April 1, 2015

Enough!

They say the darkest hour is just before dawn. I know the coldest hour is just before dawn too. Today, I feel like I am outside in that cold and dark place, far from where I need to be, and feeling so very alone. I don't know what is happening to me or why I am feeling this intense pressure, but in truth, I don't like it. In fact, I hate it. I hate this feeling, this brutal feeling of being all alone, on my own, and living according to my own abilities. I feel as though the Lord has abandoned me, as though He has said "enough!" I am struggling to make ends meet, my cup seems to be on the brink of running empty, and the problems and issues that lay ahead of me, seem insurmountable. Even though I know that God is with me, that His word has promised that He will never leave me nor forsake me, I feel as though He has stepped aside to let me sink for a while. I am scared. I am all alone, and I am afraid of what tomorrow many bring.

It seems like my whole attitude, my whole outlook has taken a dark turn. I am trying very hard to be upbeat, to keep up a positive approach to what I am doing, to remember to 'give thanks' for everything that I have, and everything the Lord is doing. Still, it doesn't seem to be getting any better. Nothing seems to be changing, and what I see ahead, is a long dry patch of parched land. A land without water...

Psalm 63

O God, You are my God;
Early will I seek You;
My soul thirsts for You;
My flesh longs for You
In a dry and thirsty land
Where there is no water.
So I have looked for You in the sanctuary,
To see Your power and Your glory.

Because Your lovingkindness is better than life,
My lips shall praise You.

Thus I will bless You while I live;
I will lift up my hands in Your name.
My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness,
And my mouth shall praise You with joyful lips.

When I remember You on my bed,
I meditate on You in the night watches.
Because You have been my help,
Therefore in the shadow of Your wings I will rejoice.
My soul follows close behind You;
Your right hand upholds me.

But those who seek my life, to destroy it,
Shall go into the lower parts of the earth.
They shall fall by the sword;
They shall be a portion for jackals.

But the king shall rejoice in God;
Everyone who swears by Him shall glory;
But the mouth of those who speak lies shall be stopped.

Psalm 63 is one of my all-time favorite Psalms. I think it is because of the Second Chapter of Acts song I listened to back in the late 1970s. Whenever I think of Psalm 63, I hear this song in my head.

"Thus have I beheld you...In the sanctuary...To see thy power and thy glory."

"God, you are my God, I will seek thee earnestly!"

O LORD, why do you stand so far away? Why do you hide when I am in trouble? (Psalm 10:1)


I wish I could say that today is a good day. Yes, it is a good day. It is a good day because the Lord has made it, and I will rejoice and be glad in it. I will rejoice, if for no other reason than because He is God, He is good, and He made this good day!


I think the hardest part of living is living. I know, such a profound statement, but today it is all I have to offer. I am tired. I am worn out. I feel hopeless. I sense darker days ahead, and I feel overwhelmed by what the future holds for me. I wish I felt better. I wish I had a more upbeat attitude today, but I cannot help it. I just have this feeling of dread, of doom and gloom, and I cannot put my finger on why I feel this way. I just don't get it...

I don't want to wallow in my problems today because my life as it is, is in far better shape than most people out in this world. I have a job, part-time, but a job. I have my education, extensive and costly, but nonetheless, I have my education. I have a home with a roof over my head, and food in the pantry. I have a car to get back and forth to work. I have abilities, and no real disabilities, so I can work, I can produce good work. I am lacking benefits for health care, and I am lacking a steady income to help me overcome debt, and to create a plan for retirement. But generally speaking, I have enough manna for the day. I don't like being in this spot, dependent and desperate. I don't like being needy. I promised myself that I would never be in this place again, not after spending 30 years living like this, living with the never-ending ache of "not enough." My stress level is back to where it was when I was married. I feel the gnawing sensation in my gut, the pounding in my head, and the constant drip of worry as I think about what "might happen" (health issues, car repair, etc.). I can eat today. I can pay a bill today. But tomorrow, should anything significant happen, well then I would be SOL.

I have a huge need with my trip to Regent University. It is becoming harder and harder for me to shell out the $1500 per year to travel to Regent. I borrow that money, and in the past, I always had enough to cover (sort of pay back myself) because I was working full-time. I could pay off my credit cards so that the next year, I could charge my trip again. It worked out well, charge and then pay off. But since last year, since I started teaching adjunct, I have not had enough income to pay my credit cards off. I now will be charging to the max, and that scares me. What if something happens? What if I have an accident or need some major thing while I am traveling. I will be traveling across the country with no "extra" income and this scares me. I don't like living so close to the line, not like before, not like I did for all those years when I had to push the thoughts away, repress the fear, in order to survive. I don't want to live like this anymore, not even temporarily. I don't want to be dependent like this -- on anyone -- anymore.

