April 30, 2011

Plans and The New Focus

Over the past year, I have focused on the plans I believe the Lord has in mind for me.  These plans have developed out of quiet time spent seeking the Lord for His direction.  I have waited upon Him to reveal to me what exactly He wants me to do.  It has taken a lot of time to wait, to be quiet, to be still and to listen for His voice.  Yet, I believe His voice has clearly articulated the path He wishes me to be on.  I am confident of that path, and I know what I am to do with my life.  What a blessing it is to know your purpose and to understand what God wants from you.  I spent the majority of my life not understanding God's will, and not being willing and open to doing it.  No wonder I never had purpose, and I never felt I was meant to do anything for His Glory.  I was more concerned about me, and what I wanted, and I really didn't give too much time nor attention to what He wanted for me.

Now, though, my mind is shifted and I have a new focus.  That focus is centered squarely on the finished work of Jesus Christ.  I know my purpose, I know why I was created, and I understand what I am to do with the time God has given to me.  I am not to be idly sitting by, focusing on myself and my career or thinking wistfully about bygone or future days.  I am to be active and present in His Ministry, and to work (all work) for Him.  I love the fact that I can be directed, that I can feel I am going places and accomplishing things -- all in His Name and for His Glory.  I feel alive and vibrant, and I feel so blessed.

I still struggled with the plans, the actual to-do list, mostly because I like things to be fixed and rigid, and often God asks us to be flexible, to accept alternatives to whatever it is He wants for us.  Sometimes the alternative is just as good as the original thing, sometimes it is better.  And, sometimes it is just to work for now, because something better is down the road.  We have to be accepting of God's provision and the fact that He always provides what we need.  However, sometimes that provision doesn't look like what we need -- it looks like it misses the mark, that it is not good enough.  This is because we confuse our needs with our wants, and we want a certain thing, and we think God will provide that very thing to us.

I have found this to be true on several occassions.  I did it with my car, a Kia, when the Lord offered it to me last year.  I didn't like the color, I thought it was too small, and it was a manual transmission -- ugh!  Yet, I have been so richly blessed with my little Kia.  It runs great, is cheap on gas.  The same is true for Mercy College.  The Lord showed Mercy to me, and I wasn't too thrilled initially.  Even after looking over their MA program, I wondered if this program was good enough to get me into a PhD English program.  After my first semester at Mercy, I realized just how good it was, and how the professors were some of the best I could possibly have as instructors.  I love my Mercy classes, just like I love my little Kia.  God knew exactly what was best for me in both of those situations, and He made it possible for me to buy this car and to study English at this college.

My inflexibility and my unwillingness to trust the Lord has hindered my progress in the plans the Lord has for me.  Often, I have waffled, and this time-lag has caused other options to disappear.  Had I trusted the Lord, and been willing to follow Him, then my life and circumstances might have changed from what they are now.  I realized that I have missed opportunities in wavering, and that my lack of trust has caused me to question God when I should have just followed after Him.  Lessons learned the hard way, but at the least, I feel that I have learned these lessons well.  No repeats, no repeating past mistakes.  My hope now is to continue to walk in faith, to trust the Lord, and to follow after Him.

As I consider the plans He has for me, one thing is clear:  God's will is always the focus.  It is central to whatever I do now, and I am consistently seeking to test the options, to try them and make sure they conform to the Lord's will.  If they are not spot-on, then they are not good choices.  It helps that I know what my eventual outcome will be, and that I am moving steadily towards accomplishing it.  However, I still feel at times that I am slightly off-the-mark, and that is a feeling that I don't like, and I am trying very hard to keep at bay.  God knows me well, and He knows what I can and cannot do.  I am trusting Him now to show me the way, to point out the path and then to be with me as I walk down it.  He will do it, He will do it -- this is His Way, and His Way always leads to the accomplishment of His Blessed Will.

My plans as of today include finishing my MA in English at Mercy College in 2012.  I then will apply to Arizona State University to study Rhetoric, Composition and Linguistics.  I had looked at this program back in October 2010, but was put off by the courses and the length of the program.  I am not certain why things have changed now, but I guess it has to do with my focus being more clearly directed towards what God wants me to study, and not so much on what I would like to study.  ASU also offers a teaching assistantship which would enable me to gain experience in the classroom before I graduate.  In all, it is a good program, rigorous and will offer me better chances for employment once I graduate.  This degree will take a good five years to complete, and before, I was so concerned about that time that I wanted a quicker way through graduate school.  This was why we (me and the Lord) looked at the University of Texas, which has a much shorter program.  Then I wanted to work FT and thought I could only do an online program, so we looked at Old Dominion University, which offers a full program that includes distance learning. Two of my three options require on-campus learning, but only two offer teaching experience.  Of these two, only one is here, near me, and could be done via commuting.

Last Fall, I remember the Lord whispering to me, "Carol, take the path that is right in front of you."  I knew then that meant to grasp the obvious, the path that was closest to my physical location, aka meaning, in Phoenix.  I was looking so hard at moving away, at starting over, and while I was content to remain in Phoenix, and even wanted to stay for some reasons, truthfully, I also wanted to just run away from everything here in AZ.  Since that time, a lot has changed for me.  Some of the external pressures I was under have dissolved, and they are since gone from my life.  Other things have moderated, to such an extent that I am able to live comfortably with them, still wanting them to be resolved, but content in what is what, and knowing that God will help me to live through them until such a time as He resolves them permanently. 

Lastly, there is my son to consider, and the plans that God has for his life.  Right now, he is on his way to the airport to fly to California to open for up-and-coming Christian artist, Todd Agnew.  God has opened a door for my son to perform as part of a worship band, and now will have more opportunities to travel and to actually perform for God.  This has changed so many of my ideas and conceptions about my son.

My son is doing very well in college, and has pretty much decided to pursue his general studies AA.  He would like to study recording technology, and will take some courses at the CC towards that goal.  He may end up with a BA in Music or in Ministry or even in another field -- but he is content where he is at right now.  He likes school (PTL!) and he is getting all As.  I am so pleased with his schooling, and with how he is maturing as a young man.  God is doing a marvelous work in his life, and I am blessed.

All of this leads me to believe that the path I am on is the right path.  I am to stay and remain, as I blogged about last month.  I believe that God has called me to be faithful in my life as it is -- warts and all.  It may not look perfect, and it may not be perfect, but it is what it is, and I am content to remain until God calls me elsewhere.  I know that doesn't sit well with family and friends who think I should be doing something else, getting the 'heck out of Dodge,' so to speak.   Yet, here I am staying put, remaining where God has me, and I am being blessed for it.  I know that somehow God will make it work out, for me and my son.  He will show me the path, and He will direct my steps on it.  For now, that path is here in Phoenix, and it is through graduate school (Mercy, ASU).  My son will attend some college, somewhere.  He may go to Arizona Christian University or he may go to Columbia College in Chicago.  It will depend on what God does in his life.  For now, he will finish his AA at the local community college, continue to perform at church and with this band, and grow up into manhood, Godly manhood.

Although I don't know what tomorrow will bring, of this I am certain:  God is Good all the time, and His Mercy endures forever.  With God, all things are possible -- for with God, nothing is impossible (Luke 1:37).  I have learned this lesson well.  If God desires a certain thing, and you are willing to allow Him to do it through you, then it will be.  He will provide for it, accomodate it, and make it come to pass.  God is able, always able, and He is so Good at keeping His word, and in keeping His promises.  God is so very Good to me.

April 29, 2011

Feeling Better After a Rought Start Yesterday

I am here to testify that Advil Liquid Gels really do work well.  I fell yesterday while walking across my kitchen floor.  I landed right on my bad knee (years ago I fell skiing) and was worried that I might have torn something.  I am sure I did tear some old scar tissue, but mostly I was just really sore from landing on the concrete.  I rested all of yesterday, and other than being really sore all over, I think I am OK today.  God is so Good as to have protected me this way.

Right now, I am resting, and enjoying my day off (until 6:15 when I have to work at Macy's).  I have to lead Chamber today, which should prove to be really fun.  I am looking forward to it, and I think it will be a good show (we are getting ready for our recital in May).

On other notes (pun intended), I am very content with my plans to attend ASU in fall 2012.  I am having some issues with my family, who think I should get a job, and not continue on with school.  They were OK when I said I was going to study my PhD online, but now that I am choosing to actually attend campus, they are not supporting me in this decision.  It is alright because they don't have the conviction I have, and they don't see God's plan unfolding as I do.  I have peace about this plan, and that means that it is what God wants for me.  If it were not His will, I can be assured, that I would be anxious and uncomfortable about it.  But, I am not.  I really see this as doable, even though I cannot see how God will provide for me financially.  I guess it is one of these situations where you either believe God or you don't.  I am choosing to believe and to trust Him to provide.  If he doesn't, well then, I will have egg on my face, and I will stand up and say "I was wrong."  I don't see that happening, but I am willing to go the distance on this one because I feel so strongly that this is God's will for me.

