November 27, 2011

Celebrating Christ

Celebrating Christ's arrival to our world has become my focus this season. In year's past, I *hated* the holiday season. I mean I really *hated* it -- not because of the reason for the season, but because of what I suffered as a result of family *requirements*. As a child, I loved Christmas. I loved the whole fall-winter experience, celebrating Columbus Day, Thanksgiving, and then Christmas. It was the best part of the year for me (well, perhaps summer vacation was the BEST!) I always loved everything about the season, and I have some wonderfully fond memories of doing things such as shopping with my Mom, my friends, and then gift-wrapping packages for my entire family. It was sweet and always wonderfully warm and special.

After I married, though, I found that my life became incredibly complicated. Instead of my normal holiday experience, I found myself stretched between two families who wanted "me" to be a part of their celebrations. I never had the opportunity to create my own traditions because I was caught between two dominant traditions that seemed unable to bend to allow a new family to create their own way. It was frustrating for me, and over the years, the constant battle turned into a passionate dislike of all things "Christmas."

Now that I am on my own, I am looking forward to enjoying the holiday and making it once again the special experience I recall from my childhood. Although I am an adult now, I am able more fully to enjoy the blessedness of my Savior's coming, knowing that the reason I celebrate Christmas is because of Him alone. God has richly blessed my life, and I have so much to be thankful for today. I am whole, I am happy, and I am free to live the life God has called me to live. I do so now out of response to His great LOVE for me, and for His Will, which gives me a place to call home (eternal and physical). I am so deeply in love with my Savior, and I am so in cooperation with His Holy Spirit, that I say with Paul:

"For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." Phil. 1:21 KJV

November 25, 2011

Knowing God, Knowing Your Way

"...asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called--his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance." Ephesians 1:17-18 NLT

It was four years ago, summer (July 2007), when I came to know the Lord in a new way. I had been a Christian at that time for almost 37 years, and while I thought I loved God, I really didn't know what it meant to "love God." I mean, not the way we are called to do so in Scripture. I loved God in a big general way -- you know -- as God of the Universe, God who lives "out there" and as Jesus, the Savior (baby and suffering servant). I loved what I knew about God, but I didn't really love Him personally. I didn't know how to do that, I didn't know how to love something/someone who wasn't really "there" (in a physical sense). Yet, I experienced His Spirit, so I did know He was inside of me, but I didn't know what to do to experience that love other than to acknowledge His presence and be a "good" servant (study, work, ministry, etc.)

Then one day, I prayed to really know how to love God, and something wonderful happened. Instead of filling me up with the ability to love Him, He spent time telling me how much He loved me. I was filled with His love, and through that change, I came to recognize Him. Furthermore, the more time I spent learning about His love for me, the more my heart became tender towards Him, and I found myself saying "I love you, Lord" all the time. It would be at the store, in the car, walking down the street...just where ever I was...the words came out of my mouth, "Oh, how I love you, Lord!"

Little by little, I came to experience the love of God inside my heart, and throughout that year and into the next, I became more aware of His Goodness towards me. As I pondered His Goodness, I came to know His character, and I came to know that God is Good all the time. God's Goodness is the center of His being -- it motivates everything He does, and it is His greatest expression. I know people will say "no, it is His Love," and while I do agree, I believe that because of His Goodness -- He was moved to love us, even though we were unlovable due to our sin. God's Goodness is what shapes His work in us, and it is what we see most readily in our daily lives. God's Goodness gives us life, liberty, and His great love so that we can in turn love others, share our lives, and bring liberty (freedom) to those living in bondage.

I have spent the past four years basking in the Goodness of God, and I have cherished the blessings of that knowledge. I see His Good now in everything, and I give Him thanks because He is so Good to me.

"You are good and do only good; teach me your decrees." ~Psalm119:68 NLT

Have you experienced the Goodness of God today? Are you longing to really know God, to love Him, and experience His Presence? Consider meeting Him in a new and personal way. Let go of the religion, the rules, and the law, and simply come to Him -- ask Him to show you His love. He will do it, and you will understand what it means to know the Lord, and to be loved by Him. May God be praised today and forevermore. God is Always Good -- All the time!

