November 13, 2014

Knowing The Way to Go

Today is November 13th. I cannot believe that I have one week of teaching left (then a break) before finals. This semester has flown by so fast. I am looking forward to the break (three blessed weeks), and to the change in courses (Spring term brings a literature class and another argument class). My plan right now, Lord willing, is to finish strong, to make it to the finish line (at Regent, at GCU, and at ACU). I am praying for strength, for perseverance, for discipline, and for focus so that I can end this very challenging semester on a high note.

To say that I am worried is true. I am worried. I am worried about my performance at Regent, about my COM 507 class, in particular, and my overall success in my teaching assignments. My life is complicated right now, and I have so much on my mind. I am questioning the plans the Lord has for me, I am questioning the path I am on, and I am questioning IF I am where the Lord wants me to be.

How did I get to this place? How did I get to the point where I began to question Him about the plans He has for my life?

Not long ago I was on the firm track toward graduation at Regent. Not long ago my life seemed peachy-keen. I was confident of the path, of the plans, of the way He was leading me. I felt for sure that I "knew" exactly what to expect in the coming months (meaning the Fall). I was excited about the opportunity to expand my teaching assignments, to try new things, and to experience new opportunities. It seemed like 2014 was a year filled with many options, many choices, many possibilities.

As I consider the fact that the year is almost over, I guess now is as good a time as any to reflect on the past 11 months. My hope is that through reflection, I will come to understand why I am feeling the way I feel, and why I am struggling so much right now (with doubt mostly).

  • January 2014 - I found myself teaching my very first college class, ENG 356 The Short Story, at GCU. 
  • February 2014 - I struggled some with the lack of income (only one teaching contract). I realized early on that that teaching one class was a blessing to me. My COM 702 class at Regent was intense, and since I needed extra time to focus on the course content and assignments, having less work to do outside of class was absolutely necessary. God is good, so very good to me.
  • May 2014 - I made the difficult decision to divorce my husband. After a four year separation, I finally submitted the paperwork to the county. My husband had asked for the divorce the year prior (2013), but I was waiting for him to file the papers. He didn't do it, so I prayed about it, and with the Lord's approval (note that I say approval, not blessing), I filed for divorce after 30 years of marriage (26 years living together).
  • June 2014 - I spent my residency week at Regent (2nd year), and I started COM 703's major research project. Truthfully, my week at Regent was easier than the first year, but not as satisfying overall. I was stressed over having no income all summer long, and I didn't like the research project parameters. Still, I barreled on through the course content and finished the summer strong.
  • July 2014 - While on a short, but blessed trip to So. CAL to visit my family, I meet a man online in a rather happenstance way (through Facebook). We become online friends (we share many interests, mostly our devotion and service to the Lord and His work), and begin a relationship of mutual support and affirmation.
  • August 2014 - My divorce decree is finalized (only four months from start to finish), and I am single again. It is a weird feeling to be legally single. I have lived singly since 2010, but to no longer be attached to someone you've lived with and known for such a long time is a weird feeling.
  • September 2014 - School begins for me at Regent University. I am enrolled in two classes as usual, but the volume of work is significantly higher than expected. I begin the spiral into concern as my four teaching contracts move into high gear (2-2 at two schools).
  • October 2014 - Pressure mounts with school work, projects, teaching contracts, and family commitments. My parents, with whom I share a home, are struggling more financially and have some degrading health issues. I am feeling the pang of care, and I am worrying more about my lack of income, my ability to provide for them should they need full-time care, and my future plans (which are in flux).
  • November 2014 - I have successfully passed my teaching evaluations at all three schools. I don't have the final reports, but for all intents and purposes, I feel confident that I am set for teaching for Spring and onward.
  • December 2014 - Unexpected plans have caused a trip to FL. My aunt suffered a stroke in late August and is in nursing care. My uncle called to ask us to come to visit. I am flying there on December 13, taking my mother who cannot fly on her own, to visit her sister before she passes away. The stress of finishing my projects at Regent, grading essays for all my students (122 of them) is weighing on me. Lord help me to stay focused and to finish this semester (and year) strong.
This is my year in review. Even though December is not here yet (it is around the corner -- so say the stores and TV/Radio stations), the end is coming quickly, and I am starting to panic over it. Why am I stressed? Why am I panicked? Good questions -- I wish I had the answers right now!!

Daily Living

My teaching and doctoral workload this semester is grueling. I am tired, so very tired, and I am struggling with CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome). Teaching four courses, studying two doctoral courses, and caring for my family has taken its toll. I am overwhelmed and overly stressed due to the weight of the burdens I bear. It is difficult for me to let things go. By nature, I am a planner. I don't give up nor do I give in. I finish my projects, I take responsibility for my actions, and I assume leadership roles when asked or when it is critically necessary to do so. I think the hardest part for me is the fact that I carry this weight on my own. One of the blessings of being married is having someone to walk with you, to share the load, and to help lift you up when you feel you cannot walk on. Yes, the Lord is my husband. He is my provider and my protector, and He most certainly lifts me (He carries me most days) through the hard and difficult parts of life. Yet, in this life (earthly) God created man and woman to be life partners. I believe that one of the reasons He did it was for this very purpose -- so that the burdens and cares of the world would be shared and not borne solely. The weight can be crushing at times. It can be difficult to know and to understand if you are moving in the right direction. Therefore, having a partner to hold you, to keep you focused, can make all the difference. When two are committed to following the Lord, to seeking His will in their life, they are able to ensure that they continue to move forward in the same direction, to stay firm and fixed, on the Lord's will for their lives. It is a blessing to be married, to share a life with another person, and to help carry those burdens that at times seem all too heavy and overwhelming when carried alone.

Ministry

The Lord has called me to a specific ministry. I am aware of my calling. I have blogged about it before, but as the time goes on, I come to see it more clearly, more completely, and with more focus. I am called to use my communication studies at Regent along with my previous work experience (teaching, project management, technology, etc.) for the Lord's work. Everything I do is predicated upon my finished degree at Regent University. The PhD is the end for me -- > it is my goal in life. Yes, it may seem weird to think that a degree is that important, but in my case, it is vitally important. My preparation and training at Regent are key to accomplishing the Lord's will for my life. I must go through Regent (to earn the degree). I must complete the task assigned to me. Yet, even with that in mind, I am still not clear on what I will do with that degree. Part of me assumes that the PhD will help secure a full-time position teaching somewhere. Most major Universities want faculty to have PhDs, so getting hired without one is difficult. This is part of my struggle now, knowing that I can work adjunct at most places, but I cannot live on adjunct pay. I need a full-time job, with solid salary and benefits, but at this time, I can only work part-time. It is frustrating to me, but I believe that the Lord knows that working part-time, as hard as it is for me, is necessary so that I can finish His work, His preparation, His training for my life. Yes, ministry comes first, always first. I must do the work the Lord has called me, equipped me, and prepared me to do.

Priorities

As I consider my priorities, my mind eases a bit. I must remember that the Lord only gives to us what we can handle. My first thought today was 1 Cor. 10:13, but that speaks of temptation. I am not being tempted, I am being tried (tested). Surely, my faith is being tested to see if I will do what the Lord has asked me to do. Two verses bubble up in my mind. The first is from James 1:2-4 (the beloved James):

"Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing."

and the second comes from 2 Chron. 32:31,

"And even in the matter of the envoys of the rulers of Babylon, who sent to him to inquire of the wonder that had happened in the land, God left him alone only to test him, that He might know all that was in his heart."

The first verse, one of my favorites, is a reminder to me that all testing has value, that it is God's way of proving us (proofing) through trials. Endurance, the kind that is needed to finish the race strong, is what every Christian needs. Yet, how often are we willing to submit to the trial or test in order for the fruit of endurance to take hold? No one likes to be tried, no one likes to be tested, even if the outcome is blessing, is favor, is endurance, and is a winning faith to finish strong.

My priorities are in order, of this I know. The Lord has given me the following responsibilities (not many, Praise God), and these are the things that I focus my faith, my hopes, and my strength on:
  1. Completing my degree at Regent University
  2. Mentoring and supporting my son until such a time as he comes to know the Lord's will for his life
  3. Caring for my parents until the end of their lives
Testing Through Trial

Now with these scriptures in mind, I see clearly that what I am experiencing is a testing of my faith. The question must be asked then --> what is the Lord testing? My faith is strong, my confidence and hope are in the Lord, so therefore, what else is under scrutiny?

I read this today, and it helps:

"When God tests His children, the purpose is to prove that our faith is real. Not that God needs to prove it to Himself since He knows all things; rather, He is proving to us that our faith is real, that we are truly His children, and that no trial or test will overcome that faith" (Got Questions Ministries, 2014).

This is an interesting answer to my question (why does God test us). At first, I thought that God tests us to prove our faith is real. OK, but who needs to know if our faith is real? Does God need to test our faith so that He will know that it is real? Hardly. An all-knowing God already is aware of our faith. He is always in "the know" when it comes to matters of faith. Therefore, the testing of our faith must be for our benefit, to show us that our faith is real. This aligns with the answer I searched for above --> God tests us to prove to us 1) that we are His children, 2) that our faith is real, and 3) that our faith will overcome any trial we encounter in this life.

So what does that mean to me?

I believe it means that God has allowed the testing of my faith to confirm to me that what I believe, what I feel, what I think is real -- is true. Secondly, I believe that God is testing my faith to show me that no matter what comes against me, no matter the storm, the difficulty, or the challenge, my faith in God is enough to overcome anything the enemy or the world throws at me. Lastly, I believe that the testing of my faith is a sign for me to understand that I must endure hardship, difficult times, and challenges in order to grow into all maturity, all wisdom, and to achieve standing where I lack nothing (as James says).

The comfort that comes through this experience is satisfying, but only if you allow it to sink down deep and to understand that God doesn't test us to prove to Himself anything, but rather He tests us in order to prove to us that our value, our worth, our dignity, our hope, and our security rest in Him.

Consequently, the question that begs to be asked is this: where does your (or my) security lay?

"Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help" (Ps. 146:3 KJV)

Yes, in the end, the answer is God. If your trust is placed in anything else, you will never find the peace, the comfort, or the security you seek. In my case, when I worry about worldly things (even practical needs), I am seeking trust in people, in things, and in places that can never fully provide for me. More so, when I consider that my life is wrapped up in a ministry-focused direction, it is all the more important that my trust sit securely and confidently with the Lord. He is my provider. He is my protector, my shield, and my defense.

Now with my experiences reflected, my case carefully articulated, I am able to see clearly how I have allowed faulty logic and reasoning to pull me off the mark. I have not moved from the path the Lord has me on, but I have questioned the veracity of His plan, I have wondered if I was doing the right thing. In truth, I am doing the right thing. I am walking in the direction of His will. It was not my doing that was in error, but rather, it was my thinking that was taking me astray.

My faith has been tested to show me that everything in my life is right and proper. It has been ordered by God (Ps. 37:23). I am walking in His way, I am moving with Him and not against Him. The proof of the trial was to confirm to me that what I am experiencing, while difficult and challenging right now, is part-and-parcel with my life plan during this season. God has not abandoned me nor has He forsaken me to struggle, to suffer, to endure on my own. Yes, the challenges are heavy right now, but they are not for a lifetime, but only for this season (this time). My faith is strong. My confidence is secure. My hope is bold. The Lord has me in His tender loving care. He knows the plans He has for me, and they are good. He is working in me and through me to bring me to fullness of stature, to maturity, and He will accomplish the good work He began in me (Phil. 1:6).

Dear Lord,

I have struggled these past months as I sought to understand your will for my life. So much has happened this year, there has been so much change, and I have found myself frustrated at various points along the way. You have remained faithful to me. You have provided for me, met all my needs, and kept me covered throughout the days and weeks and months of this year. Now we are at the end of the year, and in looking backward, I see how many things have changed in my life. I never handle transition well, yet you have been my steady comfort, my rock, and my refuge. I accept the fact that I have been tested these many months, that my faith has been proven time and time again. I trust that the outcome of these tests have been to grow my faith, to secure my confidence, and to give me hope as I move into the next phase of the plans you have for me. I trust you Lord, I continue to place my full hope in you and in no one else. I look to your hand of provision, to your shelter of care. I rest in the knowledge that you are God, and that there is no other Name, in which we may call upon to be saved. I praise you now, and I lift my voice to worship you. Only you are worthy of my praise. Only you are worthy of my adoration. Only you are worthy of my life. I surrender all to you this good day. Amen. Selah!

No comments: