Learning to trust God is difficult.  It is not that He is untrustworthy; by no means, rather it is that we lack the knowledge of Him to be able to remain in relationship with Him.  We come to Him through Jesus Christ, and through our relationship with Jesus, we learn about the Father.  We develop trust through experience, both historical and personal.  In the Bible, we read about people just like us who struggled through difficult times, and we are educated in God's way.  Then we experience similar situations in our own life, and we learn to trust Him to help us learn what to do now.  This combination of historical practical experience and personal practical experience is what shapes us and makes us into a People of His Own Choosing.

Dear Brother or Sister in Christ,

How are you doing when it comes to trusting the Lord today?  Are you walking in His Grace, allowing the Lord to minister to your heart and mind and body?  Or are you struggling to trust Him for a provision or need?  If so, consider who it is that you say you trust.  If you trust God, then believe that He is able to meet your need today.  If you lack trust, study the Bible more closely, spend more time with Him in prayer, and rely upon His Holy Spirit to help you discover the sweetness of a relationship formed and established in trusting the Lord today.  Amen, so be it, thy will be done.

January 14, 2011

Winded and Out of Sorts

Oh my -- do I feel rotten today! I have worked two 3-hour shifts at Macy's and I can barely function.  I have to work the next three days -- full days -- and truthfully, I don't know how I will manage.  I don't feel well at all, and have that "I have hit a brick wall" feeling inside of me.  When I get to this point, when that feeling starts to bubble up inside of me, I tend to put the brakes on and become as stubborn as a mule.  I stop doing everything, and will "not pass go."  This happens less frequently to me, but in past years, it was a signal to me that my body had reached its limit physically.  I am worn down, at the point of shutting down, and that means that I must stop now.

I have a lot of things on my plate right now.  I have two very difficult graduate courses looming ahead of me, I have my son's start of college next week, I have my committment to Chamber Group and a recital coming up, and I have the worry and stress of not working full-time and not having enough money to continue to make ends meet.  All of this combined with my physical weakness from working retail has taken it's toll.  I still don't feel 100% from when I had the flu.  My chest hurts, not all the time, but sometimes at night.  I feel sick and lightheaded, and generally, unwell.  I don't know what to do about it, but my body seems to be tellig me that 'enough is enough.'

I have talked about quitting Macy's for a while.  The Lord asked me to stay until Christmas, but I have chosen to stay on longer than that.  I like most of my co-workers, and my managers.  I don't mind the work, generally speaking.  It is the physical toll on my body that is breaking me apart.  I have known this for four months, but not wanting to give up the money I do make, I have resigned myself to stick it out.  Macy's was kind enough to hire me, and I don't want to be selfish and ungrateful.

The problem is that now I am going into the next semester at college with only an iota of energy.  I had hoped to rest up over the Holidays, and get over that flu, and then be able to be ready for school.  Instead, I am lumbering along, thinking surely that I cannot go on.  This is not the attitude I wanted for school, that is for certain.  My courses this semester are unfamiliar to me, and I need to be mentally in the game.  I am not.  I need to be ready to be online most days, writing short papers, and interacting with the other students.  I don't want to do anything but sit in the chair and rest.

I am depressed.  I am depressed over the lack of work available to me in Arizona.  I have applied again, well, tried to applied for work.  The rejection emails are coming back faster now, and the smack hurts more this time around.  I truly believe that I will not find any work in AZ until after I finish graduate school.  Perhaps this is the Lord's way of showing me that I cannot work and do school?  I have wanted to go full-time to school, and not work; but I didn't know how I could do that and be on my own.  I cannot.  I have to remain in my present situation, which is not intolerable, for another year and one-half.  It is a long time to be in this situation, but it is doable.  I don't know if my DH wants to do that or not.  He is seeking apartments again, so perhaps he will choose not to stay -- and then what?

My faith is in the Lord, of course; and, I am resting in Him.  I know He has this all figured out, but I wish I would have some confidence that it will come to pass.  I had a lot of confidence at the end of the year, and then the rejection letters came in, and POOF!, all that boldness went out the door.  I was left with the truth of the matter:  I am a 48 year old graduate student, who is trying to manage her own life without much help from her husband.  I am tired, and I am old, and I am weary.  I am doing it all, running out of steam, and needing help.  No one is there to help me, no one will open a door for me.  I am standing here about to fall and no one is there to lift me up, to support me, to be my companion.  I have a companion who will not take on that responsibility.  I have considered being alone, going my own way, but I cannot do that yet.  I need someone to stand along side of me and the one who is bound to me by God's law, will not do it.  I am alone now, in need, and there is no one physically here to help me.

I cry out to the Lord, I read through the Psalms and lament with David.  I need the Lord more today than ever before.  I need His Help, and I need Him to lift my head and show me what to do.  I am ready, Lord, and I am so willing to do your work.  Help me today, lift me out of this pit of despair, and set my feet on the path of your choosing.  I ask this in Jesus' Name, Amen.  So be it, thy will be done. Selah!