The Lord is my provider, and He knows how difficult this is for me. He knows that I struggle so much when it comes to money. I trust Him to provide. He is Jehovah-Jireh. Yet, I stress until I see the provision. I simply cannot handle this stress anymore. I want it to go away, to stop, to never come back again. I hate this feeling. I hate the condemnation I hear in my head telling me that I am a failure, that I am failing God for my lack of trust and belief in His abilities to provide for me.


So what are my options for this day? Well, I can wallow in my fear or I can stand up and attempt to do something to better myself, to improve my position. I spent the morning looking for full-time jobs, and frankly, while there are a lot of jobs out there (in Phoenix), none of them suit me. This has been the case for a long while. There are a lot of jobs in Phoenix, but I am neither qualified nor am I interested in the work. I know -- why does interest matter -- when you need full-time work? Well, by interest I mean that the job isn't something I could do or would do (like working as a tutor, for example). There are some jobs that are not going to help me out of my situation. They are good part-time work for someone who simply needs some extra cash. They don't work for someone who has to manage a home, pay bills, etc. I am trying very hard not to be picky, but I cannot help it. First off, who wants to hire me?
  • I am 52 years old
  • I have a sketchy employment history (jumped around)
  • I am currently an adjunct professor
  • I have a masters degree and almost a PhD
  • I do have extensive skills but that is not what shows most on my resume
  • I do not look good on paper
I am in the exact same position I was nearly five years ago. Well, exactly five years ago.

I was married then, but in the process of separating from my ex-husband. I was living in our home, under intense pressure and strain, and I was looking for full-time work. I had been a website designer for 12 years, working from home, as part of my ex-husband's business. I needed work to build a new life for myself. I was applying for jobs -- any and all jobs -- in the Phoenix area. Nothing materialized. I had two good interviews, neither came to fruition. I waited, I waited, and I waited. The bills piled up, the pressure increased, and then finally, I applied to Macy's for part-time work. I started working retail, and I did that job for a year. In the interim, I started my Masters program. I had thought I could become a teacher. It sounded so good, so good to me.

Well, here I am five years later. I am a teacher. It is a good job. It is just not full-time. It is part-time, and I am in school still. I have another two years before I graduate from Regent. 

In the interim, I worked three jobs, all corporate. After Macy's there was UOPX, CVS, and NurseWise. Then Grand Canyon University and Arizona Christian University. This is where I am now, working part-time at two schools, hoping to make ends meet as I finish my doctoral courses, prep for exams, and write a dissertation.

I know, I know. I worry over so much, all those little things, when I should just relax and know that God is God. Be still, right, and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10).

Sigh.


Last night, my Mom was watching a program on TV. It was about this man and his wife. The wife was pregnant and her unborn child, about 24 weeks, was diagnosed with a serious condition that required neo-natal surgery (in the womb). The unborn baby needed his spine closed so that his development to term would give him the best chance of a good outcome. The father was in ministry, in school getting his MDiv. I was fixing myself something to eat at the time, and I had to run to get on a conference call, but I heard the father say something that stuck in my head. He said that he and his wife sat down and made a list of all the possible outcomes, good and bad. He said that they needed to accept the outcomes, death of the baby and/or his wife, so that they wouldn't be afraid of what might come. He said that once they confronted the fear, the WHAT IFs, they could face them with confidence. He said to run from the fear of what might happen was naive. 

At first, I thought I disagreed with him. I thought it wasn't naive, but that it was a sign of a lack of faith. I mean, if you accept the outcome will be death, aren't you negating any possibility that the Lord will intervene and divinely provide a different outcome? Aren't you sealing your fate by determining death?

This morning, after my pity party, and my feelings of being 100% overwhelmed, I see more clearly what this man was saying. His faith had nothing to do with what he believed the Lord could or would do, but rather, he was addressing the fear issue head on. He was looking fear in the face and saying "I will not be afraid of WHAT MIGHT HAPPEN."

I thought about that today, and I thought "Okay, Carol, let's make a list of what might happen SHOULD ALL THE NEGATIVE THOUGHTS COME TO PASS."

Possible outcomes:
  • I will max my credit cards because of my trip to VA
  • I will see my bank account get very low this summer (no work/no income) just like it did last summer
  • I will wait for my financial aid refund check in September in order to pay off some debt, not all, but some of it (putting my cards back to where they are now)
  • I will work part-time (four classes, minimally getting by) for fall/spring 2015-16
  • I will pay my bills, keep my head above water, but I will not make good progress with my financial status
  • I will keep on looking for full-time work, applying, and trusting the Lord to provide
  • I will have my summer off (rest=good, no work/no income=bad/stress)
That is it. There is no death. There is no eviction notice. There is no heading down to sign up for welfare. There is just me struggling to make ends meet for another year. Now granted, the mix could change if...

