May 31, 2015

It is a Good Day

Psalm 122:1 just popped into my head this morning. David writes, "I was glad when they said to me, 'Let us go to the house of the LORD.'" This psalm is a song of ascents or a song of pilgrims (sung by the Priests and Levites as they journeyed on the road to Jerusalem to attend one of three Pilgrim Festivals). I am reminded of this verse whenever I sense that the day is good. I cannot really explain it, but it is like whenever I think "this is such a good day," I hear these words in my head, "to worship the Lord" or "to go up to the House of the Lord." It seems that the Holy Spirit bids me to worship the Lord whenever I recognize and acknowledge the goodness of each day. Today is a good day, so I am reminded that it is a good day to give thanks and praise to the Lord who reigns forever and ever, Amen!

As I think about this good day, I give thanks to the Lord for all the gifts He has given to me. The Lord is mighty, He is fierce, yet He is so good and kind. He gives graciously, and loves unconditionally. The Lord ransoms the lost, and provides shelter, food, and protection to the needy. I am needy. I am alone. And, at times, I feel so very lost. My Lord guides me, directs me, and shows me the way to go. For His gift of mercy, I bow before Him and I give Him thanks.

Understanding How It Is To Be

It is a very hot and sunny day in Phoenix, Arizona. It is a blessed Sunday afternoon, and I am sitting at the computer getting ready to complete some of my school assignments due this week (by tomorrow). I spent the morning at church, and then went out to lunch with my parents. The day passed by quickly and now it is 3:21 p.m., and I feel as though I haven't accomplished as much as I had hope to by this time today. Oh well...God be praised, I know His timing is perfect. I actually did take care of some business -- technical business -- getting myself ready for my trip to VA next week, so I think that should count as productive work (LOL!)

This day has been interesting for me. I have a lot on my mind right now, most of it dealing with some issues that I have with my old church, Paradise, where I attended today. I have blogged about this before so I won't go into a lot of detail right now, but suffice it to say that I am frustrated about some things I see, the way the church is being run, and the changes that have been made since we lost our pastoral staff last year. I don't mean to fault anyone, and after today's message on not judging one another, I feel convicted that I have these feelings inside of me. I mean, shouldn't we be happy to worship in peace and in freedom, and not focus on the pastor or the worship experience? My heart knows that this answer is a resounding 'yes,' but there is this nagging feeling inside of me that is saying what I see is something of concern, and that I am not judging for the sake of judging, but rather I am being prompted by the Holy Spirit to correct in love. Yes, Jimmy Farley, preached today on the Sermon on the Mount, and he focused on this section (not judging). One of the things that I noted was this idea that all correction within the church should be prompted by the Holy Spirit, and it should be lead by those who the Spirit of Love is motivating to give correction.

Furthermore, this correction is to be in love, and with the outcome of restoration and not punishment. I walked away this morning thinking that what I feel inside of me is not good, that I am uncomfortable with what I see, and how this feeling is not going away. I have waited, I have prayed, and I have sought the Lord for His guidance, and so far the feeling is still with me.

Moreover, every Sunday I go over there to worship, I feel worse and worse. I just have this sinking feeling, a 'doom and gloom' that seems to say "this is not going well for them, this is not the way to go." Yet, I am not in a position of authority there nor am I an active member anymore (due to my school/work/life balance). I try to go and support the ministry weekly, but sometimes I end up missing so that I can finish assignments or grade papers. I know that my life is out of whack right now, but it is temporary only. This is not a permanent condition rather it is a temporary inconvenience brought on by graduate school. Still, I feel incompetent at times to offer any advice or to direct or to help serve. I just feel that I should keep my mouth shut and not say anything, yet my heart struggles with what I see, and my head wonders about what is going on, and in the end, I feel miserable and sad.

After I left church today, I went to lunch with my parents, and I listened to them speak. They are dissatisfied too, but they are not willing to go to another church because of their age and their friends. I, on the other hand, don't feel so connected here anymore since my son is now over at Scottsdale Bible Church. I am not sure I want to go there either -- that is a tough place to fellowship since my history is so tied there (PD - pre-divorce), and I don't feel that I fit in with that crowd anymore. I am praying for the Lord to open up an opportunity for me because I need to go somewhere and I need to get this resolved soon. The good news is that this next Sunday, I am in VA Beach. This will give me a break, and some time to decide what to do. I am hoping the Lord will provide an answer to me while I am gone. It will be good to know His will on this matter so I can relax and move forward in my spiritual life.

So what do I do now, where do I go, and how do I go about going from this place to the next?

I have been a person in transition for so long now, and I have struggled trying to fit into this new life the Lord has given to me. I am so vastly different than before, I mean, I am like a whole different person now. I have different dreams, ambitions, desires, and hopes. My whole life is brand new, and the person that I am has been remade according to His will, His plan, and the desires He has for my life. I am so amazed at what God has done with me, how He has changed me, remade me, rekindled desires in my life, and given to me new hope for a bright future. I am excited at what He is doing, how He is moving in my life, and where He is taking me. I love the Lord so much, and today especially, I feel filled with His grace and mercy. I know the plans He has for my life are good, so very good. He is my God, my King, and I love Him with my whole heart. He is good, so very good, and all the time, He is so very good!

I started to think about my life today, how far I have come, and how far I still have to go. I realize that to move forward in the plans the Lord has for me, I have to let go of the past, all those things that seek to hold me down and keep me from moving forward. I cannot move while I am still holding on tightly to the things that are no longer part of my life. Let me explain...

Last night, I had a conversation with my good friend. We try to talk to each other daily, and some times, we discuss deep topics of concern to family, friends, or the church (as a whole). I think one of things I love about this relationship is that we can talk about anything that crosses our minds. I mean, even icky difficult or sensitive subjects, and that is amazing in my view. Very rarely can you have an adult conversation whereby you discuss personal issues or concerns without fear of judgment or condemnation. Moreover, we are "free to disagree" about opinions, and I love that fact! We each can say what we feel, think or know, and the other person can engage in dialogue that seeks to understand, rather than debate or persuade. My friend and I enjoy this kind of scholarly discussion, and it has formed a significant part of our relationship. I mean, I have a friend who thinks deeply like me, who likes to discuss really strange, hard, and at times unpleasant things, all without getting upset or angry or feeling that our views are unheard. I am blessed, so vitally blessed.

This relationship, this special friendship, means so much to me. In fact, I would probably describe this friendship as one-of-a-kind because I have never experienced such compatibility with another person. The funny thing is that we are not alike, really we are not. He is extroverted, and I am introverted. He sees the world differently than I do, but our views are complementary. We complement one another, and in that, there is acceptance and understanding of our unique gifts, talents, and callings of the Lord. God has called him one way, and me another, yet our callings are compatible. We seem to be able to walk together without causing each other much fuss (as he likes to say). I am blessed in that I can be free to be me, and that is something I haven't been able to do in a really long, long while. God knew that I needed someone like this to lift me up, to help me see my way through this transition time in my life, and to give me a second opinion, a trusted and relied upon opinion. I value his advice, his friendship, and most of all, his God-given uniqueness that I find so charming, disarming, and wonderful -- all at the same time!

All of this to say, that I have been thinking about letting go of the past, of the things that tie me to this place here in Phoenix. I pray about this often, and still I find that I struggle to let some things go. For example, today my Mom made a remark about moving to another state. My Dad will say this too on occasion, rather in passing, but neither of them actually consider doing anything about it. Moreover, rarely will they even factor in my will, my plans or my desires in the matter. They will say something like "lets move to Kentucky" or "California" or some place else. They don't say, "Carol, where do you think the Lord wants you to move?" No, they assume that I will follow them, and that I will go wherever they think it is best for them to go.

