November 30, 2014

Feeling So Out of Control

It is a blessed Sunday, and I am sitting at my computer contemplating writing a three-page response to one of my peer's final papers. Yes, it is due today, and I am feeling mad at myself for waiting so long (I had all week) to write it. Now, it is due (at midnight), and I am feeling that panic set in. I hate it when I procrastinate, and for some reason, this semester I have procrastinated far more than usual. I would say that I do tend to procrastinate often, but usually I get my work done. I put off until the last minute only when I feel that I do so with reasonable assurance that I will still be successful in the end. This semester has been so trying, so difficult, and at times, so downright disappointing to me that I think I have settled into that place of wanting to give in, give up, and just get on with my life. I know that this is what my colleagues call the "doctoral burnout" phase. This phase happens mid-stream in a long and intensive doctoral program. It is the point when you are too far in to quit, but not far enough to see the light at the end of the tunnel. It is when you say to yourself "I don't care about these courses, I don't care about my grades, and I don't care about this degree." Yes, it is true. I have cried to the Lord and said those very same words. More than once.

Yet, I carry on, and I continue to plod forward because I know that He has called me to this specific work. Still, I struggle with time management, with the demands of work and school, and with the desires for living (again!) For so long I have been focused on the business at hand. I had no social life, no friendships, no outside interests. I had my work, my school, my family, and my Lord. I was single-minded and devoted to the Lord and His work. I had blinders on, the kind they put on race horses, and I was running full steam ahead toward that finish line, the goal of getting this degree and starting a new and an exciting career as a Professor. Now, I am experiencing the burn of stress and overload AND I have the blessing of a new friendship that brings me sweet reward and joy. I look at my hard work and while I love what the Lord is doing in me and through me, I think sometime "does it really matter?" Sometimes I think how much easier it would be to have a good job and a good life. Free time to spend with friends and family. Down time to enjoy the blessing of REST!

Of course, that question is a rhetorical one. Of course, the answer is a resounding YES!

Nonetheless, I feel pulled in so many directions now and I am struggling to remain a sense of composure, a sense of control. What does this mean for me, for my life?

I found this graphic online today and it speaks volumes to me. I struggle so with losing control, and I work so hard to maintain composure, to keep everything working as it should. Today, I sense this loss of control and composure. I feel so undone, so completely undone. I am struggling to put one foot in front of the other, and to find my way forward. I am floundering, floundering BIG time, and I feel so lost and so out of the "zone."

So as I sit here today and think about why I am afraid, this verse pops into my head. Joshua 1:9 is the classic verse that reminds us that the Lord is always with us. He has not left my side nor is He far from me. He is with me and wherever I go (in His will), He will go with me.


I think about why I am afraid today, why I am feeling so completely out of control. I know why, of course, I do. The Lord has told me as much, and He has said for me to be "prepared." Yes, the Lord is good to me, so very good to me. Whenever I feel Him telling me to go or I sense that He is moving in my life, immediately upset occurs. Now granted, I have felt overwhelmed this entire semester, but this week as been especially trying for me. Yesterday, in particular, I heard the Lord speaking into my heart and mind and telling me to be prepared because He had moved in my life. I have experienced this movement before (and blogged about it) so I do know what to expect. The issue is that no matter how many times the Lord speaks to me and tells me to be prepared for change, guess what? I still find myself spinning out of control and feeling so upside down. Yes, I should know better. I should know that I need to hunker down and brace myself for CHANGE. Normally, I feel this sense of powerlessness and then change occurs in my life. Something will happen, something will begin or end. Change will come and for a time, I will be unsettled, uncomfortable while He moves me ever so slightly to the left or the right. Sometimes the feelings that come with change are not so strong. Perhaps I am used to little changes like these and now I don't react as much. It is the BIG changes that the Lord causes in my life that rock my little world and knock me off balance. I am anticipating a major change in my life very soon, and already I am feeling the unsteadiness of being moved by the Lord.

As the Lord moves in my life one thing is certain --> change is about to happen. As I experience this unsettling feeling, this uncomfortable place, I know that I will be facing some big obstacles soon. These obstacles will not shift on their own, no. These obstacles will be moved by the hand of the Lord only. He will go before me to prepare a place for me, the place of His choosing, and these roadblocks, hindrances, and mountains seem so unscalable.  The Lord knows that where He is calling me to go, where He is sending me, I am not able to go on my own. I do not have the way mapped out, the plan in place nor the provision at the ready. He does, of course, and He is moving me into the path for me to follow Him to this place.  I wrote yesterday that I have felt the Lord calling me to move. This feeling has not diminished, but I am uncertain as to the outcome (where will I go, Lord?) I feel a pull toward IL, but until He opens that door, I am stuck right where I am here in Phoenix. I will wait upon the Lord, patiently wait for Him to complete this move, and then He will let me know what to do. Until then, I wait, I wait, and I wait.

What does this mean for me today? How do I handle these intense feelings of discomfort, these fears I am feeling, and these BIG unknowns?

Isaiah 26:4 

Trust in the LORD always, for the LORD God is the eternal Rock.

Galatians 3:6-9

Consider Abraham: "He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness."  Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham.  The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: "All nations will be blessed through you."  So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.


1 Chronicles 16:11

Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always.

Isaiah 40:28-31

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.  He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.  Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;  but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Yes, I go to the Word and I find the answer to my fear. I must TRUST the Lord completely. I must REST in faith believing the He is God. I must WAIT upon the Lord to lead the way through this difficult time. I must KNOW that the Word of the Lord is true. 

November 29, 2014

Sensing The Lord's Movement Today

It is a good Saturday in warm and oh so sunny Phoenix. The temperature today is expected to hit the high 70s-low 80s. This is normal for us, well sort of normal. I think our highs in December are usually in the high 60s-low 70s, but we can get really chilly daytime and nighttime temperatures depending on the jet stream. We have a high-pressure area sitting over us so that means warm and sunny skies (no clouds) until the jet stream drops a little lower and brings us some variable weather. Until then, we are sitting pretty, as folks like to say, with our winter heaven temperatures and clear skies.

While I am thankful to live in such a beautiful place, there is part of me that wistfully remembers snow-filled Christmas' in IL. Yes, I remember the blizzards and the freezing cold temperatures. I remember slogging to school in wet boots and coats. I remember the ice-glazed windows and the frigid days when the air was so cold you couldn't catch your breath. I remember feeling cold, being cold, all the time (especially at night). Yes, I have those memories frozen into my mind, and for whatever reason, I don't look back on them with horror (like my parents do), but rather with a smile and happy thoughts. You see, I love variable weather. I love cloudy and gray skies. I love the change of seasons, and I love snow.

My friends from Chicago will tell me that there hasn't been that much snow recently. They recall the childhood winters (those that I shared with them) and how much snow we had each year. It seems that the winters in the past 20-30 years have mostly been cold and wet, with very little snow. Still, those thoughts of snow days and winter slush are sweet to me. I miss wearing sweaters and down coats. I miss wearing boots. And, yes, I miss shoveling snow -- though now I would probably invest in a good blower (no sense doing it the hard way).

