March 8, 2016

God is Good!

It is a beautiful Tuesday in Phoenix. The temperature outside is cool, but not so much that it is uncomfortable. I think our high is expected to top out right around 70 today. It is such a nice change from last week's low 90's! I am so glad to be living in Phoenix right now. I know that some of my family and friends are enduring wild and variable weather in other parts of the country. Yes, we are sitting pretty with sunshine and mild winter temps! Selah!

God's Provision

So, this morning, I took my car over to Nissan for a checkup. My AC is no longer running cold, and with those higher than normal temperatures last week, I thought it was best to get my system checked out. I was worried about the cost because AC problems can be expensive to repair. I put off taking it into the shop, hoping that somehow, the AC will start blowing cold air again (yes, I know, silly me!) In finally broke down last week and made the appointment for today. My hope was that since my Sentra is only five years old perhaps the issue was low freon and nothing more significant. Still, the thought of paying for expensive repairs -- right on top of my trip to VA -- scared me. How can I afford to do this, Lord?

After dropping my car off for repair, the service advisor checked my car in their system and told me that, praise be to God, my car was still under extended warranty. I don't remember what that entails, but I remember the salesman saying that he had included the warranty in the deal for me when I bought the car back in 2013. Whew! Relief! My car is over there now being serviced, and my prayer is that the total cost of repair will be covered by the extended warranty. I am also praying that I won't have to pay anything out of pocket, or at the minimum, a small amount only.

Car Musings

I bought my car in January of 2013, and it was the first almost "new" car I had bought. It was two-years old, but like brand new inside and out when I bought it. I got a good deal, at the least, I think so. I am still paying the car loan down, and while I am not close to having the car paid for, it has not been difficult to make the payments each month. In fact, I pay twice a month for my car loan. The financial advisor suggested I do this so that the payments are coming out in smaller amounts each month. Plus, I saved a year off my total payment plan (something like $2K overall).

When I purchased my car, I was panicked to think about making such a high payment each month. I mean, I never made payments before so the thought of being obligated to paying for five years scared me. Yet, the Lord provided for me, and I ended up getting a very fine car in the deal. My Sentra still looks good. It is not as shiny as it once was, and it has a few tiny little dings in the side (from shopping carts), but overall, I think it looks great for a five year old vehicle.

Even though it is in good shape, I still worry about my car. It has been such a valuable investment, and I thank the Lord every day for the provision of such a solid and reliable vehicle. Yet, I realize that it is getting to that mark when cars start to have major problems. I've considered upgrading my car, trading it in for a newer model, but I am not sure I can afford to do that right now. Still, it is a nice idea, and I like to think about it every now and again.

My Next Car - a 2015 Nissan Rogue

My plan now is to wait until I have that full-time position so I can qualify for financing with Nissan. I need a little extra cash to put down on a newer vehicle so for now I am content to stick with my current vehicle and continue to keep it in really good shape. I would like to trade my car in this year, but of course, we will just have to wait and see what happens in the coming 6-9 months. The Lord has me well covered, and I am so well-provided for with my current situation. I don't need a newer car, so unless the Lord says so, I will remain faithful to enjoy and cherish the car He has already provided.

Turn of Events

As I think about my life, where I am today, and where I believe the Lord is leading me, one thing is for sure: I know the plans He has for my life, and I know that these plans are good. My heart is settled now, and I am fixed on moving forward in what I believe are the plans He has laid before me. I don't have all the details, but I have enough detail to see where I will be down the road say a year from now. I also know that the Lord has promised such good to me. He has lifted my head, given me great honor, and provided wonderful opportunities for me to expand my knowledge of His word, to come to know Him more intimately, and to develop a deeper friendship with Him so that I could come to learn to trust and rely upon Him. I am in such a good, good place right now, and I feel so loved, so wanted, and so needed. I cannot begin to explain how this is so other than to say that I believe this sense of wellness stems from my recent turn of events. Yes, I believe that my turning around and heading back to where the Lord wanted me to go has generated this overall sense of happiness, health, and well-being.

When I think about my life and how I was so messed up, I give the Lord all praise for His presence and provision, for the plans He has prepared, and for the process He has developed that enabled me to go from "messed up" to "mercifully blessed." I know it sounds weird to say it that way, but what I mean is this: it was March of 2006 when my life was utterly changed for the better.

I cannot believe how much my life has changed in ten years time. Yes, in March of 2006, I was a SAHM, home schooler, and work-from-home website designer. I had a good life, so I think, and while it wasn't perfect, it was the life I had, and I did my best to live it well. I can remember how difficult it was to make ends meet, how my family struggled with financial woes and concerns, and how often we did without because we didn't make enough money to cover our monthly costs. My life was for all intents and purposes very minimally sufficient. I learned to live this way, to live on meager amounts each month, and to make my home as pleasant and comfortable as possible. My furniture was worn, scratched and pulled from the cats; and my carpet had stains and ripples from too many carpet cleaning machines. My decorating style was country back then, so I made a lot of handmade items, used crochet and knitted items to warm things up, and generally repurposed items I picked up at local shops, garage sales, or from family hand-me-downs and cast offs.

