February 24, 2011

Lessons and How We Learn Them

I am having a really rough day, and it just started!  I woke up last night with an aching back and hip.  I was so tired that I didn't even get up to take any Advil.  I just tried to go back to sleep.  At about 6 a.m., I got up to use the bathroom, and then laid down with a pillow under my hip.  This helped, and I slept until 8:40 when my Mom called to check in on us.

I am sitting at my computer again, having my coffee, and thinking "what in the world did I do to cause such pain in my back?"  I have been off of work since Monday Evening, and I am dreading the fact that I have to work tonight.  I am hoping a good hot shower and some Advil Liquid Gels will help (they usually do).  As I sit here, I know that part of the problem is that I spent the better part of yesterday on the computer.  I was working on my resume all day long, and even though I took frequent breaks, it is the only thing I did all day long.  This morning I said the to Lord, "Oh no -- I can't work in a job where I sit all day either!"

I have been saying to Him that I cannot work a job where I stand all day, and that sitting would be better.  Now, after sitting all day, I see that this type of work isn't going to do it for me.  So what is left for me to do?  I am feeling pretty disabled right now.  I mean, my hip is burning, and all I am doing is sitting still?

I prayed about this situation and this is the word that came back to me:  lessons learned.  I think this is true, because this whole experience has been one big lesson in not running out ahead of the Lord to do what I think is best, and instead trusting and waiting for Him to bring me what He knows is best.  You see, I pressed the Lord to work at Macy's.  I begged Him even.  I so wanted to work, to get out of the house, to do anything (and keep my family from pressuring me about finding work), that I said "I will even do Macy's."  Well, it didn't take me long to figure out that Macy's and me were going to be a poor fit.  I don't mind the work, and I don't mind the people I work with -- I simply cannot do the work because of the pain it causes to my back and hip.  I have been there now almost seven months, and the pain, which used to subside on my days off, now just lingers with me.  It never goes away, unless I take an Advil (and then it returns as soon as the medication wears off).  It is arthritis, I am certain, and as long as there is inflamation in there -- any use -- will simply cause it to remain inflamed.

This means that unless I stop working and do nothing for a prolonged period of time, get proper exercise (not overdoing it), and rest -- the pain is not going to go away EVER.  I don't know if I can continue on like this, really -- it is getting me down.  I have lived with chronic back pain for years, but it has been more neck and mid-back.  This low back (kidney area) and hip is a killer because I cannot sit, lay down, or generally find a comfortable position to rest in.  I am sunk!

As I thought about lessons learned, I said to the Lord, "Lord, I don't like this.  I don't like the fact that the closer I get to you, to know you, the more severe the lessons are to learn.  It shouldn't be this way."  I mean really, shouldn't we get it, get it good, so that the lessons we learn are less intensive and less difficult?  It would make sense to me, and it would be a blessing to know that the closer you draw to God, the more Grace you receive to cover the errors and faults?  Ha!  I think it is actually the other way around.  In fact, I have talked with the Lord about this very point, and the matter is that we receive the MOST GRACE when we are farthest away from Him.  This is when we need it most.  When we turn and come back towards Him, His Grace covers us while we learn from Him, get to know Him, etc. This is why as Christian's we must give a lot of Grace to our newest brothers and sisters in Christ.  They haven't learned yet, so they make mistakes.  They say things, do things, act certain ways -- and they don't know how to do things differently.  It is not our job to help them do this (we can encourage, of course), but this is a work of the Holy Spirit of God.  We are to be Gracious towards them while they are learning how to be part of God's family.

Then there are those of us, the older siblings who have come up through the same system, and now find ourselves being strongly disciplined.  We should know better.  We should not need to receive the strong hand of the Lord, but often, we get lazy, disrespectful, and at times downright willful with God.  Therefore, God treats us like the older brother or sister and reminds us that our witness is such that we need to stop doing certain things, and start doing what we know is right (according to His Word).  We get more discipline because we already KNOW these things.  This is what the Word tells us -- and Paul reminds us about all the time.  He didn't want to be so strong with the church, but he had to do it because they should have know better.

I think this is my situation exactly.  I have become lazy, treated the Lord's Word to me casually, and as a result, I am getting some discipline.  Just saying, "I am sorry, Lord" is not enough.  Yes, He forgives me, but He expects me to stop doing the THING.  I cannot get off with being forgiven -- I must repent, and that means I must turn around, stop doing whatever it is I am doing, and really prove that I am serious about doing right.  I am not talking legalism, but there is a certain sense of lawfulness.  We don't have to prove to the Lord because He knows our weaknesses -- yet if we truly repent, we must do what we say.  James says that we must be hearers and doers of the Word.  It is not my will nor my stubborn effort that will accomplish this task, it is God's Grace, but I must be truly repentant and then prove myself true.  I must keep my word to the Lord, and not go back on it.

Oh, how many times have I changed my mind?  How many times have I not kept my word?  The Lord has asked me before to promise Him that I would do certain things.  I have forgotten my promises.  I have forgotten what I said I would do.  Now that word is coming back to me, and I am feeling the heat of His displeasure.  I don't like it.  I don't like it one bit, but this is "par for the course" so to speak.  It is the thing that happens when you say you will do something, and the Lord takes you at your word.  I am flawed, I am a failure, and I know it (He knows it too).  I need His Grace today because I recognize what I have done, but I don't know how to fix the situation, how to turn things around, and how to make this whole mess better.

Dear Lord,

I have goofed mightily and I am sitting here in agony today.  I need your Grace, and I need to understand what it is that I have done (I know in general terms).  I have put myself in a place where I don't want to be, and now I am trying hard to figure it all out.  Please help me today to understand.  I ask that you forgive my arrogance and foolishness, and my words -- I turn and repent today -- and seek your Mercy and Grace.  In Jesus' Name I pray this today, Amen.

February 21, 2011

Bass and Other Stuff

I just got back in from Guitar Center where my son bought a new Bass guitar and amplifier.  He has been asking me for a new guitar for about a year, but recently started to ask specifically for a Bass guitar.  He already has two electric and one acoustic guitars, but wanted a bass to round out his interest.  We went over to Guitar Center a couple weeks ago to test some out, and he picked out a very nice Ibanez guitar.  Of course, money was an issue then (and still is), so we were just looking.  Today, I had a 15% off coupon and with the addition of some extra cash from my financial aid package (and my son's contribution from his savings), we were able to get a very nice guitar and decent little amp for him to practice on.  Whew!  Our music collection is really growing, what with two pianos and my cello.  LOL!

He and I were discussing his music interest on the way home, and I shared with him my feelings about his gifted abilities and what I thought perhaps the Lord might want to use them for down the road.  I believe that God gives us all gifts, all sorts, and that He does so to bless us, but also to enable us to bless others with them.  The Word says that we are to use our gifts in the edification of others, to build up the church, and I think whether these gifts are artistic or administrative -- we all have the opportunity to use them for God's Glory and for each other's betterment.

My son is a highly gifted musician, and I believe that God has enabled him to learn and understand music for a reason.  There is really no benefit except to himself to use these gifts for performance.  The gift must be used for God and for His Glory, and therefore, I think that this is why my son desires studying music over performing it.  He is fascinated by music theory, composition, and the actual performance aspect of playing an instrument (as in him playing it versus performing for others).  This attitude is what makes his gifting so special -- he doesn't want to be the center of attention nor does he want to show himself off.  He just likes playing it, learning to play better, and desiring to understand how each instrument varies and performs in and of itself.

As I shared my thoughts on the matter, I became all the more convinced that the Lord has used my gift (of Mercy College) to bless my son.  He has enabled me to be the person who stands in the gap, so to speak, to be the go between to ensure that my son is able to have what he needs to explore music.  I pay the bill, I charge the item -- and my son gets the blessing of using it and learning how to use it for the Lord.  I like being in this position.  I like being able to be the one to provide this blessing to my son.  I used to worry about how I would pay for lessons for him, and then the Lord said to me "Carol, I've got you covered."  He sure did (and does).  I am well covered by His banner of Grace, and His overflowing blessing rains down upon me.  I get sprinkled with His gifts and then they bounce off me and land on others.  It is a virtual shower of blessings, and I am in awe of His Generous Nature.  God is so Good to me.

Now as I consider my days, and my life under this banner of His Grace, one thing is for certain:  God is Good, His Mercy is forever, and nothing that happens to me is ever without His clear focus and attention.  He knows me.  He knows my needs, and He knows how much I need Him.  I am in a special place, sitting right here at His feet, worshipping Him, trusting Him, and believing in Him and His ability to shape and transform my life into something wonderful and beautiful -- something useful to bring Him Glory.  God is so Good to me.