I am getting a lot of pressure from family, and I understand their feelings.  I get that they don't like what I am doing, and they think I am being foolish to trust God for such a desire as graduate school.  You know, it is one thing to get a Masters degree, but it is quite another to get a PhD.  It is like, "Ok, Carol, you have had your fling through school, now get a job."  Yes, yes, yes, I know.  It doesn't matter how many times I have said that there are no jobs, and how many applications I have to submit and get rejected on -- the family still thinks I am not trying.  I am up to 250 now, you know -- how many applications do I have to submit before I can say "I think the writing is on the wall -- no jobs here!"  I am not sure.  I know if I said, "Well, since I cannot find a job here in AZ, I am moving to New York" their jaws would drop. Would that go over well?  Of course not.  I would get the same looks, the same pressure, and the same logic -- you are not being serious, you are not trying hard enough, you are not being realistic.

See the problem is that I have applied for jobs that were so far beneath me skill wise, and I have been rejected.  I mean like entry clerical positions.  I can do clerical, and I don't have an issue doing it.  I would welcome the job.  It is just that employers look at me and say "she has too much experience -- there is something wrong with her.  We don't want her."  Ok, I get it, I am over-qualified for entry level jobs.  On middle management jobs, I lack experience or education or both.  So I am stuck.  I would like to teach, but I don't have a credential.  I don't have my MA yet. I don't have experience teaching, yet.  So, what can I do?  I can work at Macy's, which is what I am doing now.  I can work at other retail outlets too, but Macy's is OK for me.  I cannot work FT while I am doing school, that is for certain.  I need my grades to be good to excellent, and working PT works well for me.  Now, if I found some other FT job that afforded me to work at home, well that might be good.  But no, that is not possible.

Therefore, I can only do what I am doing. I can wait on the Lord, and work at the job He has provided to me.  I can work at Macy's and do my best, and trust Him for the rest.

I think really the issue is this:  my family wants me to divorce my husband, and kick him out of the house.  They want me to get on with my life, and to do that I need a job.  They don't like that I am choosing to allow him to remain here, to live here, to take "advantage of me."  They don't see that it is reciprocal, that I need him as much as he needs me right now.  I cannot make the bills without his input, unless God provides 100% of the funding each month.  He has chosen to use my DH as a part of this provision, so until He does something else, it is the way that it is.  My family thinks that I am weak, and that I am being co-dependent, letting my DH walk all over me, and take what he wants from me. I guess it looks that way, but then they don't know that I am doing what God asks of me, so if the Lord says "give him $20" so be it, I give him the $20.  It is the Lord's money after all, and I really don't care what the psychoanalysists think -- I do what God says, end of story.

It is hard though to hear the complaints, to receive the nagging remarks.  I also have to listen to the fear -- "how will you live IF X doesn't happen?"  I answer, "God will provide X, if that is His will."  They don't like this answer, it smacks them the wrong way, but I don't know what else to say.  I believe that God will provide X to me.  I really do.

Anyhoo, that is the state of my life right now -- feeling the condemnation from friends and family who think my plans to go on to graduate school are foolish.  I liken it to Noah and the friends who thought he was crazy to build the ark.  They learned pretty darn quick once the rain came and the water started to rise -- so will my family when they see God's hand and provision for this plan.  It will either be His way or no way, my choice in the matter doesn't count.  God's way -- all the way, all the time, and that is simply the end of the story.

April 28, 2011

Giving Him Praise Today

I am struggling today with a different sort of situation.  Earlier this morning, as I walked through my kitchen, I slipped on some water on the floor (my guess, a melted ice cube), and down I went, landing right on my left knee.  Thankfully, the blow was to the front of my knee and not to the cap area.  Our floors are concrete so had I landed on the knee cap itself, I would probably not be writing this but sitting in the ER waiting on an x-ray.  God surely protected me, and I am thanking Him now.  My knee hurts, but it is more of a bruise than any thing else.  I do have to work tonight, so I am hoping that with some rest and Advil, I will be Ok to work my shift.  God is so AWESOME and I am in His Blessed Hand.  I love Him today, and I give Him all the Praise for His Goodness and His Mercy.  God is so very Good to me!

April 27, 2011

Can This Be Correct?

I dropped my son off at church today, and then headed over to my Mom's to pick up a coffee pot.  My pot died suddenly, and she graciously offered to pick one up for me the next time she was over at Target or Walmart.  While there, I chatted with my Mom about my son's ACT scores, and then helped her change out the Fall wreath for the Spring wreath.  My son normally does this for them, but he wasn't available, so I offered to climb up into the attic and get the box down.  As I was leaving their home, I thought about my day, and how grateful I am for God's continued blessing on my life.  I also gave testimony to Him for His Goodness, and recounted all He has done for me over the last several months.

I came home and had a quick snack (missed lunch but it is too close to dinner to eat), and came out here to blog and check email.  I am content right now, and for some strange reason, I am perfectly at PEACE.  This PEACE is different from the other Peace I have experienced.  I mean that I have had His Peace often, consistently really, throughout the past couple years.  I have been blessed, and I have felt GOOD in the changes that God has wrought in my life.  I have been at peace, generally speaking, feeling as though God was in control of my life, and believing that His hand rested upon me.

This PEACE is different, just different from anything else -- it is much deeper, more complete, and I really feel nothing is out of sorts.  I mean I feel really, really, really GOOD.  God has done something inside of me, just recently, and I feel like I am balanced, evenly keeled, KWIM?  I am not sure why, but I believe it has to do with the changes made to my path today.  This path is so Good.  It just feels RIGHT.

I am hestitant to write it out, but if I don't then I will kick myself for not saying it out loud.  I believe that I am doing the right thing and that this way is His Way.  I had already felt confident about my schooling, about my path through graduate school.  This feeling is more like a covering of God's Hand on my way, like He has taken His Hand and simply placed it over me, and is moving me this way and that -- directing, guiding, and providing for me.  I trusted Him to provide everything, but this is different.  It is a complete blessing, a full blessing whereby everything necessary is brought to pass.  I see it, I feel it, and I can imagine it.

Before, I often struggled to imagine the way God wanted me to go.  Sometimes I could see one part, other times I felt that I was unable to see any of the way.  This time, it is like every aspect is to be, it will be.  I feel it, I believe it, and I can see it happening.  I am excited of course, and I am at PEACE with this way.  I guess this is my testimony from the Lord telling me that He has chosen this path, and this is to be.  I am glad, really, to finally be on my way, on the way of the Lord's choosing.  I am glad to be in His Hand, and to know that where I go from here -- my way will be blessed.

I give the Lord praise today, and I bless His Name -- He is so GOOD to me.

Moving on up...

Quoting that old "The Jefferson's" TV theme...

Funny how sometimes your mind just reaches back through the ages and pulls out photos or songs to remind you of good times.  I think God does it purposely, and He uses our memories to help us keep things in perspective.  There are times in my life when all I see is the negative.  No matter how hard I try to see the positive, the only memories that seem to surface are the hurtful ones, the wrong ones, or the ones I am ashamed of and wishing they were not to be.  Yet, within all that despair, there are plenty of happy times, good times, and pleasant thoughts.  I need those to come bubbling up too, because these thoughts remind of the Goodness of God.  I am reminded that throughout the course of my life, and throughout those difficult times, He has always been there for me, always at my side, and always my Helper.  I struggled then, as I do now, but the Lord never wavers, He never falters.  He is always there for me, and I love that fact.  He is Good all the time!

Today I woke up from another series of dream nights.  The past three or four nights I have had prophetic type dreams (the kind where you can sit and reflect and actually learn something good or bad about yourself -- sort of accept the truth or the motivation or the attitude about some person, some thing, or some event.)  I am tired of having these kinds of dreams, but they have been helpful for me to understand some things that I think were buried deep down into my psyche.  I needed God to bubble up those memories, and to bring them to my mind so that I could accept what they mean to me.  If you cannot accept their meaning, you cannot learn from them, and you cannot move on or up in God's plans for your life.  We cannot allow our past to limit us, to keep us chained to heartache or sorrow.  We have to accept the reality of our life, and our mistakes as well as the reality of what really matters to us, deeply to us.  In doing so, we can learn to live with ourselves, and we can recognize changes that need changing or behavior adjusts that need adjusting.

With me, I needed to recognize how important the concept of HOME is to me.  I cannot tell you how many dreams I have had over the past three or four years where I have dreamed of my home (previous).  I have dreamed of my home in San Jose (when married), my parents home in San Jose (in which I grew from child to adult), and my former, former home in IL (early childhood).  These homes all have special meaning to me, and they all bear some mark on my being -- on the person I came to be.  I also understand now how important my family is to me, and exactly who and what constitute that family.

I have always been close to my parents, my aunt and uncle (my Mom's sister and brother-in-law), and my brothers.  My grandmother (Mom's Mom) was part of that small circle too, but she has since passed into Glory, so I don't always think of her as much.  Yet, this constituted my family, for good or bad, warts and all -- it is my family.  I have not been close to my husband's family, even though they were a large part of my life (for almost 30 years).  It was a complicated relationship, and as such, there was never closeness, just being in close proximity as in living near by.  My family, however, shares a deep devotion and closeness, even if we don't really talk with one another that often.  We are close in feeling, in relationship, and in being together.  I miss my brothers and I miss seeing them (even when I get to that point where I say "Oh, it is so good they live...." -- you know, after a while, it is good to go home!)

In my journey with the Lord, I have been given opportunity after opportunity to leave my family.  At first that meant leaving my parents, and moving away.  I struggled with this because they are older now, and leaving them places them at a disadvantage.  I wanted to move away, really I did -- but when it came down to it -- I couldn't do it.  I just couldn't leave my family behind.  I hit myself over the head for not following the Lord, for not going and doing what He asked of me.  I recalled Scripture about how I needed to leave my family for the Lord's work.  You know...generally, just slapping myself for being so selfish.

The past night though I realized that my family is an important part of who I am.  I am happy with my family, even when we are disagreeing, and even when I get fed up with them (and they get fed up with me).  I need my family, I like being with them, talking with them, and enjoying time with them.  They play a very important part of my life.  I realized that not wanting to leave my family was an OK thing, it was a good thing really.  I am not unwilling to go, and the Lord knows this.  I am simply preferring to remain close to my family so I can continue to enjoy their fellowship.

As I ponder this significance, something else came to mind, and that has to do with my search for a career, and the college choices for my PhD.  The Lord has show me way after way to leave Phoenix.  He has told me that there is no career job here for me, and that I will have to go at some point.  I was open to this, yet I have chosen to remain here.  This was an option for me, and why I chose the hard way over the more easy way, I do not know.  The Lord said that I could remain here in Phoenix for a time, to finish my PhD and then I would have to go. He said it would be hard for me, financially, but He would provide and I would be OK.  I could have gone else where, had work, and continued my studies, but I chose to stay here to be near my parents, and to give my son options that are close by.

I also stayed here because of my DH, and my unwillingness to leave this marriage.  Yes, it is true, and I finally say it.  I have contemplated divorce, I have contemplated separation.  I have thought about it all, and when it came right down to it, I chose to stay because my DH is part of my family too.  I may not like what he has done (or did), and I may not like that things are not the best they could be now.  He is family, and as such, I stayed for him as well as my parents. 

I think this is God-ordained and approved, really I do.  I mean God is all for marriages staying in tact, and while I know I had His permission to seek separation, I never had His permission for divorce.  I have suffered, struggled, and even felt so betrayed at times.  I have hung in there, distanced myself as much as I could do, and generally made the best of things.  It hasn't been easy, and it is still not what I would like it to be, but it is what it is, and I am content with it for the time being.  I don't know why God chose for us to be together, to remain even after all the horribleness.  I just know that in my heart there is no hardness towards him.  I just don't feel that hate or bitterness anymore.  I care for him, and I want him to be well.  I want him to find his God-given puprose in life, and I want him to be content too.  Will he?  I don't know, but I can say that I wish him no harm, and I do consider him a friend.  I guess that is saying a lot considering what has transpired between us.  I credit God alone, and the power of His Holy Spirit for that change of mind, of heart, and of being.  I didn't do it, I didn't do anything to make that change happen -- it is God's doing, and I am blessed by it.

So here I sit, typing my blog and considering what to do next.  I think I have decided to go home, back to California, and back to where my family lives.  My parents are here in AZ, but they would come with me in a pinch.  My heart says that is where I want to be -- even with all the crapola going on there and the high housing costs.  Will that come to pass?  I am not sure, I just know that in my heart I want to go home now.  I am ready to go home, to leave Arizona, and go back home.  I know it won't be the same, and I know that it won't be perfect, but I just want to go.  I cannot recall longing to go anywhere so much, to actually desire it so strongly.  I want to go for reasons unknown to me, it is just a feeling now, a sense of longing, and a desire to belong again.

If God chooses to send me back to California, I will go.  I have told Him as much, and now I have to trust that there is a way for me to go.  I have to finish graduate school of course and I have to get a job.  Can I get a teaching job there?  Lord knows it will be tough, but if the Lord chooses it, it will be as He determines.  If he chooses to send me some place else, then that is Ok too.  I will go where ever He provides a job for me, but now at least I understand the longing, I understand the heartache, and I accept what it true about me.  I need to go back to where it all began, back to the beginning and start fresh.

My husband and I moved here over 15 years ago.  This was to be our fresh start.  It never was, it never happened. It has been hardship, turmoil and sorrow all the time we have lived here.  We should never have come here, it wasn't God's will for us, and it has been a long, long walk in the wilderness since that time.  I think I am supposed to go home, I think this is what I have been unwilling to do for a very long time -- to just admit it was a mistake, and go home.

Of course, there are a lot of unfinished business items that must be completed before we can go home.  I have to finish graduate school, and now I am seriously considering just going to ASU in Tempe.  I had said no originally because it required full-time attendance on campus.  I wanted online, thinking I would need to work FT.  Now, I am thinking I should just go to ASU in 2012, spend the five years and graduate.  The blessing of this program is that I would be a Teaching Assistant and after graduation I would have five years of teaching experience at the college level.  That would be good enough for any college or University.  Plus tuition is fairly cheap, and I could afford it.  It is far for me to drive, but not that far (30 minutes).  Oh well, if the Lord chooses ASU, so be it.

Then there is the matter of my son who is almost decided to get his AA at the CC and then pursue Audio Engineering/Recording Arts.  He would need a good school to finish a BA and he is undecided whether to pursue music or just get a certificate in the arts.  I want him to get a BA and he would have options here to do that, and with five good years, plenty of time to complete his schooling.  Likewise, my parents are thinking of selling their house in five years time too, and there would be the possibility of them either moving in or moving into a smaller home/apartment.  It would be doable for them.

Therefore, this is what I have determined:  I am content to stay in Phoenix until God moves me home.  I know that my home is with Him, so where ever He takes me I am at home.  Yet, I feel called to return to California, and to live and work there for some time.  Perhaps this is God's will, I don't know.  I will have to wait and see what He desires to do in my life in preparation for it.  Until then, I will work on my studies, and do what He asks of me.  I will go where He sends me, and I will do whatever I am to do.  God is Good, and the plans He has for my life are Good too.

April 26, 2011

Plugging Away

Its the grind, that daily grind that really gets you down.  I know -- I am stuck in the grind now -- and I don't like it.  I was thinking today how thankful I am that the grind is coming to an end (meaning with school).  I have two more weeks of graduate courses, and then a short break before summer session begins.  I always feel this way right about now.  It is at the end of a long semester and the work ramps up and papers are due.  I stress over getting everything done (not that I can do it or won't do it well -- just how I will manage the time I have left to get everything done).  Time management and me -- we just don't mix well.

My son upgraded my computer last week and put Office 2007 on it.  I had been using Office 2003 since 2003.  I really didn't want to upgrade, but he told me how much better it was and that he needed it on my computer since mine system is attached to the printer.  He has to use it for school work, and when he prints off my system, my version tries to reformat his.  So there you have it -- I upgraded to 2007.

It took me some time to get used to the new Word format, but after a week, I really like it.  I also started to use Outlook.  My son had told me how great the calendar feature was and how much it helped him with his school work.  I had used Outlook years ago and never liked it.  It was slow, so slow, and always seemed to give me fits with my mail.  I went ahead and configured Outlook and well I have to say it is OK.  I actually like it.  I am using the calendar for all my assignments and tasks and I am actually keep to the schedule.  God is so very good to me -- He knows how much I need a schedule.

I had hoped to upgrade my phone to an iPhone so I could have iCal again, but with the economy and my not getting a FT job, sticking with a plain phone was a better choice.  I also thought about switching over to a Mac system, but again the cost of computers, etc., made that a no-go deal.  So here I am using Outlook after years of bashing it thoroughly, and finding that I like the program a lot.  It is helping me keep my head up, and to work through the grind without much effort.  It is good, and God has been so gracious to provide it to me.

On another front, I am sitting here thinking about tomorrow and the plans I have for the next month.  I am scheduled to fly to Indiana with my parents and son on the 18th of the month.  This has been planned for a long while and I am looking forward to going to see my Aunts and cousins.  I am struggling with the finances and worrying about the bills  here at home.  My DH has still not reconnected with his clients who have gone missing, and doesn't have any money set to come in.  Moreover, the insurance company has agreed to pay for the damage to his car, and will issue him a good check on Friday.  The caveat -- they have to take his car in exchange (it was totaled).  Good news/bad news scenario.  He is happy to have the money which will be used to get him a new car, but he now has to get his ducks in a row and get himself a new car.  He could live on that money, and that would be a blessing, but then he would have no transportation to get to his business contacts and appointments.  Weird huh?

I asked the Lord how we (all three of us) will survive through the coming summer.  My financial aid is going out and will not come back in again until November.  I have my job at Macy's, but I don't have any other income to count on.  My DH has no income and no prospects of another job.  This leaves us flat broke -- yet somehow I feel that this is God's will and that He has a good plan for us.  I am worried about it, but not frantic.  I am anxious, but not overwhelmed. I know that God is Good all the time, and that He knows my needs.  He will take care of us, He will do it, and it will be done His way and in His time.  God is good like that, and today rather than feeling all dumpy, I am feeling hopeful in the Name of Jesus, and in trusting in His Provision and Protection for my life.