January 11, 2011

Around the Bend

Well, here I am sitting and blogging again.  I have to admit that I love to blog, and I do not find it a chore.  When I started my blog back in 2004, I would sit here and say to myself, "I don't have anything to say."  I would try and come up with some original comments, but nothing seemed to develop.  It wasn't until a year or so later, that I got personal on this blog, and I began to share my thoughts and feelings about my days, my weeks, or other events in my life.  The more I wrote about my feelings, the easier it was for me to add posts.  I guess this blog turned into a journal, and that is how I use it now.  I am comfortable writing about myself, my predicament, and my feelings -- especially my faith in God and His Word.  The more I express myself, the better I feel; and the better I feel, the more positive the outlook.  It is a win-win scenario, and I am blessed by the process (or journey).

So here we go again, blogging about my feelings, and well, not really sure if anyone is out there reading (or even cares)!  LOL!

Today has been interesting, and it is only 10:18 a.m. local time (Phoenix, AZ USA).  Some blessings have come into my life this week, and the first is the opportunity to pay off my credit card.  Oh my goodness -- let me tell what relief that was (even though it was short-lived).  I have had a running balance on that card for six years, and each month, dreaded paying the minimum amount.  This month I took some of my savings and paid the balance off!  WhooWhee!

My hope was to keep the balance at zero, and then over the next few months spend up to $200 (then pay it off).  My goal is to repair my credit (build it back up), and my banker told me that the best way to do this is to spend 1/3 of your limit, pay it off, and then do it again.  This shows creditors two things:  one, that you don't need the full amount of credit; and two, that you have the ability to pay it off each month (so you look responsible). 

My son needed a laptop for school (Well, really?  No, but everyone has them at college, and it seemed logical to try and budget for one).  I was hoping to use some of my financial aid/loan to buy him a computer, but that money has not been disbursed yet.  I decided to pay off my credit card, and then put the laptop back on it.  It was more than the 1/3 my banker suggested, but I should be able to pay it off completely next month (when my loan money arrives).  This meant that I didn't have to take that money out of my savings account, since I will probably need that money for bills/mortgage.

I cannot believe how easily I forked over $700.  I mean, just six months ago, I would have been paralyzed with fear over spending that kind of money.  I still struggle with prices, and the other day when I was in Walmart looking at new TVs (ours is not working properly due to the Blu-Ray/HD cable box), I found it difficult to fathom spending $1000 on a electronic entertainment box.  Though I would like a new TV, the outlay still shocks me.

It is a funny thing because the Lord told me that in the spring of 2011, we would need to make some big purchases.  He was concerned about my ability to do it, you know, really do it.  I like the idea of buying things (like furniture or a new car), but I don't want to actually spend the money on these items.  LOL!  In truth, I have had to learn how to spend money (I know, don't laugh at me).  A year ago, I would not be able to shop at Walmart and purchase $100 worth of groceries without breaking out in a sweat at the register/checkout.  I still say to the Lord, "Lord, I am spending too much money on food."  He tells me not to worry, and I do it; but that feeling of not spending anything still hovers over me.  I have put back necessary grocery items before (time and time), and now I put them into my basket with a deep breath.  My trust is in the Lord, and so far, He has managed my money well (His money, OK?)

I was fearful of spending money this Christmas, and normally, I would try and budget $100 for everything.  This barely covered food, and gave one gift to family.  It was a Charlie Brown Christmas, and while I was grateful for what I had, I always resented the fact that I couldn't buy what I wanted to buy.  I am not a shopper, so I wanted to buy two gifts and not one (not luxury items, either).  This year, however, I was in better shape financially, and I was able to purchase the two gifts of my choosing.  Oh, it felt so good.  I just did it (still whining a bit -- old patterns take a while to melt away).  I remember spending $400 at Best Buy, and when the cashier asked me for my card, I whipped it out and said to my son, "Oh well!"

Then yesterday, we sat down at the computer and ordered him a laptop from Dell (using my college discount).  When it came time to checkout, I typed in my card, and hit PAY NOW.  I did it, and I walked away.  Of course, later at Home Depot, I whined a bit to the Lord, worried that I did the wrong thing.  Ok, so bad habits really die hard!

The Lord knows my needs, and He knows that this year, in addition to some computer expenses, we have some major repair to be done on this house.  I will be the one paying for the new roof.  I will be the one hiring contractors to fix the bathroom shower.  All of this will come from my pocket, and the Lord needs me to be comfortable spending necessary money.  He is not giving me free reign to spend willy-nilly; oh my no!  I only spend what I believe His Holy Spirit has approved.  I prayerfully consider each purchase, do my due-diligence (like with the laptop -- several months of research and testing before choosing the one we did purchase), and patiently waiting until He says it is Ok to buy something.  By following His direction, I have been able to budget and save for some nice things, pay off old debts, and save money in my account. 

Financially, I am better off than most employed people.  I have low credit debit, good savings, and a nice checking account.  My car is paid for, insured, and in good running condition.  I am managing my school loan debt, and working PT to help cover food and miscellaneous expenses.  Soon I will be working FT and then I will have more money to manage.  The process though has taken time, and I am now at the point where I can confidently purchase items of need without stressing over them.  The Lord has helped me learn how to spend wisely, to budget, and to manage His resources well.  I am so blessed, and I know that I will never be in debt, never be near financial ruin again, and will always have savings for a rainy day.  God is so Good to me.