February 27, 2015

Going the Distance

I woke up this morning feeling groggy and uncomfortable. I can't really explain it other than to say I slept very hard, and I don't think that I had "restorative sleep" all night. I tossed and turned a bit before settling in sometime after midnight. My mind was racing, and it was filled with thoughts about life, work, school, etc. I guess you could say I was preoccupied when I laid down, and it took a couple of hours of fitful turning before my mind settled down and began to rest.

The morning broke early for me, which is to say, that sometime around 5 or 5:30, I was awakened by my cat as he pounced on the bed, bright-eyed and cheery, hoping to get me up so he would be fed. I growled something, and rolled over, only to hear the sound of my Mom's voice down the hallway calling to both cats. My Mom wakes up chipper and cheerful, she always has, so her morning voice has a particular ring to it. I heard her as her feet toddled down the hallway, and I knew that I had been given a reprieve of cat feeding duties. Mom would take care of it this morning, like she does almost every other morning. Thank you, Lord, for my 81 year old Mom and her early rising habits!

When I finally did wake up, and make a move toward getting out of bed, it was nearly 10 a.m. After the early escapade with the cats, I fell into that deep REM sleep that never seems to restore you to vitality, but rather, drains all energy from you. I know I dreamed a dozen dreams in that short period of time. They were a mass jumble of short stories, all merged together into one very long stream of consciousness. I don't remember the details, but I do remember waking up hard, feeling like someone punched me. In truth, I felt like I had run a long distance race. I was hard pressed, out of breath, and generally, exhausted from the experience.

I am not sure why this verse in Hebrews bubbled up in my mind today, but it did. Perhaps it was because of my hard night or the fact that right now I am so wanting to stay home and just rest. I don't know, but for whatever reason, this is the verse that is on my mind right now. In Hebrews 12:1 we read,

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us."

Perhaps my thoughts are filled with work, with family, and with other responsibilities, and this is the reason this verse comes to mind today. I do have a lot on my plate, a lot, but so far the Lord has provided for me. I have completed all my assignments at Regent, and I have kept up with my teaching duties at GCU. I am in a good place right now, a very good place. Perhaps it is because I am in that good place (good places seems to be a prime time for sin issues) that I must take heed. Yes, perhaps my thoughts are running toward this verse as a warning to remind me to remain faithful, to stay alert, and to not give in to temptation. 

I know that right now I am in the midst of a major life change. I am about to embark on a career move, a life move, that will alter my path, and change the expected outcome. Should the Lord choose to move me to Auburn, what will happen longterm is unknown, but certainly it is a far cry from the expected outcome that exists by remaining in Phoenix. Yep, so true, so true. For example, should I stay in Phoenix, what can I expect to come from my life over the next one, two or more years? 
  • For one, I can expect to remain at GCU indefinitely as an adjunct English instructor. Yep, this is all I can expect from a career at this school. Don't get me wrong, I love teaching at GCU, but the likelihood of a full time position there is slim to nil.
  • Second, I could leave GCU and look for work at other schools in the area. My chances for full-time work are still about the same. I cannot teach full-time in English because my PhD will be in Communication. My teaching experience is in Literature and Composition and some Communication, but I don't teach public speaking, org comm or some of the other big comm courses in the major.
  • Third, I could step out of my role as teacher and instead go back into corporate work. I could possibly find full-time employment in some capacity, but not within my field of interest or one that aligns with my higher education.
I would need to find a job starting in June, for sure. I cannot go another year as adjunct, so I have to have a full-time position that will start as soon as my teaching contracts end. If I cannot find full time work, I do have 3 classes scheduled for fall and potentially one more over at ACU -- so 4 total. Still, I need benefits and I need income. Should my parents need to move into an assisted or independent living complex, then I will need to move from this rental home. I cannot afford to live here on my own, even with a good income. So in short, I need:
  1. A full time job that pays well
  2. Potentially a new place to live, one that I can afford on my own
With that in mind, it seems that no matter how I "slice-and-dice" it up, I will need to move someplace, either physically from my home or from my city. I will need to give up teaching part-time for teaching full-time or for a full-time job doing something that aligns with my area of expertise and my education.

I need these two things to come to pass sometime this summer, before August, for sure. I need them to come to pass sooner rather than later so I can decline the contracts offered at GCU. I don't want to take the contracts and then rescind them especially if I know I will be interviewing and possibly moving to a different career.

The job I have applied for at Auburn is a full-time program administrator position. It aligns with my field, my area of interest and my previous experience. While my level of education is not required, it is recommended, so my PhD is just a bonus to the department. The job is within the Office of Writing at the University, and in truth, I don't think you can match me up any better considering that I am teaching writing, studying Rhetoric, and have significant technology experience, namely website design. I have what they want in spades. My hope is that they consider it the way I do. I pray they see me as the ideal candidate.

Of course, moving means leaving my family. It also means interrupting my son's education. Neither are insurmountable issues. My parents could move into a smaller place. They are ready for it, they have discussed it, and financially they need to do it. My son understands that his final year in school might mean living in the dorms. It is not a terrible choice, and frankly, it would do him good to live away from home for a year (perhaps help him mature a bit).

My relationship with my love is near this job so that is a bonus to me -- just puts me a wee bit closer to the one I think the Lord has provided to me. I don't know what will come of this relationship, but I feel certain that the Lord has given me the go ahead to consider moving closer to where he lives.

Therefore, I see a possible road ahead of me and it looks like it is an easy path to follow. The path I am on now is difficult, and it appears that there is a road block up ahead. I believe the Lord is diverting me to a different path for a different outcome. He is moving me, shifting me over, so that I can experience a different way of life.

My heart is racing, my mind is filled with doubts, with fears, with uncertainties; yet, I am confident that this is the way the Lord is directing me to go. I am to go this way. I am to stay on this path. I am to go the distance, so to speak, and to remain fixed on the goal at hand. As the writer of Hebrews reminds us "to strip off every weight that slows us down" so that we can run the race with endurance. Yes, some of the weight that slows us down is sin, but often the weight that we carry is excess burden, baggage, and business that we refuse to set down. We must let go of everything that causes us to tarry, to stumble, or to falter. We must run this race of faith to win, and that means to run like the wind.

Dear Lord,

As I consider this day today, I thank you for all that you have provided to me. I thank you for the path you have placed before me, and for the encouragement from Hebrews to run the race with endurance and faith. May I run now, unencumbered with all the burden, baggage, and business that I have held onto so tightly. May I run freely, and with hopeful expectancy of your goodness, your mercy, and your grace.

February 26, 2015

Figuring It Out

One of these days, I am going to stop writing about the plans the Lord has for my life. Yes, I will stop writing about His plans because I will be living in the fulfillment of those plans, and I won't need to worry, to fret, or to be anxious about them! Selah! Until then, and I don't think that will be until I am with the Lord in Paradise, I will continue to work out His plan for my life, continue to figure out what He is doing presently as well as what he intends to do down the road. Psalm 37:7 says, "Be still in the presence of the LORD, and wait patiently for him to act. Don't worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes."

Oh yes! Be still in the presence of the LORD! What great advice to heed. We often worry, fret, and become anxious when we are trying to understand the Lord's plans for our lives. We might get an inkling of this or that or we might be blessed to receive some word or testimony in order to show us the way to go. The Lord might send a messenger to us, some sign or even an open door so that we can see where to go, see which way to walk. Other times, we find ourselves waiting, sitting still, and looking around as if we are lost in the shuffle of the huff-and-puff of life. There are days when I feel as though I have everything figured out. I just KNOW what the Lord wants from me. I feel His presence, I understand His will, and I am certain that I am right where He intends for me to be. I am in the moment, so to speak. There are other days, days like today, when I am consumed with doubt, with fear, and I feel immobile, unable to move because I do not know which way to go. I don't want to make a false move, so I tarry. I don't want to miss an opportunity, so I hesitate. I don't want to do something outside His will for my life, so I sit still and I wait for perfect confirmation. Sometimes, confirmation comes, and sometimes it doesn't. If we sit still and wait and wait and wait, we often let good opportunities pass us by. I think we do this out of fear mostly, but I have found that waiting, while a good thing, can also keep us stuck in places for longer than the Lord desires. Let me explain...

