December 30, 2012

Good Sunday Morning!

Whew, it is almost the work week again! This weekend has flown by so fast, and I am not ready for it to end. I did get my new computer to work - finally! Well, I mean, it worked right out of the box, but with Windows 8, it took me a while to figure out how to do normal things (like print, get email, etc.) I am still not 100% crazy about the new Windows, however, I can manage well enough to do what I normally do on the computer: check mail, surf the Internet, go to Facebook, etc.

I spent most of yesterday adding my old files to the new machine. I also applied for a position at ASU, our local University. They are looking for a Student Recruiter for their Graduate MBA program. It is a long shot, since ASU is very difficult to get into for an interview. I followed the instructions for submitting my resume, and hopefully, will at least get a call back. I am letting this go, not worrying over it, and just waiting to see what the Lord has in mind for me.

Friday I applied for a Communications position at one of our local churches. It is a long-shot as well and I don't know if they would consider me for that job. I have the right skills, it is more a matter of the fact that I am not a member and I don't want to leave my home church and attend another. I applied a whim, so we will see if anything comes from my interest.

I spent last evening with my parents having dinner at The Olive Garden. Afterwards, I came home and promptly felt ill (again!) I have decided that I cannot tolerate gluten, and that my New Year's resolution is to start a detox program, and eliminate gluten from my diet. I need to lose 30 lbs., and I have tried Weight Watchers and Atkins, both diets worked for me many years ago, but this time around, I got little results.

I watched a video on eating the right carbs, and protein, and how the combination, if not exact, can cause a hormonal imbalance which sends your body into fat storing mode. This is the only explanation I can think of because I am not overeating. I do crave cookies, pastas, etc., but it is not like I sit down and eat an entire bag. I may have 1-2 cookies in the evening or have pasta once a week.

I have put on 30 lbs over the last couple years. I have tried to change my eating habits, but nothing has worked for me. I thought it was because of my age, and the fact that I am premenopausal now. I am sure that does have something to do with it. I don't feel well, and I am always tired. I also suffer from terrible bloating and gas -- all signs of gluten allergies. Also, my sinusitis has been really bad this year, with migraines and sinus pain fairly consistently a problem.

I prayed over what I should do and this is what the Lord has advised me to do: follow a Biblical approach to eating well. No miracle cure, mind you, but a good plan that is based upon biblical evidence that eating natural and whole foods is the best way to take care of our bodies. I searched for examples of menus and plans, and there are some websites out there that promise results, but require $$$ to follow them. I am interested in simple and free -- always free.

Anyways, after carefully researching what foods are acceptable, and what foods need to be avoided, I came up with a pretty simply detox plan that should jump start my diet and help me eliminate offending foods.

Sample Menu

Breakfast - glass of warm water with lemon (to detox)
Fruit or berries
Oatmeal with nut milk (no dairy is allowed)
Herb tea

Snack am and pm - fresh fruit like an apple or pear

Lunch - salad with raw vegies and an olive oil based dressing (with lemon or herbs)

Dinner - brown rice with steam vegies such as broccoli, beans or lentils

At least eight (8) glasses of water per day

I plan on following this detox plan for 7 days. Once I complete 7 days, I will slowly add back in organic chicken or turkey, but no other meats.

Foods I plan to stay away from permanently include:

Margarine
Concentrated juices
White/Whole wheat bread
Corn
Processed or refined foods (foods with more than one ingredient)
Coffee
Diary
Aspartame and other artificial sweeteners
Carbonated water (no sodas)

These leaves me with whole foods that are made up of one ingredient like rice, sweet potatoes, carrots, etc. I am going to restrict my diet to eating foods that can be combined into meals with natural additions such as olive oil, honey, etc. My goal is to reduce the overload of processed and chemically-laden foods into my system to see if this resolves a lot of the health issues I suffer from regularly.

At the minimum, I should lose weight. The long-term goal is of course better health. I want to lose the weight to reduce back, neck and shoulder pain (my middle and my heavy breasts always strain my upper back). I want to kibosh intestinal distress, and be free from my dependency on the nearest restroom. And I want to still these migraines that I know are triggered by chemicals.

I am giving myself plenty of time to detox from the chemicals in my foods. I want to do this right, and be free from the weight and other health-related problems for life. My hope is that I can make it through the first couple weeks. I remember that weeks one and two were most difficult for me when I was on Atkins and Weight Watchers. After those first weeks, the eating plan and the changes I made seemed to work fine, and the weight came off.

My number one New Years 2013 resolution is to get my health back, and to start feeling better.

Dear Lord,

You know that my weight has been an issue for a long time. I have tried everything I can think of to shed these pounds. More so, my health has been a constant complaint, and I am tired of complaining about how I feel each day. I am asking now for the Grace to stick to a whole and natural eating plan, knowing that I will lose weight, but more importantly, I will feel better and have more energy and less mood swings and other difficulties. I ask for your help to provide me with the right foods to eat, easy to make recipes, and supplements so that I can stick to this plan for life. It is time for me to give up chemicals and other processed foods and additives that have wrecked havoc with my health and immune systems. I know you desire that I live a healthy life, and that I take care of the body you have given to me. I don't want to focus on this any more. I don't want it to take precedence over what I am thinking, so I ask for your help to put my health back in order, and for the ability to change how I look at food, and how I eat food for 2013. I ask this now in Jesus' Name, Amen.

December 29, 2012

Looking Again

I cannot believe that I am saying this, but I am actively looking for a job - again! Oh, how I wish it weren't true -- I really wanted to stay put this time -- and I so hoped that CVS Caremark would be the place I could stay for a long while.

I made the decision to change jobs last weekend, after a brutal week at work where I suffered the ongoing assault of disgruntled clients and account managers. It wasn't my fault, of course, but the target on my back (and those of the other analysts) was the VISUAL needed to aim their frustration. I had been told to expect this level of frustration when I was hired back in September. I was told that it would be this way, and while I understood, and even knew it was coming -- I just didn't expect it to be so vehemently nasty. I can handle disgruntled customers, and while I don't like having to soothe ruffled feathers, and play nicey-nice, I do it when it serves the greater good. I was prepared for having to soothe feathers. I was open to being the calm and resonant voice of reason. I wasn't prepared to be thrown to the lions, and to be clawed at by the vultures swooping over head. No, I don't lay exposed that way for any company, for any reason or for any purpose.

The big reason for my decision to leave, despite the not-so-nice playground behavior, is the way the company, and more specifically management, has handled the implementation of a new print vendor. The vendor, while I am sure was a recommended, and highly respected firm, has not been able to do the work promised. Senior Management made the decision to switch vendors during the busiest time of year, our Welcome Season. They instituted new policy, new ways of handling business, new ways of creating templates -- the entire system was changed -- right at the start of October. This led, of course, to major issues, many of which remain unresolved.

I don't fault the workers at this vendor site, nor do I fault the consultants who have given hours and hours of time to try and make this implementation work. I simply fault the person who made the decision to go ahead and change the most critical part of our process so late in the year -- when billions of dollars are on the line, and when tempers flare hottest, and when it "matters" that every detail is covered, and every single requirement met. This is the person or group of people I fault most. These are the ones who sat smugly at internal meetings and assured the team that everything would be well, and that come January 1, our company and our clients would all be smiling and happy as campers.

Unfortunately, it was made very clear on Wednesday, that the printer was down -- and by that _- I mean simply out of business, unable to produce the materials needed in time for January 1. Moreover, they (or someone in power) made the decision to stop production and send temporary materials (like a printed one page document -- that we could have printed internally, and mailed out weeks ago) instead of the expected welcome letters and cards. This decision has not gone over lightly, it has been accepted because at the least account managers can deliver on some thing, and look the client in the face and say they produced "a product," if not the one the client agreed upon.

It is a sad business, a very sad business to see this come to pass. The analysts with whom I work, and specifically those who have been in their jobs two or more years, saw this impending crash and burn. Back in October, they raised concerns. In November, they asked about various scenarios (specialized print requirements), and then in December, they complained about lack of reporting tools (critical to what we do daily), and lack of data to let them know the status of print production requests. The light was fading, the process was chaotic, and the team in place to handle the issues seemed to be running around with band aids, patching here and there, but not healing the gaping wound.