Now, I won't do that, of course, because I am not following after anyone, but only the Lord. Still, it would be good if they would ask me "Do you see yourself staying here (in AZ) for the next year or two?" or "Where do you think you might go when you graduate?" I am sure they don't want to know the truth, but it gets harder and harder for me to not say anything  at all. I don't want to upset them, but my heart wants to scream out, "Mom and Dad, the Lord is sending me (____,) and I am going as soon as He provides a way for me to go." Yes, I want this out in the open, and I want to start planning this move, but for now, I feel that I don't know enough to proclaim this way or that way. Not yet, I mean, not yet. I am content to wait on the Lord, to wait for His movement, but I cannot keep this silence much longer. My heart wants to burst wide open, and just get on with it, with moving, with going, with following after the Lord. Sigh...

The days are getting difficult, and events are changing and causing me to think about what might be down the road for me and my parents. A case in point -- just Friday -- my Mom fell again. This is the second time in about a month that she has fallen and was not able to get up on her own. This is what happens when people get to be my parents age, they tend to fall often, and thankfully she was okay, and didn't suffer any injury. It was good I was here to help, but I thought "what if this happens while I am at work?" Yes, the days are coming when this is going to be an issue for us all. I need to be prepared for this day because it is coming soon, very soon. I know the Lord has a way for me to go, but what will happen to my parents? It is a challenge for me because they do not want to follow me. They want me to go after them, and that is an impossibility. I will go where the Lord intends for me to minister, to serve, and to live. He is my Lord, and I do not seek to follow after my parents wishes, dreams or desires. No, I will not please people. I will please God, and that means I live a submitted, a yielded, and a ransomed life unto His Name and for His Praise and His Honor.

I am resting now, abiding in the Lord, and in His provision. I let go of the past, all those things I hold onto, and I follow after my Lord with all my heart, my soul, my mind, and my strength! You are healer, Lord. You are provider, Lord. You are my King, my Shepherd, my Ransom, my Savior. I love you love, Lord, I love you!

May 29, 2015

Happy Friday!

It is May 29, 2015. It is Friday (woohoo!), and I am sitting in my usual spot, blogging. I'm on my second cup of coffee (oh, I love my Keurig), and I am thinking about the plans I have for today. I don't have A LOT to do, just school work, and perhaps some pre-planning activities for my trip to Regent University next week. I am getting excited to take my 3rd and final (hopefully), summer trip to VA. If all goes well, I will take one more trip next Spring to complete my qualification exams (Quals), and then I will not return until I walk through graduation in May of 2017 (Lord, willing).

I am amazed at all the Lord has done for me. I am in awe of Him, in how He has brought me through to this day with such great care, and how He has answered my prayers, provided for my needs, and fulfilled the desires of my heart (Psalm 37:4-5). Yes, God is so very good to me; He is so very good!

I thought, in honor of it being Friday and May 29th, I would go back through my blog and see what was going on in my life on this day in 2014, 2013, and 2012 (well, all the way back to the beginning). Here is a run-down of the highlights of my life over the past 10 years of blogging. Interesting to say the least...
  • Frustration This Morning (2014) - My usual post featured details on three things: my life with my parents, my school work at Regent (prepping for Summer Residency), and work (turning down an interview at a local CC because I received contracts from GCU). God is good.
  • Moved In (2013) - This post was from the 27th (no 29th post). My update was regarding a successful move from my rented town home to the home I now share with my parents. I was preparing for my first summer residency at Regent, and I was excited about my future. I posted this Scripture verse as an encouragement to keep me focused on the Lord's plans for my life. "In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation." ~1 Peter 5:10 NLT
  • Resting (2012) - This post was from the 19th (no 29th post). Fun - I forgot that I went to see "Alice" at the Mesa Arts Center. A friend (now in college) was performing as part of this children's theater company, and we had gone to support her efforts. It was such a fun night. The bulk of this post was about my frustration working at UOPX. As I re-read my words, I stopped in the middle where I transition into my desires for a new career. Lo, and behold, I state emphatically that I want to teach. Hmmm... Moreover, I go on to lay out my case as to why I need to find a teaching job, and why someone (somewhere) needs to give me a chance to teach. I need teacher training, I need time to learn how to be a teacher, and most of all, I need the opportunity to use my natural and spiritual gifts in order to serve the Lord daily. I say, "I need to get someone to give me a teaching opportunity," and I lament, "I am struggling with letting go of this dream." Really? Yes, really. These are my words, and these were the words that came out of my heart on May 19th, 2012. I wanted a job teaching at the CC or another school.
  • Just When it Looks So Good (2011) - WOW! What an interesting post. I wrote this post while I was still living in my old home (married), but looking for FT work. I was at Macy's and I had been interviewing for jobs that would move me out of this home and into a place of my own. My ex and I were separated, but because of my lack of work, we lived together for 18 months. It was a challenge back then, and he wasn't helping much to pay bills. I was working PT and using my financial aid refund to keep a roof over our head, and frankly, I was getting pretty desperate for some kind of work. I was in graduate school, mid-way through my Masters program, and this post was about my old computer failing for the umpteenth time. I was praying for the Lord's provision -- money, job, new computer. 
  • Preparing to Move (2010) - Another interesting blog post. This one was about a Sunday sermon whereby the Pastor was teaching about life's big adventure and how we must pray and wait for God's direction. In May of 2010, I was separated from my ex, but living in the same home. I felt the Lord calling me to move for some time, and I had been praying for His guidance. The Lord seemed content to keep me where I was, and truthfully, I was feeling frustrated. I was praying "in the Spirit" and seeking the Holy Spirit for guidance. I wrote how important it was to be patient, to allow the Lord to prepare us for any big change, any big move. I said, "The Holy Spirit is the one who can get us moving, even in doing small things, until God is ready for us to make the big move." I reminded myself how important it is to be active in prayer. I wrote, "We need to be attentive to Him and listen to what He says. In doing so, we will waste far less time, spend more time actually doing things that are practical and helpful, and feel like we are not spinning our wheels." This post was a prayer more so than anything else, it was my commitment to "get moving," and to start being active as I waited for the Lord to open doors.
  • Summer Reading (2009) - Okay, home schooling alert. Yes, this post was about our summer reading group (Arete Classical) and my son's home school program.
  • Summer Days (2008) - Some photos of my wish to live some place green.
  • Learning to be Still (2007) - This post was from May 23rd (no 29th post). The most difficult lesson in my life - learning to be still. I wrote, "My King is waiting for me to stop running around and seeking earthly delights and to stop looking for sufficiency in anyone or anything other than Him alone." Ouch! I am still learning this lesson...
  • He is Exalted (2006) - I wrote, "God is greater and more able to handle anything that concerns me today. But only if I trust him as exalted King, Lord of Lords and King of Kings. If I give him first place in my life, everything will fall into it's proper place. And, that means that I will be in my place...in total submission to Him and sitting at his feet, worshiping Him as my King." Enough said...
  • Happy Birthday, Mom! (2005) - Sober reminder to me today since I am dealing with my Mom as she struggles with the onset of dementia. I wrote this tribute back then, "God knew what he was doing when he created Mothers. There is no substitution for a mom and they have the power to impact a child's life in so many ways. I thank my God for my mother and pray for her daily. She is my best friend and I am so glad she is here to spend her days with me." May I remember this sentiment as the days grow long and more difficult...
  • Why We Homeschool (2004) - I only wrote one post in July of that year. I was just starting to blog, and my emphasis on this site was to chronicle our journey as we home schooled our only child. This post was more frustration over the lack of support home schoolers get from friends and family, and those annoying questions that spark controversy over school methods, and which is better or worse. Sigh! I've come a long way, baby...
As I take a trip down memory lane, I can see the Lord's hand on my life as He moved me from a SAHM to a single working mother. I have come a long way, a very long way, and while the path has been difficult at times, rocky and steep, I have come through to this pleasant place where I am content, and where I feel good most of the time. The dark days of depression are long past, and while I may get frustrated at times, overwhelmed, and some times really, really disgusted, I am generally in a good mood almost every single day. My words are filled with encouragement, and my heart sings the testimony of a life lived in submission to the Lord. I love my life, every stitch of it, and I am so very content to be where I am, doing the work He has me doing, and living in exactly the place (for now) that He has provided for me to live. My hearts desire has been fulfilled, and I am the recipient of His goodness and His grace. I may not have all my ducks in a row yet, but I am well on my way to seeing that day come to pass.

In fact, I am in such a good place right now that it is practical and applicable for me to take time to look back and see just how far I have come in this journey. I am mid-way through the trials, tests, and while the territory is not 100% hospitable to me, it is good, nonetheless. I have enough provision for today, and I have a solid future ahead of me that is filled with the promise of success and prosperity. I don't know where I will be in 1, 5 or 10 years, but I do know that I will be farther down the line than where I am today. My future is bright, it is filled with hope, and I can see the way clear now. The fog has lifted, the clouds have disappeared, and the sun is shining bright as I look over the horizon to the new day that waits for me. I am ready to walk in the sunshine, to fulfill my calling, to live a life worthy of His Name. I am ready to go and do and be all that He desires for me, and I am ready to take on all the challenges He has in store for me. I know that I will be stretched, I will be challenged, and I will be made stronger, more sturdy, and more able to do the difficult work that lays ahead. God has a great plan for my life, and I am ready to walk in it. I am so ready to go where He is sending me this good day.

Dear Lord,

It has been a long process of reflection, and I see now that you have called me to desire certain things. I have waffled about teaching for so long now, unsure if this is your will or if it was just my stubborn refusal to give up what I wanted (or thought I wanted). I see now that this is your will, it is your desire, and that while I may not understand it completely, this is the path you have chosen for me to walk on. I am content to stay on this path, to go this way, and to experience all you have in mind for me. I am content, I am happy, and I let go of all other options, desires, thoughts that would confuse me, confound me, and contradict what I now know to be true. You have called me to this task, and while it is not the easiest or most natural thing for me to do, it is the THING you have called me to do. I love that you have given me a task that requires work, hard work, and that you provide everything I need to be successful in doing it. I pray now that I can become the very best teacher, the best professor I am capable of being, and that in all my effort, you receive the glory. I want to honor you with my work. I want to bring you my sacrifice of praise every day so that your Name can be lifted high. You are worthy of my praise, you are worthy of my worship. I thank you for the provision of good teaching contracts, and I look forward to the next steps you have in mind for me as I transition from adjunct instructor to FT professor. You alone are worthy to receive our praise! Amen, so be it, thy will be done. Selah!

May 27, 2015

Knowing the Right Way to Go

It is Wednesday, May 27, 2015, and I am sitting here at my computer blogging and thinking about how blessed I am to be able to be home for the summer. I remember how tired I was just a couple weeks ago, as school was coming to an end, and how I was looking forward to the end of the school year. Now, I am rested, well rested, and I am enjoying each day as it comes to me. It is such a peaceful and blessed place to be, a place where I can feel calm and under control. My schooling for Regent is progressing steadily, but my work assignments are low-key (so far) so that I am able to take care of them without any stress. I cannot believe how good it feels to be in this place, to be free to rest, to eat, to sleep, to go and do, all as the Lord leads me. It is hard to describe this feeling, this feeling of being "unchained," and how I can spend my days without worry or fear. God has blessed me with the life of a teacher, and I am so thankful for His provision of rest. Selah!

Rest, blessed rest! Jesus said in Matthew 11:28, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest." My burden is heavy, so very heavy, and I have found sweet rest in my Savior. He gives me the blessed eternal rest I desire, but He also provides temporal rest for me daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly. He knows my needs, He knows my limits (Selah!), and He knows what I can and cannot do (my skills, abilities, talents, etc.). Yes, my Lord knows me so well, and I can rest in that fact. He may test and try my faith in order to show me where I lack trust or belief, but He never presses me beyond what I can bear. He knows how to bend me without breaking me, and for that, I am thankful. He is good to me, so very good to me.

Today, I think about this blessed rest, this summer rest that the Lord has given to me. I worked very hard this past year, and though I don't mean to put down anyone who works a different kind of schedule, I do know that generally speaking, teachers work very hard for a short period of time. Most of the time, we work overtime without pay just to keep up with the demands of our students and administration. It means that we put in extra hours during each week of the school year, and when summer comes, we crash because of the exhaustion of keeping to such a demanding schedule. I can attest to this pattern of hard/heavy work followed by summer ease because this is what I have experienced since I became a teacher in 2013. Prior to teaching, I worked in corporate business where I was expected to put in 40 hours a week for 50 weeks a year (with a two week vacation). I had sick time, but it was frowned on, so I rarely took it unless I was really, really ill. I was also expected to travel, to come into the office or stay late in the office whenever "business dictated." I did all these things because it was part of my job. However, as a teacher, I don't get time off during the year unless it is a holiday. I do get Spring/Fall break, but usually I have some conferences or a ton of papers to grade during that time. My holidays are off, which I love because I am a "Christmas Gal!" And, then of course, I get my summers off as well. In short, teachers work very hard during the school year, and the months off (without pay) are time to recoup from the heavy workload. I am thankful to be a teacher, and to have my summers off. I thank the Lord for His provision of good rest.

Leaning on the Lord

I am still in a quandary over which way to go for a career. I love teaching, but it is not my strongest asset. I am more skilled as an administrator, and I enjoy this type of work. But this type of work brings a 40 hour workweek, a year-round schedule, and the expectation of no long-term rest. If I stay in teaching, which is where I am now, I am working in what Peter Northouse (2015) calls an unrealized strength (p. 60). Unrealized strengths are areas of leadership skill where we are adept but not normally called on to use. In my case, teaching is not my strongest suit, but it is something I can do well, when asked to do it. I normally do not choose to teach, so I don't practice it regularly. However, since I became a teacher in 2013, I have spent the majority of my time learning how to be a good teacher. I have come pretty far since then, but I still feel like it is not easy for me to do. I know how to do administrative work, and it comes naturally and easy for me. Teaching requires a great deal of mental and physical effort, and it is not always a natural ability. I must work really hard to teach, and at times, when the stress level and burden increase, I feel so weighed down and empty. I feel like I run on empty a lot during the year, and I don't like feeling so low and out of control.

Right now, I am considering whether to stay in this career or move into higher education administration. I am open to both, and I have confessed this to the Lord. Your will, Lord; your will! Yet, I find that I am not settled, not completely settled on either path. Why is this so? Why do I feel so unsettled? I think perhaps it is because I am not confident that I am doing the right thing, that I am going the right way. I wonder if I should be doing something different. I wonder if there is another way. Yet, the Lord seems content to keep me where I am, and that must mean something. It must mean something.

The Lord knows my needs, and He knows where He wants me to go. What does He want me to do? Where does He want me to go?

Just yesterday, I was thinking about this, wondering again if I am going the right way. Am I Lord? Is this your will for my life? Am I sensing your movement, your direction, your leading? I believe I am. I feel it inside of me, and I think it makes good sense to me. I also have peace, general peace, that seems to say to me "sit back and rest, let it be, let go." I would like to have perfect peace, peace that tells me in no uncertain terms, "Yes, you are right where you belong," but this peace is evading me. Is it me? Am I wanting something I cannot have at this time? Am I asking for the wrong thing, Lord?

When will this peace finally come to me? When will I finally rest, cease striving, and just let the Lord do what He intends to do with my life? Soon, I hope. Soon.

I am leaning in and abiding in the Lord. I am waiting upon Him for His movement in my life. I am trusting Him to provide, to meet every need, and to grant me the desires of my heart. I know Him, and I know His way. I am struggling a bit with the waiting, with the wanting, with the needing of resolution, and yet, He says to be patient. It is hard, so very hard for me right now.

Part of my issue, and I know it is that my life is uncertain. I am in this very odd place where I cannot just pick up and move. I want to move. I want to go. I want to be in this new place, living and experiencing all the Lord has for me. Yet, I must tarry here, stay here, remain here -- for a time. It is so hard to do, so hard when I feel inside like I am going to burst wide open at any time, when I am going to melt down and crumble. Patience is a virtue, and it must be something I need to learn because the Lord is giving me plenty of practice in waiting patiently for His desire plan to come to pass. Yes, Lord, I will wait. I will wait for you to do your work in me and through me this good day.