Understanding the Lord's Will

A couple years ago, I had a conversation with the Lord about this very thing, about waiting for too long before stepping out in faith and moving forward. I remembered the conversation today, I guess, because I feel stuck, I feel like I might be waiting for perfect confirmation when the Lord has already given me His "go ahead." I was stuck a few years back while I was waiting for confirmation of graduate school. I was working on my Masters degree, about midway through my program, and I felt the call from the Lord to start applying to Doctoral programs. I had several choices in front of me, and they were all good. They all had good points about them, but each one led in a different direction. I kept pressing the Lord for His "right choice" because I didn't want to get into a program that wouldn't align with His will nor one that wouldn't take me to where He wanted me to go. I remember stressing over the decision because, as I said, each one led to a different path.
  • PhD in Higher Education Administration at UOPX - this was a degree that I seriously considered. I was working at UOPX and the school provided tuition assistance. It seemed like a no brainer. I could work and do school, get my tuition waived, and in the end, move into a position at UOPX or another college.
  • PhD in English at Old Dominion University - this was a degree that seemed to align with my desires to study and to teach. It was online, and it seemed like a good fit. Tuition was reasonable, but the program required two foreign languages and about five years to complete.
  • PhD in Communication at Regent University - this was a degree (my current program) that seemed to align with the Lord's will most closely. It was more expensive, but still online. I felt it was a long shot to be admitted since I didn't have a background in communications.
These were my short list of degree programs. Each led to a different type of career. I was concerned about the Lord's will, His plans, and in choosing the "right program." I remember the Lord telling me that as long as I was in His will for my life (meaning I was seeking Him first, aka Matt. 6:33), then these paths would all fulfill His call on my life. I didn't understand how this could be, I mean, wasn't there one RIGHT WAY TO GO?

After spending time in prayer and in the Word, this is what I came to learn about the Lord's will, and how it functions in our lives. 

First, the believer must be in the Lord's will. This is the most important criteria for understanding the Lord's will and purpose. Without it, it is impossible for the believer to know what the Lord's will is for their life. I would say that most Christian's are living outside the Lord's will for their life. They may be sincere in their faith, but if they haven't made Him Lord over all, everything, then they lose out on knowing His specific calling and ministry He desires for them. Many Christians say that they love the Lord, but they really are only serving themselves. They want their cake, so to speak, and they are not willing to follow after the Lord, to do His work, to suffer for His Name, etc. They want a good comfortable life with no pain, no sorrow, and no suffering. For the true believer who has made the Lord their sole focus, the path to knowing their specific calling, their purpose in life, and their ministry becomes certain. It is only through intimate fellowship with the Lord that this knowledge is revealed. The timing of it is specific to the individual. The Lord ministers to them individually, helps them mature in faith, and when He is ready, He reveals His will to them. The rest is learning how to follow, how to obey, and how to do the work He calls them to do.

Second, once the believer is in intimate fellowship with the Lord, then they begin their faith journey, learning how to listen, to obey, and to follow after Him. During this training time, as I like to call it, the believer is learning what it means to be a Christ follower. He is learning how to depend on the Lord, to trust Him, to rely upon Him. This is critical because often the Lord's will includes great leaps of faith, steps that are "blind" where the believer must trust in the character of the Lord, the nature of the Lord.

Third, once the Lord has brought the believer to the point of faith where they can accept His calling, then the real work comes to pass. The believer is given a call (sometimes it is a second calling - the first was to bring the believer into deeper faith, the second is to confirm the readiness of the believer to begin the work) to ministry. This call usually coincides with something the believer is currently doing or desires to do. Sometimes it is completely different, but most of the time, the believer has come to recognize their spiritual gifts, and has learned through life experience, what they seem to do best (they may find they love working with youth or special needs adults, for example).

Fourth, after the call has been given and received, then the believer begins the process of transformation, and this transformation seems to depend on the nature of the ministry work. In some cases, it may mean being trained or prepared through education. In others, it might be internships or actual field work. Then for others, it could simply mean creating a new work, a new program or ministry.

Last, once the ministry calling has been confirmed, and plans are under way to bring the believer to readiness, maturity, and stature, then the work begins. This process can be time-consuming depending on the work, but often it is a rewarding period whereby the Lord is guiding and directing the believer, helping them understand what He wants them to do and how He intends to have them do it.

During this whole process, many years may pass. Some receive callings very early in life, but the actual ministry work doesn't begin until the second-half of their years (like in my case, past 50). Others receive the call and begin the work as young people. They will spend the rest of their lives in ministry or service to others. The important thing to remember is that no matter how much time passes, the process will be made complete. The Lord doesn't train people half way. He doesn't lead them on only to drop them midstream. No, the Lord will bring to maturity all His children, and He will teach and train them in the work He needs them to do. He will always complete what He starts. He is, after all, the Author and Finisher of our faith.

Choosing a Path to Follow

In my life (my example), I was stuck for a long while because I couldn't choose a path to follow. The Lord presented several options for me, but I was waiting for the ONE SURE WAY. Like I said, I didn't want to make a mistake and choose the wrong path. The Lord helped me to understand how life works, in general, and how He works in our lives through the simple diagram above. It is not really about life, but more so, it is a good representation of what I am trying to show. In our life, we are presented with many paths. These paths seem to lead in varying directions, and because we cannot see their end point, just their beginning point, we do not know where they lead. Often, we find ourselves on a path through a choice we made as a child or young adult. Perhaps we are on a path chosen by our spouse, etc. Sometimes through no fault of our own we are on a path not of our choosing. In my case, I had been on a path chosen by my ex-husband. It wasn't aligned with the Lord's will, so when I found myself single, I vowed to follow the Lord no matter where He led me. Since I wasn't used to following the Lord directly (I was following along indirectly during my marriage, meaning I followed the Word, obeyed and listened, but I didn't have freedom to go anywhere my husband didn't want to go - if that makes sense). It took a lot of time for me to come to lean on the Lord, to be able to trust Him for direction. Even though I was desperate to follow Him, I still discounted my own understanding of what I thought He was saying to me. I didn't want to make any life-altering mistakes.

The Lord would often present me with options, and He would ask me to choose a path. I would be fearful in choosing a path because I didn't know where they would lead me. This is the image that came to my mind one day, and like I said, the picture isn't a perfect representation, but it is a good diagram to demonstrate this truth. If you are in the Lord's will, meaning you are trusting Him, following after Him, and seeking Him with your entire being, then all the paths that are presented to you will be good choices. They will take you different routes, but eventually you will arrive at your final destination. The Lord will use those paths to build you up, to shape you, to grow you to stature, so in essence, they are all good ways to go. Yes, they do lead in different directions, and they will have hardship, trials, and difficulties associated with them. But the hand of the Lord will be upon you so no matter which way you choose to go, the Lord will be right there with you.

I think the reason so many Christians remain stuck in places for too long is that they are afraid to choose a path that will have hardship. The Word has never promised us a path that is easy to walk. Anyone who tells you that as a Christian you will have a perfect life; or that you will receive wealth, health and prosperity simply by becoming a Christian is a liar. This is not true. Now, the Lord can choose to bless you with these things, but the Word clearly tells us that in this life we will have troubles. There is no getting around it -- following after the Lord, bearing His cross daily -- is not easy, is not pleasant, and is not always filled with happiness. There is joy in the Lord, peace, contentment, and satisfaction in the process, in the journey, but also there will be hard roads ahead, trials and tribulations, and of course, suffering to endure. This is the mark of a Christ follower. However, we are never alone, and the result is always blessed.

Therefore, when the Lord presents options to you, it is important to pray about them, analyze them in order to identify any issues, and then let them go. Take a deep breath and choose a path to follow. Trust in the Lord knowing that He has you well-covered. You can take joy in the journey, find hope and happiness in your experiences. The most important thing is to choose a way to go. This is especially true if the Lord has given you the "go ahead" and has said you are to "go!" By all means, get going. Stop sitting around waiting for more signs. Step out in faith, trust Him, and breathe! He has your hand, He has the path marked out, and He knows where He is leading you. Just let go of the reins and let Him lead. This is the only way you will ever experience the fulfillment of the Lord's will. You must trust Him enough to walk on, even when the path is unknown, and when the way seems unclear. You must simply walk on.

Do you trust Him today, dear believer?

If so, then let go, and get moving! Move on, and enjoy the blessed gift of life that He is offering to you. If not, then pray for the desire to move, pray for the grace to move, and then pray for the strength to move. If it is His will, He will give it to you.

Lastly, whenever you are presented with several options it is important to realize that every option is a valid one. They might all be different or varying shades of the same color, but the end result will be the same. You will do the work the Lord has called you to do. You might just do it in Boise instead of Buffalo. You will not fail the Lord. You will not disappoint Him. You will not cause Him concern or worry. He knows exactly what He has in mind for you so let go of your fears, your doubts, and your worries about doing the wrong thing, and embrace the opportunity for a new experience. God is good, so very good. He will lead you. He is faithful. You can count on Him.

February 25, 2015

Getting Ready

Yesterday, I blogged about being prepared for whatever the Lord has in mind for me regarding "next steps." Recently, I have been feeling His push toward moving me toward a new way, a new place, and a new life. I have this strong sense of change in my life, and this feeling, and coupled with the desire I have had for several years to be settled, seems to be coalescing now with what I am experiencing in my life. It is weird, it is scary, and it is overwhelming to think that the Lord might be doing this, might be working in my life to move me from this life (my current life) over to that life (my future life). Let me explain...

Last year, around this time, I was teaching adjunct at GCU. In fact, I was teaching the exact same course (ENG 356 Short Story), and I was experiencing the freedom from my former daily routine as a Communications Analyst. I loved the freedom of teaching adjunct, and I had high hopes that this "experience" would be the start of a life long love of teaching college. I loved my first class -- I was enjoying my students, enjoying teaching, and enjoying a "different" career. I had spent the previous three years working for Fortune 500 companies. I liked the 8-5 normal schedule, but with school (Mercy and Regent), the grind of the drive and the workload was taking its toll. I wanted freedom to sleep in, to have days off during the week, and to generally plan my schedule semester by semester. Plus, I thought the "idea" of having my entire summer off sounded really, really sweet! Of course, what looks good from a distance isn't always as appealing as it is up close. Working a flexible schedule is great, don't get me wrong, but it does have its downside.

First, teaching adjunct is so flexible that you never know from semester to semester how many classes you will actually teach. You may ask for three and end up with one. You also are paid by the hour so if you miss a class, your pay is deducted for that week. There are no benefits so no sick time. You are contracted to work for 15 weeks and it is expected that you will work for each of those weeks.

Second, the idea of having days off is really great. Unless you are a full-time student and then you find your days off are school days, work from home days, and days where you may be sitting at the computer for 10-12 or even 14 hours. Yes, the demands are grueling when you are a full-time student and are teaching full-time.

Third, there is the blessed summer off period, which sounds super wonderful, but really means that you are living without any pay for four-five months. In my case, GCU is out for summer by the end of April. School doesn't begin in the fall until August. This means I have no income for May, June, July and part of August. My income needs run about $2k per month -- so 3.5 missing months -- means a whole lotta of nothing (almost $7.5K of need that has to be made up through other sources). Thankfully, the Lord has provided financial aid and my tax refund that helps to make up the balance. Still, it is getting more difficult for me to not have income over those months (bills still have to be paid).

Last, teaching is a wonderful career. I love aspects of it, and I enjoy mentoring students. However, it is a grueling career. Yes, between the actual hours spent in the classroom, to office hours, to grading papers, it is an underpaid endeavor that drains you physically and emotionally.

I love the fact that I have been able to teach. I love the fact that I get to be a Professor at a large University. This is a dream come true for me. I have wanted to be a teacher ever since I was a child. I wanted to teach college since 1991, and here I am almost 24 years later, living that dream. Unfortunately, being a single woman and an adjunct instructor are not the best fit. I realize this now, more so than before (when I was working full-time). I was enamored by the desire to teach, to be a teacher, and while I accepted the downside of teaching, I didn't really put the numbers together in order to see the practical side of things. In practicality, teaching, unless you are full-time faculty is not an income producing work. It makes great part-time work, and if you are blessed to be married, then it could be a good second job for a family that already is set comfortably with a good stream of income.

As I look at it now, and I am being realistic, what I see is mounting student loan debt coupled with the inability for me to provide more than the minimum requirements each month. Yes, the Lord has provided exactly what I need, and for that, I am thankful. My income was much higher when I worked full-time. I had benefits, and I had the comfort of knowing that every month there was more income than outgo. I know that my time as an adjunct instructor was fortuitous because without this experience, my seeking full-time work in higher education would have been more difficult for me.

It is difficult to say this but I really feel as though my teaching time has come to an end. I know my colleagues would say to me "Oh, Carol, don't give up! You are a great teacher!" Yes, I love them for saying this to me, but the truth is that all of my colleagues are married. They all have husbands that provide good incomes for their families. They work because they love working. They are getting their PhDs too, but they are not working because they have to work, but because they choose to do so. I am a single woman, a mom, trying to care for my family, and while I have been blessed to experience teaching, right now, I don't see how I can manage my finances through another summer. I will, of course, because the Lord will provide. I just don't see this as a viable plan long term. The Lord may choose to provide a full-time teaching position to me, but right now, I am not seeing those opportunities crop up for me, at the least, not here in Phoenix.

Then there is the whole deal with my parents. Yes, we share a home, and right now, it has been a good thing. My Dad asked me today, well he questioned me today, about my "chosen career." His questioning made me feel like he was saying to me that it wasn't "good enough" or that perhaps it was short sighted on my part to choose it. I know my parents are proud of my efforts, but to my Dad, money is what he sees as lacking, and when he looks at his needs, and he looks at my income, I think he sees the writing on the wall as much as I do. He knows that I cannot keep up with the demands unless I work full-time.

So what does all this mean?

I think it means that I have come to accept the fact that the Lord is closing or has closed off teaching as a viable means of income. Personally, I am relieved because while I love teaching and working with students (I mean that sincerely), there is just too much work involved with teaching and it drains me, absolutely drains me. I am so tired every single day. I come home tired, and I wake up tired. I spend my mornings doing the least amount of work just so I can rest. I am blessed this semester that my prep work is completed (I am teaching courses from previous years). I see the hard road ahead, and frankly, I am worn out now. I just do not want to walk on this path...

Then there is my parents attitude and their concern about my choice of career. Today, my Dad said to me "Oh, you are not bored already? Not in your chosen career?" I made a snarky remark (yes, I can be snarky when I get tired) that I am just doing what work is available to me. I am tired of defending myself, of defending my choices, my career, my aspirations. My Mom said the other day that perhaps I should find another job, any job that pays more money. I know my parents are worried about my finances, and I know that they are worried about their finances. It is just that I am responsible for so much right now, and I am doing the very best I can with what I have to handle. I know the Lord knows this, I know He knows what is best for me.

I wanted to teach so bad. I remember praying about this desire way back in 2013. I was set to give up on teaching, to never experience it, because it seemed like the door was closed to me. I had been applying for teaching positions for several years, but no one would give me a second look. Then GCU was needing instructional assistants, and I needed a job change to accommodate my courses at Regent. I felt the Lord saying "OK" and I applied. I was hired, and I started a career as a teaching assistant. The money was not enough, but the possibility for teaching adjunct was right there, right around the corner. After about two months, I quit that position, and I took a prestigious position working as a Business Analyst. It paid great money, had great benefits, and held the promise of a great career. My folks were ecstatic because it meant really good money for me. I lasted three weeks before I caved and returned to GCU. I felt that I hadn't given teaching enough time, enough time to really know if it was a good fit for me or not.

It was the Friday before Thanksgiving, and I was a mess. I was bored in my new job, and I felt that I was in the wrong place career wise. I asked the Lord for the opportunity to go back to GCU so I could give teaching a second try. I wanted to know what it was like and to make the decision whether it was the best job for my skills and abilities. The Lord graciously opened a door for me to return to GCU. The following January, He brought me to GCU and I have been there since. I remember saying to Him: Lord, I don't want to have regrets. I don't want to say "I wished I had been a teacher." Well, now I can safely say that I have been a teacher. I enjoyed parts of it. I loved working with students, especially one-on-one, but the grind of preparing lessons is too much. And, here is the kicker. I talked with some of my colleagues who work full-time as Professors. They average 5 courses per semester. Then some teach adjunct at another college just to make up for the low pay. I have two colleagues who both teach 6-7 courses a semester. When I heard that news, I about fell off my chair. I am teaching three this semester. Last semester I had four. With teaching and school work, there is no way I could handle that many courses each semester. Shoot me now!

I didn't realize that to teach full-time might mean this many courses per semester. I started to think about my physical needs, standing all day long, emoting, teaching, etc. I can barely get through my days now -- how would I be able to get through them when I have more courses, more papers to grade, more classes to prep? I honestly do not see it as a good thing. Sure, the Lord would sustain me. Still, unless He calls me to it, I cannot see me doing it. That is the hard light of truth...

My Decision

I started this blog post with the title of "Getting Ready." My intention was to write about the plans the Lord had for me, but instead I ended up writing about my feelings on my current career choice. Interesting turn of events to say the least! I think perhaps the Lord guided me to write out my feelings so that I could see the truth in black and white (or pink and black, LOL!) I feel so wimpy right now, whiny, and like a complainer. I am blessed, thoroughly and wonderfully blessed. Yet, I am dissatisfied in my career. Then there is the guilt -- I feel so fortunate to have this work -- so whenever I complain, I feel ungrateful to the Lord for His provision.

I hate to make a career change again (how many times now?) but I do see that it is unavoidable. Here's why...

  • I live modestly. I used to live frugally, but the Lord has graciously provided enough income for me to live comfortably. This means with my current debt load (and I have some debt), I need $2K per month to cover all my expenses. This is my must have amount. Anything over this amount adds fluff to the month and covers unknown needs. Right now, I am living on this amount because I am teaching 3 and not 4 classes. Last semester, my income was closer to $2400 per month. This semester it is right at my "must have" amount.
  • I live close to the line, so to speak. This means that should something happen, a big expense or need, I do not have money in savings or available credit to cover the need. When I divorced my  husband, this was the one thing I asked of the Lord -- to never been this close to the line again. I lived this way for 25 years, and the stress of never having enough caused me to suffer greatly.
  • I am able to earn far more than this in other lines of work. When I started at UOPX, my take home pay (net) was $2400 per month. At CVS, it was closer to $2700, and at Nursewise, it was right about $3300. In short, in corporate work or other administrative types of positions, I normally earn anywhere from $40-60K per year. By comparison, adjunct teaching gross pay is somewhere around $15-18K. Full-time faculty, depending on where you live in the US can run from $30-80K. The higher salary is for teachers with PhDs and years of experience. Starter teachers like myself earn around $36K per year. 
  • I need to build retirement, savings and investments for my future. I cannot do this on this level of pay. Clearly, I cannot plan for a future when I earn this level of pay. Moreover, I have mounting school debt and right now I cannot even begin to pay back these loans.
  • I need a job that fits me well, doesn't stress me or tire me out. I am in moderate health, no major health issues, but still I do have some chronic conditions that take their toll. As such, I need a job that works with my conditions and not against them. I feel that I am wrung out, washed up, and unable to take much more of the wear-and-tear of teaching. I am thankful, so very thankful, but I feel that I need to do something else, something different soon (very soon!)
So my decision is this - as of right now - I see that the Lord has opened a door for me to pursue a non-faculty position at a major University. The job is a good fit for my education, experience, and abilities. Will it be "the position?" I don't know. I hope so, but I don't know. What I do know is that should this position come to me, as in they call me to interview me, then I will know for certain that this is the path the Lord has opened for me to follow. I also applied for a teaching position, but now that I have considered that choice, I have decided not to follow that path. I cannot teach full-time, so I need to focus on non-faculty positions in higher education. If I cannot find a non-faculty position, then I will begin to look for professional work in Marketing and Communications. I would prefer to stay in education because it aligns with my research interests and I would be able to continue to study what I am most interested in -- Rhetoric. However, I would consider another kind of position, should the Lord show me where to go.

What about my parents? My son? My future life?

As of now, I feel confident that the Lord has all of these individuals well in hand. He knows what He wants me to do, where He wants me to go, and what kind of life He has in mind for me. I am opening up my hand, letting go of the reins, and allowing the Lord to move me wherever He chooses today. Should it be in Alabama, so be it. Should it be elsewhere, so be it. I have to let go so that He can do His work in me. My prayer is to go where my heart wants to go, and I do feel that this is the Lord's will for me; however, I need to let the details go so that He can do His work, and have His way in all things.

My family will be cared for and their lives are in His hands. My life is also in His hands, and I trust and I rest in His security and provision. Selah!

February 24, 2015

Preparing for Next Steps

It is spring here in Phoenix, and spring usually means "cleaning" is in order. There is something about making plans, being prepared, and getting organized that seems to coincide with the warm spring days. I love to clean, well not house clean (like in weekly cleaning), and I love to be organized, and prepared for whatever might happen. It is good to be prepared, and it is not difficult to do it, so long as you have a plan of attack. Most people do not plan out their approach, so when the day or week comes to get organized, they are overwhelmed by all the work involved. However, if you have a good plan of attack, a good approach, it is easy to divide and conquer the mess. I think some people are naturally organized. I know that I am because my life is scheduled, very routine, and very ordered. I like to know that everything that "must be completed" is accounted for, and that time has been allotted to accomplish each task. My worst fear is that I will forget to do something or I will run out of time to do all the required items on my "to-do" list.

This morning, I was thinking about being prepared for whatever next steps the Lord has in mind for me. 2 Timothy 4:2 came to mind, and even though it is speaking of being prepared to preach the Word, it is a good reminder to always be prepared (in every area) regardless of the time or season. Some people feel that they can only preach the Word of God in certain situations or only when they have enough training and teaching. This is not accurate according to Scripture. God calls and He equips so the preaching and teaching of the Word occurs whether or not we THINK we are ready. For example, we often teach Scriptural principles through our daily lives. We may not think we are teaching the Word, but we are modeling behavior (Christ-like or not) for the world to see. In our homes, our schools, our workplaces, etc., we are modeling behavior that either aligns with Scripture or it doesn't. Our witness, therefore, is always on display for other people to see. We don't always end up teachers in the professional sense. We may not be a pastor or a Bible teacher. We may not be a full-time missionary. Yet, our actions, our words, and our character teach our worldview, and give testimony to that which is most important in our life. If God is first, then our testimony will bear witness. If the world is of more value to us, then our life and our character will reflect this point of view. So when Paul writes to Timothy these words, "Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching," we should consider them a forewarning to be on guard and to keep watch over how we live our life for the world to see. Be ready. Be prepared.

There are many ways to show the world that we live ordered lives. I am amazed at how many Christian's live in disarray. Not only are they fueled by gluttony, but they live no differently than their neighbor. Our lives should show a mark of distinction and not just in what we say and do. Our entire lifestyle should bear witness to our service to the Lord Jesus Christ. In my view, that means that a person of Christian character should seek to manage their affairs well.

C.S. Lewis wrote, "Every faculty you have, your power of thinking or of moving your limbs from moment to moment, is given you by God. If you devoted every moment of your whole life exclusively to His service, you could not give Him anything that was not in a sense His own already."

Paul exhorts those in leadership to be good managers of their homes. More over, Peter reminds his disciples that "God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another." It is important to remember that everything we do, everything we have (or own) is a gift from God. God gives us the ability to live, to produce, to earn, to work, etc. Therefore, we are encouraged by Paul to "Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ." Our reward for doing good, for living appropriately is coming to us at the return of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Yes, our Master is the Lord, and not the world.

Consequently, how we live our lives, how we order our days is of great importance to the Lord. We can live our lives in dissipation (squandering our money, our energy, and our resources) or we can live appropriately because we work and serve the Lord, our Master. In my perspective, living appropriately means to live within the borders of the Lord's provision. It also means using whatever gifts and talents the Lord has given to you for His service and His work. It also means taking care of the treasure (the gifts) He has given to you, treating them with care, tenderly and considerately demonstrating attention to them, and generally taking concern for their well-being (whether a person or a thing).  Our lives should be run well, managed well, and the details of our days should be well-kept. Let me explain...

The Power of Color on Mood and Temperament

When I was young and foolish (naive), I wasn't always a good steward of the gifts God gave to me. I didn't always live a very ordered life. In fact, for many years while growing up, I lived a very disordered life. I was messy, and I didn't really know how to keep my room, my clothes, or my toys organized. My Mom cleaned my room for me, and while she would try to show me how to be organized, I didn't really care that much about listening or obeying her instructions. Thus, my room was a mess most of the time.

As I got older, I started to collect things, and the more things I collected, the more of a mess I found my room and my closet. One day when I was about 15, my Mom said that I could redecorate my room, and change the color and pattern to something more grown up (and remove the pink and green Holly Hobby doll wall paper). I jumped at the chance to redecorate my room. My Mom thought I would pick more flowers, mod colors (this was the 1970s) because that was the fashion. Instead, I chose a geometric pattern in browns and rusts. My Mom said no at first, telling me that it was too "boyish" of a pattern. I stuck to my guns and said that this is what I wanted. In fact, I remember saying that either I got to pick the pattern or I would stay with Holly Hobby until I left home! I guess my Mom didn't like the pink and green because she gave in to my demand for a design rather than floral wall paper.

