February 12, 2015

Praise for Small Things

I know it may sound funny, but I have never liked my name. Nope. Nada. Not ever.

My mother named me "Carol" after her only sister. She didn't come up with the name until the day I was born, and as the story goes, chose it in a moment of panic (I think the hospital asked her for a name to put on the certificate). My parents considered several options (so I am told), and of the ones they seriously thought about, I guess I am content with what they chose.

Carol is a funny name. Well, think about it. Carol Channing. Carol Burnett. Funny ladies who share my name. I am not a funny person, by any means. In fact, I am the least witty person I know. I am slow when it comes to making jokes, getting jokes, and even laughing at jokes. Yes, the name Carol is probably better suited to someone with an innate sense of humor.

My Aunt is a rare commodity, and I think my Mom chose to name me after her simply because she is her only sister. They had a rocky relationship growing up, but over time they have become very close. My Aunt is now in a nursing home in FL, and she is in poor health. It is sad to consider the outcome of her life, to see her now, and to know what she used to be like --> loud, vivacious, and always the life of the party. Still, I am thankful for her relationship with Jesus. My Aunt has always been a strong dedicated Christian, albeit one that walked by her own way. She preached the Word in season and out, and she always sought to be that helpful friend who was there when you needed her most.

I guess if I am honest with myself, my name does suit aspects of my personality. As an INTJ personality type, I am one of those rare individuals who are normally labeled as "control freaks." Yes, INTJ's do like to be in charge, to take control, and to do things their own way. Yet, despite the propensity toward control, I also struggle with self-doubt and with feelings of great insecurity. Still, it seems, thanks be to God, that when times are tough, when I struggle most, and when I feel overwhelmed beyond measure, I find the strength to praise Him with song. Let me explain...

If you look up the name "Carol" in one of those baby books, you will see that the name has many variants, but generally it is said to be of English derivation, Latin origin. The name means "manly" or strong (Carol is a boy's name). In some languages, the name is translated as "champion or warrior." In use, Carol also refers to the song or hymn. The Bible verse associated with my name is John 15:11, "I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!"

Some astrologists, numerologists, and other mystics attribute specific characteristics to people named Carol. While I don't follow these pursuits because I believe the Bible clearly warns Christians against the practice of such arts, I do find what is said to be of interest. For example, I found this bit of information related to my name:

People with this name have a deep inner need for quiet, and a desire to understand and analyze the world they live in, and to learn the deeper truths.

and this

People with this name tend to be a powerful force to all whose lives they touch. They are capable, charismatic leaders who often undertake large endeavors with great success. They value truth, justice, and discipline, and may be quick-tempered with those who do not. If they fail to develop their potential, they may become impractical and rigid.

I find the latter reference startling because I do see some of those characteristics in myself. I am capable, for certain, and I have a history of project success. However, I am not charismatic nor am I powerful in anyway. I do value truth, justice, and discipline, and I can be quick-tempered when pushed to the wall, but generally, I seek those things within myself and I do not force others to adapt to my routine or rigid schedule or outlook. If anything, I would say that I do have a deep need for quiet, and I desire to understand and analyze the world. I seek deeper truths, for sure, and I live introspectively and in obscurity most of the time.

My middle name is Elaine. Elaine is a variant of the Greek name, Helen. Helen is interesting in that it is such a powerful and transformative name. Helen means "shining light" and in Latin, it is translated as "the most beautiful woman in the world." Of course, I believe that is in reference to Helen of Troy (the face that launched a thousand ships).

My mother named me Carol, after her sister, and Elaine because she liked the name and couldn't think of a good middle name except for Marie (she thought that sounded too Catholic). Therefore, I was named Carol Elaine or if you put the two meanings together something close to...

Strong warrior / Shining light

The funny thing about names is that often the name fits the person well. I know my parents didn't consult a Baby book nor did they look in the Bible for Hebrew names that had meaning attached to them. No, they chose a name they liked, a name that showed respect to a beloved family member, and a name that was popular in the early 1960s. Yes, I am named rather haphazardly, but with heartfelt sincerity.

As I think about my name, and what it means to me, I wonder sometimes if the Lord had been consulted first, what name He would have chosen for me to bear. I was praying about this a while ago, and I asked the Lord if there was a name that "fit me better" than Carol. I felt the Lord said to me that I should have been named...

Frederick 

Hmmm. I laughed when I heard the name because the two characters who came to mind first were Fred Flintstone and Fred Munster!

In all seriousness, Frederick is a Teutonic name and it means "Peaceful Ruler." There are many variants, both boy and girl names, but generally the chief characteristic is "Peace" coupled with strong leadership. I liked this interpretation because I think it is accurate in many ways. I seek peace at all costs, I always have, and I desire reconciliation through relationship building. In short, peaceful resolution to any type of crisis or concern is the hallmark of a good leader. 

Furthermore, some people characterize this name this way:

People with this name have a deep inner desire to use their abilities in leadership, and to have personal independence. They would rather focus on large, important issues, and delegate the details.