The rumor in the wind is that we may all lose our jobs, even those of us who have done nothing but worked our little backsides off, 10-12 hours a day, solving major problems and concerns. Moreover, I have heard via a well-informed team member that there is a big meeting scheduled mid-January, supposedly to let us know what is going on or what is planned (as in action). My concern of course is that it will be communication too late -- that this sort of communication needed to go out to us (internally) to apprise us of the details of the failure when we could have acted upon it. Now two weeks after the fact, this meetings leads me to believe it is a "heads will roll" type of sum up. This could mean "you are out" or it could mean "we are changing plans." I don't know. I don't know if I want to know. I don't know if I want to be around to hear the news.

I have given my best to this company. I have put in my hours, and I have kept a good face on. I have done everything asked of me. I decided over Christmas that this wasn't how I wanted to spend my days. I need a job, don't get me wrong. I need to make money to live on. It is more that I am committed to the fact that I do not want to live with the stress of this kind of work, the failure of management to act, and the lack of communication (in essence letting us get bitten and chewed on while someone up there sits back and says "Oh this is not good, no this is not good.")

I don't have a lot of options right now. I need to work, so for the short-term my plans are to stay put, to see what comes of this debacle and to hope for the best. I did decide to stop the long hours. There is nothing I can do now that will make any difference. I work problem-resolution, and since the vendor cannot resolve these problems, I am at a loss to do anything productive. I can pull reports, and I can check whether cards were ordered. I cannot tell anyone whether cards have mailed or will mail. More so, given the fact that I know that printing is down, no cards are shipping out over 1/1, there is no point in trying to push or maneuver to the top of the line. No, I can only continue to give an "I don't know" response. I feel unproductive, inefficient, and as though I have failed in my job.

I don't like this feeling, and I don't like the fact that I have had to be dishonest (not intentionally). I do not like that by association I am part of the problem. I don't like being in this kind of position, and being at the end of a pointing finger.

So with that said, I am actively looking for another job. I am not sure what to do, or what kind of work I should seek, I just know that the next job has to provide the following to me:
  • Competitive salary and benefits (what I am making now)
  • Flexible schedule to allow for my studies at Regent (normal work hours are fine)
I cannot live on less than what I made at UOPX. I need at least that amount, if not what I am making now (which works out to about $200 more each pay period). I need some benefit package, though I consider this the least of my concerns right now. I need steady work, with good hours. My schooling will be online, but I don't know if I will have to attend a video course or be available during the week to speak with professors, etc. I don't think so. I think my online courses will be like Mercy -- asynchronous with set due dates, but not requirements for when to login each day. I will need 20 hours free each week to study. This is the minimum expected and I spent about this much time on Masters level work at Mercy. I am thinking it will be the same at Regent.

Any job that fits that criteria is OK. I am not going to be as picky about the work fitting me personally or about the drive (commute) or the environment. I don't care about those things anymore. I need work so I can live, and it has to not consume my time so I can devote that to the Lord's work (school for me).

Dear Lord,

I understand now that CVS Caremark offered a job that was a good fit for me personally. It was the kind of work I liked doing -- analytical, reporting, and data manipulation. It was just not meant to be the job for my career or life. It was a good job, a change from the grind at UOPX. Now, I need a job that fits YOU, and that works with YOUR PLAN for my life. I need to know that the next job or series of jobs are good fits for what you have in mind for me. I am ready to let go of my needs, my desires, and my wants, and choose instead to follow after what you want. I ask now that you provide a new job for me to go to in January. I would like to leave as soon as I can give notice, and go to a job that is less stressful, and more aligned with your design for my life. I ask that you provide whatever position you think is best, and I will accept it knowing that it is your choice for my life. I thank you, Lord, for your constant provision and for always looking out for me and making changes to better me, not to hurt me. Thank you, Lord, for your grace and mercy. I pray this now in the Name of Jesus, Amen. So be it, thy will be done. Selah! (pause, and calmly think about that!!)

December 27, 2012

It is a New Day

I renamed my blog "A New Day," a couple years ago. I had called it "The Country Cottage," for about five years, and most of my blog posts had to do with home schooling my son, and my life as a SAHM. So much has changed for me since those days -- and when I think back on them -- they seem so very far away. I found this picture yesterday when I started to prepare my new computer for use (loading applications, files, etc.) My how my son has grown up! I am thinking that this picture was taken in 2006, so six years ago. He is now 19, and a Sophomore in college. He still plays the piano, along with drums, keyboards, guitar and bass. God blessed us with music lessons, and the time and money invested was well spent.

Since this picture was taken back in 2006, my life has radically changed. I am no longer a SAHM. I am a full-time worker, and thank the Lord, a good provider for my son. I have completed college (graduate studies), and am now working as an Analyst for CVS Caremark in Scottsdale. I like the work I do, though I don't care for the very long hours, and the stress that accompanies this kind of work (loads of problem-resolution, upset clients, angry account managers, etc.)

I am seriously considering looking for other work, but do not want to go back into the job market, do the "interview" thing, and deal with the stress of finding another job (and settling in, meeting new people, etc.) I don't like change, and I don't like having to start over. Part of me wants to just stick this job out, even though I know that it will not work well with doctoral classes. I think I can squeak by until fall, but once the 2013 Welcome Season arrives, there will be no way for me to do school and keep up with the duties of working at CVS.

I honestly do not know what to do. Is it better for me to stay put until I have been at CVS for one full-year, and then move to another position? Or should I bite the bullet and look now -- taking the opportunity to move right away, should an opportunity present itself? I am not sure what the Lord wants me to do, but I do know that I am feeling the pressure to move, or at the least, to get prepared for a move.

My son is settled on ASU for the next two years, so this means we are staying put in Arizona. It is a good thing since my parents are selling their home and downsizing to an apartment. They need to reduce their expenses, and to let go of a property that requires maintenance and upkeep. They have decided to move to a lovely little place nearby, only two miles farther away, but still close to us, to shopping, to church, etc. It is a very good thing, and I believe it is the Lord's will for their lives.

I am usually the one who is convinced of God's will in my own life. I am usually the one who knows exactly what I am doing, and how I am doing it. Today, though, I feel befuddled, and like as if I am standing on a precipice and looking downward. All I see is the steep climb, and the uncertainty of a path.

God is calling me toward Regent, I do know this. I just don't know how I am to get there. I have been on a path through UOPX, and now CVS Caremark, where I would do "a job" until I graduated in 2017. I have been told, pressed upon by the Holy Spirit, that there is no career job for me, just good work (good income producing jobs) that I will do until that time. I want a career, well I did want one. I wanted one job where I could stay and work until I retired. I didn't want to switch jobs again, and have to start all over. The Lord has been clear with me that there is no other work for me to do but His work. There is no "job" out there but the job I do to provide daily income to cover our needs.

I have placed so much emphasis on getting a career, on having one path, one certain way to go. I have wanted to be a teacher (like my friends who retired recently after 30 plus years teaching high school Math). I have wanted to be an analyst, which I am, and work in a corporate position moving up the ladder until I can retire and have life benefits. I have wanted to security of a good job so that I didn't have to constantly rely on the Lord for provision.

He has said NO and He has maintained that I will rely on Him alone for my provision. It is not that the Lord looks down on steady income and a good job -- oh no! It is just that in my case I have placed so much emphasis on having a good job, that I have allowed it to become an idol I worship. I admit it, it is true. I don't want to worry about money, and I don't want to worry about my future.

Some worry is normal, and in uncertain times, with the economy swinging between bad and good, it is OK to be concerned about steady employment. And, as many good people have said to me, "be happy for the job you do have." Yes, I am! Yes, I am!

The problem is that I am not happy in any job I have had recently. I am tired, so very tired of the grind of working 8-5, M-F. I just came off three glorious days off, and I can tell you that I relaxed for the first time in a very long while. I woke up naturally, and I accomplished so much at home. I felt comfortable again, and I started to feel good (well inside). My stomach is starting to twist up, and I am feeling uneasy about having to get ready for work today. I look at the clock on the computer, and see the minutes counting upwards to 7 a.m. I need to leave the house by 7:40 to be at work by 8:00. It is OK, I will do it -- but there is a part of me that doesn't want to go to work today.

