November 25, 2015

It is D-Day...Again!

It is Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, and I am sitting here at my desk thinking whether or not I can finish my major paper in time. It is due today, by 9 p.m. PST (well, I guess 10 p.m. since I am mountain time now), and I am no where near to being finished. I am panicked, to say the least, yet I know that I have been in this position before, and the Lord has miraculously helped me push on through.

I am struggling today, really struggling, and it is not about the paper, per se, just more about my life here at home, the unfortunate experience I had on Monday, and the fact, that for all intents and purposes, the environment has turned toxic. It has become unbearable to remain in my home, yet there is no place for me to go, no place for me to run. I must endure, and I must overcome the intense uncomfortableness, and I must do it because this is the will of the Lord, and I am determined to do His will, no matter the cost, the outcome, or the amount of discomfort. He is good, so very good to me.

As I think about where I am today, and how I got here, and by that I mean, how this difficult place came to be a part of my experience this day, I am reminded that my life is no longer my own. Scripture floods my mind, and I cannot help but think about Peter, who heard Jesus tell him about his future death. In John 21:18 we read,

Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go.

These words come to me, not to scare me, but rather to remind me that this is the path I walk now. I am on a path that leads home, not to an earthly home, but to my eternal home. This path is not easy. It will not be filled with happy days, though I do hope my days will be happy in some way, shape or form. The path is hard, it is filled with difficult and troubled days, and this is the path I must walk. I am called to follow after Him, and in doing so, I must pick up my cross and walk beside Him.

I am struggling today, just with what has transpired, and my role in it, and I am trying to figure out what I must do to make things better. I mean, I can give way, yield, and submit -- but is that the best way to approach this discomfort? Or, should I stand firm, stand my ground, and wait for the Lord to rescue me? I am not sure, but what I do know is that today is a difficult, a troubled, and a unwelcome day. I have so much work to do, so much work to finish, and the time is at hand. Yet, my mind is unfocused, and my thoughts are filled with things that are not serving the Lord's purpose. I am conflicted, and in this way, I am filled with doubts, insecurities, and with an overwhelming sense of dread.

He is good, of course, and I know that I am not alone. I do not stand on my own in this matter. Still, today, I feel all alone. I feel so alone. I wonder about it, why this has happened, how an innocent conversation could take such a dark and stormy turn. Part of me thinks that it is what must be, as in, this must pass so that I can move into the next phase of my life. You see, I wonder if the present trouble is necessary in order for me to experience the goodness the Lord has in mind for me --> over there. I cannot get from here to there without first making this break, without first taking this difficult step, and perhaps this is what this is all about, a breaking free, a release from the tangled web and the ever present power that has held me so tightly back. 

As I consider this as a possibility, I begin to think laterally about this situation. My students know what I mean because when I teach them how to argue a causal analysis, I ask them to think "sideways" instead of in a linear way. I want them to "think outside the box," so to speak, and in doing so, often they will see minor causes that are contributing factors to the main root cause. It is important to consider all causes when performing an analysis, because without looking at all the causes, often we make determinations that are surface-level only. We must look at all factors before making a decision, and in doing so, we will be better informed when we state our final evaluation. We will have identified what we believe to be the root cause of the problem, and then we can see the causes and the effects as well as propose a workable solution to the problem. It is how one conducts a root cause analysis, and the process is very important in order to identify the problem correctly.

I am thinking sideways right now. I am looking at this problem, my home situation, with different eyes. What I see is this:

I see a life that is in flux, my life. I see that I am in a place where I don't belong. I am in the middle of another life, that of my parents, and while I am here and there are benefits to being here, I am stuck in someone else's world. It is like I have found myself trapped inside one of those snow globes. I am stuck on the inside of someone else's world, and I cannot find a way out. For a time, this little world was magical, it was fun, and it was all "snowy and white" (perfect). But the glass enclosure has proven too tight a fit for me, and I need to find a way out. I need to break free from the enclosure and I need to be my own person now. I cannot go "home" so I must go where I can find my own way, my own place, and my own life. I see this as part and parcel to my story. I have been encased in glass, made to stay put for a time, but now the globe has shattered, and there is a small opening, and I am peering through it. I must step through the hole and walk out into the bright light of freedom.

In thinking this way, I see what has happened. I see it now in clear detail. I made the decision to move in with my parents in order to alleviate my fears of graduate study. I believed that I couldn't work full-time AND go to school full-time and still maintain good grades. I believed that the only way I could make it through Regent was to work part-time, to teach, and thus to teach part-time meant that I couldn't live on my own. I sacrificed my life in order to live with my parents for a time. I believed it was a good thing, and that it would prove beneficial for all of us. 

In truth, it has been a good thing, in some ways. In other ways, it has been difficult. I gave up my freedom, my own home, my solitude and peace for a shared life with my parents. I entered this home as an adult woman, but through efforts by my father, I have become an adult child. I allowed it, for sure, mostly because I was occupied with other things, my studies mostly, so I didn't really pay attention. Once it had happened, I began to feel the constriction upon me. I began to feel as though I was being strangled by responsibility, care, and other worries that simply were not mine to share.

