March 12, 2015

Coming To Terms

It is a blessed Thursday in sunny and soon to be very warm Phoenix! Yes, our daytime high is projected to hit 90 today, and that says to native and not-so-native Phoenicians that summer is just around the corner. For those of us who have lived in the desert SW for more than a few years (I will be going on 19 this year), these warm days simply remind us of what lays ahead for us -- the long dry and miserable summer weather. Our winter visitors, those folks who come to Phoenix from October to March, love this warm weather. Back home, wherever they are from, it is muddy, raining, and possibly still snowing. These folks love our warm spring days, especially our Spring training schedule, where they can pull out the lawn chairs, put on some shorts and sandals, and soak up the sun while watching major league teams play Baseball. For me, the warm days are pleasant and enjoyable, but because I know what is to come -- 5 to 6 months of unbearable heat -- I don't take as much pleasure in them as other people do. Yes, for me, the hot weather, the long hot days, and the unending and unrelenting heat (oven like) weigh me down. My only solace is that between June and August, we will have summer monsoon storms. The monsoon provides that blessed relief of the stagnant heat of summer.

As I think about the changing seasons, moving from winter into spring (and for us really a short spring), I am reminded of the words of Isaiah 55:8-9, which say "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts." Yes, powerful words of testimony given so long ago, yet so relevant for our lives today. I am struggling today, really struggling, and I need this reminder that what may appear obvious to me could be vastly different to the Lord. His ways and His thoughts are not always clear and evident. So while I think I may understand Him, His directives to me, and the plans He has for my life, I am mere flesh, and as flesh, I am prone to making mistakes, errors in interpretation and judgment. Let me explain...

I am feeling so blue, so out of sorts, and so so overwhelmed right now. I should be okay with the fact that what I am experiencing is the direct result of the changes that are occurring in my life. I mean, I am in this transitional phase in my life, I am moving through my studies at Regent, completing my teaching contracts at GCU, and heading into the summer months (summer school, summer break, etc.). My fall plans are unknown as of right now. I have three teaching contracts set aside at GCU, but I am not sure whether I will take those contracts or whether the Lord will choose to move me from AZ to AL for a new, permanent job. I am struggling with the UNKNOWN, and I hate the fact that I don't have anything set in place. There is no security net, no "for sure, for positive" out there for me. I am living on "faith," on a "wing and a prayer," and while I am comfortable walking in faith, I feel a lot like Peter right now, sinking down into the water. My faith in Jesus is wavering, and I am feeling so heavy, so weighed down, and so sinkable.

I know that the Lord has me covered, but when I look around me, all I see is IMPOSSIBILITY. No matter how hard I try to remain positive, all I see is roadblock, obstacles, and difficult terrain. I see no easy way ahead, and while I am comfortable with trials (been there, done that too many times to recount), frankly, I am getting tired of doing what I am doing -- treading water, standing still, going no place fast, etc. Yes, I am feeling impatient, and I want to KNOW what tomorrow (all my tomorrows will bring). I hate this feeling, this sense of the unknowable. 

It seems that I have lost my peace, my blessed peace, in all the worry about moving someplace else. I have made myself a hornets nest, and I am feeling the sting of thinking about possibility and promise. I think to myself, "so what is wrong with wanting more from life?" Then I feel the sting. I feel that I should just be happy where I am, and content with what I have. Do I need more? Is it wrong for me to want more out of my life? In truth, I do need more. I do need more income, benefits, and the like. Yes, the world screams at me that I should have X amount of dollars set aside each month for my retirement. My family wants to know when I will have that full-time job so that they don't have to worry about me making ends meet each month. My son asks me when we can fix his AC in his car (the heat is coming and he says he cannot go another summer without AC). My perimenopausal symptoms are not easing up, and in fact, they are getting worrisome. I need to go to the doctor, but I don't have the money (and no benefits) to cover the cost. My school debt (loan) is almost to the max, and I have two years left to go (how will I afford to finish my program?) My parents health is in decline, they don't want to move, and they rely on me for my contribution to household expenses.

