March 7, 2016

Turning Around

Today is Monday, and what a beautiful day it is here in sunny and cool Phoenix. I took the garbage out this morning and the air is cool and crisp. The sun is out, and our expected high is to be only 72! THIS is springtime in Phoenix (woohoo!) My prayer today is to enjoy the blessed weather and to spend a low-key afternoon in my classes at GCU. My students are working on their drafts this week -- so that means -- no teaching work for me (hooray!) Hopefully, they will come to class and do the work. Some of them don't bother showing up, but at this point in the semester (week 10 of 16), well, there is nothing I can do to encourage them otherwise. I think it is weird that so many will blow off my class, but then I guess it is just how it goes when you teach English. I think if the curriculum was more engaging, then the story would be different. I have little control over the design of the curriculum, thus I just have to do what I have to do and make the best of it. I know who the students are that don't show up, and frankly, they are either good writers or poor writers. My middle of the road writers come to class every week. I like to think that they enjoy my content too. Well, at the least, I hope so.

It is a good day today. I am feeling well, and my spirit seems to be in that "good" place again. The oppression of last week has lifted (praise God), and today, I am feeling more like my self again. I cannot really explain it other than to say that I think the reason I feel better is two-fold. First, I turned myself around, and I recommitted my life to align with the Lord's design for it. Second, I stood my ground as the enemy assaulted me, knowing that it is through faith and the Word of God that the enemy is defeated. Thus, through this combination, I regained my position and my perspective, and I am back to where I need to be to begin to see and to make real progress. The Lord patiently waited for me to stop doing what I was doing (in short, I was digging myself into a hole in the ground), and once I realized that my actions were causing me such confusion, I stopped doing them. In that way, I realized that circling round and round only gets you dizzy! Rarely do you learn anything of value when you set yourself on the spin cycle.

As I came to terms with several factors that were causing me to feel confused, the light of His word illuminated my path. I began to see that where I am today is right where I need to be. Tomorrows plan is in His hand, and tomorrow will be ready for me when the time comes. Until then, I need to focus on what is on my plate today, and that means that I must concentrate on what I know, and not on what I don't know. It is funny, really, because this is what I was told to do regarding my comprehensive exams. I was told to focus on what I knew about each subject rather than try to identify and learn everything that I didn't know. I did this, and praise God, I passed my exams. The same holds true for life, really, when you think about it. I mean, how often do we focus on the unknown and we allow the unknown to control our emotions and our wants and desires. The known is best -- the known is already revealed. So as I considered my efforts, where I was expending energy, I realized that if I took that same amount of time, same amount of focus, and put it into the "here and now," I would have a far greater chance of accomplishing something wonderful. I think this is why the Lord said that we should focus on today, and let tomorrow's worries remain with tomorrow!

“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today" (Matthew 6:34 NLT)

I am curious about "tomorrow," of course I am. I want to see where I will live when I do move, and I want to know what type of work I will be doing when I get there. However, there is so much guesswork involved, and frankly, guesswork is just guesswork. I know that I must remain fixed on what has been revealed to me, and in this way, I let the future rest in His hands. I know the Lord has a good plan for my life, and until the time comes when we are to "move on," well, I will rest and trust in His good plan, in His care and mercy, and in His grace to see me through each and every day. Selah!

Some of the things I have settled on seem to have created a great sense of peace in my heart and in my mind. A couple of them are practical concerns, things that I know I should have done or attended to a while ago.

Choosing a Church

First, there is my weekly church attendance. I have been a slacker of late, well really since the latter part of last year. I had returned to my old church, and while I immediately enjoyed the preaching and worship, I felt so out of place, so like I didn't belong there anymore. I struggled with this feeling, thinking that it would pass in time, but the truth is, it didn't pass, it just simmered. Then life intervened and my studies took off, and before you knew it, I was slammed so much that I often would choose not to attend Sunday services. I knew this was to my detriment, yet I felt so awkward, so out of place, that it seemed better to just stay at home.

Much of my discomfort with returning to my old church stemmed from seeing my ex-husband who regularly attends with his lady friend. They sit right in front of me on most Sundays, and while I have gotten over the shock, it is the uncomfortable feeling I get each time they walk in together that sets my whole worship experience on edge. I cannot pay attention to the sermon or really invest myself in worship because I am thinking about their presence in front of me. I typically end up praying for them, spending my worship time thinking about their salvation, and wondering if they have made a commitment to the Lord. Sigh!

I have thought about returning to my parent's church, but that doesn't really seem to be what the Lord wants for me, at least, not now. I have looked at other churches near me, but they are not what the Lord wants for me either. Not that there is anything wrong with them, it is just that the Lord seemed to be pointing me in one direction, and I thought it best to go another. You see, it was last fall when I had prayed about this dilemma, and the Lord suggested, well, put on my heart and mind, that I should visit my church's satellite campus instead of the main campus. I was hesitant to do that because I didn't know anyone over there, and I wondered if I would like it (I know -- dumb reasons!). Yet, rather than going and trying it out as I felt His spirit lead, I made the decision to put up with the uncomfortable feelings I had when I attended the main campus. Since then, I have been pretty miserable each week. Each Sunday, I feel the same sense of "dread," and each Sunday, I either screw up my courage and attend the main campus OR I stay at home.

Just yesterday, as I was praying over this situation again (for the umpteenth time), I made the decision to visit the campus closest to me. Yes, I relented, and I decided that I would try it out as the Lord had suggested many months ago. With my change of heart, my decision settled, I decided to start attending this campus from now on -- each and every Sunday as I am able. I know that I will benefit from the weekly Bible teaching, the great contemporary worship, and the smaller community. But also, I know that I need fellowship, companionship, and some time spent with other men and women who love God as much as I do. So, I checked out the Women's Bible Study group which meets each Wednesday evening. I haven't done a corporate Bible Study in years, and I feel that getting involved in weekly study will be a good thing. My plan is visit on Sunday and to sign up for the new Bible study that is starting the following week. Lord willing, I will find this new group welcoming and informing. I am looking forward to having some "me time" and letting down my defenses somewhat. I am trusting the Lord that the process will be a good one, and no matter what happens, I will give it my best, and pray the Lord does the rest. Amen!

Choosing a Healthy Life

Second, I made the decision to tackle my weight head on. My weight has been yo-yoing now for the past twenty years. I am not exceedingly overweight, but I am carrying around an extra 25 pounds on my rather small frame. I hide it well, and for the most part, my size has been settled now some time. I get mad at myself for my weakness, for my emotional eating, and for my lack of exercise. I struggle to be focused, to stay disciplined with both a new eating plan and exercise regime. The problem is that much of the pain I live with stems from this extra weight. I know this is true, so losing the weight will help my feet, legs, and hips (and lower back) feel better. I still need to address my orthopedic issues, but losing the weight would be a good start for me. So yesterday, I got fed up, and I determined that the only person who can make me lose weight is myself. I cannot rely on anyone else since I am the one who crams the sugary carb-filled foods into my mouth whenever I feel lonely or depressed or stressed out.

My plan is pretty simple. I lost 10 pounds on Atkins in fall of 2013. I was able to maintain that weight for a long time, but last fall, as the pressure for exams built, I found myself cramming food into my mouth once again. I am up 10 pounds, and I feel awful. Moreover, my clothes are tight, and I hate that look.

This time around, I have been thinking about going all natural and choosing a healthy diet that consists of protein, vegetables, and low-glycemic fruits.  I have decided to try the Daniel Plan, which I have heard is a solid lifestyle program (not just for dieting but for overall health and wellness). The Lord put this plan on my heart and mind about three years ago, but after I checked it out, I thought it was going to be too difficult for me to follow, so I disregarded it.  Yeah, lesson learned. I mean, how long must I suffer before I realize that the Lord does really know what is best for my life? The good news is that I have relented and I turned myself around. I am going to start Atkins for two weeks, just to rid myself of all sugar and carbs. I hope to lose about 6 pounds initially. Then, I will detox my house, and get myself situated so I can eat healthy foods. My prayer is that over the next 15 weeks, I can lose the 25 pounds (at 2 pounds per week). If it takes longer, so be it. I just want to start feeling and looking better. I cannot afford to purchase new clothes, and with summer coming, starting a health plan seems like a great time. I can wear shorts, capris and tees every day. By next fall, when I have to dress for work, well, then I can purchase new items to replace some of my older things.

Choosing a Destination

Third, and last, is my decision to pursue moving to the southeast USA. I have blogged about my plans and how I feel the Lord is leading me to this location. Yet, I have considered other options, and for a very long time, took my hands off the decision-making process. I decided yesterday that regardless of what comes to pass, this is the direction the Lord has pushed me toward for almost ten years. I have to accept that this is His will for me. I don't have to worry about the details just yet, but accepting this as His plan relieved me of a lot of stress and anxiety. I knew this was to be, yet I refused to accept it for a number of reasons. Now, I have turned around, and I have agreed that if this is His will, then so be it. I am content to accept this as His plan for my life.

What this means is that I am no longer considering any other "option" for moving when He determines the time is to go. I am decided. I will wait for Him to align my life to His will, and by that, I mean waiting for Him to provide a job, a home, and a life as He determines it. I guess a lot of the frustration was the fact that I felt like I was in limbo land for so long. Once I made up my mind to agree with the Lord on this matter, I immediately experienced peace. I mean, I experienced PEACE. I felt like this cloud lifted off of me, and I could begin to see a way where before that way had been hidden. I don't have the details, as I said previously, but I feel very confident that when the time comes, the Lord will open up the right doors, and I will walk through them.

The good news is that this means I can plan for my future. I can think about my future again. I don't need to worry about where He will move me directly, but I can imagine living in this place, in this region of the country. This excites me because it gives me something to focus on long-term. Right now, I think His timing will be next year, 2017, but if it is sooner, so be it. If it is longer, so be it. I just feel very good that this is where He wants me to go, and that He will work to make that happen.

Contentment and Peace

I guess you could say that I am content today. I am content with my life as it is. This means that I recognize the Lord's timing, and I accept that He has a plan that covers me in every area of my life. I see what He plans to do for me, and I am assured of the following:

  • My PhD will be conferred in May 2017
  • My son will graduate (Lord willing) in May 2017
  • My parents will be cared for by me and my siblings as the Lord leads and guides
  • My career will be as a professor (hopefully, online, but if in person, so be it)
  • My education will continue as He provides (semiotics -- yes!)
  • My home will be in the Southeast USA
  • My ministry work will be to the church (specifically) and will be to help them communicate faith more clearly in this uncertain age
  • My future hope rests in Him, and my next steps are ordered by Him (I can rest now)
I am filled with peace, and this deep sense that everything is right now. I cannot explain it other than to say that I feel better. I know the "decisions" I have made are not life-altering or earth shattering, but somehow, my unwillingness to trust the Lord in these areas did cause me confusion, did open the door to attack, and did make my life feel like it was spinning rather than moving forward. Perhaps now we will see some forward movement. Perhaps now the Lord will begin to move me toward the fulfillment of His goals and plans for my life. Selah!

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