A New Wind is Blowing

I woke up today, thanking the Lord that it is Monday.  I know, for most of you, you are beginning to start the new work week, and you would rather say "Thank God, it is Friday" right?  Well, working at Macy's takes its greatest toll on me over the weekends.  My schedule tends to run M, W, S-S or T, TH, S-M.  The past couple weeks, I have had to work three days in a row (2 full, and 1 half).  This combination of long days is what does the damage to my hip and lower back.  I simply cannot stand on my feet, lift excess clothing, and walk the distances I walk at Macy's.  You wouldn't think that retail was so strenuous, but it actually is a very tough work out.  Perhaps it is just me, and the way I work (hard).  I am not sure -- I seem to suffer more than most, and I have chalked it up to my arthritis in my back and hip.

Last night, I was so sore that just riding up the escalator was a relief for me.  My hip ached as soon as I stepped on the escalator, almost as if it was saying "finally, I can rest!"  By the time I got to the top of the stairs, the nagging pain in my back returned, and the twinge in my hip started up again.  I did take a good 1/2 hour and a 10 minute break, but still, the day was so long and hard on me.  I came home, made a peanut butter sandwich, watched a little HGTV, and ended up in bed (at 8:30).  I woke up around 5 am, still in my clothes, and then changed and went back to bed.  The two Advil Liquid Gels worked magic, relaxing my back, and helping me to fall asleep -- but alas--the pain is back again today, and I am just getting my morning started.

To add to my frustration over the pain, there is my deep desire to quit Macy's due to employee tension and management's new style of pressuring sales associates to open credit accounts.  I understand why they do it, it is business, and it is just Macy's -- but, I don't like the pressure, and it really is getting to me.  Then there is the tension between associates, which is driven in part by the nature of the pressure to get credits.  Registers are being horded, sales associates are rude and kicking others off so they can "ring a sale."  All this is apparent to the customer who really notices it and whinces at the entire process.  I hate it, just hate it.  I also don't like being ordered around by my peers.  "I am not stupid and I know my job, so thank you very much -- stop telling me what to do!"  I'm not the only person who feels this way because I talk with a number of employees who say they are fed up too (with both items).

As I limped my way out of Macy's, I was secretly hoping to hear on another job.  I am tired of Macy's, and I want out.  I confessed it to the Lord, saying to Him that I didn't know whether I could endure working there much longer.  The Lord knows how hard Macy's is on my body, and He knows that I have worked there faithfully and with diligence these past six, almost seven months.  I am ready for a change, and I am ready for a job that will allow me to work in a office where I can sit down most of the day.  I am ready to do the work the Lord has for me, this is for certain -- so please Lord -- can you bring me another job soon?

So here I sit, typing on my blog, and thinking to myself that there has to be some job available to me.  I promise Lord -- I won't be picky this time.  I will take the job that is offered to me.  Please Lord, just let one job be offered to me today?

I know His timing is perfect, and that He is Good all the time.  Furthermore, He is God, and as God "nothing is impossible for Him" to accomplish (Luke 1:37).  I am trusting in His provision and care, and I know that He will deliver me and bring me through this trial very, very soon.  God is willing, and I am willing -- therefore -- His will WILL be done.  I am certain of this, I know it, I feel it.  It is done.  Selah (pause and calmly think about it).  Amen, so be it, thy will be done!

February 18, 2011

Making Sense

It is a cloudy day in Phoenix, but the weather (temps) is nice.  I think we are supposed to get rain today, and the cloud cover will keep us a bit cooler (perhaps more like our average).  It is nice to not have to deal with cold, freezing rain or snow (LOL!)  At Macy's a lot of my customers are visiting from the colder Northern states or Canada.  They LOVE our weather, and wish they could live here full-time.  I miss the cold sometimes, but on days like today, I am glad I live in Phoenix.  I think mid-February to March is the best time to be in Arizona.  The trees and flowers are in bloom, and the weather is about 75-80 degrees.  Cool mornings, warm afternoons, and very pretty evenings.  Perfect weather, perfect climate.

As I spend today, I am reflecting on the status of things in my life.  My son is sick today (has been the past couple days), and is home from school.  I hate that he has missed his first class, but at least it is Kung Fu and not English 101.  He can make up this class next week, and won't be penalized for missing.  He is coughing and probably has a slight sinus infection (his head hurts and his eyes are sore -- which is why he didn't want to go to class today -- Kung Fu is best not practiced with hindered eyesight).  I am home today as well, with no work to do until tomorrow.  Then I work three shifts in a row before I get a nice break next week.  I have finished my home work for one class, and hope to have my assignments read for the second course.  All in all, I am in a very good spot today.  I did laundry earlier in the week, cleaned my house, and did most of the shopping.  I don't feel my best (my monthly cycle is a bear this week), but overall, I think things are going well.

My brother is helping me with my resume, and I am settled on seeking any job the Lord has in mind for me.  I am open to teaching college, high school, middle school or adult courses.  I am open to working in my current field (web) or in any other field that suits my skill set.  I am open to moving to another state or staying put.  In general, I am willing AND ready to go where and when the Lord leads.

This brings me to the point of this post.  It is funny sometimes how we miss the smaller details of life, even when we are focused so carefully on them.  I have been encouraging my son in his music study for the past seven years.  He is a fine pianist, and getting to be a very accomplished guitarist.  Recently (well for about a year), he has been asking for a Bass guitar.  In many ways, his pressuring us for a guitar is similar to when he pressured us for a piano (he was 10 at the time).  Prior to then, he had taken one year of violin through our local public school program.  He liked it, but never did much with it.  He changed schools and mid-year, began begging for a piano.  He said he would "die" if he didn't get one.  Mind you, my son wasn't dramatic back then (well, yes he was, but not in the way you think -- dramatic as in imaginative).  He normally didn't act up, pout or demand anything.  We waited almost a year before purchasing him a piano.  When we did, we made sure he understood that it wasn't a toy, and that he would have to take lessons.  That was seven years ago, and my son is now preparing a recital piece with his violin teacher.  They will play Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 1 in G major by Brahms.  This advanced piece is one of the most beautiful I have ever heard played, and they play it stunningly.  My son has become a classical pianist, and he is extremely gifted on this instrument.

He started to express interest in studying music in college around 9th grade.  I encouraged him, of course, and his teacher has worked with him for the past several years (prepping for audition and such).  Last year, though, something changed, and instead of gearing up for auditions and pushing on into music school, he simply stopped playing the piano.  He wouldn't practice it, and he seemed disinterested.  I thought it had to do with our current situation at home, the uneasiness of it all, and the stress that is there due to our probable divorce.  However, in hindsight, I think that it was symptomatic of his giftedness.  Let me explain.  Sometime around Christmas, my son told me that while he loved the piano and would always play it, he simply didn't want to study it anymore.  He wanted to learn other instruments.  At this same time, he had been playing the guitar for about three years (teaching himself).  Last summer, he borrowed a friend's bass guitar and he played around with it for a month or so.

He started in with the "Mom, I really would like...." speech last summer.  He wanted a bass guitar and a drum set.  I said, "yeah, sure," which really meant that the bass was OK, but the drums would have to wait.  Truthfully, I didn't have any money to purchase a new guitar for him, and he already needed a new amplifier for his existing guitar.  His list of wants kept getting longer and included all sorts of pedals and other effects tools for guitar.  I remember my brothers playing guitar so I was mostly familiar with all these extras.  They add up, and can cost hundreds of dollars.  Budget was a factor, so I said he would have to wait or raise the money himself.  He took it on himself, got a part-time job at our church, and worked temporarily until he was able to buy a new amplifier for himself (I was so proud).

Around Christmas though he began hounding me for a bass guitar.  It was another "I am going to die" if I don't get one (though at 17, it was more like a very stern plea).  I said, "Sure, when I have the money or when you get another job."  He has been looking for work, but there were no jobs for 17 year olds with little experience.