My room was repainted a warm cream color, and a geometric wallpaper was put up on the walls. My bedding and curtains were a warm rust color. I picked new pictures for the walls, and I painted all my furniture brown to match. In some ways, my room did look a bit masculine, but I loved the colors. I loved the warm tones, and I loved the fact that the colors represented my personality more closely than the bright pink and neon green of my younger years. 

I loved my new room so much that I took the time to organize all my things. I threw away all the childish things I had collected, and I started to keep my room in order. I found a great relief in living in an ordered room. My new room was peaceful and it was calm (soothing). I loved the low-light, the warm glow of my desk lamp, and the feeling that came over you when you walked into the room.

We moved to San Jose later that year, and my new room was stark white. I can remember my Mom purchasing a new comforter for my bed. It was white with pink and green flowers on it. It was nice, don't get me wrong, and it did match the carpet in my room (celery green), but it reminded me of those bright Spring colors in my old room in IL.

In no time at all, I found my room a mess again. Mom remarked how my room was always messy, always disordered. She was correct, of course. It was a mess. It wasn't until a year later that my room got a makeover, and I once again found myself choosing the same soothing colors. My room makeover coincided with the recovery from my car accident. I had been in a pretty serious car crash during my Senior year in high school. My recovery was slow, but progressing, and the doctor suggested that I get a different bed for my injured back. He said a waterbed might be a good choice. I had received a small settlement for my injuries, so I took part of that money and I purchased a dark pine four-poster queen size waterbed. 

My Mom said I could paint and decorate my room so I chose a warm yellow paint color for the walls. I also put up wall paper that was cream colored with small rust flowers on it. My dad installed dark pine shutters on the windows and my grandmother made me side curtains with pinpoint lace. Once my bed arrived and we put it together in the room, there wasn't much space left over, so I had to pair down my things. My bed had drawers under it, so I used it for clothing and for storage. I loved my waterbed, and it was by far, the best thing for my back. My room turned once again into a place of retreat for me. It had that same warm mellow cast to it, and it provided solace for me, a place of order, of peace, and of comfort.

It is curious to think how colors can influence mood. There is a lot of research that suggests colors are important to help us feel good about our environment. Some people pick colors based on preference, while others think about their color scheme carefully in order to establish a particular mood. For me, color is very important. I am stimulated by light so I need certain colors to create the right kind of atmosphere. I do not like bright light, so most often I use indirect light in my home. My color scheme then is vitally important. Bright walls and colors are too jarring for me. Soft palattes of warm colors are soothing, and they make me feel at ease. When I am at ease, I am more able to consider, to concentrate, and to control my day, my week, and my life.

As I consider moving again, moving on my own, I have started to think about colors, about patterns, and about styles. I don't know what the Lord has in mind for me other than I know He will provide a home for me to live in. I am open to location, but if He intends for me to move to the Auburn area (near the job), then I will need to think about location and house type. I have lived in houses for the past 25 years (with the exception of 2011-2013, when I was in a rented town home). I like houses best since they offer the most room, and there is that built in distance factor between neighbors. However, the Lord may choose to have me rent for a time, and that means that there will be little room for decorating (the walls may be white) in my style. I am hoping the Lord will provide a permanent home for me, but that seems so out of reach at this point in time. I believe He can do it, of course, but it seems like TOO BIG of a gift at this time in my life.

Still, I am thinking about what my home might look like and I am getting excited for the opportunity to decorate in my own way (right now, my home reflects my parents tastes, and not mine). With the exception of my room, which is very small, most of my things are in storage or they were sold at a garage sale right after I moved into our shared home.  My color scheme is going to be similar to what I have always liked. I am particular about my beiges, so if the house I purchase has cool beige or beige-gray tones, it will have to be repainted a warm beige color. My rust and my red are similar -- they are both warm in tone. My brown is also a warm color. I have thought about this a lot (can't you tell?) because it is so vital to me for my happiness. Color, light, and order all are keys to help create a warm and inviting atmosphere for my family and my friends. I want my home to reflect a certain appeal. My approach is not to present the perfect home with perfect furnishings, but rather to reflect a tone that says "come on in and sit a spell." I want people to feel comfortable coming into my home to rest, to relax, and to spend time just being together. It is very important to me to create this type of space.

I have thought about a lot of things lately, about how I will leave Phoenix and move across the country. I have thought about what I will take with me (furniture) and what I will need to purchase. I have thought about all the logistics involved in moving, and truthfully, the details overwhelm me. I am certain that the Lord will provide, yet still, I worry about how it will all come to pass. Yes, I worry about the details, the UNKNOWN that goes along with making a major life-changing decision.

Being Prepared

One thing is certain, and that is that I believe the Lord is calling me to begin preparation for moving. So while I am not starting to pack (LOL!), I am thinking about things related to moving. I am preparing my mind to move. When the Lord gives the command to go, and I believe He has done so with me, then He also gives plenty of time to get things in order, to prepare, so to speak. According to Merriam-Webster, the word "prepare" means,
  • to make (someone or something) ready for some activity, purpose, use, etc. 
  • to make yourself ready for something that you will be doing, something that you expect to happen, etc. 
  • to make or create (something) so that it is ready for use
The Lord has been making me ready for His purpose and His plans for some time now. He has been working to recreate me so that I am useful to His service. Now, I believe that He is asking me to make myself ready, to prepare myself for something that is about to happen. This makes sense to me because I have felt Him moving in my life, creating change, and I have been feeling the effects of that change. The Lord is doing something in me and through me, and I believe that part of the overall change He has in mind includes moving me to a new city and a new job.

Until I see the job offer, of course, I am settled where I am and I am focused on doing good work in my position as adjunct instructor. I am also working on completing my courses at Regent. Both of these things take the majority of my time, and my focus is almost 100% on teaching school or completing school assignments. I also am supporting myself, my son, and my parents (in part), so I spend a lot of time in personal care and connection. I am busy doing life, so to speak, and making sure that my family is well cared for and comforted. Then I have my friendships and other relationships, and they take various levels of my time. My most significant friendships take priority, and I devote a great deal of time to making sure I am giving my part, and spending quality time developing and building trust. All of these things factor into my life, my entire life, so to make a major move means that everything I know right now is going to be shifted, changed or altered in some fashion. I need to prepare myself for these smaller changes, especially the personal changes that involve family. So while I may not like to think about these changes, I must. I must be prepared mentally and emotionally to handle whatever next steps the Lord has in mind for my life.

In closing, today as I think about spring cleaning and getting organized, I cannot help but think that these feelings are all part of the Lord's gracious approach to helping me prepare to move. He knows how difficult it is for me to move. He knows how I struggle with logistics, with the details. He knows that I love my family, that I worry about them, and that I want what is best for them. He also knows that while His plans are first and foremost, and that I am wholly devoted to following after Him and His plans -- I am flesh, I am weak, and I struggle with emotional change. The Lord knows this well, and I believe He gives me extra time to process change, to consider the ramifications of change, and to accept the inevitable elements of change. He has done this for me repeatedly in the past, always allowing me time to accept what is coming, to mentally and emotionally and physically prepare for it. He knows that I am on board spiritually, but it is my flesh, my weakness that causes me stress. The Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.


I ask today that you oversee all the details in my life. You know exactly what I can and cannot do, and you know the timing of your planned change for me. Therefore, I rest today and I let things go, all things, so that I don't become overly fixated on what is coming my way. I accept the change, all of it, and I trust you to know that you have me well-covered. I ask now that you will move ahead and do what needs to be done so that I can step into the next phase or season of my life. I want to give you all the praise, all the honor, and all the glory, so I ask Lord that you do what is needed. I will rest. I will trust. I will let go of everything I hold now so that you can provide for me everything you desire to give to me. May your Name be praised today and forevermore! Selah!

February 23, 2015

In The Moment

It is a good morning here in "not so sunny and warm" Phoenix. Yes, we have clouds and a strong potential for rain today. I am blessed, so very blessed, because I love the rain, and I love it when the skies are not always bright and sunny!