Today, I wait. Tomorrow, I will wait. Some day soon, the Lord will release me to go, and it will be good, very good. Until then, I must do the work He has assigned to me. I must complete all my tasks, all my assignments, and I must patiently fulfill my obligations. He is good, so very good, and I know His timing is perfect.

Yes, Lord, I will wait.



References

Northouse, P. G. (2015). Introduction to leadership: Concepts and practice. Los Angeles: Sage.

May 26, 2015

Happy Tuesday!

It is a blessed day today. I am praising God for His goodness and mercy. I am trusting in Him, and I am placing all my confidence in Him, for He is good. He is so very good.

It is another beautiful day in sunny and warm Phoenix. I think we have hit the last of our unusually mild May days. The forecast for the next week is highs near 100 or above so that means it is official -- SUMMER IS HERE!

I was talking with my good friend the other day, and we were discussing places we like to visit. We both agreed that we enjoyed the beach, but that we preferred to visit the mountains more. I think people are divided into two camps, beach and mountains. I have some colleagues that are beach people. These gals arranged every single vacation at the beach (either a lake or ocean). They post pictures on FB or other social media of beach destinations, and they seem to live to soak up the sun. They love being on the water, in the water, and around the water. Beach wear, beach lingo, and beach attitude predominate their lives, 24/7 and 365 days a year.

I like the beach too, but I am not a "beach person." No, I am a mountain/country person, and I am the exact opposite in my interests. I am not "into" vacation planning, but I think that is because I don't have the time or the funds to plan vacations. It would be different if I were working FT, and not in school. I mean, most of my colleagues who take trips often seem to spend their free dollars on vacations. Unfortunately, for a time (and probably a long time), my free dollars (if I have any) will go to my school loans and other immediate needs. I digress...

I think the reason why I love the mountains is that some of my fondest memories are from childhood vacations spent in the country or in the mountains. Most of my family, cousins and such, lived in the country or on farms. I got to spend summers visiting these places, and my heart just "zinged" to be near the sweet country atmosphere. In fact, my "dream home" is a country house sitting on a couple acres somewhere in the backwoods. I would be happy in an old farm house or in a cabin or even in a funky little place so long as I have some woods, a place for a big garden, and the sweet soft sounds of country life. I am pretty open to the place, to the way it the house looks, because what matters more to me is location. As they say in real estate -- LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION. Yes, I am all about the location, and that is all that matters to me.

When I was a little girl, we spent several summers in Camp Nelson, CA. Camp Nelson is a lovely community up in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. My Dad knew someone who had a nice cabin up in the mountains, and who would loan it to us for family vacations. This cabin sat right on a beautiful creek where we would play and go fishing. I remember walking to the lodge (pictured left), and waking up feeling cold in the mornings as the chilled air seeped into the unheated cabin. I think that was the only thing I didn't like about staying up there, but once the sun came up, everything seemed good. I can remember the smell of bacon frying in the kitchen, and all of us kids, running around outside in the woods. It was an outdoor wonderland and playground.

My brothers got to spend their summers at Calvin Crest Camp (now it is a conference center). I didn't get to go because you had to be in 4th grade to attend camp (at least with our church). My folks and I would drive up there to pick my two brothers each summer. It was always a highlight of my summer because I loved the drive up to the camp. I would stick my head out the window and just smell the air as our car whizzed by on the winding country roads. It is funny because the summer camp was a Robin Hood theme back in the 1960s. I googled for some pictures, and guess what? They still have the same Robin Hood theme! Yes, campers still make costumes for their summer experiences.

I love the Sierra Nevada mountains, and my experiences there as a child formed my appreciation for nature and for living mountain life. As a teenager, I had the opportunity to spend many summers and winters in the mountains too. Summer camps were spent in the Santa Cruz mountains, and winter camps were spent near Lake Tahoe (for skiing). In between, I lived in San Jose, and enjoyed the backdrop of the lovely foothills that surrounded our neighborhood. It seemed that I could drive to the foothills within 10-15 minutes, and I could be at the beach in about 45. It took about 4 hours to get to the Sierra Nevada's but I could easily drive up to the Santa Cruz mountains in about 30 minutes. I loved the fact that I could get away from the bustle of the city in less than an hour. I spent a lot of time driving when I lived in CA. I would often just get in my car and drive -- just so that I could get away from the stress, the frustration, and the loneliness I experienced. I was not the happiest person back then, so I often sought solace in nature. I would drive to some quiet spot, get out and walk or sometimes just sit in peace. I prayed often for the Lord to help me, to remove the pain I was feeling, and to help me understand why I was in the circumstance I was in. I always felt better, at least, temporarily, but in the end, I had to return to my life and that meant heading back to the tension and stress I felt every day.

Now I am in such a different place. I live in the desert, which is my least favorite place to live. I mean, I am a country girl at heart, yet I have found myself living in this desert place for almost 20 years now (20 years in 2016). Don't get me wrong, I am happy where I am, but I long to live elsewhere. I didn't choose Phoenix, per se. I chose to come here to deal with the stress of living in a strained and difficult relationship with my in-laws. I thought that if we came here to be closer to them, it would be easier to deal with the stress (they were always demanding we come to Phoenix all the time to help care for them). Big mistake. Huge mistake. Marriage-ending mistake. Yes, the problems didn't get better, only worse, and in the end, the strain on our weakened and fragile marriage deepened. They were not the cause of the failure, of course, but they were a contributing factor to it (for sure!)

Phoenix is a pretty place for certain, but it is not filled with woodlands and meadows and lakes and rivers and creeks and rolling hills. Yes, we do have mountains to the North, South and East, but generally, we have desert all around us and our mountains and hills are filled with scrub and other desert loving plants. Flagstaff has pine and a resemblance of mountain greenery, but nothing like the big mountains of CA, Rockies or even Appalachia. No, I long for the green of forests and for the slow country life. I want to leave the desert, and head east to where it is green, rainy, and always variable. I long for meadows of wildflowers, dense brush and trees, and the lovely peek-a-boo of sky and clouds (rather than our intense full-time sun).

As I think about my desire to relocate, I realize that much of what I want is predicated on childhood memories. I think this is normal, and that for many of us, our memories instilled a certain love or appreciation for certain things. If we found pleasure in these things, then this is something we desire to replicate in our life as we age. We want the same sense of peace, of contentment, of joy, of fulfillment that we felt then, and we believe that we will find these things by returning to a similar place. Of course, we know that the only true fulfillment comes with a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. We know that our Source for satisfaction and joy is in Him alone. Still, I think there are times when we desire certain things, and these desires are right and proper, as they fall under the Lord's design for our lives.

Psalm 37:4-5 says, "Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart." I believe the word desires here alludes to the 'desires' the Lord has for those who are in fellowship with Him. It is not speaking of carnal or fleshly desires but desires that are good, right and proper -- desires that lead the believer closer to God, and not farther from Him. Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible says,
Delight thyself also in the Lord,.... In the persons in God, Father, Son, and Spirit; in the perfections of God, his power, goodness, faithfulness, wisdom, love, grace, and mercy; in his works of creation, providence, and redemption; in his word, his Gospel, the truths and ordinances of it; in his house, and the worship of it; and in his people, the excellent in the earth, in whom was all the delight of the psalmist; and each of these afford a field of delight and pleasure, to attend unto, contemplate, and meditate upon; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart; such as are according to the will of God, and for the good of his people; such as relate to communion with him, and to the communication of more grace from him, and to the enjoyment of eternal glory.
 Yet, I also believe that within this understanding of the word "desires" there exists some blessing, some measure of fulfillment that covers more than just our enjoyment of eternal glory. In truth, I believe that when we are in this type of relationship, this complete dependency upon the Lord, there is blessing that comes to us that can, at times, allow us to enjoy temporal things too. In this way, the Lord gives us the true desires of our heart, which is a deeper and more committed communion with Him as well as with our brothers and sisters in Christ, but also He gives us desires that we might have that align with His will for our lives, in order to satisfy our temporal needs and to move us into a position of service to Him and His Church. I know this is true in my own life because the Lord has done both -- given me eternal delight at the same time that He has given me temporal delight in the desire to return to school, to become a teacher, to be married again. These are all good, right and proper things, and they align with the Lord's will for me. Yet, for many years, I thought these things were simply desires or yearnings I had that were of my own making. I didn't realize that these deep longings were also of His making. Now, I see that many of my deep longings were His longings for me. Together, in cooperation, He is bringing these things to pass in my life.