Now comes the funny part in all of this.  About a year ago, the Lord said that I needed to purchase a bass guitar for my son.  This was before he got interested in it.  I said, "OK, Lord, you provide one to us."  I also knew that he would need a drum set.  Again, another revelation from the Lord.  This was through prayer, of course, and me on my knees asking for help with DJs piano study and lack of interest.  Instead of telling me what to do to motivate him in piano study, the Lord simply encouraged me to let go, and to not worry about it.  Then I was told that he would need a bass guitar.  I tried to put two-and-two together back then, thinking that he might need it for the Youth Worship band he was in at the time.  Then I thought perhaps he would have the opportunity to play in the main Worship band at church.  This actually has come to pass, but he plays keyboards and not bass (they already have a very fine young man that plays bass).  I didn't get it, but it was what the Lord said, so be it.  I actually told my son what the Lord said, and at the time, he wasn't that interested in the bass at all.

So here we are almost a year and half later, and guess what?  That bass guitar is now a hot topic in our home, and furthermore, my son has made the desire known that he is interested not only in the bass, but also drums and violin.  Ok, so what gives?  What is going on?

Well, just today as I was praying I said to the Lord, "is it possible that DJ will study music in college, but just not the piano?"  I am not sure where that suggestion came from, but there it was, and as soon as it popped out of my mouth, I realized perhaps this was the Lord's answer to my question.  I realized that perhaps my son is supposed to study MUSIC (all music).  Furthermore, that perhaps what he will study is guitar or bass, and that he will continue to study and perform on a wide range of instruments.

In my narrowly focused mindset, the only LOGICAL option was to study piano at college.  The only logical option was to audition on piano.  But now my son is at the community college, and he is enjoying general studies.  Now he is interested in Jazz and Blues music, and now he is developing a wider appreciation of what is available.  Perhaps all of this makes perfect sense when you consider it in light of God's will.  I have always believed that it was the Lord's will that my son use his music gifting for ministry.  I didn't limit it to professional capacity because I know that we are to use our gifts in the ministering of the saints and that can be through vocation and volunteer opportunities.  I just limited the method and means of study -- thinking the only option would be piano.  I never considered that in the time he studies at the community college, he could become good enough to study Bass or another instrument at a University.

How I wish I would be more open to the Lord's direction in my life.  I say that I am, but in truth, I find that I am a shallow thinker, often choosing the hard reality rather than faith.  God knows my son best, and He knows what he desires most.  I need to let go, and let this be.  I understand how the Lord moves in people's lives, and that it isn't always laid out neatly or follows a straight line.  God is GOOD that way, and His way is always best.

Sigma Tau Delta

Ok, weird as it sounds -- I am considering being inducted into the International English Honor Society.  I happened on their website the other day, and found out that my college has a chapter (Phi Phi Alpha) and that to be considered for membership, I must maintain a graduate GPA of 3.3 (after 6 credit hours).  I have met this criteria so I technically qualify for membership.  The chair has to propose me as a member, and then I can join the society. 

I have never been a member of any society like this -- I guess because my undergraduate course work was in Humanities, and my school didn't have a chapter for honors students (even though my GPA was high enough).  I found out that some employers consider membership in this organization as means for pay advancement (especially the Government and its agencies).  I know that my PhD program will look favorably upon it, so I am thinking it is worth the effort to join (and pay the fee).  It will mean that I can graduate with distinction, and my diploma will say that I am a member of this society.  Oh well, I have always been a "pin" collector (just look at my AWANA shirt), and I am rewards motivated.  LOL!  So Sigma Tau Delta, here I come!

(Sigma Tau Delta is the international English Honor Society founded in 1924 at Dakota Wesleyan College (Mitchell, South Dakota). The organization's initials stand for "Sincerity," "Truth," and "Design." The official colors are cardinal and black, and the flower is the red rose.)

February 17, 2011

A Direction to Go

I just got back in from taking my son over to the community college.  He is sick today, and as his Mom, I would have rather he stayed home.  It is probably a sinus infection, but could just be a cold.  He feels achy, has a headache, and fever.  Really, he should be home -- but -- he is a college student now, and that means going to class EVEN when you feel sick.  It is not high school anymore, and even though it is best to keep your own germs to yourself, college instructors really don't care and consider a missed class a big deal.  At the least, his all said "don't miss."  So I took him, wished that he felt better, and said a prayer on the way home for the Lord's healing to come over him today.

As I was driving home, I followed a police van from the school (also on the way there -- now, what does that mean? LOL!)  I had to keep my distance, and drive under the speed limit.  It was a good reminder to me to pay attention to what is in front of me, and to SLOW DOWN.  I almost hit another car when the van in front swerved around it.  Right there should have been a clue to me -- I was following too closely -- and not paying that much attention to what was going on just a few paces ahead.  I was reminded that in my own life, I tend to follow the Lord very closely, and while this is a good thing (a very GOOD thing), it also can be a negative IF I don't pay attention to what is around me.  The Lord reminds us to be alert, to pay attention, and while He doesn't want us to take our eyes off of Him, we must not be so single-mindedly focused that we miss the people standing right next to us.  We can do that, you know.  We can be so in love with Jesus, that we neglect to love the people Jesus loved.  We must remain alert, always watchful, and to be open to situations that the Lord opens up to us.  Sometimes these are to love people He needs us to love, sometimes it is to be aware of a situation that needs attention, or sometimes it is simply to be open to suggestions about possible options in our life.

I have been narrowly focused on finding the right job (Oh no!  Not another post on job hunting!) and in doing so I have overlooked some potential options because they didn't feel right or look right.  I know, I know...I am not in any position to be picky; yet, I still have looked at these options and made a quick judgment on them.  I pronounced them "not good" because they didn't seem to suit my skills or abilities or they weren't satisfying (emotionally, as in a ministry type application).  The Lord reminded me today that I am following the dots too closely (the trail He has laid out for me to follow).  While this is a good thing, and means I will stay on the path He has marked out, it also means that my narrow field of vision has caused me to overlook some good options.

One of these options requires a move away from Arizona.  I told the Lord that I was content to move (and I am), but I wasn't thrilled with the job itself.  It is pretty much doing exactly what I have been doing the past 12 years, and even though that is a good thing, it seemed sort of boring to me.  I mean, I am looking for NEW WORK, so could it possibly be a job doing something NEW?  Sigh, pig headed and stubborn and arrogant -- yep -- I am all three rolled into one.  Any job is a good job. 

As I reconsidered this job, the Lord reminded me of His most recent directive:  "Carol, take the job offered to you."  Ok, so right now I have no job offers, but apparently in the near future, I will be offered a job.  I don't know what this job will be or what the requirements are or where it is located.  Yet, the Lord says I need to take it when offered.  This tells me that I could miss the opportunity if I don't look up, be prepared, or at the least, expect a job offer to come my way.

I pulled into my driveway, and this thought ran through my head:  take the job, any job that is offered to you.  Yes, Lord, that is a good plan.  I need a job, and you have promised to provide one for me.  I will take it, and do this work -- regardless of where it is located or what kind of work is involved.  It will be your provision to me, and it will serve you and provide for me.  I know this, I believe this, and I trust you to keep your promise to me.  Selah (pause, and calmly think about that!)

February 16, 2011

Another Point to Consider

Ok, I am a visual-spatial learner (for those of you who are not familiar with that term, it is a fairly new classification of learning ability whereby the learner prefers to learn visually and spatially more so than through audition.)  For me, this is a method of learning, a style really, that I have relied on most of my life.  It can be a blessing, especially when I need to recall directions (I simply visualize a map), or have to tell people how to find their way out of the store (at Macy's - I load the floor plan and then rotate it to direct them to where they need to go).  I am fairly adept at moving 3-D images around in my mind, and at taking things apart (like in those explosion diagrams that help you see the inside of a part).  It can be a negative though when you need to listen and listen carefully. 

The Lord often says, "Carol, I need you to listen to me."  The Word is full of moments when the LORD God said to someone, "Hey, Listen to me!" (my paraphrase, of course).  Listening is a skill formed through careful attention to detail, and it requires that you submit your visual ability to your hearing ability for a short time.  I usually have to close my eyes to listen closely or I focus off in the distant so that my vision will be cloudy and blurry.  This helps turn off my VSL style and turn back on my AL (auditory learning) style.  We all have both styles, and most of us have learned to integrate them into our daily life.  Some people, like me, still prefer one mode over the other, and that is why we struggle at times.  My VSL style simply will not subjugate itself to my ears, and as a result I often miss key details and important points.  I need to "see" things written down, I make lists to remember what I was told, and I study pictures, maps, and charts to help me grasp understanding.