I have to, of course. I have to work. No one else is going to provide for me, save the Lord, and He expects me to do my best each day. He expects me to go to work and do the tasks assigned to me. I honor Him with my attitude, even when it is not the best (like today). I try very hard to be a good worker, to do whatever is asked of me. I am just so very tired of the grind. I am so very tired of not feeling well, and of not looking my best (I am a good 20lbs overweight, and it nags at me). I don't want to go on this way, and I don't want to face that steep downhill climb.

Lord, why do I feel this way today? I have had such a good Christmas, and a blessed week of rest? I don't want to give up the way I feel, to return to work with this uncertainty about my future there. I want to rest, to remain at rest, and to stay home. I know I must go, and I am willing to go. I ask that you go before me today, that you will prepare my way, and make it smooth. I am not sure what is going on, I just know how I feel, and that this feeling is not normal. I ask now for your grace to do the work I must do, and to go into work and be available to whatever is asked of me. May your Name be praised today, and forever more. You are God, and I am resting in You alone. Amen, so be it, thy will be done. Selah!

December 25, 2012

Letting Go and Leaning Upon the Lord

Today, I made the decision to let go and lean fully upon the Lord. I have been stuck for a long while in this quasi-dependent state, not fully surrendered to the Lord, and not fully dependent on human hands (or job or plans). I have struggled with the tug and pull of the Lord, wrestling with Him, and finding I was only losing ground. There is no winning against the Lord Most High -- He always wins! PTL! He never gives up and He never gives in. He accomplishes His will and He does it regardless of how long it takes. I am lost without Him, and struggling against His Mighty Power is a no-win situation.

God has chosen a path for me to follow, and I am determined to follow it. I realize how stubborn I have been, like that willful child that says "Yes, Mom" and then goes her own way and does her own thing. My Heavenly Father has been patient with me, but now He has called me to account, and He has asked me to follow after Him. No more, "Yes, Daddy" and then turning away to my own devices. Now, I must say "Yes" and I must do what I have promised. I am called to pay my vows to the Lord, and so I must do it.

"When you make a vow to the LORD your God, be prompt in fulfilling whatever you promised him. For the LORD your God demands that you promptly fulfill all your vows, or you will be guilty of sin." Deuteronomy 23:21 NLT

and again

"Make vows to the LORD your God, and keep them. Let everyone bring tribute to the Awesome One." Psalm 76:11 NLT

and

"I will fulfill my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people--: Psalm 116:18 NLT

The Lord takes us at our word to Him, and that means if we vow (make a promise), He expects us to keep it (the Word says "promptly fulfill" which means NOW, and not later or whenever!) I made a promise to the Lord a very long time ago. I promised Him that I would follow after Him if He came and rescued me from the sickness in my life. That sickness was born out of sin, and it was something that had plagued me since childhood. I was ill to the point of losing my sanity. Yes, as a young teenager, I was close to having a nervous breakdown due to stress, anxiety, panic attacks, and chronic conditions that caused me great distress.

The Lord rescued me, and He healed me. He set my path before me and He asked me to follow after Him. I started out following, but quickly got sidelined by well-meaning and well-intentioned friends and family who didn't think it was right for a young girl (aged 16) to devote her life to God and not to the pursuit of a career or a husband.

I didn't really understand what I was saying back then, I just knew that I was sick, and that no one was helping me get better. The doctors wanted to hospitalize me, the healers and psychologists wanted me to be analyzed and set free from the tension they assumed was family-related (yes, and no). They told me what to do, but I was not able to confront the demons and other issues head on. I was young, and I was afraid -- and I was unable to do what they were asking me to do.

I hid mostly, and I buried the pain deep inside of me. I tried to talk to friends, and to family -- to no avail. I couldn't get anyone to listen to me, to really listen to the cry that was building up on the inside of me. Finally, I reached out to the only One I thought could listen, even though I didn't really know if He would listen to me. I found Him right when I needed Him most, and He saved me. He rescued me, and He gave me new life.

I struggled growing up, and I struggled with choices and making decisions. I was being pulled one way -- towards God. I was being convicted by Satan as well as by friends and family -- telling me to give up God, and choose instead the traditional route (go to school, get a career, find a husband). The Lord was asking me to devote my life to Him, to live single, and to follow after Him. I wanted so much to follow Him, and I tried so very hard to do so. 

Many years later, I was in a similar situation. I was ill from stress over years of frustration, of sadness, and of sorrow (sin filled life, unfulfilling marriage, and debilitating financial worry). I so desperately needed rescue, and I reached out a second time for the One who had saved me as a young girl. This time, I found Him, and He not only rescued me, but He restored my life and my soul. He took all that was shattered and broken in my life, and gave me something brand new. He tore away the tatters and the shreds of an old, dying life and gave me a new chance to follow after Him.

Once again, I made a vow to Him. I promised Him that I would follow Him, and that I would make Him the center of my life. I would live wholly devoted to Him. I have tried my best to keep my vow. I have made Him everything, and in return, He has graciously opened doors, provided income, and moved me into a life I could only imagine and dream. I have not always been faithful to follow after Him -- I have tried -- but I have struggled against some of what He has asked me to do. I have wanted to do it, but my flesh is weak, and often my flesh simply sat down in the dust and refused to move His way.

Today, I made the decision to stop behaving this way. I decided to stand up, and walk on after Him. I realized that I am nothing without Him, and that with Him, I am able to accomplish anything He desires for me to accomplish. Furthermore, I have come to the understanding that this is the life He has given to me. I cannot go backwards, I cannot make things be any different than they actually were -- no matter -- how much I long for them to be so. I am where I am today, and God is determined to take me to where He wants me to be in the future. It is a matter of tug and pull -- and either I am going willingly, or He is going to wrestle with me until I give up and get going. He wins, regardless, so it is better for me to go now and let this be, then to waste time, and end up battered and bruised from hitting my head against the IMMOVABLE FORCE of God.

My life is changing today. I am choosing to go this way rather than that way. I am choosing to be fully utilized as His instrument, and to know for certain that there is only one way now, and it is His way.

I am ready, Lord. Let's go, let's get going.

Christmas is Here!

The gifts have all been unwrapped, and the breakfast eaten and enjoyed. It has been a good day to spend with those we love. I was tired, so I took an hour-and-half nap, and I am now up and thinking  about dinner (yum!) The funny thing is that I laid down with the words of the Lord in my head -- "I want you to be prepared" and "Go!" I slept fitfully, almost a pushing and pulling of trying to sleep versus trying to wake up. It was not so restful, but I did sleep some, and I did dream some.

I have had two dreams, and really if you count the weird vision-like thing that I had last night while meditating during the candle lighting/singing of "Silent Night" I guess it has been three dreams.

Last night, at the end of our traditional Christmas Eve service, I closed my eyes, and had two mini dreams. Weird little snippets of dream that came up from inside my mind. These were pictures of something I had dreamed at least a dozen or so years ago. I remember the detail, I guess, because as soon as the images came up, I knew them, and I remember that I had once dreamed about them. Is that deja-vu, when you experience the same dream more than once? I don't know. I just remember those images, and I was pricked a little in my mind when they came back to me. I didn't really have time to ask the Lord about them since I came back round during the last verse of the song, and it was time to blow out the candles and say "Merry Christmas" to everyone as we left the church.

I dreamed about two things, two places that had absolutely no meaning to me -- not remembrances of my past, or places I had lived, or even places I specifically had visited. No, these were two places that I have never been too, nor ever seen in a dream or on TV or in a movie. These were mystical, magical places where I lived with my son (I remember that part), and where I longed to live with him. In both places there was snow, white snow, and lots of it. Both were in the country, though one was in the mountains (there were lots of big trees). One was near a house, and one was in a house.

I remember the first scene -- I could see the roads and hillsides covered in snow. I could see the little houses with their bright Christmas lights. I could see us moving down the road, driving towards a stop light. I remember thinking that we lived in this place, and that the place seemed so familiar to me. Part of me was thinking that it reminded me of Wadsworth, Ohio (where my cousins lived when I was child) or that it looked similar to Hazel Crest, IL (where I lived as a child). It was neither place, it just had that small town America look and feel to it. It was comforting to me to think I lived in this place.

As we turned at the light, we drove to a small house. This house I had seen in my dreams many times before. It was a green house, single level, on the left or south side of the street. It was a lane really, the kind where there were houses on either side, but set back from the street some with large expansive lawns. We didn't go in the house, we just drove up to it. I thought "we are home" and it was a nice feeling. I haven't felt at home in a long time, a very long time. I have lived in a lot of houses, but only a few have been home to me. This one was home.

