December 30, 2013

One more day...

Good Monday morning! I woke up this morning and the temperature outside was 39 degrees. Not too shabby for Phoenix in late December! Some of my family live back in the Midwest and East coast, and I am sure that they would love our balmy winter morning temps!!

It is December 30, and I am beginning to think about next week, and the start of my first day teaching students at Grand Canyon. I am not nervous (yet). I am calm for the most part, but still feeling a bit uncertain about what I am to do as far as classroom management/lesson structure and planning.

I don't have much on the schedule for today, so some of the day needs to be set aside to creating my first week of presentations. I was going to use Prezi, which is a cool interactive presentation tool. However, I am now thinking that I will use Power Point until I am comfortable with the program. I have used PPT in the past, but I never really presented with it. I used it for one-off teaching lessons, visuals to print out, etc. I want to be consistent with my design template and formatting, and PPT is easy for me to use.

I also need to work on a blog for a client contract. I was planning on using an interactive site design, but now I have decided to create a blog with links to PayPal. This is a paying job and I need to present something to her by tomorrow am.

I applied for two new teaching positions, both online, yesterday. I wasn't going to look for additional work because I felt confident that this one class at GCU and my two doctoral courses at Regent would be enough for me to handle. However, I feel better about GCU and I am trusting the Lord for the time to work on my doctoral classes. I think I can handle online courses, especially if they are 8 weeks in length. I applied for two positions teaching literature courses. Both were for World Literature, which is content I enjoy reading. I think the content would be easy for me to teach as well. I am trusting the Lord to provide additional teaching opportunities to me -- as He sees fit to do so.

Cello Study

I received my two new cello books on Saturday. The one is very similar to "The Art of Scales" book I purchased last year. It is slimmer and not as involved so I think it will work better for me. The second book is the one by Janos Starker. I read a review that said it was not for beginner students. I read through the exercises and while they are intermediate and advanced (tenor and treble clef), there are plenty of bass clef exercises to start. I didn't think anything looked too difficult for me. I haven't learn to read tenor or treble clef, but the concept of the clefs is understood.

On the cello, the higher you move up the fingerboard (from pegs to f-holes), the clef changes to accommodate the ledger lines. Think of it this way, if you have two or three ledger lines above the top string on the cello, it becomes more difficult to read that note. Instead, you change the clef and you stay within 9 lines (two below, five on the instrument, and two above). The notation is consistent, but the notes themselves change based on the placement on the string.

I can read bass clef pretty well. I can read from 1/2 position down to fourth position, generally speaking without much fuss. I struggle a bit with 5th position. I haven't learned 6-7th or thumb yet, but will as soon as I start to study tenor clef.

One of the goals I have made for myself for 2014 is to work on finger dexterity, rapidity with shifting and scale work. I want to be able to play with better intonation through correct finger placement on the cello. When you are moving between measures quickly, it is easy to misplace a finger. On the cello, like with other stringed instruments, a misplaced finger will give you a flat, natural or a sharp. You have to know where to put your finger so as to produce the correct tone. I do well with most of my fingers but I tend to miss my first finger on extension or my fourth on extension (so for example, I play a B flat instead of a B or a G Sharp instead of a G). My fingers need to learn where to go each time I move them.

I know that my problem is habit, and the fact that I learned to play the cello by moving my hand. I should have learned the four-finger method whereby my middle fingers are planted on the cello and my first and fourth move when needed to extend half a position. The only time I should be moving my hand is to shift to a new position (2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc.) Instead, I tend to move my hand when I am playing more than one string. This takes time away during performance, and it leads to placement errors because I am lifting my hand, placing it back down, and taking the chance that I am on/off the correct note.

I am not sure whether I can re-learn the process at this point. I am going to give it a try to see if I can keep my fingers planted, and retrain them to move within the position with the thumb stuck to the back of the cello. We will see...

Weight Loss Progress

Christmas really took a toll on my weight loss program. I had lost about 12 lbs between Sept 1 and Oct 1 and for the most part had kept it off. The holidays threw me off, and my weight slowly crept back up. I weighed myself yesterday, and I am about 5 lbs up from where I was at the end of October.

I am planning on starting Atkins again, since it worked well for me last fall. I got burnt out on it, and I came to loathe eggs (:o). However, the program really worked, and the weight dropped off me steadily.

January 1 will be my new start date, and I hope to lose 10 lbs during the month. My goal weight loss is about 20 lbs. I am going to follow The Daniel Plan generally, but will supplement menu choices with foods I like to eat. I am not a fru-fru eater, and often these plans have food items that I would never eat, no matter how good they are for you. I am plain, and I like plain food. My general menu looks like this:

January (on Atkins for two weeks, then moderating with more carbs for the next two)
Breakfast bar or eggs/bacon
Salad with deli meat or chicken for lunch
Dinner with protein, green vegetable and salad
Coffee with half/half
Water (at least 60-80 oz per day)
Carbs in moderate amounts after week 2 (whole grains)

February and March
Breakfast of protein
Fruit for snack
Salad Lunch
Nuts for snack
Dinner with the family (whatever my Mom cooks)

April (on Atkins again)

May and ongoing (repeat February/March)

My hope is that I can move from Atkins to a whole foods lifestyle. I want to get off all processed foods, and to eat only naturally grown (Organic) foods. I have already made significant changes, so now I just need to be consistent and get back on the whole foods kick again.

Work and Other

Besides teaching, I hope to begin working on my research for Regent. It would be smart to get a head start on my dissertation project. I am thinking of beginning my literature review, creating/writing annotated bibliographies, etc. so that I can shave off time to graduation. I will not complete my coursework until 2016 (no way around that date). I will have to pass my exams and then be admitted to the dissertation phase; however, I can begin the research now, and use this time as preparatory for the research/writing process. In theory, I could graduate in 2017, which is the goal the Lord laid on my heart. To do this, I need to have the bulk of my research completed, and then be ready to conduct research for quantitative analysis. In doing so, this would mean that I could spend about 6-9 months writing up my research findings rather than spending the time doing the research (literature review, etc.)

I am not sure what the Lord has in mind for me to research yet. I am praying about it, and I am trusting Him to open a door for a research grant, some opportunity to help me focus on a particular area of study. In addition, I am hoping to find a paid grant that will help offset my school costs. I am in debt (as most graduate students are), and I would like to stop borrowing money from the government, and start paying it back so that I can be free from debt as soon as possible. My goal is to have my loan debt paid down to half what it is now by the end of 2020. Then I hope to pay the balance off steadily until it is down to zero. I know that seems far off, and personally, I would prefer to have it paid off now, but it is big chunk of change, and I know that I will have to provide for my own living expenses, and food/shelter comes first. God knows what He is doing, and I am trusting that He will provide for me.

I would like a research grant that would pay for my schooling this year and next. I would like to receive enough money to pay my tuition and expenses and then have some extra left over so that I could live comfortably (I will be teaching to supplement my income). This would provide for my expenses and would alleviate the need to borrow financial aid.

Dear Lord,

You know the plans you have for my life (Jer. 29:11), and you know that I am trusting you to provide for these plans (financially). I am relying upon you, solely devoted to you, and focused on your will for my life. I ask now that you open a door for me so that I can apply for and receive a research grant. This grant will help fund my education and will provide a stipend so that I can complete my PhD and live comfortably teaching college courses. I ask that you direct me and lead me to the place where I can apply for this grant, and that you will give me favor in preparation of the materials and in any of the follow up that is required. I thank you for this opportunity, and I rest in your sufficiency. I know you have a way planned out for me, and I am trusting in your guidance to lead me to where you want me to go. I also ask that you bless me as I discipline myself for my cello study and for weight loss. I am pursuing these things based on your will for my life, so I ask that you provide what is needed for me to accomplish these things. I thank you now for this past year and all that you have provided for me. I look forward with great expectation to 2014, for I know that you have great things in mind for me, and that you are ready to provide for each and every need I will have next year. I ask all of this in the Mighty and Merciful Name of Jesus, Amen. Thy will be done, Selah! (Pause and calmly think about it).

