November 14, 2015

Hello Saturday!

It is a beautiful day here in sunny and cool Phoenix. It is a crisp morning, 64 outside right now, and our highs are expected to hit the mid 70s. Next week, we are expecting a change -- a cold front is heading our way -- so cooler temps are on their way. I am glad for the cool fall-like weather. It is such a nice change of pace from our typical hot and sunny weather that we have for 9 months out of the year.

It is funny, really, when you come to think about it. It is so hot here, and I mean, HOT. Yet, for many people who live in moderate to cold climates, that thought excites them. They want to live in a place where it is always warm. I get it, really I do, but there is a bit difference between warm and HOT -- like oven HOT -- so I always laugh when I hear those comments.

Growing up in the Northeast and Midwest, I remember what it was like to be cold all the time. I guess I didn't mind it much, it was sort of "what it was," know what I mean? I didn't think about it more than to shiver in the cold or pile on extra sweaters, socks, and blankets. I didn't complain about it or even ask (no, beg) my parents to move. I just accepted it as part of my life.

Now that I have lived in moderate climates for more years than in cold ones, I find it so interesting that I complain (or write) about the weather every day. Why is that? Why do we do that the older we get? Perhaps it is because our place, where we live, is often by choice. So in some ways it is like that saying, "If you can't stand the heat, then get out of the kitchen!" Right! If the heat or cold really bothers you, well then, you should consider moving some place else. I've thought about moving elsewhere because I really am ready for a change of pace, a new look, so to speak. I am looking forward to the day when I can live in another place, another city, and another state. I have always looked forward to moving, even as a child. It was an adventure, and my parents always made us feel that the place we were moving to was going to be even better than the place we were leaving. In some ways, of course, they were right. It really was all about attitude. If you believe that the place you live in now is blessed, your words will bear witness to your belief. If you feel that the place you are going to will be blessed, the same thing will happen. There is something about articulating our faith, our beliefs through belief statements that creates a positive attitude or mindset. The more we believe about a particular thing, the more we speak about it. And, the more we speak about the thing, the more we come to believe that our valuation of it is true.

Today, I am thinking about two things in particular:
  • I am thinking about how blessed I am to have the life that I have right now. It is not perfect, of course, but the life I have now is good. God has blessed me with all security and provision, and He has covered me and made it possible for me to feel safe and secure. He is good, so very good to me.
  • I am thinking about how the plans the Lord has for my life are good. I mean, really really good. I am considering where I am today, where I have been, and how all the in between days, months, and years have worked together to bring me to this very time and place. The plans He has for me are good, so very good.
Decisions Made and Now Resting

This past week has been difficult for me. I have been racked with doubts, insecurities, and with feelings of inadequacy. Yet, today, I feel victorious. I feel calm. I feel in control. I cannot explain it other than to say that I have finally figured it all out. LOL! Well, that would be a gross misstatement. I haven't really figured IT all out, but I have figured out the THING that has bothered me, the THING that has caused such confusion and frustration, and in that way, I guess you could say that I have IT under control. Let me explain...

This past week, I suffered a crisis of sorts. I call it a "temporary crisis" because it didn't last very long, but it was influential, and it served a good purpose. In my state of crisis, I made a decision, a good decision, and that decision has reshaped my future. It is weird, really, when I stop and think about it. I mean, I have spent the past five years thinking about my future, where I would go, how I would get there, and what I would do when I finally got there. I have worried, stressed, fretted, and even allowed myself to become fixated on the process of "figuring it out." I have spent so many hours praying, agonizing, and really, begging the Lord for His counsel, His wise advice. In the end, I relented, you know, I stopped all that behavior, and just accepted what I have as being "enough" and in a moment, just one moment, everything became so clear to me. You see, I allowed myself to become fixated on all the potential problems associated with my path. I looked for potholes in the road in an effort to avoid them, rather than simply walking on and taking them as they came by me. You see, I thought that if I had it all figured out, the roadway all mapped, that I could avoid potential pitfalls and in doing so, I would make sure I would be safe -- always safe. Of course, what I was trying to do wasn't possible, and the more I tried to do it, the more frustrated I became. I finally had to give up, to stop doing what I was doing, and just let the way be, and in that choice, my life came into focus, and everything became clear to me.

I found that I was trying to control my life in such detail so that I could map it all out -- see the future -- now when in truth, what I was hoping to do was impossible. It wasn't that I had lost my mind there for a minute because I knew (and I still know) that the future rests in God's hands. It was just that I wanted so badly to know that the path I was on would be safe, it would be secure, and that it would turn out right in the end. Even though I was trusting the Lord for my safety and security, I still wanted to know for sure, to see every bump in the road so I could carefully avoid hitting it.

