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!

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