The Lord is good, so very good. I know that I blog about His goodness all the time, in fact, if I did a word search on my blog, I would bet that the phrase "God is Good" would out rank every other word or phrase. I have been blogging here at Blogger.com since 2004 (well, 2005). I started my blog at the encouragement of a fellow home schooler. She had a blog and was writing on it daily, and I found her posts informational and inspirational. I had a website at that time (I still do) that I used for home schooling and my family history. I kept it updated, and I referred people interested in our home school journey to check it out. It is a popular website, with more than 500K visits. I am sure people still visit it, even though I haven't updated it with any new home school content since 2010.

When I think about my life back in 2004-2010, I marvel at how much it has changed. I mean, back then, my main emphasis in life was to be a wife and a mother. I was working 3/4 time from home as a website designer, and I was volunteering at church in Sunday School and Awana. I was home schooling, and I was doing my best to keep many, many irons in the fire (so to speak!) My life was relatively carefree, in that my days were mine to do with as I pleased, and with the exception of my professional work as a designer, I pretty much did what I wanted to do each and every day. Yes, it wasn't financially viable back then, and as a family, we struggled to make ends meet each month. My ex-husband managed our money, and for his part, made sure we had food on the table and a roof over our head. We never had much more than what was absolutely necessary, but we did try to find joy in being together and in doing things together. In truth, as I look back on my life, the main struggle was personal and private. On the outside, our family looked good. We were poor, and we lived a life that was of our own choosing. We didn't complain to anyone, and we didn't ask anyone for help. We lived simply, and while we didn't have much, what we did have we used well.

I knew our life was not good on the inside, I knew that something was not right, but I hoped my sense was off, and my inkling was wrong. I buried my feelings deep inside, and I put on a happy face. I told the world that everything was OK between my ex and myself, and that our life was "what we wanted, what we made." I tried to support my ex's interest in business, and I tried very hard to be a good wife. In the end, all my efforts were not enough, and the marriage crumbled due to the weight of dissatisfaction and destructive choices.

Still, when I look back on my life then I see a different person. I see someone who looks like me, but who wasn't me. It is hard to explain, but I see a different version of Carol. I was a strong person back then, and I still am. I was disciplined and focused -- determined to see things through and to do right. But that person no longer exists, not in the way she was on the inside. The person I am today is vastly different, vitally more focused and determined, and visually striking (not beautiful, but rather as in intense). I wasn't in control of my life, I didn't have a say in anything important because my ex husband was the head of our household. It wasn't that he was mean to me or abusive physically or anything really. It was more so that we followed his interests, his desires, his way of doing things. We followed him. This is all well and good when the husband is following God, but when the husband isn't following the Lord's will for his own life or his family, then problems occur. In our case, my ex followed after his own interests, thinking they were okay with the Lord. The truth was that they were not because these interests didn't bring us (as a family) in closer communion with the Lord, but rather they took us farther away from Him.

I don't blame my ex anymore because it does no good to hold onto any bitterness. My life was what it was for 25 years, and now that is all "water under the bridge" as they say. I am a new person, a different person, and I have vastly different opinions, views, and desires than I did before. I am on a new path, and that path is one that is leading me closer and closer to God. I love the Lord more each day, and I trust Him with the details of my life. He is my everything, and as such, my entire being is oriented toward His service. I love what He has done with my life, the way in which He has remade me, and the blessing of reward for my obedience in following Him has been sweet. I am good, so very good. I am whole, and I am healed. I am learning new things every single day, and I am becoming stronger, more disciplined, and more focused. I am excited for my future, and I believe that the plans the Lord has for me are so very good, so very good. Today I am blessed. I have full confidence that tomorrow I will be blessed as well. Blessing and favor flow from His hand, and I am enjoying the splish-splash of the Lord's blessing as it runs all over me. Selah! Selah! Selah!

Today, I stand and I thank the Lord. I give Him praise because of His goodness toward me. He has not forsaken me, He has not given up on me. No, rather the Lord has provided good to me, good in every area of my life. When I think about where I am today, I cannot help but fall on my knees, and give Him praise and testimony for His goodness!!
  • I survived divorce. As shocking as that may seem (for a Christian), I can say it proudly that I survived the devastation of divorce. I say it this way because I am a survivor now, not a victim. I went through the very dark days of discovery, suffered through the devastation of learning the truth, and survived the destruction of a marriage and an identity.
  • I learned how to live again. I was remade in a new way. The Lord took the broken shards of my former life, and created something new, something vital, and something beautiful. He showed me that I could be whole again, and that I could have a new identity formed in Christ. I became new, and through the process of learning how to live again, I came to know Him more intimately, and I learned to trust Him for my every need.
  • I developed new interests. Some of the interests I have now were latent within me, left overs from childhood dreams and aspirations. The Lord reignited passions within me, and He gave me a new direction, a new vision, and a new purpose. I am now on a new path, following hard after Him, experiencing wonderful things, and learning to walk in new ways.
  • I found new hope. My world seemed limited after the divorce, limited by thinking that was stuck in survival mode. It took time, patience, and a lot of hope to begin to see the possibilities of a new future. I had to learn how to envision again, to think and dream BIG and to expect more from God than my daily bread. I had to trust Him, to believe in Him, and to rely upon Him in order for Him to reveal His plan for my life. Now I see open-ended life -- new chapters filled with blank pages -- all ready for His pen to write upon them. 
  • I began to think differently. I still find myself stuck in the old patterns of doubt, but most days, my mind thinks about the possibilities of walking with the Lord, endless options and opportunities that exist when you tarry with the Great I AM. Yes, I am His and He is mine, thus whatever He determines to be best for me, for His plans, for His work, then I am open to His ideas. I am considerate now of all options because He is in control of the details, He is leading the charge, and He is moving me into the plans of His choosing. 
In addition to the above, I am also at a place where I can think about joining hands with another sojourner, another follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. Yes, I can consider thinking about being married again, and the desires that go along with that blessed union. I do nothing out of my own desires, but rather, I do everything out of His desires. I have said "so be it" to the Lord in this matter. Therefore, should the Lord choose to move me, to open the door to marriage, to partner me with someone for His Name and His Praise, then I know it is His will. I rest and I wait for Him to move, and until then, I know for sure that I am right where He wants me to be. God is good, so very good to me. And, all the time, He is good!

February 22, 2015

Feeling Off Today

Psalm 21
For the choir director: A psalm of David.

1 How the king rejoices in your strength, O Lord!
    He shouts with joy because you give him victory.
2 For you have given him his heart’s desire;
    you have withheld nothing he requested. Interlude

3 You welcomed him back with success and prosperity.
    You placed a crown of finest gold on his head.
4 He asked you to preserve his life,
    and you granted his request.
    The days of his life stretch on forever.
5 Your victory brings him great honor,
    and you have clothed him with splendor and majesty.
6 You have endowed him with eternal blessings
    and given him the joy of your presence.
7 For the king trusts in the Lord.
    The unfailing love of the Most High will keep him from stumbling.

8 You will capture all your enemies.
    Your strong right hand will seize all who hate you.
9 You will throw them in a flaming furnace
    when you appear.
The Lord will consume them in his anger;
    fire will devour them.
10 You will wipe their children from the face of the earth;
    they will never have descendants.
11 Although they plot against you,
    their evil schemes will never succeed.
12 For they will turn and run
    when they see your arrows aimed at them.
13 Rise up, O Lord, in all your power.
    With music and singing we celebrate your mighty acts.

I woke up this morning feeling so very "off," so very odd. I cannot really explain it other than to say that I woke up feeling as though something bad was going to happen to me today. It is now 10:25, and I still feel the same way -- a sort of foreboding sense -- that something is not right, not good, not well.

I have prayed about it, asking the Lord for clarification, for help, for understanding, and for acceptance SHOULD something truly be happening to me. I am praying that it is just my own sense of wellness getting in the way of my radar. I have been dealing with allergy symptoms for the past week, so my head is a bit stuffy, and my throat a wee bit sore. Perhaps it is just me, just me feeling not my 100% perky best? Perhaps it is the workload, the stress and the strain of finishing today's assignments? Perhaps it is just being overly tired, overly stretched, and overly worried -- all at the same time -- that has caused me to feel this way today. Perhaps it is just me.

Whenever I feel off, I go to the Lord first and foremost. I seek His wisdom and His counsel and I try to ascertain why I feel the way I do. I try not to give into my feelings more than I should, and I try not to give them more weight than they deserve. Feelings, after all, are just symptomatic of a temporary emotional state, they are the expression of what is going on inside of us, in that emotional core that we call our "center."

This morning, after I got up and worked my way through all my routine items (getting coffee, feeding the cats, cleaning the litter box, etc.), I settled down in the recliner to drink my coffee and catch up on the news. My cats took turns sitting on my lap, Ike first followed by Winston. It was our normal morning, and everything seemed okay (well, except for the foreboding sense). As I sat there, trying to relax, I couldn't help but think that something was wrong, something was not as it should be. I prayed about it, pushed the feeling away, and focused on finishing my coffee and reading the news.

After a little while, I got up and moved on to my office area so that I could start working on my papers. I felt that sense again, that "something is not good" feeling. I stopped and I prayed. This time, I asked the Lord to show me whatever it was that was making me feel this way. I wanted to know if there was a problem, a family issue or concern, that needed my attention. I felt stillness, a sense of quiet and calmness, and I heard nothing from the Lord.

I sat down at the computer to begin my work, and I prayed again, asking the Lord to clarify, to help me know why I feel the way I do. Like I said, perhaps it was nothing at all, just me over-reacting to the stress in my life or perhaps it really was a warning, a premonition of something ill to come my way.

I went to the Word in preparation for today's post, and this is the Psalm that came to my mind. It is funny (this is just an aside), but of all the Scripture that comes to me, the Psalms come back most frequently. I try to read a Psalm each day, but I am not as thorough as I used to be. For three years back in 2006-2009, I read the Psalms every single day. When I say "I read the Psalms," I mean that I read through the Book of Psalms twice a year, one every day, for three years. I read them, I studied them, I underlined and notated them. I READ the Psalms, and I came to love them -- their words of encouragement, hope, endurance, and love. Yes, I love the Psalms. I believe now that the Lord placed a burden for me to read through them this way because He knew that I would refer to them later in life. In fact, I would say that during that three year period, when I read through my Bible each year, I found that most of what I read has stayed with me. I don't recite chapter and verse, but I do recall Scripture easily -- it just comes back to me whenever I need it, write about it, or pray on it. I love that about the Lord -- He is so good -- to use His Word in this way. I digress.

Psalm 21:2 says this:

For you have given him his heart's desire; you have withheld nothing he requested. Interlude

This Psalm is speaking about King David, and it gives testimony to the relationship the Lord had with his servant, the King. David writes a psalm recounting all that the Lord has done for him, the way in which the Lord has provided for his every need, allowed him to experience blessing, favor, and victory. God's Hand of Mercy rested heavily on David, and this Psalm lovingly recalls all that the Lord did to guide, to direct, and to keep David safe.

I read this Psalm today, and I couldn't help but agree with David. For sure, this Psalm is about the historical King David, yet his words could be my words today. I could say the same thing, though not nearly as eloquent.  Verses 1-7 from the Message say it this way:

Your strength, God, is the king’s strength.
    Helped, he’s hollering Hosannas.
You gave him exactly what he wanted;
    you didn’t hold back.
You filled his arms with gifts;
    you gave him a right royal welcome.
He wanted a good life; you gave it to him,
    and then made it a long life as a bonus.
You lifted him high and bright as a cumulus cloud,
    then dressed him in rainbow colors.
You pile blessings on him;
    you make him glad when you smile.
Is it any wonder the king loves God?
    that he’s sticking with the Best?

The Lord has given to me exactly for what I have asked. He hasn't held anything back from me. He has filled my arms with gifts, a good life, and graciously He has granted me long life. He has lifted me high, given me honor, and He has provided blessing after blessing in my life. My hope, my joy, my contentment rests in the Lord. Is it any wonder that I love the Lord -- and that I am sticking with the Best of the Best?

Yes, I love the Lord. I am not ashamed to admit it, but I am deeply, wholly, and completely in love with the Lord. I love Him. I love the way He loves me. I love my relationship, the intimate relationship I share with Him. He is my all-in-all, my sufficiency, my portion and my cup. There is nothing I need, nothing I lack, nothing I want that has not already been supplied to me. He provides everything to me, and I rest in His complete and wonderfully sufficient care.

So what then is this foreboding sense of unrest, this feeling that something is not right today? I haven't a clue, but I can say that it is something that is still bothering me, still causing me concern, and is still not going away. Hmmm....

As I prayed, and continue to pray, I am thinking that perhaps what I am feeling is more a sense that significant change is on the way. I have been in the midst of change for the past couple weeks, and while change is not a stranger to me, it usually comes once, shakes things up a bit, and then after a little while, my life settles back down. It is possible that the change I started to experience in January is moving into high gear. It would make sense to me because I am considering moving to another state. I have applied for work at another University, and I am thinking seriously about taking steps to radically alter my life. Let me explain...

It is no secret that my life has been going along swimmingly since I separated from my husband in 2010. Yes, we did continue to live together for 18 months, but only while I was working to get my affairs in order. I needed a job, income, etc., in order to move out and to take care of myself. During that period in time, I provided most of the income to the family (hard as that may seem, it is true!) I was working part-time, receiving a monthly stipend from a family member, and generally paying for almost all our living expenses. The Lord graciously provided for my needs, and He made sure that I had everything I needed to live comfortably while I was patiently waiting for a full-time job. I tell people that during that 18-months my bank account never ran dry, never defaulted, never got so low that I panicked over my next meal or tank of gas. No, it seemed like my account was always full-to-overflowing during that time.

After I moved out on my own in 2011, I began the process of learning how to manage my own accounts, to build equity and credit, and generally to be a self-supporting person. I struggled, of course, mostly with doubt, with fear, and with the unknown "what if's" that plague us all from time to time. Still, the Lord provided and I was able to live comfortably on my own for the first time ever (ever -- I never lived on my own before marriage!)

So much as happened to me since that time. I am divorced now, officially as of last August, and I am a full-time doctoral student, almost ready to sit my exams and begin my dissertation (Praise be to God for His Mercy and Goodness!). I am also a full-time adjunct professor, teaching at two large Universities here in Phoenix. I live with my parents and my son, but it is temporary only. I always knew it would be temporary simply because my parents would at some point need more care than I could give them. For now, though, it works for us.

I never planned on getting remarried. I never thought much about it. I never looked for anyone, and I wasn't interested in dating (online or in person). Sure, I was encouraged to do so, but I never felt any desire to do it. I was very happy with my life the way it was, and I was content to let the Lord lead me in the way He thought best. After all, His hand was blessing me, and I was reaping the reward of His good life.

Then BAM! out of the blue, I met someone online. I didn't think much about it at first, other than it was a nice diversion, a nice friendship, a nice break from the mundane and routine aspects of my life. He made me laugh. He made me think about things I didn't normally think about (life, God's work, the poor and the disenfranchised). He made me thankful for the blessings of my life, for the little things that I often took for granted. He made me feel special and beautiful. He made me feel as if my life was full to overflowing -- full and wonderfully content -- yet still missing something. He made me realize that God created man to need a woman and woman to need a man. 

Sure, God calls some to singleness, and for a long time, I thought I was one of those people. I was content to be single. In fact, I told my ex-husband early on (after we separated) that I felt the Lord had always intended for me to be single, and that our marriage, while producing a blessed child, was not meant to be (as in ordained nor blessed by God). He felt it too, so in a way, I wasn't really saying anything to him that he didn't already suspect. I guess in truth the Lord did desire that I remain single, but not in the way I assumed. I thought He meant for me to be single for life, never married. But now I believe that it was simply the Lord telling me that it was His desire for me to remain single UNTIL He brought His choice to me, the person He desired for me to marry. 

I have blogged about this before so again it is not news -- but I knew on the day I married my ex-husband that I was going against the Lord's will for my life. I knew months before that I wasn't to marry him, and not only did I know it, but every person in my life knew it (and told me so). I refused to listen to the Lord, to my family, to my friends, and even to my non-Christian coworkers -- all of whom were clearly and LOUDLY telling me not to marry this man. I did it anyway, out of obligation, out of fear, out of obedience to God's word. I went through with it and married a guy who had weak faith in the Lord and who wanted different things than I wanted. In the end, our marriage crumbled through the weight of the world, the heavy burden of debt, of dissatisfaction, and of destructing habits. Yes, in the end, the marriage succumbed to the cares of the world, and to the thoughts of "something better" on the other side of the grass.

After that experience, I was bound and determined not to make the same mistake again, so I swore off men. I told everyone I knew that I believed the Lord called me to be single, and as far as I was concerned, I would never marry again. Never. Never. Never.

Yet, here I am thinking that perhaps, should the Lord will it, I will marry again. It is not that I have been asked, mind you, but rather that I am thinking about it, considering it, and wondering if this is the Lord's provision for me. I mean, I am in love, deeply and madly in love, but I am patiently waiting for the Lord to give me permission to take the next step (again, I haven't been asked). I feel the Lord giving me the go-ahead to start thinking this way, to start thinking about it, and as such, He has shown me a possible job in a location very close to where my love lives. The thought of moving across the country scares me, of course. But then the idea of leaving everything I know, and everyone I love, does as well. It is difficult for me to even write it now because it causes me to feel unwell (that jumpy feeling inside), but there is part of me that knows that my life is not tied to a specific place. My life belongs to Him, and everything I do is up to Him. I go where He sends me. I live where He tells me to live. I do the work He provides for me to do. All of this I do out of a grateful and responsive heart because He is the One who loved me first, and who died to save me from my sins. Yes, I gladly go and do and live wherever because of the love of my Heavenly Father. My Father in Heaven is the One orchestrating these details, giving me the go-ahead to move here, to consider this or that. He is the One who directs my steps, and without His hand upon my life, I would go nowhere, nowhere at all. Yes, God is good, so very good to me. He delights in the details of my life, and He blesses me with every blessing, every good gift from His Glorious Hand. I am in love, and I love my Heavenly Father. I love the Lord, Jesus Christ, and it is in His Name that I do all things, consider all things, and pursue all things for the glory, the praise and the honor that duly and rightfully belongs to Him. Amen.

So as I close out this post, I believe that my feelings of being "off" are the result of the shift in my life, the change that started back in early January, and that seems to be lurching forward, moving me closer and closer to the "big reveal" of God's plan for the next season of my life. It is scary. It is wonderful. It is scary and wonderful -- and in truth -- I wouldn't have it any other way. God is good. I trust Him, and I believe that the plans He has for my life are good as well. Selah!

February 20, 2015

The Long Road Home

Today is one of THOSE days...

Yes, today is one of those days when you feel that you cannot go on, when your body is ready to quit, and your mind is unable to focus and process one more detail.

I am weary. I am heavy-ladened. I am weighed down with the burdens of life. Let me explain...

Matthew 11:28 says, "Then Jesus said, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest." The burdens I carry are heavy. The workload I lift is heavy. The load and the burden cause me to be weary. Merriam-Webster defines 'weary' as "lacking strength, energy, or freshness because of a need for rest or sleep." I am sleeping, for certain, but I am not waking up feeling refreshed. No, I feel that my days drag on, blend into each other, and my nights, while set apart for rest, are not functioning properly to bring me rest, refreshment. Moreover, I am not able to relax at all, so my time off is not functioning as it should either. Right now, everything on my plate feels so very heavy, so very overwhelming, and all of it together, is causing me to feel stressed, strained, and stretched to the breaking point. Yes, I am weary, and I am in need of blessed rest.

As I look down the road, all I see is more work, more burden, and more hardship. It is not that I don't see positive outcomes, wonderful blessedness, and the opportunity for great improvement because I do. It is just that the long road home is such a LONG ROAD.

John 16:33 - "I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world."

Right now, the road seems unending with such a long stretch of 'same old, same old.' It is like when I was a child and my family was moving from CA to IL (and back). During the trip across the country, there were always these long, boring stretches of wheat fields, corn fields, barley and alfalfa fields. It seemed that along both sides of the road were unending images of tall grasses blanketed by a massive expanse of blue sky. Nothing broke the continuity but the infrequent side roads that also seemed to head off into nothing.

I know that the path I am on is of the Lord's choosing. I know that the direction I am heading is blessed and that the Lord has provided it for my best, my welfare, my good. It is just that right now, I feel so tired, so drained, and so unable to pick up my sack and move on. I must, of course, I must, but I would welcome some respite, some care, and some downtime (some blessed downtime) right about now.

Dear Lord,

I am bone weary today. I am so very tired, and I feel overwhelmed by the heaviness of the load. I ask for your care and your comfort. I need rest, good purposeful rest. I ask in the Name of Jesus for your provision to meet my every need so that I can rest. I don't want to quit, to give up or give in, but I am feeling the burn that says I am close to running out of gas. I ask now that you deliver me from this load, just for a time, so that I can rest well, be refreshed, and ready to resume my pace. I trust in your Name and in Your Hand of Mercy and Blessing, and I ask now that You do whatever you feel is necessary in order for your will to come to pass in my life. I thank you, Lord, for your goodness and your grace. You alone are worthy to be praised! You along are worthy to receive our Honor. You alone are God. Thank you, Lord! Thank you for all you do for me! Selah!

February 19, 2015

Doing the Right Thing

The media is flooded with stories about ISIS and the beheading of Christians. There is public outcry regarding the brutal slayings taking place in the Mideast. The media is calling on President Obama to pronounce these extremists as terrorists, and to declare war against those that take innocent lives. The political rhetoric is at an all time high, and people everywhere are clamoring, are calling, are crying out for someone to "do the right thing!" But what is the right thing? How do we know what is right? Especially in the case of political and religious extremism, what may look "right" to us, could potentially lead us down a path to destruction. When the world seems out of control, when our idea of right and wrong is pushed to the limits and is being tested by those that would thumb their noses at us -- we must remain calm, and think through every possible action in order to determine the consequences. Let me explain...

In our world, there are varying degrees of "rightness," or belief in a system of right and wrong. In America, there is a belief system that honors the plight of the innocent, victims of crimes, and such. Our legal system is predicated on redressing wrongs. Our country was built upon a Judeo-Christian foundation that seeks to liberate the oppressed, free the captives, and build up the brokenhearted. In Luke 4:18-19 we read,

"The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the LORD's favor has come."

In our mindset or worldview, this is what we see as our mission -- to bring justice and liberality to those who are held in bondage to various forms of slavery. Yet, not every country in the world has the same mindset or worldview. In many countries, bondage and slavery are accepted. Moreover, women and children are not treated equally, therefore, there is the belief that they are possessions, chattel, to be used and to be disposed at the discretion of their "owner."

Thus, in our desire to do the right thing, we have to make sure we understand what that "right thing" is and on whose authority we use to liberate and free the oppressed. Are we going in the Name of God (the Judeo-Christian God)? Are we going in the name of the USA? The United Nations? In whose authority do we go to liberate and free the slaves and captives of aggressive extremists?

It is important to understand our role in the world, and to realize that much of what we rail against is part-and-parcel with our sin-fallen nature. We live in a fallen world, and as such, men and women are evil, and they do evil things. How do we react against the evil in this world? Is it our place to fight against evil?

I am not a theologian nor am I a Biblical scholar so my knowledge is limited when it comes to understanding our role in world affairs and current events. However, what I do know is this -- the Lord gave this command and this the attitude we are supposed to be demonstrating to this fallen world:
Matthew 22:36-40 “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

Moreover, this is the great commission given by Jesus to his disciples in Matthew 28: 18-20,

Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

I am not smart enough to say for certain that we, as Christians, are not supposed to go into the world and fight against extremism with the use of force. But from my reading of Scripture, I can say for certain that we are supposed to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Moreover, we are to love our neighbors -- all of our neighbors -- not just those who think like us. Furthermore, our job is to go into the world and make disciples. We are to teach them Scripture so that they will know and understand what is right and good and proper.

It seems at odds to me to hold to the desire to obliterate our enemy. I understand the rationale. I understand the line of thinking that says "get rid of them before they get rid of us!" Yet, part of me wonders what God thinks about this kind of mindset. Didn't the Lord die for the extremist fanatics just as much as He died for you and me? Is not God's heart grieved over the behavior and actions of ISIS as much as He is over my sin, my failures and faults? If God is impartial, and His word says that He is, then I have to believe that sin is sin. There is no better sin nor worse sin. Sin is a failure to meet God's standard or mark. Thus, whether I am lost in atheism or lost within the clutches of some fanatical belief system, I am singularly LOST. There is no difference to God. God desires that all who are lost come to repentance and salvation. Therefore, we must pray for our enemies, we must seek the lost and be about the business or work the Lord left for us to do. Yes, we must be cautious, we must work to liberate, to free, and to bind up those that are caught in the midst of clashing world systems. However, we must not lose sight, not lose focus, not lose hope. God is still on His throne, and He has not been moved. Let us not lose heart in doing good -- no matter how bad things seem to be in the world today.