February 22, 2012

It's Official

I will be graduating in May 2012. I finally received a call from the Chair of the Humanities department at Mercy College today. He confirmed that my paperwork is in the Registrar's office, and that I should be clear for registration for my final thesis course on Monday. This means that my financial aid will be disbursed, and my thesis proposal has been accepted. I am so blessed -- I will have my Masters degree in English Literature in May! Whoowhee! God is so very good to me.

I am just amazed at His blessing on my life. I was so depressed today, so very down, and so feeling as though something was seriously wrong with my life. I mean, I am good. I have a good job. I have a lovely home. And, my schooling is coming to a close. But...something was off, just not right. It was partly my work, my job at the University of Phoenix, and partly my feelings of being so overwhelmed and out of control. Some how I thought that while everything seemed OK, I was doing something wrong or I was off the mark. I kept praying about it, kept asking the Lord, "Am I off the mark?" His response was no each time. No, I am OK. No, I am right where I need to be. No, you are fine...etc. Yet, I felt that something was off, and I couldn't put my finger on it.

Earlier today, I struggled at work. I am trying so very hard to "like" my job. Truthfully, I do like it. I do like working at UOPX. There are some things I don't like, some aspects of big brother that bother me; but generally speaking, I do like what I do. I am bored, that is for certain; and I never am sure if I am doing a good enough job.
Anyway, as I was considering my job lately, I couldn't help but feel as though I was stuck in a rut. I was overwhelmed by the recent changes to the job, the added pressure, and the blockage of career progression at the company. I am new, so thinking about promotion and opportunities is really on the backburner, but yet, I am interested in being promoted. I feel like I am stuck in this job forever, and that while I am happy to have it, it is a challenge to remain active in the role. It can be mindnumbing at times, boring beyond tears, and a monotonous grind to do the daily repetitive tasks. I am used to repetition, and that is OK for a while -- but everyday, day in and day out -- well that is probably more than I can take long-term.

So I have been trying to cope with the changes, do my best each day, and keep up with the demands of the job. I am tired. Bushed. I worked so hard to move out of my previous home and into this one, and I did a number on myself, CFS-wise. I need rest, and lots of it. There is no time for vacation, no rest -- and with the pressure, I am feeling weary and so very tired. I want to do a good job, and I want to be approved. I feel like a failure.
As I contemplated options, I realized that I am right where God wants me to be. It is not about the job -- the job I have is practical and good work -- that is all. The plans He has for my life are bigger than the job. They are all about His will, and His provision of grace in my life. They are all about HIM, and they involve me, but do not REVOLVE AROUND ME. As I considered this mental shift, I came to understand that while the job I do is important, and it is a good job -- don't get me wrong -- it simply is not the end-all and be-all of my life. It provides good income, that is all.

No, God's plans for my life are BIG, and require some BIG commitment to them. I already know what I am to do. I already know the way to go. I am on that path, I am on my way to making those plans come to pass. Getting my Masters degree is part of that plan. So is going on to advanced studies. And learning my foreign languages and cello. Everything I am doing is part of His plan. My job is not directly involved, in one way or another. It just is. It is just good practical work.
May God be praised today and forevermore. You are awesome God, and I adore you, Lord. Have your way now, and make your way come to be 'my way' forever and ever, Amen.

February 20, 2012

Some things are better as they were

I switched back to the old Blogger profile and interface this morning. I am so relieved to have the simple and clean interface back for my blog posts. I think the new one was just too "ick" (no other word to describe it) for me. I think it contributed to my lack of blog posts over the last couple months. I can't really put my finger on it, but there was something about it that made it too awkward to write posts. I know Google was trying to fully integrate their services, to make it a "one shop" type feel -- profile fed across multiple platforms and such, but I felt that the changes didn't enhance Blogger -- they just diminished Bloggers capabilities (or at the least, hid them from view). Anyhow, I am glad to be back to the old slimline interface where I can easily find the tabs needed to post, edit, and change my template.