When it comes to the Lord, and His will for my life, I have needed a road map to really understand it. Though I listen well, after much practice and a lot of error (the Lord tells me I am progressing so I am pleased).  I still make huge assumptions based on what I see, even when I can only partially "see" where I am going.  If I would only listen more carefully, then I wouldn't always find I was in error.  Well, lesson learned, and relearned.    The more I listen to the Holy Spirit, the more I hone my listening skill.  I need to shut down my eyesight a bit so that I tune my ears towards His still small voice.  I can hear Him when He speaks to me, but I don't always pay close enough attention to then DO what He intructs me to do.  This is called HEEDING and it is a part-and-parcel with OBEDIENCE.  What good is hearing the Word, if you will not actually DO what the Word says to do?  Exactly!  James said it this way:

But don't just listen to God's word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.  James 1:22 NLT

Yes, Brother James, we must be doers of God's Word.

In an effort to put God's will for my life into a picture format, last evening, I drew this picture

It took me a while to figure this one out, but once I did, it made immediate sense to me.  I have considered that there was ONE PATH only, and it was just like my life (a straight line from today through to the day when I die and head on into GLORY!)  I didn't consider that Glory was fluid, just as my life is fluid.  I like things to be rigid and fixed, for them to like points laid out on a grid.  Instead, life is not like that at all.  It is more ribbon like, more of a tapestry that contains many threads woven together to form a picture.  In my limited sense, I was so linear that I simply couldn't accept that God's will might include OTHER PATHS for me.  There had to be ONLY ONE, and that was the crux of all my difficulty and even depression.
In thinking more abstractly about reality and how I fit into the grand scheme of things, I realized that there are many PATHS (know that I am not speaking of "to God" as some New Agers like to say it -- I am stating that for the Christian, there are many paths open for career, for success, for the daily aspects of life) to follow.  These paths are merely options or opportunities for us to consider.  Some are better than others, some are more closely aligned to God's will (specific) for our lives.  If we take the wrong path, we could find ourselves in a situation that will pull and tug us away from God (whether we go will be determined by our level of faith, and how easily we are tempted).  It is best to listen to the Holy Spirit and let Him guide us to Good paths, those that will build us up, encourage us, and develop within us the keen interests and passions He desires us to have in our work.  We do not want to choose paths that will constantly tempt us, hurt us, or cause us to suffer outside His will.
I have been on a path that brought about a great deal of suffering (life long), and now I am at the point where I am to choose a new path to follow.  I didn't want to make any mistakes, and I didn't want to choose a path that would be similar to the one I am on.  Some people believe that you are on ONE path and that you simply can change your circumstances or mind and alter your existence.  However, this is not how I have perceived the Lord's description of paths and journeys.  They are really like trails in the forest, and they intersect at times.  You can take another road, another trail, but only when you come to that point of intersection.  Until then, you can either go forward or backwards (but note, time continues on so if you have to go backwards, you still move forward in time).  It is vitally important to pay attention to where you are going, so that you don't have to go backwards.  If you do, you want to turn around quickly, as soon as the you pass by the trail intersection.  This way, you don't lose much time having to adjust your life.  You just turn around, and go back and then take the new trail.  If you miss that trail, then you might have to wait a very long time for another trail to cross your path.
This has been the case with my life.  I have been on the wrong path, and though there were trails that I could have taken, I didn't.  I passed them by, choosing to continue on this one.  I thought I could change my life by remaining on the same path (accomodate, change, shift my focus, adjust my thinking and so on).  Instead of turning around at the first hint that I was going down the wrong road, I marched on (determined to prove that I had not made a mistake).  Now, all these years later, I see where I am, and I see the hard truth of my life.  I missed some God given turns that could have helped me find peace and create a more satisfied life.
Now, I can choose more freely, but the opportunties are not always available to me.  This is where I am at and the crux of my struggle to move on into the future.  I want to get off this path NOW, but there are no trails up ahead (right up ahead).  I know there are some, and they will come my way, but for now, there are no options open to me.  My friends wonder why I don't get out now (leave my home, divorce my husband, etc.)  I try to explain this to them, but they think I am enabling my husband, being co-dependent, etc.  I am not.  I am being realistic, and since there are no roads for me to follow, I have to stay on this course until such a time as one presents itself.  If I were to jump off this path, I would land in the wilderness or a dense thicket of bushes or trees (thinking naturally here).  I would not be on any path, just in a pile of thorns.  No, I have to stay on the path, even though time is marching on, and I am walking further and further down a road that leads away from where God wants me to be.
Now that I have a better understanding, my job hunting and lack of opportunities makes sense to me.  I have been applying for work but nothing has produced opportunities.  I have looked at the problem as one of technical failure only -- my resume didn't convey my abilities (true).  However, I wasn't seeing that perhaps these jobs were not open trails for me to follow.  They were just pictures along the way, but they were not open to me at this time.  I need to keep on walking until I find that exit and then I need to take it -- go through the door, walk out onto a new path.  Until then, I have to 'keep on keeping on' (as the axiom goes).
Therefore, with a new 3-D image in my mind, I am better able to understand that while I may not like where I am at present, there is nothing I can do about it until an opportunity presents itself.  If the opportunity pleases the Lord, then I need to take it.  If not, it will not be open to me (this I know).  I can rest in the assurance that the Lord will bring me GOOD jobs only.  If they are not to His liking, they will not come to pass.  I don't have to worry about choosing the wrong job.  I just have to TAKE whichever job is offered to me.  I have been too particular, to unwilling to try things out, and I have missed some open doors.  I have suffered as a result, and now I would glady take whichever door was open today.  Until a new door opens, I am simply stuck where I am now.  There is no place for grumbling or complaining -- God knows where I am, and He knows how much I want to go someplace else.  He knows my needs, but time moves on, and I have to wait for a new door to open -- I cannot wish it to open up, and I cannot magically force it to appear.  It will open when it opens, so be it.

February 15, 2011

Learning More About God and His Will

Man, I love it when I make breakthroughs in understanding.  They seem so fleeting, so difficult and far in between for me.  I spend the majority of my time living within a conundrum (a difficult or confusing problem or question), and often I linger on and on without any hope of finding the answer or conclusion.  Then it is as if all of a sudden the clouds disappear and the sky clears.  I get it or at the least, I think I understand whatever has been confusing me.  This is the way it was for me today, and I am rejoicing in my new found understanding of the Lord's will for my life.

You see, I take everything literally.  I am what is called a realist, a pragmatist, a logistician and a literal/rational thinker.  Everything functions on a linear line or it is connected via strings that hold various elements together.  Everything has to fit for me to understand it.  I have to see the completed puzzle before I can see what the picture is that I am making.  Some people can figure things out with just pieces of the puzzle.  I used to think I was this way, but over time, I have come to realize that I am clueless and without enough of the puzzle filled in, well -- I just don't get it, I don't see it, and I cannot understand whatever I need to understand.

The Lord's will for the most part is like a puzzle missing key pieces.  The overall picture is already put together for us.  Jesus told us that we are to be conformed to His image:

