March 31, 2012

Learning to Abide in His Presence

It is Saturday, and I am so happy to have a day off! I have worked two Saturday's over the past couple weeks, and while I did enjoy having Friday off (half day and then a whole day), I really do like having two days off in a row. I just need the down time, and spreading the day's off doesn't seem to give me enough time to recuperate and get refreshed before the work week begins again. I am enjoying this day, and I am feeling so very blessed.

God has been gracious to me once again, and has given me not only opportunity but recognition. I am living the dream, so they say, but instead of the "American Dream," I am living the God-breathed, God-filled daily dream of being in His Presence. There is no comparison, for while the AD is grounded in our culture, the GD is something completely different. Let me explain...

In our American Dream, at least, the dream I grew up with -- the goal was to be self-sufficient and to know that with hard work and perservance you could achieve anything you wanted. Typically, this would be owning a home, having access to a good job, and being able to live in the middle class. I grew up in the middle class. My parents have always owned their own home, and they still do (now both are nearing age 80). They are in the process of down-sizing, and will for the first time since they were married some 54 years ago, moved into a smaller "rented" single, duplex or patio home. They have for all intents and purposes been the "American Couple." Married from youth, raised four children, grandparented six, and are now enjoying the blessings of retirement as they near the latter stages of their lives.

In my case, my life didn't quite work out that way, but I am still a recipient of that "dream theory." There is still a part of me that longs for that middle class life. I have owned my own home, but due to the economy and housing market slump, lost it to foreclosure this year. I was married, now single, but I did parent one awesome child. I have access to good work, and I live in a lovely townhome that suits us for the interim. Life is good, and I am blessed.

However, with this aside, the truth be told -- I long for another kind of "dream." I long to be with my Lord, in His Presence, and doing His Work. I like working in this world, and I have enjoyed the process of living each day in communion with Him. It is just not enough, really not enough to deeply satisfy my soul, and provide me with the deep comfort I desire. The Lord knows this, and the Lord knows that a day is coming when I will be with Him forever, always in His Presence, and always abiding with Him. For now, though, I must remain and I wait.

Waiting, though, has been worth it. I am enjoying knowing Him in this life, and sharing in His work of ministry. I am happy to be a part of His plans, and to know that He has actual plans for my immediate life. I am in the process of realizing those plans, and of learning how to participate, to cooperate with Him, as He completes each task in His Name. This way, while I am with Him -- I receive no glory. The Lord is glorified, and the Lord receives all the praise. I am with Him, working with Him, yet He is receiving the praise and honor. It is how it should be, and I am happy to be a partner with Him in that experience.

What I have come to learn is that abiding with the Lord, and allowing Him to do His work on His timeline and according to His agenda brings great blessing. It is like the Parable of the Talents. We are to use the resources God has provided and use them well, making the most of them, and bringing a profit back to the Master when He returns. I have struggled with understanding what the Bible means by "work," and I have misinterpreted what it means when we read Jesus' statement on being a "good and faithful servant." I want to be that good and faithful servant, and I want to receive that blessing from Him. I just don't know how to do it sometimes. I know I am trying hard, but many days I feel like such a failure, like I am working so hard, and producing such little "profit."

I am learning now that much of my earthly work is toil -- hardship produced by Adam and Eve's sin, and the work is futile and without profit. But with the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the "work" we do, whether earthly or eternal is well-rewarded -- so long as we use the "talents" or resources God has entrusted to us to use. I now understand that I am blessed in this life and that the profit I make now will earn me far greater responsibilities in the next. My work now is preparatory for my greater work in Heaven. What that work will be is unknown, but I what is certain is that God has entrusted me with resources (giftings, abilities and physical resources) so that I can earn a profit (bring Him Glory and Honor) and potentially help to increase the size of the Kingdom.

It is hard to wrap your head around it, but Kingdom work is not always about saving souls. Kingdom work is not always about evangelism, though, that is a great component. There is much work to do -- building up the Kingdom through the enrichment and encouragement of the Body of Christ -- is a very good work. This is the work I have been called to do. My ministry is to edify--through the gifting of Grace by the power of the Holy Spirit--the Body. I am to be an encourager, a supporter, and at times, a challenger to help God's people grow in their relationship with Him. I am to use my giftings and abilities to motivate people to develop deeper and more stronger relationships with God, and with others. In this way, I am building up the Kingdom of God, though I am not increasing the size by adding more souls. I am caring for the souls that are already a part of the Kingdom. I am ministering to those who minister to the lost. This is my role, this is my purpose, and I am using the abilities and resources that God has provided to do this work.

I understand now that my earthly work may or may not align with my Kingdom work. I hope that there will be crossover at some point, but for now, I know that what I do today is having an impact on my future. I am about the Father's business, and I am working to earn Him a great profit.

Therefore, my timeline and agenda for doing that work is now aligned with His Timeline and Agenda. I have given up the need to control the timing of certain things, and I have let my agenda go. I am consumed with the tasks on His Agenda, and knowing that He will provide whatever resource is required to accomplish that task, I can go about my business and do the work now without much concern. This brings rest, a cessation of worry and doubt, and the freedom to be a good worker in the King's Business.

I have so wanted to let go, to let things be -- but that entire concept was a struggle. I am not sure when I got it, when it finally made sense, but I think it was this past week. I was deep in despair over my work (earthly work) situation. I was worried about losing my job, I was consumed with the fact that the work is boring and challenging to do (just to remain engaged mostly). I was tired of the constant drive to do the work a certain way, a way that just is so not "me" and is difficult for me to do. I was afraid of the condemnation that I wasn't doing a good job, and that I would have to endure more criticism about my performance.

Several co-workers rallied around me -- I didn't really say anything -- but I am guessing they could tell I was depressed. They encouraged me to just do the work as I have been doing it, and to stop worrying about what the "company" thinks. This was hard for me, for while I appreciated their advice, I so desparately need to be approved, to know I am being honest and faithful in my time and with my work. I wasn't getting that approval, it wasn't coming from management, and it seemed like I was just getting criticized all the time.

I cried out to the Lord, I asked for rescue, and the Lord stepped in and provided some respite. In the interim, He also gave me enough confidence to relax, and let things be. In doing so, I came to see the truth, and in this way, experienced the revelation that in God nothing is impossible (Luke 1:37).

In letting go, I figured out that this work is nothing to God. It is nothing for Him to prosper me, to bless me, and to provide for me. He can choose to do this where I am currently employed or He can choose to move me into another position. It is not something I have to do. In fact, I have been consistently told to "remain." The Lord has said that I am to "remain" and that is what I am doing. I thought at first this meant to remain at my job, which is partly true. I have learned since that it meant to remain where I was or where I am, which is in His Presence. I am remain fixed to the Lord, and I am to remain committed to His Plans for my life. I am to not worry about the details because the Lord has all of that under control. I am to focus on Him, on His Work, and on where He wants me to go. He will do the rest. He will take care of me. He will resolve all the issues.

As I consider this today, I am praising Him, and I am giving Him glory. I have learned such a valuable lesson, and I am now better able to understand what He is telling me to do.

My work is His work. There is no other work. I am to do what He asks of me, and He will provide for me. This is His promise to me. He is Faithful. He is telling me the truth. I know Him, and when I abide in Him, trusting in His Character, and in His Word, then truly nothing is impossible. I am blessed, and I am so well cared for now. The Lord is Lord of my life, and I am well-pleased.

March 25, 2012

Can This Be It?

