March 10, 2016

My Life

It is a good Thursday, and praise God, I am home and resting today. I love my schedule this semester. I love the fact that I have my Tuesday's and Thursday's off so I can rest in between my teaching days. I love that my life seems to be moving along in cruise control, and for the most part, the road ahead seems very smooth and straight. Of course, I am still suffering from recurring panic attacks, mostly over all the "unknown" in my future, but the attacks seem to come less frequently now, just every now and again. So while I still panic occasionally, generally, the attacks seem less frequent and less intense then they were in the past. Let me explain...

Life's Ups and Downs

Yesterday was a long day for me. My car had been in the shop overnight, and well, I was not happy about the cost that Nissan was charging for the repairs. In truth, I only needed "suggested repairs" so I could have had them replace my air conditioner compressor, which was under warranty, and leave it at that. But, they recommended I get new belts and a tire alignment. The belts were not an issue because they were cracking, and with our hot desert heat and all the dust, it is not uncommon to have belts fail after 4-5 years. Plus, since the AC compressor was being removed, there was no additional cost for labor. It made sense to have them change them at the same time. Furthermore, for the past couple months, I have noticed that my ride has been bumpy of late. I assumed I needed new tires, but it turns out I just needed a realignment. The realignment made all the difference -- my car rides smoothly again -- it it is not making that "flappy" noise that I constantly heard coming from the rear tire. In all, while I didn't want to shell out the money, God provided abundantly for me by allowing this major repair (the AC compressor) to fail while still under warranty. In truth, the guys at Nissan did a good job with my car, and frankly, it looks beautiful. They always send my car home looking brand new. I was pleased with the AC -- nice and cold -- and the ride, as I stated above, was smooth again. In all, I was blessed to have my good little Sentra back and in excellent running condition. God is good! He is so very good to me!! Selah!

The problem was that, all day long, while I was waiting to finish my classes and return the rental car, I stressed over the cost of these repairs. I was preoccupied by them. I found myself thinking about how I would pay for them, how I would make ends meet, and how I would get my life turned around. This latest cost followed hard on the heels of my trip to VA, and well, to say my credit cards are maxed, is an understatement. I am panicked over debt, and the thought of adding another large sum to my cards just didn't sit well with me. I mean, why Lord? Why now?  As I drove to work and then home again, I found myself thinking that the solution to all my problems was to find another job PDQ, regardless of whether it was in teaching. I thought, you know -- just bite the bullet, Carol -- find A JOB that pays well and that will help you dig yourself out of debt.  Take the practical route, do whatever it takes to improve your situation, and get on with your life! Sigh!

Of course, I know I need a job, and I have been looking and applying as the Lord leads me. But, nothing other than part-time work has prospered thus far. I am still waiting to hear back on Regent University, and I am still hoping that this part-time online position will come to pass -- but until then -- what do I do? I have no plans for summer, and thankfully, I don't have to travel to VA again. But, how will I make it? How will I live without income and no financial aid? I am panicked over it, thinking about what is next, and well, the Lord seems to be tarrying with that "next step" in my future.  I feel like I have been really, really patient, waiting for Him to open a door for me. Yet, nothing seems to be materializing now and that concerns me somewhat. So these added costs just stacked on top of an already mountain of debt, and frankly, I was feeling the stress associated with "not knowing" what to do or where to go to resolve the problem.

"From the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is faint; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I" Psalm 61:2 NASB

From Good to Bad

After I got home, my Dad asked me if I wanted to go to Village Inn since it was pie night (on Wednesday, everyone gets a free slice of pie with their purchase). I said "sure" since I was pretty tired and really not feeling up to making a meal. My Mom said she didn't want to go because she wasn't feeling well, so Dad and I went. I was looking forward to it, to spending some quality time with my Dad. It wasn't long after we ordered when my Dad said that he wasn't sure how much longer he could care for my Mom. I knew that "news" was coming, and in fact, I had been praying about it for some time now. My prayer was for my Dad to realize that Mom was going to need more care, and that they would need to be more flexible in their plans for the future.

It is always dicey to discuss future plans with your aging parents. I mean, you don't want to cross the line of propriety, and you want to respect their feelings of care and concern. After all, they have been caring for themselves for year, and they are used to calling the shots, making the plans, and deciding on paths, etc. I wanted to be caring, of course, but my parents future plans intersect with mine, so in some ways, what they decide affects me just as much as what I decide affects them.

I listened to my Dad, not really interjecting my comments, but rather just letting him speak. I took some of what he said to heart, and some of the things he said bothered me. After dinner, I sat here wrestling with them, mostly thinking about how easy it would be to give up the plans the Lord has for me and instead follow the "practical" way to ensure my parents were cared for properly.

Some of the things I heard him say included:
  • They didn't want to stand in my way or get in the way of my finding a job
  • They considered living with my brother (news to me) but decided they didn't think they could do it
  • They don't have enough money for extended or specialized care (memory care for my Mom)
As my Dad was speaking, I thought "Okay, this is really odd." I mean, I had prayed about having this conversation with my Dad three weeks prior. I had asked the Lord to help my Dad realize that they needed to be flexible with their future and not demand that I find a job here in AZ or give up my plans for becoming a full-time professor. I wanted my Dad to release me from the burden of caring for them -- not that I will do that -- but that he would acknowledge that the Lord does have a plan for my life and that plan may mean relocating somewhere else.

I had hoped to hear him say something that would give me comfort so that I could pursue my own life. In some ways, I guess he did. I stumbled with my words, and rather than let him just say what he wanted to so or ask him some follow up questions, I floundered. My heart stuck on his words as I felt he was asking me to solve their problem, to solve their long-term care solution.

Part of me wonders if the conversation was sparked by some comments I made recently or whether my conversation with my Mom about applying for a job in GA was repeated to my Dad. I didn't think Mom would remember anything, but perhaps she did, and she said something to my Dad. It is also possible that my brother called and had a conversation with my Dad regarding his plans for purchasing a home near where he currently lives. I don't know, I just don't know.

Coming to Terms

As I reflected on what my Dad did say, I couldn't help but to "interpret" what I thought he really meant by his words. I do this all the time, and often my interpretation is incorrect. In communication studies, there can be miscommunication or a mishap that occurs between sender and receiver when certain parameters are not met. Mostly, this can be noise (as in extraneous information or even sounds around the event), but it also can happen when there is no feedback. Basically, a two-way conversation ends up as a one-way conversation with information going out and being received, but with no return information sent back to the sender. The problem is that unless there is feedback, there is no real sense of shared or mutual understanding. This can lead sender and receiver to interpret nonverbal communication signals in order to ascertain hidden meaning.

I thought about my Dad's comments for a long while last night, and frankly, the more I thought about them, the more I became upset by them. I felt myself becoming depressed, and I thought "This is it! This is what my future holds!" Thankfully, my good friend called me right when I was feeling really low. He gave me such sound advice, and gently reminded me to seek the Lord's will always -- even when it was uncomfortable to do so. I love him so much -- mostly because he always points me to the Lord -- even when I know better, when I know I should do so, he just stands there and calms me down and says "Now, let's consider what the Word says about it." I love that about him, that he always puts God first and goes to the Word for answers. After a good long conversation with him, I realized a couple things:
  • My enemy doesn't want me to follow the Lord's leading at all
  • My enemy wants me to jump ship, stop being patient, and take matters into my own hands
  • My enemy wants me to think about my needs first and foremost
  • My enemy wants me to panic and to not trust God for solutions
In hindsight, I realized that this discussion with my Dad was a weakened attempt to get me to take a different path than the one I am on. In fact, earlier in the day, I felt the pressure to stop doing what the Lord asked me to do, and to start looking for practical work (in business). In fact, I would say that as I prayed about this option, I never once felt peace about it. I never felt like I was to pursue this option, yet I prayed about it, gave myself to it "should the Lord desire it," and then let it be. 

This is not the first time I have been attacked on this point. In previous attacks, the argument has been much stronger, much more pointed, but the issue has been the same: give up these plans, take the easy route, and gain control over your life.

I realized that the enemy simply wants me to give up my confidence in the Lord, to set down my shield of faith, and to start to look to my own hand for provision. I refuse to do this -- I will not -- and he knows that is true. However, he still tries to get me to pick up the reins and take control. In fact, I would say that this "pressure" to regain control of my life began last week when my good friend was in town. She is very successful, and she has had a good life (well, has a good life). We talked about my future plans, my expected income, etc., and I felt awkward saying that after all my hard work and effort to get my PhD, my income expectancy was very low. I know she is proud of my efforts, and that she thinks it is excellent for me to be a professor, but as I was relating the details of what I hope to expect, frankly, I felt the pang of disappointment. I felt that sense of "is this all there is to be expected?"

The funny thing is this -- just yesterday while waiting for my second period class to begin -- I prayed over this "income thing." The Lord had me google to see what I could realistically expect for income as a Professor in my field. The average national salary was somewhere between $48-72K per year. Some positions paid more, but average salary for an Assistant Professor was in this range. The midpoint was somewhere between $58-67K.  Then the Lord had me google jobs that were in business, communications, and the pay scale was similar. I mean, regardless of the job, I can expect to earn about the same amount of money. As I wrestled with this truth, I realized that the job I do (teaching or in business) is inconsequential because I am called to do the Lord's work first and foremost. So, whether I teach or I do something else, my focus is to be on His work alone. Secondly, I remembered why I chose to follow this path, why I chose to follow teaching instead of turning back into a business/professional occupation.

As I reflected on my top three reasons for choosing teaching, I realized that none of them had anything at all to do with income potential. Teaching and low-pay are a constant companion, so the thought that you can go into teaching and make MOOLA, well that is just silly!! No, my top three reasons were:
  1. Flexible schedule (summers off, holidays, etc.)
  2. Aligns with my education (research, scholarship, continued studies)
  3. Mentoring students (using my gift of exhortation daily)
Furthermore, I chose teaching because I wanted to do it. Of all the jobs I have had, this one, being a professor, has been (or is) the best. It is not the best fit for me, but it is something I enjoy doing a lot. I really like teaching students. I am not the best at it, mind you, but I like what I do, and I think that enjoyment carries over to my students. Also, I like the thought that I am having some impact on their life, even if in a small way. I love my students, and I love what I do. I may not like standing on my feet or the uncertainty of future gain (right now, anyway), but overall, I do like my job. I like it better than any other job I have had in my entire life. I can say heartily, "I love my job. I love being a teacher!"

Finding Peace -- Again!

I woke up this morning and the first thing that popped into my head was Psalm 46:10. I heard myself say, "Be still, Carol. Know that I am God." Yes, Lord, you are God. I laid in bed for a time, pondering what had happened yesterday, and once again, I had this strong sense of peace about me. I thought, "I will not panic; I will choose peace." Then, I prayed, "Lord, I will not alter the plans you have for my life, but I will stay on this path UNTIL YOU MOVE ME." I will choose peace and His way over stress and my way -- any day of the week. So while I don't know how I will care for my parents or even if this is the Lord's will for my future -- I will remain fixed and focused on the plans He has for me now, here today. Some things I am certain of:
  • The plans the Lord has for my life are good
  • The future is secure in His hand and in His provision
  • I don't have to worry about tomorrow because all my tomorrows belong to Him
  • My life, for good or for bad, is now under His marvelous grace and control
  • I don't have to try to make things work out because my job is to trust and obey
  • God is the maker of my future and it is up to Him to make His desires known to me
  • He makes my days, He comforts my nights and in between, He is my steady rock
Therefore, today, I rest in the assurance that the Lord knows the needs of my parents. He knows the heart of my father, mother, and brother (brothers). He knows my heart as well, and He knows that we desire the same thing -- we all want my parents to be cared for through the end of their days. Yet, He also knows that I need to do certain things in His name and through His power -- and those things -- are time sensitive. Thus, if He opens this door in GA, then clearly it is His will. I have prayed that all doors be closed EXCEPT for the one He wants for me. Perhaps this is why it appears that He is tarrying, perhaps this is why it seems that nothing is happening. I would rather have one job that is of His hand, than several options that require me to choose. Yes, I would rather wait for the ONE rather than consider the many.

In closing, as I wait for Him today. I am choosing to be patient in and through it all. I am choosing contentment and joy regardless of my current situation. My debt burden, my lack of income, etc. well, that are not news to Him. He knows my needs. He has me well-covered. I trust and I rely on His judgment and determination as to what is best for me. His timing is perfect, and I will rest. I will choose to rest this good, good day. God is sovereign over every detail in my life, and that means, that I am trusting in His sovereignty as He determines my next steps. He is good, so very good to me. Selah!

Dear Lord,

Today as I think about all you have done in my life, I realize just how in control you REALLY are. I mean, you have my days ordered, my life has been accounted for, and in truth, my very being has been planned and purposed from before the foundation of the world. You KNOW ME personally, and you know everything, every worry, every fear, and every concern that I have on my heart. I look UP today, and I choose to rest in your SUFFICIENCY and in your ABILITIES to see me through each and every day of my life. I let go of my need to be in control, and I choose to let you lead me, guide me, and provide for me. I will not seek my own way. I will not seek to be in control, to make decisions outside of your will, or to try to make my life into something it has not been designed to be. Instead, I will take joy and comfort in the knowledge that I am known, and that in being known, you are well aware of all my needs, wants and desires. Today, Lord, I let all this go. I stop striving to make my life something when you already have determined what it is to be. I love you, Lord, and I rest my case. I trust you. I believe in you. And, I choose to remain IN YOU through to the end of time. You alone are worthy to be praised, and you alone are GOD. I rest now, and I give you all thanks, all praise, all honor, and all authority over every detail, no matter how small or large, in my life. You are good, so very good to me, and I look to you, to your hand of blessing and provision, and to your finished work in and through my life. Thank you, Lord. I ask all this, I confess it now in the matchless, merciful, and most majestic name of Jesus, my Lord and Savior, Amen. So be it. Thy will be done! Selah (pause and calmly think about it!)

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