The crisis I suffered was minor, but it was the tipping point for me. I realized that I was causing my own frustration, my own confusion, by continuing to demand my way. I was asking the Lord for knowledge that He wasn't going to give to me, and the more I demanded, the more alone I felt. I began to sense that the frustration, the awful feeling of being out of control was symptomatic of something else, and in that moment, I realized that all I needed to do was stop. Just stop. Stop and take a breath. Stop and rest. Stop and look around. Stop and look up.

God is good to me, really so good to me. In all of this frustration and crisis, He never left me. He did let me spin out of control for a while, but He never left my side. I think it was like He said to me, "Go ahead, Carol, wear yourself out." And, I did. I literally wore myself out. I was like a toddler who runs circles round their parent, all the while the parent is trying to get their child to lay down and rest. Eventually, you have to let them wear themselves out and they crash. I did that this week. I crashed three times, and I slept for more than 12 hours each time. I blogged about my fear of cycling into chronic fatigue again and how afraid I was to let myself get to that point again. I think that was the trigger I needed to realize how perilously close I was to causing my own breakdown. Once, I realized I had allowed myself to get so wound up in all this analysis and worry, I knew immediately that all I needed to do was stop and rest. Just for a short while, rest. Once I did, BAM, the way was clear, the path obvious, and I knew, really knew, what to do and where to go.

You see, I had been fixated on two choices, two ways to go, and both seemed really good to me. The one way pulled at me, tugged at my heart. The other way, seemed more practical and more sensible. It pulled at my head. In the end, I chose to stay with my heart. But not out of resignation or frustration. No, I chose this way because it was obvious to me that this was the way the Lord had chosen for me to go. I guess you could say I "stopped choosing," and I "started accepting." Of course, as human beings, we all have free will, and that free will allows us to choose our path, our destiny, etc. But as Christians, God does have a specific and wonderful plan for our lives, and if we believe this is true, then we know that we must not choose to go our own way, but rather, we must choose to go His way. Once you have chosen His way, then the rest is up to acceptance. We must accept that His way is best, that His way will lead to His purpose and plan for our life. It is in the acceptance that we find rest, we find our peace, our joy, and our comfort. We must accept His way, and in doing so, we will find that everything makes sense.

It is funny, really, because it is not like my circumstances changed once I accepted His way. I mean, nothing has changed for me. I've not won the lottery, received confirmation on a job, or even been given some amazing opportunity for new success. No. I haven't seen any change, any outward change, that is. I have seen inward change, and in that way, I have experienced the blessedness of His rest, His peace, His comfort, and His joy.

Choosing to Stay

You may be wondering what have I decided to do. Well, the short of it is that I have decided that I will remain in higher education, and I will remain as a teacher (in whatever capacity the Lord desires) until I retire. Yes, I have made the choice to live openly and freely as a teacher. I know -- WOW -- earth shattering news. Not really. Well, not to you, perhaps. But to me, yes, it is big news. You see, I have struggled with accepting this path as the Lord's design for me. I believed that I chose to go this way, and in some ways I did choose it. I asked for permission to try it out, and the Lord agreed. I knew going into it that it wouldn't be the best fit for me, and that it would at times, stress me out. I also knew that it would never provide as good an income as other corporate work, and that the likelihood that I would get hired full-time as faculty would be solely up to the Lord. Still, I felt that I had to try this path, that I couldn't walk away from it without giving it the "good college try." I asked the Lord for opportunity, and He opened a door for me at GCU. I have been there since, and this is the completion of my third year teaching college courses. The Lord did this for me, He agreed and He provided a way for me to go. In hindsight, I see that all my fears about provision and security were true -- teaching now as adjunct -- provides nothing to give me a secure and safe path. Thus, I am 100% reliant and dependent on the Lord for everything, and I mean, everything.

My faith is in the Lord's provision, of course, and I know that He will provide for me today and tomorrow. Some day, He will have a full-time job too, but for now, I have part-time work, and while it is not the best provision, it meets my needs. The Lord covers me, and while I would hope for more salary and benefits, for now, this is what I have been given. I am content to wait to see what the Lord will bring to me, and until He does, then I will wait and I will be patient. He is good. He is faithful, and I know He has a great plan for my life.

As I accepted this path, I found a new found sense of freedom in the way. I mean, I felt the pressure, the stress, and the fear melt away, and I recognized that this path brings me great freedom. Sure, it doesn't bring me loads of money, but it does bring me sufficient rest, and since I am on the brink of a CFS attack, well REST is worth more than a boat-load of cash right now. Yes, rest is a good thing, a very good thing.