April 22, 2011

Mary and Martha

Last night our church held its annual Sanctus Via (or The Sacred Way), a multimedia experience that recreates the last days leading up to the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ.  This years Worship and Arts team did a phenomenal job with the Stations of the Cross.  The entire experience was very moving, and lovingly portrayed.  In addition to the Stations of the Cross, the evening ended with a very sweet communion service.  I was deeply touched by the gentleness with which our staff handled the service and communion afterwards.  It was the nicest experience I have had taking communion since I was a teenager and attending the Evangelical Lutheran Church (sorry, but the Lutherans just know how to do communion well!)

I noted the crowds that attended with me, and many of the people were moved by the testimony and the beautiful artwork chosen to display the various details leading up to Christ's death on the cross.  As I was sitting quietly, reflecting and thinking about IT all, I noticed one woman next to me.  She was deep in prayer, and I was noticeably aware of her sensitivity towards the music.  I liked her -- I didn't know her, but I thought she was feeling the emotion of the moment, and I was glad she was sitting next to me.  Funny how that is sometimes, in that you can get a picture of a person just from sitting next to them.  She left after the service, and I didn catch her name, but I was glad she was there along side of me.

This morning I got up thinking about that person, and I wondered about her relationship to the Lord.  Was she a Mary or a Martha?  I wasn't sure but I asked the Lord about her, wanting to know if she was serving Him, and if she was OK (as in not suffering any major issues in her life, etc.)  This led to a discussion about Mary and Martha, and then some reflection time on my own life in relation to that story (I have experienced both archetypes).
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.f Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42 NIV
I have heard many sermons on these two Biblical sisters.  Many people like to tell this story, and often, the impetus is to get their audience to stop "doing so much for the Lord," and to start "spending more time with Him."  I like this story a lot, and thinking back over last evening and relfecting on the simple service our church held, these two sisters and their contrasting approach to relationship with Jesus stood out to me.

I have always been a Martha.  I was raised Presbyterian, and I was taught from an early age to be a good DOER for the Lord.  I later attended an Evangelical Lutheran Church, where the emphasis was squarely on being a good servant.  I began serving God as a young 16 year old, teaching little ones about Jesus.  I later took on more ministry roles, leading teens, and working with grade school aged children.  In fact, over the course of the last thirty years or so, I have been involved in Children's Ministry in a number of ways.  I have been a servant-Leader, a program director, a volunteer staff member, and part of a paid staff team.  I have worked hours upon hours to help run programs, to help children learn about God, and to DO my part for the Kingdom of God.

In 2009, as my life was being shattered to pieces, I stopped all ministry work at church.  I had felt the call to rest back in 2007, but I continued on helping as I could through that year and into the next.  In the fall of 2009, though, I was overwhelmed by personal crisis and I attended to my own needs (seeking counseling as well as rest from any activity not authorized by the Lord).  I have received requests from Ministry partners, asking for me to come back, join in, and start the DOING again.  I have had to politely say "No, I am not able to help now."  It is OK since I am a full-time graduate student, and I work part-time at Macy's.  My schedule is pretty busy as is, so taking time off from ministry work is really a null issue.

As I thought about all those years of my doing, I said to the Lord, "I was very busy in your service.  I was certainly a good Martha!"  The Lord replied that this was true.  Since my rebirth (a second time through the baptismal fire -- this time though with a deeper appreciation of what it means to be born again), I have become a Mary.  My focus is on the Lord, and on His needs, His wants, and His desires.  It has been hard to stop DOING things for the Lord, and to start BEING with the Lord.  I love it, don't get me wrong, but the habit of DOING is hard to break.  I was a very busy DOER of the Word of God.

BEING with the Lord is what Mary wanted, and her place at His feet to worship Him, is where every true believer in Christ Jesus should be.  For most of us, we choose to be DOERS and not BE-ERS -- we prefer to keep busy, doing things that make us LOOK like really sincere and good little Christian people.  The problem is that all that DOING ends up just being busy work.  The real treasure is to sit at His feet.  The blessed outcome is that by BEING with the Lord, we actually get to DO more for Him, more work that is of His choosing rather than a lot of good work of our own hand.  BEING with Jesus is the key, and it is a way of life.  DOING God's Work is simply a JOB we do in addition to all of our worldly cares.  We add another THING to the to-do list for the week (check off Church -- Amen, it is done until next week).  However, BEING with the Lord never stops.  We are with Him first thing in the morning and remain with Him until we lay our heads down and close our eyes to sleep at night.  There is never any break in fellowship, it is one constant relationship, beginning and ending with God.  This is the way we are supposed to live our lives.  This is how we are supposed to BE with and in the Lord.

It is the Mary's of this world who get to enjoy the blessed presence of the Lord.  The Martha's get a lot of good work done, but the Mary's enjoy God in a special way.  They feel the blessedness of their relationship with the Lord, and are released to do His specific work in their life and in the lives of others.

Be a Mary, and not a Martha.  Mary's will BE and DO everything the Lord requires of them, and they will experience God and His Love in a special and most wonderful way.  They will KNOW the Lord well, and they will enjoy His Friendship now and throughout all eternity.

April 21, 2011

The Time Has Come

I have made a decision, and the time has come to go.  The Lord has chosen a path for me to follow, and I have been faithful in following it.  Now, I must choose to walk on or turn around.  I choose to walk on, even though I am afraid, and even though, I do not know what is around the next bend.  I know my God is Faithful to me, and that He alone can provide and meet all my needs.  Today, I choose to trust Him for my daily needs, my daily bread, and to rely solely upon His Goodness, His Mercy, and His Protection.  God will provide, God will meet my needs, and God will do it because HE IS GOD.  Amen, so be it, thy will be done.

Some Choices to Make Today

I passed another good night.  My legs were pretty tired and achy, but I did seem to sleep well.  Thankfully, my boys were kind to me, and didn't RUMBLE on the bed at 5:00 a.m. like they normally do.  I was able to sleep in until 8:00 and now have been enjoying my coffee and some quiet computer time.

I have to make some choices today, mostly about my future, and what I hope to accomplish in the coming weeks and months.  The plan I am working towards is fixed (set up), and unless something drastic comes along to change it, it will probably proceed without any hitches (at the least, I cannot think that anything would mess it up UNLESS it were drastic).  Mostly, I need to figure out what to do with my life, and what kind of "work" I can do until I retire.  It is a weird thought, really, because all my life I have rarely even considered a career.  I simply worked at whatever job came around, and quit when things got to be too tiresome or difficult or when I needed a major break from life (when I had my son).  Now, though, I am in such a different boat.  As a graduate student in English, it is expected that I will "do something" with my English degrees.  I mean "why go to graduate school for the bloody heck of taking more classes?" (sorry, I just finished reading James Joyce's "A Portrait of the Young Artist" and it is full of Irishism's and other British type slang!)  In truth, my graduate courses are preparation for the Lord's work, and that is my primary reason for pursuing them.  I believe I am called to study at this level, and to complete these advanced degrees to prepare me for the work the Lord has for me to do.  I know what this work is, in a very general way, and I know that the study involves language (foreign and English) for the purpose of communication -- learning how to communicate, and how we communicate (for more effective evangelism).  I am content in completing these studies, and truthfully, I don't even worry about them that much.  I consider them a "done deal," and that my only requirement between now and then (graduation) is to DO THE WORK.  I don't worry about how I will pay for school or the classes I will take or even the exams I will have to pass.  It is all part of the process of school, and I know God has given me the Grace to do this WORK.  What I worry and fret over is a career -- the actual work I will do until I am involved in His Ministry.  This is what I worry about most because while I love school, I cannot eat school, KWIM?

I am in need of money, ASAP.  I have my school loans and these help me throughout the year.  I am "paid out" so to speak each November and March.  Unfortunately, the money comes in and within three months, it is gone again.  This would not be the case if my DH's work was sufficient on a regular basis.  As a consultant, he only gets paid when his clients pay him, and if they decide to end their contract, well -- that is the end.  This has happened to him again recently, which means that right now, he is left without any clients at all.  I know that everything will be OK for us, but I wish (oh how I wish) my DH got a regular salary.  Since I have worked at Macy's, I have enjoyed the blessing of seeing my paycheck being direct deposited into my account each Friday.  I love knowing that there is money being added automatically, and that I can count on it being there.  It is not much, certainly not enough to live on, but it is nice -- just really nice to have a little bit set aside for me.

I don't want to live without that security now.  I have come to depend on steady income, and not having it is difficult for me.  Funny when you consider that for the past twenty years I lived WITHOUT that security.  I never had enough, never knew when the next paycheck was coming in, and never could be without the fear of bill collectors or being evicted.  I hated living like that, but it was how it was, and I learned to accept it.  The fear gnawed at me, and caused me to have ulcers.  It upset my IBS, and after a while, would induce episodes of CFS.  I struggled to be faithful, to keep an open mind, and a positive attitude, but I couldn't help feeling that we were always sinking, always struggling to keep from going under.

Since 2009, I have relied on the Lord for my very existence.  I have trusted Him to provide for me.  In the beginning, I didn't know better because I had never experienced the security of regular income.  It wasn't until I started to work at Macy's that I became so dependent on it.  God has called me to be wholly devoted to Him, and as my Provider, this means that I look to Him for provision.  I do, I am, but I still look to things, to people, to jobs, etc. as my primary provider.  I know I shouldn't do this -- yet I do.

