April 30, 2015

Resting and Waiting

Happy Thursday! Yes, it is April 30, and it is the end of the month, and almost the end of the week! It is a good day, warm and sunny here in Phoenix, but nonetheless, a good day. I am not quite as far along my schedule as I had hoped to be by today, but I am close. I got a bit off track with my grading, and I haven't even looked at my research paper since I got my grade back on Sunday (rewrites are due tomorrow at 11:59 p.m.). Still, all is not lost. I need to get the majority of my grading done today so that I can spend today and tomorrow fixing the issues with my paper. I am confident that I can do it all before the final due date. My hope is that I can resubmit my paper for a new grade (higher of course), and post final grades for GCU tomorrow. This would close out my semester by Saturday, and well, then I would have one week off without any school work, and I could rest, really rest, until school begins again on May 11th. It is not impossible, it just means I need to focus today and tomorrow in order to get everything done. I can do it, I know I can.

Resting in the Lord

I am resting in the Lord, for certain, and I am waiting for His provision of manna, daily manna. I know I have been whining a bit these past few months, but suffice it to say, it happens. It is funny because I can remember when I said I wasn't going to whine anymore about my school or my work. I think that was last summer (LOL!) Yet, here I am still thinking about the "haves and the have nots" and feeling somehow that my life is lacking "something." This whole week has been about the "have nots" trying to make a point in regard to the "haves," and in doing so, a portion of Baltimore (my birth city and early childhood hometown) was burned. I don't have any political views on the matter other than I believe that a person shouldn't die in police custody (for certain), and that there has been excessive abuses by the police in many cities in our nation. We tend to cut our officers slack because they place their lives on the line, and while I support our police force nationally, I do believe that there are many cities where corruption and police brutality has gone unchecked. Our police are a symbol of authority, and the truth remains that if you want to be respected, you must act respectful. I think cities need to take this fact head on and do some housekeeping. They need to retrain officers and the higher ups to change the way they do things. If the problem is not the police and is the people, then the system needs to be changed to adapt. Personally, I think the problem is complex and includes city governments and the laws they make along with the judicial system (far to liberal) that allows criminals free reign, shorten sentences or probation, when justice needs to be done.

Haves and Have Nots

In thinking these thoughts, one cannot help but look at their own life to see a similar pattern. We have become a society of "wants and desires." We are like spoiled children who want something, and when they don't get it, they throw temper tantrums until they get their way. It seems this is exactly what has happened in our country. The "have nots" demand and throw tantrums, and the "haves" give in to them. It has set up a whole mentality of "on demand" attitude and privilege. The "have nots" demand and the "haves" give in so as to avoid controversy or the label of "racist or bigot." We are moving closer and closer to socialism, and this means that there must be an equal distribution of wealth -- everyone gets the same treatment. The idea is a good one, equitable disbursement, but it also reduces the level of what one may have to a minimal existence. It will not eliminate corruption, just look at Russia as an example. The "have nots" believe that they will rise up to the level of the "haves," but this is faulty thinking. The "have nots" will rise up for sure, but the "haves" will come down. The result will be less than satisfactory for everyone because the standard of living will be minimally better.

In a free market system where capitalism reigns, true equitability exists because the process for achievement is the same for everyone. The problem is that the "have nots" do not want to work to achieve, they want a handout. Working is the key component in a free economy. One must work to achieve. The socialists and communists will point out that many people cannot work or that the work that is available is not "good enough" so that they system is broken. This is not the case. The system is not broken -- it is the laws that have been placed to keep businesses from growing so that they can raise wages and hire more employees. Why is this? This is because the government is leaning toward socialism and therefore believes that stricter regulation will force businesses to comply. It is a vicious cycle that never will improve the lives of anyone, anywhere. There is only one way to have an improved life and that is to refocus your time, talents, and energy toward the greater good, toward making a better life for yourself, your family, and your community. How is that done, you ask? Simple. Get your life right with the Lord (1), stop looking at what you don't have (2), start looking at what you do have (3), cherish the blessings of today (4), and look for ways to help other people (5). By taking the focus off your life, you immediately begin to right your perspective so that you can see the reality of the world around you. Yes, your situation may not improve, but your attitude will. An attitude adjustment will help you see the truth in your life, address issues that could be responsible for the problems you face, and offer you some positive steps that could eventually change your path, your future, and your life. Let me explain...

In All Things Give Thanks

I know this is a long-winded post, and I said I wouldn't get political. For the record, I am a conservative politically speaking, but only because I support the US Constitution and I think it is one of the finest examples of governmental legislation. However, I don't identify myself as Republican, per se, simply because I don't like a lot of the people who wear that label. I also don't like a lot of the people who wear the Democrat label either. My views on most things are conservative. I am a born-again Christian, pro-life, pro-marriage, pro-Judeo Christian law, etc. I believe in less federal governmental control, a fixed tax system (better than what we have now), and local/state government involvement. Yes, I am conservative and my views are clearly Christian. As such, I tend to see personal responsibility and work ethic as important to a well-run society. People who work, people who take responsibility for their lives and their family generally are the ones who do not cause trouble, do not burn down cities, commit crimes, and cause pain and suffering for the multitudes. The people who do not work, most often, are the ones committing the crimes. I am not excluding white collar crimes because the individuals who commit those crimes often do work, but they work to steal and defraud, and not to be responsible for their families lives. Working, therefore, in my view, is key. Many people do work, but many people feel that their work is not good enough. I know many day laborers, people who work and earn a living cleaning houses or doing yard work. These people, typically immigrants, work very hard to the money they earn. They take care of their families, and they save their money in order to build a better life for their families. They do not take handouts. They are not on the "dole." They work multiple jobs in order to provide for their children. Many people choose not to work because working at McDonalds or Burger King is beneath them. They do not want to get paid $8.10 an hour. They feel their time is worth more than this amount. They want to earn $10 or $15 an hour, so instead of working at a minimum wage position, they choose not to work at all. Some turn to crime. Some live on government support.

The majority of homeless people in America are temporarily homeless due to loss of a job. The majority of poverty in America is also due to low-wages or loss of a job. The problem is significant in parts of the country where there are poor, typically minority groups, living. Why is this the case? Why is this so? I have looked at housing prices in many of these places. The housing costs are not the issue. The quality of housing may be, but when compared to living in a tent or a box, a house with four walls and a roof, is a good thing. As I think about my life, in particular, I realize that I often equate quality with quantity. I look at my home, for instance, and while I am thankful to have it, I find things wrong with it. Just a moment ago, a very large truck rumbled by outside, and because our house backs to a busy street, that rumble causes the entire house to shake. I do not like the noise or the shaking from the cars that drive by every day, all day and all night. I live in a lovely home, but it is not perfect, and at times, I can focus on the part that is not so great, and I can start to think that I deserve better, that I should have more of this or that or less of this or that. Yes, I can begin to lose my perspective on things, and then my attitude starts to take a downward shift to where I become fixated on what I don't have rather than on what I do have.

I am blessed, abundantly blessed. Yet, it is very easy for me to become so overwhelmed by what I lack that I simply stop acknowledging the blessing in my life. I have many things to be thankful for, and the Word tells us that we should always give thanks.

1 Thess. 5:18 - Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

Ephesians 5:20 - And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

As Christians, we have so much for which to be thankful to God. We can focus on what we are missing out on in life or we can be content for that which the Lord has already provided to us. I am guilty of this response, of allowing myself to be consumed by worry over what I don't have instead of praising God for what I do have, for all that He has graciously provided to me. Today is a good day to give thanks, to thank the Lord for the blessings He has poured out on our lives. While my life may not be perfect, and I may have some challenges and struggles, my portion and my cup are suited well to my needs. The Lord has allowed certain things into my life for a reason, and while I may not like what these things are or the problems they cause, they are here and a part of my life because the Lord deemed it necessary to be so. I must stop looking at the pain and problems as though they are all my fault. Some of what I am experiencing is directly from the Lord. He has allowed certain trials to test my faith, and I must not resist this testing. I must allow it to be so in order to grow in my faith so that I can take the next step as the Lord leads me. I have surrendered my will to the Lord on several key issues, and as a result, I know that I am not forcing my hand, so to speak, or making my own way. I was resisting the truth, for sure, and I was not happy with the outcome, but I realize now that where I am, right now, is where the Lord desires me to be. I have stressed over it for a while now, and I lost my contentment and my peace. Once I let go, I realized that God's timing is perfect, and I am right where He wants me for this season in my life (selah!)

Today, I give thanks to the Lord for His Goodness toward me, His grace and His mercy overflow, and His care for me is sufficient. I am well provided for today, and my future is secure in His hand. I may not know what my days will bring, but I do know that the Lord has a good plan for my life, and that He is working out the details to bring His will to pass in my life. If I rest, this process proceeds smoothly. If I worry and stress, then the process seems to hit potholes and other obstacles that cause me to "stop and start." The goal, therefore, is to rest, to rest in His blessed security and provision, and to stop looking for more than what He has portioned to me this good day. Yes, I am content and I am at peace with my life as it is. I am good, so very good.

Just a little humor

I read this article today, posted by my friend and colleague, Jay Mim's, on Facebook. It appeared in The Onion two summers ago, but I just saw it this morning, and it made me smile. If you are not familiar with the articles published in The Onion, then know that everything is "tongue and cheek" but written in such a way as to make the posts sound true and plausible (like good journalistic writing).

Unambitious Loser With Happy, Fulfilling Life Still Lives In Hometown

The story linked above is about a man who is considered a loser because he has remained in his hometown since returning from college. He is married, has two kids, and sells insurance for a living. His life is dull, boring, and unambitious, but the man is very content and happy. He has a very happy marriage, a fulfilling life, and great family relationships and friendships. In all, the writer states, "Michael Husmer, [is] an unambitious 29-year-old loser who leads an enjoyable and fulfilling life, still lives in his hometown and has no desire to leave" (para. 1).