All of these worries weigh me down, and when I look toward my future (near), I don't see any answer, any solution, on the horizon. I don't see how I can afford to fly to VA this June, stay on campus for a week, rent a hotel, car, and pay for food. I just don't see how I can do this -- where will the money come from? Then I see the long hot summer -- with no income -- and the hard fall and my heart stops. I feel the burden, the harsh reality of my situation, and I realize that I am in a really difficult spot, a really tough place, and I have no sure way out of it. No matter how hard I work, how hard I try, how much I pray or convince myself that I am right where the Lord wants me to be -- the reality of the situation seems to scream at me otherwise. 

What do I do? How do I recover my finances? How do I make plans, if I make plans, without any resources at my disposal?

My faith reminds me of the Lord's words in Isaiah when He says "my ways are not your ways." My heart tells me that the Lord wouldn't have brought me to this place without provision -- manna -- in the wilderness. My mind says to me that the Lord provided daily bread for the children of Israel all the years they lived in the desert. He kept His promise to them, and He brought them into the promised land. He was faithful, He was sure, and He was reliable. The children of Israel broke faith with God and not vice verse. They turned their back on the Holy One, on the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, when Moses was up on the mountain. They begged and screamed to return to the unholy land of Egypt, to be placed back under the yoke of bondage to Pharaoh, to return to the life they once knew. The Lord had other plans for them, plans to make them a great nation, to prosper them, to give them a home. And even through their disobedience, willful and stubborn hardness, the Lord never deviated from His plan. He was faithful, He was true, and He delivered them into the promised land according to His word, His testimony to them. Yes, they suffered hardship during those wandering years, and yes, those that came out of Egypt didn't enter into the land as a penalty for their disobedience. Still, the Lord did what He said He would do -- He kept faith with His people.

I struggle now because I feel like the children of Israel did way back then. I want to return to the life I formerly had, to the comfort and security of knowing each day. The Lord has moved me into the wilderness, into this place of travel, of journey, of transition. I don't like it because every day I must rely on the Lord for His blessed manna. I have no other way of providing for myself other than to wait for His daily bread. There is not a stock pile for me, just a daily supply for my needs. I cannot save it. I cannot use it tomorrow. No, I have just enough for today, just enough to take me from today and on into tomorrow. When I look ahead, I see desert. I see more of the same, more white sand. I want to see the green trees, the ponds, the valleys and the hills. I want to rest in some lovely, comfortable place. I don't see that place just yet. I don't see where I will end up. I believe in my heart that I will continue to be on this path for a while still. 

I feel like I am in the middle of a book, a novel, and the author has taken me right up the middle point of the story. I have experienced numerous conflicts, and some resolutions, but I haven't gotten to the big climax of the story yet. I am not to the point where everything comes to a head with a rush and a shout. There is no denouement yet. I want to read the end, I want to skip these chapters, and read how the story turns out, but I cannot do it. There are just blank pages -- hundreds of blank pages -- and I cannot read anything past what is written today. I can go back and re-read from the beginning, and I have done this many times. I can review sections, study them, learn lessons from them, but I cannot read ahead. I must wait for each day, for each page to be written. The waiting is killing me. I am patiently waiting for the author to reveal more clues, more plot lines, more story.

I know I am not alone in this misery. I know that many people struggle with impatience, and many people are suffering far more hardship than I am. After all, I do have a good job (I get to teach at a Christian University), and I have a nice home to live in. I have a nice car that gets me from point A to B, and I have a good home life (parents who care for me, a son who is my joy). I have enough food, enough gas, and enough resources to pay my bills each month. I am not in arrears on my bills. My credit cards are paid each month without fail. I have even paid a few off recently (the smaller ones). The big ones loom large, and that scares me, but I am thankful that I have them, that I have a line of credit to rely on. My school work is in progress, and I have maintained my 4.0 GPA. I am almost finished with my courses, and soon I will be a third year doctoral student (who would have thought that possible?)