My home was not in the best neighborhood in town, and truthfully, I felt awkward having people come by. Most of the time, our front yard was covered in weeds. The back was always filled with weeds and dirt and junk. I hated that we lived this way, and I worked very hard to try to make my home look nice from the street. I would say to myself that it didn't matter than my home looked so run-down. I mean, after all, it was a home, a roof over our head, and a place where we felt safe inside. Still, there was part of me that felt so inadequate, so unable to do anything to make my situation better. It seemed the harder I tried to dig myself out of the hole we were in, the further we sunk into it. I prayed, of course, and I trusted the Lord to provide a way out, but nothing I did ever made a difference. In time, I came to accept my "lot in life," and I accepted that the reason we were where we were -- well -- was because of decisions and choices we had made that were not in our collective best interest. Yes, I took the road that said, "you made your bed, so now you get to live in it." I guess you could say I gave in to my lot. I gave up, and I decided the only way to survive was to hunker down and let the waves roll over me. There was no point in standing up, taking more of the assault -- so the best thing to do -- was to lay down and just "take it." This was my attitude for a long time, probably from 1993 onward. I simply accepted my life, and I tried my best, my hardest, and my darnedest to make it through.

But then there was March of 2006, and in one instance, my life changed. It was upended, uprooted, and turned inside out and upside down. I was pushed along with a mighty wave that took me from languishing and lostness to redemption and restoration. My life changed, it changed.

I blogged about it briefly back in 2006, but I didn't really understand the significance of the event until some five or six years later. In fact, when I go back to March 2, 2006, I find that I wrote one paragraph about the incident that changed my life for the better.
We are called to redeem our time, to not waste it. This point was brought home to me today as I was reading one of my homeschool group lists. One of the mom's on the list went home to be with the Lord suddenly yesterday afternoon. A dear sister in Christ, she was a special gift to our homeschool group. Her life was surrounded by her children and her love of homeschooling them. She took the time to help others with their homeschool journey too and through her efforts was able to help make their school days less hectic and frustrating. I am reminded that no one knows the time nor the hour of our passing. No one knows how many minutes or days or years we have to be here on the Earth. The Lord's desire is to bring his people home when He chooses to do so. His word tells us to be alert and to be about the Father's business - to not put off until tomorrow, what could be done today. There may not be a tomorrow.
As sad and boastful as this may sound -- this woman's loss -- was my future gain. I bear tribute to her death in this way, and I share her story as part of my testimony when people ask me how I got to be where I am today. You see, it was shortly after her death that I got down on my knees and prayed for the Lord to redeem me. Yes, I asked the Lord to show me what it meant to really love Him, and I said, "I want to love you the way this woman loved you, Lord." In one moment in time, I went from being lost and all alone, to being enveloped in the love of the Lord to such an extent that my life was forever altered. My path,  my trajectory was changed.

Some times I think if my life would have changed had this dear sister not gone home to be with the Lord, had her life not been taken so abruptly. Yet, then I wonder what other incidents the Lord would have used to call me to Himself, and how long I would have waited before fully surrendering to His marvelous grace.

The Hard Road of Recovery

The road to recovery was long and hard. While my heart was changed forever when I surrendered my life, all of my life, to the Lord, my path was not changed immediately. In fact, my life took a turn for the worse, and in the three years that followed, I would say that my life as I knew it was shattered beyond recognition. I have blogged about these events as well, but suffice it to say, my life was changed yet again through the hard road of recovery.

From 2006 to 2009, I lost most of my web-design business. My then husband suffered severe medical crisis that almost caused us to be homeless. Our house was foreclosed on, and of course, the affairs and adultery came to light. In short, everything I had held onto, the semblance of what I called my life, shattered like a piece of glass being dropped onto a hard floor.

It was in January of 2010 when I asked my husband to choose me or the other woman. He chose her, and the rest is as they say, history.

Now it is March of 2016, and I am about to begin phase three of my doctoral program: the dissertation. I will be graduated within 6-9 months, and I will have achieved something I thought was impossible previously. I will have my PhD and I will be officially a professor. This has been a dream, a desire of mine, for some thirty years, and the fact that is coming to pass now, marvels me. I wonder how all this happened, why all this has happened, and I think to myself, "Lord, you really do give us the desires of our heart!"

"Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart" (Psalm 37:4 NLT)

I have made the Lord my delight. I have placed my faith in Him alone. I have looked to His hand of blessing, of provision, and He has faithfully provided for me. I have chosen to give Him first place in my life, to surrender every wish, every desire, and every want to Him. I have taken on the burdens He has for me, and I have received new desires, great desires that are from Him and are for His kingdom's sake. In all of this, I have been changed. My path has been altered. I am walking in a new way, following after Him, listening to Him, and letting Him guide me as He determines best.

I don't always agree with Him, for sure. I don't always go when He says "go," and I don't always understand what He wants me to do. I try my best, but often I fail to live up to His expectations of me. I sin. I suffer. I struggle. I stress. I strive. All the while, He patiently waits for me to relent, to return to Him, and to run in the direction of His choosing. I wish I would learn better, faster -- all without -- so much sorrow, but I am hard-headed, stubborn and at times willful. Yet, He is faithful to me. He is steady as a rock. He is my redeemer, my refuge and my rock of all ages. I love the Lord with my whole heart, with every fiber of my being, and without His help, I would be nothing. In fact, without His help, I wouldn't be here (of this, I am certain). Everything I have, everything I desire, everything I want -- it is all because of His influence and presence in my life. I am good today because He is good all the time. I experience His goodness because it is His nature to be good. All the time, He is good. He is good, all the time!

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