On other fronts, today is my day off -- thanks to the President's Day holiday. I am planning on making dinner for my parents, so I will need to get myself up and ready in the next hour or so and head out to the grocery store. My parents have been out of town the past week, and I am happy to have them home again. I miss their company, and I miss knowing that they are near by -- in case I have a need or concern. It has been nice to live near them all these years. Except for four years when they were in San Jose and I was here in Phoenix, we have always lived within 10-20 minutes of them. Since they retired to Phoenix in 2000, we have lived about 5 minutes away. Now with my new move, I am about 5-7 minutes down the road (opposite direction). It is a good thing, especially since they are getting older, and are in need of more care these days (not full-time, just occasionally).

Besides dinner preparations, my plans for today include resting (not doing anything much), some laundry and cleaning/vacuuming the bathrooms and floors. Mostly that is all that is needed each week. I try to keep my house picked up so that I don't have to do any major cleaning. It has worked out well, and my home seems to stay cleaner than my old house ever did. Go figure that one! My old house was constantly dusty and dirty. I think it was because the backyard was dirt, and with the winds, all that dirt just blew in the house. I never could get it clean, and everything was always so grimy.

I was looking at my stove, and realized how clean it is. I don't really cook anymore, at the least, not with the oven or stove top. I use the microwave a lot, and occasionally cook in sauce pans. I am not using the skillet -- that was something my husband used daily -- so I don't have to contend with grease anymore. I am able to keep the counters and floors clean with just a bare amount of upkeep, and overall, my home is always fresh and welcoming. I am really blessed to be able to live in this town home. God has graciously provided a lovely home for me and my son. I could not ask for anything better because this place is great, and it fits us so well.

As I consider His Ways, I am constantly amazed at how well He provides for us. He provides not just the thing we need, but the RIGHT thing we need. I used to believe that God provided for us, but that He didn't always give us what we wanted. I might want a Jaguar, but God would provide a Fiat instead (KWIM?) However, I have come to learn that while God doesn't necessarily give us what we want all the time -- some of the time, He does indeed give us the very best thing, and that best thing may indeed be the thing we want. Of course, I seem to fall into the category of the person who asks for one thing when the Lord offers another. I reject the Lord's offer (which by the way is way better than what I wanted), only to get the thing I want, and then realize that I should have taken His offer because it was so much better.

My town home is a perfect example of what I mean. Back in July 2011, the Lord showed me this town home complex on the Internet. I was praying about where we might live -- should we have to move from our home (due to pending foreclosure). The Lord directed me to Zillow, and after some searching pointed out a very nice town home for me to rent. It was not showing well in the pictures, and the outside only showed the carport and back gate (not the lovely greenbelt area at the front door). Why the home owner chose not to show the front door with green area is beside me, but that is neither here nor there. As I pondered living in a town home, I came to the conclusion that it "wasn't a good fit for me and my son." I didn't see how we could live in an apartment complex (with dumpsters in the parking lot -- kwim?) I never bothered to drive over here to see the Unit offered for rent nor did I inquire whether this home would be a good fit for us.

Well, in November, when I had to seriously consider moving because the steps taken to save my home had failed -- the Lord showed me this town home complex again. This time, the unit I had looked at was no longer for rent, but there was another one listed that was similar to the first. I felt the Holy Spirit's urgency to call the landlord, and after several calls and an appointment to see the unit, I ended up renting it. How I wish I would have taken up His offer to move in sooner. I would have saved myself so much trouble, given myself far more time to clean out the old house, and generally lived a more comfortable life during the transition period between old and new homes. But like my usual self, I allowed my stubborn resistance to keep me from receiving the Lord's blessing on my life. Yes, He still provided for me. And, yes, I am living in the same complex (just a different location). However, I suffered greatly by having to move at Thanksgiving/Christmas, and then having to work overtime and extra shifts all the while trying to empty out the old house for final auction sale.

This is not the first time this has happened to me. I have had numerous examples of the Lord's leading and provision, and my lack of willingness to agree with Him caused me to miss out on better opportunities. In some of these cases, the Lord still provided for me (like with my car); but in others, I have had to wait much longer simply because I was not willing to accept His offer to me.