December 29, 2013

Teaching and other stuff

I spent most of yesterday working on my class syllabus for the Short Story course I am teaching at GCU this Spring. I am not sure I am doing anything of value right now because GCU auto-loads a syllabus into their learning management system, and I don't have access to it yet. I have the syllabus that was sent to me to use for prep work, but I don't know if it is the final version. Right now, I am planning my course, week by week, and structuring how I will teach each class period. I am supposed to have 33 students enrolled, all upper class students. They are also all English or Education majors so I feel good about the class "academic" level and writing ability. It would be very nice to know what lecture material and timeline is being generated for the student.  This would help me get ta better feel for what I need to cover in lecture/lesson time. I need to be patient for now since there is no point in reinventing the wheel.

I am excited about teaching this class. My Masters degree is in Literature, but I am not a teacher, per se. I am a student, perpetual student, so my focus has always been on learning in the classroom. I have teachers who were good mentors and some of whom I will copy for style. I am uncertain of how to structure the teaching time, though. Part of me is scared about the class management -- how will I use my time properly? I do not want the students to be bored, but I also do not want them to have it easy (using videos and easy writing). This is an upper division literature class so it should be challenging to them. I know this, but it has been a long time since I was at this level. Frankly, my degree program at SJSU was outrageously difficult, and the English courses I took as a minor emphasis were strictly formatted. The Professors lectured mostly and the students took volumes of notes. Current pedagogy suggests student-centered teaching methods, group work, and interactivity. GCU wants their teachers to facilitate and not "teach." I am not sure I know how to do that -- well, at the least, not in a way that will cover the material and challenge the student. Harumph!

I have a class outline (tentative) right now:

Class running time: 1 hour and 10 minutes
  • 5 minutes of getting settled
  • 5 minutes of welcome and general notes/ice breaker
  • 15 minutes lesson time
  • 15 minute video and writing prompt
  • 15 minute class discussion
  • 10 minute review and wrap up
  • 5 minutes closing
On days when I am introducing a new concept (every other week), I will use the 15 minute lesson time to introduce the topic, provide background information, history on the authors, etc. The video and writing prompt will explore the topic, period or an element of fiction.

On days when we are reviewing literature (analysis), I will create discussion groups based around set questions. Then I will assign a specific time for group discussion before we open up the class.

Update

I wasn't able to finish this post yesterday, so I thought I would write a quick update today. I spent some time researching Learner-Centered teaching strategies, and I am now thinking I will follow a "bookend" model for my days. The bookend model is where you open with a short teaching lesson followed by a "think-share" time, and then wrap up with an assessment (to see what the students learned that day). I will be peer-reviewed on assessments so I want to make sure that I am recapping/reviewing and then assessing learner quality as often as possible.

Well, this is my plan...we will see what actually happens once the class begins on January 6th.

December 26, 2013

Boxing Day

I read a tweet today that said: "Merry 2nd Day of Christmas!" I thought about it for a moment, and then remembered the Christmas Carol, "The Twelve Days of Christmas." Yes, today is the day when we are supposed to give two turtle doves to demonstrate the giving of this season. Yet, yesterday, December 25th was the day when the world (well, almost all of the world) exchanged gifts and celebrated Jesus' birth (or the commercial holiday now associated with it). It is weird when you think about traditions and how they impact your life. I thought about today being the 2nd day of Christmas and wished I would have grown up in a place where a gift was given on each day of the celebration (like Chanukah). How special it would be to have one gift to enjoy on each of the twelve days?

If your family is like mine, it took approximately 15 minutes for us to unwrap all the gifts under our tree. We don't have little children anymore, so it was the four of us (my 80yr old parents, my 20yr son, and myself - oh yes, and two cats, who helped destroy bows and ribbons). The morning was enjoyable, but we ripped through everything so quickly, that it seemed to be anticlimactic in some ways.

Day One begins on Christmas Day (December 25) and runs through Day Twelve (January 6) or Three Kings Day (the visit of the Magi). I like the idea of enjoying Christmas and celebrating each day by remembering the Nativity story and the progression of events that took place between the birth of Jesus and the visit of the Magi. I think it would make the season more special to focus on each aspect rather than to read the story from Luke, sing a couple carols, light some candles and then dive into the presents!

I titled this post "Boxing Day" because in the UK and Canada (and other locations), December 26 is traditionally celebrated as the day when servants and trades people received gifts from their employers. It is a secular holiday, but also is known as St. Stephens day. It is a day for rest and relaxation (in some places) and for shopping sales in others (especially in the USA).

I guess the reason I titled this post as such was to articulate the fact that I am missing traditional Christmas celebrations. So much has changed in my life. The world has changed. The Church has changed, and all this change has caused many of the traditions we grew up with to change as well. I don't like this kind of change. Tradition is a good thing, it give a framework of reference to us, and it reminds us of the past, and of our history (good and bad). I love history, and I love traditional historic events and commemoration/celebrations. I miss the old fashioned way we celebrated Christmas. I miss the emphasis of Christmas as being the birth of Jesus Christ. I miss the solemn reflection of Christmas.

The photo at left was taken during our Christmas Eve service at church. The musicians on the stage include my son (piano). The music at the service was so loud that it hurt my ears. I normally like praise and worship music, and I like contemporary Christian music. However, on Christmas I like to sing traditional carols and light candles and have the old fashioned celebration I remember from my childhood. I listen to contemporary music every Sunday at church -- but on Christmas -- I wanted to hear quiet and thoughtful music, not rock and hard drums.

I thought about the fact that our service probably attracted a number of visitors to the church. I looked around and I saw a lot of people who I didn't recognize. They were not comfortable with the music and they didn't seem to enjoy the service. Perhaps they were looking for the traditional message and carol's too?

Our church is changing. The focus and the spirit of the church has been in change for the past ten or so years. There has been a lot of upheaval going on and staff have left (been asked to leave) and then replaced with new staff chosen by the lead Pastor. I get it, really I do. Whenever a new Pastor comes in, there are usually some staff changes. Unfortunately, almost the entire staff has changed. The emphasis on community is still there, but there is a hard edge to it. Our church is in trouble financially, and membership has declined since the new Pastor came on board. While we had good attendance at these services (more than normal on Sunday), I don't think most of these visitors will come back next week.

What do you do when the church changes around you and you feel out of place?

I have been through a number of changes like these over the years. I have been through difficult change (where a Pastor admitted to adultery and was replaced thus causing a mega-church to split in half and then through attrition, later die out). I have been through pastoral changes, some natural (retiring pastors) and some through leadership decision. I have never been in a church, though, that changed from one kind of a church to another -- like my church.

My church is part of the Evangelical Covenant Church denomination. However, you would never know it. The name has been changed, shortened to one of those "one word" names. The pastoral staff is gone, and in their place, are new people (good people). The emphasis is on contemporary and postmodernism which says that the lost will only respond to the culture they know. In short, those seeking God will not come into a traditional church. They will only go to a church that offers Starbucks, loud music, flashing screens, and a "feel good" message.

Our Pastor is very sincere, and he gives a good message. He is young and very hip. The music is loud, and for the most part, good. There are no traditional elements present. Communion has only been reinstated recently, and then it is offered every so often, and not once a month. It is not communal, but self-serve. The reason we celebrate communion is glossed over and there is no solemn explanation of what Jesus did for us or why we are asked in the Bible to remember to take the bread and wine (juice) regularly.

