July 8, 2015

Making Sense

Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding. In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths (Proverbs 3:5-6 AMP)

Some days just don't make sense to me. I know, I know...isn't that the case with most days (LOL!) Yes, I would agree with that statement too. Most days, it seems, are filled with such big unknowns that I simply do not know which end is up. Today is a good case in point. I am struggling with some personal issues, unfortunate female problems, that have taken over my moments these past couple days. If you have fibroids, then you know what I am taking about. Furthermore, if you happen to be near menopause AND have fibroids, then you really know what I am talking about. I digress...

Life is filled with challenges. Every day seems to be a struggle of some sort or another. And, I am not even thinking about what is going on in the world, in our country, or with the recent debates over same-sex marriage, legalization of marijuana, or immigration. Yes, it seems that every single day presents a new set of challenges. This morning it was a "glitch" with all US airlines. Later it was a problem with the NYSE. The growing reports of ISIS and Al-Quieda threats (wasn't there a heightened alert for the 4th of July?) crowd the more popular news that Bruce Willis and Demi Moore are getting back together again (Ha!). Yes, it is as if the world has been turned upside down, and popular culture rules the airwaves, the Internet! What is more -- the most important "crisis" to be reported -- normally ahead of terrorist attacks and financial meltdowns (think about Greece today) -- seems to be the decay of our moral society. It seems that the problems in the world are taking a backseat to the more acceptable social and cultural challenges facing in our towns, cities, and country.  Personal problems abound as well. Marriages are in crisis, young people are living openly in sin, and more and more families are being divided by cultural and religious issues. Poverty, homelessness, and other social issues are always of concern, and yet, life seems to go on. Day begins, day ends. The cycle of life continues.

A New Day

Today I sit here and I wonder about my life. I blog about my life all the time, every single day. Sometimes I think I should change my blog title, my blog status to read "Everything You Wanted to Know About Carol, but Were Afraid to Ask!" Yes, perhaps you simply don't want to know about my life, the dull and dry parts, the boring pages and pages of written testimony on my woes -- work, life, family, school. I wish my life were more exciting. I wish my life was filled with happiness -- always happiness -- but that would be a wish and a puff of smoke. No, my life is just like yours. It is plain, it is boring, and most days, it is a struggle to figure out why certain things happen and why other things don't.

Proverbs 3, verses 5-6 remind us that we must focus our time, our energy, and our efforts on the Lord. I like the AMP translation best because it illuminates the words of this short familiar passage. In verse 5, we read these words:

Lean on
Trust in
Be confident in the Lord

then we are told to do so with all our heart and our mind 

and to not rely on
our own insight and understanding

Note that we are told what to do before we are told why we should do it. This is important because it sets the tone of this proverb -- it is for instruction, for gaining wisdom, and for right or Godly understanding (comprehension).

The writer of Proverbs is telling us in very plain language that our attitude and our position before God must take precedent in all our dealings, our thinking, and our actions.

In verse 6, we are given secondary words of advice:

In all your ways (in everything you do)

Acknowledge Him

We are told that in doing this, in placing God first in everything we do, we will see God do something for us,

He will direct and make straight and plain your paths

As with so many passages of Scripture, God tells us that there are two parts to every conversation with Him. The first is to orient us toward Him, and the second is to receive His conditional reward for our obedience. You see, God is willing to do so much for us, but we must turn toward Him, acknowledge, recognize, and know Him. We must look toward Him first. So very often we demand God's provision, His protection, and His prosperity -- all the while our back is turned and our feet are running toward their own way. We think that God is in the business of following us, following after us like a doting parent who gives "willy nilly" to their child. But this is not the case. Our Father in Heaven is a good father. He disciplines His children, He cares for them, but He doesn't spoil them like human parents. No, He desires for His children to grow to maturity, to be strong men and women who follow after Him, and not like those left who are their own desires, demands, and destructive paths.

Thus, when I find that my life seems to not make sense, when it all seems to be going down or I seem to be walking in a way that I don't understand, I am reminded of these two verses. I am reminded that what may appear to me as one thing, might very well be something different to the Lord. I may see confusion or chaos around me, whereas God may see control and His ultimate completion of His will. Yes, God may very well have everything in hand.

Making Sense

My life seems to be on a smooth path. It seems so, anyway. Today is a difficult day, not just because of what I am feeling physically, but also because it is the day my family finds out if my Mom has cancer. Yes, we are waiting to receive the report back that will tell us whether or not she has breast cancer. The good news, if there is any, is that the lump that was found is about a millimeter in diameter. It is located near the place where she had a similar lump some 15 years ago. That lump was pre-cancerous, so they removed it, and placed a marker so that future mammograms would show the radiologist its location. This lump is similar in size and shape and consistency. There is a good chance it is not malignant. However, there is also the chance that it is. My mother goes regularly for screenings, and this is the first time they have found it. This means to me that it grew very quickly. It was noticed on her mammogram some 6 months ago as a "suspicious" spot. Her follow up MRI revealed its nature, and hence, she had a biopsy last week. Now, we are set to go to the Dr.'s office today for the report. The fact that he wants to see my parents is foreboding, but then this doctor is my Mom's oncologist (for her Leukemia). My guess is that he chooses to discuss findings like this regardless of their outcome. He is a very thorough and kind doctor, and we are blessed to have him as her caregiver. Still, the waiting for the truth is difficult, and it adds a measure of apprehension, of worry, of the BIG UNKNOWN. What will be tomorrow? What will happen? What will be required for treatment?

I am 52, going on 53, and my life is in flux, in transition. I live with my parents now because I am working part-time as an adjunct, but I am enrolled as a full-time doctoral student. I miss being my own person, living on my own, but for now, I am sharing their home and providing a measure of comfort and care. The problem is that my parents have come to rely on me, so much so, that they do not want to think about me moving out and restarting my own life. In fact, I overheard this conversation between my parents yesterday. My father is the one who is against my moving anywhere away from them. I know it is fear. I know he believes that he cannot care for my mother without me. I know he appreciates the fact that I am here, living with them, helping them. However, my father sees the situation through his eyes only. He doesn't see my life as important, as needing to be its own "entity."

The Bible is clear on this point (Eph. 5:31), and I guess this is why I feel the way I do today.  You see, in my first marriage, one of the things my ex and I didn't do was separate from our parents. Sure we moved out of the house, but we lived in close proximity to them, and in many ways, we allowed them to play a key role in our lives. They often gave us things, money for example. They provided us meals. They paid for special needs (appliances or braces or lessons). My parents, and my ex-husband's parents, were allowed to figure prominently in the daily affairs of our life. As such, they felt that they were entitled to treat us as children. Granted, they considered us as married, but they felt that every decision we made, every choice we considered, and every path we took, had to be cleared through them. Their approval was mandated. This interference caused a great deal of problems in the marriage, and in the end, it contributed to our demise (it was one of many factors). 

After I came out of the marriage, and began a single life, I vowed that I would walk according to the Lord's way from then on. I would go where He sent me, even if that meant some place far from my parents and other siblings. I would go live in another state if it was the Lord's will for my life. Curiously, when I said this to my parents, they were shocked I would do it. In fact, they remarked that if it wasn't for me, they wouldn't have settled in Phoenix at all. While this is not true in whole, it is true in part. My parents were told to settle in Phoenix for my Dad's health. It just so happened that we were here at the time, and they came here for both reasons. Furthermore, my parents would not have been able to remain in CA and live comfortably in retirement. Thus, the choice to move here was based on two factors alone. My life being established here was only 1/3 of the equation. Yet, today, this is what I hear. I am told that I cannot move away, move anywhere from this place. I have stood my ground, stood up to my father and said that I would go wherever the Lord leads me. He has told me that I cannot leave them, and that I will be abandoning them to try to live on their own.