For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.  Romans 8:29 NLT

Therefore, God's will for all His children is to become like His Son Jesus.
He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control.  Phillipians 3:21 NLT
God desires that we become like Jesus, to be conformed (or behave like Him) to His ways.  This is our expressed purpose and why God created us.  But within that framework, God also has specific plans for each of His children, and these plans intersect to bring His will to pass in the Universe.  This means that the Kingdom work (the harvest) is a job that each one of us will participate in.  We all have a specific job to do, and the Holy Spirit gives gifts to enable us to do that work.
God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.  1 Peter 4:10 NLT
I have discovered my purpose, my specific ministry gift as well as the job the Lord has for me to do.  I have known for a long while (several years now), and I am in the process of accomplishing His will in regard to that work.  However, I have been so confused about what to do in the mean time.  I mean, what kind of work should I do now or until the Lord is ready for me to do this specific work?  He has told me that I can do any kind of work, live any place, just so long as I work towards accomplishing certain prerequisites (training really) for ministry.   I have struggled because of the open-endedness of that answer.  Really, Lord?  Is there not just ONE way for me to go? 
You see, I am linear and therefore the concept of many paths doesn't sit well with me.  I want there to be ONE WAY ("Jesus told him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me." John 14:6 NLT) just like the Word says of our LORD.  The funny thing is that I already have the ONE WAY, I mean, I am on the ONE PATH -- the PATH that leads straight through Jesus Christ and on to the Father.  I am in, I know the way, so to speak.  In my limited mindset, though, I want there to be ONE of everything, not multiple paths.  This is way too confusing to me, and I am afraid I will get lost with so many choices.  Yet, the Lord says that there are many paths, all within the scope and framework of His blessed over-arching will, and they are all GOOD.  Why can I not understand that this is how God chooses to work within our time and place?  It makes sense when you really think about it, yet my brain refuses to accept it as truth.
What this means to me is this (and hence my breakthrough in understanding):
Whether I work in Phoenix or another state -- so long as the work will conform me to His Image and enable me to train and prepare for His work -- the job itself is of no consequence to the Lord.  It is GOOD work, purposeful and useful for what it provides (income, food, shelter, necessities, etc.)  I get all hung up on mission and on calling and on having a career, when in reality the Lord is simply saying to me "this is a GOOD path for you, Carol."  I want it to be the only path, not just a GOOD one.  The Lord says it is Good, therefore, that means that it is GOOD (the best, His choice, a perfect path to follow).  Does that guarantee no suffering?  Of course not, because suffering brings Him glory.  It simply means that the path will suit His purpose well, and that it is OK for me to follow it.
Some paths lead to nothing of advantage, and some will lead us away from the Lord's specific purpose for our lives.  We are not to waste our time nor follow these kinds of paths.  Our dependency on the Holy Spirit for His guidance will help us determine GOOD paths to follow.  My mind finally gets the fact that there are many GOOD paths to follow.  I simply need to ask permission to follow one, and then allow the Lord to faciliate it for me.
I wish I weren't so stubborn all the time.  I wish I were more flexible, and agreeable to the Lord's will.  I struggle with letting go, with accepting and going where the Lord directs me.  How many times has He said, "Go down this path," and I was afraid to do it.  I thought it had to be RIGHT (as in not wrong), and therefore I got worried about mistaking His direction.  I should have just gone, and who knows where I would be today.  Instead, I said "no," and here I sit still in Phoenix, living without full-time work, and struggling to make ends meet.  I should have "gone," but I didn't and now I know why.  I thought there were better choices, better options, and I never considered that the one I was staring at was pretty GOOD for me.  I was willing to accept one path, but not go down it, and now I am willing to accept all paths (knowing that I will not go down any path doesn't accomplish His will for me).
I have opened my eyes to all possiblities under Heaven, and to accepting any job that comes to pass.  I understand that everything is GOOD that comes from His hand, and that I need to receive these GOOD gifts when they are offered.  I rejected a fair number of them, and now I just want one more.  I ask the Lord, "Please?" and I know He is patiently waiting for me to grow up, to gain understanding, and to stop being so stubborn.  I say, "Yes, Lord," but then I don't always do what I promise Him.  I have promised to go to Texas.  I have promised to go to Viriginia.  I have promised to go to Illinois and Tennessee.  Yet, here I am in Phoenix -- having not gone to any of these places.  Why Lord?  Why am I so stubborn?  I know why -- I am flawed human flesh, and it is my nature (sin nature) to do whatever is contrary to the Lord's directive.  It shouldn't be this way, especially AFTER THE CROSS, but that part of my personality and fleshly will is still there, and occassionally it wants its own way.
Dear Lord,
I lay my will aside in favor of your will.  I will no longer consider a way without really meaning that I will consider it.  If you say GO, then I will GO.  If you provide a way here in Phoenix, then I will rejoice and stay put.  I will no longer seek ONE way because I am already on the ONE PATH that leads directly to you.  I am now willing to trust you to provide good work, good purposeful work to me.  I will do what is asked of me, and I will work unto your Name and for your Glory.  In Jesus' Name I pray this now, Amen (so be it, thy will be done.)

Mercy and God's Will

I logged into my college account today, and see that my financial aid has been disbursed (PTL!)  This means that not only is my tuition paid for Spring 2011, but also that I will be getting a refund check for the balance of my student loan.  This "blessing" is from the Lord, and last fall, when I received the first installment, I about fell out of my chair.  I wasn't expecting it at all, and when I opened up the check, I couldn't believe it was true.  It was a gift and that gift has helped me take care of business around the house, pay the bills, and get some real financial planning in place.  I cannot tell you what a relief it was to see that my Spring semester check is in the mail (Praise God!)  Working PT and living on such a small stipend has enabled me to focus and learn how to manage money well.  This extra check simply covers the bigger expenses, and gives me a sense of security.  God is so good that way.  He knew how much that check would help us out, and how much it was assuage my fears over missing a bill or having to live under the belt again.  God is Good -- so very GOOD to me!

On my way home from picking my son up at school, we chatted about his classes, and how he is doing at the community college.  He is struggling a little with time management, and with following directions on assignments.  He got some poor grades today, and felt awful about it.  The reason -- he misread the instructions on the assignment.  This is partly a processing disorder that he has -- he has always struggled with following directions, especially sequential processing, but being home schooled, I made exceptions for him (let him redo assignments, etc.)  He is in the real world of college, and now it is up to him to verify everything.  I suggested he email his professors to verify instructions when he is confused OR ask me to read them to him.  I think the other part was simply his rushing through assignments (something he has done since childhood).  It is partly a gifted thing, and his ability to process information very quickly.  He tends to jump to conclusions, so he has to slow down and verify everything.  Again, check and re-check.  These are life lessons I have had to learn as well because I suffer from the exact same disorder.  I learned late in life that it is better to be slow and accurate, than fast and in error.  He will learn it too, in time.

He is concerned about keeping his scholarship, but I told him not to worry about that at all.  Sure, I want him to get all As and Bs, but I reminded him that he was home schooled NOT to learn how to follow directions, but to think and act in life.  He is great at these things, just not so great at the standardized way education is taught.  He will be successful in life, but might not do well in school.  Yes, this is probably true, and it is OK.  I told him that God would not let him fail out of this scholarship unless he stopped trying his best.  God asks us to work unto Jesus Christ -- to give everything to Him -- and always do our best.  God provided a scholarship for him, and I have no doubts that he will keep it.  He just needs to always do his best, and let God take care of the rest.

It is an interesting thing to think about really because the Lord and I have discussed potential schools for DS.  My son wants to go to a couple that are pretty rigorous and the Lord has said "nope."  I wondered why, and then one day the Lord said, "Carol, DJ needs a certain type of school, one that is non-traditional and less intensive."  I see it now, and I get it.  The Lord knows that while my son is highly gifted, a brilliant musician -- he simply is not an A-scholar (never has been).  He doesn't fit the mold, and he struggles with conformity to standardized tests.  He misses things, he processes fast but often with errors.  He needs a place where he will be allowed to follow his own path, and do work in a way that suits him.  There are colleges out there like this, but they are few and far between.  Many are standardized to such an extent that only the traditional straight-A student succeeds.  Students with learning challenges and other issues often struggle to conform.  My son is this way, so now I see what the Lord is up to with my son's education.  It has to be His choice -- only His choice.  No other school will work for him, and the Lord knows what is best.  I am glad that is the case, and I rest in His knowledge and understanding of the situation.  God is so good that way.  He is so GOOD to us.

As I ponder what schools might work for my son, I am left with this feeling that everything is working together for our GOOD.  The Word promises that this is so, and normally I just accept that verse.  But today, I see that God is really working out the details in our life for our GOOD.  Best or second best is not going to cut it.  It has to be His Best, His Highest Good, and His choice.  Nothing else will meet His needs, and nothing else will satisfy a Perfect LORD.  I am blessed, so blessed to be cared for by a God who only seeks His Best in my life.  I struggle often to accept what He offers to me because I think there must be something better or it doesn't quite make sense to me or it doesn't look like it is best?  Yet, His Best is always BEST. This means that the job of His choosing is Best for us.  The location of the job is also Best for us.  The schools, the shops, the house, etc. are all Best for us.  God has determined what is Best, and resting in that choice is what I plan on doing.  I accept only the Best from God, nothing short, nothing less, nothing but His will and His Good for my life.

May the LORD be praised today for He is So GOOD TO ME.  His Mercy endures forever and He is GOOD.

Help is on the way!

My brother has come to my rescue -- that is -- to help me with my resume and job hunt.  He lives in North Carolina now, but works as a counselor for the state.  He has been a rehabilitation counselor for ten years, and has worked with the VA, Goodwill Industries, and other State departments.  He specializes in helping dislocated workers find work as well as working with disability benefits.  I sent him my resume the other day, and he called me back to give me some good feedback on what I needed to do.  Really, he walked me through the process of changing my image, changing how I present myself to prospective employers, and how to distinquish myself from everyone else out there.  He gave me excellent advice, not just for changing my resume, but also for altering the way I perceive myself -- my own feelings about who I am and what I can do for a company or organization.  I am so pleased with his help because I feel that it is the missing ingredient, the missing element, so to speak, in my finding the RIGHT job.

