May 26, 2015

Happy Tuesday!

It is a blessed day today. I am praising God for His goodness and mercy. I am trusting in Him, and I am placing all my confidence in Him, for He is good. He is so very good.

It is another beautiful day in sunny and warm Phoenix. I think we have hit the last of our unusually mild May days. The forecast for the next week is highs near 100 or above so that means it is official -- SUMMER IS HERE!

I was talking with my good friend the other day, and we were discussing places we like to visit. We both agreed that we enjoyed the beach, but that we preferred to visit the mountains more. I think people are divided into two camps, beach and mountains. I have some colleagues that are beach people. These gals arranged every single vacation at the beach (either a lake or ocean). They post pictures on FB or other social media of beach destinations, and they seem to live to soak up the sun. They love being on the water, in the water, and around the water. Beach wear, beach lingo, and beach attitude predominate their lives, 24/7 and 365 days a year.

I like the beach too, but I am not a "beach person." No, I am a mountain/country person, and I am the exact opposite in my interests. I am not "into" vacation planning, but I think that is because I don't have the time or the funds to plan vacations. It would be different if I were working FT, and not in school. I mean, most of my colleagues who take trips often seem to spend their free dollars on vacations. Unfortunately, for a time (and probably a long time), my free dollars (if I have any) will go to my school loans and other immediate needs. I digress...

I think the reason why I love the mountains is that some of my fondest memories are from childhood vacations spent in the country or in the mountains. Most of my family, cousins and such, lived in the country or on farms. I got to spend summers visiting these places, and my heart just "zinged" to be near the sweet country atmosphere. In fact, my "dream home" is a country house sitting on a couple acres somewhere in the backwoods. I would be happy in an old farm house or in a cabin or even in a funky little place so long as I have some woods, a place for a big garden, and the sweet soft sounds of country life. I am pretty open to the place, to the way it the house looks, because what matters more to me is location. As they say in real estate -- LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION. Yes, I am all about the location, and that is all that matters to me.

When I was a little girl, we spent several summers in Camp Nelson, CA. Camp Nelson is a lovely community up in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. My Dad knew someone who had a nice cabin up in the mountains, and who would loan it to us for family vacations. This cabin sat right on a beautiful creek where we would play and go fishing. I remember walking to the lodge (pictured left), and waking up feeling cold in the mornings as the chilled air seeped into the unheated cabin. I think that was the only thing I didn't like about staying up there, but once the sun came up, everything seemed good. I can remember the smell of bacon frying in the kitchen, and all of us kids, running around outside in the woods. It was an outdoor wonderland and playground.

My brothers got to spend their summers at Calvin Crest Camp (now it is a conference center). I didn't get to go because you had to be in 4th grade to attend camp (at least with our church). My folks and I would drive up there to pick my two brothers each summer. It was always a highlight of my summer because I loved the drive up to the camp. I would stick my head out the window and just smell the air as our car whizzed by on the winding country roads. It is funny because the summer camp was a Robin Hood theme back in the 1960s. I googled for some pictures, and guess what? They still have the same Robin Hood theme! Yes, campers still make costumes for their summer experiences.

I love the Sierra Nevada mountains, and my experiences there as a child formed my appreciation for nature and for living mountain life. As a teenager, I had the opportunity to spend many summers and winters in the mountains too. Summer camps were spent in the Santa Cruz mountains, and winter camps were spent near Lake Tahoe (for skiing). In between, I lived in San Jose, and enjoyed the backdrop of the lovely foothills that surrounded our neighborhood. It seemed that I could drive to the foothills within 10-15 minutes, and I could be at the beach in about 45. It took about 4 hours to get to the Sierra Nevada's but I could easily drive up to the Santa Cruz mountains in about 30 minutes. I loved the fact that I could get away from the bustle of the city in less than an hour. I spent a lot of time driving when I lived in CA. I would often just get in my car and drive -- just so that I could get away from the stress, the frustration, and the loneliness I experienced. I was not the happiest person back then, so I often sought solace in nature. I would drive to some quiet spot, get out and walk or sometimes just sit in peace. I prayed often for the Lord to help me, to remove the pain I was feeling, and to help me understand why I was in the circumstance I was in. I always felt better, at least, temporarily, but in the end, I had to return to my life and that meant heading back to the tension and stress I felt every day.

Now I am in such a different place. I live in the desert, which is my least favorite place to live. I mean, I am a country girl at heart, yet I have found myself living in this desert place for almost 20 years now (20 years in 2016). Don't get me wrong, I am happy where I am, but I long to live elsewhere. I didn't choose Phoenix, per se. I chose to come here to deal with the stress of living in a strained and difficult relationship with my in-laws. I thought that if we came here to be closer to them, it would be easier to deal with the stress (they were always demanding we come to Phoenix all the time to help care for them). Big mistake. Huge mistake. Marriage-ending mistake. Yes, the problems didn't get better, only worse, and in the end, the strain on our weakened and fragile marriage deepened. They were not the cause of the failure, of course, but they were a contributing factor to it (for sure!)

Phoenix is a pretty place for certain, but it is not filled with woodlands and meadows and lakes and rivers and creeks and rolling hills. Yes, we do have mountains to the North, South and East, but generally, we have desert all around us and our mountains and hills are filled with scrub and other desert loving plants. Flagstaff has pine and a resemblance of mountain greenery, but nothing like the big mountains of CA, Rockies or even Appalachia. No, I long for the green of forests and for the slow country life. I want to leave the desert, and head east to where it is green, rainy, and always variable. I long for meadows of wildflowers, dense brush and trees, and the lovely peek-a-boo of sky and clouds (rather than our intense full-time sun).

As I think about my desire to relocate, I realize that much of what I want is predicated on childhood memories. I think this is normal, and that for many of us, our memories instilled a certain love or appreciation for certain things. If we found pleasure in these things, then this is something we desire to replicate in our life as we age. We want the same sense of peace, of contentment, of joy, of fulfillment that we felt then, and we believe that we will find these things by returning to a similar place. Of course, we know that the only true fulfillment comes with a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. We know that our Source for satisfaction and joy is in Him alone. Still, I think there are times when we desire certain things, and these desires are right and proper, as they fall under the Lord's design for our lives.

Psalm 37:4-5 says, "Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart." I believe the word desires here alludes to the 'desires' the Lord has for those who are in fellowship with Him. It is not speaking of carnal or fleshly desires but desires that are good, right and proper -- desires that lead the believer closer to God, and not farther from Him. Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible says,
Delight thyself also in the Lord,.... In the persons in God, Father, Son, and Spirit; in the perfections of God, his power, goodness, faithfulness, wisdom, love, grace, and mercy; in his works of creation, providence, and redemption; in his word, his Gospel, the truths and ordinances of it; in his house, and the worship of it; and in his people, the excellent in the earth, in whom was all the delight of the psalmist; and each of these afford a field of delight and pleasure, to attend unto, contemplate, and meditate upon; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart; such as are according to the will of God, and for the good of his people; such as relate to communion with him, and to the communication of more grace from him, and to the enjoyment of eternal glory.
 Yet, I also believe that within this understanding of the word "desires" there exists some blessing, some measure of fulfillment that covers more than just our enjoyment of eternal glory. In truth, I believe that when we are in this type of relationship, this complete dependency upon the Lord, there is blessing that comes to us that can, at times, allow us to enjoy temporal things too. In this way, the Lord gives us the true desires of our heart, which is a deeper and more committed communion with Him as well as with our brothers and sisters in Christ, but also He gives us desires that we might have that align with His will for our lives, in order to satisfy our temporal needs and to move us into a position of service to Him and His Church. I know this is true in my own life because the Lord has done both -- given me eternal delight at the same time that He has given me temporal delight in the desire to return to school, to become a teacher, to be married again. These are all good, right and proper things, and they align with the Lord's will for me. Yet, for many years, I thought these things were simply desires or yearnings I had that were of my own making. I didn't realize that these deep longings were also of His making. Now, I see that many of my deep longings were His longings for me. Together, in cooperation, He is bringing these things to pass in my life.

One of my desires is for a home. I want a home where I can settle, put down roots, and be safe. I believe this is a desire the Lord has placed within me, and it is something I have longed for since I was a child. I am sure my own carnal/fleshly interest is factored in because I have a "hankering for a yellow house!" Color and condition aside, I would love an old farmhouse on a bit of land, something like what is shown below:

I love yellow farm houses

Yep, with big trees in the yard

And a fireplace

And a big porch


And a big garden

I have a picture in my mind of where I want to retire, where I would like to live out my days, and while each one of these pictures captures bits and pieces of that vision, none really sum it all up. I will know the house, the land, the place when I see it, and then I will be able to say "Yes, Lord, I am home!"

Lord,

I know you have plans for my life, and I know that these plans are good. You have given me desires that are not my own, and I believe that these desires have been put in my heart in order to move me closer and closer toward the fulfillment of your will. I am open, Lord, to go wherever you send me. I am open, Lord, to live in whatever city you place me. I am open, Lord, to follow after you to the job of your choosing. I will go, I am ready, and I am trusting you with full faith and confidence that where you lead, I will be most happiest, most settled, and most fulfilled. May your will, Lord, come to pass in my life this day. May your Name be honored and praised, and May you bring to pass all the desires you have for me, both temporal and eternal, so that I can come to the full stature of the woman you have created me to be. Bring me to your the feet of your glory, Lord, to my final resting place, after the culmination of a life lived and sacrificed to you, and to you alone! May God be praised today and forever more! Amen, selah!



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