I understand that this is motivated by fear, I really do. Yet, what position does it place me in? Am I to choose my parents over the Lord? May it never be.

My brothers have taken my side in this matter. Only one of my brothers knows that I am thinking of marrying again some day. He is supportive of me, and he has encouraged me to be bold and to not let my parents badger me into choosing a life as a full-time caregiver. My other brothers know that I will be seeking full-time work elsewhere. They understand the nature of working as a professor, and that I will need to move freely as the jobs open up. They get this, and they are supportive of me doing whatever is necessary for my care, my long-term support.

The problem is that my father sees only his need right now. He wants me to give up teaching, to find a regular job so that I can remain here in perpetuity (or until the end of their lives). Furthermore, my mother is happy for me to remarry. Yes, she says she is happy that I am thinking this way -- but -- she expects me to date someone local, to meet, to marry and to settle down right near them. More so, my father believes it is foolish to be involved with anyone long distant. He thinks the only way you can meet and marry a person is to "date" them physically. I know this is old-fashioned thinking, and it is what my parents did some 60 years ago. The idea of online dating is not foreign to them because they encourage me to sign up for e-Harmony or ChristianMingle.com. They want me to "date" local men.

The issue with this approach is that it doesn't factor in anything of what the Lord wants for my life. You see, this line of thinking smacks of Proverbs 3: 5-6. It is predicated on their own understanding, which says that you make of your life what you will. You pray the Lord will bless your decisions, but generally, you use your human wisdom to guide you and to lead you. My view is the exact opposite. I believe that the only way my path will be made straight is if I lay everything at the Lord's feet, and I look to Him for His wisdom and guidance. The Lord guides me, and His Word is a lamp unto my feet.

I believe that the Lord has provided a wonderful relationship for me. I believe that the Lord has a great job in mind for me. I believe that in time the Lord will move me where He desires, and He will open a door of opportunity for me to be settled, to be secure, and to be safe within the boundaries and design of His expressed will for my life.

I care deeply for my parents. I love them, I support them, and I do what I can to help them in this difficult time in their life. But...

I will not give up the plans the Lord has for me in order to follow human understanding. I will not succumb to fear, and take a path not approved by the Lord, simply to make my parents more comfortable in their remaining years. No, I will stand strong. I will go where He sends me. I will live in the way He chooses for me to live. God calls the shots in my life, and no matter how difficult they may be, or how often they may upset the apple cart of daily living, He is Sovereign, and He alone is the Lord of my life. Selah!

Dear Lord, 

I realize that as a believer, my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. My acknowledgment of His presence on a daily basis makes my faith in Him effectual. I believe that You, heavenly Father, are leading me and guiding me by the Holy Spirit through my spirit and illuminating my mind. As I yield to the Holy Spirit, I believe that my steps are ordered of the Lord. Committing and trusting myself wholly to His guidance, I expect Him to cause my thoughts to become agreeable to His will, and so shall my plans be established and succeed. I trust in the Lord with all my heart and lean not on my own understanding. As I acknowledge Him, He directs me in paths of righteousness. I confess that as I become more focused on the Lord, I can more easily recognize the inward witness of the Holy Spirit. I hear the voice of the Good Shepherd, and a stranger's voice I will not follow. I am aware that my spirit is the candle of the Lord. I meditate in the Word day and night, not letting it depart from my mouth. I test my inward witness with the Word, for the Spirit and the Word agree. I am quick to act on the Word, as well as the prompting of my spirit. I am not a hearer only, but a doer. Therefore, I am blessed in all my deeds. Amen.

Scripture References: 

1 Thessalonians 5:23; 1 Corinthians 6:19; Philemon 6; John 16.13, Romans 8:14; Psalm 3 7.23; Proverbs 16:3, 3:5-6; Psalm 23:3; Romans 8:16; John 1027; Proverbs 20.27, Romans 8:5,8.2; Joshua 1:8; 1 John 5:7; James 1.25.

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