People with this name are excellent at analyzing, understanding, and learning. They tend to be mystics, philosophers, scholars, and teachers. Because they live so much in the mind, they tend to be quiet and introspective, and are usually introverts. When presented with issues, they will see the larger picture. Their solitary thoughtfulness and analysis of people and world events may make them seem aloof, and sometimes even melancholy.

Yes, this name seems to fit with my INJT personality best. I would say that I am all of these characteristics in a nutshell.

Today, I am sitting at my computer contemplating my name. Hmmm. I have so much work to do, and so little time to do it, yet for some reason I am thinking about my name and what it means to bear it.

My life is in flux. I have blogged about it over the past couple months, but today more than ever, I am feeling the reality of "change" as it occurs in my daily routine. It is a challenge to navigate the waters of change, and I am not an advocate of change (well, not when it is happening to me, that is). I don't like change, and I don't always welcome change when the Lord brings it to me. I have learned to accept change, and I have figured out that it is easier to "go with the flow" when change occurs than try to control it. Been there, done that one. Major face fail. Yes, whenever the Lord brings change into my life, while I may not like it, I do know and I recognize that it is there for a reason -- usually a very good reason -- and that it is better for me to accept and adapt, then to try and control or shut it down.

Today is a good example of what it feels like to lose control, to lose the battle against change, and to accept the reality of what is happening in my life. I have blogged about this for the past couple years, but suffice it to say that for the time being I am a person living in transition. Yes, this is true. My transition phase began in January of 2010 when I confronted my ex husband about his relationships with other women. I asked him to leave our shared home since he said he wasn't interested in pursuing reconciliation and restoration of our marriage. We had been in crisis counseling for four months at that point, and things between us (well between me and my ex and the other women) didn't seem to be improving. I wanted to know that he was willing to let these other women go, and that he would commit to me, to our marriage, and to making our marriage a priority. I knew it would be hard work for both of us, but I wasn't ready to throw in the towel at that point. I wasn't ready to accept the reality that he wasn't interested (never has been interested) in me or in our marriage.

I state that January 2010 was the date of our official separation. Until that date, there was hope that we could find some common ground, a common thread that would allow us to begin the difficult but necessary work of restoration. It turned out that there was no common ground, no common thread, and while our counselors stressed that we needed to be working on making our marriage a priority, the truth was that the damage had been done, and that there was little to no interest of making amends (on his part, not mine).

It was on that day that my heart began the difficult journey through the devastation of a broken marriage to the point where it is today, to where I am whole and healed, and ready to begin again.

Since that day, my life has been in transition. I have started over in so many ways. I learned how to live on my own; I cultivated new interests and a career; I broadened my education; and I dreamed of possible adventures. My life is vastly different than what it was five years ago.

I wish I could say that once I left my husband, walked away from the marriage and started over, that everything turned out rosy and good. In truth, it has been very, very good. My life has improved 100-fold over what it was like in the marriage. I am happy and content. I believe my life has purpose and value now. I see great possibilities on the horizon, and I feel that what I am doing, pursuing, valuing is directly related to the Lord's will for my life. In short, I am in a very good place -- albeit -- not settled, not set, not fixed yet.

I pray about settling down a lot. I ask the Lord daily for His provision so I can be "settled." To be settled means to be resolved or to reach an agreement. It also means to "adopt a more steady or secure style of life, especially in a permanent job and home." I long to be settled, to be in a steady and secure style of life, and to have a permanent home and job. Yes, I admit it, I long for security and stability.

The Lord is my security, don't get me wrong. He is my steadfast portion and my cup. My cup runs over because of His blessing and provision. Yet, no matter how reliant I am upon the Lord -- and I am -- I still struggle with this deep need to be settled and secure. For a long time, I felt guilty about this need, always asking the Lord to settle me, to set me down someplace and "fix" my days so that I could rest. I mean, the Lord gives us rest. The Lord provides for our needs. Therefore, if I am content, truly content, then I already have His rest, His provision, and His security. Yes, I know. I know.

This need for security and stability, however, doesn't go away. No matter how many times I pray about it, confess my insecurity to the Lord, and rest and rely on His word -- I still feel as if something is missing from my life. I long for a home, a permanent home, a place where I can rest and be at ease. Of course, my permanent home is in Heaven, of this I am sure. Still, I long for a worldly, temporary home too. The Word is clear that we shouldn't get fixated on a permanent dwelling in this life. We shouldn't seek temporal goods over heavenly ones. I don't think I am doing this, really I don't. I am not one to seek after fortune or fame. I don't desire a fancy house or car. I like those things, nice things just like the next gal, but I am content to live in a small cottage or a massive mansion (though I would prefer the former to the latter, just saying).