I have prayed about opportunities for jobs, and the Lord has chosen to keep me settled in AZ. However, as I get closer to finishing my PhD, I have had to let go of my desire to remain in AZ. I understand that a full-time job may require a move to another state. I may not be able to find full-time work in AZ (for a myriad of reasons). Also, as a Professor, finding academic positions is tricky. There are oodles of jobs out there, but schools are picky about openings. In some disciplines, it is much easier to find a job, but with teaching, the job has to fit the educational background and the experience (teaching, publishing, etc.) This means that there is a difference in ranks and opportunities in academics. For example, I teach adjunct courses at two universities. Adjuncts are usually hired with a MA in a teaching field such as English. Normally, adjuncts will have a minimum of one-year teaching experience. They are paid by the class, so it is part-time work. Also adjuncts receive no benefits and there is no guarantee of employment from semester to semester. Contract positions, on the other hand, are offered to instructors with more experience. These may be one-year or multi-year contracts. Typically, the rank is lecturer and the education required is a MA or a terminal degree. Once you go up a rank to Assistant Professor, the school wants a PhD in hand and three-years of teaching experience. Some schools will hire you as ABD (all but dissertation), but only when necessary. Ranked and tenure positions are Assistant, Associate and Full professor titles. Each rank brings more money, more responsibility, and more requirements (for publication and years teaching). Moving up the food chain, therefore, is difficult and can take years. However, for someone like me, starting at a lecturer position before I get my PhD could give me a foot in the door. Once I am ABD (in 2016) perhaps I could move up to an Assistant Professor position.

Thus, with this in mind, the issue becomes finding a job that fits my experience. Plus, my MA is in English Literature and my PhD is in Communication. I have to decide what courses I want to teach -- because in most major Universities -- I will not be able to teach in both fields. If I choose to teach English, then I will start as a Lecturer and depending on the school may be able to move up even though my PhD will be in a different field (my research interest actually is Rhetoric so it should be OK). Still, there is such a big unknown out there and it is difficult to think or plan ahead. I don't know where I will end up or what I will do.

One thing I feel certain is that I will not remain in AZ. The Lord has placed a call on my heart and it seems that that call is leading me to another state. I have felt this was the case for almost 8 years now. I have investigated a number of locations, all at the pull of the Holy Spirit, but so far the Lord has kept me here. I think there is good reason of course. My parents are here and my son was still in high school at the time. Now my parents are to the point where they need my care (and soon better care). My son is a Junior in college at our local state school. He is active in ministry and he is contemplating a second bachelors degree in music at the school where I teach (concurrent enrollment if you can believe it). I feel certain that for the short time, I am to remain where I am until the Lord unveils His plan for me. However, I have focused on several places (narrowed them down) and I am now feeling the pull toward one of them in particular. I will not know for certain until the Lord opens the door, but I do feel Him telling me to "GO!" which means that He is giving me the authority to step out in faith in His Name.

Stepping out in faith is a huge deal to me. I have stepped out in faith many times before and the Lord has led me by the hand to the place of His choosing. It is always a scary thing to let go of what is comfortable and to trust the Lord for His leading, especially when it means leaving what you know for something you don't know. The first time I stepped out in faith was to enroll at Mercy College. I had know way of knowing if I would be accepted for a MA program. I had know way of knowing how I would pay for my education either. The Lord provided, and I graduated in 2012. The second time I stepped out in faith was to leave my shared home and move into a rented town home. This was the first time I had ever lived on my own. I went from living with my parents to living with my husband, and in 2011, I found myself signing a lease and moving into a home with my son. The Lord provided the home, provided the income to pay for it, and provided the peace and comfort I needed to live there (for 1.5 years). The third time I stepped out in faith was to apply at Regent University. I am now a second year doctoral student and I am well on my way to finishing my course work (next fall). I also took a step of faith to leave a well-paying job and start teaching adjunct at Grand Canyon University. It will be two-full years of teaching this April and the Lord has provided steady income and contracts for me during this transition time. In June of 2013, I left my town home to step out in faith again and move in with my parents so I could help care for them. It has been a challenge at times, but I see the Lord's hand print as He provided a home and comfort while I struggled through a very difficult transition as doctoral student and newbie college instructor.

Now, I am ready to step out in faith again and begin looking for a full-time teaching position some place else, in another state, and at the Lord's leading. The idea of moving excites me more than it scares me. I think this was the Lord's plan for me. He has led me along the way through baby steps. As I learned to trust Him, He moved and I grew stronger in my faith. It was one step at a time whereby I would learn to let go, to go from panic stricken to peace overtime as I came to lean on and abide in Him. Yes, there were many days when I was panicked and afraid. However as the Lord has provided, I have rested and learned to let him drive the bus, so to speak. He drives me where He wants me to be, and I am a passenger on that bus. I go where He goes and I have been made safe and secure all along the way.

As the Lord reveals His plan to me, I am confident to know that the next stop will also be for my benefit. Yes, I am praying for a full-time job at a good University so I can settle a while. I really would like to find a job where I can stay until I retire. I would like to live someplace where I could feel comfortable about living out my life. Of course, should the Lord choose to up and move me, I will go, but I do sense that the place He is leading me to will be my final destination. I am OK with moving, but being the homebody that I am, I would really love to live in an older home where I could put down roots and live out my days. The Lord seems to be giving me peace about that so I don't think it is wrong to pray for it. The Word says that so long as it is possible we should seek to be a peace with all our neighbors. I think finding a place where it is peaceful falls in line with His word. Sure, it is up to me to bring that peace, but I have never sensed that the Lord was leading me into dark waters or stormy seas. Some people feel this way, that this is what the Lord intends for all His servants, but I have never gotten that sense from Him. I do believe that He calls some to live in the edge, in the inner city, to minister in difficult places (I know several missionary families who are in scary parts of the world -- the Lord called and equipped them for this work). I see my life as pretty comfortable because my calling is inward toward the people of God. I am called to reach and to teach within the church so I see my life as being fairly safe as far as ministry goes. I will go wherever He decides for me, but I have always felt that it would be someplace modest and generally safe.

Interestingly, of the three places the Lord has placed on my heart, IL is one of them. For a long time after I moved from IL (as a 16 year old), I didn't want to return. I was glad to leave because of the environment and peer pressure. I struggled in school in IL and I felt very inadequate at everything. I never realized how difficult it would be to move though. I left my very best friends (my only friends) and ended up in posh San Jose, living in a very safe place, but with no friends. I met nice people in school and at church, but I never developed any close friendships there. I met my husband and I settled into life in San Jose. Even though I liked living in Northern CA, I always had a very soft spot in my heart for my home in IL. In fact, I regularly dream about IL. I have for years, always my home in Hazel Crest, and my life that I had there as a child. I feel most at home there, and I long for life there.

I have been fortunate over the past couple years to visit the Chicago area again (for business). I have friends there and extended family (through marriage). I have enjoyed my visits and I love the area. I don't care for the politics of the state of course nor do I like the high tax rate. But some of the nicest people I have ever met are from IL. I learned early on that there are good and bad things about every place, but it is important to remember that people matter to God. People are His ministry and therefore it is vital not to turn away from a place because of politics. I digress.

I have felt the pull toward IL very strongly of late, really for the past couple years. I was pretty set on moving to Northbrook about five years ago. My son was thinking of attending Wheaton College and then Northpark University so I considered where I could find a good job (before teaching) and where it would be a good place to live (sort of in between college choices). A job never materialized, but I did spend time in Northbrook (when I worked for CVS).

Now that I am a teacher/instructor, I am open to teaching wherever the Lord opens a door. My son is planning on a Masters degree and PhD and more than likely will be heading to a Midwestern school for his next steps. I have always believed that I was to go where my son could attend college. I think it is simply because of the cost of attendance, residency tuition and all. My life and my son's life are intertwined as far as ministry goes. I know that sounds weird, but I have always believed that while his ministry would be different than mine, somehow we would work together in some capacity. Therefore, where the Lord sends me has a direct connection to where the Lord sends my son for school. I see us being connected together throughout the course of my life, and I pray that this is the Lord's will and not simply a mother's wish to remain close to her son. I think it is both, really, if I am honest with myself. Although, I have let my son go, so to speak, to follow after the Lord, there is a part of me that believes that the Lord desires this connection through ministry to remain. So be it, thy will be done.

So as I think about the next 6-9-12 months one thing is certain. I feel the Lord calling me to be prepared to move. I feel Him moving ahead of me to prepare the way. I hear Him telling me to GO, and I am becoming excited (with anticipation) as He works out the details of my life.

Today, I pray for the Lord's guidance and wisdom. I ask Him to confirm the plans He has for me. I ask Him to clarify my path so that I can be prepared to move, to go, to work, to live, and to minister in His Name. I believe in His word, and I rest in His ability to move me where He chooses. I go where He sends me. I live where He tells me to live. I do the work He has prepared for me to do. God be praised forevermore, I will GO. I will GO, and I will GO forth in His Name, and I will bear Him testimony for He is good to me. He is so very good to me! Selah!

November 28, 2014

Black Friday

So it's Black Friday. Yep, that is what the day after Thanksgiving is called. I think it is ironic because the day we supposedly give thanks to the Lord is on Thursday. We gather around the table, raise our voices to praise the One who created us, who sustains us, and who provides for us. We thank our friends, our family, and we thank the Lord for His many blessings. We spend the rest of the day stuffing our faces with food. We then sit around the TV and watch football or the parade (on tape) or some holiday special. It is a time of warm hearts, warm feelings, and warm fuzzies. We are happy for one day, thankful and grateful for the myriad of good things in our lives. We kiss and hug our friends and family goodbye as the day draws to a close. The leftovers are neatly packed into the refrigerator and our tummies are stuffed and well-satisfied. We settle into the night thinking what a good day it was, how the turkey turned out just right, and how the stuffing and mash potatoes were the best.

The alarm rings at 2 AM (for some it never rings because they never went to bed) and we roll out of bed and get dressed. We are not heading to work or to visit some sick friend. No, we are heading to Target, Walmart, Bass Pro Shops (name your poison) to SHOP! We are there in line at the crack of dawn to get the best prices on the best stuff so that we can look, can feel, and be our BEST. Of course, everyone knows that the best prices are not on Black Friday, but that they are on the weekend before Thanksgiving, right? You will get NO great deal pressed into the milieu of shoppers. You will only get scratched, screamed at, and shoved at as you try to get the last Elsa on the shelf.

I have never gone in for the Black Friday shopping thing. I have never felt the need or had the desire for that "experience." I know some people love the "event" of it all, but for me, it just seemed a waste of good sleeping time. Plus, I never had disposable income that would allow me to "shop" without planning, purposing, or patiently waiting. No, I normally purchase items, even gifts, after careful planning so that I don't overspend or buy something not really needed. Yet, there are millions of people out there who fill their lives with STUFF and Black Friday is the DAY to celebrate consumerism (the religion of I mean). Yes, I am a consumer. I consume good and services just like the next person. I just don't bow down to the almighty consumer and go to the throne to worship the idol of STUFF.

Perhaps this is why the Lord has seen fit to keep me in modest circumstances. I have my needs met with sufficiency and abundance, but my life is not affluent by any means. I have food on my table, and I have good purposeful work to do. I may feel the pinch at times, but the Lord has provided exactly what I need in the time when I have needed it. God is good, so very good.

Matthew 6:31-34 The Message (MSG)

30-33 “If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.

34 “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.
I like the Message version because it takes the emphasis off food and shelter and places it on the spirit of the text, the idea that we worry about "getting" rather than focusing on "giving" to others.

Thanksgiving is the time when we GIVE thanks to God for His grace and provision. The day after Thanksgiving should be no different for those of us who have claim Jesus as Lord and Savior. Instead of worrying about what kinds of deals we can get on this one consumerism-filled day, why not spend the day giving to others, cherishing others, encouraging others. Let the worry about the cares of this life go for more than one day out of the year. Remember the true Black Friday happened over 2000 years ago. It was the day our Lord went to the cross to pay the penalty for all of our sin. It was the day He was crushed and bruised for our iniquity. Black Friday is remembered for the sacrificial giving of a loving and dying Savior. Let us all remember the true message of what it means to give of one's self, to lay down one's life for another.

So today as I sit here in my office and I work on papers and assignments, I think about all that I have to be thankful for and I remember that my Lord knows my needs (worldly cares). He knows what I need more than I do. I rest therefore in His sovereignty and His sufficiency. I rest in His care today and I give Him thanks for He is GOOD.

November 26, 2014

Giving Thanks Today

It is the day before Thanksgiving and I am sitting alone in my room working at my computer. It seems like I am always working at the computer (so goes the life of the college student). Today is a beautiful day in Phoenix. The temperature is right around 70 with the forecast saying that warmer days are coming through the weekend (highs in the low 80s through Sunday).

It is always a bit weird to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas in the desert. It does get cold here, but our daytime highs top out in the mid-high 60s usually so it doesn't really feel like fall or winter. I do miss the cool and crisp fall days. I remember how it felt to have a fire going to keep the chill in the air -- outside. I know folks who live in northern climates would switch places with me since most of the East coast is bracing for heavy snow fall today through the weekend. Still, there is something wonderful about the change of seasons, and I do miss the cool fall days and wet winter months.

As I sit here, I think back to my childhood growing up in the East and Midwest. I have many happy memories of those days (not all, but many). I remember play days most and I have very fond memories of Christmas shopping with my Mom -- especially when it was snowing. I can remember all the days when we would head to the grocery store or the mall. Those Christmas memories stick with me most. I think it is because I love snow, and I remember seeing all the twinkling lights flickering through the snowfall. I also love Christmas music, and my Mom always put Christmas music on for us to listen to while we were at home. I can remember shopping at K-Mart one very snowy Christmas and hearing Johnny Mathis on the loud speaker. I don't recall what he was singing, but it was a traditional Christmas song. It is weird how some memories just stick on your mind like that, how they come back to your memory so clearly.

Just yesterday, Mom and I were out shopping, and I had one of those Deja Vu moments. In truth, it was a recalled memory that was stimulated by touch. You know how that works -- it happens when you touch something, smell something or hear something and your brain triggers the recalled memory. Often memories are associated with our senses so that we can recall them faster or in more ways then to think just about the context of the memory. So back to my recalled memory...I was with my Mom at JCPenny's and I touched this sweater that was hanging on the rack. It was navy blue and it had little flecks of other colored yarns twisted in it. It reminded me of the kind of sweater I would have worn when I was in high school. So as I touched the sweater, I was thinking about my high school days in IL. Sweaters were the mainstay of our fall and winter months and I still love to wear them (I don't get much chance here in AZ). The memory that came flooding back to me was of a time when I was 12 or 13. I was shopping with my Mom in IL at our local mall, Lincoln Mall. We were in Carson Pirie Scott and we were school shopping. In a flash, I was touching a sweater there in the store.

It is weird how that happens but the memory that came back was sweet. I stood there thinking about  how many times over the years I have gone shopping with my Mom. Mom is 81 now. I think we have shopped together for almost 40 years. We still enjoy shopping now, and we go often (even though Mom is not able to do as much walking as she once did.) Anyway, it was a nice memory and I enjoyed thinking about my life then and now and all that has transpired in the moments in between those years.

I am feeling wistful today because I sent my son off with my ex-husband this morning. They are driving to Kansas City to see my in-laws. It was so weird to see him out the door on a trip that didn't include me (not that I wanted to go, just that in years prior, we would have made that trip as a family). I am happy my son is getting to go see his grandparents, and I am happy that he will have some time to spend with his dad. It was just such a weird feeling to see him off in that way.

I think a lot of it has to do with where I am in my life right now. My son is 21 and is practically grown up. He still comes to me for help, for needs, and for advice. I am thankful for those small mercies. I hope that he will always feel that he can talk with me or that he will want to spend time with me. I hope that is the case, I really do.

Experts talk about the empty-nest syndrome and for many parents, seeing their children go out on their own is difficult and sometimes is depressing. I am not really that way, at the least, I don't think so. I am very excited to see what the Lord is doing in my son's life. There is so much going on and there are amazing opportunities, doors really, opening up for him. I see God's hand on his life, and it is such a good, a welcomed thing. Yet, no matter how happy I am to see these doors open, there is a part of me that is scared of being alone, all alone. I think I feel this way because right now I am in between two generations of people I love and I see their lives changing. My son is 21 and my parents are 81. On the one end of the spectrum, my son has his whole life ahead of him and there is great possibility sitting there for him. On the other end of the spectrum, my parents are failing in health, and I see the end drawing near. I see myself in between both of these events and I think about how alone I will be when my parents pass away and my son moves out on his own.

Some people welcome that alone-ness, they like it, and they long for it. I can say that for a short while after my separation, I was glad to be alone. I liked having the freedom to call the shots, to go wherever I wanted, and to do whatever I wanted to do. I bought groceries for the first time and I didn't have to buy what my husband liked. I spent money as I wanted, and I enjoyed the quiet of a house that was setup the way I liked it. There were many positives in those early days. There were many times when I was glad to be set free from the trials, the turmoil, the trauma of my former life. I say that now with full understanding that what I was glad about was being able to walk away from the drama (and oh, was my life filled with drama -- day in and day out!)

When you live with constant drama in your life, there comes a time when you pray the curtain will just reign down and force the action off the stage (if you get  my drift). I spent nearly 28 years (at the time of our separation, we had been married 26 years) living with the highs and lows of a very demanding extended family. This coupled with the years of financial struggle (constant) and legal issues, my life was always about something or someone else. It was never about me (not that I am selfish, I just mean it was never about what I wanted, which was a home filled with peace and quiet, solitude, normalcy, and simple living).

Now that I am on the backside of all of that emotion, I am looking forward and what I see scares me a little bit. Yes, I am secure in the Lord, and I love Him with my whole heart, but I can say that there is part of me that sees that very soon I will be all alone. I will have my PhD, my teaching career, but no family. My brothers are connected to me through my parents, so when they pass away, I doubt seriously that they will visit me the way they visit with our parents (and vice-versa). My son may end up in Iceland for all I know and I will be living on my own. I am not afraid in the sense of being provided for or having enough money to retire, etc. I know the Lord will provide that for me. It is more that while I have friends, none are what I would call close to me. I keep in touch via Facebook and email, but I don't have "people" I hang out with or with whom I could share my life. I think it is more than the sharing of life because what I miss most is family. Friends, colleagues and peers are great, and the family of God, well they are swell too. But, there is nothing like family and like a home. I think I will miss having a home.

I know -- I am being maudilin. Oh, Carol, get a grip on yourself...

I can remember the first Thanksgiving I spent after I was separated. I had moved into my own place, and I was very happy to be out of the home I shared with my husband. Our house was going into foreclosure after the 1st of the year so moving out was a necessity. I was happy with the place, I loved that it was so clean and new, and I loved decorating it and making it look nice. I can remember sitting at my computer on Thanksgiving day and reading through Facebook posts. I was reading all the "Happy Thanksgiving" posts when I saw a family picture flash across my feed. It was from my niece and she had posted it of her family (my brother's family). It was a great picture of the family (they are all so photogenic) laughing and having a good time. My brother has four grown children, and here they all were hanging out together. I can remember the feeling of jealously run through me. I love my brother and his family, don't get me wrong, and I love every single one of my nieces and nephews, but here they all were together and something just snapped in me. I broke down and cried. I mean I cried huge sobs over the fact that my brother had an intact family and I was sitting home alone (my son was still asleep) with my family torn apart. It was so heart wrenching for me to come to terms with that fact, that my life was forever altered because of certain choices. I was facing the future alone (with the Lord at my side, of course), and I was doing the hard work, you know, I was doing the necessary work of making a living, keeping on keeping on. It just didn't seem fair, it just didn't seem right. That was three years ago and I am far from those feelings now, though at times, I still feel a great sense of loss over my family breaking apart. I have accepted the fact that things are the way they are and I have moved on, but still there is always this feeling of loss.

Today as I consider what my future looks like I do see great hope on the horizon. I see the possibilities of an open ended future, a new chapter just beginning and a new ending to be written. The Lord is moving behind the scenes to create for me a life of His choosing. I am open to what He has in mind for me, to go wherever He intends for me to go. I feel so strongly that the plans He has for my life are good, so very good. I am learning to lean on Him and to trust Him even when the path forward seems unclear at times. I am resting in His sufficiency and I am looking up and waiting on Him rather than staring down at my feet and my empty hands. The Lord knows the plans He has for me. The Lord knows my days and my weeks, and He knows my end.

I give thanks to the Lord today for His goodness. I give thanks to the Lord for His blessing and mercy. I give thanks to the Lord for the people He has brought into my life recently, to the good friends and companions He has chosen for me to love. I give thanks to the Lord for His provision of good work, a good home, and a good future. He has everything under His control and I rest in the knowledge that He is able to do all things according to His will in Christ Jesus. I rest today, and I give Him thanks.

November 25, 2014

And Now for Something Completely Different...

I have never been a huge Monty Python fan, but some 'memes' just stick in your head. I guess it is part-and-parcel with growing up as a Baby Boomer, and with having been raised on TV sitcoms and other satire that was all the rage in late 1960s and 1970s (Mel Brooks, for example). I was thinking about life today, and this 'meme' popped into my head.

I digress...What is a 'meme' anyway? Why do we even say that word?

From the authoritative source, Wikipedia:

"A meme is "an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture." A meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols, or practices that can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals, or other imitable phenomena with a mimicked theme. Supporters of the concept regard memes as cultural analogues to genes in that they self-replicate, mutate, and respond to selective pressures."

Oh, so that is why. Hmmm. I guess it fits.

I am at a crossroads today. I have looked forward to this day for weeks. Today is Tuesday, just an ordinary Tuesday. It is as normal as normal can be except for the fact that it is the "day after" I had to submit two major assignments in my Regent classes. I have that "hung over" feeling, that feeling that says "I shouldn't have done what I did last night" (or in my case, the weeks leading up to yesterday). I have never felt so bad about turning in assignments like I have this semester. When I say "bad" I mean horrible, filled with dread, with fear and with angst.

Angst. It is one of my favorite words. I am filled with angst. What does angst mean you ask?

Let's go check.

a feeling of deep anxiety or dread, typically an unfocused one about the human condition or the state of the world in general.

Yes. This accurately sums up my feelings right now. I am filled with angst, dread, deep anxiety.

Why? Why in the world would I be filled with angst? Good question. The answer is simple. I spent this past semester under the intense pressure of too MUCH of everything. I know, I know -- that makes absolutely no sense. Yeah, I agree. Really, it is a pretty accurate assessment of my life right now. I have had too much work, too much study, too much teaching, too much care giving, too much fatigue, and too much of feeling whipped, beaten down, and unable to get up. In short, I am done. I am worn out and worn in. I am ready to throw in the towel.

You see --> Today was my day of relief. This was the day I have look forward to all semester. It was the day after my last day teaching for Fall break, and it was my day of rest. It was the day when I could sit back and say "I did it" and mean that I had submitted all the major papers and assignments for Regent, and the day I finished all my teaching. The problem is that I don't feel relieved. I was looking forward to this day, thinking and believing that some how I would feel better knowing that I had completed papers and I had done my best. I just don't feel that I did my best. I feel that with all the pressure in other areas of my life, my school work has not been my best. It has been average, and I don't like being average. I want to do my best, always my best, and yet, I feel so let down, so so so BLAH!

UGH!

I have approximately three weeks of teaching and school let to complete before I can wrap Fall 2014 up officially. I have learned life lessons this semester, oodles of life lessons.

  • I have learned my limits. 
  • I have learned what I can and cannot do. 
  • I have learned that no matter how much I desire to succeed, the enemy seeks to destroy any achievement, any accomplishment, and any growth I may experience.
  • I have learned that I cannot do what the Lord is calling me to do.
  • I have learned that what He asks of me must be completed through His strength and His will, and not mine.
  • I have learned that no matter how much I try, I will always fall short of His glory.
  • I have learned that people are imperfect, impossible, and at times, impervious to your suffering.
  • I have learned that the only way to survive is to let go and let God be in control.
  • I have learned that I am flawed human flesh, and that my sin nature desires to rise up when it should humbly stay down.
  • I have learned that I have a very long way to go, and that I am walking on a very long, very hard, and very difficult path.
  • I have learned that despite all of the above -- my Lord loves me, and He has promised to never leave me or forsake me.
  • I have learned that I can rely on the Lord, that I must rely on the Lord, and that these feelings of failure and insecurity are just that -- feelings. They are not truth.
  • Lastly, I have learned to lean on the Lord, to rest upon His complete Person because in this life there is no other NAME, no other PERSON, no other GOD with whom we can place our faith, our trust, and our hope. He is EVERYTHING TO ME.

Psalm 23 (Message)

God, my shepherd!
I don’t need a thing.
You have bedded me down in lush meadows,
you find me quiet pools to drink from.
True to your word,
you let me catch my breath
and send me in the right direction.

Even when the way goes through
Death Valley,
I’m not afraid
when you walk at my side.
Your trusty shepherd’s crook
makes me feel secure.

You serve me a six-course dinner
right in front of my enemies.
You revive my drooping head;
my cup brims with blessing.

Your beauty and love chase after me
every day of my life.
I’m back home in the house of God
for the rest of my life.


Today I take comfort in the fact that what I feel inside is just that -- it is a feeling. My feelings are fleeting and fickle. They are nothing when stacked up against the line of Scripture. When I feel this way, overwhelmed and anxious, I go to the Word and I receive the truth. I go to His Throne and I find rest. I recover, I relax, and when I am ready --> I pick up my cross and I restart my journey. I am not alone for He is always with me. I am not facing the giants on my own because His strength is my shield and His word is my mighty defense -- my sword. I must keep on moving, I must keep on following the Lord. I must go where He sends me, where He beckons me, and where He intends for me to live and to work. I must go wherever He goes for He is my Lord. He is my all-sufficient Lord.

Dear Lord,

This has been one of the most challenging semesters of my college career. I thought Spring 2014 was going to do me in (Quantitative Statistics) and I thought that I would not have any other semester like that one. Never did I imagine that this semester would beat me so hard, whip me, and challenge me. Never did I think I would do so poorly in a class, poorly in multiple assignments, and end up so miserable as I struggled  to do my best. Yet, through it all, You have been my faithful companion, my constant hope in the storm. I confess that I have doubted you, doubted your Word, and I have believed the lies of the enemy that have tried to pull me off course. I have struggled so much, and I have felt so completely out of my league. I have considered the fact that I am not doctoral quality, not a good teacher, not a good Mom. I have thought about all the areas in my life when I felt so inadequate and not up to the task. Yet, You have never let me down. You have rescued me time and again, and You have not let go of my hand. I rest now, Lord. There is nothing more I can do but let all the misses and mistakes go. I have to move on with you. I have to follow where you lead. I have to let the need to be perfect fall and look up. I have to look to the One who is perfect, who is able to overcome all things, and who is able to see me through to the end of this journey. I look up, Lord, and I wait upon you for you are my Lord, my King, and my Shepherd. You are my ROCK, my REFUGE, and my STRONG TOWER. I rest in You alone, Lord. I rest.

November 23, 2014

Enjoying the Blessings of Friendship

Today is a good Sunday! I am home (missing Church) so that I can work on finishing up my critical paper (due now on Monday at midnight). I don't normally like to miss church because I feel like I need it to refresh my weary soul, and I find church especially fulfilling when worshiping with others (in praise and in prayer). But today, I am pushed to the wall (lately that is my motto) to finish my research project so I can end this nightmare of a semester (he he he -- as I recall -- I said that about the Spring and Summer semester too!) The Lord is good to me, so very good to me. He knows me so well, and He provides for my every need. I am resting in His provision of care today, knowing that His will is being done in and through my life, and that part of His will includes my studies at Regent University. I rest and I let Him guide and lead me through this paper and all the other assignments I must complete before the semester closes on December 14. God is good, so very good. He is good all the time, and all the time He is good!


As I prepare to write my paper (and I have to write a significant portion today) today, I find that I am struggling to focus, struggling to "get down to business," and struggling to not waste time today. It is not uncommon for me to feel this way. In fact, I would say that of all my recent projects -- not one was planned, was purposed, and was pulled off according to my timing or my schedule. No, I did plan, and I did prepare, but what happened (as it seems to every time now) is that I ended up at the end of my budgeted time with all effort failing me. I finished each paper, thank goodness, but not on my own at all. No, the Lord showed up and He inspired me, guided me, and helped me complete the work on time (and with great success). The Lord is good, so very good to me.

So, why then I am here blogging when I should be writing my paper? Good question! Actually blogging is part of the prep work -- free writing of sorts -- to get me into the writing mode. The Lord knows that some times I need to free write before I can start to do my best writing. So blogging is my preferred choice for free writing and it does help me prepare my head and my fingers for writing my papers.

I titled this free writing blogpost "Enjoying the Blessings of Friendship" because I wanted to give a shout out to my friend, Ken, who has been a constant companion to me this semester and who has been very encouraging to me, especially when I felt that I was so stressed over my assignments. The Lord has brought me a good friend, a special friend, someone who shares my love of so many things, and who is always there to make me laugh (when I need it). I thank the Lord today for the blessing of friendship because sometimes it is so difficult to walk alone, so difficult to carry the burden of "life" on your own. Yes, I know that the Lord is there to carry us along, and often He does just that -- He lifts us up and He carries us. However, the Lord knows that we need friends to walk with us, physically, and He brings special people into our lives as blessings from His Merciful Hand of Care. These people are really more than friends -- they are closer than a friend -- because they love us even when we don't feel very loveable. The accept us as we are and they understand our foiables (and our failings). They stand with us and hold us accountable to whatever responsibilities we have and they don't judge us when we goof up. They just love us where we are at -- in the moment -- and to me, that is just about the best thing possible.

Proverbs 17:17 (MSG) says,

Friends love through all kinds of weather, and families stick together in all kinds of trouble.

I am so thankful for the friends the Lord has brought into my life. Many have come and gone, but many have stayed the course with me. I love these friends, and I cherish them because they are unique and wonderfully made by God. Each one has a special ability that brings blessing into my life, and each one loves me as I am. My prayer today is to remember the value of good friends. May I be the kind of friend that stays the course, walks along side and helps to carry that heavy burden (if only for a little while or for a lifetime).

November 18, 2014

Turning Toward Christmas

It is November 18, 2014. I am home today (thank the Lord), but since my to-do list is significant, I will not have as much 'free time' to rest. Still, I am thankful that the Lord has provided these days off each week. I do not know how I would have made it through this semester teaching and completing doctoral assignments without the weekly rest breaks (my Tuesdays and Thursdays). The Lord is good to me, so very good to me. He has covered me with His blessing, His favor, and His sufficiency. I rest in His care, in His comfort, and in His confidence. I know that the plans He has for my life are GOOD, and that He is working to bring those plans to fruition. I give praise, testimony, and honor to the One we celebrate this Advent season, and to the who is coming again (soon!)

Semester End Brings Rest and Reward

I have blogged about this semester ad nausea. Yes, it has been challenging to me. Yes, I have been overloaded with work, both in teaching and in preparation. Yes, I know that I placed myself into this position with my desire for money (dare I say greed?) And, yes, I am aware that my heavy teaching load conflicted with my studies at Regent.

Yet, despite all those facts, I see the Hand of God upon my life this past semester. There is no way that I would have been able to keep up with the workload and demands of teaching without His Grace and His Mercy. The Lord has been my ROCK. He has provided the refuge I needed especially in those times when I thought I was overwhelmed and unable to carry on. He has been my SHELTER against the strong winds that have blown hard against me, seeking to knock me over and keep me down. Yes, my Lord is at my right hand, and He is my DEFENDER and my SHIELD.

Now as I consider the fact that I have less than three weeks to finish my semester (teaching and at Regent), I realize just how much the Lord has done for me. He has been the one to move me through these challenging days, and He has been the one to provide what I needed to complete each task and assignment. My to-do list is still long, but I am slowly checking off assignments, turning in work, and moving each day closer to the finish line. The Lord has me well-covered, and He has provided the strength, the determination, and the focus to complete what needs to be completed by the last day of school.

I need to make great headway on several key assignments. I feel confident that I will accomplish what needs to be completed today.

Looking Toward Advent

I have never been a big Advent person, which just means that while I love Christmas, I have never gone all out to celebrate the church tradition we call "advent." Advent normally celebrates the coming birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. Many families I know have made it a Christmas tradition to celebrate each week as Christmas day draws near. Often, these weekly home celebrations coincided with church events, Sunday services where the Advent candle was lit, and the retelling of the birth narrative from Luke. I love these kinds of traditions, and I think they have a place in our home and corporate worship celebrations. However, for me, since I do not believe that December 25 is the day of the Lord's birth, I have never really focused on the day of celebration, but rather I have focused more on the season of celebration.

In this Advent Season of 2014, I am considering how the coming of the Lord into the world some 2,000 years ago can be experienced still throughout our daily life. I ask myself, "how can we remain connected to the Lord, how can we live out the Great Command, and how can we demonstrate the love of God in our relationships with others?" Advent is a time of preparation, a time when we eagerly wait with excitement and with anticipation for the coming arrival of the Lord. The Lord entered into the world in Bethlehem as a baby. Now we look forward to the Second Advent, to His return, when He will come as Lord and King.

I think for me that the way I can celebrate this advent all year long is to allow Him to reign as Lord and King over my life NOW rather than to wait until He returns. Yes, there is something about learning to live in a way that places the Lord over every detail and event in your life. I know that for many Christians who say they love the Lord, often their lives show a fractured picture of this so-called love. They love Him when it is convenient to do so, when they have great need or when they are filled with joy on Sundays. Yet, throughout their days, there is little love for the Lord showing through to the world. In fact, most often what the unchurched say about Christians is that they live hypocritical lives. They do not live what they say they believe and what they demand that others believe.

I surrendered my life to the Lord a very long time ago. It has been a good 8-9 years since I gave the reigns of my life over to Him, and in that short amount of time, I have grown, I have been changed, and I have been shaped into a new creature, a new person who lives her life in a dramatically different way.

I call this way "His Way" because it is not something I have done to myself (as in legalism to the ordinances and commands of God), but rather it is something He has done in and through me. He has shown me a new way of living, a new way of walking, a new way of talking, a new way of believing. His way has transformed my thinking, radically altered my life plans, and provided a direction for me to go -- a direction that not only has improved my standard of living -- but that has helped me to influence others to walk alongside of me.

It is fascinating to think about it, to think how His way works. I believe that His way is patterned off of the way He walked, talked, and lived with His disciples when He was here on Earth. Once He returned to the Father, the disciples practiced this same "way" and they sought out followers to walk with them. In a like manner, we are also to practice this Way and to lead others (we become the leader and we seek out followers). The goal is to lead others to the One we follow. So while we are leading, we are not becoming Leaders with a capital "L." No, we are simply little leaders (small el) as we live His way, and through our surrendered lives, we then reach out to others to encourage, to equip and to empower them to do the same.

I think of my role in His grand plan and the only thing I can determine is that the process the Lord uses to draw each person to Him has not changed in all these thousands of years. Each individual and each heart is transformed in the same way, with each life experience shaped and molded to create a similar desire. The Lord does not work in one person 'this' way, and in another person 'that' way. Yes, we all come to the Lord through our various paths, and we bring many hurts, hang ups and habits to the Cross. Yet, in truth, we all come to Him the same way --> BROKEN --> and in need of a Healer and a Savior. The transformation process that takes the broken individual and restores them to wholeness is magical (not in an occult-like way, but rather in simply a mysterious way). The Lord of the Universe transforms what was damaged and cast off into something beautiful and useable. We become useful to Him as we undergo this transformation process. It is GRACE at work in us, and it is GRACE that transforms us into the followers He needs us to be.

Therefore, this Advent Season, my desire is to become that person of Grace, to become the one individual in my small sphere of influence who brings hope, who brings healing, and who brings Him into the lives of those who desperately need to receive Him. My focus is shifted toward a healing ministry, a ministry that seeks those that need to hear the message of salvation, that need to experience the healing touch of a loving Savior, and that need to learn what it means to follow after Him. I want others to be transformed just as I have been transformed so that they too can experience life to the full --> the abundant life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him and call Him Lord.

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!

November 9, 2014

Chronic Fatigue

It is a good Sunday in Phoenix, Arizona. I am home this morning because I am struggling with Chronic Fatigue, and I overslept again (another missed Sunday at church). I feel bad about missing church, but at the same time, I am thankful that I am under grace and not law when it comes to such matters. The Lord knows me well, and He knows when I need to rest. I hear His voice whisper to me "Rest, Carol, rest." Yes, I know that He is telling me to let go, to stop worrying about the details (the millions of details) that are outside my control. I know that He is reminding me that He is in complete control of my life. But I also know that He is telling me to stop what I am doing, to physically let go, and to REST.

I have felt the symptoms on Chronic Fatigue coming on now for a while, but yesterday and today, I woke up with that overwhelming feeling where my body stopped functioning. Yes, this morning especially, my body behaved like a stubborn mule -- I asked it to "get up and go" and like that stubborn mule -- my mind and body brayed "noooooo!"

My family will say to me, "Carol, you need to go to bed earlier. You are tired." They are right of course, but being tired is just part of the Chronic Fatigue package. Tiredness or being tired is only the tip of the iceberg. The mountain of fatigue exists under the water so to speak, and the tip, what shows on the outside, is what most people see and respond to with advice. However, I know the truth of the matter. I can tell the difference between being tired (lack of sleep) and true chronic fatigue. I know the feeling, the sensation that tells me that I am "at that point" where I am experiencing adrenal overload. That feeling is clear to me, and it reminds me that if I don't take the warning signs seriously, I will cycle down into a period of chronic illness.

The last time I felt that serious warning was toward the end of my Masters degree program in 2010. I was working at UOPX, and I was exhausted every single day. I was getting up for work, driving the 45 minutes into the office, and then sitting on the phone all day long (with students), making robo-calls, before turning around and driving the hour back (with extra traffic). By the time I would get home, I would be so exhausted (mentally and physically) that I would crawl to the door and before doing anything (eating, for example), I would collapse on the sofa or the chair. Usually, I fell asleep in the chair most nights. The fifteen months that I worked there were grueling for me. I am thankful for the experience. I am thankful for the provision (I have blogged about it before) of job and salary and benefits. I never thought that being an online advisor would be so difficult and would take such a toll on me physically and mentally. I was glad when I left that job, and I was so thankful for the next job the Lord brought to me at CVS Caremark.

Still, the experience of a full-on CFS episode caused me to take steps, which I did, and thankfully I was able to finish my MA program and stave off more chronic issues. I was able to survive by taking five Friday's off in a row, three day weekends, where I could sleep in and rest. I was writing my thesis and completing an intensive writing class on Humanism. The work load plus the mind-numbing tasks at UOPX coupled to bring on some of the symptoms of chronic fatigue.
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of memory or concentration
  • Sore throat
  • Enlarged lymph nodes in your neck or armpits
  • Unexplained muscle pain
  • Pain that moves from one joint to another without swelling or redness
  • Headache of a new type, pattern or severity
  • Unrefreshing sleep
  • Extreme exhaustion lasting more than 24 hours after physical or mental exercise
Over the course of the past thirty or so years, I have had several severe episodes of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. These episodes were so severe that I was unable to work, to function (literally), to manage daily life, for several months at a time. 

I was first diagnosed with CFS in 1988. At that time, I was working for Share Base, Inc., in Los Gatos, CA. I was putting in very long hours, subbing for a coworker who had drug and alcohol problems, and who frequently called in sick. I was responsible for my own 8-5 job AND working during the overnight or early hours to fill in for this other person. The stress of that job plus the fact that I became very, very ill (Bronchitis/Pneumonia) several weeks previously brought on my first diagnosed episode of CFS.  Moreover, while I was so sick, so overworked (mentally and physically), my company chose to let me go (lay off). I took the lay off personally, of course, feeling the deep sting of injustice because of the fact that I was doing so much work for them, and not getting paid anything extra. 

In hindsight, getting let go was a blessing in disguise because I needed to rest, really rest, and quitting my job was not an option back then. The time off in between jobs was welcomed, but  even though I had recovered from my earlier illness in January of that year, I still wasn't able to shake the excessive fatigue. So when I suffered another physical setback in mid-March (a broken elbow), I wound up so depleted that I ended up in the doctor's office crying for help. I was desperate to understand why I was so tired, why I was so depressed, and why I wasn't able to regain control over my life.   My doctor diagnosed me with CFS even though back then there wasn't a method for diagnosing this syndrome (researchers still do not know the exact cause of the disorder). His prescription was to rest, to take a prolonged vacation -- like months -- free from stress, from work. In addition, he focused on my health, and my well-being.