One of my desires is for a home. I want a home where I can settle, put down roots, and be safe. I believe this is a desire the Lord has placed within me, and it is something I have longed for since I was a child. I am sure my own carnal/fleshly interest is factored in because I have a "hankering for a yellow house!" Color and condition aside, I would love an old farmhouse on a bit of land, something like what is shown below:

I love yellow farm houses

Yep, with big trees in the yard

And a fireplace

And a big porch


And a big garden

I have a picture in my mind of where I want to retire, where I would like to live out my days, and while each one of these pictures captures bits and pieces of that vision, none really sum it all up. I will know the house, the land, the place when I see it, and then I will be able to say "Yes, Lord, I am home!"

Lord,

I know you have plans for my life, and I know that these plans are good. You have given me desires that are not my own, and I believe that these desires have been put in my heart in order to move me closer and closer toward the fulfillment of your will. I am open, Lord, to go wherever you send me. I am open, Lord, to live in whatever city you place me. I am open, Lord, to follow after you to the job of your choosing. I will go, I am ready, and I am trusting you with full faith and confidence that where you lead, I will be most happiest, most settled, and most fulfilled. May your will, Lord, come to pass in my life this day. May your Name be honored and praised, and May you bring to pass all the desires you have for me, both temporal and eternal, so that I can come to the full stature of the woman you have created me to be. Bring me to your the feet of your glory, Lord, to my final resting place, after the culmination of a life lived and sacrificed to you, and to you alone! May God be praised today and forever more! Amen, selah!



May 25, 2015

Making Progress


It is Memorial Day, and that means that this long weekend is devoted to celebrating all those who have died to keep America safe. I am thankful for all of my friends, family, colleagues, and Christian brothers and sisters who have faithful served our country in one of the many branches of the Armed services. I am thankful that my country still is free -- free from totalitarianism, dictatorships, and communism.

I am not always happy with the way our justice and political systems work, but I am thankful that what we still have is a county where freedom exists to a greater extent than in many other countries in our world today.  Still, I pray the Lord of Hosts continue to bless and protect those who serve our country. I pray for my Christian brothers and sisters in the Military who diligently seek His face, and who endeavor to honor and obey Him in all things.  This Memorial Day, let us not forget to remember that He is our Sovereign Ruler, and He is our Most High King. Let us worship His Holy Name this good day! Amen, selah!

Little Steps Yield Big Results

Yes, I am thinking about making progress today. In fact, I am sitting here now as I give praise to God for helping me complete all my assignments and tasks for the day. My courses at Regent are proving to be a perfect fit to my summer plans. So far, nothing has been too difficult for me, and I seem to be handling the workload without any issues or concerns. My Leadership class is only 8 weeks long, and so far, it has been a blast. I love the content and the focus, and the instructor is awesome. It has been such a welcoming experience to study Leadership Theory in this way. My other two classes are more research/publication writing focused, so I don't have a lot of work to do just yet. These classes will require more time next month, but for now, I am finding the research process light and easy. So far so good...

In other news, I am still in a 'wait and see' mode. I am waiting for my final contract to come from ACU, and I expect it pretty soon. I was trying to think when I got the contract last year, and it seemed like it was around May. Hmm... Truthfully, I am OK if that contract doesn't come. I would like the extra cash, but my course load is heavy for fall, so I am fine if I end up over at GCU on MWF only. I know the Lord will cover me, so I am OK with whatever comes to pass.

I am still thinking about finding other work, and I have applied for a FT position at U of A in Phoenix. It is administrative, and while I have experience, I probably do not have all the experience they want for the role. It would be a good solid paying job, though, with good benefits. It doesn't get me to Alabama, and that is my heart's intent, but it would satisfy my needs for the next year or so until I finish my PhD. I am trying to wrap my head around what the Lord intends to do with me. I mean, does He intend for me to step out of teaching completely, and move into a more leadership type role? Perhaps He does. I am content either way, but I am trying to figure out how I can get myself from Phoenix to Alabama within the next year, and right now that path just seems muddied. I am confident that the Lord intends to move me there, I just don't know how or when He will do it. I am open to teaching at any University in the area, and I am trusting Him to provide for me.

My life here in Phoenix is complicated, of course, but it is not overwhelmingly so. I need some direction, a good plan, plenty of resources -- all of which can be provided by Him -- to be able to move. It is not a lot, really, just more about timing and provision. The Lord knows His timing is perfect, and He has my needs in mind. I know He loves me, and He cares for me, and He is moving to make my life align with that of my love's. It is vitally important that I do not panic and pursue change -- I must wait for the Lord to lead. It is important to me, to my family, and to my love. We must move forward in sync so that everything, and I mean everything, works together for our good (each of us individually). God is the God of all things, and I rest in His sufficiency. He is good, so very good to me.

It is difficult for me to put into words how I feel today. I am struggling with issues here at home, nothing major, but just enough "garbage" to bring me down. I want to so much to be free from stress, you know, really free from it. I spent so many years living in stressful conditions when I was married. I told myself that I would not willingly go back into a stress-filled environment, yet, I find that I am in one. I knew it would be this way when I moved in with my parents. I chose to do this because "I believed" it was the Lord's will for me. I didn't know then what I know now, that my Mom would be suffering from dementia, and that my presence here would be a comfort to them. I also didn't know that my courses at Regent would be so challenging, and that I would be teaching full-time and not have enough salary to pay for my own place. Of course, as things worked out, I am right in this spot now, and while I do not like the fact that there is a lot of stress here, I am thankful that I live in a nice home, and that I have nice things around me. Still there is part of me that longs for my own home, a place of my own, where I can live stress free.

Really...Stress Free?

I often wonder if there such a thing or place without stress? Stress is defined as "a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances," which says to me that it is very possible to live without it. You don't have to live with stress, you can choose a path or a place where there is little to no stress. Keep in mind that often stress is produced by our own hand. We choose workplaces with stress. We allow our homes to become battlefields. We refuse to get along well with others. There are a lot of things that we do intentionally to create stress. Then there are some things that happen outside our control and stress is exerted upon us. Another definition of stress, a more mechanical one, fits this scenario. Stress can also mean "pressure or tension exerted on a material object," whereby the "material object" can be human.

Stress comes in all shapes and sizes, and at times, it can be so overwhelming to us that it can cause severe physical and mental problems. Stress, according to medical professionals is the body's natural response to fear. According to Smith, Segal, and Segal (2015), "Stress is a normal physical response to events that make you feel threatened or upset your balance in some way. When you sense danger—whether it’s real or imagined—the body's defenses kick into high gear in a rapid, automatic process known as the “fight-or-flight-or-freeze” reaction, or the stress response" (para. 2). Your body naturally ramps up to defend itself against attack of any kind. How you respond to stress is key. If you allow yourself to go into "stress overload," you can actually condition your body to accept stress as a normal part of life, rather than as a fear-based situation. This stress overload can cause damage to bodily systems, and can lead to a myriad of stress-related disorders. As such "Stress affects the mind, body, and behavior in many ways" and because "everyone experiences stress differently" stress can "take a toll on your relationships at home, work, and school" (para. 3).

For a list of stress related symptoms see HelpGuide.org here.

I have stress in a number of forms in my life, and with each one, I find I exhibit different responses. I think it is important to understand how we respond to stress, and to differentiate between the different types of responses. This can help us moderate our overall response to stress-filled situations, and it can also help us make decisions that can influence choices. Let me explain...