So while my credit cards are high (but not maxed), and my income is low, I am surviving. I am hanging on, waiting patiently for my daily bread. When I think about what I need, I realize that my needs are minor compared to many people. I am in relatively good heath (yes, I have some menopausal issues that need to be checked). I do have work proposed for next fall, and if push came to shove, I know I could find a full-time job doing something other than teaching, if the Lord wills it. Yes, if the Lord chose for me to end my teaching and return to corporate work, I have no doubt that He would open a door for me, provide a job, interview, and offer letter. He has done it before, several times, and in all of those cases, He did it without my help. He moved me, facilitated the conversation, and provided the outcome. I followed Him. I submitted the application. I spoke with the recruiter and then hiring manager, but I didn't initiate the process. He did it. He said "go here, apply here" and I did it. Within 1-3 weeks, I was hired. I believe in my heart that if the Lord wanted me to do that again, to work in a corporate 8-5 job, then He would say to me "go here, apply here" and then BAM! I would have a job. Why then am I worried? Why then am I confused about His timing?

I guess it is because I received a "not selected" notice on the one application I submitted to Auburn University. I wasn't really surprised by it because I found the job, and I asked for permission to apply. The Lord graciously said "yes" but I never really believed that I would be considered for the job. It was a good fit, a really good fit, and I could imagine being happy in the position. In my heart, though, I questioned whether the school, the department would think so. In the end, it turned out, they didn't think I was a good fit. They went with someone else.

I have two other applications in process. One is for another administrative position, but my heart tells me that it will also come back as "not selected." Why? I just feel that this is the case, that the Lord is telling me that I will only move when He is ready for me to move. I will not "go" before He is ready for me to go, and no matter what I want, desire, hope or dream, it will not be before His time. The other application is for a teaching position, and frankly, I feel I am such a dark horse that the likelihood of being considered is slim to nil. Still, I did receive a courtesy email asking for my transcripts (I had submitted them, but they ended up not coming through properly). I emailed them to the hiring manager, but I never heard anything back in response. I assumed they were received, I hope they were received. My prayer is they were received, but yet, I don't know. I just don't know.

Perhaps my desire to go is clouding my judgment, causing my interpretation to be fuzzy?

I know that the Lord desires I move from Phoenix. I have known this for so long, and still I wonder about it (when will it be, where will I go, how will I get there?) I thought Auburn was the place for me, and perhaps it still is the place. There is part of me that wonders whether I am desiring this or whether this is the Lord's doing. In all my job searching, I can bear testimony to this fact: every job I sought, applied for, and desired -- ended up in a "not selected" answer. Yet, every job that the Lord showed me, approved me, and told me to apply for -- ended up in a "selected" answer. Therefore, this should be a no-brainer approach when it comes to finding a job. If the Lord wants me to apply for a position, if He asks me to apply for the position, then His will is clearly for me to have the position. It can be no other way. It is either His way or my way. His way succeeds; my way fails. It has happened time and time again so I wonder sometimes why I stress over it so much, why I think it is so unusual or why I don't "get it." I am hardheaded, stubborn, and like the children of Israel, I am impatient and I want to know, to have, to be -- NOW.

Yes, Lord, I want what I want even when I tell you that I want things to be your way. I am sorry, Lord. I confess my sin of arrogance and my refusal to allow you to provide for me, to move me, to lead me, and to guide me into your promised land. Please forgive me, Lord, for my attitude, my behavior, and my lack of faith. You have not broken faith with me. You have kept your promises to me, and you have kept your Word.

I rest now, I give up and I give in, and I let all this worry, this fear, this concern, and this stress go.

Thank you, Lord, thank you for your faithfulness to me. Thank you for providing just enough light for the step I am on today, and just enough resource to meet my daily need.


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