It is such a strange and odd feeling to be comfortable again. I have been toiling, struggling, and trying so desperately to figure out how to be a certain way. I have been disappointed at work, with my progress, with my schooling, and with the plans that I had made (thinking they were His when they really were not His at all). I have been happy to have work, and I give praise and testimony to God for His provision of a job at UOPX. But, since I started that job, I have felt that I was working under a microscope. My every action and word being scrutinized and evaluated. It has been difficult to be at peace when your entire day is being reviewed for errors, and your every moment is being corrected -- suggestions abound on how to do things "better" or how to not do this or that. It has been a challenge to remain focused, to remain idealistically hopeful that "things would get better in time."

This weekend was really the final straw. I went to work yesterday feeling blue and low down. I really didn't want to be there, but it was my day to work. I did my best, going in with a good attitude, and in less than 15 minutes, my bubble of optimism was burst by someone who simply wanted to make me feel less than perfect, to bring me "down to size," so to speak. I tried the entire day to keep my attitude up. I even tried to be nice, to make conversation, and "appear" as though I was humbly accepting of the criticism. But as the day wore on, my patience ran thin. As soon as I could leave, I did. I ran out the office door, out to my car, and slumped in the drivers seat. I road home in silence, thinking "Why Lord? Why must I suffer like this?"

I thought I was in the right place, I was thankful for the good work. I like most of my team mates, and I was trying so hard to like the work. But in truth, I hate the work. I hate the job. I hate the environment, and I hate the attitude that tells me "be patient - you will learn how to survive here." What my co-workers mean is that you will learn to play the game, to keep your head down, and do the minimum amount of work so you won't lose your job. I am not good at doing less than my best. I fail often, but not for lack of trying. I fail usually for misjudging a situation or for making an error in translation. I rarely fail for not trying to do what is asked of me. If anything, I excel at doing my best. I am a top performer now. I am doing everything I can to win, but I am constantly being brought low by others, peers who are jealous, who are zealous or simply concerned for me (that I will burn out).

I am burnt out. I am tired. I want to stay home now. I want to do a different kind of work. I want a job where I can go home when I want to go home. I need to be at home. I need to rest. I am so very tired now.

Dear Lord,
How do I reconcile my feelings, and how do I live my life without a steady job? I cannot live on hope. I cannot live without income to pay the rent, buy gas and food and other expenses. How can I live, Lord -- how can I do the work each day under these circumstances? I need to be released from this work so that I can do something else. I don't know what else I can do. I don't know what kind of work I can do from home -- or if that is even possible. I need your deliverance now. I need to be rescued from this work. Is that even possible, Lord? I cry out to you, I beg you and I confess that you were right when you told me that this job would not be a good fit. I need you to take care of this for me. I cannot live without you, and I cannot even contemplate a change at this point in my life. What am I to do now? Please Lord, help me please?

I am lost, yet I feel so well founded

It is a strange feeling to be lost. I have been lost before, and typically, I feel out of sorts, as if I am spinning out of control, and unaware of how or why I came to be in a certain place. Today, however, I feel lost -- yet I know that I am so well-grounded in the Lord, that I cannot really be lost at all. I think this is CHANGE, and since I readily admit that I "don't do change well," I think what I am feeling is just that sense that something has changed, and I am knocked a bit off my feet. I am not floored nor am I losing ground -- I just have been bumped a bit and shifted a little more than usual. I feel as though I am now moving slightly off the path, but still moving in the same direction. I am just standing off the path, almost like walking along the dirt part of the road.

I was in the middle of the road. I was walking surefooted-ly on the hard surface of the road. Now, I am walking on the gravel beside that same road. Still travelling in the same direction, just without the solid surface beneath my feet. I am not sure why I am standing to the side, but I kind of like the fact that I am walking where I want to walk rather than feeling so forced to walk where everyone else walks.

I think it has to do with my non-traditional personality and with my inner self that prefers to do things her own way. It is not that I am being willful, but rather, that I am being myself -- finally, myself. I am not trying to be anyone else. I am not trying to be a world class scientist, a virtuoso cellist, or even a straight A student. Nope, I am just being me, and that means that I am being true to myself -- warts and all. I am not perfect. I am not great. I am not even good. Truthfully, there is nothing that is good inside of me. I am sinful, willful, flesh that desires to be god in the place of the One who IS. Yes, it is true. I humble myself before Him and shout out that I confess that I desire to be where He IS, and that I know I am an utter failure, full of false humility, and desiring evil things. Yes, this is my sinful nature at it's best and it's worst. Praise and Glory to God the Father, and to the Son, and to the Blessed Holy Spirit, that I am no longer that awful creature and forced to live in that awful sin-filled nature! My new nature confesses readily to Him that I want Him and Him alone to guide and direct me. I want to do everything He has promised me that I would do in His Name, and I want to do it His way. I no longer want my way nor do I want to have certain things -- comforts, protections, and the safety-net of the world's system. No, I want His provision -- glorious and full and abundant. I want to live a free life, fully engulfed in worship and ready to seek Him and His way in all things.

Yes, Lord, I don't know why I am where I am today. I don't know where we are going or why we are walking off the main road. I just know that I am content to follow you and that I am trusting you to provide for me. Today. Tomorrow. And, every day until I am with you in Eternity.

Eternally grateful, eternally peaceful -- in your Name -- I give you praise today. Amen. So be it. Thy Will be done. Selah!

Disappointed and Facing Uncertainty

Yesterday was my Saturday rotation. I normally don't mind working that shift, since it only comes around once every nine or ten weeks. I took Friday off, which was so needed, and turned out to be a real blessing (rest-wise). I was not looking forward to Saturday simply because the shift hours changed from 7-4 to 6-3, which meant that it was mandatory for all employees working on Saturday to be in at 6:00 a.m. For me, this meant getting up at 5:00 and making sure I left the house no later than 5:30. I made it, barely, and started my day hopeful that it would be a "good" day.  Instead, it turned out to be more of the same -- more criticism, more unpleasantness, and more of the feeling like I was in the wrong place.

I can't really tell you when things started to change for me. I think it was after Christmas. I had just completed this new training (Division wide) and was hopeful that the structured conversation would help me with my students. It did, in fact, and I had a very good January. February was mostly hard work -- lots of follow up from conversations in November and December -- but still good numbers. March was different. March was just plain difficult -- struggles to make conversation, to make enrollments. To top it off, March also had a change in management style, new leadership, and more emphasis on "numbers." This had already started back in January with the old manager, but slowly as the New Year moved more into swing, the emphasis was made known to all staff -- 'the numbers are everything.'

Now, this was not a surprise to me considering that I spent one year working at Macy's and being told daily that I had to open "2" credit accounts per week as it stated in my signed my work agreement. I loathed the sales aspect of that job. Mind you, selling clothing is all about the SALE; but selling credit is something different to me. Selling clothing is easy, and for all intents and purposes, doesn't really hurt you (unless you are a clothes hoarder, etc.) Selling credit, however, can ruin a person financially for life. I didn't like being a party to ruining someone's life, so I never really did it. The Lord provided willing parties, so I opened enough credit to keep management at bay, but I didn't really "make my numbers" while I worked there.

I knew that working as an Advisor at UOPX would include numbers too. In training, the cat was let out of the bag that we would be expected to enroll X number of students. Though the "emphasis" was on customer support -- always on good conversation, and doing what was in the best interest of the student. They tried to make it all about the student, but in reality, I knew that I would be expected to enroll students and maintain a quota. Yes, my compensation is no longer tied to enrollments -- in fact -- the Federal government kiboshed that policy for all for-profit schools in 2009-2010. Still, there was a lingering attitude of enrollment expectation, and I felt uncomfortable with that emphasis from the get-go.

