July 8, 2014

Delight Yourself in the Lord

Psalm 37 happens to be one of my favorite psalms. I have taken verses 4-5 as my life verses because I believe that they are testimony to what the Lord has done in my life.

Delight yourself in the LORD;
         And He will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the LORD,
         Trust also in Him, and He will do it. 

A couple years ago, I was watching Joyce Meyer on TV. I think it was in the spring, but I don't remember exactly the time of year. I had found her TV show one day, and I was inspired by her teaching. It was a dry time in my life, and I needed to hear God's word preached passionately and with strength. I don't even remember her teaching series, but I believe it was on doubt. At the end of the program, Joyce always would come on to speak to her TV audience and give a word of encouragement. On this particular day, she talked about reading the Bible and she shared that she often would focus on reading Psalms and Proverbs each day. She said that she had started doing this a long time ago, and after a short while, she found the daily reading transformational. She said that she read Proverbs 1-31 following the days of the month (so for example, today is the 8th so she would read Proverbs 8). For the Psalms, she started at 1 and read through to 150, then she started over at 1 again.

I was struggling at that point with daily Bible reading. I had always done group Bible studies because I needed companionship and accountability for reading each day. I liked that I had to have X chapters or sections read by the next meeting. Having a deadline helped to keep me focused. I completed a number of Precept studies in CA, but once we moved to Phoenix, my church didn't do Bible study that way. They preferred topical studies, so I joined whatever studies were being offered each semester.

I had always wanted to read through the entire Bible, and I tried on several occasions to do it. I never made it past the Old Testament books of Deuteronomy and Leviticus. This time, hearing Joyce say that she found reading Psalms and Proverbs to be an easy read -- less than 10 minutes each day -- but transformational, really piqued my interest. So on that day, I decided that I would read this way too.

I started reading, and truthfully, I struggled to do it. Proverbs is not an easy book. Psalms has some challenging parts too. However, I stuck with it, and I found that my entire perspective on my current situation changed -- not overnight -- but through the process of reading these two books of the Bible.

One day, I read Psalm 37, and for whatever reason, verses 4-5 stuck with me. I must have read them four or five times before I asked the Lord if what I was reading was accurate. I mean, if I delighted myself in the Lord, would He really give me the desires of my heart? I heard a confirmation deep within me. I thought "Ok, so I guess I better learn what it means to delight in the Lord." I spent some time looking up the word in my Bible dictionary and concordance. After a bit of deeper study, I asked the Lord again: "So, Lord, do you mean that if I make you my focus, then the desires in my heart (your desires for me) will come to pass?" I heard the word come back to me -- YES! Then I said, "So all I have to do is make you the focus and commit myself to your way, and you will do this for me?" Again, I heard the word YES. I was so struck by the power of these verses and the testimony that I believed I had heard in my heart that I got down on my knees and prayed specifically for two things:
  1. For the ability to make the Lord my delight
  2. For the strength to commit to His way
It wasn't an overnight transformation by any means, but slowly over time, I began to see my life change direction. I began to think about things differently, and I began to have new desires percolate up in my heart and in my mind. These desires encompassed two things:
  1. Desires I had held in my heart for a very long time. Desires that I had let go of because of time and circumstance.
  2. Desires that were new to me. Desires for future things such as ministry opportunities as well as travel opportunities.
A Practical Calling

The long-held desires came to pass first. I have blogged about this before, so I won't go into great detail here, but suffice it to say these were desires that I had when I was in my late 20's, and were related to my education. I had always wanted to be a teacher. I can remember spending summers playing school -- I loved to make up tests and quizzes. My friends and I would setup a school room in one of our garages and we would pretend to be teaching class. The desire to teach never waned, but my interest in following the steps to become a teacher never materialized. I chose a different path, and I ended up out of college (with only an AA degree). I was working as an administrative assistant in a high-tech company. I wanted to go back to college to get my BA degree (I always felt that my parents were disappointed in me because I stopped my schooling in order to get married).  When I did go back to school it was without my husband's 100% approval. He didn't want to spend the money on school, and he didn't want me to get my degree. I pushed for it, argued why it was a good idea, and in the end, I won. It was a hard fought battle between us, but eventually he gave in, and he agreed that I could finish my BA so that I could get a better paying job. My goal was to get a BA, that is all.