Oh, God -- please help me!

As I struggle with the fact that my income is shrinking right now, I am still buoyed with the confidence that my God is bigger than my struggle.  He knows my needs, and He has everything planned out.  I need to wait, to be patient, and to trust Him.  I am trying to do that today, trying to rest -- yet, fear still creeps up behind me and whispers in my ear ("what if God doesn't supply your needs, Carol?")  Of course, that is silly.  He will because He always does, and He is God.  There is no shadow or turning, no change in Him (James 1:17).  He is what He is, and His promises are sure and done.  I know this about Him, and I rely on His Faithfulness to me.  I want to swat that gnat of doubt away and shoo it -- tell it to "buzz off!"  It still comes back, and I hate it when I doubt God's Faithfulness.  He has been so faithful to me, and He has provided so generously, meeting every single need I have had.  Will He not do it again today?  Of course, He will.  He is God, and as God He can do anything and everything He chooses to do.  I am glad that my God can do that, that He is bigger and better and always, always FAITHFUL.

But you, O Lord, are a God of compassion and mercy, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness. ~Psalm 86:15 NLT

April 20, 2011

Pre-Sale Days at Macy's

It's our semi Annual "Friends and Family" Sale at Macy's this week.  If you come in and pre-sale your items, you can save up to 25% off the already reduced price (if on sale or marked clearance).  I was pretty busy tonight, and made my presale goal for the day (over actually).  My feet hurt, but other than that, I had a good night.  I am tired, but that is mostly due to reading James Joyce's "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man," today (and yesterday).  I still have criticism to read tomorrow, and then some major theory articles, but I hope to have all my prep work done so I can begin writing my thesis paper on Friday.  My paper is due on May 2nd, and I don't want to be working on it at the last minute.  My other course has a paper due on the 10th, and I have to include an annotated bibliography for that one.  I really want to get this paper done by Sunday, so I can work on the next paper over the next two weeks.  I feel really confident that I can do this, and keep up with my other assignments, so overall, I think I am in good shape.  It is tough always at the end of the semester.  I will be glad when school is over this May.

Now I wish I hadn't enrolled in classes for summer, and waited until Fall to resume school.  My plan to graduate in May 2012 is at stake, and putting off summer school would extend my classes into 2013.  That wouldn't be terrible really, but I am not sure I want to do that, at the least not yet.  Hmmm...let me see how that would work:
  • Fall 2010 (6 units)
  • Spring 2011 (6 units)
  • Fall 2011 (6 units)
  • Spring 2012 (6 units)
  • Fall 2012 (3 units)
  • Spring 2013 (3 units)
This path would coincide with study at Boise State, if I end up going there.  My course work would follow as:
  • Fall 2011 (9 units)
  • Spring 2012 (9 Units)
  • Fall 2012 (9 Units)
  • Spring 2013 (6 units)
This would be doable for me, and it would make it possible to extend my financial aid out another year.  I am not sure if I would want to do this, because it would also require more student loans, and well, that is just more money to pay back.  I will need to prayerfully consider if this is something the Lord wants me to do or not.  I am open to His timing, and His schedule.  His plans are GOOD, and His provision is BEST.  I am content to wait for His Provision on my schooling, and if this is His Way, then so be it.  God is so very Good to me.

April 19, 2011

Getting Ready to Go

Today has been an interesting day so far.  I actually had a great night's sleep, even though I must have had four-five significant dream/dramas.  I was able to recall them all this morning, and with pretty good detail, so I guess that consistutes them being "significant."  I slept into 9:00 (yea!), and then had time for a cup of coffee before getting ready to take DS to college. We both stayed up late -- he finished up a paper and prepped for his Psychology exam-- and I wrote my short essays.  It felt good to finally hit the sack, and I fell asleep soundly right away.

My feet and back are still sore, but not so much as on Monday.  I am doing well, I think, and thank the Lord, have today and tomorrow off (pm work on Wednesday).  I also feel much better about the whole BSU experience.  I am content to rest in the security of the Lord, and in knowing that He has everything under control.  If I am to go there, He will provide a way.  If I am to work in any capacity, He will provide a job.  If I am to remain focused solely on studies, then He will provide some other way for me to do that alone.  God is Sovereign over my life, and He has all the details in order.  Nothing is out of place, nothing is unexpected.  He knows my needs, and He knows what He wants me to accomplish for His Name.  I am pleased to be in this place right now, to be wholly dependent upon the LORD GOD ALMIGHTY for His Gracious and Blessed Provision.  I know that my hands are empty (literally), and that I am relying upon Him for His Hand in and on and through my life.  I can do nothing, but God can do everything.  I trust in Him, I abide in Him, and I wait upon Him.  He will do it -- His WORD never returns void.  It will be as He has promised, and I must wait upon Him, and believe in Him and in His Name.  God is so very GOOD to me today.

April 18, 2011

Seeing Things As They Really Are

After a very slow start to my morning, I am in a better frame of mind, and I am feeling a little more like myself.  I have to work tonight at Macy's so I am trying to rest and recover from my two-day shift (long hours of hard work) over the weekend.  I am pretty satisfied with the fact that I cannot continue to work at Macy's much longer.  After another long weekend, I ended up in bed, and fitfully sleeping (in agony all night long).  My feet ache today, and even though I am in tennis shoes now, they are still throbbing.  I am not looking forward to three hours on my feet tonight, but oh well, what can I do?

I had asked the Lord to help me see things clearly, and by that I meant to be able to really grasp the significance of what is happening here and now.  I often see things, but I don't get the underlying meaning or put "two and two together" until some time has passed by.  I need that time to think, to ponder, and to question at times -- until I am able to process it all, and gain deeper appreciation and understanding.  God is so very patient with me, so very Good to allow me this time to think things through.  I need that time, and I need to think about everything so it is clear to me.  I think this is why God does what He does in my life, and why I often write out my feelings so that I can "see" them in plain sight, and get their meaning.

This is where I am now, struggling with these past changes, and trying to grasp what exactly is the will of God.  I have an opportunity to attend BSU this fall and begin work on a second Masters degree.  It makes good sense, and it would provide excellent preparation for my PhD.  However, this plan seens so NOT doable, really impossible to do.  I know that all things are possible with God, but since I am not Him, I am finding the path incredibly difficult to follow.  I want to follow it.  I want to go where I think it is leading, but I cannot see anyway around this gigantic boulder blocking my way. 

I need work, this is for certain, but God has consistently told me that my work is my schooling.  I am to do nothing other than my schooling until I graduate from Mercy College.  I am not certain how I got in this spot, but I am sure it has to do with me deciding that I needed some more credentials to help me get "that job."  I know it does, and I know that I did it -- I went seeking certification because I thought it would be good to find out about it.  I jumped into this frying pan, and I took the lead.  I asked the Lord's permission, mind you; but, I did it on my own.  Now, I am accepted, and I am about to climb over this huge rock.  I don't think I have it in me, I don't think I can do it.  The Lord tells me that I can, and that I need to trust Him.  I don't see any way around it, through it, or over it.  It is a mountain, and it is unscalable.

Oh Lord, what have I done?  I have lost my peace (your peace), and I am now fretting and worrying about something I have done.  I will do your will, and I will focus on my studies -- but am I to do both of these programs?  I don't want to sacrifice one for the other.  I don't want to mess this up -- this blessed thing you have brought into my life.  Help me now to know the truth, to understand and grasp the meaning of what I have done, and then tell me (show me) a way out.  Thank you, Jesus!  It is in your Name that I pray this now, Amen.

Update

I received my notice today that I am being inducted into Sigma Tau Delta, The International English Honors Society.  I am really excited about the honor and this will look really good on my transcripts as well as my resume (for teaching, etc.).  It is a nice recognition after maintaining my GPA in graduate school.  My goal now is to keep my GPA up and graduate with college honors as well.

I have also gone ahead and submitted my materials to Boise State University for a Masters in Educational Technology.  I am still unsure how I will pay for this school as well as complete the required 36 units, but I feel that the Lord is leading me to do it, so I have obeyed.  The program offers a different kind of challenge to me, less theoretical and more practical, so my hope is that I can do both (they overlap).  My eventual goal will be to teach Instructional Design and/or work as an Instructional Designer for a college or University. 

This degree will also provide excellent reference and practical application for Old Dominion University's PhD in English program.  I have wafled back and forth on whether to study English or Communications.  The emphasis is really the same, just a slightly different tack through the course work.  ODU's program will be in Professional Writing and New Media, whereas Regent's degree would be mostly Communication Theory (Language emphasis).  The one bonus for me is that I would be able to pass ODU's language requirement by submitting a project demonstrating New Media (my culminating project from Boise State).  It waives the traditional language exam, and that lets off the pressure for me to study and prep for it.

My eventual goal is the same, but the added advantage is that I will have more options for practical work.  My MA in English will provide Subject Level expertise along with my PhD.  My MET will provide practical coursework required by Universities for this type of career.  It seems a win-win situation, so long as I am open to taking an extra two years of courses, and putting off my PhD for one year.  All in all, it is a good plan, and it is doable for me.  The money is still at issue, but I am certain that if God wants this for me, then He will provide a way for me to attend these schools.