As I read this article, I thought about my own life and how often I feel the pressure to succeed, to achieve, and to desire more than what I have now. I look toward the future, and I feel that I need to do more, be more, live differently, all to keep up with some force that tells me that what I have is simply not "good enough." Yes, there is that phrase again -- good enough. It is a phrase that has been echoing in my head since childhood. I live and I die by those words -- you are not good enough, this is not good enough, your effort is not good enough. The funny thing is that those words, words of condemnation, are often hurled at us by the enemy, the devil. He wants us to see all that we lack, blame God for it, and then turn away from God, by viewing Him as a liar and less than omnipotent. We never stop to question "who says it is not good enough?"

I can remember when I was homeschooling, and I would often be asked to give advice to Mom's with little children. I had a teen then, and these Mom's were panicked over home schooling their children. They were filled with fear that they would not do a good job, that their children would not succeed and go to college, etc. I can remember hearing them say, "What if they get behind or if they are not good enough...". I always replied with the question,

"behind whom?"
"good enough for what?"

The issue was that these Mom's had some mental standard, an artificial measuring bar that they believed they had to live up to in order to succeed in home schooling their children. Perhaps it was the state they lived in or the tests they were required to take. Perhaps it was to stave off criticism from family members or church friends. Perhaps it was a husband who didn't approve of home schooling or who didn't like the method being used (happened more times than not). Regardless, these Mom's were living up to an unrealistic bar they set for themselves believing that unless they jumped over it, they would be failures as Mom's, teacher/ Mom's, and women (wives, daughters, DIL, etc.).

Making the Bar

I remember giving this advice to Mom's because it hurt my heart that they believed they were not good enough to home school their children. I tried to get them to see that the only person they ever have to please is the Lord. The Word says it this way,

Eph. 5:8-10 - ...for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.

Col. 1:10 - ...so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.

Our ambition, as the Word says in 2 Cor. 5:9, is to be pleasing to the Lord. This means that the only bar we must "make" is the one set for us by God. And, praise be to God, there is no way we can ever meet that bar, that standard, on our own merit. Therefore, we attempt the bar in grace, knowing that our effort will always be less than perfect. Yet, through the blood of our Savior, we are able to make it over, to achieve what is right and pleasing to the Lord. It is all of grace, always, all of grace.

In closing, as I remember my own words of advice, I am humbled to think that I have fallen prey to this very same lie of Satan, that I am not good enough, not doing enough, and not succeeding enough, and as a result, I am failing myself, my son, and my family. This is not of God. It is a lie of the devil, and whenever I listen to this lie, I place myself on the mouse wheel, chasing my tail so to speak, trying to live up to someone else's standard for my life. The Lord has a good plan for me, and there is no other bar for me to jump over. I do as He commands, I go where He leads, and I follow after Him. In this way, I am always "good enough" for Him because I come to Him not on my own effort or merit, but through the grace found only in our Lord Jesus Christ. I am stamped "approved." My account is accorded with His righteousness. Therefore, I am good enough in Christ alone. I am good, so very good.

April 29, 2015

Plans are Set and Fixed

My contracts from GCU arrived today. I am pleased to have received them because this means that I don't have to stress over the plans for fall anymore. Yes, I am set with three teaching contracts at GCU, and one teaching contract at ACU (still pending). In all, I will have a very busy schedule, but I am sure I will be able to handle the workload. I ran the numbers for my four classes, and it looks like I will be making exactly what I need to cover all my expenses (with a little left over). I am blessed, so very blessed, that the Lord has provided -- yet again -- for my exact need. I know His word says that He will provide, and still I stress over the provision until it actually lands in my inbox or on my doorstep. I should rest and trust in Him, and while I do for sure, I still allow that little bit of doubt to creep into my mind, and well, I end up feeling the pinch of worry. I need to check the "worry" at the door and remember the Word of the Lord. I need to remember His testimony to me, and recall His faithfulness (He has never let me down). Yes, my plan of action is to stop worrying and stressing over the future, and to relax a bit more, to rest in the Lord's care and provision. That is the plan, anyway, that is the plan.

As I consider my future, the goals I have for myself and those that I believe the Lord has laid on my heart, one thing is for certain -- my steps are ordained by His desires for my life. I am where I am today because I chose to walk in obedience and follow after Him when He called me to a life of ministry and service. I have struggled to process this call, to understand exactly what the Lord intends for me to do with my life, and how I am to get from where I am today to where I believe He is leading me into my tomorrows. It has been a challenge to let go of many things, many things I hold dear -- not to lose them, but rather to give them the freedom to do and to be as they were designed -- rather than to keep them in my hand and attempt to make them into what I want and need them to be. This process of letting go has been difficult at times, but each time I let go, I find that the Lord lifts me and moves me a bit further down the road, a bit closer to where He wants me to be. I want to go so badly, to do the work He is calling me to do, yet I stress over the "how to do that" part, and in the end, I hold on so tightly to everything I know and hold dear to me.

My future is uncertain right now, other than the fact that the Lord does have a great plan for me. I know that my future is through Regent, which simply means that my future begins and ends with my studies at Regent University. Regent is changing my life. It is shaping my future as I pursue higher education, communication study, and ministry/work opportunities. The closer I get to my graduation date (May 2017), the more ready I will be to do the work the Lord is calling me to do. Of this, I am sure. Until then, I hear His voice tell me to focus on my studies at Regent, to settle myself down and worry less about tomorrow, and more about what I have to do today. Regent is the answer, it always has been, and I know that I am blessed for the experience at this school. My professors, my courses, and my program are working together with the Lord to enable me to realize this calling. I have to trust the process, and allow the Lord to complete His work in me. Selah!

This waiting is difficult because I find that I am in this transitional place, this wilderness of sorts, and I am tired of sitting around waiting for tomorrow to come. Yet, I know that this place has its purpose. I am here for a time because it is necessary for my growth and my preparation. I cannot do anything without His permission, so I wait patiently as He leads me onward. I handle the to-do's as they come to me, and I rest in His provision. I am resting in the Manna that comes from heaven, and I look up and I say "thank you, Lord, it is enough for today!"

My hope is that tomorrow is as bright and shiny as today. I don't know what my tomorrow will bring other than I believe it will include a teaching position (full-time) at a college or University of the Lord's choosing. It will also include a settled life, a home of my own, and good practical work teaching students writing and communications. I am sure the Lord will lead me to a ministry, a church where I can volunteer and help out. At this point, I feel pretty comfortable helping out in any way that I can, even if that means helping in Children's ministry again. I have taught children for now on 35 years, and even though I teach college students, I still have such a heart for children. Perhaps the Lord is letting me know that I will always have a heart for little children, and that my ministry will be multiplied through efforts in leading little one's to Christ along with serving in adult ministries where I can use my studies and teaching skill to help families and marriages improve interpersonal communication skill. As of now, I am not sure what the Lord wants me to do, but I do know that my life is to be full to overflowing, and not a trickle. The Lord has opened the flood-gates and spiritually speaking, my heart overflows with love for the Lord and for others. Thus, whatever He chooses for me to do, I will gladly do it. I will go where He sends me, I will live where He tells me to live, and I will do whatever work He has prepared me to do. Selah!

My plans for Fall 2015 are set and fixed. This means that I know the Lord has desired for me to remain where I am in Phoenix. There is good reason for this and I am sure this is what He wants from me. I have issues, needs really, and the Lord is providing for me as I complete my studies at Regent, and move into the dissertation phase of my program. I will be teaching at two schools here locally, living in the home I share with my son and my parents, and remaining focused on my studies. This is the Lord's will for my life right now. It is all I know, and because He has chosen not to reveal anything else to me, I have to assume that for now, anyway, this is His plan. He may choose to reveal something else to me, but for now, I am to stay put and do the work He has provided for me to do. Selah!

What does this mean for me as far as next steps, relationships and moving to another state? Right now, I don't know. I know that where I am is where the Lord intends for me to be, but for how long, I just don't know. I will teach at ACU and GCU, Lord willing for the entire 2015-16 school year. I will complete my comprehensive exams in March 2016, defend my proposal, and then begin my dissertation in May 2016. I will be "ABD" or all but dissertation, and that places me in a much better position for a full-time instructor job. I will also have three years of face-to-face teaching experience, on campus reviews, and such, and perhaps that is what the Lord wants or knows I need to be competitive in the college/university job market. If no full-time job comes to pass, I will continue to teach adjunct for as long as the Lord determines it is good. I mean, what else can I do right now? I have seriously considered moving into administration or corporate work, but it seems those doors are closed to me. It seems that this is the path the Lord intends for me to stay on, and so be it, I will stay on it. I cannot worry about financial matters, retirement or other such things because while I see the need, I have to remember that the Lord sees the need too. He knows what I need, and I have faith and confidence that He will provide for me. Selah!

Lastly, as I look toward the future, the next 6-9 and 12 months, there are so many unknowns in my life. I have to finish my studies. My son needs to graduate from college. My parents need to decide what level of care they can afford for their latter years. I cannot move and leave my parents in the lurch in this home. I cannot leave my son with his education incomplete. I do realize that both my son and my parents are adults and that they are responsible for their decisions and lives. However, because I am integral to their stability for now, and I contribute to the expenses, I cannot leave until their lives are set and fixed also. Thus, until their lives are resolved, my son graduates, etc., Lord has me where He has me (it is done). I know I am here in this home for a reason. I am here because the Lord provided it to me. Thus, walking away from it is not the Lord's will for me. If He moves me, that is another matter, but He is not doing that so I have to accept the fact that He intends for me to remain here for a little longer. I am in the wilderness for a longer season than I had hoped, but nonetheless, I am here because He has said for me to be here. Amen, so be it. Selah!

