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!

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