I am pleased with this path, and I am praying for the Lord's leading on how to proceed.  He knows what He wants me to do, and I am trusting Him to provide a way.  God is so very Good to me today.

April 16, 2011

Living Small Rather than Large


No doubt you have heard the saying "Living Large" and you understand the gist behind it.  If not, then consider what the Free Dictionary has to say about this idiom:

able to pay for and enjoying a very expensive style of living

The media likes to use this phrase to descibe Big Government, and the path our country has been on the last two-three dozen years.  But this concept actually can have meaning in any context or in any person's life.

My life is rather small, or at the least, that is how I see it.  I just came home from Macy's, and I am bushed.  My legs ache beyond words, and my back is barely able to remain upright (to support me).  I am tired too, and tomorrow, I have to open at 10:00 and I am not sure how I will be able to make it all day.  Oh well, God knows my needs and He is so GOOD to me.

I was over on Facebook, and after reading some of the other posts, I was struck by how ordinary and so very limited my life is right now.  I don't have the latest technology, and I don't even have a FT job.  My life revolves around three things:  home, church, and my schooling.  I don't have time for much else and while I would like to have those great experiences now, I simply do not have the time to do anything more than what I doing.  I don't even know how I will make it through the next year or two.  My school work takes a lot of my time, and my other interests fill up the rest.  Then there is work, and the drain it takes on my physically -- I would love to be on the go, moving, working, and enjoying my life -- but at times -- it just seems so hard, so heavy, and the burden great.  Yet, despite it all, I am content, and I have peace and joy inside my heart.  I am Good because my God is so Good.

"The LORD lives! Praise to my Rock! May God, the Rock of my salvation, be exalted!  2 Samuel 22:47 NLT

Casting My Net -- Again!

Then he said, "Throw out your net on the right-hand side of the boat, and you'll get some!" So they did, and they couldn't haul in the net because there were so many fish in it. John 21:6 NLT

Last year, I wrote a blog post about casting my net out into the sea of job prospects.  The idea was that sometimes you have to throw your net out into the opportunities to see what might get caught.  Often we try and plan and figure everything out so that it is aligned in neat little rows.  We like sequential order, to have everything in it's place and all in a timely manner.  Unfortunately, life doesn't always work that way.  Sometimes what we want doesn't come to pass or the opportunity is not yet available to us.  Sometimes we have to trust God to provide when we cannot see anything at all ahead of us.  This is where I am at now.  I am sitting here today blogging, and I do not know what I am supposed to be doing job-wise.  God has laid before me a clear path, a way for me to go, and I am walking along with Him.  I know that I am going where He has directed me, but I am confused on a couple points.  I know the final outcome, the desired destination, but I am confused about the little paths that are now showing up round every corner.  Do I turn here?  Do I continue on straight until the next turn?

The other day, the Lord told me to GO.  This is His way of saying, "you have my permission to follow this path."  He has told me to go before, and I didn't go because I was uncertain of how to go about getting where I thought He wanted me to be.  I didn't SEE how to get there, so I gave up, and said "I cannot go."  Now, I am being told to GO, and yet again, I don't see how to get there.  I think there is a pattern here, there is something mighty fishy (pun intended) going on.  God clearly is giving me a second chance to GO, and I am faltering like I did before.  I am choosing to shut down and not trust Him to provide a way.

I am reminded of the Don Moen song, "God will make a way,"

God will make a way
Where there seems to be no way
He works in ways we cannot see
He will make a way for me
He will be my guide
Hold me closely to His side
With love and strength
For each new day
He will make a way
He will make a way

By a roadway in the wilderness
He'll lead me
And rivers in the desert will I see
Heaven and earth will fade
But His Word will still remain
He will do something new today

So here I am thinking about all of this and wondering what I am to do.  The likely course of action is that I will heed the Lord's directive and GO.  This means that I will accept the invitation to study at Boise State and worry about financial availability later.  If God chooses for me to take this program, then it is up to Him to "make a way for me."  I believe that He can, and I know that He will.  He has demonstrated His faithfulness to me on more than one occassion.  He has provided abundantly, and clearly, if something is His will, then He makes it possible for the THING (whatever it may be) to come to pass.  I know this about Him, and I have seen Him provide in the past.  I need to trust Him today, and believe that He will make a way for me.

April 15, 2011

A Fork In the Road -- Again!

WOW!  When life throws you a curve ball, what do you do?  I am in a pickle right now, and I need to make an important decision ASAP.  I was all set on Thursday, and then today, received news that sent my head spinning.  I did what I could do, trying to keep everything in order and aligned, but I ended up feeling more unsure than ever.  What do I do?

Two weeks ago I found a link that took me to a website that I thought just might hold the key to all my worries about finding a good practical job.  I have been searching for a job actively since December 2009 (about 16 months now).  I have had some good interviews, and some bad ones (rough is more on par), but no job offers in all this time.  I have redone my resume, getting some counseling and employment advice from several different people (counselor, friend, and recruiter).  The process has been difficult for me, and I finally gave up the search about three weeks ago.  I really felt that I was outsourced, and that there was no practical job here in Arizona.  Of course, there are jobs, just jobs that for whatever reason don't seem to fit me.  I came to the conclusion that the only job I was to have was the one I already had -- and that was to work PT at Macy's, and finish my Masters program at Mercy College.

I made up my mind to stick to what I already had in place, and to stop searching all together.  I was content, or so I thought, and even though I knew that I needed a job, I decided to wait upon the Lord, and wait for Him to bring an opportunity to me.  This decision to wait, to stop looking, and to trust in the Lord was met with disapproval from family members.  Of course, they are concerned about my living situation, and my ability to pay my bills.  They think I am giving up, and that I am choosing to quit rather than try harder.  I have tried to convince them, to get my feelings on the matter to make sense, and to help them see that the only one who can provide a job to me is God.  I certainly have given it the best try, and nothing I have done has made a lick of sense or been effective.  Nothing has happened, nothing has shifted, and no job has appeared.

So two weeks ago, I started to look at other opportunities, and I considered the cost of getting my teaching credential here in AZ.  I am not adverse to teaching students (Middle or High), and I thought I would pursue that course -- just to see what would be involved.  I quickly realized that while I could do that, I would have a hard time getting the required "teaching experience" necessary for the credential.  It dawned on me that I would be stuck in the very same boat as I am in now -- lots of practical business experience, no teaching experience, and lack of education (for now).  Teaching is simply out of my reach, whether adult or K-12.

In my search for online credential preparation programs, I landed on Boise State University's website.  I found a link to their Educational Technology program that offered a 9-unit Online Teaching Certificate.  This certificate would offer training in development of online teaching courses.  I thought that perhaps this might be a good thing to add to my Masters degree.  I prayed over it, and then decided to apply.  The cost was low, and I knew I would be accepted.  Even with one class per semester, it wouldn't break the bank and it could be done along side my Mercy courses.

I emailed the Program Coordinator who helped me figure out some options.  She was helpful, and suggested a Masters in Educational Technology, given my website design/graphic design experience.  I saw that the department offered tuition waivers for graduate assistants and thought perhaps this might be the solution to my needs.  I could work part-time from home, do the courses, and graduate with a second Masters degree.

Well, as it turned out, I did get accepted to the school pending department approval.  Today, I met with the Program Advisor, and ended up getting a boat load of very good advice.  I left the conversation wondering now what I should do.  The advisor was the first person who suggested to me that my previous work skill and this degree would enable me to find work as an Instructional Designer at a college or University.  I have seen these jobs, and they are good -- they pay really well.  He told me that they will not hire me without a MET degree.  I already knew that, but what I didn't know was that my Masters in English made me a Subject-Level Expert, and in combination with my design and courses -- I would in effect be a dynamite package to any school.  His words were the first to actually make sense to me, and to potentially demonstrate a way for me to put together all my work experience and education into one job.

This sounds perfect, right?  The downside to all this was that I found out that it will be very unlikely that I will get an assitantship this first year.  The program prefers to hire second year students.  Well, that will be good next year, but it doesn't help me this year.  Plus I don't think I can do two programs at the same time and work at Macy's PT.  I don't know how to do it, or how to pay for these courses.  Without the waiver, I will have to pay for this education on my own.

Gosh -- I am so confused right now.  I believed that this path was the Lord's will for me, and that this path would lead me to a good paying job.  Now, I am accepted to two graduate schools (which is pretty amazing), and have the option of completing a double Masters degree.  I don't know how I will pay for it, and I don't know if I should take the extra year and do this program instead of going directly to my PhD. 

Dear Lord,

I am so confused on this matter.  I thought this was IT.  Once again, I looked to the opportunity as the answer to all my problems.  I know you have a plan, and it is Good.  I know that you know my needs, and have provision ready for me.  I cannot see how this will work, so I ask now that you help me to understand what you want from me, and whether this is the path to take.  Please help me, Lord.  Help me to know what to do, and then follow your plan and path.  In Jesus' Name I ask this now -- Amen.

The Lord IS LORD of All

Amazing testimony today -- God is SO very GOOD to me!

