January 11, 2016

Out with the Old...

...and in with the new, so the saying goes. It is a very happy Monday, and I am up early today to assist my Dad with all things "cable-related." Yes, the Cox installer is finally at our house, and that means that our internet should be getting fixed, er, made better. We upgraded to Gigablast in order to save money, but so far the transition has not been smooth by any means. We have had major issues with our TV service and internet since this whole "install" began back on 12/22. LOL!

My early morning started with me trying to get both cats into the bedroom. The cable guy needed to work in the garage and attic, and as such, he wanted access to come/go freely. My one boy, Winston, hides whenever anyone comes home. I had to fetch him from under the living room sofa. My second boy, Ike, is nosy. He doesn't like being stuck here with me. He likes to go see what is what. But too bad, they are here, and so am I, and for what it is worth, I prefer it this way. Sigh!

The good news, if there is any, is that it is Monday, and I have a couple hours free before I have to get ready to head over to GCU. I am ready for the week, slides and lessons prepared, but I am still feeling that nervous twang in the pit of my stomach. I am not sure why, but it is there. I am trying to tell myself to relax, but so far, no such luck. I sure hope that feeling isn't tied to something else, know what I mean?

Update on my Study Progress

I spent the weekend working on my exams. I felt that I didn't spend enough time this weekend reviewing, and all day Saturday, felt guilty for taking the time off to rest. On Sunday, I crammed, and then later in the evening, I sat down and read, Marshall McLuhan's "Understanding Media: The Extension of Man," which is his opus magnum on media effects. I had not read it before, but I ordered the book when I was scheduled to take Philosophy this past fall. I dropped the course after realizing that it would be too much for me. I wanted to read the book, and last night, decided to read four chapters that I felt (or the Lord pressed on me) would be good for my exams. WOW! I thought this book was amazing. It was not an easy read, for sure. It was mind-blowing in the way language was used, and in processing what McLuhan was trying to say about technology being an extension of man. But, in all, I found the text excellent. I will probably re-read it at some point, finish the other chapters, and all, just because it is so weirdly excellent.

I've been praying about re-reading my books for my exams, and while I don't think the Lord intends for me to do that, I do think He plans on me scanning them (reading portions) as refreshers for my study program. Some of my books are 6-7 semesters old, and frankly, I just don't remember anything valuable from them. My plan is to re-read sections to help me feel more confident. I will remember the details once I start reading again, so the idea of refreshing content appeals to me. I am also working towards created 2-4 page cheat-sheet documents for each class so that I can get the nuts and bolts down pat. This whole process has been challenging to me. I ran across this statement last night while reading McLuhan. He said that when we have an overload of information, we search for patterns to make connections and enhance understanding (my paraphrase). This is exactly how I feel. I am trying to synthesize so much information and it is taking its toll. I am now forced to find patterns and themes that will help me remember the big items so I can write eight essays on my core and elective subjects.

So far, I feel good about my progress. I am not sure what I expected, but I have to say that the whole practice of review has me stymied. I mean, I get the point of it, but it seems like a ridiculous amount of work to demonstrate understanding of a field. I have passed my classes with a 4.0 average, and I am getting ready to tackle my dissertation. You would think that this is demonstration enough, but no! This two part-exam is a nightmare, and it is nerve wracking and difficult. I get it, really I do. The whole point is to see how well you handle stress, how well you can synthesize information and cogently write a defense. I will be ready, I know I will, but between now and then (February 11-12), I will live in uber-stress mode, for sure!

Making Changes

The weird feeling today is the realization that I don't have any courses to study for anymore. Yes, my schooling at Regent has started, and I am only registered for one credit. I am still not sure how my financial aid is going to be disbursed, but I am trusting the Lord for His provision regardless. Tomorrow, I have an interview with Ohio Christian University. This is for an adjunct online teaching position, and I am praying that the Lord opens this door for me. The interview is a sign, for certain, so I feel pretty confident that this is His will for me. It would be a contract position, and that is OK. I checked their website, and it appears that they have classes by semester, and then over the summer. My prayer is that they need teachers for summer sessions. I need summertime work, and this would be a great fit for me. The Lord knows my needs, and praise be to God, He has me well-covered.