Sometimes I think it is important to re-evaluate your life and to consider the changes that have taken place in it. Change can alter plans, it can cause the path to swirl and turn. It can also confirm the path, which is what I believe the change in my life has done for me.  I started on this path back in May of 2013. Well, not really. I started on this path back in March of 2010. I took a big bold leap of faith and I applied to Mercy College for a Masters degree in English. I was still married then, so I applied under my maiden name. I was separated from my husband, but we had not divorced. I felt so confident that this is what the Lord wanted for me, so I applied to a school in NY without even telling my husband about it. I just did what I thought the Lord was pressing me to do. I applied for financial aid, without asking permission, and I took out student loans without my ex-husband even knowing about it. He would not have given me permission had I asked. He would not have allowed me to take financial aid either. I was forbidden from taking financial aid back in 1994 when I applied for a Masters in English at my alma mater, SJSU. I didn't finish the program back then, for many reasons, but in 2010, the Lord opened the door, asked me to walk through it, and in obedience I did. I am here today because of that first leap of faith, that first step that set me on the path to becoming a professor. It was so scary to apply to graduate school. I hid the personal statements, the application materials, the requests for transcripts. I saved up the money, my own money to send for documents so I could apply. I had to get a copy of my birth certificate, so I sent to Maryland for it. I had to update my SSI information, so I made an appointment and I did it. I did everything the Lord asked me to do so that I could go to school. In August 2010, I started my Masters program, and then in August 2012, I graduated. In between, I moved into my own home, started two jobs, and bought my own car. I followed what the Lord said, and He provided me with exactly what I needed to do everything He was calling me to do.

In May 2013, I started my studies at Regent. I prayed for a way to do school and work, and the Lord opened up this path to me, the path I am on teaching college classes. I have worked steadily since then as an instructor, and I am on track to continue for another year. I could return to corporate work, but the farther I get down this road, the more unlikely it seems that this is the way the Lord intends for me to go. I have to let go of my fears about financial security, the thoughts of not getting a full-time position, and the worry over retirement. The Lord is my provider. He is Jehovah-Jireh, and there is nothing I need that He is not able to provide to me. If I need a full-time job, He will provide in time. If I need a different house, He will provide for me. If I need a different car, He will provide it. My needs are in His hands, and as such, I can rest in His sufficiency. He is God, and what else do I need to know?

As I think about the past five years, I am amazed at the work the Lord has done in my life. I am not the same person I was in 2010. I am strong, confident, bold, and determined. I am able to do all things through Christ who strengthens me. As such, I can do the work He has prepared me to do. I can stay and teach here in AZ for however long He determines it is good to do so. I can go to AL or another state should that be His will and desire. He will provide, I know He will. I can rest now, and I can let go of the worry over provision because the Lord has provided for my exact needs. Yes, once again, the Lord has provided for me, graciously, abundantly and perfectly. He has provided. He is good, so very good to me. Selah!

April 28, 2015

Clearing Away the Clutter

It is a good Tuesday here in sunny and soon-to-be hot Phoenix. Yes, our weather forecasters have projected that we will hit 100 degrees tomorrow and that we will be "officially" in our summer season before the normal May 2nd date. I am not ready for summer, but it is inevitable, and no matter how hard I wish it away, the fact remains that summer in Phoenix is hot, is long, and is so very, very formidable. Yet, there is hope in that summer only lasts for a season. Yes, come October, the temps will cool and once more we will be happy to be living in the desert.

Therefore, while I may be disappointed that the hot temps are here again, I can take hope in knowing that our weather patterns are just that -- "a pattern," -- and that patterns come and go based on outside forces. The weather cannot be controlled, but it can be endured, and as such, learning to expect the inevitable is a good and necessary step in the process of living in the desert. We know what to do to remain cool, and we take practical steps to make the best or the most of a rather unpleasant way of life. As I think about the weather, I am reminded of how it aligns with my life (I know, weird as that may seem) right now. I am in a change of seasons, a time when some things of the past have to be let loose in order to experience the change that is in process. I am learning the long and the hard of that change, and I am struggling to understand why certain things happen so that I can create a plan of survival, an attack plan, so to speak, in order to see me from point A to point B and beyond. Let me explain...

The past couple days have been difficult for me, and frankly, I have struggled with quite a bit of disappointment. I have tried to put my finger on the source of the disappointment, but only have found that there seems to be wide-spread feeling of "let down" rather than a particular instance pointing to the cause. Interesting, it is only in hindsight that I am able to figure out the cause of anything. I wish I were more forward thinking, to the point when I am able to realize "in the moment" the cause of something. It would be great to be able to change directions, to turn the ship around, so to speak, and to alter outcomes in a moment's notice. But, alas, it seems that hindsight only happens in review.

So as I have struggled to meet the tasks head-on, and I completed all my assignments by the required due date, I have felt this heavy sense of "let down," that somehow all that I have accomplished fell short of some mysterious "acceptance bar."  I should have felt accomplished by the work I completed. I mean, I handled difficult papers, course work AND I kept all my students moving forward. What a great feat! I graded all my student papers, met with those students who needed help, and generally made sure I did everything necessary as it was needed. Yet, I still had this sense of dread, of overwhelm, and of feelings of "not good enough." I allowed these feelings to predominate my thinking, so much so, that I felt depressed daily. Why did I do this? And, where did these feelings come from? Good questions to ask -- I wish I would have asked myself the same questions right during the crisis because I may have averted some of the depression I suffered.

As the Lord knows it is the case with me, often I allow negative thoughts and feelings to swarm over me. I shouldn't do it, and I do know better, but for some reason, I gave into the nagging thoughts and feelings of unworthiness. I believe that these thoughts came on me at my weakest moment, when I was physically drained, and I was mentally fuzzy. I was trying so hard to keep on top of all my tasks that I became weakened to the point where the enemy was able to hit me and take me down. In truth, I was heavily oppressed, and as a result, I felt hopeless and depressed for much of the semester. I shouldn't have been this way, but I gave in to the enemy, listened to the lies, and fell victim to the taunts of the devil who desired to bring me to my knees.

George Anders said, "There is an art to clearing away the clutter and focusing on what matters most. It is simple and transferrable. It just requires the courage to take a different approach." WOW! How on point, how true, and how positively rational. Often, when we feel lost, confused, and downright depressed either because things are not going as we had hoped and planned or because we feel things are outside of our control, we hunker down in order to "survive" the onslaught (whatever will be). Instead of standing up, looking the monster or whatever disappointment we face head on, we sit down in the dirt and moan, groan, and feel victimized. Rather than looking at the situation and seeking a way out, we accept the fate handed to us, believing we are powerless to create any change.

A case in point - clutter.

I said to my Mom today that I would be cleaning out my closet this week. She was trying to put something away, and said she didn't know where it went (as in which side of the closet to hang it on). I told her not to worry because I was going to get myself organized this week. My friends on FB (from home school days) have been discussing downsizing their wardrobes. The are all into this woman's blog where she provides a beauty type and wardrobe counsel to match. The idea behind her blog is that women are not dressing according to their natural type. Instead they are trying to be something or someone they are not and as a result they are not happy in themselves or their appearance. It is an interesting approach to self-identity and self-esteem, and from a purely psychological perspective, I do see where it applies. I am not 100% sold on her system, since she only has four types, and I don't think I am any of them, but still it is a way to help women and men find a new "look" that represents more accurately the way they feel about themselves on the inside. I digress...

So clutter -- I often find that when I feel overwhelmed, I need to de-clutter my life. I need to let go of things that I am holding onto, mostly junk, and I find that by purging my life of these extraneous things, I feel better, I feel more in control, and I feel less overwhelmed by the volume of things surrounding me. My closet is a good example of an area in need of purging. My desk is also a good example. In fact, this morning, I cleared and sorted my desk before I sat down to start my work. It felt good to dust and to get my semester's books moved from A to B to C (my sorting system -- new semester is A, previous is B, and past is C). I move my books, my papers, and all things related to each semester so that I only have the newest set at my fingertips. This way, I am focused on "today" and not two semesters prior. It helps me to keep my mind clear from clutter, to focus and to center my thoughts on the 'here and now,' rather than what has passed by.

As I think about clutter and why it is a good idea to "de-clutter" my mind from careless thoughts and from feelings that are not true nor based in Scripture, I am reminded of Anders quote. Sometimes all that is needed is a different approach. When we find ourselves in a rut, always following the same pattern, the same habits, or the same thought processes, we need to remind ourselves that repeating the past rarely brings a new future. Instead, it often simply ingrains habits, patterns and thoughts into our mind and our body to such an extent that we live a diminished and depleted life. We simply press "repeat" rather than pressing "play."

I know I am guilty of this action. I often will sink back into patterns that are not helpful to my well-being. When I get overly stressed, I over eat. When I feel depressed, I think dark thoughts, and I find myself spiraling downward into places where I shouldn't be. When I feel all hope is lost, I begin to think that there is no way out, no way to overcome or see any change. All of this patterning, all of this thinking is not of God, but it is of Satan and his demons who desire to bring carnage and despair to the household of God. We must not allow these evil creatures to gain any open door (or a foothold). Once they find their way in, we will feel the pressure they exert, and the feelings of loneliness, isolation, and despair will begin to take over. Instead, we must remember who is our victor and our champion, and while we cannot overcome on our own, we can rest in the knowledge that our Lord is with us. He has promised to never leave us nor to forsake us. We can be strong, we can overcome, and we can put down and silence the voices that seek to destroy us.

I began this post with the weather, and now I am going to end it with this thought: what we do today is not always a direct result of what we did yesterday. There seems to be this sense that our lives follow very routine patterns, and that we are like mice on a wheel, we simply keep going round and round without much thought to the outcome. In truth, God has given us a wide-range of opportunity, different approaches (as Anders says), and we only need to apply them to our life in order to see change. One approach that works well, and will provide immediate relief is to apply scripture to whatever circumstance we face. For example, by reminding ourselves that Jesus is our victor and champion, and that He has already overcome the enemy, we can take hope to know that no matter how challenging and difficult our circumstance today, the Lord has already achieved His end result. The same is true when we feel that our life has no hope. There is always hope, even in the darkest moments, because the Lord is our Hope. He is our refuge and our strength. We may not feel hopeful because the choices we have made (often to repeat instead of playing or fast-forwarding) have ingrained behaviors to the point where we seem to be stuck, always going round, and never going forward. However, the blessing is that God has not given us a figurative tape recorder with only a "repeat" button. No, we have all the buttons -- stop, play, reverse and forward. Plus, He has given us the power to press the button -- we can decide to stop, to go forward or to reverse. God has empowered us through the presence of His Holy Spirit and we have control over our outcome. We may not like where we are going today, but we can change our direction simply by stopping the negative behaviors, engaging in positive ones, and choosing life over death.