In a moment, I found myself inside, but not inside this house. I was inside another house. This house was in the mountains, high up in the mountains. There was snow outside as well, and it was warm inside. This house had several floors, and my son was upstairs at the very top of the house. I remember climbing the stairs to go and see his room. He was littler than now -- he is almost 6 feet tall. He was perhaps 10-12 at the time. He was playing in his room, and I thought this was normal. I continued to walk up to my room, and I went inside. It was bright and light. It felt warm. I thought that I was happy here. I was home, my son was in his room playing, and I was very safe. I looked out the window to see the snow on the ground. I saw other houses across the way, and they were covered in snow as well.

Then today, as I lay down to rest for a moment, my mind drifted off to another place. This time, I did go home to San Jose. I have always felt that San Jose was home -- this was were I grew up from age 16 onward, and I have many warm and sweet memories here. My parents lived there until they retired and came to Phoenix (in 2000), but for all intents and purposes - San Jose was home to me.


I saw myself driving down Santa Teresa Blvd. towards the Community Lutheran Church, where I rededicated my life to following Jesus. My family attended this church for just three years, but during that time, I gave my life to the Lord, and I received my calling to follow after Him. I saw the church on the corner, and instead of turning towards it, I turned down the opposite way and drove into a neighborhood that I knew. I had friends who lived up this way, and I remembered seeing the homes there. I thought, "Lord, I know this place. I know this street." I kept driving, and then woke up, finding myself on the sofa and wondering why I would visit these places in my mind during this Christmas season.

I told my mother this morning that I have been dreaming again. I normally dream, but the past several m months have been dreamless for me. This is very odd, but I thought it was because I have been so tired from my job change, and the additional stress at work. I started dreaming a couple days ago -- nothing I really recall, just dreams like I dream normally.

My dreams tend to fall into different kinds - and as I have blogged before -- would make good fodder for anyone who specializes in dream theory. I dream escape dreams designed to help me overcome fears (tornados mostly). I dream home dreams that comfort me and remind me of how I long for a home where I am safe and secure. I dream nostalgic dreams where I desire to live or visit and where I find myself longing to go. And I dream prophetic dreams where I see myself in the future doing something the Lord has called me to do.

These dreams, the most recent ones are all "home" dreams. In each case, I was home. I felt at home. I knew I was home. I have come to learn that my "home" dreams do not equate to actually finding "the home" in the dream or moving to a new place to live. The importance of the "home" dream is to remind me that my home is where I feel connected, and where I feel most comfortable. It is not about the location, though normally it is a located reminiscent of my childhood (in woods or small town).

I remember saying to the Lord that I want to go home. I have probably said that a dozen times during the past six-seven months. I would utter it without thinking, just letting the words come out with some exasperation, "Lord, I want to go home. Can I please go home now?" Sometimes people say that meaning they want to die (the Christian way of suicide). In my case, I really meant that I wanted to physically "go home" to the place where feel safe and secure, where I will be "home" again (like when I was a child). I want to be safe again. I want to be secure, and I want to live where I will have no worries or fears.

It is not that I am not safe in my current house. Oh no, not at all. I am very safe here. I feel totally safe. It is that in my mind I am not home. I am just in a temporary home, and my real home is not here. I want to go to that real home, where I can rest, and where I can be at peace. I want to be home again. And, I want to stay home -- to never leave that home, and to remain in that home so that I never have to worry about moving again. I want to stay put. I want to be home.

The truth is that I long for a home of my own where I can live and no longer worry about having to move or relocate. I want to be that child again, safe with my parents, and where I can rest. The worries and stress of this life is getting to me. I am alone now, no longer married, no longer sharing my life with someone who would take care of me. I left my parents care for the care of a husband. My married life was not a safe and secure place. It was difficult and uncertain. I left my married life for a place of my own, so that I could be in control of the money, the finances, the security. I have found that I am not secure in my own handling of my affairs. I still worry about money. I still fret over choices regarding careers and jobs and incomes. I listen to the world, and I think "I need benefits to be secure" or "I need to make this much each month just to live comfortably." I listen to that voice inside my head saying "Trust Me. I have you covered. You are safe," and I don't always believe it. I don't always see that I am covered and that I am safe. I want to believe that voice. I want to listen and heed and know that I am safe -- but there is so much uncertainty in the world, so much unknown.

As I dream, I go to a place where I remember feeling safe. I remember thinking I am home now, and everything will be OK. It is weird to put it this way, but it does make sense to me. I long for a home where I can live with my son (not as a young man in 2012-2013), but as a little boy. I long for a do-over where I can make a safe home for us, where I can control the outcome of his life, and where I can feel that I am making his life better.

I know that those days are long-passed, and that I cannot go backwards in time (even if my son is a big Dr. Who fan -- time travel today is not possible). I want a do-over on this life. I want to start over again, and make good choices, and follow after the Lord the first time, not the second, the third or the fortieth time (like in real life). I want to take His Road, and see all He has to give me, knowing that it will be Good. I want to be in His care from the get-go, and not trust people who let you down. I want to be that little girl who looks to her Daddy for everything, and who with child-like innocence believes that He can do anything and everything.

I believe that my Daddy in Heaven can do anything. I look to Him and I know He is God. I know that I am safe in His care, and that He is moving me towards the road of His choosing. There is no other way for me now, and these dreams are telling me that the home I long for is not in Illinois, in Wadsworth or in San Jose. No, my home is with Him, and it is the only place where I will feel safe, secure, and finally find rest.

I am going Home today. I am going to be with my Lord, and to find my place of rest in His loving care. I know He has been waiting for me to come back Home for a very long time. He has waited patiently while I tested all the other paths, tried all the other vocations, and thought all those dreams. He has been there for me, Graciously providing, Tenderly loving, and Gently guiding me. I have been stubborn. I have been willful. I have wanted to do it my way.

Now, though, I am tired of my way. I am ready to do it His way. I am ready to rest, to let go of the past, to not care about the present nor think about the future. I am ready to be with Him, just as He is with me. I am ready to be in this moment, to be where He needs me to be, and to be by His side following after Him as He goes to the places He chooses to go. I am ready to be Home, to finally come into my Home, and to know I am at rest.

He is Born!


Blessed Merry Christmas! I wish you and your family the very best this Christmas day. God has been so very good to my family, and today  we will gather together to celebrate all that the Lord has done for us. May the Spirit of Christmas bless you and keep you today and throughout the coming new year!

Reflections from 2012

So many things have changed this year for our family. We settled into our new home in Phoenix in November 2011. It has been one year, and one month since we moved from our little house on Hearn Road. It was a sad day when we packed up and moved our belongings from the home we had shared as a family for the past 12 years. That little house was filled with memories, many bittersweet, as we struggled to keep our family together and to keep the very roof over our heads.

God provided a lovely home for me and my son. It is now filled with new memories, sweet and warm, and while it doesn't always feel like home, it is our temporary home until we meet with the Lord in Heaven, and live forever more with Him.

My son has almost finished community college. He will graduate with his Associates Degree in May, and then transfer to our large State University to complete a Bachelors degree in Linguistics. It is a far cry from when he first started school in 2010, and then had planned on a career in the Music Industry. He has studied Audio Engineering, Theater and general studies since, and now has focused on languages and linguistics. It is an interesting change for him, but he believes that God is calling him to use his gift of language in some way, and has decided to pursue this path locally.

I completed my Masters degree in English Literature in 2012. It was a long, long, road for me, but I finished with a 3.9 grade point average, and the satisfaction of knowing I carried the load of full-time graduate student while working (in the end) full-time as an Enrollment Advisor at the University of Phoenix.

I left the University of Phoenix in September for a career move to CVS Caremark. My job as Analyst has been challenging, and difficult. It has pulled me in new directions, and has caused me to carefully think about my next move, and whether I can handle this kind of work and the anticipated load of advanced study courses.

I am all-but applied to Regent University for summer 2013. I have one small essay to write and turn in, and then in a very short time, will find out if this is the Lord's plan for my education. I have believed that the Lord was calling me to attend Regent for the past five-six years. He has made my way smooth, and has provided everything I have needed to be prepared for this next step. I am now on the threshold of starting doctoral coursework, and while excited at that prospect, still feel overwhelmed at the very thought that I am about to start another three to five years of classes.