Have I learned my lesson yet? Oh, how I pray that I have -- yes, Lord! In truth, I am not sure I have learned it well enough yet. I certainly recognized my failures, but will I make the choice to agree BEFORE it's too late next time? I do hope so, I do hope so.

In all, I sit here and thank the Lord today for His Marvelous Provision for my life. I have everything I need, and some of what I want. I am happy and content, and I am in peace. I miss some of my old life, and I don't think I will ever really be glad to be away from it. I miss the promise of marriage, and the hope of life-long companionship. I miss being a family. I don't miss the pain, and I don't miss the sorrow. I certainly do not miss all the anguish associated with bad money choices, and a life lived in poverty due to prideful arrogance and an unwillingness to honor the Lord with one's work. I also don't miss the underlying sense of being at fault, and feeling as though I was the one who was responsible for everything. No, the feelings and memories are bittersweet, and I am regretful that some choices were poorly considered, and that a lot of decisions were made in ignorance. Yes, I would change things, most certainly; but for now, I am content to live where I am, in the way that I am (married, yet single). I have no desire to seek male companionship, and I have no desire to be divorced (even though my family desires it for me). I am very content to remain married, yet live alone the rest of my days. Is that selfish -- yes, it is. My husband may desire to be divorced some day, and if he does, then so be it. But for me, I will wait on the Lord, and choose to live the life He has called me to live. I will trust Him to provide for my needs, and to care for me until such time that He chooses to stop (Praise be to God -- May it never be!) I know I am good. I know my life is good. I can see and feel His Blessing and Prosperity upon me. I cannot explain it. I cannot understand it. I have enough of everything, and I have an over abundance of His Goodwill in my life. My checkbook is never empty, even though I have many bills to pay each month. I am able to live comfortably, purchase what I need, and there is always money in my bank account. How is that possible? It is only possible through the Mercy and Grace of our Lord, who so desires to provide for His Children and care for them in this way. God is truly Good to me, and He is Good all the time.

February 19, 2012

Little Things

It is a gorgeous Sunday morning in Phoenix, Arizona. I am on a 3-day weekend, thanks to the President's Day holiday on Monday. I so need the rest. Yesterday, I did practically nothing. I did make some headway in repairing the old Cremona cello I own. This cello was donated to me by my cello teacher. I cannot find any provenance on the cello, other than to say that it is a Cremona student cello. However, the newer Cremona's supposedly are crack-resistant, and mine has several cracks that have been repaired. Mine also has a Rosewood fingerboard and tailpiece. The newer styles comes with dyed ebony fingerboards and composite tail pieces. The higher end models have a Boxwood tailpiece, but ebony fingerboard. So as much as I can figure, my cello is probably a mid-to-higher end Cremona that may be 10-20 years old.

This cello needs some repair -- always has -- but I was such a novice that I never really figured out what needed to be done to make it playable. It has a lovely warm tone, very deep lower register, and a nice upper register. Not at all shrill sounding, which is exactly what I want from a cello. The problem has been the bridge, which looks like someone tried to fix by putting an unfitted bridge in place of a fitted one. I didn't really understand the difference until now -- after playing cello for almost three years. My Kay cello has a fitted bridge, and truthfully, it is pretty cheap and set incorrectly. It has a deep slouch towards the A string, and I believe this was done to allow students better opportunity to reach the A from the C string. With student hands on a 4/4 cello, it can be hard to make that connection. It makes sense that someone adjusted the bridge so that the cello was easier to play. However, after playing on this cello now for so long, it simply cannot do what I need it to do. The upper register is shrill, and the lower register lacks depth. In chamber pieces, my part is to play the bass line along with the left-hand of the piano. I need to really power through a lot of these pieces, and my Kay cannot hack it. Granted, Kay cellos were made to perform in a student orchestra, so they were not to be stand outs in their own right.