I have some home work to do, and this process will not be an easy one.  It is not as simple as changing your resume--and bam!--get an interview!!  No, it is a refining process, and with some time and a little bit MORE patience, I should be able to find a good job.  PTL!

On another front, I am more and more convinced that I am doing the right thing when it comes to seeking work in Communications.  I actually applied to the University of Phoenix to be an academic counselor.  This is something I have wanted to do for a while, but the more I talked with my brother, the more I realized that I really want to stick with what I do best, and that is either writing (technical writing) or working in media relations.  I want to downplay all my technical ability, and direct the focus to my interpersonal relationship skills, my ability to manage projects and programs, and my keen sense of detail.  I am excited to finally be working towards something that seems to fit my personality and my abilities.  Moreover, I am happy to know that my work, my college education, and my skill set will all mesh together.  I am so into making things coordinate, to having one impression instead of many, and to be able to say "I am a Communications Specialist."  It is true, this is what I do best, and now I will be able to demonstrate myself as such, and document through actual experience my abiltiies to do this kind of work!

God is so very good to me.  He knows that this process has been long and very drawn out (no thanks to my part in the delay!)  I am so ready for work, and I am so ready to get moving, to get started working in a career that will benefit me now, and build long-term success.  I want to be settled, to be established, and to do work that is practical and good (useful).  I also want to be working towards the accomplishment of His will for my life, and to do that, I need to be employed (school costs money, baby!)  I also have some specific needs -- many of which I have written about on this blog (my roof for one), and those items need a big investment of cash to cover.  I cannot do anything much at all working for Macy's, and while I am so thankful for the opportunity to work there, I cannot live on the pay (hourly just above minimum wage) nor can I handle the physical abuse (to my body -- standing all day takes its toll on my hip and back).  I have been off two days now, and my back is still in agony.  I am glad that I don't work tonight (tomorrow night is my next shift), so I will have another full day of rest.  The issue, of course, is that working retail has perks, but the downside is really getting me down.  I need to go, and I need to start working in a job that will provide well for me.  I know it is JUST OVER THERE --> and I need to be patient until everything falls into the right place.  It will be done -- it is HIS WILL afterall.  I cannot be impatient, and I must wait.  It will come to pass, I know this for certain.  I must wait.

As I wait, I don't sit on my duff.  I did that for a long while, waiting and sitting around.  Now, I wait and I work.  I go to school.  I help my son with his college essays.  I spend time with my parents and help them out as I can.  I take care of my home.  I study the cello, and work towards proficiency on that instrument.  I do all these things WHILE I am waiting for the Lord to direct me to the job of His choosing.  It is called actively waiting -- expectantly waiting, and this is the kind of waiting the Bible instructs us to do.  We commit our way to the Lord, trusting Him to provide for us, and then we WAIT on Him.  While we wait, we work.  There is no vision to sitting still, there is no rescue at hand.  We must work, and we must be faithful and diligent to expectantly look for His provision.  This is the kind of waiting I have been doing now for over a year, and while I get really tired, really down at times (and sometimes depressed), I try to remember who it is I am waiting on, and then immediately I cheer up.  I wait on the Lord, and in doing so, He lifts me up like as if I were upon the wings of eagles:

But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew [their] strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; [and] they shall walk, and not faint.  Isaiah 40:31 KJV

February 13, 2011

A New Day in Review

Today, I had a breakthrough of sorts.  At church, our Pastor spoke on wisdom, and quoted from Proverbs along with a passage from 2nd Kings.  It was foundational for me to finally accept some things about myself.  Among the "things," truths really, was the realization that I had been looking at various "needs" with the view that they were a means to an end.  By this I mean that while I gave God the credit that they were of His hand, a provision from Him, I was considering them only as a means to shorten or hasten my current suffering (and predicament).  I wasn't allowing God to complete His work, to finish His task, and instead I was simply looking for a way to bring all the unpleasantness to an end.  Granted, there is nothing Biblically wrong with wanting the unpleasantness and suffering to end -- the issue was more so that I was attempting to control the outcome using my own means.  I was asking God for a specific thing, not because I recognized it as part of His will for my life; but rather, as a way to end my sorrow, to bring resolution and closure.  Let me explain...

I have been seeking a full-time position for over a year.  I have been trusting the Lord for His provision of a job, but in reality, I was also looking at what a job would bring for me.  In short, besides the ability to pay my bills, put money into savings, etc.; it would also enable me to move out of my home, to file for divorce, move away, or whatever I wanted to do to put an end to the awkward and difficult times at home.  I was not considering God's will in how to use the job nor was I considering His overall plan for my life, my marriage, my husband's life, etc.  I was simply saying, "Ok, Lord bring me a job so I can end this sorrow."  God was not interested in doing this for the reason I stated.  You see, He had clearly told me that there was a good job for me, that it would provide well for me, and that it would accomplish His will for my life.  He never said "and it will enable you to move out, to move away or divorce your husband."  Nope, He only said it was a good job, would provide a good income, and enable me to do what He wanted me to do.

The same thing was true with my desire for graduate school.  I was looking at school as a means to an end.  I said, "when I get my MA, I can teach college English."  Then later, "when I get my PhD, I can get a better job at a University."  The problem, just like with the job, was that I wasn't considering the Lord's plans for my college education.  You see, my schooling is part and parcel to the accomplishment of His will for my life.  The Lord said to me, "Carol, your graduate schooling is for my glory.  It is for me, and not you."  I said I agreed (at the time), but then forgot what I had promised Him.  I looked at the degree as a way to get a good job, and hence, do what the job was supposed to do above.

The point of this is that I have known for a very long time that this sorrow, this suffering was specific to me, and that I was being asked to suffer to bring Him glory.  I accepted it, and agreed to it when the Lord asked me if I understood what it meant to suffer.  I was on board, wanting to bring Him Glory at all costs -- but when the suffering went on and on and on, then I just wanted it over.  I was tired of waiting for God, and wanted to make a way for the suffering to end on my own terms.  The Lord doesn't share His Glory with anyone, and He doesn't allow us to take over in any area in which He is Sovereign.  I was attempting to change the parameters, all the while, staying within them.  I was using God's blessing in ways in which it was not designed to be used, and God said, "no can do."

As I processed these truths, I understood what I had been doing, and came to the conclusion that perhaps this is why nothing has come to pass as of yet.  I am still in the exact same boat as before, nothing has changed for me.  All my crying to the Lord, all my wanting and hoping and longing -- none of this has changed one iota of my circumstance.  I had to face the wisdom of my life, and accept the fact that I have acted foolishly.  I have tried to be god in my own life, when my God is right there standing by at the ready to assist me.  How foolish I must have looked, trying to shorten my sorrow like that.  Instead, I could have been relaxing and abiding in His will, and trusting Him to determine the end date according to His perfect time.

So, as I begin this next week, this is what I have determined:
  • All Godly sorrow is beneficial for our edification and preparation/training as servants of the Lord
  • All Godly sorrow grows us to be like Christ, and as such, we are able to bring God the Father glory
  • All Godly sorrow produces fruit in our life, fruit that demonstrates to the world that we are His, we are faithful, we are like Him
  • All Godly sorrow is for a time only, and we are not the instigators nor the controllers of the beginning, the middle or end.  Only God says, "it is done!"
Furthermore, in light of this new understanding, I also affirm the following:
  • The job the Lord has for me will come when I am ready to receive it
  • The job will accomplish His will for me, and will produce whatever is necessary for my life
  • The job will not serve any other purpose than that which honors Him and brings Him glory
  • Therefore, my attitude must be in alignment with His will and my mind must be in accordance with His will -- until both are in sync, I will not step forward into a new job
Lastly, if I am determined to know nothing else but Jesus Christ and Him crucified, then I cannot decide when it is "enough."  God knows this, and if I trust Him, I can abide and relax and know that He will not test me or press me beyond what I can bear.  He will say "enough" when it suits Him, and not before.  He will do what is best for me, based on His judgment and determination -- because He is Good and He loves me best.

I can rest and trust in His plan for my life.  I don't have to worry about what doesn't make sense to me.  I can say "not my will, Lord -- but thy will be done," and mean it.  Lord, I mean it -- please accomplish your will in my life today.  In Jesus Name I pray this now, amen.