Hearing that diagnosis was like a breath of fresh air to me. Finally, I had an answer to the symptoms I had been experiencing for so long. In truth, I probably had other episodes of CFS prior to this point in time. I can remember these exact same symptoms in high school, specifically in the months after my car crash in 1979. More than likely, the adrenal overload started around that time. I kept the symptoms in check by working sporadically, off and on, while taking classes at the Community College. My family considered me lazy. They complained about the long hours I would sleep. They urged me to get a "regular job" or to focus more on my studies. It took me four years to complete my Associates Degree, and while I am glad I did finish it, truthfully I found the whole process -- school, work and such -- a blur. I was in a mental fog during those years. I look back now and see the Lord's hand on my life, His provision and control, helping me through those very dark and debilitating years.

Now, all these years later, I can point to a roughly ten year pattern of symptoms. I can also see mini-episodes where CFS seemed to rear its head and because of the Lord's doing, I was able to avert a major onset.

So here I sit today, on this blessed Sunday, feeling a bit guilty over missing church again. I realize that my workload and the stress of my doctoral program are creating the "perfect storm" where CFS could sideline me. I was praying this morning, asking the Lord for His intervention, when I remembered a conversation I had with Him previously. I think it is funny when that happens, when the Holy Spirit brings up a time of prayer and petition, and you realize (sort of an A HA! moment) that the Lord really does know what He is doing in your life. Let me explain...

It was 2013, summer to be exact, and I was praying about my work situation. I had completed my first doctoral class at Regent and I was panicked over my workload at CVS Caremark. I felt certain that I couldn't work full-time and complete my studies -- that the combination of stress from work and the demands of doctoral research would be impossible for me to manage. I remembered praying about teaching, thinking that the perfect solution to my problem was a teaching position.  Teaching, the thought of it, as well as the contemplation of the possibility of teaching, was not a new topic of discussion for me and the Lord. No, this conversation started way back in 2010 when I first started applying to graduate schools for a masters degree. 

Zoom backward to 2010 -- I was in the midst of separating from my husband, and I knew that I would need a career (sort of) to provide for my needs (short-term and long-term). The Lord had placed the idea of graduate study in my mind 17 years prior, but due to constraints and the difficulties of my life up to then, it was not doable. That is until my life turned upside down and I found myself suddenly single. So as I listened to the Lord, stepped out in faith and applied to Mercy College for a MA in English, I remember discussing options for using that degree. Option one was to teach. Option two was to become a writer. Option three was to work in corporate business marketing (sort of a combination of my experience and my studies).

Working on my Masters program gave me time to think about these options. I also started working various jobs, Macy's first, UOPX second, and finally CVS Caremark, third. I had opportunity to explore corporate business life, and I tried to move into positions where I could use my marketing experience and my graduate study to benefit a career. It seemed that I had good success in my work, but doors didn't open to let me pursue these other jobs. So while everyone at my work encouraged me to apply for "better jobs" -- the doors just didn't open to allow me to follow those leads.

I thought seriously about working from home again, about having my own business, about managing my time/work/life in a home-based business. Part of me loved the idea -- setting my own hours mostly. But the other part of me panicked at the thought of being self-employed. I had lived that life for so long, and I hated it, simply hated it (not enough income, no benefits, no security). Even though the Lord did offer me opportunity to work from home, I rejected the idea with emphasis. I didn't want to live that way again (O, ye of little faith, Carol!) so I pursued option one, teaching.

Curiously enough, my desire to "try" teaching failed initially. I started applying to schools as soon as my MA was posted. No one took a look at my resume. I became depressed over the thought that I had misread the Lord's directives so I focused on internal jobs (at UOPX and later CVS). I thought "Ok, option one is not going to work, so on to option three (again!)" It seemed like I spinned my wheels for a long while until finally a door opened for me to be a teaching assistant at Grand Canyon University. I jumped at the chance to gain teaching experience, and I enthusiastically threw myself into learning how to become a teacher.

Zoom forward to 2014 and to where I am this day. I am presently teaching adjunct at two universities: Grand Canyon and Arizona Christian. I enjoy aspects of teaching. I enjoy the idea of teaching students. However, I am seeing the backside of the profession, the difficult and long days, the mounds of paper, the student struggles, and the administrative/policy issues that make being a full-time instructor difficult. Pad in there the low wage, the bare minimal existence for adjuncts, and the fact that I have no benefits to speak of at this point in time. Sigh!

Lately, I have questioned whether this is the best path for me to be on, whether I made the best choice. In reality, I don't think I made any choice. I followed the open doors. I prayed about each opportunity, and in many cases, I was guided to the opportunity (I wasn't even looking for it) by the Lord so I really just prayed for confirmation that I was hearing His voice. I cannot say that I took any of these jobs without the Lord's permission (even the horrible NurseWise position that I held for three weeks). No, I carefully considered each opportunity. I prayed over them, considered them, meditated on them, and when I was finally convinced of their approval, I stepped out in faith and applied for them. I doing so, I trusted the Lord for His grace, for His guidance, and for giving me the opportunity to experience various positions. The Lord guided me to the position, through the application and the interview process, and then into the 'experience' of learning how to do the work. In each case, the Lord covered my steps, and He gave me great success and favor with employers and coworkers.

I say all this to convince myself that the path I have followed has been God-ordained. Yes, I do believe that I have followed the Lord faithfully through every opportunity, every open door, and into every single path, no matter how twisted or turned. He has led me by the hand as I transitioned from one life (married) into another life (single). Now I am struggling with fatigue, with the mounting pressure, and with the burden of financial care. I am struggling, I am feeling the pinch and bite, and I am trying very hard to reconcile the past, the present, and the future. I know the path I am on is sure. I know that the Lord will provide a full-time position for me --> at some point --> down the road. My physical condition, however, screams that I need to rest. My mental state cries out to the Lord for rescue. My emotions are in check, praise the Lord, and my spiritual state is rock solid. Yet, I am struggling to make ends meet, to get out of bed each day, and to complete all the tasks on my to-do list. 

So what do I do? What is the best course of action? How do I figure this one out?

Only the Lord knows the plans He has for me (Jer. 29:11). I believe in faith that the Lord does have a good plan for my life. I believe in faith that He knows me well -- my coming and my going -- and that He has me well-covered with His grace. I believe in faith that the Lord is my Shepherd, my Guide, and that His word is my Lamp. I trust in Him, I believe in His goodness and His mercy. Therefore, I rest (spiritually) and let all this go. I surrender all to Him, all to Jesus. 

All to Jesus I surrender;
All to Him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him,
In His presence daily live.

I surrender all,
I surrender all;
All to Thee, my blessed Savior,
I surrender all.

All to Jesus I surrender;
Humbly at His feet I bow,
Worldly pleasures all forsaken;
Take me, Jesus, take me now.

All to Jesus I surrender;
Make me, Savior, wholly Thine;
Let me feel the Holy Spirit,
Truly know that Thou art mine.

All to Jesus I surrender;
Lord, I give myself to Thee;
Fill me with Thy love and power;
Let Thy blessing fall on me.

All to Jesus I surrender;
Now I feel the sacred flame.
Oh, the joy of full salvation!
Glory, glory, to His Name!

Words by Judson VanderVenter, 1896

Yes, I wait upon the Lord, and I look up. He is my Rock, my Refuge, and my Strong Tower. I place all my faith in Him, and I rest.