I am also meeting with my dissertation chair tomorrow morning to discuss my progress on my work. Right now, I have no real report for him as I have been concentrating on my exams. My hope is to discuss my exams, and to cover whatever he feels is most important to me. The realization that I am at the end of my program is stunning to me. I mean, here I am, almost ABD, and almost ready to begin my research. I am filled with such excitement as the Lord leads me and guides me through these last BIG hills and on into the sweet valley of PhD land. He is good, so very good to me! Selah!

My next steps include sitting and passing my exams (done!), picking up some extra contract work for summer (almost done!), and then securing a full-time teaching position either near the end of my dissertation research or right at the end (not known yet). In between, I have three classes to teach, more studying to do, research to conduct, and life to live. I can do this, I can do this, for sure! Praise God!

More Plans? -- Nah!

So the past couple years, I have lived or died by my planner. I have made plans, changed plans, and completed plans. Today, I have decided to let my planner go. It is a hard thing for me because I am a planner by nature. I love to plan, to make plans. But the Lord has taken this control from me, and that means, that He is now the Master Planner, and I am simply tasked with carrying out His directives. I am okay with this, finally okay with it. I want to do His work, always, and I want to see His plans come to pass. I am ready to take these next steps, but I realize that each step requires so many little steps. And, because these are the last BIG items necessary for fulfillment of His will for my life, it is vital that I follow the directions carefully. It is like making a cake, really. You can throw items into the bowl, stir, and dump them into a pan, but the quality of cake may not be good. You never know what you will get with a haphazard approach, know what I mean? No, it is always best to follow the directions, the recipe, and to pay heed to the specifics like oven temperature, measuring levels, etc. The good baker knows this is true. It is all in the specifics.

I have tried the dump approach for years, and while my progress as been hit or miss, now I have come to rest under the directed approach. I am feeling safe and victorious; I am feeling like an overcomer, some one who consistently turns out good quality work. My prayer is to let the Lord lead me through these last steps and to bring to pass His will in every area of my life. I need Him to do this for me, no -- I want Him to do this for me. I want His best in every area, and that means that I need to follow His expressed directions to ensure the proper outcome. He is good, so very good to me!

One more thing, I know that the plans the Lord has for me are good. I know that the place He is sending me, well it is good too. I don't know the details yet, but I feel it inside of me, and that feeling says He is leading me home. I am excited at that prospect, to go home, and to know that the place of His choosing will feel like home to me. I will finally feel settled. No more transition, no more living with unknown or unspecified outcomes. Yes, I will have a place of my own (a home), a good profession/career, and a good future predicated on His work, His will, and His way. I am no longer particular or being particular about the details. I have asked only that the place of His choosing be pleasing to Him, and that it be a place where His will for my life can be accomplished.

I am ready to be settled, for certain, and I want a home of my own. By this I mean, I want a home I own. I know that seems weird, but because I have never had a place of my own, I want this very, very badly. I always lived in fear of being evicted, and so when I became single, this is the one thing I asked the Lord to provide for me. I asked that He would provide a home for me that no one could take away from me. I asked for a place that belonged to me, not shared with anyone, not owned by someone else, but mine, all mine. I didn't care what that home looked like, but I wanted to be responsible for making the payment, for the mortgage. I wanted the house to be in my name, you know, the title and deed. It was important to me. I didn't want to let someone else determine my covering.

This may sound old-fashion or not so old-fashioned, but I want to own the house, the property, and all the "stuff" because this means that I am responsible for it. I don't think I can ever let another person take responsibility for my well-being. This doesn't mean that I am not willing to share with someone I love nor does it mean that I want to be domineering or controlling, it just means that I need to do this because of the 30 years I lived never knowing if the roof over my head would be there the next day.

Furthermore, I have decided that over the course of my life, the future life, I need to be in control of all my assets. I cannot allow anyone to take control of that area of my life again. The reasons are the same as for the house -- after 30 years of letting someone mismanage my life and cause me to suffer and do without (needlessly, I would say) -- I have decided that I need to be in control of my own finances for security purposes. Again, I don't meet to be a hoarder or a miser, it is just that I cannot allow someone to rule over my finances again. I am a smart money-manager, an investor, and I believe that the Lord has given me special stewardship abilities that make me a strong financial planner and estate handler. I enjoy this role, and I want to be the one who is in charge of the house, the property, the finances, etc.

Of course, all of these things belong to the Lord. He is the One who owns it all, and He portions to each one as He decides best. I will be a good financial steward and responsible manager of my home under the Lord's leadership. He will provide to my hand, and I will live as He directs. I am comfortable with His direction, His guidance, and I know that He will see to my needs always. He has proven Himself faithful to me. I have been safe, secure, and well provided for all these years, even under my ex-husband's mismanagement of our life. However, the last five have been blessed, super blessed, and I believe this is because my head is my King, and His will is my way. I have surrendered it all, everything, to Him alone. Selah!
It is a curious thing, to be in control, I mean. I used to have need to be in control. I mean, I had to be in control, and if I wasn't in control, I felt so unwell, so uneasy. I would strive to take control. I would stress over it, and attempt to take control away from whomever had it. In the end, I would feel miserable, awful, and well, worse than when I let things be.

This past weekend, I realized something interesting. I realized that when I let go and I let the Lord lead in every area of my life, good things happen to me. It is not rocket-science by any means, but it is really just obvious testimony. I let go, I let Him lead, and well, things begin to happen. What is more, is that once I let go of my need to control, I let go of the reins, I rest. I experience peace in the way. I find that sweet center of calmness that helps me rest.

Then, after a time, something wonderful happens, something very unexpected happens. I let go of the control, the reins, and then out of the blue, He hands them back to me. Not all of them, mind you, and not necessarily the ones I was holding onto so tightly. No, He gives me control again, but over certain things. It is like the vineyard owner comes to check on the progress of his workers. He finds the manager in charge is struggling to manage the property. It is a mess. It is overgrown with weeds, with thorns, and in general disarray. The manager is not lazy by any means, he is just overwhelmed and under funded. He has a lack of resources and while he is trying to do his best, well, there isn't enough provision to do an adequate job. The owner sees this outcome, and instead of taking everything away, stripping all responsibility from his hard worker, he gives him a rest for a time. When the manager returns, the vineyard has been put into working order again. Everything is in ship shape. The manager is given the authority to oversee the vineyard, but this time, he is given more workers, more money, and more time to manage properly.

This is how I feel today. I feel as if the Lord sent me on holiday to rest. Now that I have returned, He has not taken everything away from me, but He has given back to me certain things that I am to be responsible for overseeing. He has made me an overseer, and that means that it is my responsibility to take care of what He is entrusting to me. I am not to hand it over to another person, but I am to be the wise manager who will take care of the work and the workers the Lord brings to me.

I see this as real now, and it makes such good sense to me. I used to stress over it, and I used to feel awkward being in charge. I felt I wasn't prepared, not smart enough or good enough to be responsible with property, land, and valuable real estate. Now, I see that I can do this with His guidance, with His leading and provision. I look to His hand, and I rest in His provision. I will do this work, manage my resources well, and I will be the wise steward that He has created and called me to be. Selah!

What Does This Mean for Me?

I think the main thing is to realize or recognize that the work I am doing, teaching and doctoral courses, are to prepare me for ministry. The Lord intends for me to head my own ministry organization, and that means that I will be responsible for managing or overseeing its operation. Yes, I will also be creating materials, curriculum, and other products for use by the organization, but I will be the person who is in charge. I will run the show, so to speak, and that thrills me. I first didn't want this responsibility. I thought, "I can't do this, Lord!" Now, though, I see that I can. I really can do all things through Christ who strengthen's me.

My life is now settled. I see where I am going, and I see that I have been steadily working toward this place. I have been established by the Lord for this precise work. I don't have all the details yet, but what I do know is this: I am to start my own non-profit organization. I will do this with His guidance, leadership and provision, of course. I won't attempt to do anything on my own or in my own strength. I will be fully responsible to the Lord for the work, the use of the resources, and the way the organization is run. My prayer is that He will grow us for His kingdom sake, and that this organization will be fruitful and multiply. I pray that my boundaries and the boundaries that this organization serves will be enlarged, and that through our efforts (mine and those that the Lord entrusts to me) will be productive. My hope, my prayer, and my desire is to see the kingdom enlarged, the church supported and built up, and in and through all things, the Lord's name praised. He is good, so very good to me! Selah!

Now that I am fixed on this plan, I see that my teaching is really a means to an end. I have always believed that my teaching was not my primary ministry, but rather it was a secondary or side ministry. I am called to teach students, to mentor, and to equip them, but this is something I do daily, not for my life's work, but as a provision for my daily needs. It is hard to explain really because it is a job for me, a good practical job. It is spiritual for sure, and I am blessed in what I do, but it is a job, nothing more. The Lord uses it for His name, and He allows me to reach and touch students in the process, but it is not the focus of my life. It is secondary. The more I tried to make it primary, the more I struggled with it, in general. Now, I see how it is intended to function, and while I get that I do minister to students, I guess I split hairs over what is ministry. Perhaps it is because it is practical work too, and I tend to see ministry as vocation -- a calling and set aside as special. It is neither here nor there, but it helps me to distinguish between the two types of work (practical and spiritual)

What is more, I realize that as I begin this next series of challenges, setting up a ministry organization, and beginning to start this work, I have to remember my goals, er, His goals for my life. I have to be fixed on His purpose. I have tried very hard to take what I thought was His plan for my life, and make it fit my current situation. I mean, here I am in Phoenix, living with my parents who need me, and my son who is still in college. I tried to find a way for me to get to where my special friend lives in AL, and although I felt strongly that the Lord intended all these people to be significant in my life, I never could make things work out. I mean, it seemed like the Lord was saying yes to the people, but no to the location.

Now, I realize that people go where God leads, and that places, are part of His plan too. I mean, I have to go to the place where the people are who need to hear what I have to tell them. This could be anywhere, for sure, but it also could be a specific place. God has put a specific place on my heart, and He has said that this is where I am to go. I know this, I accept this, and now I am waiting to see how He will move me there. Until He does, I will remain here in Phoenix, and I will stay focused on what I need to do today.

The important thing is to understand that God sends us where He needs us to do His work. Sometimes that place coincides where we have family and loved ones. Sometimes, it doesn't. It doesn't always mean that we are to end relationships or leave people behind. It just means that God needs us to go, and He has a plan for our loved ones who remain behind or who will go with us. I see this now, and it comforts me to know that God doesn't overlook our families, especially those that are close to us or need us to care for them. Right now, I believe that the Lord will care for my aging parents, and whether they go with me or remain here, He has this covered.

My intention is not to leave my family behind or to forsake special relationships simply because God is leading me to a different place than I had thought previously. I know that He has a good plan for my life, and that means that I must continue to trust Him to provide and to meet every need and every detail in my life. He is good, so very good to me.
As I think about all these details, one thing is for certain: nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37). I am overwhelmed by His graciousness toward me. I am amazed that He intends to use me in this way. I feel blessed and favored in His choice and His provision. However, I am also aware that all this work is predicated on one thing, and that is, that He receive all the praise, the honor, and the glory. I take no glory in it, and I do not see it as a means to an end. Whatever the Lord intends to use me to do, it will be for one purpose and that is to build up His kingdom and to do His work. Now, I rest. I need to get myself ready to head over to campus, and I need to prepare for my day. God has me so well-covered, and I know that His plans are perfect just as He is perfect, and they are good, just as He is good. Selah!

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