March 6, 2016

It is Done!

I woke up today without a headache! I am praising God this morning for His great mercy and care. I have been suffering with sinus pain for the past couple weeks, and every single morning, I wake up with a low-grade sinus headache. The pain sits right above my eyes, and it seems to begin sometime around 4-5 a.m. By the time I wake up, typically my head is throbbing. I know that part of the problem is the weather, and part of the problem is allergies. I tend to suffer with barometric headaches so until the super heat of the summer arrives, my head reflects what is going on outside my window. Today, though, there are cooler temps in the forecast, and I am feeling the freedom from the pain and pressure.

In addition to waking up pain free, I also woke up feeling rather funky, sort of down in the dumps. I thought to myself, "Oh, not again" as I crawled out of bed this morning. I am getting pretty tired of feeling like a punching bag, and my enemy, seems to be getting in some well-placed hits. I made the decision today to stand my ground, to take up a defensive position, and to stop the onslaught of constant attacks. Yes, I got dressed for battle, lifted up my shield of faith, and took a stand with the sword of the Spirit poised and ready for the next hit. In truth, I needed to do this last week when I felt oppressed after my return from VA. Furthermore, I needed to stand my ground throughout my orals defense, but instead, I allowed the enemy to rout me at every turn through an assault on my weakened emotional state. My enemy knows me well (I wish it weren't so), and he seems to enjoy attacking me when I am at my weakest point -- usually -- when I am emotionally overwhelmed. As predicted, this is exactly what happened, and I succumbed to his attack. It took a couple days for me to pull out of that tail spin, and finally today, I feel better -- I feel victorious as I stand in faith and refute the accusations and insinuations of the devil. It is vital for believers to not give in to these vicious attacks. We must stand firm, and we must know and understand that when we feel most vulnerable -- we must be on guard, we must be vigilant, and we must not allow our feelings to guide or direct our steps. I learned this valuable lesson this week when I allowed my feelings to misdirect my heart, and to push me toward a path that was not of the Lord's leading. Let me explain...

If you have been following my blog, then you will know that I am at the crossroads of my degree program. Technically, I am ABD (all but dissertation) which simply means that I am no longer a doctoral student, but I am a PhD candidate. It is a fancy term that designates that I have completed my required courses and passed my qualification exams. What is left for me now is my dissertation and final defense. I anticipate that I will be finished sometime by the end of the year or close to the first of the year, 2017. My plan is to graduate (walk) in May of 2017 (with my puffy - six cornered hat!)

As a candidate, I am now ready to apply for teaching positions that hold a rank of instructor or assistant professor. In my field, to be considered for an assistant professor position, generally, the PhD must be conferred. Some schools will accept ABD, but often they will say "must have PhD by start of school." Very rarely will schools hire you in a ranked position without that PhD conferral. The reason being that many students never finish their dissertations and never graduate with a PhD. For some, they run out of funds or they lose interest or life intervenes and they stay forever at the "ABD" level. Of course, this is not the Lord's will for my life, so my plan is to finish my dissertation this year and graduate by next May. I feel confident that I can do this, and I feel assured that I am able to keep to this time line.

The issue, though, is that while I am ABD (hooray!) I still have a long way to go before I can be hired permanently at a school. I am looking, I am applying, but so far, I haven't found anything solid to bet my hat on. I would like to find something online as I think it is practical and would afford me a good lifestyle, but I also like teaching FTF so I am open to a campus position. I guess the problem has been two-fold: location and length of time for commitment. You see, I feel strongly that the Lord intends to move me elsewhere soon. Thus, I am hesitant to apply to jobs locally only to have to move out of state. Therefore, I have been looking out of state for most job options. I do have one in-state position in process, and that is at GCU. I am being screened for this position now and perhaps within the next week or so, I will hear either "yea or nay" regarding interviews. It is a long shot, really, and there is a strong possibility they will move on to other candidates who already have their PhD and who are more seasoned than I am. Still, I applied because I was asked to do so, and it is up to the Lord, to determine those next steps (as it is His will and so forth).