I never intended to go on to graduate school. However, mid-way through my first year back, I started to receive special recognition for my grades, for my papers, for my ideas, etc. My Professors started to speak to me about going to graduate school. I was encouraged to become a Professor. For the first time in my life, I found something that I was really good at, I mean really good at. I struggled with self-esteem issues back then. I felt awkward that I wasn't well-educated. I was made fun of by certain colleagues whenever I opened my mouth to speak (I didn't know then that I have a visual processing syndrome called IRLEN -- similar to dyslexia) because I would drop the endings off of words (in writing and in speaking). Moreover, I was not a good student in high school. I couldn't write well, I didn't understand basic English grammar, and I struggled with sentence structure.

Now I was being encouraged to become a Professor. I was getting As and A+s in all my classes. I was a President's Scholar. I believed in my heart that I was supposed to go on to graduate school. I felt that it was "meant to be." My husband reminded me that I had promised that after I graduated I would get a better job. Schooling was going to be over for me.

It turned out that I got pregnant, so instead of going on to graduate school, I became a SAHM. While I loved being a Mom, the desire for graduate school didn't fade away. I even tried to go back to get a MA in English when my son was a year old. I tried, but I knew that I couldn't do it. I remember crying all the way home from school after I had withdrawn from college. I felt like such a loser, like I had once again stopped doing something I was supposed to do.

All those years later, of all the desires that the Lord brought back to me, this one surprised me the most. I had put the thought of school deep down inside me. I knew that my husband would not allow me to go back to school so I just told myself that the desire was my issue, my deal, and I suppressed it. I told myself I needed to let it go. I would pray about it, beg the Lord to take it away from me. I would cry and cry and cry because the desire wouldn't go away. It would just simmer inside of me.

Then one day, as I was praying, I felt the Lord directing me to look at online schools. I thought, "Lord, how can I do this? You know that I won't be allowed to go back to school because of the money, the time away from work, etc." Still, I felt like the Lord was saying to me "Go ahead. Look for schools. Start planning now." So I did. I spent about 2-3 years just browsing the Internet. I didn't find any online programs that were of interest to me. I thought, "Lord, this is impossible. There are no Humanities or English programs offered online. I can't do what you are asking me to do."

I never thought that in 2010, I would be considering a single life. I never imagined that I would actually be able to decide to go back to school without someone giving me permission to do so. But, in January of that year, I felt the Lord directing me to look at online schools again. I browsed for a couple days, still not finding anything I liked. One day though just as I was about to give up, I felt Him telling me again to look online. This time I saw Mercy College. I clicked on the school website and saw that they had an English MA program online. It was a traditional program, which is exactly what I wanted, and it was 100% online. I felt the Lord move me to apply, and I did.

Long story short, I graduated from Mercy College in 2012. I am now teaching adjunct English Literature and Composition courses at two Christian Universities. I am a second-year doctoral student, studying Communication. I hope to graduate in 2017 with a PhD -- and I will become a full-time professor.

Desire 1 (becoming a teacher/professor) has been partially fulfilled. I am well on the way for it to be completely fulfilled. Desire 2 (ministry/calling/vocation) is in process, and encapsulates my education along with what I believe to be the Lord's expressed will for my life.

The second desire is unique because it involves what I believe to be a true calling from the Lord. I have blogged about this before as well, but not in as much detail. Today, though, I feel that it is right and proper to talk about it in more detail.