Inside my heart there exists this deep desire to be home. Right now, I am not home. I live in a very nice rented home, and I share it with my parents and my college-aged son. It is a good place, a nice place, a lovely home. We are blessed, and our life is very comfortable. This is not my home, and I know that it is not my home. This home is temporary. Furthermore, the life I share with my parents is not permanent either. My parents are struggling with ill-health, and daily it is more and more obvious to me that we will not be able to stay in this home much longer. My son is in college, but some day soon he will decide to step out on his own. I am alone, living alone, and as long as I am in transition, I have no where to call my own.

I cannot explain why this is so important to me, but I have been this way since I was a child. I have longed for my own home, my own little place where I could live as I wanted, do as I wanted, and be just as I am, just as God created me to be. I had my own home once, and I loved it. It wasn't perfect, mind you. It was on a busy street, and it had a lot of problems. But it was mine, and I loved it. Over the 12 years we lived there, I took loving care of it. I did everything I could to make it look nice, to have it be a welcoming place where friends and family could stop by and visit. I wanted to make it special for people, for it to be warm and inviting. I did my best, but in the end, the house was foreclosed on, and it was sold at auction. This happened on January 25, 2012 -- almost two years to the date that I separated from my husband. In that two years, I went from being a married woman to being single and alone. And while, I lost my husband and my house, I gained far more riches and blessing, thanks be to God.

I thank God for the way our home was lost, foreclosed upon. I lost my home but walked away without any latent issues. I was set free from that home, the burden of that home, and I was able to start over without any financial incursion because of the previous years struggle. The Lord saw to it that I was able to start fresh with a clean slate, and since that day, I have worked hard to build my credit up, to manage my finances, and to create a future plan (retirement, etc.) I am in a good place right now, and I think in time, I will be able to purchase my own home. This is very important to me, and even though I am OK with living in rented homes for a time, I know that I will be most happy when I own my own home again.

My son feels the same way. He wants to create a studio space in his room. He wants to play drums, keyboards, and guitar whenever and as loud as he likes (though he is very careful with volume - praise God - he cares about his hearing first and foremost). He feels stifled creatively because of my parents and the fact that our home is rented. He cannot put acoustical foam on the walls or build a console for his recording equipment because this is not his home. He has asked me if we will ever have our own home again. It is funny -- he is 21, going on 22 -- and he still wants to have a home with his Mom (I love that boy, no doubt about it!)

My parents are in declining health and just today my father expressed frustration over my Mom's failure to take her pills. My mother's memory is failing daily, and while she is able to care for herself and she does remember most things, she is struggling with some major memory issues like not remembering if she took her medication. My Dad shared that she had not taken her BP medication the other day and when the Doctor tested her pressure, it was sky high! My Dad fears a stroke, and because of the serious memory issue (moderate at this point, but progressing rapidly), he worries that she will end up like her sister -- in a nursing home. My Dad worries about paying for long-term care, and what that will mean to her life, to his life.

I sit here and I think about moving to AL. I am waiting to hear on the job applications, and whether or not this is the open door I think/feel it is. I think about moving there without a penny to my name, without anything, and how I will make ends meet. I know that in time, I will be fine. I have the potential of earning good income, and as such, I will be able to provide well for myself and my son. It is just the "transition" time -- the in between time -- that is such a big unknown.

Will I purchase a home or rent one? Will I live in Auburn or outside the city?

Of course, all of this thought is predicated on getting hired (the BIGGEST UNKNOWN) at the University. Then there are all the other unknowns that surround my life here in Phoenix. I digress...

The point of this post is this: my life has been in transition for the past five years. In truth, my life began the massive shift toward wholly devotion to the Lord back in March 2006 (so almost 9 years now). As I began to change my focus, to turn away from my self and toward the Lord, everything that I once knew, loved, and accepted began to be stripped away from me. I didn't know it then, but my life was headed for a train wreck. I survived that wreck, and since 2010, I have been in the rebuilding process. I have been slowly rebuilding my life, not according to my desires and wants, but according to the Lord's will for my life. He has taken me by the hand and He has led me through each valley. I am, I feel, at the point of moving out of that valley. I see the possibility, the hope, the shining light of the future right there in front of me. I see the bright light that beckons me on, and I see the future, and it is good, so very good. I wonder if the Lord will settle me or if He will ask me to walk on again. My gut tells me that we will continue to walk on, never truly settling until I am home, permanently home. Until then, I hold tight to His hand, and I rest in the security that He provides. He guides me, He leads me, and He shepherds me. He is my King, my Commander, and My Lord. I love Him, and I rest in His Name, and in His provision.

Perhaps...though...somewhere along our journey there will be a place where I can find temporal rest. A place with a spot for a garden. A little patio where I can sit and watch the birds. A quiet home where I can be myself, just be myself. I hear the strains of the piano (Chopin), and I imagine the pounding of the drums from a distant room. Yes, I would prefer silence, but I am thankful for the blessed noise my son makes as he creates music and devotes himself to his passion. My heart races at the thought that perhaps, just perhaps, there will be such a place where I can sit a while, drink my coffee, read my book (so many to read), and I can enjoy the peace of a good life. Perhaps, Lord, perhaps?

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