Deuteronomy 30:19 - "Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live!"

The choice is ours, and with the Lord's help and guidance, we can choose to live our lives free from these negative thought patterns. We can de-clutter our lives, and we can let go of things that hurt us or enslave us. I know that I am enslaved to thoughts of unworthiness, of not measuring up to some mythical standard of behavior and performance. Yet, I also know that my worth is not wrapped up in these artificial bars, that my worth is securely and completely found in my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. My problem is that when I am weakest, when I am at my lowest, this is when I am most vulnerable to attack by the enemy.

To stand firm, I must remember that when I am tired, when I am feeling poorly (physically), I must be on guard to keep my thoughts centered solely upon the Lord, His word, and His way. In doing so, I say "no" to all thoughts that are not from the Lord. I say "no" to the feelings that come when I give those thoughts any air time, any play time. Some years ago, I did a Precept Bible Study with Kay Arthur. I remember watching her on tape and she said something to this affect: "You must check every thought at the door of your mind. If it doesn't align with Scripture, you refuse it entry. You say 'no' and you close the door." I remember her message and I thought to myself, "how can I do that?" It didn't make a lot of sense to me back then (I was young), but it sure does now. 

How often do we allow these casual thoughts to enter into our mind? We let them in the door because we are not standing guard. The Bible tells that we must be alert, on guard, at all times because our enemy the devil is seeking to destroy us. Keep in mind that the devil and those demons who follow after him are crafty. They put half-truths into our minds, and they can exert influence over our thought processes -- if we allow them do to so. In order to keep ourselves free from these thoughts, we must wash our minds with the Word of God. There is no stronger way to defeat the enemy than with the Word, but we must use it. The Bible says that the Word of God is a weapon, able to split the joint and the marrow. It is ours and we are given the full armor of God. We have the tools, the weapons of warfare at our disposal, but we must use them. The enemy will hit us where it hurts, usually in our soft spots. We need to wake up, shake up, and stand up in order to stand firm, and to not be led away from the purposes and plans of God. Selah!

April 27, 2015

Humility and the Hard Road

It is the day after "D-Day." Yes, in teacher lingo, it is the day after the semester has ended, and all student work is required to be submitted through the online learning system. It never fails to amaze me, but every single semester, I have students that will not submit their final paper. They will not do it, and as a result, they will fail my course. They will show up to class every session, participate, and turn in all the other assignments -- but -- for some reason, they will fail to do the final paper. Moreover, I have students who will have completed their paper, but will not turn it into me. They will email me and tell me why they were late, why they didn't make the 11:59 p.m. time deadline. They will have an "excuse" for why it is late, why they need "grace," but they know that this is impossible because I have told them since the mid-point of the semester, that there is NO GRACE at the end of the year. It is policy, and it is something I cannot override. Yet, it happens, it always happens this way. Sigh.

I know my students are stressed. I know that they have many assignments due at the same time. I know the feeling of being pressed, pushed, and panicked right at the end of the semester. I have just come through the same process, and I know the feeling. I know exactly how it feels to be steamrollered and how the workload bears down on you, heavy and hard, right at the every end of the class.

I just received my paper back from one of my professors at Regent. I hate the moments leading up to the grade, and I hate the tension of waiting for the grade to be posted. It is a challenge for me to rest, to let go, and to accept the grade. I know why I do it, I know why I stress over it. I know that the 'grade' is my valuation, it is my worth, as far as my doctoral studies go. It says to me "you are ok, you are approved, you are good." I hate the fact that I rely so much on grades, and that I am wound so tightly when it comes to grades each semester. I panic over my work, the quality of my work, and I stress over my performance. I know it stems from my childhood, and from the years where I was told "you are not smart, you are not good enough, and you will not succeed." I had very little self-esteem growing up. I was always being told that I wasn't something or another. I wasn't as smart as my brother, funny, dramatic, well-liked, etc. I wasn't quiet. I didn't focus. I simply wasn't a good student, and as a result, I was treated as though I didn't matter. I can remember those feelings as if they were yesterday, and it seems whenever grades are due to  be posted, I begin to revert back to that little child waiting for a nod of approval, but in the end, who only gets a red mark and an "F."

Yes, this is the way it is and even though I try really hard to do my best, I still feel less than worthy. I still feel as though I am missing the mark. I know my identity is formed in Christ Jesus, and I know that I am valued because of the valuation God places on my life. I know all of this, but I still feel ashamed, panicked, and like a scared little child whenever I have to turn in my work to be graded.

So my paper came back with a modest score. I had hope to receive a better grade, but it is what it is, and there is no going back on it. My professor is grueling and a very hard task master. I know I should be pleased with my score because it means that I did very well in her class. She is known for being ruthless in her grading, and for maintaining very high expectations. I did my best, and in the end, the grade I received was a good grade. Will it keep my GPA up, I don't know at this point. My prayer is that the final grade for the course will be based on everything and not just the points accumulated for the assignments.

I am humbled because I worked really, really hard on that paper. I spent about 30 hours writing it, and frankly, for the work I did, I think it was a solid paper. However, from the beginning I knew that I wouldn't like the assignment. I don't want to write for publication, and yet this assignment had that requirement attached to it. I had to write for a journal, and I did my best, but in truth, I had no desire to do it. I think I wrote a good solid paper, but it certainly wasn't journal worthy. My professor thinks with edits it could be better. I have to edit my paper and resubmit it by Friday. I will do as she asks because it is part of the assignment (resubmitting). Still, the sting of grade hurt because I really did pour myself out and give my best. My best, however, wasn't good enough, and because of that truth, the little girl in me wants to weep.

The Word in Matthew 23:12 says "But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted." I am humbled today by my desire to be approved by human standards and expectations. There is only One who exalts and it is the Lord. I am reminded of Paul's words to the Philippians,

Philippians 2:3-4 - “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

and again in 1 Peter 5,

1 Peter 5:5-6 - “Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you.”

Lastly, one of the verses I hold very dear to me is Micah 6,

Micah 6:8 “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.”

Today is a day of humility. I desire to walk humbly with God, but my human flesh desires to be validated and approved by fleshly attainments rather than to be approved by the One who approves us for eternity. My heart and my mind have been so tormented these last days as I waited for my paper to be returned. I have been angry with God, with my family, with myself -- all because I have made my "god" my need for achievement and approval. I have chosen to place my self on the altar rather than to worship the Creator God. Yes, I have behaved badly, and I have made everything be about this one thing -- this one goal. It is my fault, and because of my arrogance and self-confidence, I have felt the hard sting of humility.

Therefore, what does this mean for me today? Well, mostly it is just a reminder that everything I have and everything I achieve is of the Lord. I succeed or I fail based on His assessment of my needs. If He desires for me to get all "As" then He will see to it. If He chooses for me to get mixed grades, then so be it. I am supposed to be seeking and serving the Lord and not my own selfish desires. Today, I learned what that means, what it means to be brought low for His Name Sake. I say here on this blog and in person that I am only seeking the Lord's will for my life, but this is a lie. I am seeking achievement, fulfillment, and prestige in order to make myself feel worthy, valued, and wanted. I am seeking things that are human and not of God, and the Lord knows that whenever we do this, we will suffer the consequence of our pride. I am brought low to remind me that there is only one goal, one measure of attainment, and it is this...

Romans 8:29 - "For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters."

Ephesians 4:13 - "This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God's Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ."

There is only one measuring rod, and it is the Lord Jesus Christ. In this world, God is raising up for Himself a people that are full and complete in Christ Jesus. He is not concerned with worldly attainment or with worldly achievement. He is only concerned with His plan and purpose and that is to see that each of His children comes to faith and knowledge of Jesus Christ.

I know that God does use worldly achievement and that He does take advantage of the worldly systems at times -- to His purpose and good effect. However, He does this only when it suits His needs. Otherwise, the worldly systems that say "I have overcome and achieved through my own efforts" are of no concern to Him. I realize that my hard work and effort often is a mixture of my own desire to achieve and the Lord's desire for me to learn what He needs me to learn. I want to learn, to be the best I can be, but often it is IN ADDITION to whatever I do for the Lord. I mean, I want to please the Lord, but I also want to please myself, and here in lies the "rub." The Word says in Matthew 6:24,

"No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money."

Replace "money" with whatever thing you desire and you have truth. In my case, I cannot serve God and myself, my achievement, my desire for prestige. I have to choose which to serve -- God -- or something else. Now, I have said that I will not place anything on the altar of my heart, but I have done this very thing. I have placed my pride on ash-era poles, altars and in the high places. I have done this thing that the Old Testament clearly says is forbidden. I have placed my desire high, and I have sought to worship it. Now, you may ask "how is this so?" It is simply this way...

While I have not bowed before the god of pride, I have allowed myself to become so undone over a grade, so panicked, so angry, so upset (as in stressed) over a grade that I have elevated it to something above myself. I have said "I am worthy because I got an A" on a paper. In doing so, I have made grades be more valuable to me than the Word of the Lord that says,

Romans 5:8 - "But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

We have no worth in and of ourselves, but our worth is bound up in God's grace. Therefore, Paul commends us to walk worthy...

Colossians 1:10 - "So as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God."

It is a difficult task to understand that our worth comes from the Lord alone. It is so hard to shake off the world's approval. Even the very best Christians struggle with issues of pride. Even the very best people, Godly people, still find value in things other than God. I know because I am one of those people. I am well aware of my desire for achievement, and as a result, I am driven by it. I guess if I have learned anything today, it is simply that I have to be far more careful to not let my flesh gain a foothold when it comes to pride and foolish thinking. I have been brought low by foolish thinking, and I have given into my need to be told "you are good." I realized today that I am not good, never good enough, and never ever will be good enough to merit anything that God desires. No, the world is fickle, and they may love me today and hate me tomorrow. Nothing they world has will ever please me, satisfy me, or soothe my need for valuation and worth. No, the only thing I require is to hear my Lord say to me when I stand before Him,

Matthew 25:21 - "The master was full of praise. 'Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let's celebrate together!'"

Yes, Lord. May the work I do in your Name produce good results that you alone find worthy of celebration. May they not be the works of my hands, but may they be the result of your work in and through me. I ask this now in Jesus' Name for I humbled and brought low and I know that I am not able to do anything of value outside of what you allow me to do.

April 26, 2015

Moving Forward...Again!

It's been a really good day of rest. Friday was my "official" last day at GCU for Spring 2015. It has been a good semester, a really long and hard and challenging semester, but nonetheless, a good one. God has been so good to me. He has sustained me through some really tough times, but mostly this past semester, He has helped me stay focused when the details of life seemed to be too much for me to handle.

I am still struggling some with understanding His plans and with knowing His timing, but I do believe that His plans for my life are good. I believe that His timing is perfect. I rest in His provision and His security, yet I still wonder how all of this, this life right now, will work out. It is difficult for me to let go, to let live, and to be in the moment, but I know that this is what He is asking me to do. He wants me to be free to move, to get moving, and that means letting go of the things I hold most dear. It is a struggle, a trial, and a challenge, but in the end, I know that what He wants for my life is so significant, that to hold on to anything in the "here and now" simply says that I would rather have what I have today rather than to wait for the experience of blessing in my promised future. Sigh!

I started to think about this the other night -- about my life -- and about how I tend to hold on to things that clearly God is telling me to release. God knows me so well, and He knows my needs inside and out. He has me well-covered, and He knows exactly what I can and cannot do. Still, I resist when He tries to help me. I wrestle against Him when He asks me to move or when He wants to show me the way to go. Why do I do this? Why don't I just let go?

Three reasons I can think of include:
  1. Lack of faith in the Lord's abilities to do whatever it is that He is asking me to do
  2. Misunderstanding of the Lord's timing so that I think "now" is imminent when "now" could be in time (3, 6, 9 or more months)
  3. An unwillingness to rest, to rely on the Lord or to abide in Him so that He is the one leading, and not me
There are more reasons, of course, but these seem to be the ones that make the most sense to me today.

I think my biggest issue is that I do not trust the Lord to "handle what concerns me this day." Yes, I think He is able, for sure, but I don't believe that He will keep His word to me. In short, I doubt the veracity of His word. I don't believe what He is saying to me is true, and I think that my life as it is will not get any better without my intervention (example, getting a full-time job or taking the reins and running the show my way). The funny thing is that I know better, I really do. I have lived under my own hand, taking control and directing my own life, and frankly, I didn't do such a "hot" job of it. No, I want the Lord to guide my steps, to control my days, and to lead me to His promised destination. I want what the Lord is offering to me, and I am willing to follow Him to get there. It is just the events of this life, the course of my days, and the struggles and trials seem to keep me from remembering that fact. Sigh!

The second biggest issue I face is that I don't understand the Lord's timing, in general. I don't get what He means when He says to me to "go." Does He mean right now, like in 5 minutes? Or is He telling me to be prepared to go? What do you want me to do, Lord? Timing is a big deal because I don't want to run ahead of Him, but then I don't want to miss an opportunity either. Help me, Lord? Help me to know your timing on all things...

How do I navigate between the various "times," and come to understand what the Lord wants me to do and when?

I am struggling with this concept right now. I want to move where the Lord seems to be leading me to go, and I feel the Lord is calling me to move. I feel the Lord calling me toward a different location (moving out of state), and I feel the Lord calling me toward a new life, a new way of living. I feel that this is His will, however, I currently share a home with my parents, and I work part-time (adjunct) at two Universities. So while my life is good, it is settled somewhat, it is not perfect by any margin or do I feel that this is the life the Lord intends for me to live for the long haul. 

It is weird to be in this in between place AGAIN. I think some days it is easier to remain where I am, to think about just staying put. It certainly will be less work, I mean, I hate moving, I hate change, and I hate starting over. Just today, I spent about two hours watching HGTV programs about flipping houses. I used to watch these programs all the time especially when I had my own home. I would watch as the couples (mostly) would take a run-down home and fix it up. In the old days, way back in the 90s, most of these flips were really fixer uppers. The people who were doing the flips didn't put a ton of money into the homes to turn them around. They mostly cleaned them up, reused items, etc. Now they seem to be all about making them new, everything is renovated and redone to make an old home look brand new inside. This means that the fixing up runs in the tens of thousands of dollars. I do like most of the look when they are finished, but frankly, if I wanted a new house, I would buy a new house. I am not into "reno's" which is really what these programs show.

Still as I thought about fixing up a home, my heart started to think about moving because while I am content to be here now, I know that this is not my home. I would like to have my own  home again, with my own things, and designed to meet my style rather than someone else's. I really miss having a back yard to garden, and I miss painting, and fixing things up. I don't have time right now, mind you, so it is just nice to think about doing it -- making something over. Some day, though, I pray the Lord will grant me permission to have my own house and make it over to the way I would like it to be.

Until that time, I will stay put and do the work I have to do here in Phoenix. I have good work, and I am content to do it. I hope the Lord will make His plans clear to me, but until He does, I will rest in His timing -- whatever that timing may be -- in the near future or in the next 9-12 months. Either way, as long as the Lord leads me, I am good to go. God is good, so very good all the time! Praise be to God, for He is good, so very good to me!

April 24, 2015

The Semester is Over!

It is a glorious Friday is not-so-sunny Phoenix. I woke up to the sound of rain hitting my window. As I peered out the window, all I saw were clouds and a constant stream of rain drops. It was a nice change of pace from our normally sunny and warm late spring days, and the sound of the rain as it hit the surface of the glass was soothing to me. In some ways, the rain signaled a change of pace, a different approach, and a new way of thinking for me. Let me explain...

I have just finished one of the hardest semesters so far in my college teaching career and in my doctoral studies program. It was the combination, I think, of applied research and theory along with three English literature and composition courses. The combination was the killer simply because of the amount of time required to achieve in each discipline. Even though, I purposely chose classes that I had taught before, I still knew that the time required to complete class prep, teaching lessons, and grading would get the best of me. In truth, this is exactly what happened. I got behind on my grading, and I ended up having to push quite a bit of student work off a couple extra days. I don't like to do that, of course, but I couldn't give up sleep (not at 50 plus years of age). In the end, it all worked out well, but still I was disappointed that I chose that route this semester. Oh well.

My courses are Regent were excellent, and I found that I enjoyed the content and the assignments. I didn't like the stress that arrives at the end of each advanced writing assignment, but overall, I felt that I learn many new things, all of which, will help me prepare for my upcoming exams. I feel good going into the summer 2015, and I look forward to my summer course schedule.

I found this quote by Nelson Mandela today. The words ring so true, and they remind me that every time I am in the midst of a major project, I always feel overwhelmed and believe (yes, I do) that the task at hand is impossible. However, once the project is completed, there is this amazing sense of relief. On reflection, it becomes clear that the task wasn't so insurmountable because in the end, the job was completed on time and with good effort and results.

This is exactly how I feel this morning -- relieved, relaxed, and rested. I have that sweet sense of satisfaction that says to me "I'm done! I did it all!" I love the feeling of completion, of finishing strong, and of making great strides toward the completion of my PhD program.

This past week was a bear for me. I completed two major papers, one in Applied Communication, and one that focused on Mega church Mediated Communication. The first was a theory paper for my COM theory class. The second was a combined effort of original research conducted through a content analysis of mega church websites. It was a great effort by two of my colleagues, and we are so hopeful that it will be well-received. The theory paper is to be submitted to a conference or journal, and I am hopeful that it is good enough (aka, the instructor likes it) to be submitted.

On top of my scholarly work, I also had three classes to teach and bring to a close. I learned a lot in my courses at GCU this semester, mostly once again, what not to do. I have some new ideas for content, and for how to teach product writing (yes, I figured out my composition pedagogy, whoohoo!) I hope to spend part of my summer getting myself ready for my courses in the fall. God is good, so very good to provide me with the summer off. In all, I am relieved and ready for my summer break!

I slept like a rock last night. I had stayed up quite late to have a conversation with my friend, and well, that always seems to mean that we talk until the wee hours of the morning. I haven't done that since high school! LOL! In some ways, it is fun to behave like a teenager again. It has been such a long time since I enjoyed such a wonderful and warm friendship. I digress...

I had one of those weird dreams, you know, the ones where I dream about my old house in San Jose. I think I tend to go back to my childhood home whenever I need something or want something that is "safe." I was in that home for about 6 years. Not really a long time, in comparison to my previous homes, but still it was the place where I retreat because of the memories and attachments I formed while living there. In truth, I think it was the first home where I felt safe, as in SAFE from harm, so I have a special fondness for the house. Moreover, I loved that home, and I can remember when we first found it (my Mom and I). We had been tasked with finding a home while my Dad completed his work in IL. My Dad was being transferred with his company, but he was in the middle of a project and wasn't able to go house shopping. He sent me and my Mom out to CA to look for houses. Our job was to find a couple good options, and then Dad would fly out and make the decision. In the end, we only found one suitable house (the one we bought), but the process of looking for houses took us two weeks of absolute despair and disappointment.

Of course, this is a more recent picture. My folks sold this house back in 2000. Still it looks similar to when we lived in it. It was a great home, perfect for me and my folks.