This Christmas, there were a few carols sung during the weeks leading up to the Christmas Eve service. They were rocked versions of the traditional songs. We didn't light the advent wreath nor did we have children come and read the story of what each candle means. The services proceeded as they had always proceeded -- with the addition of a few lights and some decorations. I know we are struggling financially, but it seems like the no-frills approach is what the staff like. Our church has been at its current location for 23-24 years. It is a traditional church building/campus and we have traditional elements available to use.

I told my parents (who do not like what is happening to the church and who have been vocal about the change) that this is the new NAME church. We either have to like it or we can leave. Our church is right across the street from where we live. We can certainly leave it, but where do we go? I am afraid that postmodernism has crept into the CHURCH to such an extent that there is no place we can go where we will find traditional Christian teachings. Mind you, our Pastor is evangelical, and he preaches the message of salvation often. How can you fault a man of God who is preaching the good news? What I and others are complaining about is the loss of tradition -- the loss of the traditional aspects of Church that are familiar and comforting to us.

Our leadership has clearly said that the church doesn't belong to us, it belongs to God. They are correct in a way. It is God's church, but it is made up of God's people. I see several areas of concern for the way the modern church is evolving:
  1. Emphasis is on seeking the lost (yes, we need to do this)
  2. De-emphasis on traditional elements that the lost or seekers might not understand or would find offensive
  3. Preaching feel good messages rather than Biblically-based/Scripturally-sound doctrine
  4. Incorporating music, video and other social media as a means of communication
  5. Reducing traditional communication citing cost-savings
  6. Focused on outreach and missions (again a good thing)
  7. Loss of community and inward relationship building
  8. Only seeking to bring in new members
  9. Not concerned about losing old members
  10. No discipleship, no personal growth, no spiritual depth
I see this happening all over our city. I see churches springing up and flashing signs to bring the people in. I don't see a lot of community/relationship building. I see outreach programs, ministering to the poor, the disenfranchised, etc (yes, we are supposed to do this). I see members leaving the church because they feel they do not matter to anyone. They are looked over except when it comes time to pony up money for the next building campaign. I see sad faces of older members who are forced to leave a church they loved and supported because they no longer have a service that fits their style and their needs. They are told to buck up, and to accept the fact that the church is reaching young people now. Old people are told to go sit down and to write checks to send the youth to Hawaii or some expensive camp for the summer.

I see priorities out of whack, and I see the CHURCH is disarray. Yes, the church belongs to Jesus Christ. It is his bride, and it is who he cherishes most. However, the church is made up of people, all sorts of people. People from every background and every experience. It is not a one-size fits all homogenized church that only plays loud music and tweets! It is supposed to be a home, a community of believers, a place where worship happens because of changed lives. The church is supposed to be exclusive and not inclusive. If you recall from Scripture, the Bible clearly tells us that Christians will be known for their love. They will also be a light that draws men (people) to Christ. The church is supposed to be something different, something that draws curious people to it.

I am worried that when the Church becomes so focused on being culturally relevant, it will become nothing more special that a day out at the mall. It will lose its uniqueness and its traditions and we will find that people who seek God will end up choosing where to attend each Sunday -- do we go to the game or do we go to church?

Sigh...

December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas Eve!


It's Christmas Eve day, and I am thinking about my plans. My shopping is finished. I have a couple food items to purchase, and I need to get a stocking stuffer or two for my Mom. Other than these two to-do items, I have an open and free schedule today.

I am supposed to be working on a web project, but it has stalled due to some issues with the business owner and previous web practices. I really don't want to think about it, so I am putting it on the back burner until after Christmas.

Merry Christmas to Me - A New Cello!

My new cello is AWESOME! I received it on Saturday, and although it is taking a bit of time to find the notes (no note helpers -- stickers or lines to show me where 1-3rd position is), I love the sound and the ease of playability. In fact, I just purchased two new cello books that should help improve my technical ability and performance.

I am renting this cello from SharMusic. I went with their SharWay plan, which costs me $60 per month. This is a brand new Chinese cello - a Franz Hoffman Prelude. It is a good student cello -- beginner level. Cellos are expensive to purchase, and this cello is priced on the low end (retails for $750). I can pay the balance of the cello off in 6-9 months or I can trade up for a better cello (I don't think I will do that, but you never know what will happen down the road!)

Cellos range in price from $500-$5000 (and up) for beginning to advanced student cellos. I have been looking for a new cello since 2010. I have priced a number of them, and I have read reviews, listened to cellos being played, and factored in the costs to determine exactly what I could afford to invest in this hobby of mine. I have played on two cellos so far. My first cello was given to me by a friend of my father's. He had an old Kay cello that he bought from someone about 20 years ago. Kay cellos were very popular in school orchestras in the 1940-1960s. My Kay is dated from about 1950. It is a laminate cello and sounds pretty bad. I replaced the strings once, which helped a little. The cello itself was very easy to play, and for that, I am thankful. I learned quickly, and I progressed to the point where I was able to begin Suzuki Level 3 books. However, the sound quality really bothered me, and I knew that it was time to get a better cello.

I was going through a difficult time financially, so purchasing a new cello was out of the question. My teacher gave me her Cremona cello to try out. She had bought it off Craig's list a couple years back and never could play it. I put new strings on it, and I played it for about a six months. It had better sound, but it was more difficult to play. I took it to the luthier in town, and I spent about $175 dollars getting it repaired (new bridge, sealing cracks, etc.) In all, the quality improved, but it became more difficult to play after the luthier worked on it (LOL!) 

In fact, as time went by this cello refused to play without excessive rattles and buzz noises. I constantly crossed strings due to the fact that the fingerboard was set too high on the cello when it was first made. No wonder my teacher couldn't play it! I struggled with it for almost a year, and I started to feel as though I would never be able to play well. I stopped practicing blaming the cause on school and work when really it was that the cello was so bad I couldn't play or enjoy it.

Three weeks ago, the Lord put the idea of getting a new cello on my mind. I don't know how it came about, but one day I just got this feeling that I should go check out cellos! I went to Southwest Strings first, and I inquired about a used Yuan Qin cello. I had priced this cello a while back, and I liked it a lot. It sounded nice, and I read that it was a very good student cello (retails for $2500). I was going to invest in it - make payments on it - but then my work life took a turn and with the monthly cost around $150, I knew it was out of reach for me. I didn't want to spend that much each month so I put it off. I then saw that they had a used one for sale listed at $650. I thought that this might be the cello for me. I asked and was told that it was not a good cello (nice of them to be so honest) to purchase. It had a number of cracks and it needed a lot of work.

A week later, I was surfing the net, and the Lord prompted me to check out SharMusic. I went over to their website and browsed around. I didn't really see anything, but I clicked on their rental program to see if they rent nationally. As I read about their rental program, I found myself clicking on the cello link. Next thing I knew, I had rented a cello from them. I could have purchased (rent to own) a more expensive cello, but since I am only working part-time and going to school full-time, I decided that $60 per month was doable for me. 

The cello arrived on Saturday. It was well packed, and when I took it out of the box, I was delighted with the color (deep red-brown). The A string and peg were off, so I had to put it back on myself (good thing I have changed my own strings before). It took a while to warm up, but now stays fairly in tune. I only have to adjust the fine tuners each day. Hopefully, after a couple weeks of playing, the strings will stay in tune.  

I am pleased with the sound quality -- it is a step up from my Cremona cello, and it has no wolf tones, rattles or buzzes. It is also smaller than my Cremona, even though it is a standard 4/4 cello. I love the finish - antique varnish - and I think the overall quality is good. Mind you, I am not a performance major. I wanted a good sounding cello to play with my small chamber group, and perhaps some day, play in the church orchestra. I am not looking to solo or become a professional cellist. I enjoy cello -- it relaxes me -- and I love the fact that I can play an instrument (after believing for nearly 47 years that I was musically-inept!)

I consider myself to be an advancing intermediate cellist (technically speaking), and probably an advanced beginner when it comes to performance. I panic when I perform so I don't do it, and I don't like the pressure of performing. I can play in my group, but even then I often miss notes and I will freeze up if the music goes to fast for me to keep up. My goal for 2014 is to return to my technical level of progressing intermediate (where I was in early 2012) and bring my performance skill up to Intermediate. My long term goal is to be accomplished. Accomplishment has various meanings, and different performers will view it through their own lens. In my case, accomplished means the ability to play any piece of music well. For me, that means with technical precision. I am not musically gifted, so to speak, so I am not a passionate player. I am technically good. This is my skilled area -- it was the same when I studied art (painting and drawing) -- I was never gifted creatively, but I could practice the discipline with great precision. Therefore, my goal is to be accomplished and to  be able to play any piece of music well. This would mean that I could play a piece of music assigned by an orchestra director (at my church) or I could play the cello part in a small group or in chamber.

To help me perform better technically and stylistically, I have created this repertoire for cello study:

Etudes and Scales

Klengel Technical Studies, Vol. 1 by Julius Klengel

I read several reviews and this book is suggested for advancing cellists who need to strengthen fingers and who need to develop familiarity with the fingerboard. I can play in 1-4th position, some 5th, but not consistently. I am solid in 1-3rd, 4th on the A string. I struggle more with 4th on the D-C strings.

There are two volumes of this technical study book. Once I master volume 1, I will move onto volume 2.


Schroeder Foundational Studies

I have been working through this book for about a year now. I am slowly progressing through the selections. They get progressively harder and I am stuck between 26-32. There seems to be a big jump in skill so I am hoping that with Klengel's book on fingering and scales, I will be able to progress further in Schroeder. There are 3 volumes, and this series is supposed to provide the advancing cellist with enough material to last a life time.

I have volume 1 only, and I am thinking it will probably be a couple years before I can finish this book and move into book 2.


Schroeder Cello Method

I have volume 1 and 2 of this series. I started learning to play cello with volume 1. This book worked for me. Not sure why because I have heard that some people do not like it. I was able to teach myself cello (initially) by working through the scales and using the Internet. I love the etudes in this first book. They are easy to play and give the beginning cellist the feeling that they are playing "real music." I have some other beginning study books (Mooney for example) that are easy to play (geared for children) but boring. I completed book 1 already but I cannot move into book 2 because it focuses on Tenor clef and I am still working on solidifying my knowledge of bass clef. Still, I hope to complete book 2 at some point in time.

An Organized Method of String Playing by Janos Starker

I read about this book on a cello website today. I ordered the book from Amazon, and I am hoping that it will do what the author promised (mind mapping the fingerboard to help with understanding all the note positions). The cello website where I found the reference said that this book would help you understand the cello, the fingerboard, and note placement. I am keeping my fingers crossed!!

I think this is my greatest need right now (after getting a better cello!) I need to "see" the notes in my head and to know where they are on the fingerboard. I still struggle to remember where the "target" notes are (thanks to Rick Mooney's book on targeting notes -- the one thing I learned from his series). I now know that in 1st position on the A string you start with B and end with D (with C and C# in between -- the dreaded C#). On the D string, you begin with E and end with G (G# being one of the most used notes on cello -- is right next to the fourth finger position). On the G string, you begin with A and end with C, and then on the C string, you begin with D and end with F. The sharps, which always get me, are now mentally cemented in my mind. My hurdle for January is to find the notes: D, G, C, and F (fourth finger) without going flat or sharp. I had a smiley face sticker on my old cello to remind me where to put my pinkie. I am going non-stickie on this cello, which means that I have to learn where to put my finger every time without that visual cue!!

Cello Music Selections

I am very happy playing etudes. Weird as that may seem (most string players do not like etudes -- according to my teacher who has been teaching violin and viola for years), I love these short pieces. I like that I can work through an etude and learn it well. I get frustrated over longer pieces, and etudes give me enough to chew on before I get bored. I don't really have any music selected right now. My cello teacher will give me parts to play for chamber, and I will be meeting with her every Sunday before our chamber group to go over them. I am on my own as far as lessons though. My teacher retired and moved about 45 minutes away from my house. She still has her small group come out and play on Sundays, but she is not teaching lessons anymore. She will go over the pieces with me to make sure I understand them. I struggle with time signatures and tempo mostly. Once I play through them once or twice, I am usually good to go. I am good at sight reading, but I cannot read super fast to where I could sit down and play through a piece on the fly. I can so long as the piece is not too difficult or too fast.

Down the road, I am thinking of working through Popper's High School of Cello playing series: 15 Easy Studies, Opus 73 and Opus 76. I would like to be able to say that I played through this series at least once in my life time.

Other than Popper's books, I would like to tackle Suzuki Book 4 at some point. I need to finish a couple of the harder pieces in Book 3 (Humoresque and La Cinquantaine). I really want to play Breval's Sonata in C Major. This is on my list of want to play pieces along with Bach's cello suites. Dreaming...just dreaming.


2014 and Beyond

Next year promises to be full of adventure. I have two difficult seminars at Regent to complete, and I am teaching my first-ever literature course at Grand Canyon. I am also living by faith as far as money/provision goes since I do not have a full-time salaried position. I will be signing up for Obamacare benefits in January (pushing the deadline since I am not comfortable with enrolling yet). My life is in God's hands now. I am following after Him completely, surrendering to His will, and living in dependency upon Him as I trust and rest in His care. He is good to me. He provides for me. I know He cares about my needs, and He has not let me down yet. He is faithful, always faithful. I look forward to what God has in mind for me, and I trust that He knows what is best for me. 





December 23, 2013

I am NOT Ready!

Every year I say I am in love with the Christmas season, but the truth bears itself out the closer I get to the actual day of celebration. Yes, I am in LOVE with the person we celebrate each December 25th, but I am not in love with the holiday itself. In fact, I find this time of the year stressful and unpleasant. I do enjoy decorating, and I have enjoyed putting up lights on our house, setting up the tree, getting the red candles out and placing them around the family areas. All of this decorating is enjoyable, and I do like the twinkling lights -- especially at night. Somehow, though, the season wears me out. I find myself grumpier each year, and more and more I feel like a SCROOGE who wants to say "Bah Humbug!" instead of "Joyeux Noel!"

Two nights ago, I watched Gary Grant and Loretta Young in the Samuel Goldwyn production of "The Bishop's Wife" (1947). I had that nostalgic feeling and I wanted to watch something "Christmas-y" on TV.  It has been a long time since I last saw this movie, and while I remembered the plot (thanks in part to the sappy 1996 remake, "The Preacher's Wife" with Denzel Washington and Whitney Houston"), I didn't really remember the STORY.

As I watched the original film, I was struck by the sincerity of the performances, and by the overt Christianity portrayed in it. David Niven (The Bishop) is an Anglican priest who is obsessed with building a monument to his community and his calling (a Cathedral). His wife, played by Loretta Young, is in love with him, and wants him to spend more time with her and their child. In addition, she misses the "old priest" who always had time for his parishioners and who had a deep concern for the poor and homeless. The story hits the mark in that it portrays the true Spirit of Christmas -- not the commercialized tradition we celebrate today.

Gary Grant, who plays "Dudley," the angel sent from heaven to help guide David Niven, and give hope to Loretta Young, is superb in this role. He is charming (as always), but sweetly sincere as he helps the couple come to see their purpose and God's plan for their lives. One of my favorite scenes is when Dudley tells the story of David and the Lion to the Bishop's daughter. The little girl is enraptured by the lively retelling of the story, and both parents stand by in awe as they listen to the way Dudley tells the girl about how David saved one lost sheep by his brave act of facing a roaring lion. When Dudley asks the Bishop to "finish the story" for little Debbie, the Bishop curtly remarks that he is too busy to do so. Yes, the Bishop's problem is that he is too busy doing "God's work" to share the very message that could help guide him. He asked God for guidance -- and when it is given in the form of a child's Bible story -- he rejects it as unimportant and not worthy of his time. Had he listened more carefully, he would have heard the message: stop building monuments, and return to your former work -- the ministry of the lost.