A New Instrument

My son is an aspiring musician, and currently plays piano/keyboards, guitar (acoustic and electric), and bass.  He is learning how to play the drums as well.  He wants to add violin and saxophone to that list, but for now, is content to work in his current instruments only.

The other night, I came home from work and found him playing his digital grand piano with an organ voice.  His piano allows this, and often he will play around with the various voices.  When he has his 61-keyboard on top of his piano, he will often play with two hands (one on top and one of the bottom).  He can mimic some pretty amazing players, and is gaining a nice reputation at our church as an all-around musician.

I listened to him play through the hymnal, and then spent some time singing with him.  He loves to have me sing with him, and we try and sing harmony (not very well!)  Afterwards, he told me that he really would love to learn to play a manual organ, and that he had already asked our church organist for permission to play the church organ (it is quite lovely).  She said yes (of course!)  He went on to say that he would love to have an organ here at home, but I said that I didn't know if you could still buy them.  He told me that he found some used online, and that they were available.  I said, OK -- that's fine -- just put it on the "list" with the grand piano, the violin and the saxophone (laughing).  This is our little joke -- we just keep adding things to our "list" and then let them go.  My cello is on this list too, as is a violin for me to play.  These are dreams/wants that we both talk about often, but do not have the money set aside to purchase them.

Well, after I went to bed, I was praying to myself, and I said "Lord, I hope it is Ok for me to have told DJ that he could have an organ someday.  I don't know where we would put it, but I don't mind trying to fit one in, if you think it is a good thing?"  The Lord replied, "Yes, this is my will.  I have need of DJ learning how to play the organ."  Well, that answer usually means that it is done-deal, that at some point, we will get an organ (or whatever thing is needed).  I went to sleep thinking that there was absolutely no way we could fit an organ into our tiny home.

The very next morning, I received a call from my son's music teacher asking me if we wanted an organ.  Apparently, a friend of hers had one and was moving and needed it to go to a good home.  No one in her family wanted the thing, and she was offering it for free.  I said "Yes!"  Well, here we are -- waiting to pick up an organ.  We have no knowledge of it other than it is a Wurlitzer and is probably 20-30 or more years old.  It works well, and has 3 keyboards.  I do not know how the thing is going to fit into my home, LOL!

So the moral of this tale is this:  when the Lord has need of something, He always makes a provision for it.  I think the key is also that the person whom the Lord is needing to use or do the task must be willing or else the Lord chooses to someplace else or with some other person.  When the person and task match up, the Lord provides exactly what is needed at the very moment it is needed.

I am astounded by His kindness towards us, and by His willingness to meet needs like this.  I think it is kind of funny too, because we have other "more important" needs (my view), and yet, the Lord chooses to bless us with something like this -- another instrument for our son to play/experiment/learn.  God is SO UNUSUALLY GOOD (and by that I mean UNUSUAL -- You can never put Him into a box, or even attempt to understand His mind.  He is TOO MUCH, TOO BIG, AND TOO GREAT A GOD for that effort!!)

A New Bed

So the news of the organ passed our home with great enthusiam.  DJ was overjoyed, and even my DH was Ok with the added instrument.  We made some plans yesterday for moving things, to make room for this organ.  As part of that process, some other good things came to light.  First off, my DH was willing to part with some of the old broken items sitting in the office.  I have tried to get the office sorted for a long while, but he wasn't willing to let things go.  Finally it seems that he is Ok with it, so I see some major organization and cleaning on the horizon (PTL!)

I have been thinking about getting my son a new bed for a long time.  He is presently in a Queen size bed, and it takes up the majority of his floor space.  I have thought about putting him back in a twin bed, which would make his room more functional (not to mention easier to keep clean).  He often plays guitar and takes his large amp in there -- I barely can get the door opened -- and always complain about the wires on the floor.  So, I was talking about getting him a new bed, and said that I thought it would make better use of the space.  I had already prayed over this and the Lord agreed with me that a smaller bed would be a good choice.  Again, this item was relegated to the "wish list" as there is no extra money set aside to redo my son's room.

This morning my Mom calls (which is normal) and tells me that my cousin is redoing her upstairs bedroom and has a twin bed to give to us.  We need to go over and pick it up, and basically we are good to go.  She decided to turn that room into a computer room, and the bed needs to go.  WOW!  Another awesome provision from God's own hand!!  How BLESSED we are right now!!

As I ponder on all this new blessing, I am awestruct at the MAGNITUDE of God's provision.  Some might question me on how I come to have these blessings, and how I often say that the "Lord said this or that."  I know it seems mighty strange, but all I can say is that God is there, really there, and He is waiting to be in a personal relationship with His children, His creation.  The problem is that so many people don't want that kind of relationship with God.  They want Him to be up there (^) and to stay up there.  They like that He is SOVEREIGN and that He REIGNS, but they don't really want Him to bring His Sovereignty and Headship down into their daily lives.  They like to be in charge of the doing and going and saying, and leave God up there to the "Big" things.  The funny thing is that God likes to be in the midst of the doing, the saying, and the going.  He is able to do the BIG amd the SMALL, and He really does have the time and inclination to be involved in the littleness of our lives.  He likes to be needed, to be relied upon, and to be there as Provider.  Unfortunately, too many people who call themselves Christian (in that they profess faith in Jesus Christ), don't really know God at all.  They know about Him, a lot about Him, and they study a lot, read a lot, and do a lot for His Name.  They just don't know Him personally, or that well personally speaking.  There is a big difference between knowing the person of Jesus Christ, and being in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  God alone is able to bring His Presence into the life of a believer, but they must be willing to allow Him entry.  They must allow Him to be a partner, a covenantal partner, with them.  This relationship is symbolized by the soulmate relationship between David and Jonathan.  They were brothers, they loved one another, and their souls were knitted together (1 Samuel 18:1).  God desires for us to be in this kind of relationship, whereby our soul is knitted together with His Holy Spirit.  Nothing else can take this place, this honor in the relationship -- only our soul being united with His Presence through the Power of the Holy Spirit.  In doing so, we experience kinship, friendship, and love like no other.  God is able to love us so completely, and we are able to experience that love in ways that no other person, place or thing can ever do for us.  Only God, Only God is able to do this, but to experience it, we must be willing to knitted together with His Holy Spirit in the bonds of love.

I wish more people would choose to experience this kind of love.  I think they would find that their lives would change drastically, and that this change would alter their ways.  They would find peace and contentment and joy -- supernatural joy that springs from a deep devotion to God.  It is possible, it is available, but it begins with a relationship based on faith in Jesus Christ.  It doesn't happen overnight, it takes a long while, and a long walk with God to develop true friendship.  The result is so worth the wait, so worth the journey.  I cannot tell you how blessed the journey is when the Lord is leading you, and when you are walking after Him, trusting Him, and depending upon Him for everything.  It is blessed assurance, and it is a life that lives, that breathes, and that functions within that blessedness.

May God be praised today and evermore for He is SO GOOD to me!  Alleluia, God be Praised today!!

April 14, 2011

Every Good Gift

Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow. James 1:17 NLT

God's gifts are amazingly perfect -- perfect in every aspect, in every way.  Nothing He gives is LESS THAN what is needed or required -- every gift is MORE THAN expected.  God gives to us the very thing we need, in the moment when it is needed.  He is GOOD that way, and in doing so, we learn to trust Him, to rely upon Him, and to rest in His security.  God knows our needs (Matthew 6:8), and He knows how to meet our needs better than anyone in this world.  God wants to meet our needs, God wants to be our sole (soul) provider.  Yet, we turn to everyone and every OTHER thing instead of God.  No wonder we suffer through hardship, and struggle to make ends meet, to find our way each day.  If only, if only we would turn to God, trust Him, and rely on Him to be our Provider -- then we would have that soul satisfaction, and that blessed sense of Peace that only He can give to us:

"I am leaving you with a gift--peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don't be troubled or afraid.  John 14:27 NLT

I have learned what it means to rely on the Lord for my very being, for my daily needs.  God has provided Good to me, and He has consistently met each need with His Providential Favor.  I lack nothing, I have everything to full and to overflowing. God is providing, has been providing, and will continue to provide for me.  He is my everything, and I bow before Him to give Him thanks and praise for His Goodness towards me.  

There is a Name I love to hear,
I love to sing its worth;
It sounds like music in my ear,
The sweetest Name on earth.

It tells me of a Savior’s love,
Who died to set me free;
It tells me of His precious blood,
The sinner’s perfect plea.

It tells me of a Father’s smile
Beaming upon His child;
It cheers me through this little while,
Through desert, waste, and wild.

It tells me what my Father hath
In store for every day,
And though I tread a darksome path,
Yields sunshine all the way.

It tells of One whose loving heart
Can feel my deepest woe;
Who in each sorrow bears a part
That none can bear below.

It bids my trembling heart rejoice;
It dries each rising tear;
It tells me, in a “still small voice,”
To trust and never fear.

Jesus, the Name I love so well,
The Name I love to hear:
No saint on earth its worth can tell,
No heart conceive how dear.

This Name shall shed its fragrance still
Along this thorny road,
Shall sweetly smooth the rugged hill
That leads me up to God.

And there with all the blood-bought throng,
From sin and sorrow free,
I’ll sing the new eternal song
Of Jesus’ love for me.