Back to my dream...so I was in my house (the one pictured above), and I was in my old room. It looked similar to my old room, but it wasn't exactly like it. Plus my son was there (grown), and my parents (as now). Plus there was a young black man, like a high school or college age young man, and he was there too. I remember waking up in my room, and pulling the blind up. The sun was shining, and I thought it was pretty outside. Then this young man walked into my room and started to have a conversation with me. He helped me make my bed (weird, I know), and then I saw my son walk past in the hallway toward the hall bath. Next thing I remember is seeing my cat, Snowball, and then my parents in the kitchen/family room area. I can remember thinking that all this was strange, sort of out of order or not normal. I mean, I don't know who the young man was at all, but in my dream, I did seem to know him. I had a conversation with him as though he was a friend or a family member. I do remember that he was an athlete because he was dressed wearing basketball clothing (like those long shorts and a tank). Anyway, for a moment, I thought about the light coming into my room, and the way the room was situated. It was my room, but it was different. The bed was different, the walls and window coverings, and the furniture. It was like I was there, but in the wrong time and place.

I love to analyze dreams. I know that dreams are just random images that appear in our minds, mostly when we are under stress or facing anxiety about some particular situation. I find that thinking about them sometimes, though, does cast a bit of light on what might be causes the worry, the stress or the anxiety. On reflection, often the truth comes through, and with some careful consideration, it is possible to pinpoint the cause, and then determine a path to resolve the tension.

In my dream, several things seem clear to me:

  1. Location - San Jose
  2. Home - structure 
  3. People - family
This tells me that I am concerned about three things, namely where I live, what house I will live in, and whom will live with me. This aligns with my stress of recent months, specifically living with my parents here in Phoenix. I have blogged about moving lately, about seeking full-time work, and about changes to my current situation (single versus married, etc.) I guess these thoughts are on mind even when I am focused on other more important tasks like finishing my papers. I know this is true because even though I push these thoughts away, they are still there, still in the back of my mind, and still a part of my desire to know or my need to know what will be down the road.

Today, I am beat, really exhausted. I have had a long hard semester, and I am tired. In fact, I am sitting here blogging when I feel the need to lay down. I haven't even gotten myself dressed yet, and I already want to lay down and take a nap. I am thinking that right now, perhaps that is what I will do. I am thinking that I will get dressed (in sweats and a tee), brush my teeth, and then lay down for a rest. I feel like I need it, my brain needs it, and I want it. I don't have anything that I have to do today, so I think this is exactly what I will do.

My window is opened right now. The air is moist from the rain today, and the sky looks overcast and gray. My cat, Ike, is lounging in the open window, and something about the window being opened is making me want to fall asleep. Perhaps this is what I am meant to do today...

April 21, 2015

It is Tuesday and I am Spent

I wanted to post a positive picture, but this one just spoke to me this morning. Yes, it sums up how I am feeling on this last Tuesday of the semester. I am exhausted, absolutely spent, and I am trying my best to keep everything together. My head is fuzzy, and I feel just awful. It is a combination of being worn out and being overworked. I know I will be okay, and thank the Lord, there are only four more days to go before I can rest, really rest. God is good, so very good, and I know He has me so well covered.  Selah!

Last night, I was able to finish my theory paper. I don't have a lot of confidence in my work, it seems a good effort, but not 100% great. However, I have felt that way before about big papers, and in the end, I do well on them. I believe and trust in the Lord, and if He feels it is a good solid paper, then I accept His testimony on it. I really do not enjoy writing long papers (25 pages). I have learned to crank out the short 3-7 pagers in about 3-4 hours, and I like doing that a lot. These long research papers are the worst, and I feel like I need another 20 pages to really do the subject justice. Of course, I don't have the luxury of time or do I have the interest. Sigh! I am glad to be close to done on it (just remaining edits), and I will be relieved when I send it off for grading tomorrow.

In the mean time, I am trying to pull myself together to make my commitment to GCU today. I have two classes back to back, but they are presentations only. I hope I don't fall asleep in them! Oh my! I am worried now about taking on the extra credits for fall. Perhaps I should drop that class, and stick with my two original classes? Sigh!

As I sit here today, I cannot help but think that my life is about to crash. Yes, it is how I feel. I have this sense of "something big is going to happen" and I just want to run and hide under the covers. I really do want to stay in bed today. I don't want to deal with anything more. Please Lord, no more!

I know He is my King, and as such, He manages my life well. I can rest in His security and in His trust. I don't need to worry about anything, and I know He has me provided for -- every need checked, every option planned. I just need to let go, and let Him be God.

Okay. I will let God be God today and because I am not able to be myself, I am asking Him to take care of everything that concerns me this good day. Selah!

April 20, 2015

Wishing it was Funday!

Happy Monday, everyone! Yeah, my feelings exactly! I woke up this morning thinking that a MAC truck had run over me. I am too old to be pulling the "all nighter" in class. Unfortunately, I was up until 2 AM, and while not "technically" an all-nighter, it was late enough to cause me to wake up with that "hung over" feeling. 

I have a couple colleagues who regularly write their papers late or should I say early, into the wee hours. I just cannot do that anymore. Well, in truth, I don't think I ever did it very well when I was younger. My brain shuts off sometime after midnight, and there is just no way to get it to engage again.

Still, sometimes you have to do what you have to do, and for me, that was working into the early morning hours in order to complete as much of my theory paper as possible. It is not that I waited until the last minute to complete it either. It is just that as I push on into the remaining courses of my program, the quality of writing ramps up a notch as does the expected quantity of writing. The combination times '2' is what is killing me this semester (I have two classes).

I woke up thinking of this song...oh to be young again...irresponsible and free!

It's just another manic Monday
I wish it were Sunday
'Cause that's my fun day
My I don't have to run day
It's just another manic Monday

Yeah, I know how it feels for sure. Except that instead of wishing it were Sunday, I am thinking that there needs to be a new day in between Sunday and Monday. Let's just call it FUNDAY! 

It's just another manic Monday
I wish it were Funday
'Cause that's my fun day
My I don't have to run day
It's just another manic Monday

I am sure the Bangles won't care that I changed their lyrics. I just need some F-U-N right now, and I could so use a "do over" day! Sigh!

T-Minus Five Days

The good news, if there is any good news, is that I am on the countdown to the end of the semester. This brings great joy and glad tidings to my little soul, but it also reminds me of the long summer (a blessing and a curse for teachers) where there is very little water (if you get my drift?) Still, I am blessed to be able to teach college, and to have my summers free for rest (oh, the blessed rest) and to recover (from all the hard work!)

I was telling my Mom today how I am looking forward to Friday. I so need to be done with this semester. My parents will say "Carol has no life. All she does is write on the computer." Yep, so goes the life of a doctoral student. I wish I had a life, a real life, you know, with fun days and Sundays and other days with lots of relaxing things to do. My life revolves around school. I get up in the morning thinking about school (my classes I teach), and I come home at the end of the day thinking about my school (the classes I am taking for my program). In between I write papers, I grade papers, and I think about papers! UGH!

My good friend mentioned to me that he didn't think he would want to do a PhD in Communication because of all the work required (reading, writing, etc.) I laughed and said I agree! In truth, I was thinking that I didn't want to do a PhD in Communication either. I didn't want to do this program, but I felt so strongly that the Lord wanted me to study at Regent. Regent didn't have a PhD in English and while I vacillated between Regent University and Old Dominion University (in Norfolk, VA), in the end, I felt certain that Regent was the place for me. Of course, I am pleased as punch to be at Regent. I love my program, my colleagues, my courses, and my professors. It was the best decision for me, and I absolutely see why the Lord chose for me to attend this school over all the others I had considered.

Still, PhD coursework is not easy. I know a lot of people joke about PhD's and the people who have them. They like to say that people who study for PhDs are unable to do 'real work.' Often, PhDs (as in the people who have them) are unemployed. Advanced study is considered a waste of time by most working people, and unless you are studying to be a medical doctor or dentist, they feel that a degree in philosophy is worthless and a huge waste of time. The truth of the matter is that the PhD, as opposed to an applied degree such as a medical or law degree, prepares the learner for teaching and scholarship rather than for practice. Don't get me wrong, applied doctorates are just as challenging and difficult as academic degrees. It is just that the application of the degree curriculum is different. In applied degrees, the student is learning how to perform a particular skill, vitally necessary for success in their field. The work is grueling and requires a lot of effort to memorize material and to demonstrate proficiency in the field. PhDs also memorize, but generally we are called to write about our experience rather than physically demonstrate practical skill. We produce scholarship instead of applied experience. We do learn how to teach and we do learn how to write for publication, but generally speaking, the bulk of the work is mental rather than physical. We spend hours and hours studying works in our field, and then through synthesis, we produce some type of evidence of scholarly achievement, normally through the publication or presentation of a paper.

I will be glad when this year is over, that is for certain. I have loved my courses, all of them, but I am feeling the grind as I turn into this summer and then look forward to the last semester at Regent. I have major obstacles still ahead, including my qualification exams and dissertation, but I am feeling better, stronger, and more capable as I get closer to the finish line. I am excited for my summer and fall courses, even though I don't know how I will finish them AND teach at GCU and ACU. Still, I feel the Lord has equipped me for this work, and He knows what I can and cannot do.

I wish I had about three weeks off between my spring and summer courses. I will have a whole week, which is a blessing, nonetheless, but it is not enough for me to rest and recover from the stress of these two courses.  I know the Lord has me well-covered, and I am praying to finish strong, really strong this semester. I have worked the hardest in these two classes. Personally, I didn't think I could work any harder than when I completed my Quantitative research methods course last Spring. Well, that was  until I completed Advanced Communication Theory and Applied Research Methods. The combination of these two classes was good, and the workload was manageable. It was just the level of work seemed much higher than in previous courses. I am surviving, of course, but I still cannot recall a more difficult semester. Oh Lord, what will I do when I get to fall?