I remember the moment I realized this was happening to me. It was last holiday season, and I was thinking strongly about moving to AL to be near my friend. I had applied for a job at Auburn University, and I was very excited about the opportunity to move there. I wanted to pursue this relationship, to take it to the next level, and I was open to the Lord, should He decide that this was His plan for me. I remember boldly when I said that I was thinking about moving to Auburn, and I remember the reaction I received from my father. It was as if he turned against me, right there at the dinner table, and pronounced in "no uncertain terms" that he was not going to move anywhere away from Arizona. I remember my family sitting there, looking rather dumbfounded at his remark, and I started to think to myself "I will never leave this place."

Do You Love Me?

The Lord has called me to go several times. The Lord has put on my heart the possibility of jobs elsewhere in the country, and I have even applied for a couple of them. Every time I do, though, I hear myself say to the Lord, "What about my parents? What will they do?" 

John 21, verses 16-17 tell the story well,

So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus *said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He *said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He *said to him, “Tend My lambs.” He *said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” He *said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He *said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.” He *said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus *said to him, “Tend My sheep.

and I have heard these same words echo in my head more than once. I have heard the Lord say to me, "Carol, do you love me more than these?" My response to Him has always been, "Yes, Lord, I love you more than...[insert thing]!" However, while I have said that I loved the Lord more than my life, more than my desires, I have struggled to actually put Him first in many areas in my life. I love the Lord more than my studies at Regent, more than my family, yes family, and more than anything I own or desire in this life. Yes, Lord, I love you more than these things.

I know this may seem weird, even outlandish, and to some people, the story I am telling doesn't or will not make sense. But, the problem is that for me, I have always been tied to my family. I am like the man who asked Jesus for permission to bury his family before he followed after Him. I am the one who has said "I will follow you so long as it doesn't conflict with my family or their plans." I have followed the Lord, for certain, but never very far from my parents influence. I have never really left their side, their home, or their life. I have justified my way by saying that I am a good daughter because I have stayed near them, I help them, and I am close to them. In truth, I have used my parents as shelter, safety, and security for far too long. I have never shattered the cord that binds me to them, and in that way, I have remained chained to them for more years than I should have allowed. 

I purposely chose this way because of the pain I suffered in my marriage. I had no friends, real friends, and I had no social circle outside of my ex-husband and my family. Thus, when things turned sour in my personal life, I retreated to my old home, to my childhood where I felt safe. Even though my childhood was far from safe, it was the place where I could rely on my parents for help, so whenever I got into trouble or felt so overwhelmed, I would run home.

In 2011, I moved out of my shared home with my ex-husband, and for the first time in my life, I moved into my own place. It was my own place. I loved my town home, and I loved the freedom I had there. I called the shots, I did whatever I wanted, and I loved it. I so loved it. Then in 2013, I made the decision to leave that home and to move in with my parents, temporarily, to finish my PhD program. It was a good move, and I still believe that it was the right thing to do. They needed to downsize, and I needed to reduce my expenses so I could transition to teaching college. In the end, the process has been somewhat smooth, somewhat acceptable. But there have been times when living in this home has become too much for me, when I needed my privacy, and I needed my freedom. I have learned to be content to live in my 10x12 room. I have learned to share this home, and while I am not complaining about the arrangement, in general, what I am saying is that as I begin the process of completing my degree program, I am starting to think about what is next for me. I am starting to think about next steps.

However, I cannot think about next steps without thinking about my parents long-term care. Thus, I feel trapped in that globe because I know that my leaving will cause them great harm and disruption. I don't want to go, but I know I cannot stay put. I must follow the Lord, and I must let go of this life, this way, and this home.

Perhaps then this latest squabble is simply a way to show me that this is not my home, not where the Lord intends to keep me, and that I must not be too comfortable here because in a short time, He is going to call me AND provide for me so that I can move on.

Yes, I believe that this is what is happening. This is His way of reminding me that I must be ready to go when He is ready for me to go. I cannot hold on to this life. I must walk freely where He sends me. I may not like what I am experiencing, but what I see around me is the truth, the reality of this situation. I must be free to go, and that means that I must no longer retreat to the safety of my parents home, but rather, I must be the adult woman that He has made me, created me to be. I must take authority over the enemy who wants to keep me down, to keep me unfocused, and unable to work out the details. I must take this authority, and accept that the plans the Lord has for me are good, they are good. 

Dear Lord,

I am not sure if I have this figured out or not, but I do think that what I am experiencing is part and parcel to your will. I am not saying that you have tempted me, but what I am saying is that this trial was purposed to help me see that I must not hold too tightly to this life, this temporary life here in Phoenix. You have a great plan for my life, and it includes moving to another state, another job, another home. I am not afraid to go, even if I worry about my parents care. I want to go, I want to do your work, and I want to follow after you because I believe, in no uncertain terms, that the plans you have for my life are good. They are so very good. I ask today for peace in my home, as much as it is possible, and I ask that you help me broker that peace since I am part of the problem here. I ask for the grace to forgive and forget, and to recognize the truth that exists in my home. I am leaving, and my parents know it. They don't like it, but it is truth, and they must accept it. I am moving on, toward the life you have planned and purposed for me, and I must go when you are ready to go. Until then, I ask for the grace to be able to be calm, in control, and compassionate toward my parents and their needs during this difficult time in their life. I ask to be set free from all control, the control that other people seek to have on me, and I ask to be able to take control of the details of my life, those that you have given to me so that I can accomplish your will. I trust you completely, and I take this authority now given to me by your hand, and I look to you for guidance and goodness as I step out in faith and move toward the fulfillment of your will. I ask all this in the Name of Jesus now, Amen. So be it, thy will be done. Selah!

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