Last evening, I was on the phone with my friend and we were talking about future issues, ideas and dreams, etc. Each of us is well-aware of the plans the Lord has for our own lives, but at the same time, there is a desire to discuss possible plans for a life together. I have had some concerns over the past couple months that perhaps the Lord didn't intend to move me closer to where he lives, and instead, He would move me to a different state. I also had issues with friends and others who seemed to be stressing the illogical nature of our relationship. Yes, I have had well-meaning friends and family who simply said that it was foolish to consider a relationship with someone you only knew online. While I don't give heed to these comments, and I do understand where they come from (a genuine concern for my well-being and all), their lack of faith in my ability to judge and determine what is best for my life hurts me. You see, I appreciate their concern, and I do appreciate their wariness of the situation. But, then I also know what is in my heart, and I know the Lord well enough to avoid paths that are not of His will or His doing. I can tell the difference, generally speaking, and when it comes to personal relationships, in specific, I am very careful about intentions and outcomes that would not honor the Lord (1) or that would hurt another person in the guise of honoring the Lord (2).

Still, though, it is difficult to understand what the Lord intends for me to do when I feel called to move, but not provided with the opportunity TO MOVE. How does one plan for the future when the steps seem clouded with fog?  As I have prayed over this situation, considered options and outcomes, I have become mired in the difficulties that lay before me. First, there is the on-going care of my parents. Second, there is my son's college experience. Third, there is my lack of full-time work at present. And, last, there is my desire to obey the Lord in all things and to "go" where He sends me.

Is it vital that I know "NOW" where the Lord intends to send me? I think it is, and here is why. If I don't know where I am going, how will I know what steps to take as the Lord opens doors of opportunity for me? I mean, if I am going to place X, then when job Y becomes available and it leads to X, I can easily determine the path to follow. But when I have no clue about the destination, how can I choose a job that may or may not lead me to where He intends for me to go?

It may seem silly, really, and it may appear to be more a matter of semantics than anything else, but to me, it is vital that I know three things: where I am going, when am I going, and how I am going to get there.

When I am Going?

In thinking this dilemma through clearly, it is obvious to me that the "when" of going is easier to ascertain that the "where" of going. So, as of today, I feel confident to say that I am going to move east soon. How soon is soon? I don't rightly know, but I am confident that I will move east within the next 10-12 months. Yes, that seems like a long way out, but I think it is reasonable to consider this timeframe. It coincides with my graduation from Regent, and it would be seem to coordinate well with my son's graduation from ACU. Thus, I think it is safe to say that the "date" of my departure from AZ will be sometime after January 2017.

This timing of "going" works for me. I have vacillated over the "when" part for many months now, first thinking it might be as soon as 2015, then considering 2016 as the key target date. But last night, I was reminded that the Lord has permitted me to go several times now. The first was in 2007, shortly after my ex-husband's heart attack. The second was in 2009, after we came to terms with our marriage ending. The third, was in 2012, at the completion of my Master's program. The final, and I believe final, is 2017 -- after I graduate from Regent University.

In fact, as I was sharing this with my friend, I remembered the Lord saying to me that once I started at Regent, I would need to be (1) settled or (2) stationary for the duration of the degree program. This meant that I would either need to move prior to starting school or wait until I finished it before relocating elsewhere. I see now that this has come to pass. I chose to remain stationary as I thought it would be the best choice for all involved (me, my son, and my parents). A lot of my panic over the past two years has been because I had forgotten the choice I made -- to stay put -- until I graduated.

Last night, though, as we were talking it over, I remembered this detail, and then it was like a light bulb went off inside my head. Yes, I remembered saying to the Lord that staying put in Phoenix was my choice, that it made sense to stay put for a time, and that I was "willing and agreeable" to do it.

Now, of course, I feel silly in that I forgot my promise to the Lord. Oh, how merciful He is to remind me of my promises. I sincerely believed that staying put was a good thing, and even now, as I grow impatient with waiting for His timing to permit me to go, I realize that it has been a good thing. It has worked in my favor, and for now, I am in a place where I am safe, where I can concentrate on my studies, and where I feel confident that I can rest, really rest, before the Lord calls me to up and move east. It is a good thing to be kept in His hand, and to be made to wait for His best in this life. It is a good thing to have the Lord of Hosts controlling your days, weeks, and months -- and to do it all -- for His name, praise and honor. Yes, it is a good thing to wait, to rest, and to prepare for His next steps.

Where Am I Going?

I have struggled with the where part for now on two years. I mean, where does the Lord intend for me to go? I have believed that I would relocate to the southeast USA for almost 10 years. Yes, it was 2007 when the Lord first placed the idea of moving to Tennessee on my heart. I was convinced of His intention back then, and I still believe that Tennessee is a valid contender. I also believed for a time that He might choose to move me to North Carolina, though I think now that this is not His will anymore. I still feel that He intends for me to settle within an hour or two of Atlanta, and that He desires I concentrate my focus on this triangle -- between Atlanta and Chattanooga and eastern Alabama. I have looked to the north, to the south, to the west, and to the east, and so far, I believe that my final destination will be in North Georgia, Southern Tennessee or Eastern Alabama.