My parents have been supportive of me, and have stood by me, helping as they were able. Now that they are in their latter years, they need my support, and they need me to be there for them. I have spent my life in close relationship with them, and even though I have spent time, and been there whenever they have needed me, I feel now more than ever that I need to be available 24/7. I am not sure how to do this, but there is definitely a feeling that I need to be available, and I am trusting the Lord to provide for me so I can do this for them.

They have decided to sell their lovely home in Phoenix, and downsize to an apartment not too far from church and our home. I am pleased that they are taking this next step, and I know it will make these next years easier for them. Less work, less stress, and less worry. It is a very good thing.

Future Goals and Direction

My career at CVS Caremark has stalled somewhat, and the hopes I had of being able to remain there through retirement have changed. I certainly could remain there, working in this role, or another similar, but my heart has pulled me in a new direction, and I am pondering just where to go and when to leave this comfortable path.

God has provided amply for me and my son. He has given me His Grace to embark on this journey, and He has gently guided me to the best schools, the best jobs, and the best path to follow. I am on this path now, and while it has been good for me, there are rocky peaks ahead, and an uncertain turn that could take me in a different way.

I know that the plans He has for my life are very good. I know that He desires that I remain focused on His calling, on His way, and on doing things (making choices) that align with His desire for my life. I am trying to listen and heed the blessed Holy Spirit, but there is so much that is unknown. For everything I do know (or believe I know), there is a world of unknown that is staring me in the face, and causing me to shirk back in fear. I want so much to accomplish His will for my life, to go where He is sending me, and to do the work He has prepared for me to do. Yet, I am flesh, and I am flawed, and I am afraid -- so very afraid at times. God is Good -- all the time, and He knows my weakness. He is strong when I am weak -- but I still think to myself, "Lord, I cannot do what you are asking me to do." Oh Lord, how can I do what you are asking me to do? I am afraid and I do not see a way. Please provide your blessed Light of Clarification to illuminate the path so I can see where I am going, and how I am to get there?

For now, I must rest and rely upon the Word of God. I know He will never leave me nor will He abandon me. He is with me, He is my Friend, and my Guide. I trust and rely upon Him, and I know that He is Good all the time.

As I look forward to 2013, I think about how far I have come, and about the past and the changes the Lord has asked me to make in my life. Some of those changes were not easy. I gave up my life, I gave up my family, and I have up my very identity to become what He was calling me to be. I was remade. I was reborn, and the person I am today is very different from the person I was then. I am new. I am a new creature in Christ Jesus, and I now think differently. I see the world through His Eyes, and that means that my perspective is skewed heaven-ward. I think about people now in a way that says "Listen to what they are saying" and "Respond to their need." I am no longer thinking about how they might benefit or hurt me. No, it is about being compassionate towards them, and showing them the Love of God in my words, in my hands, and with my heart.

This is God's way. This is how He chooses to minister to others. It is never about us. It is always about them, and about showing them His way. In doing so, they see Christ, and they come to know the Savior. It is how God reaches out and touches men and women, and demonstrates His Love for them. I am part of that plan now, and I am a resource He has to use to do His work. I am blessed to be used this way, and for the Lord to be active in my life to change me to make me more useful to Him.

I want to do this now, and I want to live my life this way. I don't care about working for a company until I retire or gaining wealth or status. Sure, I think about these things and how nice my life would be with them. I don't need them, though, and that is the biggest change of all. I am no longer dependent on the things of this world to bring me happiness or to make me feel safe. I know that God is the one who does both, and that He keeps me carefully tucked away in the shelter of His Almighty Wings. I am safe, and I am secure. I am good. I am all these things because He is God, and He lives within me. I am OK because He is OK, and always Good.

In closing, I offer this prayer of hope to you and your family. If you are struggling to know what to do this day, or to follow after the Lord, then consider these thoughts:

God is Good all the time. There is nothing in Him that is not Good. His Goodness is the aspect of His Nature that brings forth Love and Mercy (Compassion). It is His Goodness that sent Jesus this blessed day into a world confounded and confused, tossed in chaos. The Light Of Hope was born in a manger in Bethlehem, and that baby, Jesus the Christ (the Messiah) brought in reconciliation between God and man. 

Man was no longer separated from God, and the right relationship established my Jesus made it possible for you and for me to live in union with Him through the blessed power and presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Our lives have been given hope, and the hope we have gives us the opportunity to live a new life. Our lives no longer have to be torn and tossed by chaos, and we can live in joy, and in peace knowing that we are no longer an enemy of God, but His Friend. 

As you consider the new year, and begin to make plans for all you would like to do, make sure to put "Friendship with God" at the very top of your list. If you will do it, I promise you that your life will change and you will find the joy you desire, the peace you need, and the love you crave -- all in and throughout your life.

December 23, 2012

Making Changes as the New Year Approaches

It is December 23rd, and I am sitting here thinking about my life, and making plans for the New Year. It is usual for me to be retrospective at this time of year, and today is no exception. To say that past couple months have been hectic would be an understatement. The last four months since leaving University of Phoenix and starting work at CVS Caremark have been difficult. I have worked harder at my job as Analyst, and I have logged more hours than when I was a Healthcare and Nursing Advisor. Yes, the jobs are vastly different. They each had their ups and downs, and they each came with their own kind of stress.

My new job is challenging in the work itself. I am being asked to use the analytical and logical portion of my brain every single day. My old job was monotonous and boring, and it was the boredom factor that really got to me in the end. I miss my friends at UOPX most of all, and I miss the fun we had there. Parties and other perks were the norm, and it seemed that every day we laughed, really laughed. I miss this most of all -- just the camaraderie and the friendship.

My new group is nice, and very friendly. We are busy, and that means that the general attitude is business-like. Professional. Quiet and subdued. I like this as well. The work level has been incredible, and while I knew I would be really busy, I didn't know just how busy that would be until this month. I know that this is not long-term, but it is for the short-term during what we call our Welcome Season (Healthcare Benefits/Open Enrollment). Overall, I am satisfied with my new job. I like the work, and I like the commute. I am happy with my pay, and with the opportunities that exist at this Fortune 100 company.

As I think about next year, and begin to make plans, there are some questions without answers. Some of the questions have been answered, and I feel good about what lays ahead for me and for my son. I put a list together, just to keep me reminded of God's Provision, the other day:

  • Schooling for my son is settled. He has applied to Arizona State University, and has been tentatively accepted. He has sent his transcript off, and now is waiting for official acceptance. I need to provide an Affidavit for Home Education to them, but for all intents and purposes, he will be accepted as a transfer student for Fall 2013.
  • I have one more item on my Regent to-do list, and that is to write a 1000 word essay on Communication trends. I started it last week, but found I was so overwhelmed with work, that I couldn't focus, and couldn't make heads or tails of what I wanted to say. I put that off, but it still needs to be completed by 1/1 (I have until 2/1).
  • I resigned my lease for another year. This keeps us in this home until November 2013, which is a good thing considering our closeness to the community college.
  • My parents have chosen to sell their home, and move into an apartment about 2 miles further down the road. It is a good decision for them, and will help them reduce their expenses and live far more comfortably as they head into their latter years (Mom and Dad will be 80 in 2013).
I think the major concern for me is money (isn't it always the case). God has provided adequate income for me, and I have been careful on my spending (though I am liking the fact that I can spend money on frills and extras). Just some worries...
  • I know we will need a new car this Spring/Summer -- before my son starts at the University. He will be commuting 16 miles each way, and he will need a car of his own. 
  • My school loans are coming due in January, and while I have been given forbearance, I will still be making a hefty payment until my application is accepted and I start courses at Regent (then the loans go back into deferment).
  • The job is good, but I don't know how I will do this kind of work and take six credits of doctoral studies in the Summer and Fall. It is a constant worry, and I feel that I need to do something different so that I can focus completely on these courses.
These big questions loom over my head -> How can I buy a new car, make payments on student loans, and complete courses for advanced studies when I make a fixed income now (good but not great), and when my work load varies and potentially could require long hours and overtime?

My human brain admits that it cannot figure out how God is planning on addressing these concerns. When I ask Him, He says "Trust me." When I ask for clarification, He tells me He knows me, He knows what I can and cannot do. This is His way. This is how God handles change -- it is always under control, always planned, and always prepared. Nothing happens outside His control. Nothing moves forward until He chooses for it do so.

