February 2, 2015

Happy Groundhog Day!

It is February 2nd, and Punxsutawney Phil was taken from his warm cozy den to tell the world if there will be another 6 weeks of winter! And, yes, Phil saw his shadow today, and that means -- ta dum -- winter is not going to go away quietly! Of course, for me, it just means that we might get moderate weather for the next six weeks as we do not have "winter" in Phoenix. In truth, any time we can forestall the coming heat, we 'Phoenicians' are ecstatic. For those of us that call the desert SW home, we welcome summer arrival, but we loathe the months of temperatures in the 100-120s. Therefore, more winter is really a good thing in AZ.

In addition to Phil's oracle abilities, it is also my SIL's birthday today. Februrary is a big birthday month in my family. There are a number of family members who share this month (some passed now) so February has always been a month of celebration and joy. And, we cannot forget Valentine's Day, and all the romance that surrounds that holiday! Sigh!

I am looking forward to Valentine's Day 2015 because for the first time in a very long time I have a special someone with whom I can share the day. I am not sentimental or overly romantic, but it is nice to have someone to love and to be loved by when this day comes round each year. 

As I think about today, and I consider that 2015 is already a month down, I stand amazed at all the Lord has done for me. I mean, really, I cannot even believe that I have successfully completed 2/3rds of my doctoral program at Regent. More so, I will be completing my second year of teaching (hooray!), and I will be moving ahead in my new career as a Professor and Educator. WOW! God has done an amazing work in me and through me to bring me from where I was -- to where I am now. 

Yes, it was five years ago in December that I quit my job as a Website Designer. It was a long-time in coming because I wanted so much to resign from that line of work way back in 2005. What had been a part-time, work from home position, had turned into a nightmare of hard work, long hours, and grueling experience. I wanted to quit for so long, but because of the need for second income, and the fact that I worked as part of my ex-husband's business, I was never able to do it. I look back on those days now, and I realize of course that I made a conscience decision to do this kind of work. I weighed the consequences and I found that working from home was better than working outside the home. I was in a position where I needed to work in order to help support the family. My choices were limited, and I didn't want to be away from my son, so I had to find something to do from home. Website design fit the bill, and for a time, it was a fun thing to do. I enjoyed being creative, and I enjoyed playing with technology. I liked that I could make my own hours, do my own thing, and still be a SAHM. I was also home schooling so the fact that I could work from home AND home school was a gift. Unfortunately, what was supposed to be a supplemental job with supplemental income turned into a full-time endeavor, a full-on side business that required a great deal of my time, my effort, and my energy. In hindsight, the money I earned didn't offset the amount of work I poured into that career. I think at the height of my business (2004-05), I was bringing in around $40K per year. I was working 40-50 hours a week, and I didn't have any of the perks and benefits of a full-time job. No benefits, no paid holidays or sick leave. Nope, I worked round the clock, every day, to keep that business afloat.

I remember the day when I told my ex that I was stepping down from that role. I had given him plenty of time to consider my needs. In fact, I had been asking him for permission to quit for three years. My requests fell on deaf ears or were met with the constant "so, what else will you do?" His response was always the same --> find another job. I struggled with his response because I needed to rest, to be at home, and to not work (for health reasons). I needed to be a full-time Mom, especially since I was home schooling my son through Middle and High School. Yet, because of my ex's inability to provide for us through his business, I had to work to make ends meet. I hung on for three extra years, even though I felt that I wasn't able to handle the stress of the job (the complaints, the trials, the burden of the workload). Finally, I gave up, and I gave in to the stress and the pressure, and I walked away from the job (without his permission). My decision to walk away wasn't met lightly nor without anger. However, I see now how important it was for me to distance myself from that position.  Let me explain...

I had worked as a website designer for about 8 years when I realized that the job was taking its toll on me physically. Spending 10-12 hours a day on the computer creating designs for finicky clients was difficult enough, but the stress on my body, especially my back was the worst part of the experience. Sure, I got up and walked around. Sure, I took breaks throughout the day. It was the non-stop computer work that caused my back, neck and shoulders to ache, to go numb, and to knot into tiny little balls of muscle. On top of that, my eyesight was constantly blurry from the strain of staring into a 17" monitor. I did everything I could to create an ergonomic environment for work, but in the end, I was miserable every day. Then, if the physical woes were not enough, there was the whole "client support" issue. Most of my clients were nice, and were great to work with on projects. The demands of new work, however, meant that I often had to take work that I felt was too difficult for my skills or work that dealt with content with which I had ethical issues. Moreover, there was always the pressure to work, to perform, to achieve -- normally I would welcome the challenge -- but in this case, I always felt like I was working, performing, and achieving for someone else, and not for myself. Lastly, my home life was impacted during this time, and there were inklings that all was not rosy on the inside. I made the best of it, often working additional jobs (as part-time Children's director at my church), taking on serving roles (as AWANA Director and Commander), and focusing on helping my ailing in-laws with supportive care. In short, I was run ragged, and the demands of the job, the support, the care, and the home life were heavy and unending.

By the time, 2009 rolled around, I was in the midst of a marriage crisis. We had successfully endured two major medical crises previously, and now the marriage was in danger of breaking apart. I was spent, beat, and unable to focus on what mattered most. I was being pulled apart at the seams, and the only way I could think of keeping my life (the part of me that was "me") together was to start letting things go. The first thing I let go of was my outside work at church. The second thing was my service at church. The third thing was homeschooling (I put my son in an online program for his 9th grade year in school). The last thing was the job. I couldn't very well give up the marriage nor could I step aside in the care giving responsibilities (though I did scale them back). I did my best to manage what I could, but when the marriage did fall apart, I knew that there was a reason why I had to let go of so many things, the job, most specifically.