I know that I have blogged about this before, how the Lord never really put AL on my heart, but that wouldn't be true, per se. I think He intended me to check out this triangle on the map and to realize that as long as it meets His parameters for ministry and work, then any place within this area is acceptable to Him.

Of course, there have been other locations that I have checked out as well, most of them in the upper midwest. I am convinced now that the reason I believed this was so was simply to help me see His will, overall, for my life. I realize that sometimes I feel pulled in one way or another, but the Lord is not saying "this is it" to me, rather He is simply helping me see the totality of His will. Thus, I know that the Lord desires that I minister in dark places, and by that I simply mean, places where the majority of people either do not attend church or they attend churches that are figuratively speaking, dead.

I am called to preach to the church, and not to the world, so my ministry focus is specific. I must go to places where there are people who know Him, but who do not worship Him as they should. I must go to places where the church needs to hear the message I bring, and that is the message that says "Wake up, sleepy church! The Lord is watching you. Be on guard and take heed to walk according to His Word."

This suggests that some of my confusion has stemmed from the place where the Lord intends to plant me for ministry. I do believe that I have some options, and that these options include where I live. I can live to the north, south, east or west of His pin. I must go to this place, however, but the actual "city" is less important as the general area. I realize this now, and this is why I have struggled so with understanding what He was doing in my life. I mean, I always take things so literal. I believed that there was just one place, one pin drop on the map, when in reality there are numerous places -- the emphasis -- however, is to be within striking distance of this location. I get it now. I get what He has been saying to me.

How am I Going to Get There?

The last part of this puzzle called life is the "how" part. As in, how am I going to get there, Lord? This part is the easiest in my view. I mean, He will provide a job that will make it possible for me to go where He has dropped His pin on the map. I just need to be patient until He reveals the job. It will be in time, I am sure, and when it happens, it will provide sufficient opportunity for me to move and be settled in this area. Thus, I must wait for His provision. Until then, I must attend to what He is calling me to do. I must be faithful to all that He has charged me with today, and I must rely on His provision for my future needs.

In my conversation with my friend last night, one thing came to light that has helped me greatly, and that is, that I realized just how minimal my needs are at this point in time. I had to realize that my life is not about making oodles of money. I had to realize that my heart wants a simple life, a modest life, a good life. But my heart doesn't want fancy or expensive or even status when it comes to living out my future desires. No, I am quite content to live simply, to own a modest home, and to do the work the Lord has called me to do.

I think this has been something troubling me lately, but after yesterday, I came to terms with the fact that I don't want a status-filled life at all. Instead, I want a comfortable life, and that is the kind of life the Lord has promised to me. You see, I like old things. I like comfortable furniture, and scratches and dust, and even repurposed items around me. I don't want to live in filth nor do I want to live in a run-down, broken down home. But I do not mind things that are worn with time, aged and that are from a more modest time. Some people have to have brand new. Some people have to have the best of everything. I don't really care about those things. I just want to be happy, to be content, and to live comfortably as the Lord leads and provides for me. This means that I can be very happy in a smaller home, with modest things about me. I can be very content with what I have, and that just tells me that when I receive advice from friends who mean well, often they aren't thinking like me. They are on the fast track to wealth, to status, and to them, having a comfortable life means a life filled with fancy things, lots of money, and a big ticket lifestyle. They would think my idea of a modest home as something they left behind them. Yet, this is all I have ever wanted. This is what I believe the Lord intends to provide to me.

In sum, as I process all of these details, I realize that the pressure I have felt to "move" was the Lord reminding me that the time is drawing near. However, I panicked when I passed my exams. I panicked when I thought "Oh, no! Now I have to go" even though I am longing to go, anticipating going. It was just that I didn't remember His timing in all of the hustle of passing my exams. Now, I see that everything is proceeding as it should. It is still a ways down the road, but I am getting closer to going each day. I must be focused. I must remain stalwart, steady, and I must stay on this path. I must not look to the left or the right, but I must remain fixed on His will and His work. He will provide. He will bring me to that comfortable place of His choosing -- in His time -- and through His goodwill. He is good, so very good to me. He is good all the time, and all the time, He is good! Selah!

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