I fret and stress over the lack of movement, or the status quo of no change. I want these questions to be answered now, and I want to know what to do, where to go, and how these things will come to pass. I want this knowledge so that I will not freak out anymore, so that I can rest and be at peace.

God knows me well. He knows that I cannot handle change, and that I freak out at the mention of change. He knows what I can and cannot do -- literally -- He knows that sometimes it is better for me to wait, then to know now. If I cannot handle what He is planning to do in my life, He knows that it is best for me to stew a bit until I no longer care about the outcome. If I don't care anymore, then He knows He can do whatever He needs to do, and I will just go along with the flow of His mighty will. He knows me so well, and I love the fact that He is a Good Father who tells me "It will be OK, Carol. Just wait and be patient. It will be OK."

Lord, why can I not rest? What do I stress so over the details? We have process so many details during the last couple years that you would think by now I would be a pro at change, a pro at handling the details. Yet, I falter now -- after all you have done -- and after all this time. Why am I so frail and so afraid to trust you, when you have been nothing short of a Miracle of TRUSTWORTHINESS every day of my life? Have you changed? Have you stopped being TRUSTWORTHY?

Of course, I know the answers to all these questions. I know that He is always TRUSTWORTHY, and that His word never fails. It is always TRUTH. I know that He cares deeply for me and about me, and that He knows that I worry and fret over details. He knows me so very well, and He loves me so completely. I know He does have everything under control. I know that the plans He has for me are good, very good. And, I know that His will is to be done, and that the plans He has are part of His will. Therefore, they will be done as well. It will all come to pass just as He has determined, and my life will follow His Way. I know all of this, yet I still stress and fret over today, tomorrow, and a year from now.

Oh Lord, help me to no longer fear the changes you desire to make within me personally, and in my external life? Help me now to accept what you want for my life, and to let things be, let you be in my life, and work through my life. I ask now in Jesus Name, that I would have the grace to let go, to really let go, and to let you have full control to move, to change, to alter, to direct and to complete the plans you have for me. To your Name be praise, and honor, and glory forever and ever. Amen, so be it. Thy will be done. Selah!

December 16, 2012

More Work Ahead

I have been absent from my blog lately -- mostly due to the high volume of work I have to do in order to take care of my clients this year. My new job is difficult, but not as stressful as my last. It is odd to consider it to be less stressful when the volume of work, and the demands placed upon you are so much higher than before. Let me explain...

At UOPX, stress was fairly relative. Every enrollment advisor was under the same type of stress -- performance anxiety and unrealistic expectations of daily activity and enrollment numbers. I would equate it to a person who works in commission sales. You know how well you are doing by the numbers you are putting up on the big board. If your numbers are consistently low, then there is a good chance, you are not going to stay in your job. The company needs top producers, top sellers, and in retail and corporate sales, it is all a numbers game.

The stress at UOPX came from not being able to enroll enough students, and the amount of time it took to get the interested students into school. So you might have had a good pipeline of students interested in attending school, but if it was taking you three or four months to get them enrolled, that was not good enough. There was pressure to get them enrolled sooner, and that meant using sales tactics to do so.

The other aspect of stress, besides the numbers, was the fact that as EAs we were required to perform a certain amount of "prospecting" each day, roughly 3 hours. This meant that unless you were engaged in conversation working students into enrolling, you had to be making dials and leaving voicemails. I called, on average, 80 to 100 people each day. I left the same voicemail, or a variation there of, and made sure to make my daily activity numbers each week. My performance was tracked, and if I didn't show that I was cutting it, then I had to be "coached" into having a better conversation.

My new job is very different. Initially, I was stressed because I didn't know what I was doing -- which is pretty normal -- considering the newness of the work. However, I have been in my job now since September (so four months), and I know certain parts of my job well. I would say that I have the job routine, and the job basics down. This is how it was at UOPX as well. It took me about 3-4 months before I felt comfortable with the job requirements. I didn't really hit my stride at UOPX for about 6 months, and then after that, I knew what to say, and how to play the game. I performed, and I was on my way to being a top producer (with 10-15 enrollments each month).

I think CVS Caremark, and the industry as a whole, is a different type of game. The work I do is mostly analysis and research (hence my title as an Analyst). I work in Print Production, thought that is not what they call us anymore (we are Member Communications). The job entails working with clients and making sure that their employee materials are produced correctly and within contractual timelines. I don't actual do the print work, but I do create the document templates that populate the data sent over by the client or other partners. My role as a Print Analyst (my actual title) is to ensure that the client gets his/her materials and gets them when they expected them to arrive.

This work is similar to what I did years ago when I helped my husband with his advertising/marketing business and we ordered print materials and other promotional products for clients. It is more elaborate, and more intensive, given the nature of our clients (many Fortune 1000, 500, and 100 companies). These are big numbers, big clients, and big responsibilities.

The job, though, has been a challenge for me, and has required a lot of extra hours. I am not used to having to work OT without pay (well, not since I worked on my own). I got paid OT at UOPX, but in this job, I work the OT just to keep up with all the details, to make sure every "t" is crossed, so to speak. The OT will not be forever -- it is just part of the end of the year "Welcome Season" -- when companies have open enrollments, and member materials need to print and ship by January 1. This is our busy season, I guess you could say, and like when I was in retail, I had to work extra hours to cover the need of the client.

The stress has been minimal. It is more frustration with our new print vendor, and their system not working the way it should. We were promised seamless transition between the old and the new, but that hasn't been the case. There have already been issues with mismatches, items not printing, and so on. Moreover, a big chunk of my day is spent researching why cards or kits didn't print and ship, and I reply on accurate reporting tools to get down to the root cause. The tools I have been given are not working 100% of the time, so that causes issues as well.

Then of course you have Sales and their escalations of issues. Right now, though, it is like "Yes, I know you are upset, and I will get to you. Please take a ticket and get in line!" They don't like to be told "no" and at this time of the year and with all the problems we are facing, I am saying "no" a lot.

Overall, when I compare the two types of jobs, and the kind of work, I realize that I am in a good fitting position. This kind of work suits me. I may get frustrated, but in truth, I like to solve problems, and I am in a job that is all about problem-solving. Plus, I have never worked with a group of people who are similar to me, and that has been such a nice change. Everyone I work with is analytical. Everyone is an investigator. We all have the same problems, the same issues, and we all help each other out. I like that about my group, and it helps make the frustration manageable.

God has been so good to me, and He has provided a good job that meets my needs, and suits my abilities. This job is a good fit. I may not like the OT, and I may not like that the print vendor has made my job three-times more work than necessary -- but -- I do like the work I do, and I do like the company where I work. Plus, I have benefits coming in two weeks (whoohoo!) and I am looking forward to a pay raise and also potential advancement.

God has been working behind the scenes to help me settle down. I am happy in my home, happy in my work, and happy in my progress spiritually-speaking. As I think about my life today, I can see that things are good for me. I have a good life. I have a good future. I have everything I need to be happy, content, and settled. God is so very good to me.

December 2, 2012

Recital Day is Here

Yes, today is our fall recital. We have been practicing for it since September, and for the most part, I think we are good. We are playing three pieces from Shindler's List, a piece from Batman Begins, and Bohemian Rhapsody (yes, by Queen). I think we sound pretty good, even if these are tough pieces to play for such a small group (piano, cello, and three violins).

In addition to these pieces, I am playing "Jupiter Chorale" on the cello. I love this piece of music, and I love playing it. I have been struggling a little bit with my cello, but hopefully I will do fine when it come to my two minutes of playing time.

Thank goodness, we are playing for friends and family only. No one is going to have a cow about our performance, and really, no one will even notice if we hit the wrong note occasionally.

I stress so over performance anxiety. I just googled it to see if I could find some useful tips for qwelling the nervousness that tends to cause me to lose my place. After reading one blog, I realized that for me to become an expert on the cello, I would need to play it consistently for at least 25 years! Whoohoo!! What comforting news! This is the start of my fourth year on cello, and given that my time is limited when it comes to practicing -- I think I am doing pretty well.

I am no Yo Yo Ma -- but I am good at cello -- for someone who learned to play it at age 47. Yes! This is true!! I didn't start learning to play the cello until I was 47, and then I have only had three years of lessons. I think I am doing pretty well, all things considering...