I needed the job, and I wanted to work some place where I would have stable income. I needed to move, to find a place to live, and I needed to be on my own. I had to find work -- and the job at UOPX seemed like a great provision during my greatest time of need. In truth, I asked for this job. I was so desperate waiting for the Lord to open a door, that I begged Him for this position, even when He clearly told me that it wasn't a good fit. I wanted the work, and I was willing to do what was required to have a good stable source of income.

As time as gone by, I am thinking of where I am, and where I need to be. It is not that the job is a bad one, by no means. Rather, it is in all truth, not a good fit -- just as the Lord told me it would be. I can see this now, and I am experiencing it daily. I am in a job that goes against my grain, and causes me great anxiety and frustration. I am excelling at it -- solidly enrolling 10 students (or thereabouts) each month. I am a top performer -- just as I was at Macy's. I am blessed in my work, and the Lord has caused me to find success. The issue at hand is whether or not I can sustain this pace. I cannot not. Well, I fear not.

I am exhausted, and I am unable to focus on my school studies. In the Lord's provenance, school comes first. It has always been this way, and I have known that I am to do the following:

  • Complete my education (Masters and PhD)
  • Complete my language training
  • Continue working on cello and violin
  • Assist my son in his schooling needs
These are the specific tasks the Lord has assigned to me. These are the items I am to focus on. No where on this list has He given me "complete a job," "get a career," or even "to this work." Work, job, career -- are no where on my list of things to accomplish or complete. Why? Simply because the Lord has given me my "to do" list, and work is not in my per view. It is His JOB to bring me work. It is His JOB to provide income and stability for my life. It is also His JOB to provide access to education for both me and my son. He tells me where to go to school, and then provides a way to pay for it. He provides access to language instruction, and provides the resources to accomplish that task. The same with cello -- He provided a new cello for me so that I could continue to improve in my studies.

Once again, I have mixed my wires up, and grabbed the responsibility for something that is not under my control. Therefore, I am letting this go now. I am trusting the Lord to provide a different job for me. I am to do the tasks assigned by my company, and as far as what work I actually do each day -- that is up to the Lord.

What does this mean for me? Really, it is just re acclimating myself to His Will, and accepting my role in it. He is God, I am not. His Will is done, not mine. It is pretty simple. It is well-ordered. It is completely thought out and planned (purposed). God's will be done in every area of my life.

How does this look for now or the short-term future?

Well, firstly, I realize that I have to let work go. It can no longer be the single focus of my days as it has been. I am far too exhausted to do anything else, and that is starting to cause issues with my graduate plans. I need to focus on my path, placing career aside, and knowing that so long as I am doing what the Lord will's, then He will provide a job that suits me and serves His purpose.

Secondly, I need to be about my studies and to maintain a clear focus to accomplish this next level of schooling. I need to be solely intentional about what I am to do, and keep in mind that getting my advanced degree was His idea, and not mine. Yes, I have always wanted to do it, but He has provided the way to do it now, at this latter stage in my life. Therefore, this is His SHOW and not mine. This is all about His WORK and not what I accomplish. This is His WAY and that means that He will provide schooling, funding and a job as a result of my obedience and willingness to do things according to His will.

My to do list includes the following must items:
  • Complete my Masters degree as planned in May 2012
  • Enroll in a PhD program for Fall 2013
  • Start my French studies and complete the level required for admission to above program
  • Take the GRE exam (fall 2012)
  • Continue improving on cello
  • Support my son in his efforts at school and be there as a supporter of his interests and goals
This is all that I am to do. God will provide income. God will provide some work for me to do so that I can do the above list. It is up to Him to provide, and it is up to me to do these things. He leads, I follow. He directs, and I listen and do what He says. It is a no-brainer unless I choose to exert my own will where it doesn't belong. I don't want the responsibility, I don't want to take hold of that which is not mine to hold. I want the blessed peace and security of living and doing within the massive and mighty river of His will. I want to float down the river and be completely contented to go wherever that river takes me.

Dear Lord,

I let go now of my hold on this job. I realize that you allowed it for a time, and it has served it's purpose. It provided income so that I could be established and live on my own. Now though I need a job that is more in line with your will and purpose, and something that will not be so intensive and energy draining. I need to complete my schooling, and to do that, I need to do a job that will be conducive to my schooling efforts. I ask now that you bring me a job that will allow me the time to take classes and complete a doctoral research degree. I ask that you provide an opportunity to me now so that I can transition into a new job quickly and get up to speed with the expected work. I ask now that you will guide me through these remaining weeks at Mercy so that I can complete all the assignments and graduate on time. I ask all this now in Jesus' Name -- believing in faith that what I am asking is in alignment with your will, and will lead me to the place of your choosing. I ask this now knowing that change is difficult for me, but that this change will bring me relief, and that I will be better able to handle everything I need to handle. May God be praised forever more. Amen. So be it, thy will be done. Selah!

March 21, 2012

The Road and My Place On It

Today has been difficult. From start to finish, it has been a challenge. I woke up later than usual, and didn't get out on the road until 7 a.m. This put me a good half-hour behind in starting my day, and once I arrived at work, I realized that I was not going to be able to make up for the lost time. I ended up coming home at 3:30, like normal, simply because I was exhausted and tired with what had taken place.

I spent the morning working with my new and potential students. I have 8 REG'd now for April, with 4 more waiting to be financially cleared. This will make 12, possibly 14 if my two long-rollers finally get a move on and finish their paperwork. I have had to work hard to clear these students, and I have spent a lot of time walking to class, to workshops, and even having to reprimand one for not completing a required orientation class, and thus, losing her start date. It has been a tough month, and today, was no exception.

To top things off, at 1:00 p.m., we had a weekly staff meeting. I was hopeful that it would be different, but it was more of the same. The same old coaching on how to enroll students, how to have a conversation, and how to get a "referral." I know that this is important, but it is so "sales-y" and that always has been a fly in my ointment. I simply prefer the soft-sell, the friendly way in which you present options and allow the user/student to make their own choice. I don't believe that my conversations needs to be structured or coached.

Both managers, old and new, are into coaching. This is what a manager does at UOPX. They coach you on what to say, how to say it better, and they how to say it differently. I get tired of the coaching, and I feel that it is so anti-development. This is how companies develop leaders -- through coaching. I am not sure who bought that line, but it was probably Tony Robbins or someone like that who feed the masses, and it is not part of the lingo of our culture. I prefer the straight talk, being genuine and honest, and listening to people. I also believe in giving advice when asked, and then offering options to help people decide on their own. I am about self-empowerment, and people development that is internal. This is what develops naturally, and frankly, you can try to make a turnip into an apple with all the coaching in the world, but at some point you gotta realize that this vegetable just aint going look or taste like a fruit.

This is how it is at my job. We are coached on how to be super conversationalists, how to have a discussion that is student-centric. We want to explore motivation, and we want to help students discover why they want to go back to school. Just saying "to get a job" isn't good enough. No, there has to be a deeper reason, and more pertinent response.

Most of my students want to get a good job. Some want a specific career, and some don't know -- they just think they need an education. I am OK with these differences -- they represent the various walks in life. Not everyone is on the same road at the same time. We are all journeying at our own pace. I respect that. I understand it. And, I accept the fact that we are all unique individuals with individual stories to tell.

I also accept the fact that not every student is touchy-feely, and not every student want hand-holding. I have students who just want the facts. I have student's who want to cry over their assignments. They are all different, and I accept them for who they are and where they are right now. I am happy to do it, and I like that I am not putting a mask on my face. I am who I am, and what you see is what you get with me.

It has always been this way with me. When I was in my own business, I would tell clients that I am their only contact -- there was no other support team. I was it. If they needed me, they could call me. I was there for them, and I was their go to person.