My Cremona cello has a lovely voice, and with some proper adjustments and repairs, I think it will hold it's own for a while. Yesterday, I took the plunge and invested in some needed items to bring this cello back into playing shape. First off, I purchased a decent set of strings -- D'Addario Pro-Arte -- which are good low tension strings (the kind I like to play). My teacher prefers higher end strings (she is a violinist), and she put them on this cello, but I found them difficult to play. I like the ease of playing thinner strings, so these are good for me. Also, I didn't want to invest more than $100 for strings -- just in case -- the cello ends up still not playing correctly.

I also invested in a new case, something that this cello has deserved for a couple years. The old one was held together with pins, so a new case, padded with nice backpack straps will do wonders for both the cello and the carrier (me). I also bought a set of fine tuners, a metronome/tuner combo (on back order) as well as a cello mute. The whole package cost me about $175, but I am factoring in that this cello probably cost about $1000 new, so it is a worthy investment.

I will not know if the modifications I made to the bridge are OK until I get the strings and can put them on and tune them up. The bridge was put in place without any adjustment to the feet, so the entire bridge was set way to high for me to play properly. I took the feet off, sanded them slightly and replaced the bridge in the exact position it was in. If the bridge still doesn't function correctly, then I will take the cello down to the String Shop in Tempe to have it professionally adjusted (probably will do that anyway) or replaced. I am hoping that with the bridge adjustment, this cello will play well enough for me to enjoy it through the end of the year. I am still planning on upgrading to a better cello, but if I can make do with this one, then I can save the $3k investment and put that towards a new car.

As an Intermediate-Advancing cellist, I am ready to move up to a better quality instrument. However, I am not seeking professional playing ability nor do I ever intend to play in public. I am content to play at home, and with my small chamber group (high school and college students). It is a safe environment for this almost-50 year old novice cellist. I am happy to be able to play beautiful music with this group of wonderful students. I love the camaraderie of being in a small group, and my cello teacher has the very best intentions when it comes to selecting music. Since she arranges all the pieces to fit each performer, she makes it possible for each of us to shine in the group. This way we can play Vivaldi's Spring, for example, with violin parts suited to her advanced and intermediate players, and the cello part suited to my skills. We sound wonderful together, and the pleasure we receive in playing these wonderful selections makes the practice time and commitment worth it.

February 5, 2012

Understanding Your Role and Purpose

At my job, we are going through some specialized training that will assist us with effectively communicating our role and purpose to our customers (aka, students). This training has been excellent, and while specifically created for my company's use (a school), the actual training is adaptable to any kind of business or organization. The emphasis is the same -- learning how to effectively communication the following:
  • Role
  • Purpose
  • Agenda
The main idea behind the training is to create a professional image whereby customers clearly understand the difference between roles, and can engage in meaningful conversation directed to a specific outcome (in my work -- starting and completing a degree program).

I have found that this training has helped me articulate my role more clearly, and has enabled me to be more relaxed in my conversations. This is a huge benefit to me, simply because I do not consider communication to be my strong suit. I prefer to work behind the scenes, and while I think I do have good interpersonal relationship skills, I do not consider myself an "upfront" person. I prefer to get to know people over a long period of time, and I like to build relationships that last. I am not "in it to win it," so to speak. I really enjoy taking my time, and learning to know people intimately over years and not months (or even days).

I thought about this training this morning while speaking with the Lord. The thought came to me how it had become useful in my daily work environment. I inadvertently started to say my role and purpose to the Lord, when all of a sudden, I realized that this training works in ministry as well as in the corporate world. In truth, the training is something most sales professionals have used for years, so it is not secret or anything new. It is simple when you think about it, and I think that for ministry this is a great tool to help each one of us understand better our role and purpose in God's Kingdom.

Why is this important to you and me? Well, I believe that most Christians are really mixed up by their role and purpose. They have been fed a lot of mumbo-jumbo -- some of it founded on Biblical truth, and some of it completely of the world and the ruler of the world. Moreover, many Christians believe that it is up to them to do "God's Work," and that they are to "be about His work." It is as if the Lord stands by and watches us from afar to see how well we learned from the Bible, and how effectively we can do "His work." This is what I see all around me, and in truth, this is how I lived my life for a very long time. I was doing God's work, and He was watching me. When I got tired or ran out of strength, I went back to see Him to ask for a "refilling" of His Holy Spirit, and then once I was recharged, I went out again to "do His Work."

