May 14, 2016

The Mercy of the Lord

It is a warm and rather stuffy day here in Phoenix. Yes, the skies are muddled, and there is a sticky feeling to the air outside. The high today is expected to hit 99, so a wee bit lower than was predicted earlier in the week. I am thankful for this small mercy, but I do wonder why it feels so icky outside right now. It is 90, with 18% humidity, so really, it shouldn't feel so uncomfortable. Maybe it is just me, sigh. I wouldn't assume anything less these days...

Progress Report

I made great progress on my project yesterday. I sat down around noon, and by 6 p.m. I had revised my chapter 1, and completed a fair portion of my chapter 2. I still need to revise/edit the bulk of chapter 2, but the content is already written, so nothing needs to be created from scratch. I will revise and reevaluate what I have today, and with the Lord's help, I should be able to knock out chapter 3 tomorrow. I know I will need to rewrite, revise and add more after my professor reads it next week, but I should be able to do that during the last two weeks of the month. This means, praise God, I am on track to defend in early June. Of course, that is barring no uncertain circumstances that would prevent me from passing my proposal defense.

Right now, I feel confident that I can do this project proposal, and that I can pass my defense. I mean, other than being a bit uncertain about the theoretical framework and some of the design of the study, I do know my subject well. I have been studying, reading about, and writing about the megachurch and churches in general for the past three years. Furthermore, I know my former field -- website design -- and I understand, the general and specific applications, tools, and development trends in computer-mediated technology well. In short, I know my study. I feel comfortable proposing to my committee, and furthermore, I doubt seriously any of them really understands the nuances of technology the way I do. I don't mean to belittle their background, but they are all in their 60s, and as COM professors go, they know their stuff -- really, really well. I just mean that I am writing about a niche from an organizational and business perspective, and since I have practical experience, I do feel qualified to discuss my subject in detail. I am praying, of course, that they understand what I am proposing because no matter how well I know my subject, if I haven't clearly expressed the need or rationale for the study, it simply will not fly by them.

Lord, please give me the green light to complete this study!!

Right now, I feel really good about my progress. Just last week I thought I would never make it through to this point in time. I thought I would have to start over, and in fact, I started to do so. I considered switching my focus to digital storytelling, which is a keen interest of mine, but in the last minutes of panic, the Lord convinced me to use what I have and move on. Yes, I let the temptation to start over pass by me, and instead, I simply tackled what I had, the grit and dirt of it, so to speak so that I could move on.

My plan for today is settled. My path is secure. I am walking my way toward graduation, and I know what I have to do. I need to complete my study, that is all. I need to walk through the trial, and trust the Lord, to provide whatever is needed to get me from here (where I am today) to where I need to be tomorrow. He is good to me. He knows the stakes. He will see me through it. I know Him. I know His will. I know the plans He has for my life, and I know that it is in His Name, and with His power that I accomplish this task, this goal, this last assignment. He is good, so very good to me! Selah!

Plans and More Plans

Yesterday, I enjoyed a blessed conversation with my sweet love. Yes, I enjoy it so much when we get to talk with one another. I have missed him something fierce these past couple weeks, however. His work has changed his shift, so we only get to spend time together on the weekends. I guess it is true what they say -- absence does make the heart grow fonder. Well, whether that is true or not, I have to say that my heart feels his absence greatly, so when we do get to spend quality time in conversation, it is a blessed thing, a truly blessed thing.

It is funny, really, to think about how the Lord has provided such a wonderful companion for me. In truth, I have a number of people who are supportive of me and my journey through PhD Land. But, the Lord knew that I needed a particular type of supporter, someone who would be there for me in the trenches, in the tough moments, and who would stand by my side and cheer me on. The Lord has given to me such a fine man, a good man, someone who is my constant friend. I love his dependability, his sturdiness, and his dedication to my pursuits. He is just as convinced of God's plan for my life as I am, and in that, well -- there is sweet, sweet blessing. Yes, it feels good to have a friend who believes in you, in your purpose, and in your calling as much as you do.

So last night, we were chatting away (as we usually do), and we were discussing the differences between men and women, in particular, how they communicate (or don't) with one another. I think we both have a good handle on our communication style. In fact, I would say that we both understand our foibles really well. In truth, I am the first to admit that I am not a good communicator. I do try very hard, but I am a woman, and when "push comes to shove," I act like a woman. Yes, it is true. I mean, when I am hurt, I tend to do what women do, I withdraw. When I am upset, I let that anger simmer. When I am sad, I cry. Pretty much, I act just like a woman (go figure!)

He will often tell me how men react to certain situations, and in that way, I have come to learn how men and women get into the trap of mis-communicating with one another. Even when two people love and deeply care for one another, they tend to mis-communicate at times. The best of intentions and all, still can cause riffs between husband and wife, boyfriend and girlfriend, brother and sister, etc.

As we were discussing some scenarios, we both agreed that the best part about being a man and a woman was our difference. In this day and age, women are encouraged to be more manly, and men are encouraged to be more feminine. In fact, I was sharing one of my faults with my friend about this very topic. I said that when I am sad or hurt, I often expect men to behave toward me the way a woman would act. Women intuitively know what to say and do when someone is hurting. We hug, we have empathy, we say soothing things, we coddle, we nurture, etc. We do what we were designed by God to do -- to love the hurt away. Men, on the other hand, tend to respond differently. They listen, and then then fix, or attempt to fix the problem. Men want the problem to go away, so they perform some work, solve some problem, or just address it as if it will obey by voice command. The problem that men and women have, and the problem I was sharing was that I often will expect the men in my life to behave the way the women in my life do. This is unfair, but also, it rarely works to make me feel better. Instead, I have to remember my audience. It is like when I teach writing to my students. I tell them to address their audience correctly. If you address your audience incorrectly, there is a good chance that they will miss the point of your essay. If you choose the wrong audience, they may not pay attention or they may walk away. Think of it this way...
Suppose you are going to see a comedy performed by a local troupe. The play is a comedy, so you have been told. It is a riotous and hilarious comedy, and you are prepared to laugh your socks off. You show up, are shown to your seats, and you excitedly wait for the opening act. The curtain rises, and the actors appear on stage. Your heart is ready to relax, to enjoy some fun, but instead of hearing funny lines, and seeing comedic gestures, the play is being performed with intense dialog, complete seriousness, and filled with tears and bleak sadness. The story is funny, however, and you can tell that it is supposed to be a comedy, but the delivery, the language, the nonverbal and verbal language, is framed wrong. You quickly realize that this isn't a comedy at all, instead it is a tragedy, and you are ill-prepared to handle it.
The same thing happens when we choose the wrong audience for our communication. Now, I am not saying that men and women should never talk or share deep, personal or sad information with one another. I am simply saying that when we expect one thing from our husband, but receive another, we will be disappointed. Instead, if we understand that our sad news will be responded to with factual and helpful guidance from the men in our life, we can pick our words and alter our approach to suit. So for example, if I am sharing some sad news with my boyfriend, lets say, I need to remember my delivery. If I want him to fix the problem, then I can just share it as is because that is what I will more than likely get from him. If, however, I want him to comfort me, then I need to tell him this is what I need. I need to say something like this:

"Honey, I am feeling really sad today. I don't know why, but I just need a hug from you."

In this example, I have just told my boyfriend how I am feeling, and I addressed the mystery of the cause. I didn't ask him to fix the way I was feeling, but instead, I told him what I needed from him. Hug me. Tell me you love me. Hold me.

The key here is that I could have shared my entire story with my girlfriend, and I would have received the same response. I just wouldn't have to tell her to hug me. She would have given me empathy, kind and loving words, and then a warm response - a hug. End result would be the same.

My friend said to me that often men just need to be told what to do, and I think he is correct. I am not saying that they need to be treated like children, scolded or commanded, but rather they need to be instructed -- directed, perhaps is a better word -- so they can respond correctly. Some men are naturally empathetic, and in truth, all men and women are born with compassion and kindness as a characteristic (after all, we were created by a loving and compassionate creator). Some men are more in tune than others. Still, I think if women would go the distance and help their husbands understand what they need and want, it would benefit them greatly. We don't do that well, mostly because of our upbringing or our childhood relationship with our father. If we had a good childhood where we could go to our Dad's and share our hurts, then we are more than likely able to share our hurts with our husbands as well. But if our Dad's were distant, mean or not caring, well, then we tend to view all men through the same lens.

As I was sharing my views on communication between the sexes, I realized a couple important things. First off, I realized how very much I miss having a loving companion to share my life (intimately, deeply, and in devotion). Second, I miss being married, in general. Third, and most important, I miss the personal connection of being near by a man, physically. I just miss it something terribly. Moreover, I miss my role as wife. I miss keeping a home. I miss making special meals for my husband, keeping my house in order, doing things for him. I miss that whole "home life" thing. I miss being a wife, a mother, a lover. The whole shebang. And, while I know that God has a wonderful plan for my life, I realize just how much I am fitted to this role. I take to it like a "fish to water." Even though I love my life as a teacher, my career as a professor, there is no role I wish to live out than the role God created me for initially, and that is as a helper to my husband. My prayer is, of course, to be able to resume that role some day soon. I know there is a lot of unknown between today and that future day, but I do believe it is coming soon. I do believe God has ordained my relationship, blessed it, and made it fruitful for this very purpose. Of course, I must be patient. I must wait. He has this timing thing all worked out. Until then, I will wait, and I will enjoy the sweetness and the blessing of what He has provided to me today.

The Lord Gives Us What We Need

I read something the other day that aligns with this post. I read that often God doesn't give us what we want, but rather He gives us what we need. I remember when I was in the midst of my separation from my husband. I was so deeply wounded by his actions and his lack of response toward me and our son. I was bound and determined to be free from what I perceived as a miserable and difficult life. In truth, not all of my married life was awful. It was difficult, yes. It was a challenge, definitely. But, it would be unfair to characterise the entire 30 years as awful. I did have some good times. There were points of laughter and some enjoyment. The sadness came at the end, when I realized that after the long haul of sticking it out, my husband didn't love me nor want to remain married to me. It came on hard when I had to accept the fact that he had moved on, found another lover, another woman to fill his needs. I had to accept that I was replaceable to this man. I was not the woman he wanted to spend all his days with, and as such, I was casually thrown away.

In the months that followed, I was staunchly defiant when it came to the subject of remarriage. My friends and family members would say "maybe some day, the Lord will bring you another husband," as if that would solve all my problems. The one's who said it most were the one's who were married to the love of their life, who had solid and happy marriages. I understand now that they only wanted me to experience the joy of marriage, much the same way they had experienced it. They wanted me to be happy, and to them, that meant being married to a better man.

I blogged about how these comments hurt me deeply, how I was never going to consider marriage again. I was avowed to remain single for life. Single, hear me. SINGLE.

As the Lord would lead and guide me, in time, I found myself praying to be "open" to the idea of marriage. I was still set on being single, being wholly devoted to God alone. Yet, in my weakness and frailty, I would pray the Lord's will be done. I would ask for His best. I would pray for His comfort, His protection and His security over me. As I prayed, the Lord delivered. He provided for me. He comforted me. He kept me safe. Then one day, I heard His voice say to me that I need to consider marriage again. I was like "Nope, no way. No!" He persisted and in time, yes, I relented. I said I would consider it, but only if He provided someone to me. I felt that I couldn't be trusted to pick a mate, not a second time, for sure. The Lord assured me that He would provide to me what was best. And, then silence. Nothing. No change. Until...

It will be two years this June since I have been in this special, unique, and wonderfully weird long-distance relationship. Yes, I know. It is too weird. How can you be in a relationship with someone you have never met. Why is it this way?

I guess it just depends on how you view "relationships" and what type of relationship you consider significant. For some, sex is the first thing they view as a serious step in a relationship. So, having sex is first and foremost the objective. It might be weeks, months, yes -- even years -- but the end goal is to have sex, move in together, and be a "couple." For Christians, however, sex outside of marriage is forbidden. It is not to be, so the relationship must be based on mutual attraction, affection, and the willingness to wait for intimacy until marriage. Still, in traditional approaches, couples meet and spend time together (physically, in proximity), and then they move toward marriage (intention, commitment, engagement, and then marriage). This is how it is done. Even in long-distance or virtual relationships (online dating, for example), typically, after a short period of time, the two people meet face-to-face to see if they are "compatible" and want to pursue the relationship further. It is done this way, and I know a number of family and friends who have met their husbands or wives through the Internet. Most are married now, happily to boot. Still, it is considered not "normal" to spend time with someone virtually, never really being close to them physically, and act as though you are a couple.

I cannot really explain how I feel or why my situation is different. It just is. Perhaps it is because of what God is calling me to do -- His plan and purpose -- for my life. I know that this long distance relationship has worked for me, worked well for me. I have just finished the most grueling program of my life, and I am now down to the wire, writing my dissertation and about to graduate. Through it all, I have relied on, felt the love and the support, of my special friend throughout my program. I have needed his support, really needed it.

In turn, I have done the same for him as he completed his education. I guess you could say that we shared a unique journey, and as a result, we grew closer together because of it. All I can say is that the Lord truly did give to me what I needed. Had He chosen to give me what I wanted, well, I can only think what a mistake it would have been. No, the Lord gave me the best part. He gave me what I needed, right when I needed it most. He blessed me with mercy, goodness, and a wonderful man that has changed my life, the way I interact, the way I communicate, and the way I understand the world around me. I have been blessed, truly blessed.
Preparing for the Day

As I close this blog post, I cannot help but feel encouraged as I consider the next steps the Lord has in mind for me. I am ready to move on. I am ready to tackle the next agenda items on my long to-do list. Moreover, I am ready to take those next steps, to begin to think, "to consider," what might be after I graduate. I am ready to consider a life that is no longer alone. I am ready to think more about this, move toward this direction, but only as the Lord leads and guides me. I am ready. I am ready, but in His time and with His provision. Until then, I focus on the tasks assigned to me. I focus on what I must do next.

Lamentations 3:22-23 English Standard Version (ESV)

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
His mercies never come to an end;
They are new every morning;
Great is your faithfulness.

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