Some tips I picked up today to help me focus on my piece, and keep in the moment:

  • Remember that I have done my best, practiced, and rested. I am as good as I am today given my situation, age, circumstances, etc.
  • Relax and know that no one will care if I goof up. I am not a professional, and these are not judges and critics -- they are parents, grandparents, aunts/uncles, etc.
  • Focus on the moment, be in the moment, and remember that I am to play the piece of music -- not listen to it. That is the audience's job. I am simply playing something I love to play, and I am to be in the moment, enjoying making music on the cello
  • Last - just remembering that music is a gift God has graced me with recently. I didn't have the opportunity to learn as a child (well, I did, but I didn't use that time wisely). I have been given the gift of making music now as an adult. Therefore, enjoy the blessing of the gift and let it be, let it just be.
As I contemplate my piece, I am listening to my son warm up for his piece. He is playing "Tarkus" by Emerson, Lake and Palmer. He is doing a piano only arrangement of the piece, and well, he just blows me away with his ability. He has been playing for nine years now, and while he has decided not to study music or be a professional musician, he still plays regularly (at church, in a band, and other gigs). He still plays in Chamber even though he doesn't take lessons any longer. He is so cool - so very talented.

Well, as I think about this afternoon, I am struggling to stay alert. I am tired now, and I have to work from home later today. My job at CVS is really asking more from me than I can give to it, but after today, my schedule is pretty clear. I will be glad when this welcome season is over, that is for sure.

I have had some interest in my resume for teaching positions. I am not sure this is what I am to do, but I have left that door open. Grand Canyon University called to ask me if I was interested in interviewing. I replied, but haven't heard back. University of Phoenix is looking for a PT English instructor (campus - one day per week), but I haven't sent my reply back to them yet.

I wish I understood whether I was to quit CVS and go into teaching or whether I was to stick this out, and just remain in a very good job (with benefits, etc.) I believe that the Lord is moving me to another position to accommodate my studies at Regent (starting next June).  Oh, how I wish I understood what I was to do...

Well, I need to run through my piece one more time before we leave for recital.

November 23, 2012

Black Friday

I don't know about you, but I have never been one to hit the after Thanksgiving Day sales. I never had any money to spend, so it seemed like a waste of my time to stand in line for hours, just to browse through crowed aisles and to fight off other people so I could wish for some particular item. No, for me, I never was able to participate, and so I left the craziness up to those folks (and family) who liked this shopping ritual.

My brother and family had this holiday ritual, and every Black Friday, would get up at the crack of dawn (or before) and head out to their local Target store. It was a tradition for them. I am not sure if they are observing it this year or not. The whole family (sans newly married nephew and wife) are back in Cedar Falls, Iowa visiting my niece who works for Northern Iowa University. I'll have to ask if they even have a Target in Cedar Falls! LOL!

As I sit here today, part of me is feeling blue over the impending Holiday madness. Last year at this time, I was resolved to move from my home, and I had just rented a nearby townhouse. It was difficult for me, but I was thankful for the change of house. I had been in my old home since 1999, and while it was not always a struggle for us to maintain our life there, most of the time I felt burdened with the upkeep of a home, and with the escalating payments and other homeowner issues. Moreover, we were at the point of separating, and the house was the last thing holding us together. We had been foreclosed on by our lender, and the time was coming (looming forward) when we would all have to be out of the house. I chose to go early on, and so my first Thanksgiving was here in my new place. My first Christmas was as well.

Christmas was good last year. I was working at University of Phoenix, and I was so glad to have a full-time job. I was happy to be out of the old house, out of the dirt and grime, and untended maintenance items. I was glad to be in a place that was new, freshly painted, and afforded us so much more space. I had invested quite a bit of money into decorations, and my home was just the way I wanted it to be. After so many years of living with old, broken, and dirty items -- my new home was filled with all things new (and some used, but repurposed). I was blessed to be here, and I was relieved to be out from under that burden of debt.

Christmas was good. I spent money on gifts, and I gave freely to my family. I hadn't been able to do that in years, and it felt so good to be able to buy special things to let my family know how much they meant to me, and how much I appreciated their support for me and my choice to leave my home.

So much has changed between then and now. I just signed a second-year lease on my town home, and I am prepared to remain in Phoenix through the duration of my son's education (now thinking ASU instead of North Park in Chicago). I am working as an Analyst at CVS Caremark, and while not pleased with the Welcome Season hours, I am enjoying the work, and I like the shorter commute. I am also blessed with a little more money each month.

I am getting ready to decorate for Christmas 2012, and part of me is feeling nostalgic for the past. I remember writing someplace (probably on this blog) that the last good Christmas I had was in 1982. I was 20 at the time, and working full-time at NuTech Engineers, Inc. in San Jose, CA. I was unmarried, though dating my husband. I was unattached for all practical reasons, not committed to anyone, and at a crossroads in my own looming adulthood plans.

I wasn't happy in my work, but I was glad to be out of school. School then was Evergreen Valley College. I wasn't doing well in classes, and was lost as far as what I wanted to study. My parents didn't want me to drop out of school, but I knew that I couldn't continue to get D-F's without some consequence. I decided to take a break, and that meant working full-time for a while. I liked the money, and it helped me to pay for my then Triumph Spitfire. I liked being an adult, but there was a part of me that wanted so much to remain a child.

I had wanted to study Art, but I didn't like the focus on nudity that was so prevalent in my courses. I was a Christian then, and the Holy Spirit was working hard to keep me pure (Thank you, Jesus!) I changed my major to Audiology, thinking that it would make a good career, but after a horrible experience in Sign Language class, decided it was not the path for me. I considered Psychology, which I greatly enjoyed. However, a bad course in Child Psychology (a weird teacher - very weird), made me reconsider that path as well. I was stuck, and I was lost, and I wasn't listening to that still quiet voice whispering to me, telling me to go into teaching, advising me to become an elementary teacher.

I heard the voice loud and clear one day when I met a friend who was attending San Jose Bible College. This was a friend of a friend, and she was telling me how much she loved SJBC and how she was studying to be an elementary teacher there. She loved the small classes, and the focus on Bible. She encouraged me to check it out. I did, and though the cost was more than what my Community College cost, I was so strongly drawn to this school.

I took the leap of faith and I talked with my parents about it. They were not willing to help me attend this school, and because my Father made so much money, I couldn't qualify for financial aid. My parents said, "Go to San Jose State and become a teacher." Yes, they were correct. SJSU (my alma mater) had a very good teaching program. I was devastated that my parents wouldn't help me go to SJBC, and I couldn't understand how God could be calling me to a school He knew would be off-limits to me.

I ended up staying in my job, and getting involved in relationship in the hopes of feeling better, and no longer feeling lost. In truth, I only made matters worse. My job went bust the next year, and my relationship began to become more involved. I took steps towards adulthood, that now I wish never would have been on my horizon. I did enroll back in school, and I did eventually complete my Associates Degree. I ended up graduating in 1984 with an AA in Liberal Studies, and wedding plans for that fall.

My life was forever changed. Twenty-eight years later, I am blessed with an amazing son, and a good life. It is not the life I imagined, and it is not the life I had hoped. It is what it is, and today, I sit here thinking about the past, and wondering "what if?" Of course, there are no what-if's in God's economy. There is only "been there, and done that"--OR--choices to be made and choices that have been made. With God, all things are possible. With man, all things are possible too. The big difference is that with God the possibilities are blessed and are always for our good. Human possibilities are unknown, and while they can be for good, there is just the same amount of chance, that they will be for ill.

I cannot think back on the past twenty-eight years and wish it away. Like George Bailey in "It's a Wonderful Life," wishing your life were different only means that you wish CERTAIN PARTS (the bad) of your life were different. If you wish is all away, you wish the good and the bad. You cannot make the mistakes in your life go away without losing blessing that may have come as a result of those mistakes.

I know that my son is one of the best things that happened to me personally. His life, his presence, makes the past years worth it all. I also know that of all the mistakes I have made, I have learned great life lessons from them. I am able to use my mistakes to help others from making the same kinds of choices. I can use my experience to bless others -- the good and the bad -- I can be a blessing to others through my life testimony.