My course load for summer and fall includes the following classes (my last, Praise God!):

  • Leadership in Communication
  • Writing for Publication
  • Dissertation Research
  • Philosophy of Communication
  • Theology of Communication
  • Doctoral Pedagogy
My spring includes one course only, and that is (ta dum!) Qualification Exams or Quals as we like to call them. I will sit my exams sometime in March 2016, and Lord willing, I will pass these exams, and then defend my proposal so that I can begin my dissertation. If all goes well, and I am praying that it does, I will successfully defend my proposal and begin research and writing of my final project, a major paper or book that sums up my learning at Regent University. My plan as of now is to graduate in May 2017 (to walk, so to speak).

Once I graduate, I am taking a super long break from school. My hope is to find a full-time teaching position at that point, and to be hired as an Assistant Professor. It will be the fulfillment of a life-long dream to finally achieve a ranked position at a University. The road has been difficult leading up to this point in time, and I am not close to finishing (closer than I was last year, but still along way off). I can see the end result, however, and I can imagine tasting the sweet victory of a conferred PhD. God be praised, because without His help, I would not be here today. God is good, so very good to me!

Turning Toward Him

The Lord covers me, and He shelters me from the worries, the fears, and the doubts that run through my head and tell me that I cannot do the work that He has clearly equipped me to do. I know the truth, and I know that these feelings of dread, of overwhelm and such, are simply lies of the devil. Satan doesn't want me to complete this degree. He doesn't want me to succeed and to begin the work the Lord has in mind for me to do. I know the Lord, and I know that He is victorious. He has overcome the power of sin and death, and in His right Hand, He holds the keys to life! I am thankful that I am His, and that I belong to Him. He has given me a fantastic life, albeit a bit stressed right now, and a future filled with such amazing hope. I love the Lord, and I love everything He is doing in me and through me. I cannot imagine a better life than the one that He has given to me. It hasn't always been easy, and it hasn't always been filled with joy, with happiness or with prosperity. But, this life has been precious, bought with His precious blood, and because I am cleansed in the fountain of His blood, I too have victory over the enemy. I can triumph where and when I feel most vulnerable. I can overcome any and all obstacles through my faith in Jesus Christ. There is no mountain high enough (to quote Diana Ross) that is impossible to scale with the Lord's help. Regent, and my courses at Regent, along with all the papers and projects I have to write and complete, are not impossible for Him. He has this all figured out, all planned out, and completely worked out to the finest, tiniest, and most minute detail. I am blessed, doubly-triply, and superbly blessed by His presence, His love, and His great mercy. He is good, so very good. All the time, He is good. Praise be to God, He is good to me!

April 18, 2015

Preparing for the End...of the Semester!

I look so forward to the end of the semester, but when it comes down to the final week, I find that I can barely keep my focus on anything important. My to-do task list is chock full of items that have deadlines, my strength is wavering, and my mind is a discombobulated mess! But somehow, praise be to God, I am able to pull through and finish strong. My prayer is for another miracle breakthrough this weekend so that I can finish all my assignments without the normal overload of stress. However, knowing myself well, I feel that I will do what I always do, and that is to wait until the last minute to finish my papers (sigh!) God is good, so very good, and I am relying on Him to inspire me and encourage me to tackle each task with due diligence. In fact, today in particular, I am in need of the Lord's wisdom and guidance as I am struggling with a major paper, and not feeling very confident that I know what I am doing with it. But as I said previously, God is good, and I know He has me so well covered!!

On my to-do list today, I have a number of "must complete" items. They are ranked in order of importance (well, based on time needed to complete)...

  1. Major Theory Paper - this is a critical paper that needs to be submitted to a conference or journal. I have struggled with the second part of the assignment (must be submitted for publication), and that requirement has caused me great concern. Had the assignment been to write a theory paper that "could be" submitted, I would have not had any issues or concerns. But because the professor mandates that we must include a call for papers with our submission, it simply ramps up the stress over doing a good job.
  2. Theory Paper Responses - this is a discussion board assignment, and while I have until Monday to complete, I would like to get them out of the way so that I can focus on my remaining tasks. I need to write to critical responses to peer papers, which is not a huge task, but because it requires outside research, I have to include additional sources in my replies. Time consuming to say the least...
  3. Major Research Paper - I am writing the findings section of our team research paper. I haven't even started this work, which concerns me, but I feel confident that the Lord will lead me through it. I am not sure how long this section has to be, but from previous quantitative research papers, it seems to be a couple paragraphs only. I hope this is enough...we will see!
  4. Grading and Such - this is the last item on my to-do list. I have class essays and quizzes that need to be graded. I need to complete these by EOD Sunday.
So on tap for today is Theory Paper 1. I had started this paper last weekend, written about 4 pages, but struggled through it because it simply didn't make sense to me. I realized  mid-week that the reason why I was not making progress was because I was tackling a subject that proved I didn't have enough information to do the topic justice. It was a good topic, needed and important, but I am not a subject matter expert, and as such, I couldn't do a good enough paper without major, major work. So instead I am going to write a critical review of a theory, and give it my best go at this late stage in the game. I believe the Lord knows what He is doing, and I trust Him for help, guidance and inspiration. The Lord is good to me, so very good to me.

Lastly, as I think about the remaining week and all that is on my plate, I look to the Lord's hand of provision. I am officially done teaching for the summer, and that means that I have no income to receive between now and September. I have savings of course, but these will dwindle. I am not focusing on the lack, but rather on the provision of good practical work come September. It is a struggle for me, however, to make ends meet, and I wonder how much longer I can keep this pattern up. I know the Lord has me well covered, and I know the plans He has for my life are good. Still, I worry about paying bills and all that I need to do. I know He is Good, and that He will provide, but I find that the outgo exceeds the income and that simply worries me something fierce. I pray to the Lord of Hosts that He provide exactly what I need to cover my expenses for Regent, to provide for my family this summer, and to ensure that I have "enough" to cover any and all unexpected needs as they arise. May the Lord be blessed, may the mighty and merciful Name of the Lord be praised. Amen, so be it, thy will be done! Selah!!

April 16, 2015

Finding Clarity amidst Confusion

Lucidity is defined as "clearness of thought or style; a presumed capacity to perceive the truth directly and instantaneously" (Merriam-Webster). I am lucid today or at the least, I feel lucid. I experienced a breakthrough of sorts the other day (as the Pentacostals like to say) and that led to this moment of clear capacity to perceive (understand) the truth in my life. It is always curious how I can be in the midst of confusion and then BAM a light bulb flashes and in an instant, I am clearheaded, understanding, and in full possession of all my mental faculties -- I am in control and I KNOW what I need to do. I love it when that happens because it reminds me that there is always a light at the end of every dark tunnel. The tunnel may be long, but there will be light, there will be an end, and in that moment, that glorious moment, there is peace, rest, and comfort in knowing "it is over, it is done." Let me explain...

The last six or seven months have been a roller coaster ride of knowing and not knowing. I have tried my best to figure out my next steps, but it seemed like the more I tried to figure it all out, the more confused I would become. In the end, I melted down into a puddle of mush, confused and confounded mush. Now the Word tells us "For God is not a God of confusion but of peace" (1 Cor. 14:33a). Therefore, the confusion I felt was not from God, but from the other guy, my enemy the devil. The Word tells us that the enemy prowls around like a lion waiting to devour any and all in his path (1 Peter 5:8). My confusion, my feelings of being confused, stemmed from the enemy seeking to knock me off balance, to push me out of sorts, and to keep me from knowing the truth about my next steps. Why? Well, why not?

In truth, the enemy seeks to divert our attention away from all things "God-centered." He doesn't want us to pursue any path that leads us closer to God. Nope, not at all. He would rather keep us confused, confounded, and generally miserable, while we "attempt" to seek God or follow after Him because he knows that in doing so we will be ineffectual in whatever we end up doing. In short, if he cannot keep us from our appointed task, he will simply cause us to be less effective in the doing of it. Ta-dum!

Ineffectual means "not producing the desired effect" or when speaking of a person, it refers to someone who is "lacking the ability or qualities to cope with a role or situation" (Merriam-Webster). WOW! So this is the plan of the enemy -- to cause us to become ineffectual for the Kingdom of God through means of trickery (confusion and doubt). 2 Peter 1:5-8 says this,

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Notice the last sentence. If we fail to produce these characteristics (fruit of the Holy Spirit), then we will become ineffective and unproductive in our knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. And, what might be the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ? Well, simply put in our knowledge of His deity, His sacrifice, and His future glory. In essence, the more we strive to become like Him, the more we will understand His will for our lives, and His kingdom plan (His imminent return). Peter also reminds us that if we do not have these characteristics of a Godly life, then we need to confirm our calling and election (i.e., check our salvation). The key point is that the Christian life is a life predicated on an ever increasing knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. This deepening knowledge produces Godly behavior (inward), and enables us to produce good work (outward - fruit).

As I consider my former state of utter confusion, I am reminded of the fact that since God is not the One ordering the confusion, it is therefore a ploy of the enemy. When we think of the word confound, the first thing that comes to mind is strategy. The Lord does confound His enemies, make no mistake. If you read in the Old Testament, this word is used many times when describing the works of God in order to defeat the enemy. In fact, to confound means "to rout or defeat" as in an enemy. It also means to mix up or thwart as in the plans one might have about a particular thing. Therefore, you can see that the enemy (the devil) desires to thwart the plans of God by confounding the saints. He is using strategy to rout us, to defeat us. The Word says it this way in Ephesians 6:12, "For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places." Make no mistake, we are fighting against a real enemy, one that is deceitful, dishonest, and dangerous. We are foolish to think that we are immune to the plots of the enemy, when his only desire is to keep us from achieving the specific plans and purposes of God. We are called to be on guard, to take heed, and to be aware of the tactics the devil uses to cause us to be ineffective and unproductive workers for the cause of Christ.

So what does this mean for me?