What stands out for me in this movie is the way in which the story of Christmas (the birth of Christ) is woven into the ministry of Christmas -- the truth that God sent His Only Son to save the lost. The message of John 3:16 is clearly played out through the work of the church. We are called to love the lost, to help the homeless, and to shelter the widow, the orphan, and the poor. Oh, how I wish this were true today! Oh, how I wish we would take the baby out of the cradle, and let Him live in and through us all year long. Jesus came to save the lost, to restore and to reach the broken. We are called, those of us who bear His Name, to do the same. We are to minister to those who need ministering most!

Yet, instead of ministering to the poor and the downtrodden, we choose to argue over comments made by TV Reality stars, and blame our President and Congress for their human failings and illogical decisions and laws. Wouldn't it be something if all Christians abstained from traditions of the Christmas holiday, and focused instead on giving away the message and sharing the ministry of Christ? Perhaps I wouldn't feel so blah this time of year?

Note to self - next year, serve others instead of yourself. Share and minister to those who are less fortunate, and give away the gift that God has given so freely to you -- the gift of GRACE.

December 20, 2013

I love the rain!

It is raining today! Oh, how lovely everything looks and smells when it rains!! I have so much work to do today so more than likely I will stay indoors. However, I really would prefer to go shopping or be outside (at least for part of the day). I haven't been feeling well the past couple days (monthly woes intensified by peri-menopause) and I thought it was safer to stay close to home. I am a little better today, but there is so much to do, and so little time to do it.

On my to-do list for today:
  • Practice cello (my new cello should be on its way here - hoping it comes by next week)
  • Work on the website job I have been given
  • Think more about teaching my first Literature class (I spent all day yesterday and made little headway)
  • Plan for next Spring
  • Pray over my finances (especially healthcare)
  • Look forward to next week (Christmas)
  • Try to remain upbeat about the end of this year
  • Remember what I am doing, why I am doing it, and for whom I am doing it
  • Last, believe that God's promises are always delivered (He doesn't promise what He will not deliver!)
Understand, therefore, 
that the Lord your God is indeed God. 
He is the faithful God who keeps his covenant for a 
thousand generations and lavishes his unfailing love 
on those who love him and obey his commands. 
~Deuteronomy 7:9 NLT

Yep, this last one is most important. I must remember that God is faithful, and that He keeps His WORD. Never does He look aside, never does He lie. He is faithful, and He delivers on His promises!

Oh, did I add last-minute Christmas shopping to this list? I have a couple small gifts to purchase still, and then I can rest and let Christmas 2013 be put to bed.

Plans for 2014

As always, I have a list made for 2014. My son makes fun of me because I am a list maker and planner. In fact, he says that according to my MBTI, most INTJ's plan their lives out 33 years in advance (average). He thinks I am crazy for planning my life in such detail. He doesn't understand that I am lost and clueless without a good plan. In fact, I think I ask God about plans more than I ask Him about any other thing. I pray for direction and A PLAN at least 2-3 times each day. I mean, I do have a plan in place, and I am following that plan. I ask for CLARIFICATION and CONFIDENCE to know that I am on the right path, that I am following the PLAN and that I am working toward the END GOAL.

INTJ personalities are all about OUTCOMES. Everything we do has a purpose and there is always a goal in mind. We work TOWARD something, and no matter how small or insignificant, there is always a motivation toward accomplishment. Today, for example, I need to color my hair. I have needed to color my hair for the past two weeks. The gray is really showing through and with my dirty blonde natural color, the contrast looks horrible. I have been too tired or too grumpy to do the coloring, so I have put it off. Yet, I pray over it every day (Lord, when should I color my hair? Today, this weekend?) I know -- silly stuff, really silly stuff. I need to plan it out, you see, to make sure I have enough time to do the job properly and have the task not conflict with any other tasks assigned that day. It is fearful to be an INTJ with a controlling personality that NEEDS to KNOW everything. Mind you, I don't control others -- just myself. I control everything I do, I think, I say. It is such a difficult lot to be stuck with ME!

This is my short list of plans for 2014:
  • Lose weight (10lbs) on Atkins again (I lost 15, but gained 3 back) until I reach my mid goal of 145 (end of January).
  • Begin daily cello practice (again) and work toward Level 3 fluency
  • Teach ENG 356 at GCU (Short Story) with gusto and confidence (read - BE PREPARED!)
  • Complete COM 702 (Quantitative Methodologies) and COM 785 (Family Communication) and keep my 4.0 GPA!
  • Register for COM 703 (Qualitative Methodologies) for summer
  • Go to Virginia Beach - June 9-13 for residency
  • Teach one class this summer at GCU (Lord, willing!)
  • Teach two classes this fall at GCU (Lord - please be willing!)
  • Register for COM 701 (Historical/Critical Research Methods) and an elective seminar (undecided as of now) - keep my GPA!!
  • Lose another 10lbs between January and June to reach 135
  • Lose the final 10lbs between June and December to reach goal weight of 125
I am sure there are other things to be added, but these are the things on my list so far.

Life Goals

I really do have a life plan in place. It has been a process of learning how to live my life according to God's word and then plan my days so that my life aligns with His will. I started this process back in 2006 -- so it will be 8 years come March 2014. March is the month when my life changed, and March marks the anniversary of when I returned to the Lord and dedicated my life to Him (again).

I had been an "active" Christian for 28 years. I had dedicated my life to Jesus back in 1978, so that is the year I mark as the time when I accepted responsibility for my sins and confessed my need of a Savior. I had believed in Jesus since I was young, but I didn't really understand the whole salvation message or come to terms with my part in God's plan of redemption (confession and dependence upon Him).

I walked the walk and talked the talk during most of those 28 years. I also strayed from His Word, and I downright refused to obey the Holy Spirit for a time (a long time). I refused His Gift to me, and I walked into deep and dark sinfulness for a time as well. There were moments when I returned to God, to His Grace, and to His fellowship, but these moments didn't last long. Finally, I put on the good face, and started to work at obedience (get it "WORK") and my life became one of "working out my salvation with fear and trembling" (Phil 2:12).

Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed,
not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence,
work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

I worked really hard to please God. I worked so hard that I spent most of days in fear of losing my salvation. I thought I had to make up for all the bad I did -- not before I was saved -- but after I was saved. The church I attended for a time was very legalistic, and they taught that you had to live your faith out to demonstrate your salvation (hence the verse above). You had to show that you were a Christian. You were saved by grace, but the testimony of that grace was that your life was changed. You didn't sin -- ever! You didn't have sinful thoughts or do sinful things. You walked a fine and very narrow line and you always looked the part of a good Christian wife and mother.

I bought that teaching philosophy, and I did my very best to be that kind of Christian. I failed, of course. I failed miserably. I wasn't very good at living that way. I married a good Christian man. I was part of a good Christian family. I did Christian things, and I said what I was supposed to say when asked about my faith.

The truth was that I had a lot of head knowledge about God. I knew His Word, and I studied it (Precept Bible studies, never missing church, conferences, etc.) -- but I didn't know HIM. I knew about Him, and I knew what the Word said. I just didn't know Him personally.

I did know Him, at one time in my life. In fact, as a child and young teenager, I knew Him well. I experienced the grace of God on my life, and an in filling of the Holy Spirit. I was growing and manifesting His grace in every area of my life. Then, I walked away. Then I said NO to the Holy Spirit, and then I chose my own way. My life became empty, and I followed the LAW. I believed that I was saved, but I thought that I needed to follow the Law to keep that salvation.