November 24, 2011

There is nothing greater than our Savior's Love

As I sit here tonight and think back on all the days of my life (17555 and counting -- not adding in my days in my mother's womb!), I am reminded of just how awesome my life is, and how precious this gift of life is to me. I spent the day with my parents, and then came home to my new house to relax and enjoy the evening. I decided to sit down at the computer and spend a little time on Facebook. I happened to stop by my nephew's page, and as I flipped through his photos, I thought just how wonderful God is to my family. My older brother (7 years older than me), has done a fabulous job raising four Godly children, who are all doing well, and living lives honoring their parents. I am touched by how close they all are, and how much love there is between their children and my brother and sister-in-law. They do not have the issues facing many families -- no arguments, no feuds -- just tender loving care for one another. It is so touching to me to see them happy, silly, and enjoying their lives together -- as a family.

My heart is tender because I sit here tonight all alone in my room -- me and my computer -- and I long to have that kind of loving family. Don't get me wrong -- I have a blessed family. I have best parents in the world, and I cherish my son who I love beyond words. I just never had that kind of loving family relationship in my own marriage. I had it as a child -- my family and childhood memories are filled with lots of laughter and moments of tender love and joy. I just never was able to have that same kind love and affection in my own home.

I know, maybe it is just my heart breaking a little more. I have been so well-covered by God's graciousness, and He has kept me from experiencing the heartache as I learned to deal with the changes in my life, and the fact that I am to live my life as a single person. I guess maybe it is just that today was so different for me. I mean, it was nice to have dinner with my parents -- a normal holiday thing -- and to come home to what I am doing now (I am on my computer, my son is on his). This is so NORMAL -- but it is just not what I want, not what I really desire deep down in my heart.

The Lord has led me through these past two years, comforting me, and giving me grace and peace to be able to do things I never thought possible. I never thought I would ever go back to college. I never considered being able to go to graduate school, and the idea of getting my PhD was out of bounds. But, here I am now almost graduated with my Masters degree, and getting ready to take the next step to get my doctorate. I never imagined I would be living alone, living on my own, paying my own bills, keeping my own life, and being so "in control" of everything. Yet, here I am now, doing that very thing, and being so confident and comfortable in it all. I never saw myself as an unmarried woman, even though I knew that God was calling me to this kind of life. I never wanted to be a 50 year old woman -- who finally learns the truth of her life -- and who finally accepts God's call with abandon, with passion, and without fear. Yet -- here I am now -- living the life God has called me, loving every minute of it, and walking each new day with excitement, with enjoyment, and with the blessed assurance that I am exactly where God wants me to be.

And though my heart breaks at the tender thoughts and sweetness of family -- I know that I am uniquely called to a different kind of life, a life that will be devoted to one thing, and one thing only -- that is to live out the WILL OF GOD, and to serve Him all the days of my life. I know my calling, it is for certain, and it is what guides and directs my life. I know where I am going, and I know how I am to get there. God has done all this for me, and I stand in awe of Him tonight.

Praise be to God, the Father; God the Son; and God, the Holy Spirit. He lives and reigns forever more. Amen, so be it, thy will be done.

Updating my Plans

Now that I am settled in my new home, and moving forward in my career, I am ready to start planning my advanced studies. Over the last couple years, I have considered several Universities and even took the step to apply to Regent University for their PhD in Communication. As time has passed, and I have become employed at the University of Phoenix, I realize that while I desire to study the courses at Regent, I see a much more practical path to PhD right at my place of employment. I do not forsee me changing careers at anytime soon. I like working in a University, and I want to continue to work in Higher Education Administration. I really feel that it suits me and fits my skills well. I am not sure what exactly I want to do down the road, but I feel that I am where I am supposed to be, job-wise, and that I am perfectly content to remain here until I retire (Lord willing!)

I have already started the process of applying to the University of Phoenix. I cannot officially apply until I have my conferred Masters degree. This will be in May of 2012, which is right around the corner, so to speak. I am eager to get it completed, and I am so thankful for my courses and study at Mercy College. It has been a great experience, and I am really blessed for the content and professors who have taught graduate English Literature. I have learned a lot about myself through these courses, and I have come to have a different mindset about the world, and our cultural differences. I really have a new way of thinking, and even though I studied English, I feel that my program has enabled me to see the world through more open eyes. I am far more accepting of the differences we have now; less judgmental, and less intolerant of people and their preferences for lifestyle. God has given me this precious opportunity to grow and develop as a mature woman, and to come to recognize that all people are loved by Him.

My new plan is to apply to the University of Phoenix in June of 2012, for an anticipated start date of August 7, 2012. My proposed program will be Ph.D in Higher Education Administration. This is a long program, 65 credits or 21 classes (probably less because some will be 4 credits and not 3). Still, the program is intensive, but since I will be taking one class every eight weeks, I am confident that I can do it. My anticipated graduation, barring no time off, will be 3 years or some time in 2015. This might be too soon, depending on my dissertation, but for now, that is my timeline.

God has given me such great peace about taking this path through higher education. I know it is the right way to go, and even though I felt so strongly about Regent and their program, I didn't have this kind of peace. This is the type of peace that says "Go this way, and find good success." I know my way here will be blessed, just like it has been through my time at Mercy College. I have had great success in graduate school, and I have no doubts that my success will continue through the University of Phoenix's program.

Praise and Thanksgiving

Today, I lift my voice to give praise to my God, my Savior and my King. I give Him all the thanks for His Goodness towards me. He has demonstrated His Faithfulness, His Trustworthiness, and His Goodness in ever increasing ways and means. I am blessed, richly blessed, and I give all the testimony to the LORD.

November 22, 2011

Thanking the Lord for His Merciful Provision

It has been a long while since I posted regularly. These past couple months have been incredibly difficult for me. It was a difficult transition from working part-time to full-time, and then I had my graduate school courses along with the upset of losing my home/saving my home, and then finally leaving my home. I am now settled in my new job, and have moved into a lovely new townhome. I am not 100% moved yet, but I am in and enjoying the peace and quiet of my new place.

My son has gotten settled as well. Our new home is about 1.5 miles from the Community College. He can walk, ride his bike, or take the bus -- either way -- he is able to get to school now without assistance from my parents (which has been a blessing!) He is also more settled with his schooling, and seems to be happy in his new room (bigger, and more grown up).

My life seems to be settling down as well. I am still dealing with some trust issues, which bugs me a lot; but generally speaking, I am good. The Lord has established me:

"If you obey the commands of the LORD your God and walk in his ways, the LORD will establish you as his holy people as he swore he would do." Deut. 29:8 NLT

and He has given me His Grace so that I am able to live the life He is calling me to live. I cannot really explain it, but the Lord has provided everything I need to live on my own. Not only do I have money, but I have a home, a good car, a good job, good schooling options (now and when I finish in May, advanced studies), and He has covered me with His Peace so that I can REST.

"The LORD replied, "I will personally go with you, Moses, and I will give you rest--everything will be fine for you." Exodus 33:14 NLT

His REST has enabled me to relax and let go of things, to not worry and fret over what is happening or will happen in my life. I am learning -- note that I am in the "learning mode" on letting go of my need to control everything -- to TRUST in the Lord daily. He is my Provider and my Protector, and through His care and GRACE, I am learning how to let Him live through me. My will is now His will, and my ways are His ways. It is an exciting thing to be in His Way, and to know that whatever I do today will be blessed. I am able now to walk freely, to go where ever He sends me because I know that He will do whatever is necessary to see to my provision.

"Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me." Psalm 54:4 NIV

I am blessed, so richly blessed -- by His Presence, by His Persistence, and by His Pleasure. There is nothing I desire more than to be in His Way and to live my life for His Glory. Psalm 37:4-5 KJV says:

"Delight yourself also in the LORD; and he shall give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass."

This is my life verse. This is the verse I chose to remind me of my commitment to the Lord and of His promise to me to sustain me, and to bring His Word to pass in my life. It is life in action, God's way, and it is TRUTH. I have seen the Lord give me the desires of my heart, and bring them to pass. My part in this event has been to make Him my soul's delight, and to commit myself to Him. In doing so, He has done all this for me.

God is so very Good to me. Praise the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen. So be it, thy will be done!