January 2, 2016

Almost Ready Now

Today is January 2, 2016 -- the second day of the new year! It is a good day here in Phoenix. It is sunny out and warm. I slept well last night, but woke up to the boys (Ike and Winston) playing rough on my bed. After two-three attempts to get them to stop, I finally got out of bed and shooed them out the door. I did return to sleep and woke up about 15 minutes ago. Since this is Saturday, I am down to my second-to-the-last day to sleep-in for the next 16 weeks. Sigh! The winter break seems far to short in my humble opinion...

Trusting the Lord

Well, yesterday was a very good day. I made great progress with my study preparation, and I was able to get all my materials collected, printed, and placed into their respective sections in one of my three 3-ring binders. I am so happy to have everything printed out. Now, I can look through it and see what is missing and print those pages out today. I should have all my study materials ready to go by tomorrow evening (Praise God!)

On top of that feat, I also helped my Mom un-decorate the house. Well, my Mom did most of the taking down, but I packed everything in their bins and stacked them in the living room. Today, I will move them back outside in our storage shed for their long slumber until Christmas rolls around again in 2016. I still have to take down the outdoor lights, and I do hope to do that today. In all, I was able to do the two major items on my to-do list this week: finish my prep work and get the house ready for January. I didn't think I would make it, but the lord has been so faithful to me. He has made a way for me, and He has helped me see how to maneuver through the clutter, the chaos, and the confusion. He is so good, so very good to me.

My task list for this weekend includes finishing up these final items, but it also includes getting my power points ready for Monday. Yes, school starts and as of the last roster check, I have 166 student enrolled in my three English Composition courses. I am so thankful the Lord decided to have me teach three sections of the same class. Now I see why this was such a smart maneuver. I mean, I have all the power point lessons ready to go, and I am confident in teaching this material to my students. I will be able to repeat, repeat, repeat all semester long.

I hope to run through the first couple weeks (five or the first essay assignment) tomorrow, just to make sure I have everything in order. This should take me right up to my qualification exams without having to worry too much about these classes. God has this THING worked out, I know it, and my task today is to rest and let Him guide me through these last remaining to-do items.

He is good, so very good to me!

Moving Forward One Step at a Time

Last night, I spent a good seven hours on the phone with my friend. I know, seven hours! I cannot believe that we can talk that long, and that we actually have good things to discuss. Most people jabber on about meaningless stuff, every day details, and frankly, that kind of common conversation runs its course after an hour or two. Instead, we focus on big meaty topics, things of high importance to the church, to God, and to what we believe is our collective calling. This means that our conversations are on topic, and we focus on discussing aspects of them that push our thought further along. We are always seeking to find ways to enlarge our discussion, not contract it. We don't argue, but there are times when we have differing points of view. We listen, add, clarify, and sometimes, even change our minds about things!

God has blessed me with a good communicator for a friend. He is a valued friend, a trusted comrade, and his companionship, both intellectually and spiritually, is invaluable to me. I don't know what I would do if I didn't have his daily friendship, love, and support. He means the world to me, and I love him so.

Last night, we talked some about our future. It is a difficult topic to discuss simply because neither of us are willing to move forward without the Lord's expressed permission. I am here in Phoenix, and every day, my life is calculated and timed. My steps are ordered by the Lord, and that means, that I am not free to up and move on a whim. I have priorities and considerations, and I must be responsible to them. Plus, since I don't want to do anything outside the Lord's will for my life, I choose to wait for His permission, His push before I do anything at all. My good friend feels the same way. We don't want to make a life-mistake again; we don't want to jump into something that the Lord has not approved for either of our lives.

How then do you plan your future when it is uncertain, unknown?

I think we both said something last evening that made such good sense. I know this has been on my heart for months, and I found out that it has been on his as well. We are united in spirit and in love. We deeply love one another, and we are devoted to one another. But, we have both wondered if the Lord has marked us out for one another as companions and friends, more so than as partners in life. I believe that we are meant to be together, as does he, but there is a measure of doubt simply because we live so far away from one another, and the Lord has yet to provide a way for either of us to go and see the other. What I mean by this is that neither he nor I have the financial resources to go -- to pick up and go -- in order to spend physical time (even limited) with one another. I think the other aspect is that neither of us feels that rush of "we have to be together now" that most couples feel. We desire to be near one another, to spend time in proximity, but we don't have that panicked feeling that says "If I don't see you today, I will explode." Instead, there is this steady kindling of fire, a steady stoking of the flame. It isn't diminishing, it isn't smoldering; no, it is steady and it is consistent. What does this mean? I am not sure other than to say that my feelings for this man have not changed in nearly 18 months of personal relationship. Instead, they have become congealed. They are getting stronger every day, and I find that my dependency upon him is growing as well. I find that I need him in my life. Not just to make me feel good or to tell me I am beautiful (which he does all the time), but rather, to have his friendship, companionship, and love. It is a daily ritual for me, to know that he is there, that we are somehow connected, and that together, God has planned some special thing, some wonderful thing for us as a couple. My hope, of course, is that in 2016, the Lord will allow me to go, to go and see my good friend, even if it is just for a short visit. But, as of now, I look at my life, and my pocketbook, and I realize that there is little I can do to change my circumstances. I don't have what is needed to take this next big, bold step.

What am I to do?

Well, until I pass my exams and move to candidacy, I will focus on what is on my plate. I will focus on my studying and then the exams. I will focus on preparing for the next phase, writing my dissertation. I will focus on graduating from Regent, and on what might be post-doctoral study. Until I am further along on this plan, I have to keep my eyes firmly focused on the Lord, and I have to let all thoughts of "future" concern wait. I will wait until the Lord provides. I will wait until the Lord moves. I will wait until it is time to go.

My Next Steps

It is such an interesting thing, my life, I mean. I stand amazed at the Lord for all that He has done in my life. It was January 2010 when my ex-husband and I had "the conversation" that set this path in motion. He and I had completed 10-weeks of crisis marital counseling, and for all intents and purposes, the counseling was for naught. He had already made up his mind way four months prior, and that was to do whatever was needed to leave the marriage. I was committed to counseling, hoping that somehow he would change his mind.

In the end, he didn't change his mind or his behavior, and I was forced into that awful position that required me to give him an ultimatum. I asked him to choose, me or the other woman, marriage or singleness, family or no family. He chose all three other options, and in one defining moment, the truth came out. The truth, in all its ugliness, came out, and I had to accept it. I had to accept that I had devoted 26 years to a man who never loved me, never wanted to marry me, and who said clearly that the past years had been the worst of his life. Yes, I had to hear the truth as he told it, and while it stung me and hurt me so deeply, I had to let his words have their place.

In doing so, I realized that I had two choices too. I could either stay and fight for a man who so desperately wanted out or I could let him go, and embrace the unknown life that existed outside the boundaries of our hollow marriage. I chose the latter, and although the end didn't come all at once, it did come 18 months later when I moved from our shared home and lived on my own (for the first time ever). The final decree, of course, came some three years later, but during that time of separation, I came into this place, this new place where I learned total surrender and dependency on the Lord.

Yes, the Lord picked up the shattered pieces of my life, and He gathered me up into His strong arms, and He carried me away. He gave me a new hope, a new desire, and a new way of life. In this manner, I learned everything from Him. I learned how to trust Him, how to lean on Him, and how to abide in Him. I came to see Him as my everything -- my provider, my security, my love. He embodied every need, and He satisfied my soul like no other. In truth, I came to experience a deep love relationship with the Lord, I came to learn what it meant to be loved. I also learned that my heart, while deeply broken, was not permanently broken. I could love again, and I could love rightly, with pure motive and intention.

Furthermore, I learned that even though the pain I suffered was excruciating and something I wouldn't wish on anyone, it was cathartic. In some mysterious way, that significant pain enabled me to dive deeply into the emotional abyss of my life, my past. As I waded through those memories, I found the strength to let them come to the surface where the air and the light could final heal the hurt. My emotional pain slowly eased, and the memories of those hurts faded. My heart grew lighter and my memory of the event, and the emotional trigger, became less touchy, less willing to fire. In the end, I came to this place of happiness where I have let most of the past go. There are still a few spots that need that healing touch of light and air, but most of my life has been reconnected, restored, and repaired.

I am in such a good place, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. I am ready to take these next steps, to see all that the Lord has in store for me. I am ready to go wherever He sends me, and I am ready to do the work He has in mind for me. He is good, and I trust Him to bring His goodness into every area and aspect of my life. Selah!

Beginning to Move 

As I prepare for 2016, and the next steps the Lord has for me to take, I consider how just yesterday, I was panicked and afraid of what would be, should I not pass my qualification exams. Today, I am filled with confidence, and I see how clearly this IS the path I am to walk on. Proverbs 3:5-6 NASB says,

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.

These familiar verses are comforting to us. They remind us that Solomon, considered to be one of the wisest men to live, knew that the only way to live a good life, an honoring, and Godly life was to trust the Lord, first and foremost. Secondly, by leaning upon His understanding (His judgment, advice, counsel), and by acknowledging His rightful position as God and Lord over all, we would have the best opportunity to experience a good life, a good outcome in our life. In this way, our steps are ordered to produce good results. That good result, mind you, isn't always wealth or power or position. No, often the good results are the markings of true Christian character, a humbled and surrendered life predicated upon the Lord's work and His will. Yes, the paths we walk on produce one outcome and that is to bring us to the likeness of Christ Jesus, to conform us to His image. Thus, when we seek His way, we are in essence agreeing to follow after Him as He leads -- rather than trying to get the Lord to approve our way -- to get Him to follow after us.

Today, I think about all of this, the scriptural truth that says to me "stay fixed," "do not depart from the teaching of your youth," and I am reminded how the Lord has gently brought me up to womanhood, to this place where I could begin to imagine a full and satisfying life, a life that is 100% devoted to Him, to His will, and to His way. I am starting to see how my life, how everything that has happened in it, has worked together for my good to prepare me for this ministry, this special calling that He has placed on my life. I see now how all of these things, the heartache, the sorrow, and the life lessons have formed within me character traits such as patience, perseverance, and fortitude. I am stalwart, steady, and strong. I am in this very good place where I can imagine doing, achieving, and accomplishing most anything the Lord desires for me. There is no task to small nor too high. There is no mountain that I cannot scale. There is no job too hard, no program too difficult, and no exam too comprehensive that I cannot pass. No, the Lord knows what He has for me to do, and He knows what it will take to get me there, to that point where I am ready, made ready. Until He is satisfied that I am ready, then I continue to train. Until He says, "enough," I carry on. I carry on, I watch, and I wait for His blessed command to "go and do this work."

I give the Lord praise today because I know that He is good, so very good to me. I give Him honor and all power and all authority over every detail, no matter how small, so that today, everything He desires for me will be accomplished. He has all this, all these details, in the bag, so to speak. He has everything under control, and He is good, He is good.

Therefore, today is a turning point for me. Today marks a new beginning. I am no longer a doctoral student for I have completed all my required courses. I am not quite a doctoral candidate yet, but I am close. In a mere six-weeks, I will be designated A.B.D. (all but dissertation), and as such, I will begin my research on the American megachurch. I will begin the last push through toward finalization of this dream, this burning desire I have had in my heart since the fall of 1992. Yes, I have waited 24 years to achieve this goal, and now the goal is within reach. I can see it, I can almost touch it. I am excited about it, about finishing strong, and completing this step in the mighty plan the Lord has for my life. In doing so, I will be closing out a chapter of my life. I will be finishing a mighty and massive to-do list that began with a bachelors degree in 1993, rose to a masters degree in 2012, and culminated with a PhD in 2016. I cannot believe that the Lord has permitted me such glory, such praise, and such honor. Of course, I turn all the praise back to Him, because without Him, I would not be here, I would not be here.

My future rests in His hand, and while I do not know the details of the plan at this point in time, I do know that the plan and those details are good, for my good, and for His good work. I commit myself today to seeing His plan through to completion. I will do this work, Lord. I will go where you send me. I will live where you choose, and the work I do, I will do for your Name, your praise, and your honor. You alone are worthy to be praised! Selah!

As I close out this second post of 2016, my heart swells with the thought that I am ready to take such a big, bold step of faith. I am ready to do something I never thought or dreamed possible. And, what is more, I am ready to do it with 100% reliance and assurance that this is, indeed, the Lord's will for my life. I rest in His provision, His security, and His sufficiency. He will do this through me, and He will receive all the glory as a result. So be it, Lord, thy will be done. Praise be to God, for He is so good, so very good to me!

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