May 19, 2016

Accomplished!

It is Thursday. It is May 19, 2016 — my Mom’s 83rd birthday. It is a good day to be in Phoenix. The weather is pleasant, warm and sunny, but not outrageously hot. The skies are clear, so no rain on the horizon today or through the weekend. In all, it is a good day or looks to be shaping up into a good day.

News and Notes

I completed my proposal last evening, and I sent it off to my committee chair for his review. I am excited and exhausted, all at the time. Page count is at 81, with five of those pages being references. I am missing some references — just ones I cited in the chapters — but didn’t add to the end. This is just a draft, so I have some clean up work to do still. But, I think I am going to take a break today through the weekend, to rest, relax, and rejuvenate so I can come on strong and finish my proposal and move into my defense. My prayer is that my committee chair likes my paper, likes what I have written thus far, and likes the direction I am moving in. I know I will have to rewrite these chapters, and I am okay with that process. I just want to be moving forward, taking steps toward finishing this important and necessary “next step.”

My goal is to propose sometime in the coming two weeks. I have to have permission to do it, so praise be to God, I know He will take care of this process. I am not worried or panicked about it. I am not letting negative thoughts creep into my mind. Not yet. Not now. Not ever.

I am really excited about my study design. I am really excited about the software I have chosen to use for my study. I am really excited about the whole process. It is funny, really, because a couple weeks ago I was so ready to chuck this in, to give up, to choose a different research topic. But, the Lord prevailed, and He kept me focused, and here I am — ready to begin my research. God is so good to me, so very good to me.

My next steps, after proposing, will be to begin research. I plan to do this over the summer, as the Lord enables, but for now, I will rest. There is not much I can do until I get the “go ahead” for my research. Hopefully, I will hear positive feedback in the next week or two.

Lord, you’ve got this and your plan is good. I am resting in your provision for approval and permission to take the next steps!


Some New Thoughts

Yesterday was such a good day for me, such a good day. Not only did I finish my proposal, but I made some good connections regarding my desire to move out, to be an adult again, and to live on my own. This morning, as I was taking the trash out (always), I was praying about this very thing. I said to the Lord, “Lord, I need to move out because I am ready to be an adult, ready to lead my own life, and ready to follow you.” As I articulated these thoughts, I realized that for the longest time, I wanted to move out for other reasons. I wanted to leave because I was tired of my home-life. I wanted to leave because I wanted “out” of Phoenix. I wanted to leave because I was frustrated living with my parents. These are just a few of the reasons I would use, but in truth, I never really got to the crux of the reason that mattered most. Some times when we are in the midst of difficult circumstances or trials that are particularly long-lasting, we often will want to experience change simply to stop the process, to shorten the length or duration of the situation. When we do this, we often will make poor decisions or decisions that are made in haste. So while it makes sense to tie the urgency of the need with the rapid decision, the outcome doesn’t always turn out for the best.

I started to think about this yesterday, and then again this morning. I started to think about my reasons for wanting to start my new life, for wanting to take these next steps. As I did that I realized that it is vitally important that my reasons align with the will of God. I mean, there is nothing wrong with having feelings or even using those feelings to justify actions — but — if the goal is to always remain in the will of God, then the reasons have to be the “right reasons” and not just reasons based on discomfort or an intolerance to waiting.

I find that often I think about “moving on” when I am stressed, when my Dad has said something prickly to me. It is in these moments when I think, “O, Lord, let me move out now!” But, in truth, I know that I am here for a reason, my life is where it is because He has made it so. It is for my best interest, for my good, so I have to patiently wait for Him to release me, to let me go. Now that I am resting in His provision, I realize that I will go in time. I will go when He is ready for me to go. My mindset though must align with His will, and that means that I cannot want to go for reasons other than what is His will for my life. Thus, I think I am experiencing some mental clarity, perhaps for the first time in a very long time. I am starting to think rationally, logically, and optimistically, knowing that I am not stuck, rather I am just on “hold” for a little while longer. In thinking rationally, I am taking a strategic approach to life. I am saying to myself, “Nothing is impossible with God, so all options are viable ones.” This means that I am thinking critically, evaluating these options based on their suitability and the way in which they align and support God’s will. In this way, I am choosing to look forward and say to my future, “You are not far off in the distance, you are just in the planning phase.” Yes, I am planning my future now, knowing that the decisions I make today will work together with His will to accomplish the very plans He has established for me. I am doing nothing out of selfish conceit (Phil. 2:3) or prideful ambition. No, I am resting, trusting, and waiting for the Lord to open the doors He thinks are best for me. This means that while I may experience emotional frustration, and I may feel at times like I am not moving forward, not making strides, the truth is that everything that is happening to me is happening for a reason. It is building character, helping to create determination and direction, and showing me what is God’s will and what is my own will. I am learning to differentiate between His wants and my wants, His will and my will, and in doing so, I am learning to trust Him to provide the exact thing when I need it most. Nothing but His best, that is my new motto. Nothing but God’s will, way, and work will satisfy the inner longings of my heart and my mind. He is good, so very good to me! Selah!

Plans and Other Things

So for today, I am thinking that God's timing for me is perfect. I am acknowledging that the past couple years, I have been so impatient, not wanting to embrace the gift He has given to me, and rather than rejoicing in His provision, I became fixated on making my own plans and making decisions that weren't in my best interest at the time. Of course, thanks be to God, He didn't allow a lot of those decisions to come to pass. No, instead, He simply permitted me the option of "flexing my muscles" so to speak, but He didn't let jobs or other ideas come to pass. He has kept me in this slow and steady mode, on simmer, for a time now. He knows this is best for me, He knows that I need time to finish my degree, and no matter how anxious I become over the details, He does know what is best for me.

It is weird, really, how this mind shift thing works. For example, I was just thinking about my income, or lack thereof, as I was writing the previous sentence. I was thinking how God has me working part-time as adjunct for a reason. I believe that reason is to complete my PhD. Furthermore, I am not working this summer for a reason. I don't like the fact that my income is reduced to zero or that my expenses will mostly deplete what I have in my accounts. This bothers me, worries me, troubles me. Yet, the Lord has not provided a second job to me. He has not alleviated the problem, solved it with more income. He has kept me steady, right where I am, and I have to believe that this is for a reason as well.

My Dad auto-deducts my monthly rent from my account on the 15th and the 30th of the month. He tells me when he is going to do it, but the anxiety over it, always causes me stress. I thought about how as the months go on, my accounts will dwindle. This will cause great stress for me as the summer draws to a close. My normal response is to panic. My normal response is to complain to the Lord and ask Him to solve the problem -- aka -- bring me more income, a full-time job, etc. Yet, the Lord doesn't do that, He doesn't relent. He just tells me that I am well-covered.

So today, as I thought about this fact again, I considered two options: Option 1 is to do what I always do, and that is to complain to the Lord, and to beg Him for more income, a better job, etc. Option 2 is to do something different, to ask the Lord to resolve the tension, to provide a way for me to survive through the circumstance in order to achieve His will.  Thus, one option focuses on the lack of provision as the solution to the problem. The other option, looks to the needs from an internal perspective recognizing that if I am where I am supposed to be (aka, working part-time), then there is reasoning to support this fact. I am to wait, to be patient. Therefore, in order to be patient and to wait, I have to ask the Lord to help me do that while I am right where I am. In short, rather than demand that God "give me a way out," I am pleading for a way to "remain fixed, to remain firm until the Lord is ready to move me." I guess it is a mindset shift that looks to the Lord as all-knowing and all-powerful rather than as a machine that grants requests. It is more that I see Him now as being the instigator, the initiator of my life and the plans and purposes He desires for me. He knows what is best, thus I need to trust Him to provide what is best for me.

In analyzing this new way to consider my troubles, I see the following:
  1. I am unable to change my circumstances at this point in time
  2. I am unable to alter the timeline
  3. I am unable to solve this problem
My response needs to recognize several things:
  1. God is the author and finisher of my faith (my life, journey, walk, etc.)
  2. He is in control of these details
  3. He is able to smooth the way
  4. He can help me withstand the trials
  5. He can provide grace and favor to me so I can withstand the trials
Therefore, my prayer today is for grace and favor in this situation. I need grace from my debts, grace from my needs, grace from the very things that cause me stress. I need everyone, my Dad, my family, and others around me to extend grace to me so I can not be stressed over this situation. In this way, while the problem doesn't go away, the intensity of the problem does. In short, I still will have little income to see me through to the end of summer, BUT with less emphasis and stress placed on that fact, I can endure and patiently wait until I start working again in fall. Yes, it is a different way to look at the problem. It is a different way to consider "going" through the problem.

With this new perspective in view, I realize that I can think about my life and see options through new lenses. In fact, I can look at my life as planned and prepared by a loving God or I can look at my life as a set of unrelated and unremitting errors, mistakes, or choices that were designed to confound and confuse me. I can see this life as God's design or as the design of my enemy. I am choosing to see my life as designed and controlled by God, therefore, the options are all God-breathe, provided, and ordained. So long as I wait. I must patiently wait. I must rest, rely, and let Him lead me, provide for me, and guide me. It is not up to me to figure this all out. No, it is up to God to reveal it to me, in His time, and in His way. I am to look to Him as the author of all revelation, and in doing so, I will be able to see options and doors that were formerly hidden from me. It excites me to take this new approach, to think of all the possibilities with God rather than to look at all the negativity around me. I see my God has being able to do anything that serves His Kingdom purpose and plan, but also that means that serves His purpose and plan for my life too. My God is able, more than able to accomplish what concerns me this day. His will be done, His way come to pass. Always, His best. Always, His best.

Heath and Lifestyle Changes

I haven't blogged lately about my progress with my diet/lifestyle changes, mostly because my workouts stalled when I started working full-steam on my proposal, but also because my weight has not gone down (after an initial loss of 1-2 pounds). I've been feeling so depressed about my weight lately, and with my clothes getting tighter and more uncomfortable on me, I was thinking I was going to have to go out and purchase new items for summer. Instead, I made the decision to keep on plugging away and to change my approach somewhat. I've blogged about using Atkins before, and how I was able to lose 20 pounds (over a year) by cutting my carbs to less than 25g per day. However, I got burnt out on Atkins so I have been trying other methods, other approaches, but all without success.

Yesterday, I prayed over my problem, and I sought a solution from the Lord. I mean, I said, "Lord, I give up. I've tried other approaches and nothing is working for me. I either do not lose the weight or I gain more. I need your help." I felt the Lord say for me to try Atkins again, but this time, to stick to the program as closely as possible. In truth, the last couple times I tried it without success, I had modified the program so I didn't have to be so restrictive on carbs. I wasn't willing to go without my goodies, my sweets. This time, though, I felt the Lord saying that I have to be disciplined, at least for the first couple weeks in order to get my body into ketosis (or fat-burning mode).

Well, today, I started. I had scrambled eggs for breakfast, and I am about to go make myself a salad for lunch. I am going to stick to my 25g max and drink lots of water to see if I can move my weight down, even a couple pounds over the next week or so. I need to do something. I need to feel better, and for me, psychologically feeling better is just as important as physical feeling better.

I found this cool calculator online that figures out your macro-nutrients for you. Basically, in nutritional circles macros are important to understand. You need to grasp how the foods you eat contribute to your body's ability to process carbs, proteins and fats. So my macros for this next 6-9 months of lifestyle change are as follows:

  • 1491 kcal Daily Calorie Intake
  • 25g Carbs (7%, 100 kcal)
  • 94g Protein (25%, 376 kcal)
  • 113g Fat (68%, 1015 kcal)

These are my numbers and are based on my current height/weight and body fat estimate. They aren't hard and fast because I didn't use a metabolic test to determine my BMI or BRM. However, they are a good guideline for me to follow based on what I think is realistic. If I follow these guidelines, I should lose about 3 pounds per month without really doing anything other than changing my diet or the foods I eat. Add in moderate exercise (yes, still using Jillian Michael's) and I should not only lose the weight, but also build lean muscle mass.

I've been tracking my progress on MyFitnessPal, but now will switch to Atkins, which tracks net carbs better. The key with carb counting is to do the math and understand what is a net carb (versus a regular carb). Carbs are made up of fiber, so you can to deduct fiber and sugars to get the net carbs. 25g of carbs is really netcarbs, and not the total carb count. Anyway, I will use Atkins because it is already setup with a database that does this for you.

My goal is to lose 25 pounds overall -- by some point in time. For now, I will be happy to lose around 5 so that my clothes fit me better. But long-term weight loss will benefit me in other ways, so that is my goal.

Some Closing Thoughts

As I consider my life today, I let go of the impatience that has caused me such stress. I am ready to relax, rest, and rely on God for His provision. This means that while I may not like everything about my position today, I realize that with this provision there are good things, very good things, about it. There are trade-offs too, and those trade-offs may not look perfectly good, in my view, that is. But, I realize that if God designed this opportunity, then the trade-offs I am encountering were carefully considered and determined by Him to not be strong factors in His decision. What I mean is this: I work as an instructor, and as an instructor, there are great blessings in this role. I love what I get to do, I love my job. However, there are trade-offs, to being a teacher. One is the lack of pay. Another is the uncertainty of the profession (provision, placement, promotion, etc.). But the positives outweigh the negatives. Longterm, working as an instructor has great benefits for my health and well-being. Also, longterm, this career will facilitate the Lord's will for ministry by giving me great freedom to go and do His work (travel, for example). Thus, the initial negatives will give way to future positives.

This thinking means that I have to look forward to the future, and not base my feelings or my understanding based on present circumstances. I cannot allow the present to say to me, "This is not going to work. This is a bad decision. This is a poor choice for a career." Instead, I must allow the future to speak and to say, "This was a great decision, a good choice, a wise move." I have to be forward-thinking and strategic in planning. While I may suffer from economic discomfort now, in five or more years, this will be replaced by stability and steadiness as well as opportunity to grow in ministry. God has chosen a way that keeps me connected to His will, that keeps me focused on Him and not the money. He has made me see that this way is best, for now and for my future, even if there is some slight discomfort initially. I must be patient and wait. I must be patient and let Him do what He does best. He will care for me in the middle, in the meantime, and He will make a way when there seems to be no way.

All of this thinking is to say that it has taken me a long time to come to the conclusion that 1) God knows what is best for me, 2) that His plans are always perfectly executed and for our best, and 3) His plans and provision always align with His will for His kingdom and for our lives. In this way, I realize, I acknowledge today, that I am right where He wants me to be, right in the place of His choosing, and right where He can use me to His glorious praise. He is good, so very good to me! Selah!

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