Therefore, Christmas 2012, marks a turning point in my life. I am no longer going to look on the past with regret. Yes, the memories of mistakes will be there, but with time, they will fade, and no longer be such a strong reminder to me. Instead of thinking nostalgically on the past, I am choosing to think about all the open opportunities and possibilities of my future. I copied this quote to add it to my signature line in my email, and I think it really sets this whole idea in motion:


“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” ~Søren Kierkegaard

It is important to be self-aware, to understand your past choices, your past options, and your past mistakes. Life, however, must be lived in the present and with the intention of moving forward. God is a God over all of time, over the past, over the present, and over the future. He wants us to press on, to move forward towards the goal of His Kingdom and of Christ Jesus. He knows that we need to understand our past so that we can learn from it, learn how to handle situations in the present, and learn from our mistakes (to keep from repeating them). He doesn't want us to get stuck in the past, though.

Jesus, in Luke 9:59ff, was the one who said:

As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” He said to another man, “Follow me.” But the man replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family.” Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

The Kingdom of God is moving forward, and while we live in the present, we are also to have a mindset of moving forward to follow after the Lord. We are not to be stuck in the past or even the present time to the point where we become immovable.

I have done this for many years. I have lived with past regrets and with the shame of past mistakes. Jesus paid the price for all my sins and all my mistakes. I know this, I know that His Blood covers me completely. Yet, often I get stuck, often I feel as though I am cemented to this timeline, to this way of thinking.

Jesus paid it all, and that price of freedom means that I am no longer stuck, I am no longer lost, I am no longer required to stay in one place. I can move, I can go, and I can follow after my Lord -- with no regrets, no sorrow, and no shame.

Dear Lord,

Today is the day that I choose to follow after you, and that I choose to no longer live in the past, and to think back upon the past. The past is buried in that tomb of the old man (old Carol). The present is active and it is alive with the new man (new Carol). The future, my future is filled with bright hopeful promises and opportunities of blessing. I receive your blessing today, and I think upon all the blessing in my life, and the way in which you choose to bless me each day. May your Name be praised today and forevermore. I thank you, Jesus, for your life. I thank you for your sacrifice, and I thank you for saving me yesterday, today, and every day forward. I praise the Name of the Lord today. Amen, so be it, thy will be done. Selah! (Pause and calmly think about that!!)

November 22, 2012

When Things Do Not Make Sense

I have had a pretty horrible week. Yes, it is Thanksgiving Day, and I should be giving thanks for all the blessing in my life. Instead, I am in a funk, and I feel as though the weight of the world is upon my shoulders. Of course, I know this is not the case. I carry but a thimbleful of the actual burden I bear -- my Lord carries the rest. He always does, and yet, even with my thimbleful, I feel overwhelmed, and unable to press on.

The Word tells us to press on, to keep moving forward (Phil. 3:14). We are encouraged by Paul to know that we are not alone. That every Christian experiences trials and temptations, and that in our life, we will encounter hardship and struggle. We are not isolated, and we are not the only ones to experience pain and suffering.

"The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure." (1 Cor. 10:13 NLT)

No, we all are being conformed to His suffering, and in that way, we are being remade into His Image and Likeness (Romans 8:29). Trials and temptations are a part of that experience. How we handle these trials is key. Do we give in, sit down, and stew over them OR to we get up, face them head on, and do as Paul suggests: press on toward that goal, to win the prize that Christ has waiting for us at the finish line?

"I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us." (Phil 3:14 NLT)

Well, I know the answer. I know what my answer should be -- a resounding YES! YES! Lord!! Unfortunately, I also know what I did, that I chose instead of pressing on, to sit down in the dirt and grovel. I didn't stand in faith, I didn't lift up my Shield of Faith and my precious Sword of the Spirit. No, I sat fully clothed in the Amour of God, and I chose to be overwhelmed and beaten, instead of Victorious in Jesus' Name. I experienced what many of my brothers and sisters experience each day -- I was bested by the enemy, and I sat defeated, dejected, and depressed over my failure to stand firm in Faith in Christ Jesus.

I sit here today feeling the lumps and bruises of a vicious attack. I listened carefully, and I followed what I believed were clear instruction and commands of the Lord. Instead, I found out that in doing so, I was not listening to the Lord at all, but listening to that voice inside my head, the voice that was feeding my feelings of insecurity and exhaustion. I listened and I took steps that didn't move me closer to the goal of Christ Jesus, but that were cloaked in good intentions and in the belief that they would make me feel better about myself, and elevate the pain in my current situation. I did it. I listened. I obeyed, but in doing so, I came to realize that there are times when the Lord asks us to remain still. There are times when we are to endure, to wait patiently, and to be confident in His Rescue. We are not to go and help ourselves out of that pit. We are not to barter or bargain our way out of the suffering. No, we are to remain still, to be silent, and to let the Lord be Glorified in and through our circumstance. I realize it now. I see how it was, and I grasp the significance of my actions. I understand, and I am humbled by the experience. 

The Lord had chosen for me to endure a particular trial. I didn't want to do it, and I was not content to "be" where I was in that moment. I wanted out, and I wanted out NOW. The Lord told me to remain, to be still, to know He was right there in the midst of the issue, that He was with me. I was not content to see His Way. I wanted out, and I wanted the pain to stop. 

In hindsight, I see that all I did in that moment, did not make matters better for myself. In truth, my choices served to prolong my agony, and resulted in a final dosing of battering and bruising. 

The good news is that today, while I may be smarting from that attack, I am able to understand what I did and didn't do. I can plan for the next one, and yes brothers and sisters, there will be a next attack. The enemy doesn't give up on us, and he doesn't go away. He may go bother someone else for a time, but he will be back. He will not give up until the day of the Lord, until the Day Christ returns. So until then, we can be prepared, to be alert, to remain on guard or we can continue to battle-weary and beaten down.


I know now why this attack occurred, and I understand what I did that brought it on. I asked for something of the Lord, some new kind of understanding (a new way to comprehend), and in doing so, I experienced an assault that demonstrated to me that what I had asked for was something to be greatly desired and sought after, something the enemy does not want believers to know and to experience. Yes, I asked to understand the Power of God's Name more fully, more completely. I asked to grasp how significant His Name is, and how His Name works in and through our lives. I wanted to know this power, to experience this power -- not to wield over others, not to become an overlord -- but to really understand victory, and to walk and live in that victory on a daily basis.

The enemy had other plans, and while he bested me this time, God has final authority over the eventual outcome. The enemy, 0; Jesus, 1 (WON!)

I know this is true. I know the Word, and I grasp how important it is for those of us who claim the Blood of Christ to walk in His Victory. When we walk in the flesh, we are miserable. When we walk in the Spirit, we are free, we overcome. I chose poorly. I chose the way of the flesh this past week, and I ended up with a good dose of reality. God is more than the sum total of my pain and suffering. He is more than all my moods, my lack of energy, and my inability to perform well. He is more than anything I could experience, anything I could imagine, and anything I could dream. He can do all things, and nothing is impossible for Him. 

My flesh is weak. It is flawed. I fail miserably, and I suffer torment from my own hand (past choices that brought physical, emotional and mental pain). I suffer torment from the enemy, who delights in my suffering. I give in, I give up, I don't care at times. I say "Enough! No more," and I whine (whimper). I am weak. I am at fault, and I make decisions that are based on how I feel, and not on what is best for me, for my family, or for another person. 

Yes, this is all true. But there is a golden side as well. There is the truth that says that He reigns:

"The LORD is king! He is robed in majesty. Indeed, the LORD is robed in majesty and armed with strength. The world stands firm and cannot be shaken." (Psalm 93:1 NLT)

and 

"The LORD is king! Let the nations tremble! He sits on his throne between the cherubim. Let the whole earth quake!" (Psalm 99:1 NLT)

No matter how weak and frail I may be today, and no matter how often my body and my spirit will become overwhelmed, the Lord our King sits enthroned in majesty. He is King. He is on the throne, and nothing will make Him move, nothing will shift Him from His Righteous Place. He is Lord of all, Lord over my life, and He is Victorious.

Psalm 150
1Praise the Lord.a
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens.
2Praise him for his acts of power;
praise him for his surpassing greatness.
3Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
praise him with the harp and lyre,
4praise him with tambourine and dancing,
praise him with the strings and flute,
5praise him with the clash of cymbals,
praise him with resounding cymbals.
6Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord.