December 30, 2014

Hard Pressed...

It is December 29th, 2014, and the new year is just around the corner. It has been a good year, a year of transition, and a year of learning to trust the Lord for my every need. I struggle still, especially when I feel hard-pressed by life, to let things go and to rest in His sufficiency. I blog about this often, and I remind myself daily to let go, and trust the Lord. Yet, saying it and doing it are often two very different things.

Today has been especially stressful for me. My plans for this week had included spending each day in preparation for next week's start of school. Instead, I found myself ferrying my Mom around to the shops so that she could take things back after Christmas. I felt pressured all day long because what I wanted to do was not what I could do. Instead, I had to do what I didn't want to do, and even though I realized the value of it, I still felt pinched by the fact that the decision was made without consideration to my needs, to my looming deadline.

It is difficult to explain it really, but suffice it to say that I am experiencing what happens to many people when they are faced with caring for aging parents. It seems that your needs, your wants, and your desires get placed on the back burner while you care for others. I don't mind caring for my parents, it is just that I receive rejection, criticism, and negativity from them, and that hurts when I am already overloaded with the demands of my own life. I know that they don't mean to be this way, and that it is reality of their lives that has caused them to become angry and depressed. I know that while they don't want to hurt my feelings, they do because they are focused on their own needs, and on their inability to meet them. I find that I have to be the "bigger person," to let more things slide, and to accept words and attitudes that aren't always accurate or fair. I do my best to let things go, to not take offense, and to respond correctly, but there are times when the pressures of life, the demands of home, and the fear of the unknown coalesce to cause a storm, a major storm in my life.

As I consider the plans the Lord has for my life, one thing is for certain: while I believe that that they are good, I know that hardship, trial, and difficulty will not disappear. No, the plans the Lord has for my life are good, very good. Yet, the enemy desires to destroy me, to steal my joy, and to cause me to suffer in any way that he can. Therefore, I will face various trials, various times when I am hard-pressed and pushed aside. How I react, how I choose to face these tying times will demonstrate the mark of my character. Will I face them with excellence, with total dependency upon the Lord or will I succumb to the ways of the flesh and give in to selfish and self-promoting desires?

I have several life verses, among them I recite this one often:

Micah 6:8 - He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

I desire to walk humbly with God. It is something I have prayed about often, it is something I struggle with to overcome. I long to have a friendship with God, a faith journey that is predicated upon true friendship. The Word says that God is our friend.

John 15:15 - No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.

Today is especially rough for me. I am struggling to process some truth, some difficult THING and it is hard for me to let go of my desire to control the outcome of my life. I want so much to walk humbly with God, to be His friend, to seek Him and to wait upon Him for His counsel and advice. Yet, the world presses in on me, demanding that I make decisions and choices NOW. There is fear in their voices and the calmness and slowness of the Lord's timing is not welcome. I can answer with confidence that the Lord has this situation covered, He has me well-covered, and He has all my needs in His care. Yet, the voices are clamoring for an answer, a way, and resolution, and I am not prepared nor ready to give them what they want. I must wait. I must be patient. I must draw near to my God, and to humbly sit before Him and to trust that His timing is perfect. He knows me best. He knows what my tomorrows hold, and He knows what I need most. If I panic and give into the fear of others, then I will risk making decisions that are not in alignment with the Lord's perfect will for my life. I am pulled between two options -- to do what seems right in the mind of man or to wait for the Lord's provision and the thing that is right in the eyes of the Lord.

On Sunday, I blogged about the moment when I saw the chorus "I have decided to follow Jesus," flash on the overhead screen at church. I wrote how I felt in that moment when I realized that I was sitting there as a new person, not as the old person whose life was altered by divorce. Yesterday, I was hard-pressed by loved ones who wanted me to make life decisions in the moment, without consideration for the Lord's timing. Today, I am still working on the details, trying to sort through the emotions that are pulling at my heart, and hoping to find some clarity to lead me through the turmoil and back into the blessed calm of the Lord's perfect will.

December 30th, 2014 - Update

Now I am faced with a series of decisions, a series of choices that all have uncertain outcomes. The Lord is my Provider. He is my Provision, and as such, I go where He sends me. I do the work He has prepared for me to do. For now, that work is part-time adjunct instructing at GCU/ACU. As such, money is very tight. I trust the Lord for Him to cover my needs, to provide enough for me to pay my bills. I wish my life were easier, financially speaking. I wish I had money in my savings account, and money that could be easily given away. But at this point in time, I have to watch my pennies, and I have to be careful about what I do spend. This means that every purchase, every option must be prayed for and waited upon until the Lord says it is OK for me to invest or spend. I trust my bank account to Him. I trust Him to meet each need. Still, I would prefer to have more, to have just a little more so that I could relax and no longer worry about money. I believe, and I have believed this for a long while, that what I am experiencing now is training ground for my future life.  Let me explain...

My previous life, my married life, was fraught with lack. Yes, I lived in constant fear that the law would show up and evict us from our home, that the IRS would impound our vehicle or our assets to cover back unpaid taxes. I lived in constant fear that I wouldn't have enough money to buy food for my child, to put clothes on his back, or to pay for necessary medical expenses. My days were filled with dread, constant worry, and anxiety over never knowing if there would be enough money to meet the basic needs. Family members often supplemented our income, met our needs, and provided for the shortfall. However, these times of blessing were often double-billed. They were both a blessing and a cursing because with every handout came expectations of service, and demands for more and more control over our personal lives. We were stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard spot -- needing help, but not wanting to take it because of what the "pay back" required.

After I came out of that life, I had to learn to depend on the Lord for His provision. I struggled early on with spending money. I would become ill just thinking about having to spend money. Grocery shopping was a challenge, and for many months, I would put items back on the shelf if I felt they were too expensive or too luxurious. I only bought generic. I only bought the bare necessity because that is how I had lived my life for so many years. It took time for the Lord to help me learn how to manage money, how to live within my means, and how to let go of the fear and anxiety over my work.

The Lord was gracious to me, of course, and through the first couple years, He gave me opportunity to learn how to manage money. I bought a car, a computer, booked trips, and paid for my education. I learned how to use credit wisely, and I learned how to invest what little extra I had each month. In addition, the Lord provided job opportunities that provided for my daily needs. I worked part-time for a while to help build verifiable work experience (as opposed to the years I worked on my own). Then I worked in two corporate jobs where I had benefits and a good salary. I took care of health needs for both myself and my son -- long put-off health needs -- so that we could feel confident that we were healthy. It took two years of saving before I was able to take care of my dental work, but praise the Lord, He provided an excellent dental benefit, and I was able to have major work done last year. In all, the Lord met each need over time, and as I learned to rely upon Him, I became more and more comfortable with His guidance and direction.

I began to relax after so many years of panic, and I began to see the blessing of the Lord manifested in different ways in my life. If I needed a major purchase, the Lord provided. If I needed to buy a new computer, the Lord provided. It seemed that no matter what the need or the expense, the Lord provided for me.

In late 2013, I left my steady work as a Communications Analyst for an opportunity to teach college English. It had been a long desired dream of mine to work as a professor, and the Lord opened that door for me through GCU. I have been a teacher since August 2013, and I am currently pursuing this path to become a full-time Professor. The road has been blessed, but not without uncertainty. Adjunct instructors are paid on contracts. There are no benefits. Contracts are Spring and Fall only, so there is no summer work. I am seeking a full-time position, but there are challenges to making that step up. First of all, most major Universities only hire PhD's for full-time positions. Second, most schools (colleges and Universities) expect to see 3-5 years of teaching experience. Third, tenure-track positions typically seek candidates who have published articles or presented at conferences. It can be a challenge for an adjunct professor to move into full-time work because of these missing criteria.

Thankfully, I am on my way there. I will have two full-years of teaching by the end of Spring 2015. I will also be what is called "ABD" by the end of Fall 2015. I have one paper that could be presented at conference in 2015. I will be working hard this next year to write other papers that might also be successfully submitted to journals. I have blogged about this before so there is no need to rehash it again. However, what is important to note, at the least to remind me of what the Lord has said to me, is the fact that I am in a transition period, a time when I am gaining experience and education to prepare me for His work. I have known this for several years now. I have believed that both corporate positions, and even Macy's prior, were temporary jobs to provide for me, to establish me, to help me set myself up as a single person. In truth, I had never been responsible for myself in over 30 years. I didn't manage our shared finances (my ex did that). I didn't purchase any of our cars or even our house. He did everything, and I would often sign on the line as his spouse, but almost all financial decisions were made my him. Unfortunately, my ex was not a wise financial steward. He desired wealth, sought wealth, and spent money as if he had wealth. Thus, our weakness was that we didn't seek the Lord's guidance for our financial well-being. Our coffer was empty simply because we never asked the Lord to be LORD over His financial provision to us.

I had a lot of learning to do once I found myself single. I had to get my own bank account, my own credit card, buy my own car (twice). I had to arrange for a house to live in, and I had to travel for business and for school all on my own. I had never done any of those things prior to being married, and now the Lord was showing me how to do it all without panicking, without anxiety attacks.

The jobs I had were good, and they provided well for me. But they weren't the Lord's will, per se. They were His will because He provided them, but they weren't the "way" He had in mind for me to go. What I mean is that while these were good jobs, they weren't the "job" the Lord desired for me to do. I always heard Him say to me that "I would do no work." I didn't understand this for a long time, but once I started teaching at GCU, it made sense to me. I realized that what the Lord was saying to me was that I wouldn't do a job outside of ministry. I would work full-time in ministry. I wouldn't work at UOPX and do ministry. I wouldn't work at CVS and do ministry. I wouldn't even teach and do ministry. I would only do ministry. Granted, one is always "doing ministry" regardless of the job or opportunity. What I mean is that the Lord was calling me to full-time professional ministry rather than corporate or higher education. Yes, I do ministry as part of my teaching, but I am not engaged in full-time ministry as I teach. No, I am teaching English or Communication skills to help my students succeed in their academic careers. Thus, all of these jobs were a means to an end. They were provision for me during the time when I needed the provision most, if that makes sense. They were gifts and blessings to enable me to learn how to live my life, trusting the Lord, and moving on to where He was calling me to go.

Since I transitioned into teaching, I have sought to take a permanent non-academic job twice. Once I actually did it, and I was miserable for the three-weeks while I worked in a dead-end, boring, and ill-fitting job. The second time I considered it was just this month (several times this month). I thought that it would be easier for me to work full-time in some capacity so that I would no longer have these stresses, these financial worries. Each time I pressed the Lord about it, the same words came back to me: trust me.

Yes, Lord, I will trust you. I will wait for your perfect solution and not run ahead of you trying to resolve something that is part of your timing.

My enemy, the devil, desires to see me stray from the Lord's plan. He would like me to give up waiting on the Lord, and choose instead, my own way. Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV says,

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.

The biggest mistake I could make right now is to give into the temptation and allow the enemy to lead me off course. It is paramount that I stay firmly fixed. Proverbs 4:26-27 MSG says,

Watch your step, and the road will stretch out smooth before you. Look neither right nor left; leave evil in the dust.

This is the enemies plan of attack, to cause me to panic and to dread what is not known so that I will make a choice based on my own interpretation of the events. I do not know what the future holds, and I do not know where the Lord intends for me to land (right now). My hope and my prayer is that the Lord intends for me to move me where my heart wants to go (near to someone I have fallen in love with), but I will not know that until He actually moves me. I am trusting Him for this relationship as well as for my future so I know I cannot just up and move someplace else simply to avoid the hard-pressing nature of the world right now. I must wait for the Lord's hand and for His provision. He knows what He wants me to do, and He knows where He wants me to go. Until He reveals His plan to me, I must wait and be patient. I must let the voices that clamor for me to make a choice, to make different plans fall silent. I must listen for One voice only, and that is the voice of the One who is my Lord and my Savior. All other voices must be tuned out so that I am not swayed by the persuasive words of the enemy. I listen to the Lord. I look to the Lord. And I wait upon the Lord. Selah (pause and calmly think about that!)

Dear Lord,

These past couple weeks have been so difficult for me. I have struggled to know your will, to see your plan, and to wait for you to lead me. I have patiently waited, rested upon you, but I am being pressed and pushed and pulled in other directions. I ask now that you will give to me your comfort and your care. Cover me with your wings and protect me from the enemy and his desire to pull me off course, to set me on the wrong path. Silence these other voices, some of whom are well-meaning, but who do not seek your will nor your way. Let me only receive counsel from others who desire the same thing as I do, and that is to follow you with all their heart, their mind, their body, and their soul. May your Name be praised today and forevermore. I know that each need I have right now will be met with your sufficiency. I lack nothing for I have YOU, and in YOU, there is no lacking, no lessening, no loss. You are ENOUGH for me this good day, and in YOU I rest knowing that you have me well-covered, well-covered. I pray now that you would reveal your will to me so that I can have comfort, find strength, and be stable, strong, and stalwart. May my feet stand firmly planted and rooted in your presence, for you alone are my sufficiency. You meet my needs with abundance, and I give you praise, and honor, and glory this good day. I ask this in Jesus' Name, Amen!

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