Well, at the basic level, it simply means that I know what I need to do now. I figured it out, and it makes sense to me. I am no longer confused about what the Lord intends for me to do. It is a relief, of course, and it is not to say that I am not without any little moments of doubt (can you ever be without any doubt?), because I am. However, the doubts are fleeting. They are just momentary flecks of thought where I hear myself say "are you sure?" But then, I am reminded that often the enemy worms his way into our thoughts through these tiny glimmers of doubt. He puts tiny seeds into our minds that are filled with the kernel of doubt. If we water these seeds, if we give them a place to root, then we find that we are watering an entire patch of doubt. Rather, it is to our advantage to not give any time or attention to the seeds of doubt, and in doing so, they will slowly die out having never taken hold in the fertile soil of our minds. I know it seems rather "new ageist" to say it this way, but it is a good word picture. Our minds are fertile ground where we either plant the Word of God or we allow the weeds of Satan to take root. It is our choice, and thanks be to God who through the power of the Holy Spirit, cultivates our minds to bear good fruit, we have the power to choose which type of seed to plant. Plant good seeds that will bear Godly fruit OR plant worldly seed that will produce weeds only.

It is funny really how things can become so clear. I happened to be on a blog today, not a Christian blog, but a secular one where the writer posted a good article about confusion. The woman was speaking about how sometimes she over analyzes things, decisions really, and how that process of constant jockeying back and forth doesn't produce clarity for her. Instead, it just causes her to be confused and to doubt all the more. I read with interest because she was speaking directly of a decision she had to make, a good decision really (not life or death), and how even after she had made her pro/con list, she simply couldn't come to a decision on which way to go. She kept saying how confused she was when in reality, she knew exactly what she needed to do. The truth, the answer, was right in front of her face, but she was unwilling to accept it. She had worked herself into such a frame, a state of mind, that she became immobile -- unable to move, to choose, to take any action at all.

I have been there, so there, more than once in my life. In fact, I was there last week or this past week (it is Thursday after all), and I know that feeling. I know what it feels like to be twisted up inside, unable to move, all because of the decision that needed to be made, and the confusion surrounding it. I cried, I blogged, and I sought advice from family and friends. I prayed, prayed, and prayed over my situation. I sought the Lord, studied the Word, and trusted in my own judgement about whether I should go here or there. In the end, I found that I had spent months, literally months, worrying about something that I couldn't control, fearing something that may or may not come to pass, and eventually succumbing to the feelings of defeat and depression that are synonymous with the works of the devil. Yep, I was routed good.

The blessed news is that our earthly defeat is temporary only. He has overcome this world, and holds the power of life and death in His hand. Therefore, while we may be defeated in this world, our victory is secured through the finished work of Jesus Christ. Thus, although we will fail, fall, and lose the fight at various times in our life, we will not be defeated permanently. No, we will win, we will overcome, and we will be victorious because of our relationship with Christ Jesus (Selah!).

Now, that I am in full control of my faculties again, I see the plan the Lord has for me, and I realize that I am OK. I am in a good place, with a good future, and with a good hope. I am steadily inching my way on this path, and Lord willing, I will achieve the desire result He has purposed for me. I have made some errors along the way, but I am not lost. I am OK, and that is such a Godly blessing. God is good, all the time, He is so very good to me! Praise be to God for His Mercy endures forever!!

Calm and Peace Reign

As I sit here today, I reflect on all that has happened to me over the past year or so. So much change has taken place in my life. I am in a different place on this path, and the landscape is fresh and new with each passing day. I am not at my destination yet, but I am steadily moving on, moving forward, and I know that soon I will be at the next big change in my life. Until then, I hear the word of my Commander call out to me "steady on!" I am to keep on keeping on -- moving straight on -- until He tells me to rest, to stop, to cease my striving. Granted, He tells me to rest all the time, but this is temporary rest only, short rests where I can recharge my batteries, so to speak. No, the rest I speak of, the rest He has for me is future rest, the future rest that is eternal. I am to keep on moving toward my final destination, and until that time, I am to not stop, to not lose heart, to not grow faint. He keeps me moving forward, and He reminds me of what lays ahead -- future glory, future reward, and future rest. I keep on this path until such a time that He returns for me or I arrive at my earthly passing. Until then...I keep on moving forward.

Some minor decisions made...

So in keeping with the tenor of this post, I have made some minor decisions. These are all "issues" that affect my timeline for the next 6-9-12 months of life. I would say they are short-term goals or tasks and now they are set down and fixed. I am relieved, really, because some of these things also caused me great frustration, and that in turn, led to more stress.

Regent University - I made my trip arrangements the other day, and after a small goof (one that cost me an extra $150), my plans are set. I am flying in like normal (June 6) and staying until the following Saturday (June 13). I had hoped to make a side trip to Jacksonville and to see my friend in AL, but after crunching the numbers, I realized that there was no way logistically I could afford to do that right now. It is not just the money, but the actual logistics of the flights and availability. So while I am sad that I will not be able to visit my friend (especially), I don't see it as a "forever never," but rather a temporary "not possible." It is not about the timing, but rather the destination (VA Beach). It just doesn't work out logistically speaking. I have another opportunity for a visit this summer (in July), and now I am wondering if this is what the Lord has in mind for me. It seems like a better fit, and it is an easier route to plan from Phoenix. I will continue to pray for the Lord's guidance and timing (and provision, of course) to see if I can swing a second trip to the eastern half of the US this summer!

Teaching - I am still open to moving for a teaching position, and I have a couple applications in play. None of the big ones have come to pass yet, so this leads me to believe that the timing is not right on them (or perhaps the position is not best). I took my friends advice last night and considered that perhaps the application process was the goal rather than securing the job. It is possible that the process of applying was God's plan and not so much providing a new position just yet. I have set contracts for fall that are here in AZ. In all practicality, I am set for 2015-16. I will remain as adjunct for another year, and in doing so, I am letting go of the idea of moving this year. This is a decision that has been difficult for me to make, but when I remove myself from the equation and simply look at the choice on face-value, it becomes a no-brainer. It is not about lack of faith or not believing the Lord can do this (you know, faith of a mustard seed and all), but rather it is whether or not, the timing is best for Him to do it. When I consider the needs of my family, I see that next year is a better year (for many reasons). By the end of 2015-2016, 
  1. I will have three years of teaching experience.
  2. I will be considered ABD (all but dissertation) which is the minimum status required for most full-time teaching positions (as Assistant Professor)
  3. I will have time to get my finances in order so I can be ready to move 
  4. I will have more time to plan to move, to scope out where to go, and to get a feel for what will be needed (planning is always a good thing)
  5. I will be ready in all aspects to move
  6. My son will be graduated or either close to graduating (hopefully the former)
  7. My parents needs will be cared for and hopefully a plan for their next steps will be developed 
  8. I will have passed my exams (yea!) and I will no longer be in class, but just working on my dissertation (so I will have more time to relax and enjoy moving!)
These are all the reasons I can think of off the top of my head, but generally, there are probably a dozen more that I am not thinking about right now. 

I have other things to consider as well, most namely, my relationship with my friend. It is hard to think about making plans to move closer to be with him when his life is in flux. I wonder if this is the Lord will and if His timing is to give us both time to get settled or at the least to complete some specific plans that the Lord has for our individual lives. When I think about it this way, it makes so much sense. I mean, I know the Lord is directing my steps, ordering my tasks, and providing for me. He is doing the same thing for my friend, and if it is the Lord's desire for us to eventually be together, well then those plans have to be coordinated and aligned. One cannot go here, and another there -- but rather -- the two have to be brought together and set on the same timeline so that both individuals start working and walking together. Yes, this sounds like a God plan to me. The enemy's idea was to create total havoc for me and for him, and I can see that now. God's way seems smooth. The plans are always good, and are always set up for our best. The Lord does know what is best for us, always best, and it is in our best interest to heed His will, His way, and especially His timing on everything. I am in 100% full agreement and accord right now. He way ALWAYS!

I believe that this is the Lord's will, and in fact, I am convinced of it. There is no rush, no reason ever to do anything in haste. I felt as though I was rushing, as though I was panicked into making a decision that was not in my best interest. I felt that I was doing the right thing, and in truth, I think I am doing the right thing. I am supposed to go to AL, and I believe that in time, the Lord will move me there. I believe that my feelings (and I know we are not to put great trust in our feelings) toward my friend are growing, and not diminishing or dissipating. No, I feel confident that I am meant to be there, it is just a matter of when I am meant to go.

My friend said something to me the other night, and it has stuck with me. He said that we are not young adults, just starting out, but rather we are mature in our faith and secure in our future. God has a plan for each of us. I started to think about that and I realized that he is correct (he is so wise). I mean, God has a definite plan for my life, and I know God has a definite plan for his too. It is up to God to coordinate and align those plans. Anything we attempt to do could thwart God's best for us. It is best for us to be patient and wait for the Lord to move us together, for the Lord to continue to grow our hearts together and to prepare us for marriage and ministry (if that is the Lord's will).

There is no rush because it needs to be done with the best of care, and only through the power of the Holy Spirit. Until that time, each of us needs to attend to the business at hand, our own lives (complicated as they are), and we must remain faithful and committed to seeing the Lord's plan come to pass. We must trust that the Lord knows what He is doing, and that He is working behind the scenes to bring all this to fruition. God is able to do it, of this I am sure, and I don't think it is a matter of whether He will or not. I really believe that it is His will, but that there are factors and issues that must be resolved before it can be done.

These are complicated matters, and when you consider them this way, it makes perfect sense for the Lord to take His time to carefully handle each need. I wouldn't want it any other way. I wouldn't want anyone, my family or his, to be hurt. I wouldn't want there to be any question about "less than best" in moving. I want the best situation, the best scenario, the best job for me and for him, and the best plan to be made. I want only the best for my friend's life, for my parent's lives, and for my son's life. I want the best that God has to offer, and thus, waiting for His best means being patient and letting Him do what He does best.

Dear Lord,

I will wait patiently for you to fulfill your will. I will wait for your way to be fulfilled in my life, and I will choose to be patient while you continue to prepare me for these next steps, the next BIG CHANGE in my life. You are good, and nothing you do is less than your perfect best. I want your best in everything, so I let go of my need now, and I rest in your process and in your provision. You are God, and you will do what needs to be done in my life today. Amen, so be it, thy will be done! Selah!!