I have come to understand things differently now, and my mindset has been changed by His Grace. You see, I no longer believe that it is "I" who do this work; but rather I concur with the Apostle Paul when he said that it was not him, but Christ living and working through him.

"My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." Galatians 2:20 NLT

When we fully understand our role and purpose in Christ Jesus, we can let go of the worldly mentality that says it is up to us to "do God's work." This is not Biblically accurate, and is a corruption of the truth. It is a lie of Satan to believe that we are at all capable of doing any of the Lord's work.

""I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not give my glory to anyone else, nor share my praise with carved idols." Isaiah 42:8 NLT

The truth is that the Lord is not going to allow His work to be done by mortal hands for mortal praise. It is all for His Name, and even when we think we are doing work in His Name, often our motivation is not for His Glory. I cannot really explain it because I spent thirty-plus years doing work, and thinking I was "serving the Lord." I have experienced the difference between "doing His work, and "being a part of His Work" most recently. Once you see Him doing the work, you realize just how futile your work was, and how much it resembled the work of a carved idol.

When God moves through you and begins to use you for His Name and His Glory, then things really happen. His work is done, and it is done without much effort on your part. This is the effective working of Grace as it actively engages your heart, your head, and your hands. When Grace is working in you and through you, then nothing will stand in the Lord's way. He will do all that He has promised to do.

"And he said, Behold, I make a covenant: before all your people I will do marvels, such as have not been done in all the earth, nor in any nation: and all the people among whom you are shall see the work of the LORD: for it is an awesome thing that I will do with you." Exodus 34:10 KJV

Role and Purpose

The question then becomes "how do we know our role and purpose?" The first part can be difficult, especially for those who believe that our role is unified and not singly specific to a calling. Some Christian's like to say that their role is to be a servant of the Lord. This is true. Some say that their role is to be an Ambassador for Christ Jesus, and again this is true. The Word says it this way:

"...he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ." Ephesians 4:11-13 NIV

Clearly, the Word teaches us that we have all been called to a ROLE in Christ and that our "work" is to minister to the Body of Christ. As Christians, therefore, it is vitally important that we know what our ROLE is, for without this knowledge, we cannot fulfill our specific purpose in the Church.

Once a Christian understands their specific role in the body of Christ, then through the blessing and power of the Holy Spirit, they are able to grasp the significance of their purpose. In doing so, they will then be able to come to the knowledge of God's expressed will in their life. In this way, the child of God can actually KNOW what they are to do in life, how they are to live out God's will, and how they can function within the Body or the Church.

For many Christian's, they simply choose to remain ignorant of this important and foundational understanding, and prefer to live in the wider, more non-specific grouping called "believer." While we are all believers in Christ, God's Word does tell us that we are all called to a specific role and purpose. We have ministry gifts from the Holy Spirit, and we are to be using them to build up His Church. How can we effectively use our gifts if we do not know where they are best used? For example, a man called to be an Evangelist, may choose to work as a teacher. Now, this man may be a very good teacher, but his role is clearly defined in Scripture and no matter how he chooses to live his life, he will find that it is difficult for him to keep quiet when it comes to telling others about Jesus and the Gospel Message. He cannot do it, he simply cannot do it without rejecting the calling of the Lord of Hosts, and the specialized ministry gifts of the Holy Spirit.

The same is true for the Pastor who refuses to lead or shepherd the Church. He may be a great businessperson, but he will not be living fully in God's will if he is not taking care of the children the Lord has entrusted to him.

In all ways, each believer in Jesus must spend quality time in both prayer and study of the Word so that they can know and understand their role. Once they receive that knowledge, they will find just how exciting it is to be put to "good use" in God's work and Kingdom. It is a great thing to know who you are, to know where you are going, and to know that you are living and doing the work you were specifically designed to do.