February 29, 2016

Moving On

This good Monday arrived early. I woke up around 2 a.m. (again), and I was wide awake, thinking that I needed to get up. I have not remembered the time-change between east and west giving me so much trouble before so this is really bothering me. Thankfully, I was able to drift back to sleep and stay in bed until 6:30 this morning. It is 7:00 now, and I am up and drinking my first cup of coffee. I am not sure how this is going to work out today -- since this is my first day back to school -- and I know my legs and feet are going to ache like crazy once 5:30 p.m. gets here. Only the Lord can sustain me, only He can see me through this good, good day.

It is weird, really, to think about all that I have accomplished. I am still struggling with these feelings of doubt, like I have somehow "faked" this whole ABD process. I know it is not true, and I know how hard the entire examination was (both parts). I just cannot figure out why I feel the way I do, I mean, why do I feel so let down, so awful, so confused right now?

Coming to Terms with it All

I was praying about it today, and I guess a big part of it is my pride. Yes, my pride is wounded. I don't like to show my failures, show my failings, show my flaws. Friday, my flaws, failings, and failures were all on display for six of the most important people in my life -- my professors and committee at Regent. I felt like I failed right there under the heat of the spotlight. Praise God, I passed, but still, I didn't think I did that well. I choked under pressure, and I rambled, stammered, and generally sounded uneducated. I hate that this happened to me, and rather than be the cool and collected professor I know I can be in the clinch, I simply burned. I did a face plant in the dust and the dirt. I am embarrassed at my performance, and that folks, is the rub of it.

I have tried to figure out why I feel the way I do, so awful inside. I have pushed it aside, and I have tried to come to terms with what happened on Friday. I know it went well, just not the "well" I had hoped for, prayed for, and expected. No, the Lord chose to allow me to stumble a bit, to waver, to doubt, and to be called out for my errors. It was awful, it felt awful, and while I took it with humility -- yes -- I admitted my failure when it was brought to my attention, I still felt like a school child being sent to the principle's office for discipline. UGH!

I guess I should be happy that I passed. I knew going in that my professors would be this way, and that they would "test and try" me. I guess I survived it with minor scratches and bruises, but still, I felt that it was a "trial by fire," and I simply didn't like it. My colleague described her experience as "fun." Not so with me. I mean, even though my professors laughed all the way through, which is a good thing (so I am told), I still hated the feeling that I performed so poorly. I simply didn't show my best to them, and that bothers me greatly. God knows what I can and cannot do, and for some reason, He chose for me to show this side to them. He chose for me to be humbled through this process, and for that, I know there was good reason.

The more I think about my experience, the more I realize that what I am feeling is a hurt sense of pride. Yes, I am feeling wounded, and that explains why I feel so awful today. My pride has been bruised. My true side has been exposed, and for all my efforts at hiding myself well, the light of God's glory has revealed all the chinks in my armor. I have been exposed, and frankly, I don't like that feeling at all.

He Chooses Whom to Lift Up

James says it this way in chapter four, verses 5-6:

Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: "He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us"? But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, "GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE."

Similarly, we read the words of Jesus in the gospels of Matthew 23:12 and Luke 14:11, where He says,

Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

Furthermore, it is God's sovereignty that comes into play. In Romans 9:17, Paul says, "For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, 'FOR THIS VERY PURPOSE I RAISED YOU UP, TO DEMONSTRATE MY POWER IN YOU, AND THAT MY NAME MIGHT BE PROCLAIMED THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE EARTH.'" God chooses whom to exalt and whom to bless.

I remember these verses, and I know that God is aware of my position, the fragility of it, and the way in which I struggle to overcome my own feelings and fears of inadequacy. I realize today, just now for that matter, that the reason I feel the way I do is simply because I didn't perform to my own expectations, and while I passed (there is only pass or fail), I didn't control the situation the way I had hoped to control it. I flubbed it, I faltered my way through it, and I finished it without any real effort on my part. I know this is because the test on Friday was designed for one purpose -- to reveal my weaknesses -- and for certain, it did do that. What is more, I know for a fact that I cannot take any credit for my "win" in VA. You see, I showed up. I walked through the fire. I went into that conference room and did my best. But, I didn't succeed. No, the Lord did. He showed up, and He did what He always does -- He lit the room up -- and my professors graciously bestowed upon me the confirmation of my passing. Thus, the reason I feel the way I do is because I am trying to take credit for something that is not due to me. I am trying to align my performance (poor) with the outcome (good). It doesn't match up. My performance was a mere shadow of His, and it was His performance that merited the "pass." Of this, I now know.

I humbly confess this to the Lord. I mean, it was on Friday as I walked from the Founders Inn and Spa (where I was staying) to the COM Arts building for my oral defense that I prayed for the Lord to be glorified. I asked Him to take the lead, to receive all the glory, and for me, in short, to be humbled. I didn't want to be exalted. I didn't want to take any credit for the "passing" of the defense. I knew that what I had done up to that point was peanuts. The Lord had done it all -- all the papers, the tests, the discussion board posts, the writing timed essay answers, etc. I did nothing by show up and do the work assigned to me. He did everything else, and as a result, I passed each class with an "A" and then finally passed my qualification exams to advance to candidacy. I realize now that this process, this awful, difficult, and tiring process is part of the proving ground for receiving an advanced degree. You have to go through it to come out on the other side. You have to be tested in this way in order to receive this high honor.

I remember the Lord saying to me that He was going to exalt me, to lift me up, in some way. I thought, "Oh no, Lord! Please do not lift me up!" I know what comes when He does that -- usually -- some sort of pain follows afterwards. In many ways, He chose to humble me on Friday, to allow me to suffer humility in this way for a purpose. He knows me well. He knows how I like to hide in the shadows. He knows that I prefer to do "behind the scenes work" and not be in the spotlight. Yet, He has chosen for me to follow a path that puts me in a most uncomfortable spot -- in the spotlight -- in the heat and fray of His work.

I am thinking about this today, how my peace has been zapped, and how I feel so unwell right now. Yet, there is this abiding sense that all is right, even though I feel awful today. I mean, nothing has changed on His part. He is ROCK STEADY, and that means that I am able to cling to Him and know that I will not be left behind or lost. Yes, He is my victor and my champion, and I am nothing. I have been emptied out, my brain dumped for the purpose of passing these exams, and all that is left of me is bits and pieces of ragged hope. I cling to the hope that is my Lord, and I trust in His provision this good, good day.

Just yesterday, I panicked BIG TIME when I started to look for more full-time work opportunities. I thought to myself, "Lord, I am not going to make it as a teacher. I need to get out of this business PDQ!" I scanned the higheredjobs.com website only to see positions that were not a good fit for my skills or my experience. I feel so ill-prepared to teach now (why, I don't know), and what is more, I feel as though I will never get out of debt, never have a good income, and never be able to accomplish anything to improve my situation one iota.

The funny thing is this -- I actually thought that this whole PhD thing was a waste of time and money. Yes, I let that thought linger for a short while this morning. I mean, I owe a "house" in school loans and frankly the likelihood that I will get a good paying job to pull me out of debt is slim to nil. Who am I kidding? I mean, I am not that great of a teacher, not skilled in scholarship, and I am old, so very old (compared to fresh young teachers coming out with newly minted PhDs)! Sigh!

I guess I need to remember the WORD of God that says that it is in His sovereignty that He exalts whom He chooses to exalt. He lifts whom He chooses to lift, and He blesses whom He chooses to bless. God is in control, not me. He has this plan for my life, and it is not of my creation or making. Chesterton said once that "God and man made it" speaking of philosophy, and he was right. I simply accepted what I believed to be God's revelation to me. In truth, I have changed my life, altered my path, and walked in this way -- all because I believed that God revealed His will for my life to me. He personally gave me testimony that He desired for me to walk a certain way, to do certain things, and to become a certain type of person. I up ended my entire life, changed it all, gave it away so to speak, because I believe that God was calling me, asking me, to follow after Him. I have followed. I have listened. I have obeyed. Now I must continue to do that and to not allow the enemy to make mincemeat of my current feelings of inadequacy. He is good, so very good to me. He knows me best, and He has a great plan for my life. I know He has me well covered this good, good day.

Dear Lord,

I am sorry for allowing my pride, my wounded pride to keep me from remembering what I said to you on Friday. I asked you to be glorified through the exam process, and you did just that. You received all praise, all honor, and all glory. I suffered through the process. I endured it, as you said I would have to do, and then I felt insulted that I had performed so poorly. Yet, I passed, and that is miraculous at best. You did this, from beginning to end, and now I am feeling as if I should have more honor. I am sorry this has happened, and I confess it to you now because I know this is just the beginning of it all. You have a great plan for my life, and I have to be willing to go through the fire whenever you need me to be tested this way. I let go this good day. I relinquish control. I let you guide me, direct me, and provide for me. I ask now that you do whatever is necessary to bring me through this last phase of the process, to finish strong. May your Name be praised, and may you receive all honor and blessing due your good, good Name this day. In Jesus' Name I ask, amen. So be it, thy will be done. Selah!

February 28, 2016

After Glow of Exams

It is Sunday, and I am home, finally home! I had a long arduous flight from Charlotte (sick people and crying children), but I survived. It is so good to be back in my own home, my own bed, and here sitting at my own computer (well, I did travel with my laptop, but I prefer my iMac desktop). I don't mind traveling, mind you, but there is just something wonderful about the comforts of home. Selah!

Today is a good day, a really good day. My plans today are to rest, and then to catch up on some student paperwork. My day is pretty low-key as of now, with not too much worry or stress on my plate (praise be to God). It is a good day when you can say, "I don't have anything that 'must needs' be done today," and really mean it. God is so good, so very good to me!

One of the funny things I am noticing is the fact that I am unable to speak or write at present. It is like I gave everything I had to pass my exams, and there is nothing left for me now. I have been emptied out, and that thought scares me. How can you dump everything you have amassed in your head and then move on? I don't know, I seriously do not know. I guess it is part of the process, but frankly, I feel so mentally lethargic. I feel as if my brain is now in low-gear, and anytime I try to do something intellectual, I simply fail, I just fail. Perhaps in time this feeling will pass -- I don't know. But, for now, I am going to let it be and let God do whatever He intends to do through me. God be praised, He is good, so very good, and He knows what He is doing right now. I know this is true, I know it, so I let it go.

February 26, 2016


Well, it is official. I passed my qualification exams, and I am now ABD! I am still in a state of shock about it, but I trust my professors that I really did pass. This day has been surreal. I woke up around 5 a.m. (3 a.m) and thought, "you've got to be kidding!" I absolutely couldn't imagine pulling myself out of bed so early. I tucked my head back under the covers, and slept until about 6:30 when it finally felt warm enough to get up. It was chilly today, but the sun was out, and the weather was lovely. I mean, LOVELY. I love February - the partly cloudy skies - the cold days, yes, I couldn't help remember what it was like growing up in Illinois. It was so NICE to walk across campus in the early morning hours today. Sigh!

I have to admit that I was nervous today. I had prayed over my colleagues defense during her session, and she reported that she felt absolutely calm. I am so thankful for God's mercy at her covering. She was apprehensive last evening, so it was sheer joy to hear her say that her defense was FUN (I had prayed for it to be so!) God is so good, so very good to me.

My defense was simply weird. My professors were all laughing and having a great time. I was told that if they were laughing, then that meant you were doing really well. I don't know about that or not, I just tried to keep things light and lively because it made me less nervous. I think I goofed some, but generally, I tried my best, and I seemed to swim through the nets without getting myself too caught in anything. I am so glad this is over, behind me now. I am still feeling that "let down" that seems to occur when you finish a major project and then think, "so what is next?" Oh my goodness! God has made this possible, so I give Him all the praise, the glory, and the honor. He alone is worthy to be praised this good, good, good day.

February 24, 2016

Grace is Good

I am checked in for my flight tomorrow morning. I cannot believe that I am heading to VA to finish my PhD comprehensive examinations. Yes, the time has flown by since I first started this journey. I can remember how I felt making that first flight to VA back in June of 2013. I was excited, nervous, and a jumbled mess. I didn't know if I could hack doctoral study. I mean, I had just finished my MA program with a 3.9 grade point average, but doctoral study seemed so out of reach to me. I knew I would do well, just not as well as I have done in the program. My first class, Introduction to Doctoral Studies had started the month before in May, and I felt so out of my league. My peers were all COM students, some professors, and some media people. I was this English student who had no real experience with either field (outside of web design and marketing). While I didn't think I was going to make it through without hard struggle, deep inside of me there was this sense that everything was going to be "all right." Once I got to Regent University, walked around campus, and experienced the school -- I knew -- I knew I was right where the Lord wanted me to be. There was this wonderful atmosphere, this wonderful presence on campus that made me feel so welcome. It wasn't that I met people or had some personal experience, it was more that I "felt" His presence on campus. I cannot really explain it any other way, but it was like I could feel the Holy Spirit at this school.

As I headed to class that first Monday, my nerves were all in an uproar. I was anxious, and I didn't know what to expect. Once I got to campus, checked in, and started meeting people, I really thought to myself, "I will never cut it here -- these people are so much better than I am." I struggled to make it through those first couple days, and I put on my warrior mask. I did my best, and in the end, I survived the ordeal. I flew home thinking to myself, "Oh, Lord, I am going to have to change my life to accommodate this program." I prayed over my feelings, trusting the Lord to provide a way for me to make it through, and in the end, I felt He was saying to me that the way to go was to follow the path of higher education, to leave corporate work and to embrace teaching.

Of course, I didn't know how to do that at all. I was working in a good job, a well-paying job, at that time, but I knew that I couldn't do the work required of me as a doctoral student AND still do a good job at CVS. So, I started looking for other, less-stressful and intensive jobs, only to find nothing to fit the bill. Finally, the Lord opened a door at GCU as a teaching assistant, and well, within 15 minutes of interviewing, I got that job. I didn't understand how I would live on an hourly wage, not with all my bills, loans, and needs -- but the Lord opened the door -- and I obeyed and followed after Him. In time, of course, this first TA position led to teaching adjunct, and then I moved into full-time "adjunct" where I taught 3-4 classes each semester.

Now, I am still teaching adjunct, but I am ready to move once again, this time into a full-time instructor or Assistant Professor position. I will be ABD come Friday, and all that is left for me to do is write my dissertation. The Lord has been my steady ROCK and I have come to rest and to rely on Him for His leading, His guidance, and His grace. I couldn't do what He asked of me then, and I cannot do what He is asking of me now. I have to wait, to trust, and to obey as He orders my day, makes my way smooth and possible.

It is so funny to think about how much I have changed in three years time. I was this very strong, but very brash graduate student. I was unsure of my own abilities as a scholar, a researcher, a teacher. Now, I am like this bull -- this really strong person who knows what she can and cannot do. I am convinced that there is nothing I cannot do with His help. I mean, I believe that I can go into any situation and WIN if that is His desired outcome. If He wants me to interview as a CEO, and He determined this was my next step, I have full-faith and confidence that He would see to it. He would provide. He is Jehovah-Jireh.

Assuredly, that is not His plan for me, but I have that inner sense that says "I can do it -- I can do it!" Yes, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. He is good, He is good, He is good.
Last night as I was praying over my day today, my upcoming flight, and Friday's ordeal, I started to think about my next steps. What am I to do come Saturday? I will be ABD (all but dissertation), and then I will need to get back on the doctoral horse, so to speak, and begin my proposal (first three chapters). Second, I will need to start my research in June, and hopefully, finish it all by August (mid September at the latest). Next, I will need write -- seven or eight chapters in total -- and be prepared to defend my work sometime in December or early January. Then, Lord willing, I will graduate with this degree. I will finish what I believe is the penultimate goal the Lord has placed before me. Yes, I believe that this goal of getting my PhD has been His intention for me. He made His mind up long ago that I would seek, desire, and pursue this degree. He made it possible for me to do this, and even though it took me 23 years between undergraduate and graduate work, I have finally arrived at His desired destination. Now what? What do you want me to do next, Lord?

Naturally, I started to think about other things I would like to study after this degree. I have many interests, but most of them align or are very compatible with my communication path. I know this is His doing because He has put these desires into my heart. I am fully following after Him, so that means that I desire what He desires. In thinking about possible next steps, three things come to mind:

  • A desire to study linguistics
  • A desire to study theology
  • A desire to study law
These three desires have been percolating in my heart for a long time, but I haven't figured out how He intended for me to go. Last night, though, I started to do a little research to see what might be possible, and this is what I have come up with:

First, my desire to study linguistics is not to understand language as acquisition (as in TESOL -- teaching second language acquisition) but rather to explore semiotics or language and meaning, how we understand language and come to make sense of the world through language. Semiotics is something I have been passionate about learning since I was in my master's program at Mercy College, but I couldn't quite figure out how I would study that since it is not something that many colleges and universities still teach. The study of signs and symbols has merged into other disciplines so there are computational semiotics programs (looking a computer/machine language) or cognitive semiotics (neuroscience emphasis). I want to study true semiotics, but unless I travel to Europe, I am not going to find such a program available to me.

Second, my desire to study theology has been long-term. I mean, I asked the Lord if I could study theology at some point in time perhaps 10-15 years ago. I have been helping my friend look over theology programs so I know what most are like. I am not wanting a traditional theology program, but rather I want a program that explores the philosophical underpinnings of theology.

Last, the Lord has put a desire to study law in my heart for some time now. At first, I thought He wanted me to pursue a JD -- to actually become a lawyer -- but since starting my PhD, I have realized that it is more learning about the law that interests Him. He desires for me to learn more about the law as it pertains to very specific types of businesses, most namely, nonprofit organizations.

I took some time last night to troll the Internet as I browsed for programs that might fit His next steps for me. I found a couple that looked promising. Of course, I have to finish Regent -- that is my number one priority right now. But, God be praised, I feel good that part of His next steps for me includes more study (yes!)

The good news is that there are programs out there that will benefit me (give me more to study) and enable me to fulfill His call on my life. I am thinking now, praying now I mean, about the following options to see if these "stick" to me:
  • Regent University's Master in Law program with a concentration in Nonprofit Organizational Management
  • George Fox Evangelical Seminary's Doctor of Ministry degree in Semiotics and Future Studies
  • Talbot Theological Seminary's Masters degree in Philosophy
These degrees are very specialized and in sum would probably take me another 5-6 years to complete. I don't really need a DMin, but the degree itself is very interesting. It is in semiotics, but the emphasis is on end times. This area fascinates me, and I think it would be something useful for kingdom purposes. Regent's MLaw degree is practical, and it can be completed in about 12 months time. It covers American law as well as business law, and I feel the Lord desires it since He has imparted to me that part of His plan will be to manage some type of ministry organization. As I think about these two together, I see great emphasis on practical work, kingdom specific work, and that excites me to no end. The final degree is for me, I think. The MPhil is a difficult degree, probably as difficult as my PhD, but rich in theological content and philosophical study. The MPhil would give to me the philosophical understanding necessary to do what He is calling me to do. 

In short, of the degrees that the Lord has provided thus far, two have been practical in their outcome. My English masters provided an open door for me to teach students at the college level. My PhD in Communication furthered that study to provide a higher level position as a professor. But, it also, prepared my heart and mind for His work. I learned what He wanted me to learn -- human communication is fraught with difficulty -- and as such, it is the avenue He travels to reach the hearts and minds of His creation. Understanding how and why we communicate benefits not only intrapersonal, interpersonal, and group communication, but it will provide the knowledge in how to improve communication between God and man -- AND -- man and man. Communication has been God's wonderful gift to me. I have been changed through this study, this program, and I will use what I have learned to develop curriculum to help God's people communicate better with one another and with the church as a whole. Selah!

If the Lord opens up the door for me to continue to study, I see the following progression as plausible right now. I would undertake the DMin next since it is only 36 credits and it aligns well with my research at Regent. It would extend my studies as a researcher and would enable me to cross into theology well. After this degree, which could be finished in two years, I would then return to Regent and tackle the 30 credit MLaw program. This would be finished in one year. Then last, I would entertain the MPhil and complete my studies, my preparation, for ministry. This last degree will take me probably 3-4 years total. Once I am finished with the philosophy degree, then I am finished with all my higher educational goals and pursuits. Selah!

In all, I would finish my education:
  • BA in Humanities (European Studies) (1993)
  • MA in English Literature (2012)
  • MPhil in Philosophy (2024)
  • MLaw in Law (Nonprofit Management) (2020)
  • DMin in Semiotics and Future Studies (2019)
  • PhD in Communication (2016)
It seems like overkill to me, but I have prayed about this path, and really, it makes sense. You see, if I am going to study something, I want to get something at the end of all that sacrifice. Since I am an achievement oriented person, getting a degree (yep, that silly little piece of paper) is a strong motivator for me to pursue a path to completion. The Lord knows that I could learn these things on my own, but that I do best in a structured environment. I need classes, papers, and grades to move me forward. I simply won't do the work on my own (it is true, so true).

My plan now is to wait and see what the Lord does, I mean, it is all up to Him. If He wants me to pursue more study, so be it. He has to help me pay off my current student loan debt, and then provide funds for me to take the next degree. I am not independently-wealthy so the Lord has to provide a WAY for me to get through each degree. I believe He will because I believe that nothing is impossible for God. For with God, all things are possible (Luke 1:37). It is up to Him, and if He says "it is so," then it is so. I rest.
As I think about all this "study," one thing is important to remember -- I do nothing for my own purposes or outcomes. I am not "into" getting degrees to show off, to lord my abilities over others, or even to get "jobs." The Lord has clearly forbidden me from seeking higher education for job-related purposes (outside of my Masters, which opened the door to teaching). My PhD is for ministry, always has been, always will be. This is why I am not going to be a communications professor. No matter how many times I teach a fundamental COM course, I will not be a full-time COM professor. No, I will teach English Composition and an occasional literature course. In fact, a year or so ago, amidst some crisis, I recall the Lord saying to me that if I stayed in teaching, I would only teach undergraduate courses -- freshman composition. I remember agreeing to that proposition, and well, it appears that His word to me has come to pass. I am set on being an English teacher until I retire. I will teach freshman comp classes over and over again -- until He says otherwise. He is good, He knows me well, and the plans He has for my life are solid! Selah!

Thus, what I study from this point forward is all about Him and His work. If He desires these programs because of their content, then I will go and study them in order to please Him, to satisfy His need (whatever that may be). He knows what He intends for me to produce (curriculum) as well as research (scholarship), so I have to let Him lead me to each school, to each program, and to each area of study. You see, His plan for my life is specific. I have known this for a long while, but I haven't really understood what He wanted me to do exactly. I have had "inklings," simply impressions that formed in my mind that suggested things He would want me to create. I struggled at first because I didn't have concrete details. I wanted to know "specifics" but He wasn't going to reveal those to me just yet. I still don't know, but I know enough to say that these degrees seem to "fit" His plan (overall plan, I mean). 

Now, I have to rest. If this is His will, it will come to pass. If He chooses for me to go a different way, to different schools or programs, then He will show me. Until then, I focus on the task at hand, which is to finish my PhD at Regent this year. Selah!
Dear Lord,

I know it seems brash to post these thoughts online, so I ask that you will cover me with your good grace this day. I will do these things only with your permission, provision, and participation. I cannot do them on my own, even in my strength for one moment. I can only do them in your strength, with your vision, and with your power -- so I ask that you bless my way -- and that you reveal your will to me so that I can move where you desire for me to move. I let go the need to know for now, and I rest in your provision for every event, need, detail in my life this good day. You know what I need -- today -- and you know where I need to be tomorrow. I ask for your blessing over my life, that you would care for me as I travel tomorrow, and of course, that you will show up and do my oral defense for me. Please be with me, Lord. I need you today, so desperately, today. I ask this now in Jesus' Name, Amen! So be it! Selah (pause and calmly think about it!)

February 23, 2016

Closer to the Dream

Happy Tuesday, everyone! Yes, it is February 23, 2016, and I have two days left (Wednesday and Thursday) before my oral defense in Virginia Beach, VA. I just received a text message from my colleague who announced she had passed! She is the second person from my study group to survive the trial, and she passed! I am so happy for her, so relieved, and so anxious now that my turn is up on Friday. It all seems so surreal. I mean, I am about to finish three years of intensive study, and in a two-hour conference session, I will either pass or fail. I cannot stand the wait, but I know that I must remain steady, and just let this wash over me as the Lord guides and leads me through it. It is trial by fire, and I am ready, I am ready. God is so good to me, so very good to me.

I was thinking about this very thing today, how God has made this way possible, how He has brought me through to this point, and how I now must go and defend my answers to my professors. I am ready, of course, but there is part of me that dreads the "unknown." I think I have moved from fear to dread, which I guess, is a good thing. I am hopeful, so very hopeful that Friday will come and go without any hiccups or fuss.

Wondering and Thinking Aloud

As I process this all today, I cannot help but give praise to God for His goodness and mercy toward me. I mean, who am I that the God of the Universe should wash His mercy and grace over me? What have I done to warrant His great care and love? Nothing. Nothing at all. There is no good thing inside of me, and yet, the Lord of Hosts has chosen me as His instrument of grace, of goodness, and of gladness. Yes, I rejoice in the Lord this good, good day. I lift His Name up high for I know that He alone is worthy to receive our praise. He alone is worthy to receive our adoration!

A Slight Digression

I was reading a Facebook post this morning that has upset my spirit. I mean, really, upset my spirit. I am getting to the point where I loathe this social media channel. In fact, I am getting to the point where I loathe social media completely. Sigh! I cannot help it, but I am finding that it is more difficult for me to sit by and listen to hateful people spew hate speech at Christians, whom they decry as hateful. It is as if these people do not even realize that the language they are using is filled with hate. The very words they use connote hate, and yet they believe that what they are doing is justified because they are name-calling other people, and pointing the finger at what they perceive as "hateful" speech. How can you call someone out for injustice when the very act is unjust?

Jesus said, "You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye" (Matthew 7:5 NIV). I cannot think of a more fitting Bible verse today than this one. Yes, the hypocrite in the 21st century is the liberal ideologue who bashes every person who doesn't agree with them. They say Christians are intolerant, and yet, by their very own speech codes, they demonstrate absolute intolerance.

My heart is so overwhelmed right now. I mean, why must our rhetoric become so filled with hate? I am reminded of something that Paul Copan wrote about human nature. Copan believes in moral absolutes and in a moral code (much like C.S. Lewis). He asserts that individuals, Christian and non, have a moral compass that was designed by God. All people, thus, have a sense of right and wrong. This aligns with scripture where the Apostle Paul says, "For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse" (Romans 1:20 NIV). Scripture tells us that even though no one is righteous (Romans 3:10), man is without excuse when it comes to understanding that God exists. Somewhere within the heart of man, there exists a moral center, a center that knows the difference between good and bad, right and wrong. Copan says it this way, "Objective moral values exist, and we can intuitively recognize that certain acts are right or wrong" (Copan, Luley and Wallace, 2003, p. 160). The issue at core is the fact that because moral absolutes do exist, individuals are without excuse when it comes to breaking the moral code or law. Therefore, when individuals engage in hateful speech and conduct, and they attempt to justify their behavior in a moral cause, they often do the very thing they accuse others of doing. In short, they act and behave in the exact same way as everyone else -- only they believe they are somehow morally superior -- to others.

I see this, day in and day out, on social media. It bothers me greatly because I believe that this behavior demonstrates the baseness of our society, how individuals have turned toward hate simply because of the way they feel inside. I was thinking about this today as I read several posts from a person who was moralizing on the Alliance for Defending America page. This organization is based out of Scottsdale, AZ, and they are a conservative group that takes up causes for individuals, particularly Christians, who have received unjust treatment from the government or a local governing body (such as a school). They post updates to social media, but they don't have anyone to manage or monitor the feed, so basically it is "open season" on the page. The issue today was a story about a woman who has come out to share her experience growing up in a LGBT household. She gives personal testimony saying that she wished she would have been raised with her two biological parents  instead of being raised with their same-sex partners. The story caption reads "in defense of traditional marriage." Several people responded saying "Christian" things such as to either praise the young woman for sharing her experience or to condemn the LGBT lifestyle. What upset me most was not the tenor of these posts -- they are pretty normal considering the forum. However, I was upset by one person, in particular, who chose to post responses to every single person saying the same thing -- calling them "haters" for expressing their views on the matter. I was struck by the way this person chose to use language to defend his own position, attack these other people, and to do it all while incriminating himself as the very thing he was denouncing. He was a "hater" who hated other people who didn't believe as he did. Intolerance in action.

I took a couple minutes after I calmed down to look at this person's Facebook page. What I noticed was this -- clearly the person was of the LGBT lifestyle or at least a strong supporter of it. My guess was that the person was "in the closet" and struggling to come to terms with his lifestyle choice. Second, I could tell that this person had no family or friends. In fact, I would say that this person had very little "life" at all. His profile was scant, filled with pictures of flowers, but no real "life" to be seen at all. My heart broke when I saw this because it said to me that the reason this person was so hateful to others is because of the hatred he has for himself. It is very difficult to love others if you do not love yourself. It is very difficult to be tolerant if you are filled with hate inside and intolerant of anyone and everyone who threatens your weaken social and self identity. I felt very sorry for this person. My heart was saddened because he was attacking the one thing that could radically change his life, transform his life from sickness and death to health and life. Yet, he was unwilling to even consider the life-giving medicine that would save his soul AND provide hope for his future.

As I thought about this today, I wondered about our world and how we have become a people who spew hate speech so easily, so readily. I also began to think about the illogical arguments that the left or those on the left seem to make. In fairness, I will also say that many on the right also frame inconsistent and illogical arguments. The problem is that we have lost our rational center, our ability to reason, and that scares me.

I was praying about this today, and I asked the Lord to help me learn to argue more effectively, to rationally and cogently give defensive answers. I hate to argue, mind you. I mean, I hate it. But there is part of me that sees the value in it today. I don't want to become a person who so strongly argues against another, but I see it now as a vital necessity. I see it as something that Christians must learn to do, rationally, logically, and with great skill in order to stand their ground against an increasingly hostile environment. Sigh!

Thinking About This More

So as I think about this more, I realize that I must become like the scholars I have studied. There is a reason why God chose to send me through a social science program and not a humanities one. I would have much preferred to be in the humanities, after all, that is my heart-field. Yet, God picked communications, and Regent, in particular, and as such I have been trained as a social scientist. Now, I must use what I have learned in a way that honors Him, glorifies Him, and serves Him. I think that perhaps I need to study rhetoric. Yes, perhaps I do need to study rhetoric. 

I had thought about studying it originally only to beef up my resume and make it seem more solid when it came to teaching English. Now, however, I am wondering if the Lord intends for me to study rhetoric in order to teach people, Christian's I mean, how to argue well. I am seeing more and more Christians who cannot argue at all -- I mean -- not the mean spirited or hateful arguments we see online. No, I mean strong, logical, and well-reasoned arguments that are useful for standing ground on matters of faith. UGH!

My good friend is an apologist. He loves apologia and evangelism, and I think his interest has rubbed off on me. I am so not comfortable playing in his sand box, and yet, the Lord has brought us together for a reason, and I believe that reason is for us to do ministry together. He is a much better, a more informed, apologist than I am. I am pretty pathetic when it all comes out in the wash. However, I feel so strongly that I need to do this, well somewhat strongly, that I am considering how and why and where I could pursue this line of study. Why Lord? Why now? Is this what you want me to do? Sigh!

I am not thinking about studying apologetics. My friend has that covered well. I am thinking about studying argumentation, logic, and philosophy that supports the WAY we argue. You see, this is going to be a lost art one day. Very few schools teach classical rhetoric anymore. Very few schools teach this type of rhetoric at all. I don't know what the Lord has in mind, but I am thinking that I need more study to be prepared for His work. I need to follow up my communication study with something different, something that will take what I know now and push it further into the place where He needs me to be. I am not sure what that will be, but I am open to what the Lord thinks is best.

Right now, all I can say is that my stomach is churning, and it is in knots. Oh, Lord, help me see my way through this good, good day!

Lastly, as I spend my remaining morning, I am thinking about all I have to do today. I have studying mostly on tap, but I also have some errands and I need to get ready for my trip on Thursday. I am panicked and I don't know why. Perhaps it is just nerves. Perhaps it is the way I feel inside -- sort of all torn up about this realization. I just don't know. But today, I let this be. I will let the Lord impress on me whatever He wants, and I will allow this trial to wash over me. I will stand firm in His name, and I will be fully clothed in the armor of God. I am ready, Lord. I am ready. Have your way in me this good, good day. Selah!

February 22, 2016

Skies Have Cleared

It is a happy Monday, and well, I am feeling good about my day and my week ahead. Yes, this is it! It is Quals Defense week for me, and that means, come Friday, I will either be a doctoral student or a PhD candidate. My prayer, hope, and belief is that I will pass my oral defense and advance to candidacy. I cannot imagine not passing my exams since my answers were solid -- not super, wonderful or perfect -- but very solid. I am reviewing this week, and will read some extra material on the plane, but overall, I am going in "as is." My faith is in the Lord on this one. He has seen me through this far, and He will not forsake me now. He is good, so very good to me!

Last night, I had my last study session with my study group. My group has been fantastic, and frankly, they were the glue I needed to get through this whole process. We laughed a lot, and we studied hard. I think our process, while not super organized, worked for us all. One of my peers has already passed his defense. My second peer goes tomorrow, and then the final two (including me) will follow up on Friday. I feel confident that we will all do well. It is just a matter of passing through this rite. My peer said last night, "I think this is a rite of passage," and I agree with him. I have talked with other people who have defended this way, and they say the same thing. If you passed the written part, you have to endure the oral part. It is just part of the process of getting your PhD.

I am prepared the best I can be so now I must wait this week out and take my turn at the firing line. I am hopeful that all will go well, of course, and my faith and confidence are in the Lord. Yes, my boldness is in the Lord, and I walk through the fire with Him at my side. He will see me through this next step, and He will lead me on. I wait patiently by His side, and I look to His hand of mercy and grace. He alone is worthy, He alone is good, He alone is God.

Turning Toward the Finish Line

Today, then is a good, good day. I have two teaching days to get through and then I am off to Virginia! My little world is getting rocked, and I am excited to see what the Lord has in mind for the rest of my days. One thing is for sure, my life is going somewhere...as in...moving toward a PLACE. Yes, I am not sitting still, languishing on the sidelines, or waiting for the bus to arrive. No, I am moving forward, walking on, and following after the Lord -- wherever -- He may lead me. Today, I am confident able, bold, and ready to look up, to see the place, the destination He has in mind for me. I know that where He is sending, well, it is good. God only brings good into our lives, so the good He has in mind for me, it is good indeed. Furthermore, as I trust in Him, I look forward to the unveiling of His plans, I mean, the overall plan, and all the little plans that make up that big BOLD plan of His. I am ready, I am at ease, and I am trusting Him to do this good, good thing. Selah!

I was thinking about this thing today, how I feel so good and ready to get moving. Yet, at the same time, I know that when it comes down to it, I may feel great sadness in leaving my life here in Phoenix behind. I won't be like Lot's wife, you know, who looked back on Sodom, but I will feel a twinge of sadness to see this part of my life come to a close. You see, my life has been good, overall, very good. I was thinking about this over the weekend when I was talking with my good, good friend. He was sharing some things with me about his life, and I started to think about similar things in my life. Nothing overtly personal or anything of the sort, just every day details, but as he was talking, my mind wandered back in time to similar experiences. I didn't admit this to him then, but in hindsight, I am ready to admit it now. My life, my marriage, and my family were not as bad as I have made them out to be. Sure, they weren't perfect. Sure, I didn't like a lot of what went on day in and day out, and sure, there were times when I thought I wasn't going to make it through to another day. Yet, despite all the hardship, the sorrow, and the difficulty, there were many good, good memories. Time together, dinners, breakfasts, and many hours spent doing things as a family. We had a good family, a tight, a cohesive, and a well-ordered family. We didn't have arguments, fights, bickering or disruption in the home at all. No, we had peace, calm, and for the most part, a seemingly happy life.

I often paint a rather bleak picture of my marriage, but when I think about my family (as in the three of us), I have to be honest. My ex-husband and I were committed to bringing up our child in peace and happiness. We were committed to making a home for him, and we did just that. We had a happy home for our son, and we gave him everything we could to ensure he had the experiences he needed to become a well-rounded young man. Today, he is a good young man. He has turned out well, and for that, I am so thankful.

My marriage was not solid, not always happy, but our home was, and again, for that I am thankful. I started to think about this fact yesterday, how God provided a happy and content home life for our son. My marriage and the hidden darkness was something else, but for my son, he had the best of both of us. We worked things out to make sure he was safe, was happy, was whole.

As I think about closing this chapter of my life, I have to give credit to Phoenix and Arizona, for that matter, for making this life possible. I was able to stay at home here in Phoenix -- for a number of reasons -- but mostly because the cost of living was so much less than that of California. Furthermore, I was able to home school him for free thanks to the state of Arizona's very generous policy on home education. My son received a rock solid education here in AZ without any state oversight or involvement. It was good, it was a good place to raise a child. Lastly, if it wouldn't have been for the state's medicaid program, I would be burdened with hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills. Instead, I owe nothing because the state saw to the fact that my ex husband was in serious need of medical help, and back then, they covered the cost. He not only got the best care possible, but he recovered because of the doctors and nurses who served him regardless of his ability to pay.

Yes, AZ has not been a total bust. I can say with complete honesty that while my life here didn't turn out as I had thought it would, it has turned out as I had hoped. My son is almost ready to graduate from college with a degree in Music. My parents are cared for here, and they have had a very good retirement and life. I have survived heartbreak, and I have come to endure. I am an overcomer, for certain, and God has removed obstacles from my life that prevented me from accomplishing His will for me. I am about to finish my fourth college degree, this time the granddaddy degree of a PhD. I am about to embark on a journey into scholarship and research, and with a solid career in teaching, I am ready to do His work, for His kingdom, and for His name. Selah!

It seems that my skies have cleared, and I am ready to take these next steps of faith, to move to this new place, and to begin this new way of life. I am excited. I am happy. I am content.

Giving Thanks and Praise

I cannot really explain it better than to say that I feel that where I am today is the sum total of my experiences over the past 53 years. Yes, I am ready today because of all that has passed before me. All those experiences, the good, the bad, and the pretty awful, well, they have formed, shaped, and made me ready for this day. I think back to my time at SJSU and how I loved school then. My good friend, Martha, is coming to visit next week and I cannot wait to see her again. We had a blast studying Humanities, and we were able to graduate together. That was almost 23 years ago (in May), and to think that here I am getting ready to graduate with my PhD! It was only a pipe dream back then. Not so, to God, though. He had a plan, and He had put it into motion -- even though -- it was going to take 23 years to accomplish. How thankful I am for His grace and mercy. He has given me the desires of my heart, and I am so blessed, blessed to be the recipient of His great love. He has filled me with new ideas, new hopes, and new challenges, and in and through it all, He has steadied me, shown me how to live, where to go, and what to do. My life has been transformed, and today, I am a different person then I once was all those years ago. Yet, those important experiences were part of the package that is called "Carol's Life." Yes, the person I am today is the result of each experience that served to build the picture of my life. I am thankful for each and every instance, each and every moment, and each and every experience. I couldn't do what I am doing today if everything that happened, hadn't have happened when it did. I see this. I realize this. I accept this fact.

Thus, as I plan for my future, I realize that all the events happening today, well they are shaping my future in the same way. My life then is an unwritten book -- there are so many chapters that need to be written. My hope and my prayer is that the next chapter is exciting or is as exciting as this last one has been. Yes, even with the climax of divorce as part of this chapter, there have been so many wonderful experiences that have colored these pages. I mean, I have had three major jobs in just six short years. I have completed two graduate degrees. I have emerged as a definite woman of God, a woman who knows her own mind, who can speak her own thoughts, and who is not afraid to tackle the lion's den. Yes, I am bold. I am fearless. I am ready to stand my ground.

God has done this, of course, so I take no praise or honor in and of myself. He has made this way possible, and He has created within me these passionate desires. He has given me "gusto" and sent me on my way. He has put in my heart and in my mind the belief that I can do anything -- ANYTHING -- that He desires me to do. I mean, I am not afraid to finish this degree. I am not afraid to tackle a second degree, should the Lord require it of me. I am not afraid to travel around the world by myself, if that is what He wants for me. I am not afraid to move to a place I have never been, seek out people to help me, and get settled into a life and a routine without any familiar faces near by. I am bold, I am confident, and I am powerful -- I am ready -- I am so very ready to do what He is asking me to do.

Now, that I have confessed my boldness, I need to remember that God is the One at the helm of this ship. Yes, I have no cause to call the shots anymore. I relinquish that job to my Lord who knows my future well. I am ready to sail away with Him, knowing full well that our destination is in His keeping. I am ready to take this journey, to follow after Him, and to go where He is leading me. I am excited, I am so excited about my next steps. God be praised, I know my next steps will be wonderful. He is good, so very good to me! Selah!

Dear Lord,

As I think about my life today, I give you thanks for all of it. Yes, I let go of the past, all the hurt, the sorrow, and the suffering, and I embrace that which is good. I let the rest lay in the ground where it belongs, dead and buried, and I take with me the living memories that bring me sweet relief and joy. I am thankful for all the people you brought into my life, for those that supported me, were kind to me, and loved me. I am thankful for the years of my marriage, for the produce from that marriage, and for the turmoil that served to shape me and make me into the very strong person I am today. I thank you for my relationship with my husband, now ex-husband, and for his role in my life. While I accept the painful parts of our relationship, I also accept the good that was there for a time. I accept what he was able to give to me, recognizing that it was all he could give to me. I am thankful for his family, and while their dysfunctionality made it very difficult over the years, I realize that I grew very strong as I learned how to live in disharmony. As a result, I strive more and more for peace because of that environment, and I cherish the good memories and let go of the bad ones. I am ready to move on, and I have to let everything that is Phoenix go. I release Phoenix from my hand, letting it fall where it may because I realize that my life is not here anymore. I am being called to go to a new place, to a new home, and to start a brand new life, and so I open my hand to receive this new home from you. I receive everything I need this day to start over. I receive everything I need to day to begin this new adventure. I accept the new job, the new house, the new city, and all that comes with moving to a new place. I open my hand wide, I receive your gifts of mercy and blessing, and I give you thanks -- for EVERYTHING -- in my past, in my present, and in my future. It is with boldness of heart, mind, and body that I let go now, and I embrace my future. You are God, and I look to you for the next 10, 20, 30 or more years of goodness. I ask all this in the matchless, merciful, and majestic name of Jesus the Christ, amen! So be it, thy will be done. Selah!

February 21, 2016

Feeling Unwell Today

Blessed Sunday! It is a good day to praise and worship the Lord!

I woke up feeling unwell today. I cannot put my finger on it other than to say that I simply feel unwell. It is a mixture of feelings, really, some panic, some dread, some guilt, so I know that what I am feeling is a combination of worry and doubt about my future, and the plans the Lord has for my life.

I blogged yesterday how the plans or plan the Lord had for my life was singularly good. I confessed my utter faith, hope, and dependency upon Him, and in doing so, said that I would trust Him to bring His plan to fruition. Now, today, I am feeling unwell and that says to me that 1) either I am being condemned by my enemy or 2) I have done something (in word or deed) to alter my mood, my mindset, and my overall, forward motion toward that end. You see, I felt very confident that yesterday, the Lord had plans to move me. Yes, I believed, and I still do, that I am moving to a new place soon. However, as I have tried to figure out where that will be and the timing of it, I struggle often with this roller coaster ride of emotions. How can I know for sure that I am to go here or there? How am I to know anything at all? Sigh!

Today, I am feeling panicked. Panicked as if my entire world is falling apart. I haven't felt this deep sense of dread in a long while, and I can only think this is the result of something I have done. Yes, I wonder if I have made an error in judgment and in doing so, the way I feel (lack of peace, lack of wellness) is simply an indicator of that miscue. It is not the first time I have felt this way for sure, but it has been a long while (months) since I have been in this exact same spot. Frankly, I don't like it, and because my memory is not what it used to be, I cannot remember how I got myself out of it. I am sure it had to do with my humility, dependency, and willingness to turn around -- it always seems to be the case -- and in doing so, typically the oppression lifts. My prayer today, on this good Sunday, is for this oppression to lift. Please Lord, help me to know why I am being oppressed, and what I must do to see that it lifts from me.

This Way to Exit

These feelings of unwellness have been building lately. I started to feel this way a couple weeks ago, and then last night while I was speaking with my good friend, I started to feel them surface again. As I said, I cannot really put my finger on it, but what I feel and what I see seem to be coalescing into a major fire storm. How do I see through this now? What must I do next?

It is a curious thing to think about when you are in the midst of an oppressive attack. First of all, you want to escape, to exit as quickly as possible. Second, you do want to learn how you got yourself messed up -- just so you can avoid making the same mistake twice. Third, you simply want to know why because why helps you to understand your heart motivations and intentions and gives you the knowledge you need to learn about yourself, your world, and how you interact in your world. I need to know what I have done and why so that I can exit, can avoid a second (or third) go round, and can understand the motivation that has put me in this place.

Analyzing my steps is a good first start. My students are writing causal essays, and as such, they are looking for root causes of the problems they are going to write on. I need to do the same thing. I need to create a fishbone diagram of sorts just to help me narrow down the causes and contributing factors of each cause. This would help me sort through the various details and determine if my actions caused this problem or if my enemy simply chose to attack me when I was most vulnerable.

As I think about the past couple days this is certain: whenever I feel the Lord is going move (as in His move in my life), I always experience upset internally. This is the result of changes He has made in my life, and because I am following Him, I get this ripple effect happening. It is like when you are walking through water and the wake caused by your movement sends waves outward with each step. Yes, this is what I think I am experiencing today. God has moved through the waters that are my life, and the ripple of the waves has caught me off-guard.

I know that I must follow Him, and I know that I must wait patiently for Him to do what He does best -- that is plan, organized, and orchestrate -- the details that effect and influence my life. I must be patient. I must wait. God is good. He is so very good to me. I just need to remember that He is God, and I am not. He is good, and the only goodness within me is the good that He brings to my life. I am unable to stand, to defend myself, to do anything of value -- but it is through Christ -- that all things are made new, made possible.

Confessing and Moving On

Today, thus, is a day of uncertainty, of feeling the force of the wake as it washes over me. Today, is a good day. Of course, it is a good day. Yet, today, I struggle to figure out how to make strides forward when the waves of life are crashing all about me. I know, I know...

Psalm 107:28 says, "He calmed the storm to a whisper and stilled the waves." Yes, I look up to the One whose voice calms the storms and stills the waves. I look up this good, good day. Praise be to God, I look up.

February 20, 2016

Thinking More About Going

What a blessed Saturday! Yes, I had a good nights rest, and I woke up feeling rather chipper today. My boys were up early (around 5), and since my Mom is sleeping in later and later these days, they came in to get me up as well. They simply wanted their treats and their bowls filled with food. I didn't give in, well, other than to do my normal early morning ritual (old Mom bladder and all). The boys had to wait -- that was all there was to it! Unfortunately, that message didn't go over well because from about 6-8:30 they chose my bedroom as a playground. Jumping, pouncing, landing, meowing, and wrestling were the morning's schedule. I guess I should be happy to have two healthy boys to care for now that they are ages 9 and 5. Both are in good shape, even though Ike, is overweight. Still, they can land a punch, and well, finally I ended up getting up and out of bed to address their needs. So here I sit. The boys seem happy. All is right with the world. Sigh!

I was talking with my good friend last night, and I said that today, I had very little on my to-do list. I thought it was funny because for the first time in the past three years, I actually have very little to do right now. I do need to review my answers for next week, and I have some prep work that must be created (flash cards, etc.), but other than this and a handful of left over grading, I don't really have to do much of anything today. I may get my car washed later on, and I probably will go to Walmart for a few items. Other than this, I am a free, free gal today! Yay! Praise God, selah!

One of the things I am thinking of doing, though, is to start thinking or preparing my heart and mind for moving. The Lord has placed on my heart the idea of moving, of going, and I cannot shake the feeling I have about it. I have tried to figure it out, as in "where are we going, Lord" and so far I simply do not know. But the feeling that we are "going" someplace new is there in my heart. It is also on my mind -- a lot. What do I do about it?

I could just ignore the feeling, think other thoughts, but I cannot seem to do that very well. I have tried, mind you, and I have turned my head away thinking that it is better to remain in the present than to think or dream about the future. Yet, whenever I do that, the Lord seems to press harder into me, asking me to be prepared, to be ready, to get my head in gear.

I guess I have no other choice than to accept the fact that the Lord does intend to move me, and He intends to move me soon. Whether I go here or there is immaterial, but the fact remains that He is moving ahead of me, and He is telling me to get myself ready, so I must. I must be prepared.

Preparation and Plans

One of the things I have struggled with over the past 8-9 years is the "preparing to go" mindset. When the Lord first started to prepare me for going, I thought He really meant "get up and go!" You know, like we are moving in 10 days so pack your bags kind of going. This never happened, and then I thought "Well, obviously, what I heard was not from the Lord," and as a result I stopped listening for a while. But the voice I heard saying "get ready to move" didn't subside. I kept hearing the call to move, to go, and finally I had to start paying attention to it.

I would make notes on all the places I felt the Lord was calling me to go to over time. I probably reviewed a dozen or so, in deep detail, and when none of these places proved to come to pass, I once again stopped listening. The call didn't stop, just like before, so I would pick up my note pad and continue to study, to research, and to plan out a move that would take place at some point in my future. It was weird, really, to feel this strong desire to move when everything in your life shouted at you, "You are not going anywhere, sister!" I never realized back then that someday in my future, I would be free to move, to go, and all that preparation and planning was simply to get me ready to go. Yes, He made sure I was ready to go.

Now, I only hear "You are ready, Carol," and so that means I must be prepared to the point where I can follow after Him. I still have doubts. I still worry about the details. I still don't know where we are going, just that we are going, and we are going to "get up and go" very soon. Until that time, I continue prepare, to plan, and to put my trust in the One who is able to move me. I cannot move on my own. I am unable to even consider it. But, the Lord has this all figured out, and I rest in His provision and in His plan. Yes, I rest in His plan. Often I will say that I am trusting in His provision, but I will fail to say "and in His plan." There is only one plan, and it belongs to Him. I sometimes get that point confused -- you know -- thinking that there are many plans and many options, when in reality, there is just one. Yes, the plan the Lord has for my life is good. His plan is already figured out. He knows tomorrow, and He knows where He wants me to go. There is no doubt in His mind that the place He is sending me is His place, His best for my life and the work He intends for me to do there. He has this all in His hand, and why for the life of me, I struggle with that fact, I just don't know. I just don't know. God is good, all the time -- He is good. Why cannot I just rest and trust in His plan for my life?

I am thinking the reason I struggle to trust Him with His plan is because I don't really know what will be. Yes, I have a "need to know" problem. I have always needed to know, and that need has tripped me up more times than not. I need to know everything. I want to know everything. I want the details -- the facts -- and without them, I struggle mightily with resting. He knows this about me, and thankfully, He doesn't always leave me in the dark. Yes, He gives me light (illumination) so I can see my path clearly. I just cannot see miles down the road. Sigh!

Choosing the Right Path

It is this "not seeing down the road" that has caused me to stumble so frequently. I mean, how do I know where to go? How will I know that the path I am on is the 'right path' for me. I realized that my choices in life were limited. This was about six years ago now when my life (as I knew it) had turned south on me. My marriage was falling apart, and I needed to get a job, a real job (outside the home) for the first time in some 25 years. The Lord was my strong tower then (as He is now), and He graciously helped me see that my future held three possible paths. Each path was good, but I had to make a choice and choose one path to follow. I struggled for a time with choosing a path, a direction to go, simply because I worried that one path might be better than the other. I didn't want to make such a huge decision and end up worse off so I vacillated for a long time. It took time for me to come to understand that each of these paths were good choices, and that each would enable me to accomplish His will for my life. Yes, each path would take me different places, to different locations, and the work I did (practical) would be different based on the choice of direction. The ministry work would be the same regardless, so in essence, I could take one of three paths and still arrive at my final destination having accomplish His will for me.

These three paths were opportunities that would provide a good life for me and for my son. They would open doors for me that would allow me to work and to live in various places in the US. In all, they were good choices, good paths. I floundered early on, as I said, because I believed that there was just one right path. In truth, there is just one right path -- and that is the path that leads through Jesus -- and takes us toward eternity. I was already on that right path for sure, but I also needed to choose path in this life that would, practically-speaking, provide for my needs. Spiritually, I was on the right track. Physically and materially, I need to get moving forward in order to meet my daily needs as well as my long-term financial needs.

Of these three paths, I chose the path that leads through higher education (path 1). I could have chosen the path that took me into retail management (path 2) or corporate analysis (path 3). I was on paths 1 and 2 for a time while I finished my master's degree. I worked at Macy's and then UOPX and finally CVS Caremark. In all, path 2 provided a good life, a good income, and for the most part, a path to successful retirement. But, there was this strong desire within me to pursue education, and to teach, at the least to try teaching college courses. The Lord provided an opportunity for me, and for the past three years, I have been on this path (3).

At this point, this is the path I will remain on. I cannot get back to these other paths, and for a time last year, I did have the opportunity to crossover, but I decided that this was the way to go, and so here I remain. God has prospered me in this path, but not materially or financially, as would have been possible on these other paths. No, I don't make enough to live on yet, but the personal satisfaction of seeing students learn, improve, and overcome, has been well worth it. Plus, I have come to love teaching, to really, really love it. And, that is worth more to me. I mean, I liked the work I did at CVS, but I didn't like the company politics nor did I like the long work hours. While I felt good about my work, as in my productivity, I didn't feel the same sense of satisfaction as I do now. No, teaching has been a hard fought battle, and I have overcome the trials, the feelings of doubt and insecurity, and I have made this my life. I am content now. I am happy to be on this path. I am thankful for the provision of it, for the life lessons learned while walking on it, and I look forward to all the new opportunities that are waiting for me down the road. Yes, this is a good path, and I am glad I finally decided to give it a try. God is good, so good to me. Selah!

Finding the Right Job

Path 3, the path through higher education, has been a good choice for me. I am content, happy, and well-satisfied -- even if -- I don't make a solid salary yet. I know that in time, the Lord will provide a job that will meet my needs, provide a good income for me long-term, and enable me to be settled someplace modest where I can live comfortably through the end of my life. This is all I ask of Him, really, I mean. I have asked that I could be:
  • Settled, set and fixed, in a forever home
  • Live modestly, comfortably
  • Have good practical work to do (teaching)
  • Have good ministry work to do (communications)
  • Build lasting friendships
  • Be content all my days
I have not asked Him for lucrative positions, for a money stream that will provide oodles of financial security. He knows my heart on that matter, and He knows that I do have issues with financial security. I made a conscious decision a while back, and that was, to place my trust in Him rather than in riches. The Lord knows that I desire money, a lot of it, but not to spend or to lord over other people, rather it is just that I desire the money for other reasons. Of these reasons, the biggest ones are:
  • To be secure always (as in have enough to cover my daily needs)
  • To be free from debt (no house payment, car payment, credit cards)
  • To be able to take care of my family well
  • To provide for the needs of my church family and others in the community
  • To offer educational help to those with great needs
  • To provide music education for students who cannot afford instruments
  • To travel and go to places where the Lord asks me to minister/teach
  • To be free to move about the country as He leads me
I don't desire riches or wealth for personal gain. I don't desire a million dollar home or a 600-acre ranch. I would like a small amount of space, perhaps an acre or two with a country farm house on it. I am particular about the house, though, and that is because I don't like what most people do with these old homes. I don't want a house that is made to look new inside. I want an old house that looks old. I want it to be clean, in good working order, and functional -- but I don't want a historic home (over 100 years old) that looks old on the outside and all new on the inside. I hate it when people do this to these beautiful homes. I want wood floors, wood trim, staircases, pocket doors, glass knobs, and yes, funky baths and kitchens.

Moreover, I don't want to spend a lot of money. I am miserly when it comes to spending money. I will spend $1500 on a side-by-side refrigerator, but not $200,000 on a house. I see value in the refrigerator, as in its function, but not in a showplace home whose purpose is only to "show off." Nope, I would rather spend $100K and live in a home that might need some work, but not one that will tax my income every month to pay the mortgage or that will cost me oodles to keep it warm/cool throughout the year.

I am particular, of course, and that is problematic. There are not a lot of places like this around here. I need to move east. I need to move to the midwest or to the east or to the southeast to find old farmhouses like this that are reasonably priced. If I go to the midwest or east, then I contend with below zero temps and lots of snow. If I go to the southeast then I contend with tornados and other icky weather.

As of right now, I am content to go north, south or east. I am okay with either direction, but my preference is southeast, of course. Yes, who'd a thunk I would choose to go where the weather is icky...sigh! I would give up my beloved snow for my beloved, should the Lord make it possible for me to move south. I am waiting for His provision, of course, and when He is ready for the actual move, I will be ready as well.

For now, I am waiting for several things. Once these things, these remaining things fall into place, then I anticipate the Lord giving me the "all clear," and then we will finally go. Like REALLY GO!
  • Full-time job teaching online (necessary)
  • Debts paid down to facilitate moving and buying a house
  • Resources (finances) to enable moving (packing, transporting, setting up)
  • A house that is ready to move into (key) so I don't have to do much work other than customizing it to my liking and needs
  • Resolution of all my life, loose-ends, and such here in Phoenix
  • Solution for my son's living arrangements for next year (his last) at school
  • Care for my parents (on-going) so they will be safe and secure
  • Confirmation that this is His will (most important)
I know that seems like a lot, but I think it is reasonable and practical. I need to have all my little ducks in a row so that I can know for sure that I am going where He wants me to go. It is His plan, after all, and that means that there is only one plan to follow. I rest and I trust in His good plan for my life this day. Selah!

February 19, 2016

Giving Praise

It is such a good day here in cloudy and cool Phoenix. Yes, we have variable weather this week, and well, that is reason for praise! Our normal temperatures at the end of February and beginning of March are right around 80 degrees. When we hit record highs this early (as has been the past couple days), that signals a long and very hot summer (ouch!) Thankfully, the weather forecast is for cooler temps through next week (yay!)

Still, I have to admit that I am looking forward to moving from Phoenix some day soon. Don't get me wrong, I am thankful for my life here in Phoenix.  Lately, though, I have been grumbling a lot about my life and the lack of resources I have, so I have decided to stop doing that and to start giving God praise for the way my life has turned out.

In truth, while I may not like everything that has come to pass since I moved here back in 1996, I cannot say with 100% honesty that my life in Phoenix has been "all" bad. I have enjoyed living near my parents who retired here in 2000. I loved home schooling my son from 5th-12th grade. I survived divorce (not so fun), but the Lord carried me through that difficult time, and He gave me a new life in return. Plus, I returned to graduate school twice. Furthermore, I have made some nice friends here, and I do love my church (even though I struggle at times with my ex and his girlfriend attending the same service). In all, I have a very good life now. So to say I wish to leave Phoenix because of the painful memories, the hardships and trials, and the general unpleasantness -- well -- that would be inaccurate and untrue for sure. No, I am thankful that the Lord sowed seeds in this place. It wasn't the happiest of places by far, but it was a place of growth and where I learned complete dependency upon Him. I guess you could say that Phoenix was my wilderness experience, and now, I am ready to leave it and to head out to the promised land.

Moving On Up

I spent the better part of yesterday working to rehouse my goldfish. Yes, it is hard to imagine that one little fish could require so much care, but he has been a source of constant trouble since I adopted him two years ago. Lenny, as he is called, actually belongs to my nephew and his girlfriend. I adopted him back in 2014 when my nephew couldn't take him home to LA. He was supposed to stay with us over the summer, and then when my nephew returned to school, the fish would be returned to his dorm. However, that never worked out, so I kept him through to the next summer. In the interim, Lenny has had two tank upgrades. The first took him from a small Tetra tank (2.5 gallon) to a 5-gallon tank. This lasted about a year, and for the most part, he did fine in this confined space. Lately, though, he has acted strangely and with some investigation, I realized he was stressed due to a lack of air and space. Hence, his new tank, a 10-gallon Glo Tank (with blue lights) that should provide ample room to grow over the next year. He seems pretty content in his new place, and hopefully, the Ick and other issues will abate now that he has more room to swim and better oxygenated water to breathe.

Getting Ready for my Defense

So yesterday was spent reviewing my answers (in addition to upgrading Lenny's tank). I have not wanted to read my answers because I feared the worst -- that they would be awful -- and that I would have a lot of work to do to prepare for my defense. Instead, I found that of the five I read, only one had minor issues (Theory), and at that, mostly they were errors made in haste and not in content. I was so relieved, like GIGANTICALLY relieved. This means that of my four core answers, I think all of them are solid contenders for passing the exam. I will still want to add, expand, and perhaps, clarify some, but I don't think I have to do any major work on defending my responses. I am pleased, so very pleased. Tomorrow, I will review the remaining three answers, which are probably my best since they were all applied questions. My hope is that these three will be similar -- just a few clarifications on content, perhaps better citation or the addition of some sources. I am praying my professors do not ask me to clarify or expound on another writer because that would open a door of opportunity for me to sink or swim. Of course, I am praying that I will swim, really swim, but none the less, I know the Lord has me so well covered. He has me so well covered.

Today, therefore, is a good day, a really good day. I will be heading over to campus around 11:30, and then once I am finished (at 4:30) will have a pretty nice weekend to play, to rest, and to relax before my big day next week. Two of my colleagues are defending today, so my prayers are with them now. My hope is that everyone from my cohort passes their defense. I sure do not want to see anyone not make it through this difficult and trying part of the program.

Lastly, as I think about my next steps, I realize just how close I am to finishing my degree. Oh my goodness! I mean, I have wanted this degree for now on 24 years. I cannot believe that my dream is coming to pass, but it is. This has been a long, long road, and praise be to God, I am almost finished and ready for His next "best" in my life. I have very few plans of my own, except for getting a job, paying off my school loans, and then building retirement. I know that these are His plans too, so before I get to far ahead of myself, I need to remember to finish strong, to complete all tasks, and to wrap up all loose ends. The only way I can feel free to move on is to know that everything that needed "doing" has been completed. I want to hear Him say "it is done!" May it be so, always, so. Amen! Selah!

February 18, 2016


It is Thursday, and I am at home resting. I woke up this morning with a migraine headache, and thankfully, the pain and sinus pressure have abated. I should have taken something before bed when I first realized the symptoms, but I was so tired, so very tired. I laid on the bed while I was watching reruns of NCIS at 8:00 p.m and then woke up around 11 p.m. having snoozed through the rest of season 8 (on Netflix). I didn't take anything then, thinking I would just sleep it off. Nada, no can do. I know better. Thus, when 6:00 a.m. rolled around, I was in the throes of a major migraine. Ugh!

The good news is that the pain has subsided, the nausea is gone, and I am sitting upright working on the computer. My Keurig is my "new best friend" these days, and the new machine I bought two weeks ago is performing beyond expectations. My older machine just chugged, chugged, chugged until it could chug no more, so I had to invest in a new one. I wasn't super thrilled with the design when I bought it, but I thought "Heck, if it makes a good cup of coffee then that is all that matters!" And, yes, it sure does.

Today is a down day for me. I have my study/review to work on, but I also have to run some errands. The clouds out my window seem to be saying "rain" so what a blessing that would be. My guess is this is why I got the headache in the first place. I tend to have these sinus/migraines in the spring here in AZ. Once the hot, hot, hot weather arrives, my head is typically pain free until the next spring. It is crazy that the barometric pressure plays such havoc with my head like this, but it does.

I think a lot about my head whenever I consider moving to another state. I never had headaches in CA and we had a lot of weather changes. I remember getting headaches in the summers in IL, but I think that was more due to exertion in the high humidity. Plus, we didn't have anything to control the pain back then. No Tylenol or Advil. I really experienced major headaches once I moved to AZ, and truthfully, I think it has to do with being in the desert, allergies (which I never hard before), and the change of low to high pressure all the time. I will be glad when I move elsewhere so that I don't have to suffer like this anymore.

Gloomy but Grateful

Thus, today, I am feeling a bit gloomy even though my head (the part that doesn't hurt or isn't too stuffy) recognizes all the things I am grateful for and so blessed by. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 ESV says, "Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." I am so very thankful, so very thankful this good, good day. The word tells us that we are to give thanks for everything since we are called as Children of Light. Ephesians 5:18-20 NIV remind us how as Christians our lives should be reflective of the good that God has brought to us.

"And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ."

Lately, I have struggled with gratitude. Merriam-Webster defines gratitude as "the quality of being thankful" and as the "readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness." Yes, gratitude is something that God asks us to put on as part of our character, as one of the marks of transformation of a new life born in Christ. A heart that is grateful expresses the goodness of God, remembers the kindness He has shown to us, and turns us toward Him in a way that enables us, through the working of the Holy Spirit, to be people who are kind, in turn, toward others. This idea, then, is that as we show the world our thankfulness and gratitude toward God, others might see it. In seeing it, they might come to wonder about it. Then when we are kind toward them, they will see the goodness of God in and through our lives as it is poured out on others. It is Christ living and loving with ACTION.

My heart has been stressed lately, and while I do have an excuse (my exams, etc.) I cannot always use it as a "get out of jail free card." No, I am called just like all my brothers and sisters in Christ to give thanks to God for His mercy and goodness. 

The sad part in feeling ungrateful is that when I come to think about it realistically, clearly I have so much to be thankful for these days. I mean, I do think I passed my exams. I won't know for sure until next week, but I feel good, confident, assured, that I have passed. I may think that I did poorly overall, but in truth, I do feel sure that the Lord will see me through my defense. My thanks goes to the Lord for He has done this marvelous work in me and through me. 

Furthermore, I have work to do at GCU, and I did pass my faculty orientation for OCU. I am still in process for online adjunct at Regent, so in all, I have several strong options for fall teaching. And, if this weren't enough, I just was asked to take on a class this fall at ACU. This could mean that I might have 4-6 teaching contracts, and that amount of work would equal a decent pay check for me. I am praying over these options now, and if this is the Lord's will for me, then so be it. I have several other options for work as the Lord leads as well. I applied for two full-time faculty positions and now I am just waiting to see if either are the Lord's will for me. I am trusting in His timing for a full-time faculty position. If He chooses to keep me as adjunct for another semester, that is fine by me. I know He has this worked out, and praise be to God, I want the RIGHT JOB and not just any job to come to pass. No, I am willing to wait for His best. I want His best always.  ALWAYS His best. 

Moreover, as I consider His provision, I must give Him thanks for He has made a way for me, He does certainly have me well-covered. I struggle with that covering at times, but the fact remains, He provides for my needs in so many ways. I have everything I need at present, and for those pending needs (in near future), I know He will provide for me. I can rest in His provision, in His safety and security, and in His will for my life. I can rest. I can rest. He is good, He is God, and I am grateful for His grace and mercy in my life! Selah!

I feel the clouds lifting, and that little storm cloud that was brewing over my head seems to have passed by without showering any rain on this girl's "mojo" today. I woke up feeling so fuzzy, so tentative, so unwell. In truth, I have felt confused lately, confused about a lot of things. I thought I had everything figured out, and I thought it all made sense to me. 1 Corinthians 14:33 NLT says, "For God is not a God of disorder but of peace, as in all the meetings of God's holy people," and while Paul was speaking of order in the congregation (not allowing anyone to prophesy or speak in tongues without an interpreter, etc.) I think we can safely say that God delights in order, not in confusion. He has created order out of chaos in our universe, He has set the days and times and epochs (Genesis), and in this way, He delights in order, in peace, and in rest.

There are times when I feel such clarity, and then there are other times when I feel so confused. The enemy is the author of confusion, so when I feel confused, I know it is because my enemy has fed me lies. He is crafty and very good at telling me things that "seem" so God-like but they are not. Remember his words in the garden? Yes, he has a way of using language that confuses and confounds the children of God. 

I also know how to defend against the enemy -- Ephesians 6:10-18 NASB -- reminds us to put on the whole armor of God:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.

I especially like verse 18 where Paul says we are pray at all times in the Spirit. I think this is the critical part in this entire section of text. While we figuratively put on the amor of God, we must not just stand idly by in our gear. Our action and response is to pray in the spirit. We must actively pray -- and in doing so -- we unleash the mighty power of the Holy Spirit to work in us and through us to defeat the enemy and his charge against us.

I have fallen down on this account lately, and yes, I can say it is because 1) I am so very tired; and 2) I am overwhelmed by the exam process; but nonetheless, I know that I must pray in the spirit as I stand battle-ready. My enemy exploits my weaknesses, and right now, he knows that my primary weakness is the fact that I am tired and overwhelmed. I am weak because I am overworked, stressed about my exams, and worried about the details of life. I am distracted, thus I am vulnerable to his ploys.

Thus, the proper response is to return to the One who is my Victor and my Champion. I must reaffirm my stance, place my trust where it belongs, and stand strong in His power and His presence. I can do all things THROUGH CHRIST who strengthens me. I cannot do what I am being ask in my own strength, but only through His strength. Therefore, today, while I am still feeling vulnerable and weak, I look up to Christ my head, and I recognize that everything I have accomplished, all the good in my life, is because of His authority, His headship, His grace and His mercy. I am good because He is good to me. I am safe because He has made me safe. I am provided for because He is my provision. I am happy, content, and at peace, because He is my joy and my peace. He comforts me. He sustains me. He gives me His life, and in this way, I live my days out in total and utter surrender to Him. He is good, He is God, and He is my everything.

Dear Lord,

I thank you for everything you have done in my life. I look up as I rest in your total provision for my life. You have made all this possible, and you will see me through to the end of all things. I let go the worry, the stress, the fear, the doubts, and the feeling of overwhelm now so that I can experience your peace, your joy, and your comfort. I love you, Lord. I love you, and I thank you for the good gifts you have provided from your marvelous and merciful hand. Amen, so be it, thy will be done! Selah!