May 12, 2015

Seeing the Way Through

It is a good Tuesday in Phoenix, AZ. The weather is mild for Phoenix and that means our high today should be in the mid-to-upper 80s or low 90s, rather than our normal near 100 degree days. The forecast seems to be stuck in this pattern, and folks around here are not complaining about it. May is typically a transitional month for us. We leave behind the beautiful spring like days for the hot temperatures of early summer. June peaks into the 110s, and then July comes crashing in with thunder, lightning, and rainstorms, which bring our temps back down to the low 100s (but with added humidity). This is our summer pattern, and generally, by mid-August we are sick-and-tired of the heat and the humidity, and we want to leave the state and head North to the mountains or West to the ocean! Today, though, the temps are mild, and that means we have escaped our "normal" heat for another day!

It is May 12, 2015, and I cannot believe that school has been out for me for over two weeks now. I mean, it seemed like I was just in school (teaching), and that I was looking forward to summer break. It is now in mid-swing, and the days seem to be flying by so quickly. I am starting school again, my school at Regent University, and I am excited for the courses I am taking this summer. I was hesitant at first because I believed the load would be too heavy for me. Now that I have eased into the classes, I think this is going to be a fairly light summer. I am taking a Leadership class that looks and sounds awesome. I am excited to be able to take it as an elective, and I think the course content will help prepare me for leadership roles in church and in teaching. I am also taking a writing for publication course, and I was concerned about how much writing would be needed for that class. Once I got the email from the professor yesterday, I realize that I am already in very good shape with two potential papers to work with during the course. God is good to provide me with such a low-key semester. I am thanking Him, giving Him praise, and resting in His timing and provision. I will also be conducting some research for my Dissertation, but right now I am not sure what my professor will want me to do on that score. I am planning on reading and producing a bibliography, which is what I think he will ask me to do. I have to setup a time to meet with him this week so that we can get started and chart out a plan for the next 8-12 weeks.

Planning and Purposing - The Plans of the Lord

It is one of "those" days where there seems to be great uncertainty along with some clarity. I always marvel at the timing of my understanding. It seems that I gain some measure of clarity right in the midst of total darkness. It is like when you are walking through a long dark tunnel and then suddenly you see a light breaking through the darkness. The light gives you just enough clarity so that you can see where you are going. This is how I feel today. I have so much "unknown" in my life right now. I am trying to process everything, plan for my future (near term), and predict what might be further along this path that I am on (long term). I can only see so far into the future, only as far as the light is shining and showing me the path ahead of me. I want to see as far as possible, but right now, this is not how it is, not how things are to be. I am sure the reason for this is to keep me dependent upon the Lord, to keep me looking to Him for my way out. I pray for open eyes, for an open door, for a way to go, and yet, the Lord keeps me walking along this same path, trusting Him to provide just enough light for the place where I am today.

I get frustrated at the lack of vision, at the fact that I cannot foresee what might be down the road, over there, or in time. I want to plan it all out, to follow along using a check sheet, and to cross off items as I complete them. This would give me such a sense of accomplishment, a feeling of success and of closure. I would see progress, and with progress, I would be able to experience outcomes. I would feel so much more grounded, well-set, and comfortable knowing that I am moving in the right direction, at the right pace, and with the right motive. I think I am, I feel I am, but still I wonder about it. Am I really doing the thing the Lord wants me to do? Or am I seeking my own way, my own desires, my own needs?

Today is one of "those" days when I am questioning the Lord's plans for my life. I feel good about most of what I am doing, but there is this nagging voice that is saying to me "Is this right? Is this good?" I want to do the right thing, go the right way, and live in the right place, yet I seem stuck where I am, and while I am content in knowing that I am here for a reason, I still wonder if it is because of my own doing or if it is because of the Lord's will for my life? Sigh...

You see, today, I read back through my blog. I was praying this morning, and the Lord directed me to re-read some of my older blog posts. The first post He had me read was from December 2007. This was a Christmas letter of sorts, a message where I recalled all the trials that had taken place during the year. As I read through this long post, I remembered how difficult that year was for me, and how trying I found the trials because of my ex-husband's near fatal heart attack. That year was a challenge from start to finish, and as I read through my post, I kept thinking to myself how optimistic I was that things would get better, how things would improve in 2008, and how everything would turn out right in the end. Of course, two years later, the truth came out, and I found myself facing an even larger trial, a marriage in deep crisis, and the eventual separation after 25 years of married life. Had I seen that even on the horizon would I have made any changes to my behavior, my attitude, my prayers?

After I read that post, I moved forward to July 2010, and I read through another post that dealt with transition. I had just been hired at Macy's, and I was recounting how pleased I was to have a job. I remember I had created a list of goals for the coming year(s), and as I read through them, I realized that almost all of them had come to pass for me. My expected outcome proved correct even though the path I took to accomplish them didn't always line up. I marveled at God's provision in how the goals I articulated were so specific, so completely specific. I had no certainty that any of those goals would be achieved, and yet, in time, they all had come to pass (with the exception of a few that were very long term like buying a house).

As I marveled for a moment, I moved forward once again to two posts from July and August 2011. I had been hired at UOPX, and I had completed my three-weeks of intensive training. I remember reading how excited I was to be working full-time, to have a real pay check, and to be moving forward. I was looking forward to my job, setting up my office at work, and to working with students. Of course, I didn't know then what I know now -- that the work would be difficult for me and not the best fit -- still I was so pleased to have my first full-time job. I wrote that post while I was gainfully employed, and even with great hopefulness of better times to come, still I was concerned about my house, whether I would keep it or sell it or lose it (which is what happened in the end). I had no knowledge of where I would live eventually or when I would move out of the shared home I had been living in for the past twelve years. It was a time of such uncertainty, yet I was praising God for His blessing of good practical work, good practical work.

I sat for a time after I had read these old posts and I wondered about my life, about how I ended up where I am today. I mean, I had two very solid jobs that paid me well, provided a good living for me, and assured me a good future. I remember when I took a hard turn and ended up teaching college. It was in July (always in July) of 2013 and it was a strange experience for me. I had such a good job, but I was so concerned about the amount of work I was doing and how the work load would impact my studies at Regent. I can remember praying for a way out, an open door, another type of job that would be a better fit for me. It was in late July when I swapped a good solid and secure future for the tentative pleasures of teaching adjunct courses at the college level. It seems that this hard turn produced good results, and that those results have provided a different opportunity for me in the long run. I am still not earning a decent living nor am I able to provide a secure future on my own. No, I am dependent upon the Lord for term-by-term contracts, and I am trusting that He will meet my needs for a home, for food, for clothing, etc. I struggle so much with this "material" uncertainty. I struggle with not being in control of the outcome that comes with producing good practical work. I do enjoy teaching, and I do love the fact that I am a Professor. I would rather have a steady job, with 12-months of income, and with good benefits, but I feel that this is the path I am on now, and I haven't seen the Lord move me in any other way. He seems to keep on encouraging me to stick with it, to stay the course. So I stay the course until He says so...I stay the course.

I have made goals since 2010, and many of them have come to pass for me. It seems that the goals I made back then are still in process, are still being pursued, even though I prefer to do somethings differently. It seems that the goals I wrote down are the goals the Lord had in mind for me because between then and now, I have made some major mistakes, some major goofs, yet I am still on track to complete them. How is that for not making a lot of sense? I am sensing that this is the Lord's doing, that He is giving me the confidence to know that the path that I am on is the path He put me on five years ago. I may have made twists and turns, but the Lord has seen to it that I didn't deviate too far off the mark during those early explorations, those early forays into other trails. No matter how far I wandered off on alternate trails, the Lord has brought me back to the main path, the main path I am to follow.

When I consider the goals the Lord has for my life, one thing is for sure -- I am slowly accomplishing everything He has in mind for me. I may not know how I will do that, accomplish them I mean, but the outcome is assured. So long as I continue on this path, the main path for my life, the goals the Lord has set before me will be achieved. He has promised me good success, and my faithful approach to each item, ensures that I will continue to move forward at His pacing and at His choosing. The Lord knows what He wants me to accomplish, and I guess that means that I have to let go of the goals, the plans, and the tasks that He has assigned to me. If I let go of them, then they will come to pass. If I hold on to them, try to manage them, they will still come to pass, but not quite as smoothly and with ease. No, the more I try to manage the goals, manage the tasks, the more I will struggle, strive, and stress over their outcome. Moreover, if I choose to direct my own steps, to walk off the path, then I will suffer the consequences of that action. I will find the going rough, the terrain difficult, and the trail obscured. My approach then must be full ascent, full agreement, and full appreciation that the Lord does indeed know what He is doing when He sets about to direct my steps.

This a good day, a very good day. I look to the Lord for His hand of blessing on my life, and I rest in the knowledge that He has the foresight to see the outcome at the end of all things. I don't have to worry about getting off the path so long as I remain committed to following after Him. I don't have to be concerned about the delay in outcomes because I don't know how long it is between goals, how much work is involved in achieving them, and how the Lord determines them to be completed. I must rest in His knowledge, and I must take heart in knowing that He has my life worked out, planned and purposed according to His desires for me, for His work, and for His Kingdom.

What I Know Today

What I know today is that I am steadily working toward the completion of a set of goals that I believe the Lord placed on my heart back in 2010. As I reflect on these goals, I am assured that the plans the Lord has for my life are coming to pass. I have made mistakes for sure but the Lord has enabled me to remain focused on the outcomes instead of the mishaps. I have struggled most when I lose sight of the end-goal, and instead begin to study and analyze the intermediate or transition place, the half-way between beginning and finishing the task at hand. By stopping to contemplate on the mid-point, what I have learned is that often I begin to second-guess my previous steps. In doing so, I become fixated on the mid-range goal rather than to stay determined to see the end. In short, my focus becomes distorted, and I make mistakes because I believe I have all the facts, when in reality, I have only half of the facts. I am short-sighted, and this is when I make errors in my judgement and in my analysis. Therefore, I have to remember that at the midpoint of any goal, it is better to take a quick evaluation only to see if any adjustments need to be made before moving forward. Full-on analysis should only be performed at the conclusion of the goal.

Therefore, the goals I have in process now include the following:

  • Completing my PhD (expected May 2017)
  • Transitioning from Adjunct Instructor to full-time Assistant Professor
  • Moving out of my shared home (with my parents) to a new home provided by the Lord (in His time)
  • Mentoring and supporting my son until he is ready to move out of the house and into the will of the Lord
  • Caring for my parents through the end of their lives (in some capacity as the Lord leads)
  • Moving to another state at some point in time, but for now remaining in Phoenix as it is where the Lord has planted me (therefore, I am to bloom where I am)
  • Beginning to work toward the fulfillment of His calling on my life, that of a Communications instructor and teacher along with working to create and develop materials to facilitate interpersonal communication and growth in the Church
  • Lastly, to do the work the Lord has in mind for me means that I must be free from all encumbrances and obstacles that could serve to prevent me from going where He is sending me (even if locally) so that I can do this work freely and through His grace and provision.
If I were to place timelines on these goals, I would say that I am in good stead for most of them. Some are more future oriented than others, but generally, I am proceeding toward each goal with this thought in mind - the Lord has given these goals to me, and therefore, it is up to Him to complete them. Selah!

Dear Lord,

I am so confused at times, and I feel lost when I stop and focus on what has been. I know it is good to reflect on the past, to learn from the past, but I tend to do this without considering that I am in the midst of transition, that I am moving from point A to point B. This is not the best place to reflect. It is best for me to reflect after the conclusion of the goal or task because then my hindsight is sharpest, and I am distanced enough from the event to be able to learn the lessons you have in mind for me. Help me today to remember that whenever I am in transition, moving along the path, that I need to do a simple check that asks you if I am where you want me to be, and then only when I hear a "yea or nay" do I shift myself, either forward or in another direction. What I am not to do is to cycle down into depression over possible errors that may or may not impact me. I need to remember that "it isn't over until it is over" and that you are the One who determines the outcome of every event in my life. May I rest now in that knowledge, and may I listen for your voice today as you guide and direct me, and move me forward in the plans you have for me. May I trust and abide in you, and may I seek your Holy Spirit for guidance as I search the Scriptures and study your Word this good day. May your Name be praised forevermore, and may everything I do serve to honor and glorify you from this day forward. Amen, so be it, thy will be done. Selah!

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