A Vocational Calling

When I was 16, I received a calling from the Lord. Callings are unique things, not only are they personal (individual), but not every Christian views them the same way. Some think of them as personal desires (like me wanting to go to graduate school) while others consider them to be divine inspiration and provision for a life's work. I fall into the latter category, though I wasn't raised to believe this way. My parents and I were attending a Lutheran church in San Jose. It was Evangelical, but it had a charismatic contingent of members in it. The services were traditional Lutheran, but a lot of the ministry programs had a more spirit-filled atmosphere. I consider myself to be quasi-charismatic, which just says that I do not believe in limiting the Holy Spirit and His gifts. I don't take the stance that tongues are bad or not valid in this age. I have heard people speaking in tongues. I have interpreted what they have said (I heard the words in my head in English, but other people said that the words were nonsense). I believe the Holy Spirit is active and as the third person of the Trinity has the power to indwell believers with whatever gifts He chooses. I know my spiritual gifts, and I recognize that the Lord has uniquely gifted me in certain ways -- for His purposes and His plans. I digress...

Anyway, as a teenager, I received what I consider to be a calling. The Lord spoke into my heart and mind and I was convinced that I was supposed to become a missionary. I was convinced of it. I remember telling my parents about it and they were not pleased. It wasn't that they had anything against missionaries -- it was that they didn't want their daughter to be one! I told my Pastor about it, and he confirmed to me that I probably did receive a vocational calling from the Lord. I remember being so happy, so utterly happy. I was going to be a missionary, and I felt this great pleasure inside of me.

I spent my last two years of high school thinking about becoming a missionary. I was filled with fear, with doubt, with anxiety about it. My parents were against it. They wanted me to be a teacher. They wanted me to stay home, to get married, to have children. They didn't want me to go to Africa (I remember that specifically).

As a young girl, to say I was naive when it came to boys, is an understatement. I liked boys. I just wasn't ga-ga over them. I didn't have a boyfriend. I thought about having a boyfriend a lot, but I was too shy to ask any of them out. The ones I liked already had girlfriends, and there weren't any who seemed interested in me. I contented myself with my relationship with the Lord. I was growing spiritually, and I was learning more and more about being a Christian.

When I did finally have a boyfriend (our Pastor's son) the experience wasn't all that great. I learned a hard life lesson (being two-timed and treated very, very badly) and I made the decision to give up men completely. Yes, I decided I was going to be a Christian nun (LOL!) During this time, it was good to say no to guys and to focus on what I thought God wanted me to do. Unfortunately, I was struggling with self-esteem, feelings of insecurity, and desires to go -- to go anywhere but where I was living (at home, with my parents, stuck in what I felt was their oppressive grip).

To get out of my parents house, I decided to get married. I thought married life would solve all my problems. I thought the man I had chosen was a good man, a Godly man (he came from a very strong Christian family), and I thought I could be a "married missionary." Never did I understand that God was calling me to missions and not my then husband.

To put it bluntly, my husband grew up as a missionary kid. His parents were in the Salvation Army and he spent most of his childhood living overseas. The last thing he wanted was to continue in their footsteps. I knew this was the case when I married him, but I thought that the Lord would change his mind later on.

The Lord called me to missions, but I chose a different path (I call it my Jonah experience). I went to Ninevah my own way, rather than the way the Lord had instructed me to go. I felt the call to go -- to get going -- but in my fear, my doubt, and my insecurity -- I chose a safer way, a more "approved way" of going.

Now almost 30 years later, I am focused on fulfilling the call of God on my life. I never could have imagined being in full-time missions work prior to this time in my life, in the world. With technology the way that it is and all the opportunities for short-term trips, there is no reason for me not to be a missionary.

I believe that God has called me to a very specific work. This work is missions based, and it requires my PhD. I see my teaching as part of His overall plan, and I am beginning to piece together the details that will form the realization of this life-long calling. Desire 2 is in process, and I believe that the day will come when I will be working in full-time missions work (does that mean living overseas -- no -- I don't think so, but it does include a lot of travel!)

Psalm 37:4-5 are my life verses because the Lord has delivered the promises of these words. He has given me the desires of His heart, and He is working to bring them to pass. God is good. God is so very good to me.

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