February 12, 2011

The Light and Glory of Christ

WOW! I feel so much better since yesterday and confronting the depression and oppression of the enemy.  I suffered most of the day with a lingering back ache (still have one today, but it is getting better).  My back pain is a thorn, I know this, because I have suffered with it since I was first injured in 1979.  There is NO reason for me to have such severe pain -- yet, I live with chronic pain (back and neck), and now hip pain.  It never really goes away, and though I have some good days, generally every day is a painful one.  But that aside, I am good, and my life is very good.

Today, I worked on my resume again.  I have finally found a job that would work for me.  It aligns with God's will, fits both my education and my experience, and pays well.  I found a sample online, and borrowed some of the phrasing (not outside the scope of my experience, just the style of writing to convey my experience -- if that makes sense?)  I am pleased.  I am so pleased with the result.  Before today's rewrite, I felt clueless about my experience.  It was a mass, a jumble of this and that, and pretty much said "Jack of all trades, master of none!"  I looked unemployable because I really didn't do anything specific.  Now with a keener focus, and more attention to detail, I have a resume that says:  "Carol is a Marketing Communications Specialist."  Yes, that is exactly what I have done for the past 12 years, and finally, I found a resume online that matched my skills and experience.  I mean, this job combined all the promotions work I did for my husband's company, all the event and trade show management, as well as the print media and specialty markets along with significant website development and design.  I have done all these things but before I was considering them individually instead of as a specific responsibility under one heading:  Communications.

So with a better targeted resume, I feel confident again.  I feel that I know what it is I need to do, and I am comfortable with my education.  You see, I always thought my BA and MA were inconsistent with the Lord's plans for a PhD in Communication.  Now I see how it all fits together.  Most Marketing or Communications Specialists have degrees in English or Communications or Journalism.  I fit in.  Plus most are excellent writers (me too), and most have knowledge of graphics (me too).  I really think this is my fit, my specific work, and what I am supposed to do.

So Lord, what do you think?  Is there a good job waiting for me in this field?  I sure do hope so, because I am fired up and ready to tackle this industry.  I ask now in Jesus' Name that you will open a door for me, some company, any company that will seriously consider my resume and offer me a job interview (and job!)  I know you are in control and Sovereign, and you are Master over my job and my life.  Please provide a good job for me now.  Thank you, Jesus!  Amen, so be it, thy will be done!

February 11, 2011

Blackness and Oppression

Last night at Macy's, my supervisor asked me if everything was OK.  She had asked me the same question two days before, and I said, "Yes."  She said, "Carol, you are making faces and don't look happy."  I didn't realize that I was whincing, but I was doing that while putting clothes away.  When I would work with a customer, I would smile and be cheerful, but as soon as they left, I was back to feeling sad.  Last night, I was really sad, so I told her that some things were going on here at home, and that I was a bit depressed.  I tried to joke about it, let her know that I was positive that I would feel better shortly, but this was a lie (a nice lie, if there can be such a thing -- a wish on my part, kwim?)

Two nights ago, I awoke to see a black figure in my room.  It was standing at the foot of my bed.  I recognized the size and shape of the figure immediately, and I knew what it was.  I was too tired to engage it, and too tired to be afraid, so I just rolled over and shut my eyes tighter than normal and tried to sleep.  Unfortunately, I became excessively cold, almost chilled to the point where I thought I was going to freeze.  This lasted for a long while, and I did eventually fall asleep.  In the morning, I inquired of the Lord, and knew that once I again, I was being harrassed by the enemy (Spiritual), and was undergoing a major attack.

I have been cold beyond normal measure these past couple days.  My DH expressed coldness too, which is very unlike him.  Our furnance is set to 80, if you can believe that, and our outside temperatures are hovering in the 40s at night, 60s during the day.  We certainly do not need our furnance to blast at this high of heat.  You'd think we lived in Minnesota or some place frigid, and not Arizona.

This morning, I woke up feeling worn out and undone.  I talked with my Mom first off, and she could tell I was depressed.  I could tell it, and I cried to the Lord and said that I needed to know why I was so depressed.  As I sat in my chair sipping my coffee, I asked Him if I was being oppressed.  Spirits can oppress you and some take the form of mental illness.  Some can bring on depression, anxiety, helplessness, etc.  It is not always a circumstance in your life, and the way you can tell the difference is if the feeling is overwhelming and immediate (there is no lead up, no connecting cause).  This was how it was with me.  I was doing well earlier in the week, and then WHAM! I got depressed, mightly depressed.

I prayed it over today, asking the Lord if this was something I had done.  With oppression from the enemy, the inroad (or way in) can be through something you have done or said (sort of opened yourself up -- shown a weakness in your defense) or something someone connected to you has done or said (in the case of a spouse).  Consider Satan, who is called the Accuser, and who stands before God and utters accusations at God's people.  He is like your best prosecutor, someone who is savvy and sharp and quick to jump on any opening.  This is what he does, and this is how he attacks us.  He sends his workers out whenever he finds a hole in our testimony, a mistake we have made, or something we have said in haste.  Then BAM! we become attacked, all the while, he stands before God and says "See, I told you she would fall, I told you she would crumble and lose faith." 

We do battle not with flesh and blood, but with the elements and beings who live in the Spirit world.  Whether you like it or not, this is what the Word of God says to us.

"For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high [places]."  Ephesians 6:12 KJV

Our battle may seem like it is earth bound, but really it takes place in the Heavenlies as well as in the here-and-now.  Satan accuses us before God, and his minions do work to hurt us in the present.  We must stand ready, to be aware (on guard), and to remain faithful.  We wield the sword of the Spirit, and lift up the shield of faith, and in doing so, the enemy is vanquished.

Sometimes, however, the enemy doesn't go away.  Sometimes the enemy remains because of a foothold (or a point of strength).  This doesn't mean that the enemy is more powerful than your faith in God (no, may it never be!), but rather that there is something that has given them power over you.  Consider again a court room drama on TV where at the last moment the prosecutor announces a surprize witness or a daming piece of evidence.  It is the same thing in the spiritual realm.  If there is a witness against you or a piece of factual (concrete) evidence laying about, this often is the reason why the oppression lasts.  It might be something you hold dear that needs to be relinquished (perhaps photos of old boyfriends and now you are married, or gifts given to you by men who liked you, but are not your husband).  It can be sin natured type items as well -- things that are clearly forbidden in the Word, and they are left in your home or room.  These things need to be removed, taken outside the camp, and ideally, burned.  Have you ever wondered why God had the Israelites take the foreign idols and objects outside the camp and ordered them burned?  This is why.  Fire will destroy the connection, the hold, and therefore it is a permanent way to say "I am done with such and such an object."  For the sake of other items, more costly ones, they can be sold and the money given to the poor.  The point is that items can entangle us in spiritual battles, and simply putting them away in a box, isn't enough.  They must be removed from inside the camp (your home -- remember it is Christ's home).

I found such an object today, actually just a piece of paper that had words written to someone else (not me) that professed affection and love.  They were written and attached to an item that was to be given as a gift (I am sure for Valentines day).  The problem is that I am married, and until the Lord or man separates us, there can be no division, no other person.  The problem, of course, is that there is another person, and this person has been in the middle of our relationship for the past two years.  I am in a relationship with two other people, and this is not to be (whether the relationship is friendship-based or more romantic -- and it doesn't have to include sex -- it can just include the desire for or longing for another person, not your spouse).

I took the words outside and burned them.  I felt the spirit of oppression lift off me immediately, and my mind cleared.  In addition to feeling depressed, I also felt confused mentally.  I have cried out to the Lord this week, and I felt so undone to the point where I couldn't make a coherent sentence.  This is not normal, unless of course, I really am losing my mind (LOL!  My success in graduate school bears out that I am not losing my mental faculties!)  The depression and confusion are gone, and I feel OK.  I am still suffering with some pain (my back especially today), but other than that, I am OK.

I hesitate to write this out, but it is the only way I can explain it.  God has enabled me to understand these things, and while they are unpleasant to think about, and many Christians simply do not believe that Satan attacks us this way, I know the truth through experience.  Perhaps I just like to think this way, to make excuses or to choose to believe this is so -- I don't know.  I just know that when I do these things as the Holy Spirit directs me, the spirit that was here is gone, and I am set free.

