March 3, 2016

Game Time and Other Things

Happy Thursday! Yes, it is March, 3, 2016, and I am heading over to watch spring training with my good friend from CA. It has been a long time since we have been together, and she and her husband, flew in this week to take in the spring baseball games in Scottsdale. I am not a big baseball fan, but I am looking forward to spending time visiting with her at the game. It should be a fun day, albeit, a somewhat hot day (our highs are expected to hit near 90 today!)

I am feeling stiff and sore still today. I think it is from my trip, you know, all that lugging of luggage through the airport and up/down in planes. My feet, legs, and hips are sore, which tells me that the combination of walking and sitting for long periods of time did a number on my body. Couple that with my two days of standing on my feet, well, there you have it -- this body is not as young and forgiving as it used to be! Sigh! I can see now why the Lord may bring me an online teaching position. In my view, anything to keep me off my feet would be a huge blessing! Selah!

Thankfulness for His Mercy

My prayer today is simply to enjoy my day. I was reading a post from another friend, a doctoral peer, and I was reminded how precious life is and how we must intentionally make the most of the time God gives to us. My good friend, Heather, has a special needs child, and once again, she was at the ER with her. I cannot imagine what it is like to have to constantly stop "life" just to care for a special needs child. By that, I simply mean, stop the "normal" of life, the stuff I do everyday that I find relaxing, enjoyable, and refreshing. For my friend, everything revolves around her special child, and her life is a big UNKNOWN from moment to moment. I treasure her friendship, and I see her fierce determination as she makes difficult choices to ensure her child is well-cared for and is happy, healthy, and whole.

It is on days like these when I see how insignificant my life is when compared to hers. I am thankful for all the blessings that God has provided to me. I am thankful that what I struggle with is minor in comparison. I don't mean to brag or boast, it is just that when I think about my shoes and hers, I am thankful for the shoes God has given to me. So often, we take the other side, where we are asked to "walk a mile" in another person's shoes. I think if we realized just how blessed we are in our own shoes, we would be far more generous when considering the needs of others, especially those that have heavier burdens to bear and who struggle to keep their ships afloat on most days. God is good, of course, and my friend and her husband are believers, strongly reliant upon Him for His care and protection. Yet, I think how hard their life is today, and what may lay at the end of this path for them. Their little girl is only 6, and she has already had a lifetime of surgeries. More are in her future, and more uncertainty exists as she matures. Still, my friend is stalwart, and she is faithful. God has given her incredible strength, resolve, and determination.
Just as a father has compassion on his children, So the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him. For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust. ~ Psalm 103:13-14 NIV
Today, I remember that in all my successes and failures, I am but dust. I am nothing. God has provided an amazing life to me, and in my life, (warts and all), I have freedom. He has provided a WAY for me to go that ensures I am safe and well-cared for as well as well-provided. He has made me into something I never thought possible, a professor, and He has opened up doors of opportunity that I never imagined at all. Moreover, He has made me strong, very strong, and He has given me discipline and determination to see the plans through to completion. Even thought I struggle, I stress, and at times, I suffer through obstacles, failures, and other hiccups in the road that seem to cause me to derail -- He is faithful to me. Yes, He is faithful to me. We plod on; He and I, as we move on down the road of life.

Wondering "What is Next?"

I have thought recently that all my efforts, all my work toward my PhD, was for nought. I know it is the voice of the enemy who wants me to think that what I have attempted and almost attained was only for selfish gain. I know this is a lie, and yet, there is a part of me that thinks "was it really worth it?" Yes, I am worn out, and right now, I am wondering "what's next?" The challenge to get to this place, to be ABD, was so difficult, so amazingly difficult that I wonder what I will do after I graduate. I mean, is this all there is?

I am struggling today with thoughts, doubts, and fears about my future plans. I mean, where will I go? How will I live? What will the Lord ask me to do next? It is weird, and I cannot explain why I feel the way I do. I think it is because of what I have accomplished thus far, and that in my heart, I know the road will be turning soon. The path will change for me. Let me explain...

I have known for some time now that the road through the Lord's will for my life included my graduation from Regent University. In many ways, I knew that for me to accomplish His will, I had to go "through" Regent. In this way, I had to accomplish this degree program -- it was integral -- to the plans He had for my life. I felt this right from the beginning when I first applied to Regent for a PhD in Communication. I knew that the plan for my life would "turn" on this degree.

Furthermore, I knew that for me to step into the life the Lord had for me, I had to complete this step first, and that while I was completing it, I would be living in a transitory place, a temporary place. This turned out to include living with my parents and working part-time as an adjunct instructor -- in order to -- facilitate my performance at school. Yes, I knew early on in the process that working full-time simply would not cut it for me. I felt certain that I could do the degree and work full-time, but that the stress and strain on my physical and mental self would be too great. I worried about my Chronic Fatigue and Fibromyalgia flaring up, and frankly, I was scared that I would be unable to finish my program without having major "down time" throughout the year. The Lord accommodated me by providing a way that allowed me to work part-time (contract) and to have plenty of rest in between semesters. Teaching college courses worked well for me, and despite the physical pain of standing and emoting (lecturing), I have come to the point where I enjoy "teaching" more than any other job or profession I have previously worked.

Now that I am at the end of that transition, the "what's next" question looms ahead of me. I mean, what is next? Of course, I still have to graduate from Regent University, and I still need to write that dissertation. I wonder, though, what will be for work, where I will live, and how I will move from "here" today to "there" tomorrow. I mean, what is next, Lord?

Planning and More Planning

Yesterday, I was telling one of my IA's how I am finally getting my brain back. He laughed at me, of course, but he understood what I meant. The days leading up to my exams in mid-February, were so mentally taxing for me that I felt unable to put a sentence together that made sense. I joked about it on Facebook, and I apologized to my students -- profusely! I felt that my entire mind had been hijacked for this one task, so when last weekend came and my exams were passed, I felt spent, undone, and unable to even speak at all. The past couple days have been better for me, and I am sure that as I move forward, farther from this experience, I will also see my mind come back to me, my thoughts clearing, and my head, well, feeling more "in the game." At the least, I hope so. I do hope so.

My brain does seem to be returning to normal, so praise to God for that mercy. I am also starting to find that I am able to hold a conversation again. Still, there are gaps in my abilities, almost like a big "brain fart" that happens every now and then. I simply find that I lose my train of thought, lose my words, and then I cannot recall what I was saying for a couple minutes. If you have experienced this type of mental interruption, then you know what I mean. It doesn't scare me, not like as if it were a permanent condition. No, I simply feel it is brain weariness, mental fatigue and exhaustion, and I know with rest, I will recover very soon.

I guess it is best for me not to plan anything for a time. Perhaps this is why the Lord has given me another summer to recuperate. I have a lot of work to do, a lot of work, but He has seen to it that I have this summer to accomplish everything on my plate. I am sure I will as I am an uber-organizer and planner by nature. Plus, since this is the Lord's will for my life, there is the extra element that says "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Yes, I can only move forward in His strength, in His resolve, and with His determination. In truth, I am at the breaking point in all of this work. I know that I cannot accomplish what He has called me to do without His complete presence in it and through it. Thus, as I begin to think about my next steps, I must remember that I cannot run ahead of Him. No, I must wait and be patient for Him to reveal those next steps to me. I don't want to make a mistake. I don't want to charge ahead, only to find that I have miscalculated and taken a wrong turn. Yes, as the Lord leads -- LEADS -- this is my preference, and my determination. He will lead, and I will follow. It is the way that works best for me. It works best.

Concluding Thoughts

As I think about my next steps, I realize that much of what I have accomplished has been or was planned out far in advance. I mean, I first wanted to attend graduate school in 1992 -- some 24 years ago. I felt the Lord leading me to graduate study, and I even applied to SJSU to attend after my son was born (in 1994). It didn't work out for me then, but the feeling, that sense of "this is what I want for your life" was a big factor in my steps of faith. I didn't understand then that the Lord was calling me to return to school, but that the timing of it was off. In fact. I felt that same push to return in 1998. I was working at my church, and I remember talking with my pastor and saying that I believed God was calling me to return to graduate school. He was very kind to me, but he reminded me that my first priority was my son and my family. I remember his words, and while they stung at the time, in truth, he was correct. God had blessed my womb, opened it, and provided a child. I was that child's mother, and as such, he was my priority. School would have to wait until I was free to devote the study time, the class time (back then that meant going to class on campus), and to putting graduate work ahead of everything else. I waited a long time, often praying for the Lord to remove the desire from my heart so that it wouldn't pain me so much. He tempered me, but He never removed the desire. Then in 2009, when my life was in shambles, He spoke the words to me -- "you may go now" -- and I obeyed. I applied to Mercy College, and in 2010, began my Masters degree. I didn't think about a PhD then, well, other than to speak about it as a passing fancy.

As I was completing my Masters degree, I heard the Lord speak to me regarding going on to the "next step" in the plan. I was hesitant, and I remember telling my family about my idea of doctoral study. They balked at it, initially, but in time, saw my resolve. They thought it was foolish to pursue a degree at this point in my life, and after all they reasoned, it was an unnecessary expense. In their view, since I could teach with a Masters degree why should or would I pursue the PhD? I tried to explain what I felt the Lord was laying on my heart, but I didn't have the words to do it. Frankly, I didn't understand it myself. I mean, I barely could make sense of it when I tried to explain why I got my Masters in English but my PhD would be in Communication.

Still, I was convinced that this was His plan and here I am now, at the conclusion of that path. I stand in awe of Him, in His revealed will for my life, and in the way in which He provided for me. It scares me to stop and think about all that has been accomplished thus far, and even now, when I think about those next steps, there is part of me that shirks back in fear. I mean, really Lord? What do you have in mind for me now?

One thing is for sure -- the Lord does indeed know the plans He has for me -- and He will complete the good work He has started in me. Yes, He will bring those plans to completion, and all I have to do, is continue to trust Him, rely on Him, and rest in His complete and utter sufficiency.

Dear Lord,

I realize that this past week has been significant for the plans that you have for my life. I have accomplished so much, and yet, I am struggling to make sense of it all. I know the plans you have for my life are good, but I worry about the details and the timing of the "next steps." I know you have me well-covered, so today, I am choosing to trust you for these steps. I am choosing to place my faith in your abilities, in your plans, and in your very nature -- for you alone are capable of doing whatever you have in mind for me. I let go, I let this be, and I accept the plans as they unfold. I will not stand in your way. I will not allow my fears and frustrations to keep me from moving forward in your will. Today, Lord, I confess and I commit myself to your way, to your will, and to your word as it leads me and guides me. I let go, and I let you lead. I ask that you provide in whatever way you determine as best, and I accept that best as truly "the best" for me and my family. I lift this prayer of dependency up and I offer it in the matchless, merciful, and most majestic Name of Jesus, Amen. So be it, thy will be done. Selah! (Pause and calmly think about it!)

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