January 19, 2016

Going the Distance

It is a good day today. Yes, it is Tuesday, and the weather here in Phoenix is sunny, but chilly. I woke up once again to the chilled air circulating through my bedroom. I am not sure why, but it seems like the morning brings a cold draft across my bed. I have tried to figure out where that draft is coming from, but so far, no such luck. I did snuggle down under my comforter for a time, but finally, I had to get myself up and moving. Sigh! How will I ever survive living in a cold climate again? I just don't know, I don't know...

It is Tuesday, as I said already, and that means that today is my normal day off. I am blessed this week because of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday yesterday. I had, in effect, a four-day weekend! Woohoo!

In all, the time off has been really blessed. I was able to relax, rest, and recover some of my strength from the previous couple weeks work. My prayer today is to continue to enjoy this day off (so to speak), and to get some more studying and paper grading done so that I will be ready for the week ahead. It is a good day, then, filled with hope and promise, and I am so blessed to be able to be at home, and to be able to sit and think and ponder, all without any concern over timelines or deadlines. Selah!

My Plans For 2016 and Beyond

As we make our way through January, I cannot help but think about "tax" time. You know, before you can say "Alakazam" it will be time to file taxes for 2015. I have to admit that for years I dreaded tax day. Since I have been single, and since I have filed my own taxes, I actually look forward to doing them each year. Of course, I normally get some kind of refund. At times, the refund has been hefty, and though the last couple years have seen a reduction in my refund (state and federal), I still expect to get "something" back. I think it is funny that for so many years while I was married, tax time was a time of financial dread. My ex-husband didn't trust the government, and so he never showed me our tax statements. He always said he took care of them, but there was a part of me that believed that simply meant that he either didn't file or he filed saying things that were not true (like less money that we actually made, etc.) I was so afraid that the tax man would show up at our door that some years I would make myself ill over it. In the end, I would simply ignore the process and whenever I was asked about it, I would just say "I don't know what we do" and play "dumb."

Thankfully, since I have been on my own, I have taken great pains to learn more about how our tax system works. I am not in support of continuing it as is, mind you, but I don't mind paying my taxes so long as the percentage is fair. I am in support of a flat tax or no tax or whatever form is passed. The important thing is that I don't want to live in a country where 50-60% of my taxes fund other people's lifestyles (like in some countries in Europe). No, I think fair is good, but as someone who is on the low-end of the financial spectrum, the truth is that I need all of what I make to live comfortably.

Gaining Control of my Finances

So that long introduction brings me to the topic at hand, which is financial prosperity. I think a lot of financial prosperity simply because I don't consider myself as having achieved it, yet. In truth, I am comfortable. My needs are met, but I live very close to hand. Meaning, I make enough to cover my expenses, but there is none left over for those rainy days or unexpected life events. I would like to remain in this position, comfortable but well-provided for through out my days. I am not seeking wealth, per se, only because I know that I have a tendency to see it as a means to an end, and in such a way, I look at it as a provider INSTEAD of keeping my eyes firmly fixed on the Lord. No, I have decided that the best approach to wealth and financial security is to seek the Lord first, and to let Him provide whatever He feels is "comfortable" to me. It works well, and I don't have to lose my focus or my countenance over money issues (lack of money or issues).

My plan, thus, is to seek comfortable status through the following measures:
  1. Live someplace in the US where I can purchase a home for under $100K (keep my monthly payment to around $500 or less)
  2. Work for a modest salary, say in the $50-60K range for the remaining work years of my life
  3. Reduce my monthly expenses to cover only what is necessary (utilities, food, health care, etc.)
  4. Build savings and retirement through wise financial investments
  5. Pay off all revolving credit as soon as possible with the exception of a car loan (current)
  6. Carefully monitor my credit report for inaccuracies
  7. Take advantage of any special tax relief or rural options available
  8. Live comfortably, grow my own food (in as much as I can), and take care of myself physically
  9. Trust in the Lord to provide for and meet all my needs
I don't see any issues with this plan. I really think it is very doable in my circumstances. Of course, this is all predicated on the Lord providing 1) a job that pays a good salary; and 2) a place for me to live where I can begin to manage my own expenses with more control, and 3) reduction in my overall debt burden now (school loans and credit cards). Thus, before I can begin to live "comfortably" I will need the following:
  • A way to pay off my school loans
  • A way to pay off my credit card debt
  • A way to move to this new place, be settled, etc.
In many ways, I can see the future as very hopeful, bright, and filled with possibility. But, before I can walk in that prosperity, I have to resolve these issues. I have to find a way (Lord, please help) for me to remove the debt I currently have so that I can begin to live my life without these burdens hanging over my head. 