Variables:
  • My parents became incapacitated or unable to contribute financially (we would have to move)
  • My car or my son's car died (big unknown)
  • My health took a hit (no benefits - have to rely on medicaid)
  • My son's health (same)
  • Contracts didn't materialize for fall (instead of 4, I got 2-3)
The likelihood of the above happening is probably low, though I do worry about my parents well-being (for a number of reasons). I am not so much worried about the above simply because these are possibilities that could happen at any time or any place or any year.

No, I think what I am worried about most is the fact that my financial aid debt is almost to the max, and that means that I won't get a refund check this year. That is the crux of this problem, really it is. Yet, even in that scenario, I am not worried about Regent. The Lord has me there for a reason, I know it, so He will provide. 

I think about it, and I have to admit that I am panicking over "uncontrollable variables" in my life. I am worried about variables, switches really, that may get switched "on or off" at some point. What is the worst thing that could happen to me?
  • I stay in Phoenix for one or two more years. 
  • I work adjunct and "get by" until I have my PhD and 4-5 years of teaching experience.
  • I continue to look for a position until that time 
  • I teach 5-6 classes each semester to live within my means (pay my bills, etc.)
Practical considerations:
  • I would like to move, and I feel the Lord is calling me to move. However, I don't have the money to move so until He provides significant cash to cover expenses, I think I am staying put.
  • My parents health is declining, but until they are no longer able to stay in this house, I think I am staying put.
  • I have applied for two positions in AL, but that was over two months ago, and neither has materialized. This is not to say that one could still come to pass, but it doesn't look likely. Therefore, I am staying put.
  • I have a lovely friend, someone I could imagine sharing my life with and building a life with, but he is not here, and until the Lord opens that door, I am staying put.
  • My son needs to graduate from ASU. He needs a job. He needs to get his life together and become his own man. He is in limbo land too, so he needs to move forward and take control of his choices, options, and plans. I have to let him go. He lives at home, so for now, it is best to stay put.
Perhaps all this panic and worry has been the result of me jumping ahead of the Lord, me pushing the time line up before He was ready. I believe He has told me to "go." I believe He has told me to go to the SE USA. I believe He has me right where He wants me now. I believe that He has orchestrated my life, brought people in and out of it, for His purpose. I believe that while I don't like the tight squeeze of financial constraint, I know He has me well covered. So in short, perhaps I stepped out in faith before the Lord's timing was right. Perhaps my feelings on the matter were spot on, but my timing was off. It wouldn't be the first time I had jumped the gun, so to speak. If I think about it this way, it does make sense to me. 

After all, the Lord first started to call me to the SE almost 10 years ago. I was married then, and thought my family (as is) would move there. That didn't happen, and here I am now, with even more reason to go there. Push this back further, I felt the Lord calling me to get my PhD when I was 29. I believed it with such intensity. After my son was born, I signed up for a Masters in English at SJSU. It felt so right, but then it was wrong. I knew I couldn't do a masters degree and take care of a newborn baby. The feeling was right, but the timing was wrong. It took 17 years of patiently waiting for that feeling to come to fruition, and here I am, almost done with my doctoral courses. Going even further back, I received a call to full-time ministry when I was 16. I believed it was the call on my life, and I desired it. I didn't follow the Lord, I ended up way off track. Still, here I am now, almost 36 years later feeling the call to full-time ministry. It took a long, long time, but I am almost ready, almost there. Then there was the call to teach, an option really, a plan to follow. This was when I was 19. I thought it was what the Lord wanted me to do. I tried to follow that plan, found the door closed, so I took a different path. Now, 33 years later, I am teaching.

Perhaps, then, what I am feeling is right. My timing is off. It would explain the ups and downs, the unknowns, and the details that seem messy right now. God's timing is perfect, and He doesn't move us without tidying up those loose ends. I have a lot of loose ends in my life. Many have been knotted off or removed. I am not quite free to go...not yet. Perhaps this is what the Lord has been saying to me all along. Be ready, Carol. I am going to move you, so be ready for change, for these loose ends to be closed off so that you can follow me to where I am leading you to go. Perhaps this is it...

Dear Lord,

Today has been a rough day. From the get go, I have felt miserable, and now, while I feel a little better, I am still no closer to having any answers. I do feel that I am meant to go to the SE. I thought the timing was right when I saw those jobs posted. I haven't heard back on them, so perhaps the timing is not right yet. I will have to wait a little longer, be patient, and rest some more. You know what you are doing, and while I would like for things to be different now, I know that you are better able to determine the delays and the forward movement. I ask now that you will take me to AL or wherever you decide, when you are ready to do it. Until then, tidy the loose ends, clean up the mess, and make me ready to take this next step of faith. There is no rush, I realize that now, and while I want to earn more so I don't worry about these "what if's" I know that you will care for me regardless of what may or may not happen to me. I trust you with my life, and I believe you will provide a way out for me today. Thank you, Lord, for your provision and your protection in my life. Selah!

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