I was wrong, so very wrong. God had saved me -- forever -- eternally. I just followed the wrong Master for a time, for a very long time.

In March of 2006, I took the first step forward and I changed Masters. I decided that the Law wasn't working for me (well, not very well). I wanted to experience the Spirit again, and I wanted to know Him personally. I prayed. I confessed. I turned my life around, and I walked back to Him. He had never left me, mind you. He was there waiting patiently for me to return to Him. I did it, and my life changed. I became alive again, and I started to grow. I started to mature, and I became a different person.

In many ways, I became the person I was way, way back over there (pointing to where I was as a teenager). My heart was changed, my mind was changed, and the Holy Spirit began to work in and through me. He worked hard to change the rough and stubborn parts of my will and my personality. He taught me what it was to be a Christian who loves Christ, and who devotes themselves to His cause. I aligned myself with His party (as the AMP says), and I began to move toward Him.

It didn't happen overnight, and it wasn't easy. I offended a lot of people during the first couple years, and I dove head first into spiritual legalism (a new kind). It took two years for me to learn the truth about Grace, and to understand that God didn't need me to wear dresses, cover my head, and submit to my husband's authority (but submit to one another in Grace). When I came out of that period, I learned the lesson about Grace, and I began the walk I am on now. This walk is all about Him and His will. It is about doing what He wants, and trusting Him. It is about resting, and letting things go. It is about being responsive to His Spirit, and moving and going and doing what the Holy Spirit wants and not what I want. It is all about living each day with Him, for Him, and letting Him live through me. It is a good way to live, a good way to be every day.

Unfortunately, some things in my life changed to such an extent that I found myself all alone. I didn't set out to be divorced, and I didn't think I would be single. I didn't want to be a divorced woman. I was married for life, and I was obedient to my vows. I ended up single because of a decision I made -- not because of a decision my husband made. Well, yes and no. I decided that I would rather live single and be wholly devoted to God than to live married to a man who didn't love me and who was in love with another woman. I also decided that I couldn't live that way and let sin be in our home and in our lives. I took a stand, and that stand said that I had to decide which way to go. I could stay married, but live in sin or I could walk away and live wholly devoted to God. I walked away, and I am living this way now (and will be until I die).

The plans God has for my life have taken me from a shattered new-single person to a strong and established single person. He rebuilt my life, and He gave me a plan to follow. This plan covers all my needs, and it establishes me in this world. I have a career I love, and I have education (which I love) to pursue. I am doing all the things I desired to do way back when, and I am content to be where I am. Yes, I struggle. I don't always think about His promises, and rest in them. I fret, I worry, and I fear that I am going to be without money or provision (He always provides for me). I still think I will goof up, and I still confess my sins (even though I know my slate is wiped clean - old legalism dies hard). Most of the time, I walk in confidence that He is in control. I rely upon Him for His grace and mercy, and I trust Him to provide for me. He is good, so very good to me.

The Plan

This plan started back in 2009. The first three years (2006-2009) were years where I learned to trust Him, to listen for His voice, and then obey what He was telling me to do. It was hard to do that, and I spent a lot of time on my knees in prayer, studying the Word, and asking for clarification (always asking). In 2009, the Lord prompted me to think about returning to school. I was married then, but some things had changed and my life was in upheaval (infidelity, illness, and increasing poverty). I trusted the Lord, and I applied to Mercy College in early 2010. I didn't even tell my husband. I applied for financial aid on my own, and I stepped out in faith following what I believed was direct guidance from the Lord -- telling me what to do.

I was accepted, and I started a Masters program in English Literature. In 2012, I graduated with that degree, and in late 2012, I applied to Regent University for a PhD in Communication. Again, I followed what I believed was the guidance from the Lord, and I obeyed in faith -- trusting Him to provide, really to do it all for me.

In the interim, I had found myself single. I had learned to rely upon God for every need. I was crushed, I was bruised, and I suffered emotional turmoil - yet - I survived and I made it through all the hurt. I came out stronger and more confident. I learned that God was my Savior, my Champion and my Victor. I struggled, I so struggled, but I leaned on Him, and He carried me through all of the pain and all the emotional ups/downs.

Separation - foreclosure - moving out on my own. I did it all. I took a stand, and I moved out. I weathered the storm of family disapproval (disowning) and I kept my eyes firmly fixed on Him.

I am now a first year doctoral student and an adjunct English teacher -- everything God promised to me when I stepped out in faith, He has delivered to me. I followed what I believed was guidance by the Holy Spirit, and I am living out the fruit of that obedience. I am seeing the OUTCOME He promised me. He has promised me that if I follow Him and His plans, He will direct my steps and provide a good life to me (Jer. 29:11; Ps. 37:4-6). I am determined to do just that...to follow Him in obedience!

My long-term list is as follows:
  • Lose the weight I have carried since college and return to my normal size (healthy size)
  • Get off all processed foods (already off diet soda/soda) and follow the Daniel Plan for life
  • Complete my PhD
  • Teach adjunct until I graduate from Regent and then work full-time as a Professor of English/Communication
  • Move to another state where I can live comfortably on the income I made as a college teacher
  • Buy a small house (affordable)
  • Travel as I am able and as the Lord leads
  • Complete my foreign language study
  • Continue to improve on the cello
  • Take care of my parents
  • Support my son until he is able to live on his own (marries, finishes college, gets a good job, etc.)
Yep, those are my plans. I have them all laid out and for the most part, I think they are all achievable goals. I am working on most of them, so there is no reason to believe they will not come to pass. I need to do the work, follow the steps, and obey the Lord -- that is all. He will deliver what He has promised me. I can rest in His faithfulness and know that His mercy is new every day, and that His loving kindness never ends. Selah! Pause and CALMLY think about that (reminder to self -- rest in His sufficiency and Know that He is God!

December 18, 2013

Feeling Blah Today

Yep. I feel "blah" today. I woke up feeling this way. I am not sure why, I just feel out of sorts today. It all started this past weekend, this blah feeling. I am not sure what happened to make me feel this way, but I have been under a little cloud for the past couple days.

I thought I was feeling "blue" - depressed, but when I went to look at pictures of what blue looked like, I realized that I wasn't depressed or sad or lonely. I am just feeling "blah."

It may be the Christmas season or it may be that I have nothing to do right now. It surely is a mix of emotions, and I know that my current financial situation has a part to play in it. I am feeling overwhelmed right now at the thought that I will have money going out and very little coming in over the next four-five months. I am doing something I have wanted to do for so long, but there is no real income associated with it. This is exactly how I felt back in October when I started to look for a new job. I gave up  my IA position because I was worried about making ends meet. I found a job that paid really well, but when I got hired and started the job, I realized that it was not the job to satisfy my "inside" self.

Perhaps all this feeling blue, blah, and out of sorts, is God's way of reminding me that He is the only ONE able to satisfy my inner needs. He knows my financial need well. His WORD says:

Don't be like them,
for your Father knows
exactly what you need
even before you ask him!
-Matthew 6:8 NLT

I met with my husband and some of his clients on Monday. I am helping one of his clients with a website this month, and he had asked me to come to the meeting to pick up some information I needed to get the project started. I went of course but while I was there I kept thinking "this is not me...why am I here." It was awkward. It was not right and I knew it. Let me explain...

I met with his client (and her friend), and when I was asked to tell a little about myself, what could I say? I am not a web designer anymore. I am helping him out because he asked me, and I have free time to do some contract work. However, I am not "into" this work anymore. I mean, I am, in a way, but not the way I once was. It is weird to explain, and it might not make any sense. I am no longer "that person" -- the person I was when I was married and when I worked with my husband in his business.

When I was asked what I did for a living, I said "I am a Literature teacher at Grand Canyon University, and I am working on my PhD in Communication." Yep, this is the exact truth. I am a teacher of college English and I am a full-time student. I may still do some contract work, but I am not that old person. I am no longer defined by that kind of work.