I believe that the Lord did indeed call me to return to school. As such, my student loans are His requirement for me, so I have always looked to Him to provide a way to pay for them. Likewise, becoming a teacher and leaving industry has been His way, thus I look to His hand to provide the jobs I need to earn that salary each year. Furthermore, the place where He is sending will be for ministry, so that means that it will be up to Him to open a door there so that I can move, buy a house, be settled, and begin to create the ministry work He wants me to do. This is all His plan, so that means that He has to provide for it. I cannot create this ministry organization or the ministry materials/works without Him. I will not even attempt it, therefore, He has to provide, to make it come to pass, and to help me figure out how I would go about getting that process off the ground.

Ministry is His Deal

As I look to His hand for this gift resource, I realize that what I am about to do is beyond my abilities. He has asked me to start a foundation of sorts, a ministry organization, that will cover me and my work until the day I die. I always thought that perhaps I would work and do ministry under another person's covering, another organization, and for a time, I went out and looked for ministry positions in various well-known organizations. I have come to see that this is not what He desires, but rather, He has tasked me with starting and running my own organization. I don't know how small or large this organization will be, but what I do know is that He will provide for me. He will show me where to go, where to be settled, and how to organize such an activity. In the end, His will will come to pass in my life, and the work that I do will bring honor, bring praise, and bring glory to His mighty Name.

My goal now is to finish my studies and program at Regent. I have to finish my studies. Once that is done (as in PhD completed), then I will begin to work full-time as a teacher and in ministry. Teaching will provide the income I need to meet expenses. Ministry will be my focus for His work and His will, and through His guidance, I will do whatever He asks me to do. I will organize myself and others, manage programs and resources, and provide leadership so that this organization will be functional and prosperous in doing the work He has assigned to me to do.

It All Comes to Pass

I just had this amazing thought. It is weird, really, because like 9 years ago, I felt the Lord calling me to a specific type of life. I knew that it would be rural in some ways, and that my home would be both a place of rest and of work. I imagined a farm of some sort, not too large to manage, but not too small either. It would have a barn and outbuildings, and the house, for all intents and purposes would be old. I would run a business out of the barn/outbuildings, some type of printing business, and I would manage this business myself.

I liked that idea. I mean, after all, I had been successful in website design for 12 years, and I knew all about the printing business. Of course, I wasn't an official printer, but I knew how to self-publish, and I knew my way around the various types of printers (off-set, etc.). I forgot about that dream until just now. I liked the idea back then, you know, living on a small little farm and having a business on the property for me to do work. I also liked the idea of employing locals to help, not a lot of people, just 1 or 2 that might need a good steady job. Now, I think about all that has transpired, and I wonder if my dream of this business is the same thing I feel the Lord is calling me to do going forward. I wonder if this ministry organization, this calling, is the same as what I believed He was showing to me all those years ago? 

So much has changed since that time. I am a different person, and I have enhanced skills and abilities. The funny thing is that what the Lord seemed to be showing me all those years ago, is still the same thing He is showing me now -- it is just more clear -- more specific, and more reasonable. Back then, I was still married. Back then, I could imagine doing such a business, but I couldn't imagine how I would do it. Now, I see possibility and endless opportunity. I see the reasonableness of it, the way it would be done, and the ease with which it will be done. Sure, there are road blocks in the way, detours and some rough roads ahead, but I am confident that what the Lord seems to me saying to me, showing me, guiding me to is very, very doable. I just need Him to do it through me. That is all -- just -- Lord, show up and do this work!

As I think about this idea, I am more and more convinced that what the Lord began so many years ago is starting to bear fruit. These plans, His plans, are coming to pass, and that excites me. I am so very excited for them. I want to do this work, to experience this way, and to see -- no -- to watch Him do this mighty and wonderful work. I know it won't be easy. I know it won't be a cake walk, but what I do know is that there is nothing that the Lord cannot do. Nothing is impossible for God (Luke 1:37). His timing is always perfect, and He knows exactly how He intends for this how ministry-thing to take off.

Getting Started and Making Some Plans

As I ponder this idea today, one thing comes to mind: I must remember that whatever He is asking me to do will be predicated on His will, and as such, His will always includes the way to accomplish the task. This means that if the Lord is asking me to move to Ohio, let's say, then He will show me where He intends for me to settle, the property He intends for me to buy, AND He will provide the means for me to do it. Furthermore, if it is His intention for me to teach online and to work in full-time ministry, then He will show me which schools will hire me, and He will go before me as I apply, interview, and accept contracts for employment. Lastly, when the time is ready, and He asks me to move, He will provide all the necessary money to cover the expenses of moving across the country. This means that He will provide a home, a moving van, resources for setup (Internet, utilities, etc.), and He will layout the schedule (the timing for moving) so that it corresponds with whatever must happen. He is a God of Logistics, and He knows how to get "a person" from point A to B (think about Abraham travelling from Ur to Canaan). He knows who will be in the "way" and who will be friendly and helpful. He knows the path to take, the roads to follow, and in the end, the place where I will camp. He has this all figured out, so all I have to do is to be ready for His word that says, "Let's go!"

Right now, my hope is that He will make a way for me to move soon. I can stay put for another year, and there are reasons that would seem to make sense for me to do that (my parents, my son's schooling, etc.). However, I feel, and I have always felt that He would begin that process sooner, as early as 2015 or 2016. My gut tells me to be ready for a move in 2016, but just like last year, I ended up staying put even though I did feel that the move was soon. Now, I am thinking that once my school ends (in May), I am free to move over the summer. Should this be His plan, then that means that He has a lot of change to make come to pass since it is now January 19. However, nothing is impossible for Him, so I rest in the timing of such a move. He has a lot of logistics to carry out, and for me, as long as He is doing the planning, the providing, and the prospering, then I am good with His approach. He knows me well, and He knows my needs. I am simply to wait and be patient for His word to me. Until then, I rest, I stay focused, and I do the daily work He has allotted to me. He is good, so very good to me.

As I make plans for today, I cannot help but think that everything I do is adding up or contributing to His provision for my life. Sometimes it is hard to consider it this way because what seems like a "lack" or short fall in income, really is a provision in the making. Let me explain...

I am currently waiting on a part-time job through Ohio Christian University. I have submitted my materials to them, so I am playing the waiting game to see if they find that I am "safe" to hire (LOL!) I feel confident that this is the Lord's will for me, and I have a sense of peace about it. I am not worried about the delay because right now I need to finish my exams. The timing for hiring is an issue, but I feel that nothing will really happen until after I finish my exams in February. I mean, they might hire me before, but I won't accept any contracts for employment until March 1. This just means that I won't upset my routine between now and then. I will focus on my exams, and afterward, well then it is open season on teaching online (Praise God!)

My teaching contracts at GCU will end in April, and that means that I need something to fill the bill over the summer. Frankly, I am concerned a little bit about the lower than expected income from GCU. I had students drop my class, and my pay dropped along with it. This just means that I am earning about $200 less per month than what I need. I am trusting the Lord for the shortfall, and I know He will cover me in another way. Still, I can see the writing on the wall in this place. I love GCU, but there is no full-time work available, and I cannot live on adjunct/part-time work. I need a full-time position, and I am praying for His mercy to bring me that position very soon.

I have another part-time position in play, and that is with Regent University (my current school). I don't know the status of this job, other than my materials were submitted in December. Perhaps they have gone with someone else or perhaps they simply are undecided or just getting started. Only the Lord knows for sure. I am hopeful that whatever He chooses, whether Regent or another school, He will move soon to open that door to full-time teaching online.

As I see it now, this must be His way. I was hesitant to teach face-to-face in the beginning, and I begged Him to teach online. At that time, He said no. He wanted me to get over my fear of public speaking, and well, face-to-face teaching will do that in short order. Now, it seems that He has put online teaching back into my head, so perhaps this was His will all along, but that I had the process reversed. Face-to-face first to address the public speaking fear, and online second as a long-term means for support. You see, I have looked at a number of full-time faculty positions, all traditional campus based, and none of them appealed to me. In short, I didn't like the pressure to perform, the feeling that I was going to be exhausted every day from standing and emoting (teaching). Now, I see an option for me where I can teach full-time but do so from home. This would be a perfect win/win situation, and I ask the Lord for an open door at the school of His choosing to bring this to pass. May it be soon, Lord, soon!

Lastly, I have been thinking about this for a long time, and while I am struggling some with the details, I feel very sure that this is the Lord's doing. You see, I was so afraid of moving just six months ago. Every time I thought about moving, my stomach would knot up on me. It wasn't that I didn't want to move because I did. In fact, I have wanted to move elsewhere for a long time. It was just whenever I thought about moving, going anywhere other than here in Phoenix, my mind would race, my pulse would beat faster, and my stomach would churn over the details, the fear related to the logistics of moving. Yet, today, I am calm and at peace. I am not afraid of these next steps. In fact, I feel an almost deadened sense inside of me -- like a numbness -- whenever I think about picking up my things and moving on. I don't mean to make it sound like a bad thing, but rather, I would say it is a good thing. You see, when I was going through the bleakest part of my life, losing my status, learning to be single again, and facing a giant unknown future, I had this same sensation. It was like the Lord put a blocker on my emotions, He desensitized me to the pain, the sorrow, and the stress related to what I was going through at that time. In the end, this numbing made it possible for me to follow Him, to let Him lead me because I didn't panic every two seconds. In fact, I would say that for the most part, I walked through the worst of my sorrow without feeling much of anything. I cried, for sure. I emoted often, but I didn't fall apart. I didn't come apart at the seams. Instead, I walked on after Him. I was hurt, I was in anguish, and at times, I felt overwhelmed by the fear of the unknown that was before me. But rather than shut down, panic, and stop moving forward, I followed Him. He led me through the worst part of that time in my life, and when I came through to the other side, I realized that His gift of Godly-Novocaine was for my protection, my safe-guarding, and for my well-being. I feel this way now.

Perhaps the reason I feel this way is simply because of what is on my plate today. I have exams looming ahead of me, I have a trip to VA, and I have an unknown future all waiting for His stamp of approval, His ready word to tell me it is time to go. I have my parents well-being, my son's schooling, and all that debt over my head. Yet, despite all of these worries, there is this sense that what I feel right now, what I am thinking right now, well it IS His plan for my life. I have had bits and pieces of His plan up to now, but the more I think, ponder, and meditate on this particular thing, the more I am becoming convinced that this is what He intends to do. Perhaps this is why there is calm and peace in my life. Perhaps this is why I feel so sure, so certain about this particular path. My life is beginning to take shape, and that means that He is getting ready to move in a BIG WAY.

I am excited to watch Him move. I guess I am like Moses in some regards. I want to see His Glory pass by me. I want to be hidden in the cleft of the rock and to see Him pass by. I so want to see Him do this marvelous thing, to bring it to pass, and to watch as He is honored, praised, and glorified in the work. I don't really care what I do, so long as I get to see it happen, to watch it unfold. He wants to do this work, so be it. He has asked me to do it with Him, and I have said "Yes, Lord!" Now, I want to see Him do it, to make something out of nothing, and to create this wonderful life that I believe He has promised to me. I am waiting and I am watching for the Lord to fulfill His promise to me. Selah!

Dear Lord,

Today is such a good day. I am waiting on you to provide for me, and I believe that you will do it in a marvelous way. I know your plans are good, and I know that you are better at logistics than I am. I am looking up and I am waiting for you. Please have your way this good day. Please bring to pass whatever needs to come to me this day, and may I Lord release all my efforts, my energies, and my expectations into your merciful and marvelous hand of grace. You alone are my soul's delight and my desire. I look to you today, and to no one else for provision. I trust you, I rest in you, and Lord, I am abiding in you. Have your way in me this good, good day, Lord. Amen, so be it, thy will be done! Selah!

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