May 9, 2016

Feeling Free Today

It is Monday, and I am alive, awake, and already feeling free today. I cannot really explain what has happened, other than to say that I had a good day yesterday, and today, I simply feel free (as in relaxed, ready to go, rested). I slept well, for one thing, and I took care of some important business, for another. Furthermore, I made some progress on my proposal, even if I am not happy with the result. I am happy with what I have done, but I am not confident that I am writing my proposal correctly. Hopefully, I will get a chance to discuss my progress with my chair this week. Lastly, I was able to confirm the pickup of my son's car from the repair place. This is one small burden off my plate, for certain. I am hopeful to get this resolved later today (PTL!)

Coming to the End

I have been thinking about my life a lot lately, and I was blessed to spend time on Saturday watching my colleague graduate from Regent. It was cool to be able to witness the commencement ceremony. I loved the fact that I was able to watch it on streaming video and see her receive her award. She is the first of our group, our cohort, to be able to graduate, and she leads the way for the rest of us. She has worked extra hard to finish in the shortest amount of time possible. God helped her navigate through this process, and He held her as she struggled to be Mom, teacher, wife, and student. With a special needs child, she was strapped to finish this program, yet God proved her stronghold, and in His wonderful way, He enabled her to do what most thought was impossible. God is so good to us, so very good to us.

It was really a lark that I found the online video link. I was over on Regent's website on Saturday, and frankly, I was feeling less than enthusiastic about my day. My work was suffering, and I was feeling miserable, burdened, and so oppressed. I had done some praying and confessing earlier in the morning, so when I found the video link, I casually pressed play. As the video started, the very first person I saw was my friend. There she was, smiling and so happy, and I was immediately drawn into the proceeding. As the video played, I saw the processional, my professors, and other people I recognized. It was like I was there -- there with them -- and my heart just started to soar. God knew that I so needed to see that ceremony on Saturday. He provided a way for me to see what was waiting for me at the end of my very long race. More so, I needed to see what the ceremony looked like because lately I have lacked motivation to finish, and I have even thought about quitting this race. I spent almost three hours watching my friends and others graduate. I listened to the speakers, the musicians, and the people gathered there to witness this special occasion. In the end, my heart was cheered, and I felt a renewed sense of accomplishment, a renewed sense of satisfaction -- a job well done -- so to speak. Even though I still have one major hurdle left to overcome, I felt so empowered to carry on, to not give up, to not give in. I felt victorious.

Then if that were not enough, I talked with my friend on Sunday (for Mother's Day). We chatted about the week, and then she shared how special the ceremony was (and the commissioning ceremony on Friday) to her, and how it really meant a lot to her to be there, to go through the experience, and to be recognized for her achievement. As she related her experience to me, I realized just how close I am to finishing my degree. That thought, rather than scare me, excited me, encouraged me, and motivated me to stay strong. She blessed me and encouraged me with her words. I felt so good, so competent, so able to do this work.

Moreover, as I processed the video itself, I cannot help to feel that I needed to hear dear Pat Robertson proclaim his blessing on all the 2016 graduates in order for the reality of this experience to sink in. I am so close, and I need to remain dedicated to this project. I cannot lose hope now. The commencement was nothing extraordinary. I've been to several over the years, and Regent's was very small. They had some moments of "oops" and a few "faux pas", but the spirit of the occasion was very clearly focused on bringing praise and honor to the Lord. I felt an immediate connection to what was taking place 2000 miles east in Virginia even as I watched the video hours after it had concluded. I guess I realized that my life was planned, purposed, and prepared by God for "such a moment as this" (Esther 4:14).

In truth, I understood that my calling, my purpose, and God's plan included my study time at Regent University. I always knew this to be true, but this weekend, the point came home to me, and I realized, I finally comprehended that God sent me to Regent to do this work for a reason. All throughout my program, I have said this statement, "God called me to study at this school. It is His plan for my life," and here I was listening to speakers and students say the exact same thing. It was like we received the same message from God -- each uniquely revealed in a personal way -- but with the same measure of intensity and determination.

You see, I have long believed that my PhD was to be used for ministry, for a very specific task the Lord had assigned to me. I studied hard, wrote paper after paper, all with this mindset. This degree was not for me, but it was for the Lord's work. As I listened to the ceremony on Saturday, I was reminded that each student, each graduate, whether bachelors, masters or doctoral, believed the exact same thing. We all were there for the same reason -- to graduate and to do the work the Lord had called us to do. My purpose and His plan for my life congealed. In a short span of time, I realized that my life's work, this transforming work of getting a PhD was specifically planned and orchestrated by God. In that moment, it was as if I "knew" that God would see me through to the end. There was no "maybe" involved. It was finished, done, completed -- all according to His marvelous grace. All I had to do was see the process through to the end. All I had to do was write what He inspired me to write. I immediately sensed this accomplishment, this achievement, and I thought, "I can do this work. I can do this project."

As the Lord revealed this to me, I found my mind comforted, my body relaxed, and in the end, I rested from the struggles I have endured. I gave up my need to achieve and embraced His need to deliver this outcome, to bring this process to a close. I let Him take it from my hand, and in doing so, I received great relief, a sense of joy and satisfaction as I understood that no one would complete this work except the Lord. I knew this would be the case, but I pushed, I struggled, I tried to make it all work out. I found the process thwarted at every turn until He took it from me. He simply reached down and took the project out of my hands and said to me, "I will do it. I will complete it."

With this rest, came a renewed interest in completing the research. With this relief, I felt better able to do my little part (transcribing). I felt immediate joy when I accepted His offer to do this work and to complete it to His satisfaction rather than to continue to try to make something doable on my own. In laying this down, releasing it to Him, I received the blessing of knowing that the job, the title, the degree will be conferred -- not of my hand or my own making -- but solely through His marvelous, magnificent, and majestic power, authority, and control.

It is with such relief that I write this blog today. I cannot tell you how awful I have felt these past  few weeks and months. I have felt the pain, the pressure, and the desire to perform overwhelm me. I did my best, gave it my all, but in the end, no matter what I attempted, my work fell short. It simply didn't meet the standard expected at this level. Now, I feel free. I am relieved. I am able to concentrate again, and I know that the work will be good. It will be really good.

The Lord has done this marvelous thing in my life. He has opened doors, made a way possible for me, and He has clearly shown me what to do. I have known all along that my path was through Regent University, that my path would take me through this school and then onto whatever opportunity the Lord had waiting for me on the other side. Now, I am convinced. I am to finish my work here at Regent, and in doing so, I will go on to something even more marvelous, more wonderful, and more amazing as a result. I no longer have to determine my way. I no longer am responsible for figuring it all out. I simply follow. I do the tasks, the work, and the results are in His keeping. He chooses what He desires for me to do each step of the way. It is not up to me to figure it all out. I just do what He tells me to do, and the outcome will be significant, good, and profitable. He has this all worked out according to His plan for my life, and resting in the details, is the first step to experiencing His promises for a good life. I don't have to do anything other than to be patient, to wait, and to watch as He opens the doors, leads me on, and lets me experience wonderful, marvelous, and amazing things. It is all of His grace, and His goodness. I stand in awe of Him this good, good day.

Thank you, Lord, for your blessing of peace, of rest, of joy. You have made my life good again. You have set me free from the pressure to perform, to achieve, and to graduate on my own. You have given to me the strength I need to finish strong. I am thankful, Lord, for you have made me see how much this degree is about you and not about me. It is all about you, your work, and your will -- and though you allow me to work alongside of you -- you determine the steps, the outcome. I am blessed, thoroughly and completely blessed, and I am privileged to walk, to partner, and to experience this process with you. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Getting Down to Business

It is a good day today. I am feeling better, more empowered and ready to finish my project proposal. Now, I just need to do the work, to get down to business, and do the work. I am ready to finish strong, and that means, to do what must-needs be done this week. I have to finish two chapters, my literature review and my methods section, so that my professor has something to read. I need his feedback, and hopefully, he will respond to me and schedule some time for us to talk. I am sure he will get back to me, he is good in that way, so I must be patient and keep on working until we are able to connect.

In addition, I need to take care of some things around the house, not major things, just little stuff that has been piling up for a long while. My home needs some TLC, and with Mom not able to do much anymore, it falls to me to see to it that we have what we need. I am confident that the Lord will provide for me, and I know He will show me the way to go, how to handle each and every need. The funny thing is that all last week, I stressed about my son's car. I would pray over it, ask the Lord for His help, confess my worry and fear, and in return, He would say "I have you covered." Today, out of the blue, I received two calls -- one from the Junk car company and one from the towing company. In a matter of 10-15 minutes, the car had been arranged for and picked up. I still have to go to the company site to get my check, and transfer the title, etc., but the car has been cared for and I no longer have to worry about it. The Lord did just what He said He would do -- He took care of it for me. I stressed over it, and here today, in short order, the situation, the problem was resolved. He is good, so very good to me.

I think about how He works in my life, and I realize that when I try to make things happen, to make the solution come forth, rarely does anything happen that is satisfactory. Instead, when I let Him handle all the details, the solution works perfectly. The timing is perfect, convenient, and always good as well. It is like when I get in the middle of things, nothing turns out well. But when He handles it, everything seems to fall into place. I know this is because of His sufficiency, goodness, and grace. Why can't I be patient to wait for His best?

I have decided that from this point on, I am going to let Him take all these details and deal with them. I am tired of being tired. I am tired of the stress, the pain, the pressure. Instead, I want to rest. I want to be at peace, to be filled with joy, and to enjoy my days without feeling overwhelmed anymore. I know this is the Lord's desire for me because He doesn't want me to be stressed in this way. However, it is up to me to engage my faith, to use my faith, and to stand in my faith in order for this to come to pass. I have to be actively engaged in faith -- in believing, trusting, and resting -- to experience this type of freedom.

Moving On and Ready to Begin

As I consider what needs to happen today, I stand amazed at God for His provision of strength, determination, and fortitude. I know I cannot do what He is asking me to do without His help. Furthermore, I cannot overcome this obstacle without His direct support and His guidance. I cannot do anything He asks of me without Him. He is to be the center, the focus, the ultimate point of devotion, in every thing I do, think, and imagine. When you think about it this way, you realize that with God, there are no boundaries, no limitations, and no impossibilities. In truth, my life becomes filled with unlimited possibilities -- all based on and about -- His will for my life. Thus, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. It is not about having an extra measure of strength to get through the details of the event, but rather it is knowing that all the strength, all of it from beginning to end, is possible through Christ alone. I used to think that His strength showed up only when the chips were down, only when I was at my lowest point. Now, I realize that His strength flows through me all the time. I either make use of it or I don't -- the choice is up to me. Most of the time, I have taken the "I'll do it" route, only to find that my strength has failed, I am worn to a nub, and I am about to give in. Now, I see that I never have to run down that low because my battery is always super-charged, always on "FULL" and never on "low" or empty. He is my strength. He is my provider. He is my all-sufficient guiding and protecting force. As such, I can rest in this knowledge that I have everything I need this day to complete the tasks He has set before me. I can let go, and I can do the work, and it will be done. It will be done.

I give praise to God the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, this good, good day. I give thanks and praise because He has helped me understand the source of His power, and that in this power, I can accomplish mighty tasks, amazing feats, and I can do it without relying one "iota" on my own power, my own abilities. I can do what He asks me to do. I can tackle any assignment that He has given to me. The key in all of it is that 1) He must be the agent and author, 2) He must be the focus of the research (as in His will, His work, His calling, etc.), and 3) and He must be the One to receive all praise and honor. I realize this now, that I cannot attempt any work in His name that is not 100% instigated, inspired, and informed by Him. Otherwise, the work I do is for my own sake, for my own betterment and welfare, and for my results.

My dissertation project/research is for His name and praise. I have made Him my focus, and He is the one who has inspired, informed, and instigated this process. I am to finish the work, but the Lord is the One who will do it through me. He will give me the words to write, the thoughts to think, the ideas to pursue. He will do everything through me, and it will all be to bring Him praise and honor. Thus, this good day belongs to the Lord. I say with the Psalmist:

This is the day the LORD has made; 
We will rejoice and be glad in it.
~Psalm 118:24 NKJV

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