Smith, Segal and Segal (2015) state, "Stress isn’t always bad. In small doses, it can help you perform under pressure and motivate you to do your best" (para. 1). Moreover, they write, "The stress response also helps you rise to meet challenges. Stress is what keeps you on your toes during a presentation at work, sharpens your concentration when you’re attempting the game-winning free throw, or drives you to study for an exam when you'd rather be watching TV" (para. 4). Thus, in the right measure, stress can motivate you to excel and to perform at your best. It can be an ally when the chips are down or when you are called on to meet a demand in short order. Stress can provide that necessary "boost" to get you over the hump, to help you accomplish a tough goal, or to see you through a particularly challenging event. It can help you at times, especially when you feel the pressure or pinch to perform or meet high demands or expectations.

Therefore, one of my stressors is school. I am a doctoral student, and school stress is a large factor for me. I am called upon to write scholarly research papers, to meet demands of course assignments, and generally, to perform at a scholarly, academic level during my PhD program. This kind of stress gets to me occasionally, mostly at the end of the semester when all the assignments are due, and I am waiting on final grades. It is a temporary stress, and while I don't like the final push to the end of each semester, I enjoy my classes so much, that I put up with the stress because I know that the goal is worth the temporary discomfort. In short, I see stress as part-and-parcel with my goal of achieving my PhD.

I also have work-related stress. I love teaching, don't get me wrong, but there is stress involved in the dailyness of teaching college level courses. I stress over prepping for my classes. I stress over managing my schedule, meeting with students, grading papers, etc. I find the whole teaching process to be stressful for me. Though I would rate the stress as low-level, in that it is not overwhelming, but rather more of an annoyance. It is pressure like a tight ace-bandage wrapped around a sore ankle. I feel it, and I see it, but I don't necessarily like the compression. I know it has an end each semester, so like my school stress, I put up with it because it goes hand-and-hand with being a college teacher.

I have family tension that often erupts into stressful events. This is normal for most people. Unfortunately, family tension is common because of many reasons. Family dynamics and personalities seem to create tension especially when coupled with financial matters or sexual issues (marital problems, etc.). Family tension is one of the most difficult forms of stress simply because you cannot always disengage yourself from your family. Family is family and while we may want to forget certain members, stay away from them, or even refuse to have any relationship with them, they are still tied to us through other connectors (for example, your parents, siblings or children). Thus, family tension can be on-going or cyclical (like at holidays). It just depends on the family dynamic, relationship style, and established routines and protocols for handing difficult family members. In my case, I have family stress because of personality quirks. Generally, I get along with my family. I have a close-knit and loving family, but due to personalities, flare-ups can cause issues that affect the entire family. One family member can disrupt the whole family system. Moreover, because I am dealing with elderly parents, there are associated challenges such as dementia, physical and medical issues, that cause stress, repeated stress.

As I process these three different types of stress, I notice my response to the stressors is different. For example, with school-related stress, my response is to hunker down, work harder, plow on through to the end. I tend to perform and produce in order to overcome the stress. It is a way for me to remove the stressor from my life, and in doing so, I accomplish two things. I accomplish an end to the stress, and I accomplish an end to the goal.

My response to work-related stress is one of endurance. I consider this type of stress to be cyclical. I mean, as long as I am teaching, I will have this stress. It will start in August and end in December. It will start again in January and end in April. My summer is my release where I can relax and recuperate from the semester-long stress of teaching college courses.

In both of these cases, the stress I feel is managed because of the fact that I see "light at the end of the tunnel." I realize that the stress is short-term, relatively, and that by recognizing that there is an end in sight, I can push through it, handle it, and deal with it simply because I know that the pain I feel will be over soon.

Family tension/stress is another matter entirely. I cannot be completely free from my family stress unless I choose to relocate far from them. In doing so, I would be channelling this stress into a temporary type because it would mean that I would visit my family and endure the stressful relationship on a temporary basis -- just until it was time to go home again. But since, I live with my family at present, I have to deal with the stress as it comes. Most of the time, the stress is minimal. It may come as a result of some change in schedule or routine or it may be isolated to a specific cause (like miscommunication or a mishap). I normally can deal with this kind of stress because I understand the root cause of it. I know that some of the stress comes from the blending of two families (mine and my parents). It also comes from having two older people, a middle-aged person, and a young person living under the same roof. Competing generations cause stress simply because of communication challenges. It happens; we deal with it.

Yet, with all these kinds of stressors, I find that it is the internalization of stress that causes me the most concern. This is the kind of stress that comes as a result of worry, of doubt, and of fear. I worry over my life, the plans the Lord has for me, and the current tenor of my situation. Will I get that job? Is there a better job on the horizon? What should I do today? How will this decision impact my future goals and plans?

Internal stressors are best dealt with through prayer. If you can realize that you are stressing over things you cannot control or that are not your choosing, then you can let them go, and not worry about them. Some things will not go away immediately, but the Lord can give you His peace to help you endure the length of the trial. You can find peace in any situation, and the Lord can provide you with hope for a change at some point down the road. There is always hope, but often, we lose sight of it simply because we focus on the stress and the cause of the stress. Whenever we become microscopic, we lose sight of the bigger picture which includes the realization that our God, our Father in Heaven, is Sovereign over us. He reigns, and we can take comfort in His authority over our heads. God is good, so very good to us.

Today, I think about the stress I have in my life. Most of it is temporary, and in time, it will be resolved. Some of it is family related and there isn't much I can do except move from my family and limit my contact to them. I don't want to do that at this time, so I have to learn how to deal with the communication challenges, and general unpleasantness that comes with "doing life together." It is all part of learning how to get along in the body of Christ, and at times, it can be difficult. We must remember to trust the Lord in these situations, to let go, to give grace, and to recognize that relationships are messy, always messy. God is good, He is sovereign, and His grace is sufficient. In all things, I acknowledge Him, and I give Him praise. He is good to me, so very good to me.

Living and Looking Forward

What I know today is that my life, while at times a bit rocky, is not status quo. God is moving in and through me to bring me to the position of His choosing. He is moving me to the place of His choosing. He is moving me toward prosperity and not poverty, and He is providing me with grace and opportunity to realize that He has a unique and wonderful purpose and plan for my life. All of this moving takes time, time to negotiate changes, time to prepare for future relationships, and time to settle the past while opening doors in the present. Time is everything, and rushing through the various stages now could prove disastrous in the end. I know what I want, and I can see it over there on the horizon. I want a good life, a safe life, a happy life. I want a life where I am able to fulfill my calling in Christ Jesus, and where I can live and work according to His plans and purposes. I want a good life, a life that is upright, honorable, and holy. I want the life the Lord has for me, and I must wait while He moves everything and everyone into their places. To shorten the process, to cause steps to be missed, could end up making the outcome less than satisfactory. No, I want His best, and for that I must wait. I must wait until He is ready for me to go, to do, and to live in His way. He is God, and He is good all the time. He is so very good to me.

May 23, 2015

Sensing Movement...Again!

It is a good Saturday in Phoenix, Arizona. It is a particularly good day in that the skies are blue, and the sun is shining -- all without our normal high temperatures! Yes, it is 9:30 a.m., and I am sitting at my desk with my window open! Woohoo! This is SO NOT a normal May day.

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.

I call upon the Lord often, and when I do, I use this particular Name (as well as many others, see right). In this way, I am saying to the Lord that I know He will provide for me today. I am also saying that I trust Him to provide for me tomorrow. I trust Him, and I know that He is well-aware of my needs, even the needs that I do not recognize yet. For example, I have needs for travel expense. I have a rough idea of what it will cost me to travel from Phoenix to Virginia Beach. I know what the estimate is for a car rental and hotel. I have these needs in mind, and while I know I can pay for them with my credit card (and I will), I am simply purchasing a present need with the expectancy of future payment. Yes, I am borrowing money to attend school.

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:
  1. 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
  2. To invest my earnings in safe investments along with some more risky ones to build funds for retirement
  3. 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.

Some Possibilities

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!

May 21, 2015

Which Way to Go?

I don't know why I am thinking about Home Schooling today, but I am. Maybe it is because so many of my old friends are planning for fall now (using the summer to plan). Just thinking about doing that, about making plans for the new year, makes me winsome and sad. I miss home schooling; I so missing homeschooling. Sigh!

I am still on several home school email and support lists, just to keep my hand in the business, but I don't really do anything anymore as far as curriculum or even offering daily advice/support (I just don't have time). Occasionally, I will post a reply to a question posted by a concerned Mom, but generally, I am a lurker only (reading posts). Yes, those good old days are behind me, and now I am a full-time instructor (part-time at two schools) where I am able to teach and to mentor several hundred students each semester. The path from there to here has been a long one, and at times, a very difficult one. Yet, here I am, and I marvel at the transformation of my experience, my character, and my desires. God has provided a wonderful job for me, and I love the fact that I get to teach students every day. He is good, so very good to me.

It is amazing to me just to sit and to consider that fact that I am now full-time college instructor. My desire to teach initially, way back when, was to teach college level courses (English mostly). After I graduated from SJSU in 1993, I attempted a Masters program, butI abruptly dropped it because my ex-husband wasn't supportive nor was my family willing to help me care for my then, 1-year old son, so I could go on to school. Had I waited another 6 months or so, my son could have gone to the day care program at my school. It was a neat opportunity that allowed single Mom's the chance to get an education.  The student workers who were studying to become early childhood educators would have watched him for the couple hours I was in class each day. The Lord had other designs, of course, and I stepped out of the graduate study path and stayed on the Mom path. Back then I felt a bit like Alice in Wonderland when she came upon the Cheshire cat. Alice had a decision to make, which path to choose, so she asked the cat and he replied "where do you want to go?" When she answered, "I don't know," the cat replied, "then it doesn't matter." If it were only so easy, only so easy...

Does Our Path Matter?

In Lewis Carroll's wonderful way with words, the entire dynamic of choosing a path was summed up by the words of the Cheshire cat. Truthfully, it is very hard to be "directed" if you don't know where you are going. In fact, how would you know if you are on the right path for sure because without an end goal in mind, nothing would be certain. I know that this is a mystery to some people. Some folks (and I know a few like this) find that flitting and flying through life on a feather is a good thing. It reminds me of the wisdom of "Forrest Gump" where Forrest shares Mama's sage advice on life. Forrest says, "Mama always said 'life is like a box of chocolates -- you never know what you are going to get.'" Yes, with the "feather in the wind" approach you are almost guaranteed to experience randomness in life -- you will never know what you will get because you will have no direction in mind, no goals to achieve, and no objectives to meet. In short, life will be random, pointless, and without any defining characteristics.

Of course, there are many who would disagree. They feel that the "whatever goes, whatever happens" approach is just fine. I think it is a noble idea to choose such an approach, but only when, and if, you are willing to never complain about the outcome (the chocolate you receive). I mean, if you have taken a "willy nilly" random "crap shoot" like attitude, then you shouldn't complain about what you get in the end. Know what I mean?

Life Is Ordered and Not Chaos

I feel that life is ordered or that it can be ordered and that it is not random or happenstance. I happen to hold to a Biblical view of the creation story, and with that belief, I firmly choose to accept that God has my steps ordered, my life directed, and my days planned. Furthermore, if I believe that I am on a set path, a path that has a predicted outcome, then I know what to expect. I believe that as a born-again believer in Jesus Christ, my days are numbered, and my future is secure. I know where I am going, and I know the path I am on. I am not asking the Cheshire cat or any other mythical creature (or real for that matter) to help me choose a way to go. My path is not random, and it does matter, the way I choose to go. I mean, am I following the Lord's plan for my life? If so, then the path that I am on is directly proportional to the steps I take today. For example, I know that the outer calling on my life is to arrive at my eternal destination (Heaven) ready and complete to enter into a life of bliss. My path then according to this outer calling is to be "conformed" to the likeness (the character) of my Savior, Jesus Christ. I am to manifest His character and that means that progressively I am to learn how to relate to others in the same way He related to them. I am to become like Christ in every area of my life. This is my upward, my outer calling, and the path I am on includes learning how to interact and engage with others so that I can adapt my behaviors, my attitudes, and my heart's leanings toward gracious living. I am to give grace to my brother's and sister's in Christ and to the world (so much as I am able to do so).

Moreover, if my outer calling is predicated on learning to be like Jesus, then what is my inner calling? My inner calling is that specific work that God has laid on my heart, a work that seeks to serve Him and others, to demonstrate Christ's love and sacrifice in a multitude of ways. In my case, I believe that my inner calling is to be a teacher and to teach others (children, teens, young adults) how to love God and love others in Christ-like ways. It also includes teaching people how to be reconciled, and to be reconciled, I must help them learn to communicate better. It is my calling then to be a Communications teacher, to teach the people God brings to me or through my actual job, so that they can learn how to repair damaged relationships. I am to reconcile people to one another, to show them how to be gracious in their speech and conduct, and to help them see the value in building relationships for the Kingdom of God.

The path I am on is fixed, it is settled. This path was decided for me at the cross of Calvary. I made the decision to follow this path when I placed my faith in Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I have been on this path since that day, and while I have been confused at times over whether I am to go here or there (physically), my path has not shifted. I am set to finish this race of faith, and that means that I will come to the end of my days having lived my life according to His plan for salvation, sanctification and future glorification. God is good, so very good to me.

What About Other Paths?

I hear this question from time to time, and I struggle myself to understand the various paths or opportunities the Lord allows me to experience. I mean, I know I am on the grand overarching path that leads to eternity, and the steps I take each day help me to become more and more like Him (in my attitude, behaviors, and thinking). Yet, what about all the paths that I can choose for a career, a place to live, a school to attend? How do I know what path to take for all these other decisions in life?

I used to believe that my path was fixed, but so often, I found that I was presented with various options for life. I would ask the Lord, "Lord, which way do I go?" and in much the same way as the Cheshire cat, the Lord would say to me, "it doesn't matter." I thought, "Oh, no! Of course, it matters! What if I choose the wrong path? Go the wrong way?"

In truth, I have come to understand this matter better or more clearly. You see, so long as your outer calling and inner calling are set in motion, the path you choose to follow for your daily life doesn't matter. It really doesn't matter. I do believe the Lord directs our steps, helps us choose the better course of action, but I don't believe that there is one right way to go, one path only. I have experienced in my life many different options or courses, and while some were easier than others, generally, they were equal in their outcome. Let me explain...

