December 14, 2015

Thinking More About Plans

It is such a lovely day here in Phoenix. The weather is slightly chilly with partly cloudy/rainy skies. It is the perfect winter weather -- just enough chill to need a sweatshirt -- but not too much to feel uncomfortable being outside. I love this weather, and I am giving thanks to the Lord for providing respite for me in this beautiful place I call home.

As I think about His plan for my life, I am all the more humbled at the very thought of how He has orchestrated the details. I mean, here I am almost finished with my doctoral study, a part-time teacher, and I am so content in this way. It was only a month ago, nearly a month, when I was stressing over whether I should leave teaching and turn back toward corporate business. I needed the money, in truth, so my motivation was 100% financial. I thought the easy way out would be to get hired by some big company, and start earning a large salary. In truth, a big salary would have relieved a lot of my anxiety, but I am not sure if it would have provided long-term satisfaction nor if it would have made me feel so content, really content. Let me explain...

Last night, I was talking with my good friend, and we were discussing how the Lord has called each of us to a very specific ministry (he as an evangelist, and me as a communicator). As we were talking about what we each feel the Lord intends for us to do, we began to see just how uniquely gifted we are, how the Lord has called and equipped each of us for very specific work. What is more, and this is really the special blessing in all of it, is that our callings are so complimentary to one another that it makes it very hard to imagine that we were not meant to be together, to work in ministry together.

More so is the fact that just yesterday, I was praying to the Lord, thanking Him really, for His marvelous provision of new life, when I said something that sort of surprised me. I said, "Lord, the last five years have been better than the previous 30 years!" Of course, I was thinking about the five years since I was separated and divorced from my husband. I meant it this way, how in just five years, the Lord has transformed my life. He took a shattered and deeply wounded and depressed woman, and He gave her a new life, a new vision, and a new hope. He moved me from my old life, which was sad, so very sad, and through hard work and effort (it hasn't been easy) showed me a way to go that not only gave me a practical and good future (as a teacher), but also equipped me for ministry. He called me to return to school, to get two degrees, and to change my entire way of thinking so that my desires align 100% with His desires for my life. Furthermore, He showed me a way to go that would open up ministry opportunities, would place me in a position whereby I could be effective in helping to spread the good news of Jesus Christ. In all, in just five very short years, I was transformed, changed from a very sad, very depressed and very hopeless woman into a bold, a dynamic, and a completely charged warrior for God.

How was all this possible?

Yesterday, Tom Shader, Sr. Pastor of Redemption Church here in the East Valley, preached a sermon on Joseph (as in Mary and Joseph). He was filling in the pulpit for our Sr. Pastor, Jamie Rasmussen. His message was on the life of the mysterious man, Joseph, and while it illuminated many interesting things about this Godly man, it also provided a good case study in trust and obedience. Pastor Shrader read a short quote from a devotional book called, "Not by Sight: A Fresh Look at Old Stories of Walking by Faith" by Jon Bloom and John Piper. I don't have the quote memorized, so this is my best rendition of it. The authors said that God often uses unplanned detours (or events) to cause us to trust Him. It is in these unplanned events that we see His faithfulness, but also that we come to realize just how much we need Him to help us, to guide us, and to carry us through to the end.

I started to think about my life, how I began my life back in 1984 thinking that I would be married to a good man, that some day I would have children, and that my life would be pretty normal, and in many ways, turn out just the way my Mother's life had turned out. Unfortunately, I learned very quickly that the family I had married into was demanding and controlling. I also learned that my new husband was not perfect, far from it, and that he carried with him a lot of baggage (most hidden from me). His life, predicated on some very bad choices, would follow after him, and because we were married, my life would be marred by these choices, and the outcome, the hopeful expectation of a happy marriage and family life would never materialize. Of course, I was "all in," as was expected of a good Christian girl, and that meant that divorce would never be an option for us.

Over the course of 30 years of marriage, the struggles, the hardships, and the progressive sorrow that accompanied our life gave way to sin and to behaviors and patterns that neither glorified God nor served to build up and strengthen our marriage. In the end, we separated, and then three years later, we divorced.

