April 26, 2016

Resting Now

Happy Tuesday, big world! It is a beautiful day here in Phoenix.The sun is shining, the skies are clear, and the breeze is, well, breezy. Yes, today, is shaping up to be a fine, fine day. I am well, despite waking with a headache (sinus pain) and a stiff body. My spine is aching this morning, thanks to a restless night’s sleep. I need to do something to help my back at night, but so far, using pillows hasn’t really done the trick. I know my pain is related to my scoliosis, but finding the “right” solution is baffling.

The last real “solution” for my back pain occurred some 30 years ago, when I was 18, and sleeping on an old-fashioned water bed. Yes, I bought a water bed shortly after my car accident, and frankly, it was “to die for.” I mean that literally. I set the thermostat to about 88 degrees and just zonked the hours away. I don’t even remember falling asleep on it. I would just way down, and then in the morning, I would wake up feeling so refreshed. My cat, Snowball, loved it too. She was declawed, so we got along well sharing the bed. She loved to sleep on the bed because it always was so warm. When she’d get overheated, she would just climb up and sleep on the pillow next to me. I had that water bed for about 15 years, though the water mattress was finally “popped” thanks to my other cats (with claws). When I moved from San Jose to Phoenix, I sold it at a garage sale. I wish now that I hadn’t done that because I loved the dark pine carved frame. It was beautiful.

Now, I am sleeping on a memory foam topped mattress. It is a good quality mattress (Serta, I believe), but despite the quality, it still causes back pain for me. I know my problem is structural. I’ve always had posture issues, ever since I was a child. Now that I have gotten older, I am more aware of the way I stand, sit, walk, and sleep. I am hoping my workout routine will help with this problem. Building muscle, should help my back feel better. That is my prayer, anyway.

Waking Up to a New Day

If I could say that yesterday was a horrible day, I would say it. In fact, let’s just say it now. Yesterday was horrible! It was a bad day from the get-go. I woke up cranky, experienced a wide range of issues that increased my crankiness, and then after spending the whole day in a foul mood, I finally rested late in the night. My whole day was ka-put, starting with my morning emails from students asking for late grace on their final paper assignment. I don’t mind giving grace, normally, I mean. But it irks me when my students ask for grace after the deadline has passed. I have been adamant about what is accepted passed the last day of class. Still, they seem to ignore me, and that bothers me.

Then after cooling down some, I decided to record my pre-interview with CCU. What a bust! I wasn’t in a good frame of mind, but I wanted it off my to-do list, so I just did it. I am praying it turned out well enough to be considered for the next steps. If not, I understand. I deserve what I get considering the mindset and the attitude problem of the day. Sigh!

Later in the day, I graded students papers, and then toward evening, ventured out to Walmart for some items we needed. It was good to get out of the house. I needed to break away from the pressure, the stress, the strain, of the day. While at Walmart, I really let loose, praying, crying and just venting to the Lord. I am glad that He doesn’t mind it when I do this because I needed it. I needed to vent, BIG TIME. Yes, I let it all go. I told Him that I am frustrated, really frustrated, and in truth, I am frustrated by my own doing. I have made my way “mucky,” and I am not happy about it. It is funny, really, when you think about it. I mean, the Lord didn’t do anything to me — I did it to myself — I made my way miserable through my own hand. Let me explain…

It all began last week. I was finishing up my last week of teaching, and I was thinking about my next steps. I mean, what should I do next…for summer…for fall, etc. My work is always on my mind simply because my job is not fixed, per se. It is not a full-time permanent position, and as long as I work part-time, temporary like this, there is always going to be a sense of “what’s next?” I don’t know what is next so I worry about it. My plans are not fixed, they are fluid, and I am not a fluid type of gal. No, I am logical, analytical, and very structured. I like to know the plan, to know the steps, the detail so I can prepare for every move. I am just like that…

So last week, I started thinking about those awful next steps, and then even took some measure to change up my future. I started to feel the push toward working in business again, and as a result, I started to look for possible “work from home” positions with a large Fortune 14 company. I found a job, it looked promising, and after a quick prayer, I applied to it. It seemed like a good fit for me, and the money would be very welcome. It was a good practical decision — find a good job, apply, pray the Lord blesses it, and then let it go.

The problem, though, is that my life is not my own anymore. No, I do not get to make these decisions. I know that sounds weird, but it is the way it is. I gave my life choices to the Lord, and I surrendered my plans in order to have Him lead me. I believed that my life was to be about ministry, so that meant that the jobs I take have to align with His will for my life, and for His plan for ministry. I cannot just do any job anymore. No, I have to choose wisely, and the job has to facilitate His will for my life, and it has to develop me in such a way that it brings me to that place of His design.

My life has been this way for the past six years. Ever since I started on my own, my life choices have been prayed over, carefully considered, and then only when there was a strong sense of peace, did I step out in faith. It was my desire to ensure that every choice made would be a good one. I wanted to give myself the benefit of the doubt, the best possible chance for good success, and I figured one sure-fire way to do it was to pray about it. I mean, really PRAY ABOUT IT.

In true form, my approach has been successful. Every job I have held thus far has blessed my life. Sure, they were not always peachy-keen, perfect, and peaceful, but they worked for me, contributed to my well-being, and generally, helped me get over the hurdles, the obstacles, and the challenges in my life. I felt that each position moved me forward, one-step at a time, to the next level or path. Each job seemed to leap-frog me one step closer to His will.

Now, I am finishing my PhD, and I am at the point where I can see that I need to get from where I am today to where He intends for me to be tomorrow. I see the place — over there — but I cannot figure how to get there. I have looked, I have analyzed, and I have strategized ways to get me from A to B. In every thing, though, I simply find myself stranded, stuck where I am, without any way to move. Still, I sense this need to go, this urgency, but there is no open door, no magic draw bridge that is preparing my way. So I stand here, looking onward, and wondering how things will be. I am questioning how much longer I can make it here without any change or new avenue to pursue.

Passing the PEACE Test

After panicking last week, taking a step of faith that I now think was in haste, I realized that my decision to apply to a particular job didn’t pass the “peace test.” It was a good idea, don’t get me wrong, and it seemed like a really good opportunity (it still does), but somewhere between applying and living life, my peace, my sense of peace, just disappeared. I started to panic. I started to feel uncomfortable. I started to worry, to doubt, to fear. I lost my sense of peace, of calm, of rest. I began to stir, to fixate on the job itself, and as I did that, I began to feel the pressure to perform, to pursue something that, while not in and of itself bad, just didn’t seem “right” for me.

The peace test is for me the key in knowing that I am on the right track. When I feel that my peace has been lost, I know almost immediately that I have done something wrong. Perhaps it is sin. Perhaps it is a decision that is leading me off-track, down a rabbit trail or into a way that He doesn’t want me to go. If I take care, I can usually right myself fairly quickly. I spot the problem, reverse my tracks and high-tail it out of there. Yes, I run back to where I had peace. I say, “Oops, sorry. Wrong turn!” and I head back to where I had that peace. Joyce Meyer says that there is no shame in admitting you made a mistake. I have done this before, once before (most recently) when I took a job as a Business Analyst, and after three killer weeks, realized that I was in a good job (paid well, good benefits, and offered promotion), just one that didn’t fit me well. I had to go to the Director, tell her of my mistake, and turn myself around. It was an awful mistake, but the truth is that I felt such amazing relief. I knew in an instant that I had hit the skids, and when I confessed it, and I did the difficult work of admitting my error, I was released from the suffering, the torment, and the pain. Yes, I have been there before, and one thing is certain, I don’t intend to go there again (Lord, help me!)

The peace test for me, therefore, is key to knowing whether I am doing what the Lord wants or whether I am doing what I want. It is clearly a way for me to test, to know, if I have taken a wrong turn, if I have gone the wrong way. I can use it, along with prayer (of course, always prayer), to help guide me. The Holy Spirit is the One who brings us peace. The Word says that Jesus is our Prince of Peace, and as such, the Helper brings to us the Peace of Christ daily in order to be comforted in this world. When we seek His peace, His place of peace, then we feel comfortable, safe, secure. Our situation may not improve, but our inner sense of wellness, well-being will take on the shape of His nature and character. It is a fruit of the Holy Spirit that we demonstrate or show His peace to the world. Thus, in order to do that, we must walk in peace always. This means peace within and peace without — peace — in all areas of our life. I want to be at peace, to be free from stress, to be happy and to be content in all areas. I want to know that the work I do daily (as in my job) is not only peaceful to me, but that it gives me an opportunity to share that peace with others. I want to feel His peace, His sense of peace, as it comforts me. As I am comforted, so then can I comfort others. If there is no peace in my life, then I cannot bring peace to my situation.

Today, my peace is restored. I feel at peace, and I feel comforted in the knowledge that even though my situation hasn’t changed, my attitude toward it has changed. I am in this place where I realize that I am not to do anything to change my life (at this point in time). I am to wait. I am to be patient. I am to allow the Lord to open the right door, in the right time, and for the right purpose. I don’t necessary like waiting, but when I run out and try all the doors, all I end up doing is causing myself frustration. No, I have to patiently wait and to watch and to see what the Lord intends to do in my life this good, good day.

Update Today

As things would turn out, I guess you could say, “I am good.” It has been a difficult week, a very long semester, and now I am beginning what could be the most exciting summer of my entire life. Yes, I am ready to begin my research project, and I am excited to begin the process. I still am unsure of how I will go about doing it, but this week, I hope to get it all squared away. I mean, I hope to wrap my mind around what I am doing and why, and then take that bold step of faith into original research. I know I can do it, I just feel like I don’t really know what I am doing, at least, not yet.

My prayer is to complete my student grading today or tomorrow, post final grades, and then put my semester at GCU to bed. Once this task is finished, I can focus 100% on my dissertation. I know the Lord has me well covered, so I have to release this process to Him. I have put off working on it this entire month. I had my schedule set so that I would be finished and ready to present, but here I am not even ready with my first chapter. I know the Lord will prevail — there is nothing that He intends to do — that He doesn’t bring to completion. I must rest in this process as well. So be it, Lord, so be it.

My Plans - What I Know Now

My plans for fall seem to be fixed at this point in time. I have decided to let this all go, and accept what has been provided to me. This means that right now, I will teach at my two local schools. Should the Lord open these online opportunities up, then I will add in whatever courses He thinks I can handle. Otherwise, I am settled. I am not going to look for anymore work at this time, and I am going to allow Him to provide for me. He knows my needs, my wants, and my desires. Furthermore, He understands my financial situation, and whenever I start to focus on it, like plan or purpose toward it, then I become overly panicked and stricken with fear and doubt. If I rest in His sufficiency, then my peace returns. As weird as that may seem, it just tells me that this is an area that the Lord is handling, and He has not said to me, “Go for it, Carol. Resolve this on your own!” No, He has control over my income and my outgo (expenses). He knows what will be in time, and He knows how He will provide for me. I don’t have to fixate or worry about it. Not now. Not ever.

Furthermore, my plans for summer are fixed as well. My hope was to take a trip to visit my good friend down south. I am waiting to see if this is to be, but for now, I am letting this go because it is something I cannot really plan at this time. If the Lord wants me to visit, so be it. He will provide a way for me. If He chooses to stall that visit, then He has a plan in mind that will be even better for me (for us).

Lastly, I have been really frustrated with my weight loss plan. I am sticking to my diet, and I am working out every other day (giving myself a break in between days). But so far, I have seen little improvement in my weight. I do feel better, overall, and I do see body changes, but they are minimal right now. I have to let this go as well. I cannot fixate on my workout routine, diet, and desires to lose weight when I have other, more pressing needs at hand. Still, I am not giving up or in. I am resting in this approach. Trusting the Lord to provide for me. He is good to me, so very good to me.

Moving On, Getting Ready

It is funny how some days I write about being so ready to go, and then the next day, I cry out about how I am stressed or feel so unwell that I cannot think straight. Was it like this for the Children of Israel? Did they complain and grumble before the Lord? Yes, they did. I pray that I am not grumbling about this now, that I am trying very hard to remain faithful, to be content in all things. I know I am not, though. I know that I am grumbling because I cannot see His provision, His hand clearly. I feel it. I know it is there, but I am still struggling with seeing the outcome. I want to see the sea part. I want to see His handiwork, and yet I know that I can see His goodness all around me. I can see His grace as it is imparted to me each new day.

One thing is for certain, I am ready to go. I mean, I do feel ready to go. I am no longer holding on to my life here in Phoenix. I am no longer stressing over it. I cannot control it. I cannot make things turn out the way I want them to turn out. I am limited in my abilities. I am limited in what I can and cannot control. I have to let this all go. I have to rest in His sufficiency and in His provision. If He chooses to lift me up, then I will be lifted up. If He chooses to keep me down, then I will remain down. It is up to Him now to move me, to make this happen, to see His will come to pass in my life.

I relent, Lord. I stop trying to make my own way, and I accept and agree to your way. 100% your way. 

Dear Lord,

As I come to this point in my life, I realize that these next steps are planned and purposed by you. This means that I am at the threshold of the door that will lead me to the next phase of my life. But, that threshold comes with a price. I cannot have any control, any authority, or any work in it. I must accept what you offer me, without complaining or grumbling. I must accept and agree to your provision, your security, and your will — there can be no other way now. It is all up to you. I understand what you are asking of me, and I accept the parameters that you have set for me. I am ready, Lord. I am ready to go where you send me this good, good day.

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