If you want to have confidence to know that the path you are on or the path you plan to take is a good one, then follow this approach:
  1. Make sure your outer calling in secure. Are you saved? Are you seeking the Lord with all your heart, your mind, your strength and your soul? Do you have a personal, intimate relationship with the Lord? Are you studying His word, spending time with Him in prayer, seeking wise advice from pastors, teachers, parents, and friends? Generally, is your life "right with the Lord?" If so, go to step 2. If not, get on your knees and do some business with the Lord. Forsake all idols, submit to His authority, and stop sinning (oh, please stop sinning). Trust Him for His healing grace, and then pick up your cross and follow after Him (again!)
  2. Identify your inner calling. This is crucial for the next series of steps so if you have never taken a spiritual assessment, do it now. There are several online that are free. Take more than one, and see if you see patterns or relationships. Note similarities, and then think back on what you naturally do when called to serve (Do you volunteer to help or lead? Do you like to work behind the scenes? Are you creative or an artist?) Here are a couple of sites you can try, if you want to do this now:
  3. Once you have your assessment complete, you can begin to develop a profile that will help you determine if your inner calling matches your professional career or life choice. To create a profile, simply start making lists to see where the items meet your spiritual gifts assessment. You should be able to tell if whether your classes, practical jobs, or ministry service has aligned with your spiritual gifts. In most cases, you should find some relationship between your daily work or ministry service and the calling of the Holy Spirit. For example, my spiritual gifts generally include the following key areas: administration (directing ministries), exhortation (encouragement), and discernment (judgment/false teaching). Some of my other gifts are personal such as faith, wisdom, knowledge, or prophecy. If I look at the top three, I will see that most of the practical jobs I have had over the course of my life have been in administration (task oriented, directing or overseeing projects). My personal approach to relationships is through exhortation, and my intuition in work or life is directed toward recognizing false teaching or heresy. In ministry, I have served as a Children's Director, AWANA Commander, and in other production capacities (website administrator, for example). In all these examples, I used my spiritual gift of administration to lead or direct people or facilitate a project. In my profession, I have worked in similar positions up until I started teaching in 2013. I have always worked in an administrative position or as a project manager or analyst.
  4. Using your spiritual gifts every day. Some people assume that their spiritual gifts have an on/off switch, and that the only time they use them is in ministry or church service. This is not the case. God has given specific gifts to you in order for you to fulfill your role in the Body of Christ. The key to living a fulfilled spiritual life is to be active and allow the Holy Spirit to use your gifts whenever He desires to use them. This means in your current place of work, in the church, in your home, at school, etc. You do not have to work in full-time Christian ministry to use your gifts. The Holy Spirit is able to use your gifts right where you are, right now, and He can work miracles through you because He is God. Many times we believe that our spiritual gifts are only for ministry, and while this is primarily true, these special gifts were given as a blessing to us as well as to the church. Therefore, I can encourage and exhort (my gift) anyplace I choose -- Walmart, at school, while standing in line at the DMV office. It doesn't matter -- the Holy Spirit is active and present in my life so that means that He can use whatever gift He needs to use, whenever He needs to use it.
  5. Aligning your practical work with your spiritual work. Sometimes God will place a particular call on your life and ask you to consider doing a different type of work. Perhaps it is a different job or career. It might be to return to college to get a degree or professional certificate. If God has laid a particular career path on your heart, then it is important to follow that desire. However, for many people, the Lord expects them to serve where they are, and that means to work in whatever job He provides to them. For some this might be ministering to coworkers through gracious speech, conduct or living (personal evangelism). It might also mean finding opportunities in a current job in order to develop ministry gifts (such as taking classes through work, seeking promotions, or other ways to build leadership skill).
Putting it All Together

What if your current work conflicts with your spiritual gifts or doesn't allow you the opportunity to use or develop your gifts because the workplace is hostile to Christians or Christianity? This is a valid concern, but I think it needs to be assessed properly in order to identify whether or not this particular job is the Lord's will for your life? For example, if you are in a job that brings you no daily satisfaction, that creates stress on your life or that doesn't meet your needs financially, then the wise decision is to look elsewhere. I do not believe that the Lord places you in difficult jobs simply to frustrate you. He may allow you to remain in a difficult job in order to help you see His overarching will for your life, to refine your understanding of your calling, or to provide opportunity for growth. However, I do not see the Lord placing people in positions where they are berated or beaten down. This is not to say He couldn't choose to do that, but as a loving God desiring only the best for His children, it doesn't seem to follow His methods or means.

I struggle most with this concept of job satisfaction = spiritual gift alignment. If I am honest with myself, then my job or career choice is not best suited for my spiritual gifts. Teaching is a weaker skill for me. On my spiritual gift assessment, teaching ranks high, but it is not the highest of my gifts. My gifts are in order: administration, discernment, faith, prophecy, wisdom, exhortation, knowledge, and teaching (35-30). My weaker gifts are serving, pastoring, mercy, evangelism, and giving (23-14).  If I consider the positions I have held in the church, I have always served in my strength (administration). If I look at the jobs I have held most recently, I have worked in two of three weaker positions, and one very strong position. Right now, I am in a weak position (relatively speaking).

How to Reconcile and Make a Good Choice

Since I believe the Lord called me to return to Regent University to study Communication, I have been focused on teaching as a viable career option. I enjoy teaching, and I find the process of teaching along with the freedom it brings to be a good fit. However, job satisfaction aside, teaching doesn't really fit me as well as say communications/media or marketing analyst type work. I enjoy using my administration skill most, and I love the feeling of accomplishment that comes from doing this kind of work. I love working with projects more than people, and I enjoy directing or managing resources. I find that I am less stressed and more at ease when I am in control of outcomes. If I wanted to switch jobs, change careers, the best option for me would be to find a position where I can use my strongest gift daily. This would be to find some type of administrative position where I could use my spiritual gift for order, task and detail orientation, and direction of people, programs or resources to the best use. 

Is this a must? Must you align your spiritual gifts with your practical daily work? This is a difficult question to answer simply because it is individual and personal. I would say that my gut answer would be yes, unless of course, the Lord calls you otherwise. For example, let's say that your spiritual gifts are most strong in pastoring, mercy, and serving. You love working with people, and you want to help them overcome trials, struggles or difficulties. You may find enough comfort working in the church, in prayer ministry or in visiting with shut-ins or the homebound. You may decide to pursue a degree in social work and work with people who have special needs. This career would facilitate your gift of mercy and your love of pastoring/shepherding people. Working in this type of job would provide deep satisfaction on a daily basis, and could bring great comfort in knowing that your skills were being used by the Holy Spirit to minister to people daily.

Keep in mind that the traditional role of mother is unique. In my view, a woman who is able to stay at home and raise children already has an important job. In God's view, raising children is highly valued and esteemed. Therefore the mother who is at home can easily use her skills to build up her family, and to support her husband in his career or ministry work. I realize that many women are single and have children. In this case, the Lord provides as He is able to do so, and I believe that a career position must first and foremost not keep Moms from being Moms. I digress...

In my case, I see two paths before me. I have seen these two paths for a long while, ever since I returned to graduate school. I have followed the administration path for a time, and then I stepped over to the teaching path in order to facilitate my doctoral studies. Now, I am at the point where I am ready to work full-time, to have a position that will make the most of three things:
  1. My advanced degree in Communication
  2. My experience in Communications, in general, along with technology, media, and marketing
  3. My willingness to be used by the Lord to do His work in complete (ministry=job=life calling)
As I consider the paths I have in front of me, this is what I see:
  • One path leads further on through teaching, a full-time academic position in higher education
  • One path leads me into an administrative position, also in higher education
Therefore, I am presented with two options, both are good, both are viable, and both are open to me. So which do I choose? How do I choose the path to follow? Enter the Cheshire cat.

If you don't know where you are going, then it doesn't matter.

Hmmm....

Do I know where I am going? Yes, I do. I am following the outer and inner calling of the Lord, and that means that my path is set and fixed. I am heading toward my heavenly destination. However, in this life, in the dailyness of this life, I am simply passing time. I am working in jobs that bring me into contact with people whom the Lord chooses for me to build relationships with, and that means, that everything I do is "ministry oriented." I am using my life choices to develop skills, to build intentional relationships, and to fulfill my calling to be a communications teacher (in title or not). Yes, I am using my degree, my studies, and my life experience to help the church learn how to reconcile one another, while in my day-to-day world, I am using my degree, my studies, and my experience to do good practical work, to earn an income, to provide a viable future for me and my family. In short, everything I do is predicated on serving God and others. I am being conformed to His image and to His character so that whether I teach or I administrate, I am doing the work the Lord has called me to do. Amen, Selah!

Thus, my choice is a simple one. The decision I make is simply to choose a path. I can go on into teaching and I will find the path blessed. I can switch and move into administration, and I will also find the path blessed. Is one better than the other? Is one more blessed? In short, yes. If I work in my strength, I will find the most ease and ability, and I will enjoy satisfaction because I will be using my gifts as they are best suited to me. I will also find that I am able to succeed, to be promoted, and to find job progression easier. Why? Business or corporate type positions are less structured than teaching roles, and therefore, there is freedom for promotion. In teaching, there is a cap on salary and on experience, and the movement upward is limited because of the structure of the academic institution. 

As I consider the options the Lord has for me, I know this -- I am on the path of His choosing. I am going where He wants me to go. I may find myself doing something different in short order, but I will have the confidence to know that whatever it is I do eventually, it will be good, it will be blessed, and it will provide for me and for my family. Of this, I am 100% sure.