I am still that way, but now, I struggle because I am being asked to do things differently, and that goes against my grain. It is not aligned with the way I think or work. I am successful in my job, but I am successful for two reasons: 1) the Lord blesses me daily; and 2) He provides students for me to enroll (I do the work, He motivates the students to contact or accept the call).

The last months have been a drain on me. I am frustrated with the process, with the emphasis, and with the constant "coaching" that resembles nit-picking. It is like pick, pick, pick -- do this, do this, do this. I don't want to be told what to do anymore. I am happy doing what I am doing, and it works.

Today, I cried at work. It was the first time I really cried, and it felt so good to take off my mask. I have had this mask on since I started there. I have tried to be Miss Polly Perfect, and I have succeeded. I am well liked, my peers look up to me, and now two managers and a director have told me that I am a shining star (in not so many words). However, with all that said, I dread going into work, and I dread making the phone calls, and picking up the phone. I dread the "one on one" with my manager, and the CWEB calls that tell me I didn't meet expectations (always on discovery). I am failing at the SSP and the SSE (processes my school uses to rate performance). At this rate, I will never be promoted.

Furthermore, today was an eye-opener. We recently had our mid-year reviews. There were hundreds of advisors up for promotion. I assumed that if you were progressing (doing your job well), and had completed your required training, you would get a title change. Guess what! I found out that today there are only limited positions open, and with hundreds's applicants, it just makes sense that not everyone will get a promotion.

I am not too shocked with this news -- I have seen it coming for a while. The new career progression changes and the way we have been trained in the process has made it pretty clear that they were going to be limiting how employees are hired, are trained, and then promoted.

I came home weary, and wondering about my future here. I am glad to have a job, this is for certain. I cannot live without this job, so I am not going to jump ship willy-nilly. I am also not going to take the first opportunity that comes around to me. No, I have decided that the only other job I would like to test out is teaching. I have wanted to be a teacher for nearly 35 years, but I never did it. I am now about to graduate with my Masters and I have decided that the next opportunity will be to try and get a teaching position at the community college (or another college).

Moreover, I am now considering that this will be a viable option for me, Lord willing. I cannot get hired on my own, and I am not going to even look until He tells me to do so. For now, I am going to remain at my job, wait things out, graduate with my Masters degree and then watch as the Lord opens doors for me. Until that time, I have decided that I am going to be myself. I am going to stop worrying, and I am going to stop trying to be someone I am not. I am myself. I am me. I like me. I can do my job as myself so long as I don't try to be someone else.

As I consider this path, I realize that I am a non-traditional learner and a non-traditional employee. I don't fit corporate America. I don't fit into the big machine. I am a little cog in the big wheel, and I simply don't fit well. I am good at what I do, and I do try my best each day -- I am just not the "company man." I am God's woman, I belong to Him, and I am seeking to please Him. This means that no man will ever be pleased with me because my profile, my work ethic, and my abilities stem from Him, and are founded and developed through His Merciful Grace. I am God's handiwork -- His handmaiden, fit for His service and created to worship Him. Amen, Alleluia, Amen.

March 18, 2012

The Beginning as it Should Be


It has been such a long lonely road for me. The past couple years have brought the end of a relationship, and the beginning of a new way of living. I have had to learn how to do everything, many things for the first time in my adult life. I left the safety of my parents home and moved into what I thought was the safety of my husband's home. Instead, I found a lonely existence hidden within the framework of a marriage. I lived alone for so many years, never certain if I was doing well, doing things right, or even pleasing my husband. It was a constant struggle to know from one day to the next if I was approved, if I was OK, if I was loved.

I sit here now, a much older, much wiser, and much seasoned woman. Nearing almost 50, I am at a point in my life where I understand that my valuation lays in One person alone, and that person is my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I am valued, and I am loved because of His Love for me. It is not based on my own inherent lovableness or my goodness. It is based solely on His ability to Love with Mercy and His Grace which says "I Love you even though you are not lovable."

As an older person, I realize now that there is no one in this world who will ever love me the way my Lord loves me. There is no one who will value me the way He values me. In truth, the only Person who will ever love me unconditionally is my LORD. I am loved today, because He chose to love me, and He continues to love me each and every day.

Blessedness is the assurance that you are LOVED. Contentment and Peace come from understanding your position in Christ, and knowing that you do not have the ability to do anything to merit His Love or His Favor.

I am Loved. I am Blessed, and I am at Peace because of who He is, and What He has done for me.

May God be Praised today and forevermore. Alleluia, Amen, So Be It. Thy Will Be Done. Selah!

More Thoughts On What is What

It all comes down to TRUSTING THE LORD. I have decided that the sum total of my life, my belief system, my understanding, and my very being are centered in this very concept. To TRUST the Lord means that you are saying "I believe you." You are stating emphatically that you believe He is God, and that as God, He is able to do all things concerning your well-being, and your welfare.

I struggle so with TRUST. Just last week, I was discussing this issue with the Lord. Contritely, I said to Him -- "Lord, why can I not trust you?" The answer was quite simple and quite clear: in the past, I have been told things that were not true, and now, it is difficult for me to believe what I am being told. I do not trust because I have been lied to, betrayed, and given false information that hurt me or kept me from accepting what I needed to accept.

Although I have grown up, and I am now far more understanding of what it means to TRUST, I still find it difficult to do so. I want to TRUST, don't get me wrong. I want to BELIEVE. It is just that my first inclination is to think: "perhaps this is a lie." WOW! Shocker!!

It is true, though, very true. I doubt the Lord on the basis of His Character. I shouldn't, and I certainly have received enough testimony over the last year or two to know better. Yet, deep within there is a damaged spot, a place where I refuse to believe, refuse to trust, refuse to accept the truth.

In the mental states that make up my mind, there is a level where it is "access only" and no one passes by (or no thought). This is the deepest, most hidden place inside of me. It is where I tucked myself away all those years ago after I was hurt, I was betrayed, and I was lied to one too many times. I locked that door, tossed the key away and barred entrance to everyone, no matter how close, how important, or how loved they were.

I have kept my Lord from that place too. I have said it was "off limits" to Him. He has shared His broken life with me, He has healed the many other layers of my mind, but this place has been out of His reach. Not that He couldn't reach it, oh my goodness no! Rather, I refused Him admittance, and in doing so, He has waited patiently for me to let Him in. He has asked. He has demonstrated His Faithfulness, and His Willingness to Wait for me to let Him in. I have refused. I have said "No, not yet."

So here I sit, blogging on this rainy afternoon in Phoenix, Arizona, and I think how silly it has been for me to forbid my Lord entrance. Yes, He is welcome in every recess of my heart and mind. I have said so. I have granted Him access, but He has waited for me -- knowing that I was not ready to let that place go. It is the last place that needs keeping, and the Holy Spirit of God very much would like to come in and set it aright. I so need Him to do so, but I am afraid of what that will mean for me. I know it will bring contentment, it will bring sweet peace -- yet -- I wait. I think "No, not yet."

The sun is breaking through the trees. The rain is scattered, and I am listening to Yo Yo Ma play cello. I am happy. I am content. Yet, there is the place where I am keeping the very deepest part of me hidden. I have put a mask on that says "Hey World, look at me! I am OK! I survived the devastation of a failed marriage. I have come to enjoy singlehood, and I am smart, oh so very smart. I have it all together. I am good." The reality is that I am good because He is GOOD. I survived a failed marriage because Jesus carried me through those days and gave me His Blessed Grace to survive the pain and sorrow. I am content in being single because the Lord has told me that I can handle it, and then He has shown me how to be a single person again. And, lastly, I am smart -- I am a graduate student planning on advanced studies, but not because I possess great knowledge, but because my God is able to help me study, to read, and to understand complex theory and language and produce solid graduate level work.