I sat through the meeting and the thought kept coming up to me -- "this is so useless, I don't care about these things anymore, I am no longer interested in doing this kind of work."

I was trying to explain this to my Mom yesterday. We had gone out to breakfast and I was saying how I realized that I am not an analyst or a marketing communications professional. I am now a teacher of English, something I wanted to be 20 years ago, but never had the opportunity to be because I chose a different path. I am now on the path that God provided to me, and in His plan, I am getting to teach English. I am also a full-time student, something I wanted to do over 20 years ago as well. It seems like everything I wanted back then has now materialized and I am following that path. It is almost as if God picked me up and put me on the path that He wanted me on all those years ago. The truth is that I didn't make this happen. I didn't say "I am leaving my husband to go and become a teacher." That just happened one day. I was blind-sided and I found myself single and without any direction. The Lord opened up a door, and I walked through it. Sure, I was in prayer over the decision and moving out of my marriage and into single life was not something that happened overnight. It took a long time, a very long time, and there was great suffering involved. I am here, however, on the other side of that move, and now I am walking in a different direction.

I think the reason I am feeling blue/blah is that I realized that I am so far away from where I once was that there is no way for me to go backwards again. I walked away from everything that was part of that life, and that means that I cannot tolerate doing that kind of work. The entire meeting, while I was trying to be attentive and supportive, was a measure in how long I could be patient -- until I could leave. Then I left and the funny thing was that I talked with his one client for about 15 minutes in the parking lot. Not about the job, but about her personal life and the grief she holds due to her husband's death in 2012. I thought "she needs me to listen to her now" and I did it. I listened, I encouraged, and I ministered to her. I finally did leave and that was when I realized that my life was about something different now. I don't care about marketing and helping people make money. I am about making a difference in people's lives and helping them see Jesus - to find faith, to be encouraged, and to trust in God.

Yes, my life is about ministry now. In my teaching, in my school work, and in any other contract work I may do, I am to do it all for His Name and to reach those that He sends me to reach. I don't have to go looking for work. He will bring it to me. I don't have to worry about money or how the bills will be paid. I am to rest in His sufficiency and to trust Him for His provision.

I am a teacher now. I am on this path because it is the path of His choosing. My life is in His hands, and I don't have to think about how to makes the ends meet. I have to let Him lead, and I will follow Him. I feel better now. I feel OK. God has helped me see that my life has changed indeed.

For I know the plans I have for you," 
says the LORD. "They are plans for 
 good and not for disaster, 
to give you a future and a hope.
 ~Jeremiah 29:11 NLT

Update:

I took most of the morning off so that I could drive my Mom to the shops. She can drive herself, but prefers for me to drive her whenever I can do it. We ended up shopping a little bit, having some lunch, and then coming home early so she could rest (she is 80, after all). I am feeling better now, a whole lot better, than I did this morning. In fact, a funny thing happened while I was typing on my blog. My husband came by the house to pick up our son. They were heading out to that client's storage place to photograph some of the deceased husband's medical equipment (to post on Craig's list). While he was waiting for our son to get ready to go, he asked me what I thought of the client meeting. It was a weird feeling to be having this conversation. I shared briefly what I thought and then said that I was happy to be helping this person out, but that I didn't think I wanted to do this work full-time anymore (in truth, not at all). I got the feeling that he wanted me to hurry up and finish this job so that he would get paid (I am so skeptical). I said I would do some work today, but I left the final result open-ended.

It is a funny experience for me -- to be so nonchalant about work.  Usually, I am panicked and paranoid about working/money. Instead, I am calm and I realize that there is nothing I need right now. The Lord has me so well-covered.

I am sitting here at my desk thinking about my life and I realize now that I am exactly where God wants me to be. He is in full-control of the details and I know He has great plans for my life. I am resting in Him, and I am content to know that He is in control of my life now. God is Good -- all the time -- He is Good.
  

December 16, 2013

Setting Goals for 2014

It's 11:17 a.m. and I am still in my PJs this morning! Oh, how I love being home again!! It has been a long time since I had the freedom to lounge around in the mornings. I have missed the blessing of being home. Don't get me wrong -- God has been so gracious to provide full-time work to me. In fact, I can remember how I blogged about looking for full-time work back in 2010. I was desperate for full-time work, and I needed to find a job (I was at Macy's then). It seems like a life-time ago when I was living in my own home, on the brink of divorce, and looking for work. I had just started my Masters program and I needed to work so I could keep the house. In the end, the house was sold (foreclosed), and I moved out on my own. It was so long ago, and so much has happened since that time.
  • I left my home - shared for almost 12 years with my husband and son
  • I rented my first place (on my own) - never having had an apartment or anything that was mine (I moved from my parents house to the apartment I shared with my husband)
  • I worked part-time, earning my own income in over 30 years
  • I found full-time work (UOPX) and earned a full salary with benefits - the first since I worked at NuTech in 1982
  • I bought my first car, newer used car -- using my own money -- since 1981
  • I started to play the cello (2009) and upgraded to a better cello in 2012
  • I started and I graduated from a Masters program (English Literature)
  • I left UOPX and started at CVS Caremark
  • I left CVS Caremark for Grand Canyon University
  • I left Grand Canyon for Nursewise
  • I left Nursewise for Grand Canyon (now staying put)
  • I moved back home with my parents (2013)
I am now employed as an adjunct Literature teacher, and I am working on my PhD. I hope to be a full professor (Assistant, but full contract) when I graduate in 2017. I have made up my mind that this is the path I am on, and that this is the path I am staying on. I will teach English Literature, Lord willing, until I retire (age 68?) I will let go of all the other paths and options and accept this as the one that God has provided for me. I am content now. I am happy and I am at rest.


Today I stepped out in faith and I bought a new cello. I have wanted a new cello for a long while but I couldn't afford one. I have had two cellos previously: a Kay cello (about 50 years old) that was a good starter cello. It had horrible sound, but it was very easy to play. I played it from 2009-2012. I then took my teachers old cello (a Cremona) that needed some setup work in 2012 and paid $250 to get it fixed. It had cracks in the body, poorly designed fingerboard, and a rattle in the peg. However, it played better than my Kay, and it had a richer sound. The downside was that it was difficult to play -- difficult is probably not the best word to describe it -- because the truth is that it was nearly impossible to play.

I checked out a nice Yuan Qin cello at Southwest Strings in Tucson a couple weeks ago. It was repaired and being sold for about $650 dollars (a good $2500 cello normally). I emailed to ask about it and the shop dissuaded me from purchasing it. I was disappointed because I thought I could get a better cello for a cheap price (Ha!)

Today, I went to SharMusic and I looked at their instrument rental program. They rent brand new cellos (beginning cellos) for the same cost. I listened to the cello via You Tube and it sounds nice. It is hard to buy a cello off the internet, but I don't have $2-3K to plop down. I am a beginning cellist (formerly advancing/intermediate but not practiced in a while). The cello is hand carved and looks nice. I figure that it is better than what I have and that I can continue to play for a while. The good news is that after 6-9 payments, I can pay 50% of the balance and own it. It is only $750 dollars -- which is a pretty cheap cello. However, given that I am an adult cellist with a limited budget, I am hopeful that it will serve me well for a long time. If I decide to trade it in at any point, I can do that, but more than likely I will keep it. My Cremona cello is going to my son, who if anyone can play a difficult instrument, he can.

My cello teacher said yesterday that perhaps Santa would bring me a new cello for Christmas. I laughed and said that I didn't think he could do that since it would be a stretch to get one now (finance wise). Well, LOL! She will be pleased when we meet next year (I won't have it for Sunday's Christmas party), but it should be here by the end of next week. I will have it for January when we start chamber practice again. If anything it just means that I will have something lovely to play on and that should help me schedule the time to play it every day. God is so very good to me, so very good to me.

December 13, 2013

Thinking

Today has been ONE of those days. I woke up later than usual. I had a bad dream last night, another one where I was in a position of protecting people I didn't know (besides my family). In this dream, there was a dinosaur/Godzilla like creature outside my house. It's big eye was looking in the window (remember that image from "Jurassic Park?") I wasn't scared, per se, it was more that I was calling to all the people to keep the doors and windows closed and to stay away from the exits. A couple times in my dream, someone opened up the door, and I ran to quickly close it. It was like they were not aware of the danger outside, but I was keenly aware of what was lurking beyond the door.

I am really tired of having these dreams. I have had about five or six of them now and they are all so similar. I am sure that these dreams are happening because of something I said or something I am worried or anxious over. I know that whenever I have had terrifying dreams before they are usually the result of me not letting go and trusting God. Mostly, they are dreams where I am in a tornado or in some other type of serious situation (a boat sinking, for example). I haven't had these kinds of dreams in a long while, and this time around, I am not the one at issue. I am the one trying to save other people from the terror outside.

I looked up what a dinosaur symbolizes in dreams. Depending on your interpretation, it could me a multitude of things. I googled for biblical symbology and the dinosaur is linked with Satan or a satanic attack. The dinosaur, alligator, and lizard (leviathan) are synonymous with the biblical account of the dragon in Scripture. In all, this suggests that my last three dreams were a form of spiritual attack. Although I wasn't scared in these dreams, which is very unusual for me, I was more on alert, alarmed and very aware of the presence of a creature lurking outside my home and my work place. However, I am uncertain of the interpretation at this point. I believe that these dreams are to let me know that in my life (now or in the future), I will be responsible for caring for people, protecting them from demonic attack. Perhaps it simply means shepherding people or having a ministry in my home whereby people can find a safe place to be in community. I am not sure, but I am certain that the dreams are significant since they are occurring each night.

Lord, please help me to understand if I need to be aware of these dreams, to interpret them. If these dreams are nothing of importance, then let them pass so that I no longer have them. I ask this now in Jesus' Name. Amen.

Today, as I mentioned above, has been a laborious day. I have felt out of sorts the entire day. I got into a argument with my Father (not a war of words, but rather a war of silence). I know that he is stressed right now, and I took offense when he said something off handed to me. I should have let it pass, and yet, I made a deal out of it. I regret that now because it shows that my flesh is so very weak, and that I was not walking in the Spirit.

Lord, please help me to let go of my fleshly instinct to recoil when attacked. Instead, let me be filled with grace to respond with silence (the good kind - holding my tongue), and not with any offense. I ask this in Jesus Name. Amen.

I came home after a lunch out (where the incident above occurred) and promptly fell asleep. I slept for two hours and when I woke up, I didn't really feel better. I sat down at my computer and started to write this blog post. I feel that the Lord is trying to tell me something and either I am not listening or I am missing the point completely.

Lord, please clarify your way to me. Let me know if I have done anything at all that needs to be confessed. Then, Lord, cleanse me and heal my mind so that I can be free from these thoughts and feelings. I ask this now Lord, so that I can walk on after you, following in your Spirit, and know that I am at rest in your will and in your way. I ask this in Jesus' Name. Amen.

Lord, help me to understand your will for my life and why I am feeling the way I feel. I lift up the shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit and I stand. Lord, I stand knowing you are my victor and my champion. You have overcome, and I overcome in your Name. I pray all this now in the mighty and merciful name of Jesus. Amen.

December 11, 2013

Understanding The Way To Go

It is a Good Wednesday morning - hump day - as many people like to call it. I am blessed to be at home, again another good day at home. God has provided time off from my previous employer so that I could rest, and I so need to REST. I am physically unwell, not to the point of exhaustion, but generally unwell to where I feel icky most days, and to where I have common symptoms (headaches, stomach aches, backaches, etc.) I am not sick to the point of staying in bed or even staying in the house, I just have that "I don't feel well" feeling every day. I am blessed to be at home. I slept in until about 8 am this morning. I woke up at 6, which is my normal time to get up, but I made myself stay in bed. I fell back to sleep and then two hours later I had a fuzzball on my face purring and crying and rubbing his chin all over my head. I had to get up!

As I think about the fact that I am able to stay at home in the mornings, I am thanking God for this provision and His Grace. I cannot remember how many times I have prayed this to the Lord. I have cried out and said how much I missed the days when I worked from home (as a designer), and I could work or I could go with my Mom to the shops or to lunch. I had freedom to come and to go, and I loved the fact that if I felt ill, I could stay at home until I felt better. I loved that I could rest when I wanted to rest, and that I could sleep until I woke up naturally every morning. Sure there were times when I had to be up and out the door, but generally speaking, I could make my own hours, and I loved that gift of choice, of freedom from the routine 9-5 of the business office.

I read back on my blog this morning, and I found this:

"I miss the days when I could come and go at my pleasure, shop with my Mom, or just do nothing -- all because I could choose what to do" (Jan 2013).

I cried to the Lord about my overwhelming workload last January, and here I sit (now in December) without those boundaries on me. God has delivered me from the routine of working 9-5, and He has provided a way for me to complete my graduate studies, work (to earn income), but all with the freedom and flexibility I so desire. He is Good to me, He is so very Good to me!

I spent some time on my blog and I read through other months and other posts. I found this post as well:

"Yes, I need to remember that every day is a gift from God, and that as His child, I am blessed to receive it. With Joy and with Thanksgiving, I receive His gift to me. I rejoice -- am filled with joy -- at the gift, and I give thanks to the Giver of all Good things" (April 2013).

I was writing about my job at CVS and I was also thinking about all the work God was asking me to do. I hadn't started my graduate studies at Regent, so I was overwhelmed thinking about how I was going to work, to do school, and pay all the bills. In short, I felt unprepared to handle what God was asking me to do.

After some reflection time, I remembered that God had me covered and that every day was His Gift to me. I could take it and rejoice or I could take it and complain. I had made the decision to be filled with joy and to receive His Gift with grace.

I continued to read on and I came across these two posts:

"I also realized that God's plans for my life are non-negotiable."

and

"Therefore, we need a plan of action followed by adequate time to prepare for work. These two items must be completed to ensure we can perform as desired or expected."

I sit here today as a recipient of God's provision and His plan. He has created a way for me to go, and as such, He has planned, prepared and is ready for me to be performing what He has designed. I am to rest in the planning - He has already done this for me. I am to rest in the preparation - He has already seen to my training so that I am able to do what He asks me to do. Now I must rely upon His Grace to perform, to do the work so that He is able to shine through me. God has made a way, and I am walking in that way. He is Good, so very Good to me!

Dear Lord -

Thank you for this day, and for the plans that you have made for me. I rest in your Plans for I know that they are Good. I let go of the worry and the anxiety over how I will teach and how I will perform in my Spring courses. I am well-prepared for the life you have given to me, and I am ready to go and do your work. I trust you (I believe you), and I know that you are more than able to do what you are asking me to do. Therefore, I can let this go because you will do all this work through me. May I be used as your instrument this day, and may I rest in the knowledge that there is nothing you cannot do through me. I am your tool, I am your vessel, and I ask now that you use me in whatever capacity you choose. I thank you for the provision of my life. I am good, and I have enough. I thank you for the grace to learn new skills, and to become a subject matter expert in my field. I thank you that I can become the person of your creation, your choosing, and that I can be a teacher, a Mom, a daughter, and I servant of the King. I am your child, and I look to you, my Father, for every need, for every blessing, and for every desire that fills my head and my heart. I praise you today, and I thank you for saving me and making a way for me to go. I ask all this in Jesus' Name. Amen, so be it, thy will be done. Selah! (Pause and calmly think about it!)