Oh, how I love Jesus,
Oh, how I love Jesus,
Oh, how I love Jesus,
Because He first loved me!

Oh How I Love Jesus by Frederick Whitfiled

April 13, 2011

I Am OK

Today has been a really interesting day for me. First off, I woke up late, but feeling more refreshed. My feet are struggling with pain and stiffness, but this is due to my not wearing tennis shoes to work at Macy's. I was called on my tennis shoe use on Saturday, and reminded that athletic shoes are not permitted without a Doctor's note. I have been wearing Dickies brand shoes since Christmas, and they are the only shoe that has held up, and helped my feet not to ache as much. Unfortunately, I am back to wearing my clogs, and my foot is swollen due to their use. I have to work tonight again, and I am not sure which shoe to wear. I cannot wear my Dickies or else face getting reprimanded again. Agh! The trials and tribulations of working retail!

The good news is that despite the foot swelling and pain, I actually feel pretty good inside. My head doesn't ache (PTL!), and my back is stiff, but the soreness is wearing away without the use of Advil. I am content, and I feel really at peace. I cannot tell why, other than I think I finally feel good about the plans the Lord has for me. Perhaps it is just that I have let things be, and I am resting in the security of knowing that God is in control, and that He has covered me with His wings of love. I feel safe, and I am not worried. I know God will provide for me, and that He has consistently enabled me to receive His blessing. He will not change on this matter, so I can rest knowing that He will continue to be as He is -- always Faithful, always Secure, and always my Provision. He is Good to me, and I love Him.

I dropped my son off at college, thanking the Lord for this provision. My son found out that his scholarship automatically renews and so long as he maintains a 3.2 GPA, he will receive a tuition waiver. His current GPA is 4.0, and hopefully, it will remain this high until final grades are posted. Nonetheless, he is assured of free tuition for next semester. Praise be to God, for He is so Good to us!

I arrived home, still thinking about all the Lord has done. I cannot help but give Him praise because of what He has done. I cannot even begin to write it all down because the list would be too long. This blog is really my way of remembering all that God has done for me over the course of the last five or six years. It chronicles my growth as a Christian, and it gives testimony to the Graciousness of God in His way of dealing with me, helping me to understand and process change, and to find hope in the midst of sorrow, and in learning how to live the life of His choosing. My blog, therefore, is my written testimony of living as a Christian woman. It is not all love and balloons. There are posts that are hard, are difficult, and even at times, angry and devoid of compassion. There are other posts that offer up praise to God, thanks to Him, and joy in the rest His Spirit provides to me. It is a mixture of heartfelt sorrow, turmoil, and even shame -- sprinkled in with a heavy dose of God-breathed life and liberalism. It is truth, and it is plain in the sense that it is all out there.

Some readers have commented on how uncomfortable they feel by what was said about a particular person or thing; others have been more sympathethic about my experience. I think in all, the purpose has been to demonstrate real life.  Real life is messy, and at times it is downright painful and difficult to tolerate (as well as to read about from someone else). Real life is truth, and it is honest, and while that may make some uncomfortable, it is what it is. My life is not neat. It is not spiritually-whitewashed, clean and sparkly -- what most Christians want to see and read. It is messy, and at times ugly, and sad and depressing. Yet, within that gloom and doom, there are jewels of blessed assurance, the peace of God, and the uplifting of the Holy Spirit. In other words, my life is so totally NORMAL. And, I think that is exactly what God wants this blog to demonstrate. I think God wants the world, readers who pass by, to see that Christians are not perfect (and no, not the tag line either "forgiven" -- argh! I hate that smugness -- no wonder it greatly offends so many people!!). I think the goal is to show that the Christian life is NORMAL, but with one advantage -- and that is -- the blessed union of God, Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ. My life is normal, yet so very not normal. It is supernaturally infused by the Grace of God, and in such a way, I am able to live abundantly, and to be filled the blessed joy of God's Gracious Holy Spirit. This is the life that God wishes others to see, that it is possible to have peace and joy in the midst of the trials and hardships. Peace, love, happiness -- these are fruits of the Holy Spirit and they are indeed possible and expected -- but only when believers rest and trust in the Vine of God.

"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me." John 15:1-4 NIV

April 11, 2011

A Way Out

I am praying for a way out.  Well, I have been praying for a way out for about two years now.  The way out for me has appeared blocked, at the least, it has not been easily identified and recognized.  Today, after dropping my son off at college, I prayed to the Lord for His answer to my needs.  I am confident in His ability to provide and meet my needs, but I wondered how and when they "would" come to me.  I have tried these past months to find good practical work which would meet my needs.  I have estimated that I need roughly $2k per month to cover all expenses and generally live a modest, yet comfortable life (I live a "small life," and by that I mean, that other than enjoying a meal out, I am prefer to stay close to home, or be over at my parents or at some church event.  I don't do alot of entertaining and I don't go out to places for enjoyment.)  My life consists of my home, my school work, my cello lesson and chamber group, and my son's life which includes his college, his music needs and his church/ministry work.  This is the sum total of what I do each day, and with the exception of my time working at Macy's, I am pretty much a recluse of sorts.  I like to watch DVDs, eat comfort food, and blog on the computer (and do FaceBook and other social things like participate on my Yahoo home school groups).  I lead a very small and very sheltered life, but I like it, and it suits me well.  I am quiet, I am content, and I am not the most thrilling person to be around.  I like to sit quietly and think.  I like to ponder big questions, and I like to watch people (to observe them doing things).  I am not super social, and I don't crave excitement or the thrill of doing great things.  No, I prefer just to be at home, to spend quiet time, and to live very simply on my own.

As I prepare for my life, I find that these are the very things the Lord has in mind for me as well.  I wish it were the opposite, that He wanted me to do great things in His Name (He does), and that my days were to be filled with exciting events -- but alas, I have a funny feeling that my life will be just as it is now -- quiet and very plain (simple).  I used to think that to be "plain" meant I had to adopt a legalistic view of religion, to adopt dress and standards that many "plain" people follow.  I learned that under Grace, I can be plain, if that is how God has called me without adorning myself with ritual dress codes and standards that are impossible to keep.  No, in my Grace-based faith, plain really means living a simple life devoted to one cause, to one thing, and that cause and thing happen to be a relationship with God.  My plain life means that I am wholly devoted to God and that I am to do and to think on the things of His choosing.  I am to go where He sends me, to live where He tells me to live.  I am not to be concerned or worried about the latest appearance or fad, or how to be a social butterfly when He has not created that Spirit of Hospitality within me.  I am to be the person He created me to be, to be centered and grounded, and so very comfortable in being who I am.  I am to find my worth and my being in His Name, and my purpose in His Work.  In this way, He is able to use me as I am, just as I am, and place me where He needs to most. 

I don't have to be anything else, I don't have to change, because the change that does occur happens without my help, without my knowledge, and without my effort.  God changes me to suit His purpose and need.  I conform, I am being conformed -- not by any work on my part, but by my being willing to allow that conform to take place.  God does it all, and in this work, He receives Glory.  He is to be praised, not me -- thank God that He is to be praised for this mighty work.  I am greatful that He is doing this work in me and through me, and I realize that the person I am, the desires I have, and the needs I feel are all part of His marvelous plan and provision for my life.  He knows me, and He knows my needs.  He knows that I prefer to live a very small life.  He knows that I don't really care to have the best of everything, and that I would rather have sturdy, solid, and practical things around me.  He knows that I do like comfort, and that is OK.  I like comfy chairs to sit in, and a nice TV to watch programs that I enjoy.  I like my books and my music, and I like art work.  I like things to be very quiet in my home, and I love to garden and sit in the garden.  Mostly, I just like to sit and think about God, and that is OK too.

Therefore, as I prayed today, the Holy Spirit helped me understand that everything in my life is as it should be.  I have a quiet home, and I have sturdy things around me.  I have my peace, and I have the things I enjoy most.  I am able to study, and I am able to work at those things God has called me to do for work.  I lack nothing, I am full, and I am content.  Yes, I do worry about where the money will come from tomorrow, and whether I will have the mortgage payment in July, but something tells me (or should I say someone) that I needn't worry about that now.  It will be OK, and tomorrow will have it's provision just like today.  He has shown me it is so, and He has demonstrated that His provision comes when it is needed.  I confess that over the past four years I have not gone without a thing, not a thing.  The bills have been paid.  The mortgage has been made.  Yes, there were a couple months when we were late on the payment, but they were paid eventually (with fees).  Since 2010 though I have been in control of the bills and we have made them, almost every month.  Once or twice we were late, but that was not so much due to not having the money to pay them, but rather that I wasn't given the notice in time to pay them.  I paid them when I was told the service was to be shut off (and it was).  My worry is more about not being able to pay, than not having enough to pay.  I know that I will always have enough, for God has promised this to me.  I am eager and willing to do my part, but in this very thing it seems that God is determined to do it for me.  I am to do what He asks of me and nothing more.  He has me covered and by that He means that He covers me with His pinion feathers and I am safely where He wants me to be.  I am covered with the blood of Jesus and I am tucked inside my Father's loving arms.  Nothing can harm me, nothing can hurt me, and I am completely safe.  I am good because God is so very Good to me.