I am nothing. I am exactly what I shout to the world that I am not. I am a sad, a lonely, and a desperate woman who struggles with issues of conformity, who is afraid of her own shadow, and who believes that she is unable to do anything of value or anything worthwhile.

Thank goodness for all of that truth because it is for the Glory of the Lord that I am nothing, and He is EVERYTHING. He makes everything happen, and He gives liberally to me so that I can enjoy the blessedness of His Presence. I am able to face today and tomorrow not because of my own talents or gifts but because of what He has done for me on the cross of shame. He has done all this, and I have received the blessing through my faith in His finished work.

God be Praised for I am good today.

Great Message

Pastor Gary Walter, President of the Evangelical Covenant Church in America spoke at our church service this morning. His message was part three of our series on "We Make a Difference." Our Associate Pastor's (Lead Pastor protempore) focus has been on how we, as Christians, have the opportunity to make a difference in our homes, our churches, our community, our nation and our world. Pastor Walter spoke today on Growing Leaders, and what makes a good leader. It was a very inspirational message, and very apropos for the time.

I have blogged recently about my sensing a change in my life, and how that change unsettles me. I am not a big fan of change, and prefer the comfort of the status quo. My favorite thing to do is NOTHING -- I mean -- really NOTHING. I love just being myself, being alone, and being alone with my thoughts. I don't want to shake things up, I don't want to be active. I am passive, and I am happy being this way.

The funny thing (curious) is that God is all about change. He is the active agent in our universe, and he is actively pursuing the lost and the lonely. God is all over CHANGE, and whether that change promotes hurt or healing (ultimately healing), He is the author and perfecter of changing behaviors, changing attitudes, and of course, changing lives.

As I consider all that God has done in my life, all the change that He has allowed me to experience, one thing is for certain: God is all about changing my life for the better. Yes, some of the change that I have experienced has been painful, and it has wounded me deeply. Yet, through that hurt, I have learned vital lessons for living, and I have come to know the Great Healer, the ONE who heals my brokenness and enables me to live fully devoted to Him.

Now that I am the recipient of that inward change, I am facing outward change that is continuing to cause me to rethink and reevaluate my position, my place, and my purpose. I understand His Call on my life, and I understand where I am going. I can see my way, but the path I am on, is not quite the path I need to be on to get to that place, that point in time where I will be able to do the work He asks of me.

In today's message, however, Pastor Walter shared something that helped me understand why I am where I am right now, and how I am to live out my days while I am moving towards the place where He has called me to minister and serve. In my timeline, I am in mid-stream -- not quite there yet -- but definitely not where I used to be. I am in transit - in loco motion. I am moving forward at a steady rate, not standing still, not stationary. I am far from my destination, but I am somewhere along the path that is leading me to that place.

That PLACE is heaven. I realize that now. I have been so focused on getting to a literal place that I have not stopped to think about the Lord's motive. Yes, I focus on His Will, and on His Explicit instruction to me as far as my calling. I simply have not considered the ultimate role I am to play in the eternal scheme as well as to role I will play in the work assigned to me. God has graciously enabled me to understand His Calling. He has given me direction, focus, and a set of plans to follow. He has provided a road map, so to speak, of where I am now and a path to follow to get to where He wants me to be. I mixed the message up with the literal, the "here and now." And, with my deep need to know, I misunderstood that what I am to do wasn't really about the "here and now;" but rather, it was about the eternal Kingdom and the hereafter.

Pastor Walters message on great leadership, and what makes a person great was taken from Jesus' own message as recorded in Matthew. In three specific places, Jesus gives us the definition of what makes a person great -- according to God. The three Biblical keys to greatness lay in:
  • Character
  • Conviction
  • Commitment
We are called to be people of character, to be strongly convicted of God's purpose and plan, and committed to doing what is asked of us. Character requires a devotion to God, and without character -- it is impossible to be convicted nor committed to any person or cause. In his message today, Pastor Walter focused on three components of character:
  • Matthew 5 = obedience
  • Matthew 18 = humble
  • Matthew 22 = servant
In short, God calls us to be people of character, and in doing so He expects us to demonstrate the following characteristics -- we are to be obedient, humble servants of the Lord. Pretty simple really, pretty easy to digest. Nothing more, nothing less. We are to walk in such a way as we DO what God asks of us, we do not take credit for what is not ours, and we seek the good will of others ahead of ourselves.

"No, O people, the LORD has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God." ~ Micah 6:8 NLT

Let's consider these three things:
  • To do what is right means that we do what God's Word says we should do. We listen to the Word, we do what is asked of us, and we base our decisions and judgments upon the precepts of God.
  • To love mercy means that we are to seek the welfare of others, to give Grace where it is not always warranted or deserved, to be kind to those regardless of whether they are kind in return.
  • And lastly, to walk humbly with God means that we are to remember that we are flesh, we are flawed, and no matter what this world says about us, we are NOT GOD. He is God and we are His workmanship -- created for Him, by Him, and because of Him.
As I sit here today, I give thanks to God for this understanding. I get it now. I really grasp what has been missing, what has been the missing component for my understanding. I was thinking about me, and about what  God wanted me to do. I know this now, and I understand that while that is not wrong, per se, it does run the risk of self promotion and self aggrandizement. This is something I want to steer clear of, and to avoid at all cost. I am not God. I am not the author of these plans. I cannot even do the plans, do the tasks, complete the work. I am helpless, am hopeless, and unable to do one thing to accomplish the will of the Lord.

He is able. He can do all things. Nothing is impossible for Him. 

So I write this now, and I consider carefully the words of the Lord. I want to be this kind of leader. I want to be GREAT according to God's definition of Greatness. This means that I am to Love God, to Love His People, and to Love the work He has called me to do. No more, no less -- there is nothing else -- but this work.

I am moving forward. I am moving closer to doing the thing He has asked me to do. I must not lose focus. I must not consider my work, my place, my education or any other thing as being higher, as being more important or as being the "primogeniture" of His will.  I am His to do with as He pleases, and I am doing the work He asks me to do. I am satisfied. I am content. I know that He will do all that He has promised me. I am ready, Lord. I am ready to do your work this day.

March 17, 2012

Sensing Change

I don't like change. I am not an agent of change nor do I like to be apart of anything that has the potential to change. It is funny (curiously) that I am the way that I am, because in reality nothing stays the same except for the Lord:

"Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever." Hebrews 13:8 KJV

There is nothing in our world or in our person that remains static. We live in constant flux, shifting, changing, and adapting to the minutia of molecular structures that exist in our periphery. We are either battling change (as in trying to keep the weight off) or planning change (as in getting pregnant or attempting to stop smoking). Change is all around us, and it impacts us each day.

Consider the freeway. How often do you drive on the highway near your home? For me, it is a constant variable -- with constancy meaning that I must drive the freeway to and from work each day. I get on at Union Hills and I get off at 32nd street. I make a 16 mile one-way trip every morning at 6:30 and every afternoon at 3:30. Yet, despite the constancy, I never know what my daily drive will be. Today it might be smooth sailing, so to speak, all the way into work. No accidents, no slow downs -- the "time to the tunnel estimated at 13 minutes" or it could be one accident after another with my commute zooming from 25 minutes upwards of one hour or more. It just depends on how many people decide to get on the road and how many conflicts (lane issues, car issues or other unknowables) take place at the exact same time when I am on the road. It is a miracle, really, to think that I am able to make it to work at all. I thank God for my car, and I thank Him for travelling Mercy each day.

Even though I don't know what to expect when I get on the freeway, I do not fear driving to work. It is something I MUST do each day. I work, I get paid, and I need that paycheck so I can live and take care of myself and my son. I MUST do it, so I JUST do it.