I was unemployed for a long time before I finally was offered the position at UOPX. In the ensuing year and a half, I moved out of my home, lost my home, and rented a new home. In addition, I bought a car, and I began the process of picking up the pieces of my shattered life. I also started school, bent on completing a Masters degree so I could become a full-time Professor. I started my life over, I rebooted the hard drive, so to speak. But instead of just a hard reboot, I had to reformat the drive and reload the OS, programs and files. In sum, my life required a clean start, as they say in the tech world. The hard drive of my life couldn't be defragged. No, it required a complete wipe of all the files, total erasure, reformat, and new application of everything valuable. The Lord did this, of course, and through the process I came to see that the file structure of my life had been damaged from years and years of toil, of struggle, and of misapplication and of misuse. The Lord chose to reformat my life, to let me start over again, and as a result, the life I have now looks nothing like the life I once had -- it is new, brand new.

It was six years ago this month when I found out that my ex was having an affair with a family member.  It wasn't the first time something had happened like this, but it was the most significant as far as exposure and trauma. Of course, I didn't really know the whole story then, and we were in the midst of our second health scare so my focus was on my ex and his health and well-being. I addressed the issue, dealt with it, and I moved on. Or so I thought.

It was five years ago this month when I asked my ex to move out of our home due to the same issue -- same affair -- same family member. The difference between 2009 and 2010 -- I had had enough -- and I wanted out of everything. I had given up the job a year before, and I had been looking for work since then. It wasn't until I gave the ultimatum that things changed for me. It was as if as soon as I made up my mind to not settle for being someone's second, that everything started to fall into place. I bought a car, I got a job, I moved out. I started over with this declaration: I deserve better than this. I am worth more than the value you place on me. I count.

The Lord says in Proverbs 31:10,

Who can find a virtuous and capable wife? She is more precious than rubies.

I was that virtuous and capable wife, yet I was devalued and treated as though I was worth less than the harlot on the street, on the Internet, on the phone.

Once I stood up for myself, and I chose to see myself as the Lord sees me, things changed. I began to view myself, my life, and my worth through a Biblical lens. I was able to see that I had inherent value, that God loved me, and that He had a good plan for my life. I didn't know what that plan was back then, but I felt confident that the Lord had something in mind for me. Little did I know that He might call me to graduate school (twice), to a new career, and to a new ministry. Little did I know that He might choose for me to experience love again, this time round, with a right and proper perspective. Little did I know that the Lord might call me forward to take on roles and responsibilities that would challenge me, encourage me, grow me, and develop me into the woman of God He determined me to be. Little did I know that if I trusted the Lord, rested in His sufficiency and in His provision, He would move me, make me, and mold me as a new creature in Christ Jesus. Little did I know...

It is 2015, and so much has changed for me. I don't gloat over my lost life. I just recognize that the pain, the sorrow, and the trials were part of the preparation period necessary for this new life. I didn't always behave righteously during those times. I wasn't the silent suffering wife. No, I yelled. I screamed. I cursed. Yes, I was not always honoring and submissive to my husband. I tried, for sure, but there were times when the pain was too much, the sorrow to deep, and the trial too difficult to navigate without exploding into emotional outrage.

The Lord tempered me, of course, and for that I am so thankful. The Lord knew then what my limits were, and while I felt that I was pushed to the very limit, He made sure I didn't go over board, that I didn't lose everything. He kept me together, kept me in His tender care, and He kept me from truly falling to pieces.

Now I see how merciful He is, and how much He loves me. He has never left me. He has never forsaken me. No, He stands with me, and He upholds me. I still don't have all the answers, and I still get very frustrated at times. I sense His movement, and I sense His desire to go here or there. I trust Him, not completely (though I am working on that part) as I should, but I trust Him with what little I do have. He says it is enough -- for now -- it is enough. I pray for His help, His guidance, His wisdom, and I look to the Word for clarification and for direction. He is good, so very good. All the time, He is good.

So today as I sit here and write this post, there are so many things running through my head, so many questions, so many doubts, so many fears. I trust the Lord, really I do. I love the Lord with my whole heart, and I look to Him alone for my sufficiency and for guidance. Yet, I don't know what to do, and at times, that feeling of being totally dependent on the Lord, scares me. I want what He wants for my life. I want to go where He is sending me. I want to do the work He has prepared me to do. But, how do I do it? How do I go there? How do I afford to go where He is leading? How do I let go of this life here, this good life here in Phoenix, to go there --> there?

I have so many questions for the Lord. I ask Him to clarify, to show me, to prove to me that I am doing the right thing. I want a sign, a BIG NEON SIGN that says to me "This way to the Lord's will for your life!" Yes, Lord, make it so clear that I cannot get lost, that I cannot misinterpret your calling, your leading, your guiding, your providing for me! Please, Lord, I beg of you to make my way clear. We read in Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.

Yes, Lord, make it so, make it so!

So as I close out this blog post for today, I am reminded that the writer of Proverbs is saying to me (to you, to anyone reading this post), that before I can receive guidance and assurance, I must do three things: trust the Lord and acknowledge Him (as Lord), stop trying to figure everything out (in my own strength, mind, wisdom), and rest and let the Lord direct my paths.

Dear Lord,

I have so many questions for you today. I feel good about the direction of my life, but I don't "see" how everything is going to work out. I don't see how you will move me, how you will provide, how you will take care of the things I am letting go of here in Phoenix. My eyesight is poor, it is dim, it is nearsighted (I cannot see far). I need you to reveal your plan, to establish your will, to develop your approach so that I can rest assured and know that you are the One leading me from this place to that place over there. Please make it so, Lord. Please make it so. I ask this now in Jesus' Name, Amen. So be it, thy will be done. Selah!

No comments: