It is May 23rd, and that means that I have approximately two weeks until I fly to VA Beach for my summer residency at Regent University. I am excited to head to VA again (this is the third summer), but part of me wishes I didn't have to go simply due to the expense of traveling there and back. I love to visit Regent. It is such a lovely campus, and I do get time to spend with my colleagues and my Professors. I enjoy the camaraderie of campus class, but I hate to spend the money on hotel, airfare, car rental, and meals. It adds up to quite an expense, and while I am covering my costs partially through financial aid, I still see the debt each summer, and well...I shudder! The good news is that this is my last summer visit. I will have to go in February for my exams, but other than that I should be able to stave off any more visits until graduation day. I pray, Lord willing, that I can walk in the ceremony. The entire program takes 3 days, and from what I have heard, it is a wonderful experience.
The Lord is my Provider
Today, as I sit here and think about my life, I realize that the Lord has provided for each and every need. I mean, HE HAS PROVIDED. He is Jehovah-Jireh, which means "The LORD Will Provide A Sacrifice" (Genesis 22:14). There are many Names of God in the Hebrew Old Testament. This Name is associated with Abraham, specifically when God provided a ram to fulfill the command to sacrifice his son, Isaac. Abraham memorialized the name of God in this way -- he declared that the Lord had provided a sacrifice, but doing so he said it in a way that encompassed a particular event while foreshadowing future provision, that of the Lord Jesus Christ, our PASSOVER LAMB. Let me explain...
Jehovah-Jireh means that the Lord WILL provide -- it is all encompassing of past, present and future need. It simply reminds us that the Lord provides for each need, not once, but in a very mindful way. Some people say that this Name of God was used only in this context, and not in any other way. I do not hold to this view, but rather see the Name as a proclamation of the Lord's overarching provision for His children. The Word says that the Father (Jehovah) knows our needs, and that He provides for all His creation (sparrows and people, alike). Thus, the Lord knows our needs, and He provides for us today, tomorrow, and into our future days. This should bring the believer hope because it bears testimony to remind us that God is ever present, always near, and always listening to us. We do not serve a God who is neglectful of our needs. Nor do we serve a God who is distant, far away or uncaring. No, our God is ever present, always available, and ready to meet our needs with abundance and sufficiency.
Now, many people, Christians and non-Christians, would be hesitant to do that because it would appear that the debt is being pushed or rolled from one season to the next. In truth, this happens, but since this is a requirement for my PhD program, I am stuck between the proverbial "rock and hard space." I have to attend residency to remain a part of the program. This means that I have to attend each summer I am registered for courses (until I reach ABD status). The mounting school debt scares me, of course it does, but I am convinced that I am where I belong, and that I am following after the Lord's will for my life. Therefore, I have prayed earnestly for His provision, and each summer, the Lord provides for me. In turn, each year, He provides a way for me to attend Regent, and I know that in time, I will be provided with the financial resources to pay back all of my student loans. Jehovah-Jireh is the Name of the God that means "the Lord WILL PROVIDE!" Selah!
Movement and Timing
I am sensing the Lord's movement in my life. I have blogged recently about how I felt the Lord was calling me to apply for administrative positions in addition to teaching ones. I have struggled recently with understanding why the Lord would move me into teaching only to take me out of it after 2-3 years. Yet, I feel His press upon me, which says to me "apply here." I apply wherever and whenever I feel the Spirit leading me. Sometimes nothing comes of it, but sometimes there is a response, an email or a phone call. Perhaps this time, there will be a response that bears testimony to me that this is His provision for me.
The Lord knows that I have particular needs right now. Pushing aside my school debt and loans, I have practical needs that must be met each month. I have been honest with my needs, and while I am not destitute, I do have a certain need each month, and while my teaching pay has covered that need during the school year, it falls short during the long summer months. This goes part-and-parcel with teaching as most instructors and Professors work for 9 months only. The remaining 3 months of each year must be provided for out of savings or other income. I am comfortable with this plan, but in truth, I prefer to follow the more 'traditional year or 12 months of income' plan. I mean, it is easier to budget when you know that you are paid in regular cycles, every other week, for example. I also have need for medical benefits. Right now, I am not sure what the penalty will be for not having insurance this year. My guess is that it won't be too significant so long as I continue to work adjunct. However, I would prefer to have full benefits so that I can show the government I am covered by a work-provided plan. The Lord knows this, and He is aware of my physical needs.
Outside of monthly expenses, I have some other smaller financial needs too. I have a couple credit cards that need to be paid off. I carry about 60% debt burden, and while it is not sky high, it is too high for my debt-income ratio. I want this to be reduced to less than 30% while I am working to rebuild my credit lines. Considering I started with zero credit, I am well pleased that I am currently at a modest level of credit. I know that some Christian financial planners do not recommend using credit cards, and while I agree with them in principal, I also know that no successful or wealthy person every got that way by living without credit (not in this century, for sure). I think it is impossible to live without credit, unless of course, the plan was to purchase a house, live off the land, and not engage in any type of modern or global work. Even farmers and those individuals who attempt to live off the grid, at one time, were part of the system (just saying).
Debt and credit card use is a nasty word among many Christian circles. Some people have no problem with it while others are against it because they believe it is unbiblical. I tend to side with the "use it wisely" approach because I believe that in my line of work, in my pursuit of knowledge, and in my calling to fulfill the Lord's will, I must use my credit to support me temporarily while I reestablish myself as a viable and self-sufficient worker. Yes, I use my credit wisely, and that means that I do not purchase anything that is not a "need." I also do not purchase anything without prayerful consideration. I wait until the Lord provides, and sometimes, that provision uses my credit card temporarily. I believe this approach is moderate and careful. I do not intend to be in debt for much longer. I am temporarily in debt, but that is only to facilitate my schooling, and to enable me to transition from a formerly married woman to a single and self-supporting woman.
Moreover, I am working to rebuild my credit. I have a solid plan for my future, and I believe it is God-blessed and favored. I have sought the Lord for guidance on how to be financially independent, to accumulate wealth, and to manage my credit. I believe the Lord has honored my request for this knowledge, and He has helped me learn how to be a wise financial manager and steward. In prayerful consideration, I have approached my financial future in order to accomplish the following:
- To raise my credit score to 750 (on a scale of 900 - this would be above average) so that I can qualify for a good mortgage rate and purchase a house someday
- To invest my earnings in safe investments along with some more risky ones to build funds for retirement
- To become financially independent and not reliant upon any one person for my needs
I have prayed about my financial needs as well as my future, and I am confident that my life is in good hands (the Lord's). I am slowly progressing toward my goal of financial independence, and my plan right now is to be established within the next two years. By established, I mean to be settled in a permanent position either teaching or working in administration for a college or university. I will have full-time income, benefits, and a 401k package. I will also be in a position to purchase my own home, a modest yet solid home, and I will begin to invest wisely in safe short-term investments as well as longer term, more risky investments. My long-term goal is to retire at age 70 with the following:
- A modest home that is paid for completely
- A significant portfolio of investments that will pay dividends throughout the course of my life
- A retirement future that is modest (average) so that I can live comfortably on my reserves until the end of my days
In addition to these three things, some specific short-term goals include paying off my school loans (in two chunks, the first half in 2015, the rest by 2020), purchasing a newer car (a slightly larger car than my Nissan Sentra by 2016), carrying little to no revolving credit debt (under 30% at all times by end of 2015), establishing credit lines of $10K on all major credit cards (Bank, Amex, etc. by end of 2016), and preparing for relocation (at the Lord's discretion, probably by 2017) with all expenses covered.
Will this come to pass? Will I achieve this level of modest retirement?
Absolutely. I am 100% confident that the Lord will provide for me. I have no reason to doubt His provision or to think that He is not able to guide me into wise financial planning and life decisions. He has graciously provided for me, daily provision as well as more significant future provision, and therefore, it follows that what has transpired in the past, repeats in the present, will continue to produce similar outcomes in the future. It just makes sense to me.
As the Lord moves in my life, one thing is certain: change is coming. I always sense His movement, and typically when He moves, change follows. If the movement is slight, the change is a minor hiccup in my life, a blimp on the radar, and casually bump to let me know that He has shifted me slightly to the left or the right. However, when major change has come, this always seems to follow a significant shift in the Lord's movement. Sometimes this has been a major realignment of goals or a move (physical) to a new home or job. In every single instance, a major move by the Lord has caused major change in my life. Temporarily I feel the swaying of the momentum, but after a time, the movement stops, and a new door or opportunity opens for me. It has been this way for the past 8 years. Major moves result in major changes. I can recall most of these huge shifts, and I can bear witness to the fact that while I didn't see them coming (most, not all), I was aware of the Lord's presence in the midst of the movement. I felt His presence, and I remained calm and in control (in short, I didn't freak out -- too badly, I mean!)
The Lord has moved like this before, and whenever He has, good things have resulted. I felt His movement just before I found out about my ex-husband's behavior. The result was the beginning of the end of my marriage, which was devastating to start, but in the end proved liberating and filled with amazing peace and contentment. I felt His movement just before I found out that my home was going into foreclosure. The result was losing a home, but gaining a life of freedom in a new, better, and more beautiful place. I felt His movement just before I changed jobs at CVS Caremark to go to Grand Canyon. The result was two years of teaching contracts that stretched me, prepared me, and provided a way for me to complete incredibly intensive studies at Regent.
Now I feel His movement again, and this time, I am seeing some difficult days ahead, mostly in my Mom's deterioration and loss of memory. The result at this time is unknown, but I believe it will be to provide me with a better job that will cover me through the next two years here in Phoenix. I won't know until He moves me completely, but I believe what will come will be an opportunity that opens doors for me to move permanently elsewhere. I am confident that the Lord doesn't intend for me to remain in Phoenix. However, until things are resolved here, I must remain and see things through to the end. I believe that the Lord will use my time here wisely, to continue to prepare me for His work, and to build my credit worthiness so that I can accomplish the goals He has conveyed to me. I believe the Lord will provide a good job here in Phoenix.
In the near term (between now and 2017), He will prepare me to receive a good job offer in the place of His choosing (a new state). He will also provide a way for me to purchase a home in this place, and He will provide all the resources necessary to move me from here to there. I am confident that His plan for my relocation is perfect, and that His timing is excellent. So while I may desire to go now, I see that the Lord is preparing me to go, that He is wrapping up things in Phoenix in order for me to leave with every door closed. I am trusting His provision for the next two years, and I am believing in faith that He will enable me to transition smoothly from one job to the next, from one home to the next, from one life to the next. He is good, so very good to me. All the time, He is good. Selah!