In other areas of my life, however, I find that I am almost crippled by the fear of change. I want some things to remain the same for ever. For example, I did not want to become a single person after 25 years of marriage (now almost 28). I wanted that part of my life, the part where I was in union with a husband/companion to remain for all my days. I also wanted to keep my life as it was -- same home -- same occupation; but that changed too. I lost my business due to the enconomy, and I lost my home due to foreclosure. In a short two years, I went from married to single, employed to unemployed, home owner to renter. Major change in a very small amount of time is by far the most difficult to deal with and the most challenging to overcome.

I did it because of my great faith in God. Not that my faith was GREAT, but rather that my faith was placed in a GREAT GOD who was able to make my life settled even when it seemed very unsettled to me.

Now, I am on the other side of that major change, yet I still fear anything that might cause my life to take a hit again. My biggest concern now is losing my job. Though I really do not consider this as a high possibility, it looms in the back of my mind simply because it is up to me to keep it. Well, that is not even true -- the Lord keeps me where He wants me, and my responsibility is to do the work assigned (I do the work, the Lord oversees my placement and career progression).

As I consider my options for graduate school, I am now thinking "what if" as in what if I end up out of work at the University of Phoenix and stuck in a program that is not necessarily my best fit? Will I want to invest money, my own (borrowed of course) to pay for a program that may or may not advance my career or provide me with advanced interest in a topic I am passionately all about? Truthfully, the answer is no. I have considered my ways carefully, and the reason I was planning on getting my PhD at UOPX was because I received a significant waiver for tuition. It would have made getting a PhD outrageously easy. Not that the work would have been easy, just the fact that I would have had to borrow a minimum amount and I would have completed the entire program online (and able to use my lunch hour and breaks for classtime).

Now, if I consider that sometime between year one and five, I might be looking for another job, where does that leave me? Am I satisfied with that option, with that focus, with completing a PhD in Higher Education just for the sole reason that it was affordable for me to do it? The hard light of reality says "NO." I will not be satisfied, and I will always wonder if I was truly able to do any other kind of degree, namely English.

The past couple weeks have been difficult, challenging, and filled with uncertainty. I blogged last week (or thereabouts) about my new boss, and the big UNKNOWN of working with a different kind of leadership style. My new boss has arrived, and he is a nice guy. I like him, and I have no doubts as to what kind of leader he will attempt to be for our group. Nothing really has changed, other than I have a new person sitting at the end of my row. He will still coach me, review my progress, and guide me in my career progression, just as my other manager did. His emphasis is the same -- do your work, don't slouch off, don't take advantage of the company. OK, I don't do any of those things, but the grind is getting to me. The goal is to make 100 calls per day, averaging 100 per week. I did the math yesterday on the drive home, only to realize that if you are to average 100 per dials, then you have to do that every day or else the math doesn't work out (consider: 100 dials times 5 days = 500 dials; average is 500/5 or 100). Duh? I didn't pass college math for nothing -- I have been mislead into believing that so long as you AVERAGE your dials you would be ok. I did a test this week, and here is what led me to this conclusion:

353 dials/ 4.5 days = 78.4 dials average (I worked 4.5 days due to a team builder afternoon event)

So this week, I busted my backside to get my work done. I REGd two students for April, bringing my total to 5, with potential of 7 more starts. I only made 78.4 dials on average and I was on the phone talking 2.66 hours per day on average (again, math is 12 hours/4.5 days = 2.66 hours average). The goal is 3 hours of talk time.

In a nutshell, my goal is 100 dials/3 hours talk time and 4-5 reg's per month

It is unspoken, but the emphasis has been on these three items since January. I finally got enough confirmation from various sources to lead me to believe that these are the numbers expected, and that low performers will be the first to go if the company lays off employees in 2012 (they let go 700 in 2011). Things have improved, but the numbers are low again, so could that signal a lay off in summer 2012? Not sure, but this I know: I cannot keep this pace up, I simply cannot.

I come home from work exhausted. I fall asleep in the chair every single night around 8:30. I am up at 5:00 the next morning, and I walk around like a zombie the rest of the time. I am beat, and I am bushed, and I cannot see myself keeping up like this for much longer.

My hope was that I could find another position within the company. I was told that I could start applying when I had 6 months in the job. Now, though, while that might be true -- the up seems to be that you can do that, but it is better to wait until 1 year or more. That is July/August for me, and while that is my plan, I am now considering other options for work. I need to find a different kind of job, a job that is less pressure, less mentally challenging, and will be less -- everything.

Macy's was grueling, but it was a no brainer. I worked at Macy's because Macy's hired me and gave me an opportunity for good work. I killed myself physically working there -- the pain alone was beyond description. I still suffer hip and thigh pain, but it is now infrequent. Macy's was good, but I knew that I couldn't do a job on my feet all day -- not anymore.

UOPX is the opposite. I like that it is a desk job. I sit at my desk all day, and I am content -- my back hurts from sitting long periods, so I can get up when I want and walk around. However, the mental grind of dialing the phone, leaving 80-100 voicemails is too much. My mind goes to sleep, and I simply do the work.

You'd think that talking with students would be good, and for the most part, this is true. I get potentially 2-3 calls a day from new students. They may be interested, they may not. I may get 10 minutes or 30 minutes on the phone with them. It may be pleasant, it may not. The rest of the time, I am calling and leaving messages.

I am eating my words now -- I asked the Lord for good practical work -- twice to be specific. I asked, I begged, and I pleaded with Him to provide me with a job, any job, that would provide good practical work for me to do. Don't get me wrong, I am blessed. The Lord has blessed me in each job He allowed me to take. At Macy's the Lord enabled me to do that work, that difficult work and find favor with my peers and managers. At UOPX, the Lord enabled me to learn how to enroll students, learn how to do the work and do it well. I am blessed, I am producing good work, and my peers and managers see it.

The issue is that in both cases, the Lord specifically asked me if I was willing to do the work. I said YES. Then He asked me if I was willing to do the work EVEN if I didn't necessarily like it or it was difficult to do. I said YES. In both cases, the Lord clearly told me that the work was difficult and that I would not necessarily like it. I didn't want to wait for Him to provide something else, so I said YES, YES, YES to the option of working NOW.

I recall my conversation with the Lord, and it was clearly spoken to me in my spirit, that the job was not of "His Choosing." The job was acceptable to Him, but it was not a good fit for me. I was to wait. I was tired of waiting, I didn't want to wait another minute or day. It had been 18 months of waiting, and I was growing impatient. I wanted to be set free. I wanted out of my marriage, out of my house, and out from under everyone and everything that I considered oppressing to me. I wanted a new job, a new home, and a new life.

I was ready for it, I believed I could do it, and I gave the Lord honor for providing all of the above to me. I am still thanking Him, still giving Him honor, and still believing that He is able to do all things through me. I am willing, I am ready, I am content.

Change. Change scares me. I don't want to change, but I sense that change is coming on me -- and rapidly. I am at the end of my graduate studies at Mercy College, and I am afraid of doing my final paper. I don't know what I am doing. I am not even participating in my last graduate course as I should. I am slacking off, and I am so upset with myself. I am trying to do everything that He wants me to do, and I am failing miserably. I don't want to change. I don't want to go through anything else.

Inside of me, I feel that I am being pulled in one direction. It is not that I don't want to go, more so, it is as if someone is pulling me hard to get me to move forward, and I am standing still. It is like when you were a kid, and you were standing there when a friend comes along, grabs you by the jacket and just yanks you towards him. He wants you to go with him, to follow, and you are stuck, you are not moving. He drags you, literally drags you, and you may yell "Hey, stop -- I am not ready!" He still pulls you, and you either stick to your guns and set your feet and do not move, or you relent and you go with him.

