I am not sure when I first became aware of the fact that scripture (specifically the Psalms) stated that the secret petitions of my heart were not off-limits to the Lord. I guess it was around this time, but I don't recall the exact moment when I said, "Really, Lord? Really, is this true?" You see, sometime in early 2005, I started to make changes to my life, to reassess where I was going, and why I felt as if I was under constant stress. I knew that a big part of the stress in my life was my job (at that time working from home as a website designer). I also knew that home schooling my son (which began in 2004) and my volunteer work in Awana, all played a part in my physical and mental depletion. I was stressed it seemed from morning to evening, and even in the overnight hours, I found no real rest.
The Nature of Work
It was at this time that I began to rethink my "work" choice and to consider if perhaps I had made an error in choosing to be self-employed. I didn't intend to become self-employed, to run a business or even to be employed in any capacity. I was very happy staying at home, but my family needed the income, and I felt pressured to make one of two choices: work from home or work outside the home. I chose the former rather than the latter, and after about 8 years of steady work, I was tired, burnt out, and in need of a break.
Furthermore, the work itself while not grueling, was challenging because I was completing 4-6 websites every 2-3 months. I managed a very fast-pace schedule, and that meant that I often worked long hours every day, weekends included. I didn't feel that I was being recompensed for my time, but I also didn't feel I could charge more for my services because the market simply wouldn't bear an increase in fees. I was stuck in work that I once enjoyed, but soon found strangling to me. I wanted out, and I wanted to do something else. I wanted to home school my son, to devote 100% of my time to being a stay at home mom and a home schooler. But, that wasn't going to happen, and I knew it. My former husband had come to depend on the $24-36K I brought in, and he was not about to let me quit my job when he knew that this was something he could milk, manage, and manipulate for his good.
I hate to say it that way, but I did feel manipulated most of the time. I felt like a prostitute in many ways, like he would set up these contracts and send me out to sell myself and my services to the client. I know that sounds awful, but it is the best word picture I can manage. I felt like my creative energies were being pimped out, and over time, I didn't like it. I didn't like it at all.
It was right around this time that I started to consider other options, other jobs that I could do that perhaps would still bring in money for us, but where I might have more control over my work life and home life. I wanted balance, I needed balance, and I needed the stress of the situation to go away.
I had been reading through the Psalms on a rotational basis, and this was my second year through (twice each year) the bible. I remember reading Psalm 37 and thinking to myself, "this cannot mean what it says, this has to be mistranslated." I did a word study on these verses, 4-5, which read:
Delight yourself in the Lord;
And He will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord,
Trust also in Him, and He will do it.
I prayed over them, specifically verse 4 for what seemed like days. I asked the Lord, "what does this mean? How is this so," and as I mediated on the word (as David encourages us to do), I remember hearing Him say to me, "You must find me as your delight or desire." I thought about this, how what the Lord was saying to me was that IF I made Him my focus, my delight and my desire, THEN He would give me the desires inside my heart. What is more, if I did this, delight in Him AND commit my way to Him, trusting in Him, then I would see Him bring these desires to pass.
It took time for this truth to sink into my mind, but once I grasped what David was saying here, I realized that regardless of the desire, the outcome would be assured. In short, no matter what I desired, the outcome, the delivered hope would be received. It was in verse 5, the last part of verse 5, where I found my hope. David said, "Trust also in Him, and He WILL DO IT." This is what I wanted. I wanted the Lord to do something, anything really, to fix the situation that was my life. I didn't care so much about the desires, for at this point, I felt that I had no desires left inside me because I had sacrificed all my childish desires, youthful wishes and fantasies long, long ago. No, it was about His ability to bring change that set my heart ablaze. I wanted to SEE HIM DO IT, and if that meant that I would have to change my focus in order for that to happen, well so be it. I would do it. I would make Him my delight, and wait for Him to do something, anything, to alleviate the painful, stressful, and difficult circumstances of my life.
I remember praying this prayer:
Lord, I will make you my delight. I ask that you will show me the desires of my heart, and then that you would bring those desires to pass. I will trust that you will do it, but please help me to understand what this means, and then help me to do it -- to make you the focus of my life.I had been a believer for a long time at this point in my life. I was 45, and for all intents and purposes, my serious faith walk had begun 30 years earlier. I had been a "Christian" for 30 years, and here I was asking the Lord to help me make Him the center of my life. Now, it wasn't that He had not been Lord of my life before, because He had. I experienced a real conversion as a teenager, and my life was changed instantly. However, over the course of my youth and young adulthood, I made decisions that weren't always in my best interest. I made choices that were hard fought against the power of the Holy Spirit, and in a few of them, these choices set my life on a path that I believe now was not in my best interest. I took the long road home, so to speak, and after 30 years of hardship, trial, and sorrow, I found myself on my knees before the Lord asking Him to help me turn my life around. I wanted out of the mess I had made, and if that meant redirecting all my energy toward Him, well then that was what I was going to do. I would wait and watch for Him to deliver me from the mess I made, and in doing so, I would focus everything, all my attention, my heart, my prayers, and my time toward Him and Him alone.
My Life Changed
It didn't take long before I began to experience movement in life. When I say movement, I mean MOVEMENT. First of all, I began to experience His movement in and through my prayer life. My prayer life took off as did my bible study time. I began to spend hours with Him, on my knees in prayer, in my prayer room, lifting Him up in song and in petitions. The more time I spent with Him, the more I began to sense that He was doing something amazing in my life. He was moving me, changing me, and with His every movement, my heart was coming to know Him more intimately.
My life circumstances didn't change, mind you. No, things in my marriage and in my home didn't immediately improve. In fact, my home life continued to be a source of stress, further stress, than before, and my struggles to deal with work, home, marriage, etc. seemed to intensify. I changed, though. I changed completely. My heart's desire that had been predicated on a way out of my current mess (meaning the stress at home) centered on one desire alone, and that was to live a pleasing and honoring life to the Lord. I still worked from home. I still felt manipulated and used, and I still worked very long hours. I still had family stress (with my ex-husband's parents), and I still lacked the rest I needed day in and day out.
Nonetheless, I found a new desire, a consuming desire, and that was for me to know the Lord as a friend, as an intimate companion. I was driven by this need, and my days became ordered around knowing Him in this way. I found myself getting up at the crack of dawn so I could read and study my Bible for extra hours each day. I would still spend hours during the mid-day in my prayer room where I would pour out my heart, make my complaints known to Him. I would cry, sob, and at times, lay on the ground in agony as I let my emotions well up from deep inside me. You see, I had repressed so many emotions over the years in order to keep silent, to keep the peace, and to be complicit in whatever affairs were taking place. I didn't rock the boat, I went along with the crowd, so to speak, even when I felt that what was happening was wrong, illegal or immoral. I simply chose to stick my head in the sand instead of letting all that pain come out of me.
The sorrow poured out of my heart, and in its place, peace was poured in. I began to experience great relief simply from acknowledging the truth in my life. As black as the truth was to me, it was better to have it outside of me than tucked inside of me. I found relief, I found peace, and in time, I came to experience the rest I longed for and needed so desperately.
My Desires Became His Desires
At first, my desire was to know Him. I didn't really have any other desires other than to get out of being a website designer. I just wanted to quit that job, and do something else, anything else. The Lord did honor that request, but it didn't happen for another 2-3 years. It was a slow and difficult transition, but in time, I found myself out of that line of work for good. I also found myself in the midst of another health crisis, this time, my ex husband suffered a brain bleed that left him with residual impairment and the inability to work full time. The resulting months were awful as we slipped further and further into poverty. It is a miracle that we survived at all, but in the end, the literal end came down hard and with finality. I learned about my ex-husband's online affairs in mid-2008, and then in early 2009, the truth came to light. It was later in summer that everything came to an angry head, and I found myself looking at the end of our marriage. Though we didn't actually make that decision until January of 2010, the process was leading us toward that path. We did attend crisis counseling, and we did seek help, but it didn't do any good. My ex-husband wanted out of the marriage, and he made it very clear that he had no intention of staying together. He simply waited for me to come to terms with his desire. In the end, I had no choice but to accept what he wanted.
It was around this time in January of 2010, that the decision was made, articulated, and agreed on to separate. The actual separation didn't occur for some 18-months, but the mental assent took place six years ago this month. I had never imagined that the path I began five years earlier in 2005 would eventually lead me to this place, to having to face my life as a single person. I never imagined that turning my life over to the Lord, seeking Him as a friend and companion, and making Him my heart's only desire, would cause me to lose everything I held important, everything I thought mattered to me. But it did. I lost everything.
In hindsight, I realize that in losing my marriage, I gained my life back. I know that sounds awful, but it is meant to be an encouragement. You see, I did lose the physical relationship of marriage. I lost the companionship of marriage, and the coupling of marriage. But, I gained a new identity through that experience. I didn't realize that in 1984 when I said "I do, and to death do us part" I would be signing on to a life where my identity, my sense of being, would be mashed and mangled to such an extent that 30 years later, I was a woman without any sense or bearing of who she was. Yes, I lost myself when I got married. I lost the person I was as a 21 year old, and after 30 years in a relationship predicated on lies, I became a shell, a nobody.
The Lord took me by the hand, and He liberated me from that life. In the process, He helped me find myself again, and He gave me new hope for a new future. I was scared, I was alone, and I had no support from family or friends. I was lost. But, He had me by the hand, and He walked me through every challenge, every step, until I was able to begin to see my life as something more, something beautiful.
It hasn't been easy at all. I would say that since I made the Lord my desire and my delight, my life has been filled with one trial after another. My life has gone from bad to worse, and bad to good. It is now very, very good, even though I don't have all the material things I think I need. No, I am still without material provision, without a final plan, without knowledge of what will be tomorrow. But, what I do have, well that is worth more than gold, silver, and precious jewels combined. I have strength, I have resilience, and I have fortitude. He has made me strong, very strong, and He has given me new vision, a new purpose, and a new life. In all of it, the Lord has transformed me from a shattered woman into this very strong, very confident, and very purposed Christ-follower. Yes, I am not perfect, and I still make a lot of mistakes. I still do things I shouldn't and I still wonder if I am going in the right direction. Yet, through it all, I feel this sense of peace, this sense of accomplishment, and this sense of "Yes, this is the right way to go."
I share my story on my blog only because I think that there are women out there who have been in my shoes, and who are now struggling to find their own identity that was lost or stolen from them. My life is good. The Lord has granted me the secret petitions of my heart, and the blessing is that these secret petitions had nothing at all to do with materials wants, needs or desires. No, the secret longing of my heart was to KNOW HIM and to be KNOWN BY HIM. Yes, the secret petition that satisfied my soul was a relationship with my Lord and my savior. I wanted to know Him so well, to spend time with Him, to converse and commune with Him, and this is the desire the Lord gave to me. He said, "Yes!" and through life events and circumstances, I was granted that desire. He brought that desire to pass just as His word said He would. In the end, I am blessed, I am favored, and I am so loved, cared for, and desired by my King who died to save me. Selah!
What Do I Do Now?
Today is January 17, 2016, and it has been six years since I looked at my shattered life and wondered how I would make it through, how I would find a way out. I was unemployed, without any income, and I had no access to our joint bank account. I had no car, no job, and no prospects for employment. I remember thinking, what am I going to do? How am I going to survive?
I remember asking the Lord for His way, I remember saying, "Lord, I don't know what to do now? I need a job, I need a place to live, and I need a plan! Please help me!" The blessing is that the Lord said, "I've got you covered, Carol," and He meant it. It wasn't easy, as I have said before, but in time, He did bring me a job. It was a part-time job working retail, and while I didn't like the strain on my body, the job opened a door for me to work at UOPX. That job, as I have blogged before, made it possible for me to rent a place of my own. In time, I moved to CVS which enabled me to purchase my car (a first - financed!). I left my town home in 2013 to share a house with my parents so that I could focus on my studies. At that same time, I started a new job as a college professor, and I began what will be the last "job" I will have in my working life.
Moreover, the Lord sent me back to school twice, once to get my Masters degree, and then for a PhD. Now, I am about to finish the latter, and with the culmination of that feat, I will have transitioned from unemployed web designer to full-time college professor. It has been a wild ride, filled with a lot of emotional highs and lows, but through it all, He has kept me steady, and He has enabled me to overcome major obstacles, major hurdles, and major trust issues. Yes, I have learned how to trust Him, and I have come to rest and rely on Him for His provision and His security.
My path now is set and fixed. I am following along after Him with the hope that where He is leading me, it will be a good end, a good place, a good rest. I know that there is a lot of hard work ahead of me, but praise be to God, He is good, so very good. He has me by the hand, and He is carefully leading me through stormy waters. I have challenges in life right now, I have difficult days ahead, but through it all, He is with me, and He is my companion and my friend. He is good, He is God, and I adore Him. I so adore Him.
Now, I look forward to my future, and I see such hopeful expectancy of good will. I see good work, His work, and I see good days ahead. I am not afraid of the changing times, though they be dark and difficult, no! I believe that He will care for me through these coming weeks, months, and years, and then one day, He will welcome me with open arms as I walk over that bridge to glory. Selah! Until then, my task is to faithfully follow after Him, to go where He sends me and to do the work He has called me to do. It is good work, good practical work, and in doing it, I will find sweet peace, sweet relief, and so much sweet joy as I see His hand turn over one miracle after another. He is good, He is so very good to me.
I look up this good, good day, and I marvel at the work you have done thus far in my life. You have made a way for me, and as I walk in this way, you have comforted me and been my steady companion. I look to your hand now for blessing, continued blessing, and I trust you, rely on you, and continue to make you the center of my delight. I will make you my entire desire, my hope, my dream, and my future. There is nothing I desire more than you, and there is nothing I want more than your will for my life. May your Name be praised, honored and glorified through every facet of my life. I give you this praise today, and I surrender all selfish wants, needs, and desires (human fleshly things) in order to receive the desires of your heart. May all your desires for my life come to pass, and may you bring to me everything you desire for my life. I let you have full control over where I go today, what I do this day, and how I do it. You alone are worthy to be praised, you alone are worthy to be praised. I ask all this in your Name, Lord Jesus, and I trust and rely upon you for your delivered promised. Amen, so be it, thy will be done! Selah!