"If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed."  John 8:36 KJV

February 9, 2011

Letting Go of the Past

It is time to let go of the past.  I have been living in a difficult situation for almost two years now, and I am ready to begin the next phase of my life.  I have successfully manange to reclaim my life and my identity, and now I am in the process of learning how to live my life as the Lord guides and directs.  I have some decisions to make, and soon, I will have a job that will take me to the next step of this process.  I have been looking for a job for over a year, applied to many (too many to count), and now find that I am having to re-evaluate my skills and assess my abilities with a less is more approach.  I have had to downplay my experience, and accept the fact that I will have to look for work in a specific area and/or industry.  I have also decided that I am ready to do whatever job the Lord has for me, and not consider anything "beneath me."  This means no matter the salary or the benefits.  I would like a certain type of job, but I understand now that I have limited experience in certain fields, and I can only be viewed with that capacity.  I may be able to do more, but my resume speaks for me initially, so that means that I am classified as a "junior" and not a "senior" administrator.  Had I remained in that job or field, then by now, I would be in senior management.  I didn't do that, so to seek for a job in senior management is simply shooting myself in the foot.  I am capable of those duties, but my experience says otherwise.  This has been a hard fact to face, and now that I am more willing to assess my skills accurately, I hope that I can find a job that is "doable" for me.  I am not adverse to starting over, and I will do that if necessary.  I am praying that someone will give me a chance, that is all, and that in time I can prove myself worthy of their willingness to hire me.

Update: School and Other Things

My graduate courses are going well (hooray!)  I love my Colonial American Literature course, which is probably as close to the style of my undergraduate courses as possible (without them being classified as Humanities).  My Literary Theory course is difficult, and I am struggling with the reading assignments.  I was actually looking forward to this course, but now that I am in it, I have decided that Literary Theory and Criticism is not really what I want to study (for my PhD).  There are parts of the theory course that I like, and parts that I find absolutely fascinating -- but there are also other parts that are so far afield and strange -- well, I am not sure I even want to "go there" with them.

I have also made up my mind, I think, not to pursue teaching as a career.  I had considered teaching because it seemed like the logical next step.  With a Masters in English, I could teach college courses.  With a Ph.D, I could get a job at a University somewhere.  The issue, I guess, is that while I like teaching, I really do not want to be up in front of a class each day.  I am much more of a scholar -- I like to read and study and then think about what I have just read and studied.  I then love to write about my thoughts on the reading.  I don't really want to teach others.

Moreover, I think I have decided that going to Regent for my PhD is really the Lord's choosing.  A long time ago, last summer for certain, the Lord placed Regent on my heart and mind.  They have a PhD in Communication Theory that is directly aligned with His will for my life.  Back then, it all made sense to me.  I knew what I needed to do, and I was focused on the path (complete Mercy, go to Regent).  There was no other option for me because the Lord had chosen this one path.

I asked the Lord if I could consider teaching, well rather -- I was heartset on teaching.  I had thought about being a teacher for over 20 years, and now that I had the opportunity to do it, I didn't want to give that up.  The problem, of course, was that I was never really called to be a teacher back then, and I am not called to be one now.  In all the years of ministry, I have never been a teacher.  I don't enjoy teaching Sunday School, I don't enjoy teaching AWANA.  What I like best is to be in administration, to be a director over other people.  I love directing people, I love encouraging people, and I love motivating people to do great things for the Lord.  I am more about enabling and empowering than I am about distilling information.  Even when I have been in the classroom, I don't teach.  I talk with each child, personally, and I spend time with the other teachers -- listening, helping, and encouraging them.  I let other people do the actual teaching, and I observe.  Then I encourage, appreciate and affirm.  This is what God has called me to do, and it is the Holy Spirit's gifting in my life.  He has chosen for me to be a people-person, and I love being with people.

Even at Macy's, I find myself drawn to people and their stories.  I have co-workers who say to me, "Carol, can I tell you something?"  I listen.  They ask my advice, and I try and share some nugget of wisdom with them.  I mostly just encourage them to remain faithful, to hang in there, to not give up.  This is my role in the church as well -- I am to edify and build it up.  I do this by meeting people, getting to know them, and then just loving them with Christ's love and with His Mercy.  I like doing this -- it is natural to me.  It sort of oozes out of me, and requires no effort at all. 

I also am good at administrating programs.  I like the details, and I like to be responsible for doing a good work.  I am not perfect, and I often lose sight of things.  I forget.  I make a lot of mistakes, but I do my best, work hard, and trust God to fill in the gaps.  It always seems to work for me, and I am always being recruited to be in charge of this or that program.  I guess other people can see my leadership skill too.  God is Good that way.

My work has been in administration.  Although I have tried to pass myself off as a website designer, this is not true.  I did design sites, for sure; but I also administrated them (oversaw their development, managed the details, and provided consistent access and expectation for my clients).  As a Contracts Administrator, I oversaw the management of support contracts.  As an MIS Administrator, I managed the extensive tape library.  As Office Administrator, I managed the office and all the paperwork (contracts, receivables, etc.).  And, as a Technical Administrator, I managed over 10,000 Engineering drawings.  I like to manage things, and my work has been in management of resources, not people.

This helps me to understand what I do best, and why I enjoy working with things over people.  I love people (as stated before), but for my daily grind (work), I have always liked being the "go to" person when it came to resource management.

As I am more concentrated on finding work, I realize that I am good at many things.  I love to write, but I cannot get work as a writer because I don't have that experience.  I can design websites, and while I have a lot of experience in this industry, I don't have specific experience (certain software or technical know-how).  I can administrate, and that is where I think I need to focus on work.  I can manage contracts, but some companies want certification (which I don't have).  I can manage people too, but I have only supervisory experience, and not a lot of it.

Therefore, with all this in mind, this is my new plan for seeking work.  First off, I am trusting the Lord to provide the right job for me.  Secondly, I am committed to following graduate school through, and now understand that what I am studying is for ministry and not for work (job).  Thirdly, I will do the work that I am best at doing, which is being an administrator over resources.  In time, I may get the opportunity to manage people (the Lord's will), but for now, I will be content to just administrate contracts, equipment or other critical resources for a company or institution (college or University).

My Checklist:
  • Refine my resume to focus on administrative skill
  • Search for jobs that match my skill more closely
  • Trust in the Lord to provide a job for me (always -- Trust the Lord)
  • Commit myself to finding work before the end of summer 2011
I have been pretty depressed about the job market here in Phoenix, so now I am content to search for a job where ever there may be one.  This will mean relocating, and I have not wanted to do that because of my parents declining health.  Now, I am ready to do this and see that it might be the only opportunity for me.  The Lord will decide, and then I will follow Him to the place of His choosing.  God is so Good to me in that way, and I can rely on His judgment and determination for the right job.

February 3, 2011

Ideas for Potential Work

Well, yesterday I came up with a new idea on possible ways for finding work.  It was weird really, but then "weirdness" seems to fit me to a tee.  Anyhoo...I was out on the Internet, looking at graduate programs (always), when I decided to look through my old Gmail messages.  I had saved three messages from The Anthem Group, a private educational company that manages schools such as The Bryman School and others.  I had applied there to teach Computer Applications and Professional Success courses.  Neither job required a Masters degree, and the only criteria was experience teaching (corporate or in education).   I have many years teaching in corporate groups, so I thought I would be a good fit.  I also applied for the position of Technical Writer/Technical Wrtiting course developer.  This is something I have considered doing for a long time, and it is a field I think I would be very good at doing.  However, I have not had any opportunities to be hired, and I assumed it was because I didn't have enough experience.

The Lord placed this idea on my heart, so I started to look at technical writing courses (Professional Level training), and I found one offered through my local Community College.  I read through the content, and then watched the demo of the online course.  The price ticket on professional training courses is high, almost $1600 but almost all colleges and Universities offer these classes through their Continuing Education departments.  They are non-credit courses, certificate programs, that are open to anyone with interest in taking them (aka, who will pay the ticket price).  Well, I was hesitant at first, thinking to myself that I could learn this material on my own.  Truth be told, I already know most of it, but I don't possess the current jargon, so taking a class might actually benefit me.  I also thought that if I took this course, was certified (for what that is worth), I could at the least, update my resume to show that I "was" a technical writer.

So here I am, working hard towards the completion of my MA degree in English, and considering taking a self-paced course (online) to become a certified technical writer.  I figured that it cannot hurt me, could possibly help me, and if all else fails, gives me some certifications to list on my resume.  Now the question is where to take such course.  Gatlin Education Group is nationally recognized, and this is the course offered through my local community college.  I can take it from any major university as well, so I am thinking that I will enroll through a more known college and then I can put that on my resume as well (like "Technical Writing Certificate, Cal State University East Bay, 2011).  This might look better than saying Paradise Valley Community College, 2011, kwim?  Oh well.