April 3, 2016

Do Over, Please!

Blessed Sunday! It is a good day to be here in sunny and warm, Phoenix. Yes, the weather is lovely outside, despite the fact that it is only 6:30 a.m. I am up early, due to a bout of tummy troubles. I am quietly sitting here at the computer, blogging and sipping my coffee. Hopefully, the tummy upset will pass soon.  I woke up this morning feeling less than well, even though I did sleep peaceably for most of the night. I had more dreams, strange and different dreams, just like the previous couple nights. I am not sure if I mentioned that the other day or not, but lately, I have been having a lot of dreams again. It seemed like I had dreams almost every night for several years, and then suddenly, no dreams whatsoever. Now, I am back to having them again, and I am finding that my sleep is disturbed and not as restful as it used to be. Sigh!

Furthermore, I finally figured out why my arms are infected from bug bites. Yes, I have sets of bites on the back of my arms, and thankfully, they are finally starting to heal. I couldn't figure out what had bitten me until last night when my Dad said he thought the bites were from bed bugs. I don't have bed bugs here in Phoenix. The only time I could have been bitten would have been when I travelled to VA for my exams. I googled on bed bug infestation to learn that the welts (if you get them) can show up 14 days after you were bitten. This coincides with my experience. I didn't get the welts and blisters until mid-March. The bites are finally healing, now that it has been two weeks since then. The worst part of being bitten like this is the fact that the bites are clustered on my upper forearms -- in the exact same places on both arms. The blisters formed, and I scratched them because they itched. As the blisters opened, they crusted over leaving a nasty scab. More than likely, I will have scars now on the backs of my arms. UGH! The real deal is the fact that I stayed at the Founders Inn and Spa in VA Beach. I mean, it is a ritzy place, and to think I got bitten there just makes me sick. I will have to go back for my final defense and now I am reconsidering where I will stay. I am one of the few people who is sensitive to bed bug bites so that means that I will break out in a rash every time I get bitten. I so wish I didn't have to travel again, but I do. Moreover, I plan to go and visit my friend in AL this summer. Now, I am worried about being bit and having to deal with the ordeal again. These bites have been very painful, and considering it has been almost a month since I visited, they still haven't completely healed. My prayer is that I can avoid getting bitten again or worse, bringing the pesky bugs home with me. I so don't need this hassle -- not now -- not anytime!

Job Progress -- or Not!

Yesterday, I blogged about my job versus work paradigm. I felt I finally had a good grasp of the difference, as in job where you work to earn income and work where you are doing specific ministry-related business for the Lord. Later in the day, instead of writing chapter 1 of my dissertation, I spent most of the day looking for a job. I am not sure why I did it, why I spent so much time doing it, but suffice it to say, I didn't get anything done. Yes, I was distracted by "job hunting," and as a result, I gave up the entire day to a fruitless pursuit.

Last night, while I was talking with my good friend, the discussion turned to my job hunt. I realized after I ended our conversation that I did the exact thing I had said I wasn't going to do earlier in the day. I was going to let this go, so I said. I was going to be content with the job I have at present. I was going to not seek work at all, but rather just accept the work the Lord has provided to me. Then instead of doing what I said, I panicked and leaned on my own understanding of the matter. In this way, I ended up applying to a couple positions that now I think were a mistake. I should have simply waited. I should have let the nudge subside. In truth, had that nudge remained today, perhaps then I would have felt that it was the Lord leading me to apply. Instead, I just feel as though I jumped ship again, I attempted to reign in the feeling of "panic!"

The really weird thing in this whole deal is the fact that I don't have a plan of action in place. I have tentative plans only. I have some ideas toward plans, but I don't have anything firm right now. I mean, I have applied to a number of online jobs, but nothing has materialized. I have applied to a couple campus positions, but again, nothing has materialized. Furthermore, I heard from one of the two departments I had applied to at my school that the Dean has already interviewed candidates and scheduled a mini-presentation for this week. This means that the position I applied for in the department one is more than likely being filled as we speak, just like it is in department two (both are under the same dean, and it has been a month and a half since I applied).

I never received a call to interview or even to discuss my application with the recruiter. My application in the online system still says "screen" so that says to me "pass - we are not interested in you!" I am okay with being passed over, but I do wonder why they didn't bother to even contact me to let me know what is going on. After all, I have been a faithful instructor for three years now. You would have thought they would have reached out to me to say "Hey, we have other more qualified candidates at this time." I would have said, "Sure, no worries." I mean, I knew that my credential wasn't exactly spot on but to not even hear sort of burns me up. Furthermore, to think that all the scrutiny was for naught. I mean, if you weren't going to consider me for full-time, why bother probing and treating me so caustically?

Still, I have to let this pass. I have to let this go. I know it is not the Lord's will for me to be considered for a job at this school. He is fine with me teaching there part-time while I finish my PhD, but He is not going to open doors for me to teach there full-time. I believe that this is not His will, nada, no way. So why does it burn me up so much? Shouldn't I just be content to remain where I am for now?

Believing it is So

Yeah, I think the reason it bothers me is simply that I applied to a job that was not the Lord's provision, and He said "no." Instead of being patient and waiting, I plodded ahead, casting my net, only to find that I put my net on the wrong side of the boat. Yes, I didn't wait for the Lord to say "put it here." In doing so, while I did step out in faith, because I did it ahead of the Lord's timing, I am simply receiving the results of my effort -- an empty net. I can't get upset at the Lord for not providing a job that wasn't His choice. I can be upset at myself, though, for running ahead of Him and trying to manipulate the outcome to suit my needs, to solve my problem, to satisfy my own selfish desires.

I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about this, thinking about how stressed I am over this stupid process. I mean, I am still smarting from the experience of three weeks ago, and now I am stressed about finishing my final three weeks of teaching. I should be relieved, relaxed, and ready for my summer to begin, rather, I am stressed about having to go back to school on Monday. What is wrong with this picture? Why do I feel this way? Sigh!

I think the reason why I am struggling so with this "next step" is simply because I don't know what the Lord wants me to do. I mean, do I stay here or do I go? I am content to remain in Phoenix for another year, as the Lord provides. If I stay here, then I need to remain committed to my contracts and plan to graduate in the early fall. Moreover, I need to accept the fact that the Lord intends for me to teach adjunct for one more year (fall and spring). I would normally be fine with this approach, but after the hiccup at my school, I am now not really content to stay put. I don't want to teach at a school where my every effort is thwarted. I don't want to stay in this place if I am going to be watched like a hawk every day I am on campus. So what do I do?

I started to think about it last night, after I went to bed. I mean, what choice do I have in the matter? My good friend said to me that the Lord has a job for me, and I believe it is so. Furthermore, I have to believe that if He has a job for me to do, then He also has the timing of that job in His hand and under His authority. My worry, my fear, and my incessant looking isn't helping matters. I am simply making this process more frustrated than it needs to be. Subsequently, I am causing myself to be stressed, and that is never a good thing. Selah!

My options at this point in time are limited:

  • Option A: I can stay in Phoenix for one more year (or more if that is the Lord's will). I can teach at these two schools as well as teach at some online schools. It is not a perfect solution, but it can work for a time. If the job situation becomes so stressful, so belabored to the point where I am unhappy every day, well then, I will need to change jobs or change careers. 
  • Option B: The second option is to consider moving to a new place for a new start on life. I have been working on this idea for the past ten years, but as of yet, I have not moved. No jobs have been offered to take me anywhere but where I am so part of me thinks that the timing is not right, not yet, I mean. I want to go, I am ready to go, but there are issues here at home that have to be resolved first. I cannot go while there are people whose lives hang in the balance and who need me to care for them. Until He moves me, I am stuck.
If I knew I was going to stay put, permanently I mean, then I could settle down and just deal with the issue at hand. However, I don't feel this is the Lord's will for me so that means I need to focus on option B. The problem with focusing on option B is that it is predicated on getting a different job. And, this point is the point that just spins me round and round. I need a job to move, but job hunting causes me distress and keeps me from focusing on finishing my PhD. Thus, the round-robin I am dealing with ends up causing me extreme frustration. I can either do nothing, rest, and not worry about making the move happen or I can continue to cast my net to the side of the boat and wear myself out doing it. What is the answer to this problem, this dilemma?

Well, clearly the answer is to do nothing, to stop trying to make this happen, and to let the Lord bring it to pass. Yeah, I get it. I get it, good. I am to bloom where He has me planted. I am to do the work He has assigned to me to do, and stop looking for other paths, other ways around this time in the "wilderness." As my friend said to me, "perhaps this is your wilderness, Carol." I responded to him with "I've already been in the wilderness (as in my marriage and years leading up to the divorce), yet in truth, this current situation may still be part of my wilderness experience.

Wandering in the Desert

Numbers 32:13 NIV says, "The LORD's anger burned against Israel and he made them wander in the wilderness forty years, until the whole generation of those who had done evil in his sight was gone." The story of Moses and the children of Israel as they wandered in the desert for a long, long time in recorded in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The Bible tells us that this wilderness experience served many purposes. Numbers states clearly that part of the reason for the wilderness stay was to cause the generation that came up from Egypt to die off so that they would not live long enough to enter into the blessed promised land. According to GotQuestions.org (2016), the people were "convinced they could not oust the current inhabitants of the land, even though God told them they could" (para. 1). Furthermore, it was their "lack of belief in God’s word and promises brought forth the wrath of God" (para. 1).

The children of promise, so to speak, wandered in the desert because they refused to believe God's word and His promise provision of a land flowing with milk and honey (abundance and prosperity). They refused to accept His word, to believe He was telling them the truth about the situation, that they really could rout the inhabitants of the land (para. 1). So instead of taking the land by strength as the Lord said, they endured a long and unfruitful existence in the wilderness. For forty years, they journeyed round-and-round, until finally they were permitted to enter into the promised rest.

As I consider this story from Numbers, I am reminded of my own faithless actions, my own refusal to believe the Lord and His promise to me. I realize now that much of my hesitation to "go" was a lack of belief. I chose to stay put when the Lord had said to me "go." I chose to believe that He could provide for me, but until I actually saw that provision, I remained still, I didn't move. Now, I am complaining to the Lord, asking Him why He hasn't moved me yet, when in truth, the problem is not with His slowness or lack of provision, but with my lack of faith in His abilities to perform and to keep His promise to me. Selah!

Turning Around

I realize today that I am where I am for a reason. Just as the children of Israel were stuck walking around in that horrid desert for forty years, I too am stuck where I am, in this limbo land (so to speak) because I was not willing to believe the Lord's word to me. How do I turn myself around? How do I stop disbelieving?

John 20:27 NLT records the words of Jesus to Thomas shortly after His resurrection. Jesus addresses the issue of doubt when He says, "Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don't be faithless any longer. Believe!"

Jon Bloom (2013) addresses doubt and unbelief in his short blogpost on "Faith" He says, "In the race of faith that Jesus has called you to run (Hebrews 12:1), doubt is a weight you simply can’t keep running with. You’ve got to drop it. Today" (para. 1). I like this charge because it reminds me that the ability to start believing begins with ME. I MUST stop doubting God's word. I MUST start believing that what He says is true. It is as simple as that -- God cannot lie -- therefore, His word is truth (John 17:17b). It is up to me to believe Him, His word, and to accept that His word is true.

Bloom goes on to say that doubt and unbelief are not really the same thing. Rather, doubt is a lesser form of unbelief (lack of faith in God completely). He says, "So doubt is not the complete absence of faith. It’s faith laden with weights of unbelief, which threaten to sink us" (para. 4). I like the way he says this because it underscores the point clearly. It is not uncommon for Christians to doubt God without losing their faith in Him. Doubt simply functions as a means to "sink our ship," so to speak, to stop us in our tracks and to keep us from moving forward in the plans the Lord has for our life.

As I consider my own doubts, I realize as did Bloom, that often I carry around doubts that are lingering or repeating offenses. These are doubts about specific things, and according to Bloom, are considered as sins. When we fail to lay aside our doubts about something God has clearly said to us, we are in effect, disobeying Him, and thus committing a sin. Sin, regardless of its origin, is simply disobedience to the will of God. Doubting God's word, His provision, His mercy, His grace, etc., can be a sin if we allow it to become one. If we do not attack the origin of the doubt, which is often a lie by the enemy, we allow that doubt to gain a foothold in our life. We must stop doubting God and start believing His word. We must repent from our doubting behavior, and turn around, turn back toward God in faith. We must lay aside the doubts (set them free) and we must remember that Christ died to set us free. We take up the mantle of faith and we boldly proclaim that we believe His word is truth. His word is truth.
Dear Lord,

I realize that I have allowed doubt to keep me from moving forward in this area of my life. I have looked to my own understanding (Prov. 3:5-6) when I should have believed your word and let the doubt go. I should have trusted you, rested in you, and let all the disbelief go. I am sorry, Lord. I am sorry for the wasted time in the desert, where I have wandered for so many years. I am sorry that now I am where I am -- stuck -- and feeling so impatient to move forward. I am sorry that my slowness in response to you has halted my forward progression, and as a result, I have had to remain in this place much longer than you had planned. I ask that you forgive me of my doubt, and I ask Lord that I be restored to your plan, your timing of your plan, and all the various elements of your plan. I place my faith, my trust, and all my belief in you and your word. I thank you for your grace and your mercy, and today, Lord, I receive your gift of forgiveness. I ask all this in Jesus' blessed Name. Amen, so be it, thy will be done.

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