I guess I am sticking to my feet. I say I want to go. I say I am ready. The Lord asks me -- "Are you ready?" I say YES. Then a big hand pulls me, yanks at me to follow, and my head is not turning -- it is looking backward. I don't want to turn around, but that arm is pulling me towards Him. I want to go after Him, of course I do, but I am stuck. I am stuck in a place where I feel comfortable, and I don't want to go anywhere else.

Change brings discomfort. Change alters our perspective and makes us feel out of place for a time. It can be a good thing, it can bring new opportunities, and it can change our path or our focus. It can be a really good thing. It can also be difficult, be challenging, and cause us to TRUST when we don't think we can or feel like we are able to do so.

TRUST. TRUST ME. RELY ON ME. BELIEVE IN ME.

I hear these words in my head, and I know the Lord is telling me to trust Him. I say YES even when my heart falters. I want so much to trust Him, to believe Him. And why shouldn't I do that -- I have been walking in faith for a long time, and He has brought me to this place safely time and time and time again.

He is worthy of my TRUST. He is worthy of my RELIANCE. He is worthy of my BELIEF.

He has proven Himself to me -- there is no more proof necessary. He has shown me His way, He has called me to Him, and He is asking me to go with Him.

Dear Lord,

I surrender all to you. I realize that I am afraid of changing the plans, of going in another direction. I am basing my feelings on fear, which simply is couched in unreal expections or anticipation of unreal events. You are GOD, and I believe in YOU. I trust YOU. I want to follow after YOU today. Give me the GRACE to follow you, and to go where you are sending me. I rely on your judgment and your expertise. I need your provision today. I ask this now in the Name of Jesus, Amen. So be it, thy will be done. Selah!

March 5, 2012

Anticipation of Change

I struggle with change, even though I consider myself to be a flexible person. I try very hard to "go with the flow" whenever possible, but deep inside I have to be honest -- I don't like change. I really do not like having to change my views, my ways, or my thinking -- and I really do not like to have to alter my attitude or behavior to suit individuals, supervisors or the corporation where I work. I guess the older I get, the more I struggle to accomodate requests that I deem as unreasonable or without merit or value. It is getting harder for me to adapt to the corporate mentality that says it is OK to be less than your best or that it is OK to play the game (and not really mean what you say).

Right now, I am in the midst of change at my workplace. Nothing Earth shattering -- just a new manager to take over my team. I liked my old manager, and I thought he was a nice guy. He made our group fun, and always liked a good laugh. He has not been himself since the turn of the New Year, and last week, we all found out why. He has taken another position within our company, and will be leaving us in the next week or so. I don't mind -- it is important for everyone to be able to move on or up. I guess I just am anticipating change, and well, that just puts me off my game.

In addition to the change in supervisor, I am struggling to deal with some injustice and issues within the company -- corporate policy vs. corporate behavior. My integrity is at stake, and I have already been called a "liar" once. Nothing came of my complaint, and even when I received an apology, the very next day, the "official story" was declared ut factum est (as it was) before the apology. In essence, to save face, I was told "sorry we made a mistake," but the official record shows that I was in error.

I complained, I argued strongly on integrity grounds, but my intentions served only to mark me as a "trouble maker." I don't mean to be a trouble maker -- and I will bend most times -- except for lying, which I detest. So today, the same thing happened again, and after uttering a complaint to my old boss (still my boss until next week), I realized that nothing was going to happen, and that if I persisted, I would be known more readily as a "difficult" person.

It is weird really -- and I am not sure what to do about it. I know that the Lord is my vindicator, and that in this life, we often will be accused and marked as being in error, even when we are not. It is part of the persecution and suffering of our Lord that is demonstrated through our lives. It is conformation to His Suffering, and it brings Him Glory. I know this, yet I still do not like it.

Today, after meeting our new manager, I am left wondering about my role in the organization. I am not concerned about losing my job or anything like that, it is more a feeling that things are about to change, and I am not really going to like the "new way" of doing things. I am set to do my best, to attempt to tow the line, etc. The truth be told, I don't really like towing anyone's line but the Lord's, and that leaves me in a sticky position. I need to keep my head down, and in gear, and I need to focus on doing good work each day. I have no knowlege of how my new manager will conduct the daily business, so I have to be prepared for the worst, hope for the best, KWIM?

Any way, this leaves me in this tight spot now -- not really knowing what to expect, but expecting change nonetheless. It is OK, since my God is in control and no one has authority over HIM. He is Soveriegn, and I am in good hands (like the Allstate jingle). I am in very GOOD hands, this is for certain.

Tomorrow is another day, and hopefully, it will go well. I am happy to have a job, and I plan on doing my best, praying for God's rest, and trusting for His Over-Shepherding so that I can remain safely employed. God is so very GOOD to me. God is so very GOOD all the time.

March 4, 2012

Everything Is Coming into Focus

Well, I am home today. I was planning on going to church, but ended up staying home due to a bout of intestinal disorder. I am not sure whether this is related to the migraine headache I had on Friday-Saturday or not. Suffice it to say, I am not feeling my best, and so I am sitting here typing while I wait for my son to finish up performing at church.

I spent the majority of the morning working on my graduate plans for advanced studies at the University of Phoenix. I know that I have blogged about the various opportunities I have considered, but this path seems to return to me, and it is the only one where I feel peace. Weird -- because I do feel a sense of peace about Regent University, but I believe that at this time, I am meant to attend UOPX for my PhD and not Regent.

In consideration of the path I am on, and the fact that the Lord has been telling me to "remain" where I am for the past couple weeks, I have decided that I need to stick to what I know, and wait for Him to tell me otherwise. What this means to me is a clear and focused plan of study that will lead to the completion of an advanced degree (His Will). This is my plan so far, which is open to His leading:
  • Complete my last course at Mercy College: Humanism in Renaissance Texts this May; submit my thesis on the topic of the "Feminine Divine in Medieval Writings; and graduate with my Masters degree.
  • Enroll at the University of Phoenix for one summer online course in Introduction to Statistics. This class is something I have never taken, and I believe it will benefit me for my advanced studies. I can take it for free thanks to my tuition reimbursement from my employer. Tentative dates are June-July, 2012.
  • Register at Western International University (an Apollo Group subsidary) for RES 600: Graduate Research Methods, an 8-week online course necessary to satisfy the remaining requirement for my doctoral application. Tentative dates September-October, 2012.
  • Register for the Doctoral Success Orientation workshop at some point prior to starting my first class.
  • Register for COM 705, the pre-requisite course for all doctoral students starting in November, 2012.
  • Once I complete Com 705, I can then be fully admitted to the doctoral program and start my coursework towards completing this degree.
The entire process spans the Summer-early Fall, but will make sure that I have everything I need to be successful in advanced studies.

With my educational path settled, I am considering my options for career advancement. Right now, I have been in Enrollment Services for 7 months. I am in the process of completing my Senior Advisor requirements so that I will be eligible for a promotion on my 1st year anniversary. This path will require that I complete 45 tutorials on various topics preparing me for greater roles and more responsibility. I wasn't pleased with this progression, and I felt that the entire sequence was wickedly oppressive -- I mean -- all this in addition to completing graduate school. But, then I considered the course work, and realized that if my goal is to eventually work as a Director of Academic Affairs or Programs, etc., I need to be prepared for interpersonal communication and organizational management. These courses are generic but they cover practical and useable topics. Yes, it is a lot of work, and yes, I have to do them on my lunch hour (well, I can do them during the day, but that cuts into my numbers and talk time -- and that is the bottom line for success in my job). I am planning on spending 3-4 days a week completing a tutorial. This will allow me to complete the entire course in about 4 months. I should be ready to be promoted by then, and hopefully my numbers will prove I am worthy of being a Senior Advisor.