I found myself at the rotten end of an unplanned event. I was 47 years old, and while I had my BA degree in Humanities, I had not worked outside the home (with the exception of two stints at my church) for nearly 17 years. I had good skills, of course, but I had really no verifiable proof of work experience, nothing that a prospective employer would consider viable. Moreover, I was in the middle of home schooling my son, and short of placing him in public school, I felt obligated to keep him home until he was graduated. My life was difficult, unpleasant, and I was depressed, dejected, and feeling disassociated from my family and my community. My good friends turned their back on me once they heard we were separated, and rather than providing supportive care, they simply judged me and him. It was an awful time in my life. The only person who seemed happy with these events was my husband, who for all intents and purposes, got off "scot-free." He had his freedom, and he was finally able to live his life the way he wanted to live it. He chose to distance himself from me and from our son, and he embraced singleness with great abandon. All the while, I was left picking up the shattered remnants of our life. I had to pay the bills, I had to keep food on the table, I had to make sure my son's life was as "normal" as it once had been.

How was this possible?

I turned to the Lord during those dark and very difficult days. I put my faith, my trust, and all my hope in Him. I turned all my heartache over to Him, and in turn, He comforted me. He gave me a new hope, a new way of living. He asked me to follow after Him, to trust Him, and to walk in faith as He gently and slowly led me away from the brokenness of a failed marriage.

I followed Him, and what happened was nothing short of a miracle. He healed my fractured heart. He gave me a new vision for my future. He showed me how to do everything -- from managing a checkbook -- to applying for car loans. He managed my money so that my account never ran dry, and when the time was right, He provided a new home for me and for my son. In the interim, He opened doors to jobs that provided good income and benefits for us. He gave us more comfort than we had experienced in over 30 years. I mean, flashy comforts like buying a PlayStation for my son, a flat screen TV for me, new cellphones, and a new car. I had lived just barely above the poverty line for years, and for the first time, I could buy what I wanted. I didn't take advantage of this new found freedom, but I made conscious decisions on what to buy, where to buy it, and when to buy it. I started to decorate my home in my own style, and I started to change my appearance. I changed my clothing, my hair, and even my weight. It was like little-by-little, the Lord said "I am going to make you brand new" and then He did.

In all that time, besides providing comfort to me in things, provisions and such, He also gave me a heart for ministry. He began to speak to me, to call me to do certain things, like return to graduate school, and to ponder the idea of being a professional speaker, a communicator, and to work within Church communications. I had no interest in these things because they scared me, but with time and through His help, I came to see that I could really do what He was asking me to do.

So here I am now getting ready to embrace 2016, the year when I will finish my PhD, and I am thanking the Lord for His marvelous plan for my life. He has made me new, brand new, and He has given me a future that is filled with hope. The unplanned event I endured, well it was purposed and it proved me (as in tested me). I survived it, and I am now able to see how God allowed all the heartache, all that pain, and all that sadness to develop within me a steady confidence, not in man, but in the Lord alone. He is good, so very good to me.

Looking Forward

Thus, as I looked toward 2016, I see a very bright and very shiny New Year. I see my graduation from Regent University on the close horizon. I see my continued performance as a teacher, and I see the possibility of a new place, a new school, and a new life (as in relocation) all ready and waiting for me to seize them. I am also excited about the new man in my life, the wonderful, God-provided, man who seems my perfect fit. I am excited about the plans the Lord has for our life, and about the way He has brought us together. He has taken two complete strangers and joined them together, heart and soul, so that they can serve Him as a unit. My prayer, of course, is for the Lord to facilitate our relationship so that in time we can be together. This is in the Lord's hand, so until He is ready, I patiently wait (as does he). God knows His timing is perfect, so we trust and we obey. We remain faithful to the Lord, and we look for His hand of blessing on each of our lives. God has a plan, and for certain, that plan will come to pass! Selah!

My heart is filled with happiness today. I feel so confident that the Lord has me well-covered. I may not have all the money I need today, and I may not know what tomorrow (literally) will bring, but I do know that He is active and present in my life, and that He is working out the details to make His plan a reality. I wait with eagerness, with excitement, and with anticipation for the Lord to reveal His marvelous work to me. He is good, so very good to me! Praise be to God, He is good! Amen! Selah!

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