Also, I see clearly the hand of God on my life. I see His provision of a good part-time job that gave me the rest I needed so I could focus on my studies at Regent. I see the practical nature of the job, and how GCU, has helped me learn how to be a good teacher. I see the overwhelming support I have there from faculty services, training and development, and from my departments (English and Communications). I see the way there as comfortable, and I have always said that I love everything about GCU. It is a good place to teach, to work, and while they have problems (infrastructure due to their massive growth, etc.), the school and the campus environment is a good fit for me. I enjoy teaching at GCU, and I like the student body, the student demographic, and the way I am given a lot of freedom in the classroom. In short, I like everything about GCU, even the pay scale. I would like it better if I could teach 4 classes as adjunct and not three, but it is what it is, and until the Lord moves me elsewhere, I am content to remain at this school.

Furthermore, I see how the Lord has placed me in this position, where I struggle to teach, but where I so easily mentor students. I asked to mentor, to advise, and to encourage -- and the Lord provided a way for me to do that on a daily basis. I may not be the best teacher, but what I do, I do well. I thank the Lord for His provision of these good tangible gifts -- because these gifts are not simple material things -- but rather they are gifts without numerical value. These aren't the freebies companies give to employees as incentives for good work, nope. These are eternal gifts, blessings that have eternal value, and that is something I asked for as well. I wanted to be involved in eternal things, in daily living that was all about eternity.

The job the Lord provided to me doesn't meet all my needs right now, for certain. But it meets His, and that in a nutshell, is the hard line, hard rub of it. The Lord chose a way for me to go that accomplished His goal for my life, and that was to make me wholly dependent on Him, and cognizant of the value and importance of doing His work. I have learned what it means to sacrifice for His Name, rather than to sacrifice for my own needs or the needs of others. I have learned what it means to do His work, without getting paid or provided perks and benefits, and I have learned what it means to value people over a paycheck, to see value and worth in the faces of my students, and to realize that what matters most to Him is the choice that these students make daily to follow the Lord. I see with clear focus that my goal in life is not to be the best teacher, to make the most money, or even to work in higher education. No, my goal in life is to follow the Lord wherever He leads, and to do whatever work He determines is best for me in the moment, at the time He needs me to do it. In that way, I must accept whatever He offers to me, and I must do it with joy, with thanksgiving, and with a willing heart, mind and soul. I must relent and no longer choose my way. I must accept all that comes with His way, even if the end seems scant, the provision scarce, or the security unsure. I must trust in Him, and in Him alone, and in doing so, I will find my rest, my peace, my joy and my comfort. It is in Him and in Him alone.

So yes, in human terms, I am a teacher. I will remain a teacher now until I retire at age 70, Lord willing. I will teach whatever courses the Lord deems necessary, and I will teach at whatever school He chooses. I will teach to my best human potential, but in everything I do, I will remember my calling, and that is to equip, to enfold, to empower, and to encourage the body of Christ (the Church) with the knowledge that God is good, and that He has a good plan for their lives. I will go forward now knowing that what I do for work is not who I am. The work I do is beside the point, it is good, it is practical, and the Lord provides it to me. But the work I do is not my identity. I may wear the label of a teacher, but I am a child of God, a daughter of the King, and in that way, my focus, my intention, and my purpose is all about Him, and not about me. He is good. He is so very good to me.

In Closing

So what does this mean for me and my future plans? Well, I am unsure, really other than I can say this:

  • For now, I will remain at GCU. I have spring contracts for three classes. I will study and prepare for my qualification exams (February and March 2016), and then next summer, I will complete my dissertation so I can graduate with my Ph.D. in early fall.
  • I will continue to take care of my parents and my son as the Lord leads, and that just means, that for now, I will remain where I am. The Lord knows my monthly needs, and it is up to Him to provide for them. I am trusting Him for my financial situation, my school loans, and my credit card debt (due to school visits, etc.) The Lord knows all this, so I let it go, and I rest in His provision.
  • I will not continue to look for work until the Lord shows me the job or jobs I am to apply for because it just causes frustration for me to do it and then receive rejection notices. Instead, I will trust that the Lord is preparing "the next" job, and I must wait until He has it ready to go. 
  • My finances, especially my loans, are in His hands. I cannot worry about what I don't know or stress over next years pending repayment schedule. I must wait for the Lord to provide a way for me to pay back my loans, and in doing so, I rest in knowing that He is aware of my debt burden, and He knows what I can and cannot do. 
I have trusted the Lord thus far, and I have followed after Him, steadily going where He leads me. I have not faltered, and I have not chosen an alternative path. I have stayed the course, and He has blessed my faithfulness. He has carried me, so often, He carries me, and I find that I cannot do any of the things He asks me to do without His help. Thus, I believe that He has never asked me to worry or stress over the money or lack thereof. In fact, if anything, He has only said to me "I have you covered," and by that I mean, that He has always provided for me. Will the Lord stop providing now? Will He say "the rest is up to you?" I don't believe this is His way so the short answer is no. He will see this through to the end, and for that, I am grateful. His faithfulness endures from eternity, and He keeps His promises. He is faithful. He is good. I am so blessed that He is my God, and that I can rest in Him. Selah!

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