My goal then is as follows:
  • Complete the Sr. Advisor tutorials between now and my anniversary, July 2012
  • Hopefully obtain a promotion to Sr. Enrollment Advisor
  • Begin my Executive Advisor tutorials and complete as many as possible between July 2012 and July 2013 (year minimum for promotion)
  • Between January 2013 and July 2013, look for opportunities to move from Enrollment over to Academic Affairs. Roles I would be interested in applying for include Faculty Program Manager in the College of Humanities.
  • Once I can move into AA and then into a solid academic role, I will focus on learning as much as I can in management and organization project skill as possible.
  • Complete my PhD and continue to work progressing up through Associate Director to Director of Academic Affairs by 2021.
My plan would be to stay with UOPX, but at the point when I am considering Director positions, I would entertain any option even if it were at another school. It really will depend on my relationship and abilities for forward movement.

So for now, that is my plan of action. It encompasses the two aspects of the Lord's expressed will for my life:
  1. Complete my advanced studies degree by 2017
  2. Work in a managerial level role over people, programs or resources
It is up to the Lord to move me, so all I can do is the tasks associated with each item, making sure I focus and complete everything to His Satisfaction. He is responsible for the rest. He moves me, He empowers me, He grows me, He changes me, He employs me, and He calls me to do His Expressed Will. I am content and I am at rest in His Mighty and Most Majestic Will.

Amen, so be it, thy will be done. Selah!

Breaking the Silence

I cannot believe that I am actually awake this morning. I am normally at work at this time, 7:00 a.m., and most days I struggle to get out of bed. Today is Sunday, a day when I can sleep in to at least 8:00. Nope, I woke up at 6:15 a.m., very bright eyed and bushy tailed -- ready to take on the world. My boys were up, of course, but they were being "nice" to me. Not really too annoying, some crying, some getting at the window blind. I could have stayed in bed, but I was awake, so I just got up.

Now I am sitting here blogging, listening to the racket out on the green. My neighbor has two little dogs that are very poorly behaved. He refuses to keep them on leash, and they run all over the green, barking and charging at the other dogs. It is 7:00 on a Sunday morning, for goodness sake! Then he yells at them to heel, to listen, to stop. Hasn't this man watched "The Dog Whisperer?" Rules, boundaries and limitations is my motto -- and I agree with Cesar Milan that dogs need a pack leader. Cats, all animals need a pack leader. And, strangely enough, people need a pack leader too.

God is my Pack Leader. He is the one who exercises rules, boundaries and limitations on my life. Most people don't like that idea, they don't want anyone to tell them what to do (or not to do). The problem is that most people will not impose rules, boundaries and limitations on themselves, so without any order -- they live in chaos. This chaos then spills out into the community, starting first with their family, then to extended family, friends, and finally into the local public. It is simple really -- either police yourself, or have someone else do it for you.

In a civilized society, we have laws and people who do that, but the ownership is jointly held. Personal policing is the individual's responsibility. Corporate policing belongs to the public officials who look out for the good of the larger collective.

Why people do not police themselves is a mystery to most folks; but the Bible clearly points the finger at sin. Sin is the root cause of the reason why human beings are unable to police themselves. There is no law that regulates them internally because Man chose to separate himself from the LAWGIVER. The Lord functions as our Chief Officer, and provides a way for us to learn how to live within the boundaries of His Law through the blessing of the Holy Spirit. Without the internal guidings of the Holy Spirit, we are unable to live in control, to live in such a way as we are no longer in chaos.

Of course, all of this comes through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the SON OF GOD, and in whose blood we are cleansed of all our sins (past, present and future). Through Jesus, we are able to be reconciled to the LAWGIVER, and we find the peace that provides that sense of internal control we so desparately desire.

I know that I was once in chaos. My life, internally speaking, was out of control. I was POWN'd as my son likes to say ("Player Owned" as in game-speak) by my emotions. I lived from one emotional wave to the next. I was a mess, never feeling like I could face any trial or hurdle, and always suffering from stress disorders, mental breaks, and overwhelming feelings of insecurities. I was unable to function -- often lashing out when pushed, often breaking down when confronted by others. I ran from conflict, and I hid from matters that required a strong and steady hand to resolve them.

My life and my emotions drove my choices, and I am living now as a result of those choices. I have no one to blame anymore. I am the one who chose to do certain things, and I am the one who made decisions that took me certain directions. I am where I am today because I either made the choice to go this way, or I ran that way.

Yes, most certainly, I share the blame in some situations; but generally speaking, it all filters down to the one who said "yes or no," and I am that "one."

In hindsight, I see all the errors. I see all the missed opportunities, and I see all the sorrow I caused myself and others through my failure to act or take action. I also see the reasons why I did what I did. I see the choices, and I see the impetus for making the decision to choose a way. Had I referred all those decisions and choices to the ONE who was able to direct me to the BEST way, I would have enjoyed a far different outcome.

It makes no matter now, for I am where I am this day because of my past. The good news is that I no longer am living under that rule of chaos, and instead, I am enjoying the freedom of living within the LAWGIVERS blessed rules, boundaries and limitations. I am free now to be in peace, and to move in ways that are always pleasing to Him. As I do the things that please Him, I receive confirmaion through His Blessings upon my life. My path, so to speak, is blessed. I live and breathe and move in His Peace. This Peace is a gift of Grace, and it surrounds and imbues my life so that I am no longer living with the anxst of an emotional roller coaster ride.


Now that I am settled, and I am content in His Way, I can know that my path from this point forward will be blessed so long as I continue to follow after Him. My way is His Way, and in following Him, I no longer need to exercise self-control because the Holy Spirit does that for me. He graces me with the fruit He produces in my life, and among these is SELF-CONTROL. In fact, Galations 5:22 NLT says it this way:

"But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!"

Yes, these are the blessed earmarks of a life lived in submission to the LAWGIVER who exercises His Gracious control over our lives. We develop these specific characteristics which not only grace our own lives, but spill over into the lives of others. We, therefore, generate

  • love
  • joy
  • peace
  • patience
  • kindness
  • goodness
  • faithfulness
  • gentleness
  • self-control
Internally, and then through time, we express these same characteristics externally -- for the blessing and benefit of others. It is a win-win scenario where we receive and we give through the Grace of God's precious Holy Spirit.

As I think upon this today, I am reminded of just how much my life has changed over the last two-five years. Personally, and corporately, I am a different person. Yes, my life has taken a corporate turn that has produced singleness instead of marital blessing. Internally, though, I am living with all of the above, most certainly with great JOY and with the knowledge of God's GOODNESS.

I give testimony to God for His Grace and Mercy as He rescued me from the pit of bondage and despair. I am now able to live freely to serve Him, and freely to go where He sends me. I am willing and I am agreeable to be used by Him for His Work and for His Plans. I am in covenant with the ONE who makes and keeps His Covenants -- I know that He is both FAITHFUL and TRUE. I know this in my innermost being, and I believe in His Name and the power of His Name. I am resting in His Grace, and I live in His Peace. It is a blessed place to be, and a wonderful thing to experience.

Today, I give Him Praise, and I Honor His Mighty Name. My God be Praised forever more, Amen, so be it, Thy will be done! Selah! 

March 3, 2012

My Cello

My new cello is back from the Luthier. It looks so nice! I am really pleased with the repairs, the cracks are nicely sealed, and the bridge is in good shape. It plays well -- so much more tone than my old Kay Cello. I am really very happy with the results. I will need to practice on it quite a bit, just to get the feel for it, but also to break in my new strings. I thank you, thank you, thank you Lord for this awesome provision. I am blessed beyond measure!!