June 4, 2016

Making Waves

It is Saturday, and the weather here in Phoenix is already at the triple digit mark. And, it is only 10:00 a.m! Oh my!! Our high today is forecast to hit near 116-117, but we won't know until around 4 or 5 this afternoon. I am so not ready for the heat, not this early in June, not yet. I woke up this morning with a pounding sinus headache. I get these headaches when it is super dry outside. Our humidity is somewhere around 5% right now, so my head just aches during these super hot and dry periods in Arizona. I was thinking today how much I want to live in a variable climate. I need change, I need clouds and rain. I need something different besides all this sun and dry heat. ACK!

My son is over in San Diego this week. Our church's high school ministry had a summer camp at Point Loma University, and my son was asked to go as part of the praise band. He gets the blessing of a week away from the heat, four days vacation at the beach, all because he is part of the band! What a lucky duck! I checked the temperature this morning in San Diego and it was foggy and 61 outside. Oh my goodness! What I wouldn't do to have a foggy day to wake up to today!
Getting Ready

It has been a good week for me. In truth, the past two weeks have been pretty good overall. I am sad that I didn't get a chance to propose my dissertation project, but I can see that the Lord had something else in mind for me. First off, I was awarded a contract for teaching a 5-week online class (praise God!), then just a week later, I was asked to teach a 7-week on campus class. These two classes will help me maintain my income level over the summer. I am thankful for the Lord's provision. This means that I have less worry between now and August 15th when I start teaching at ACU (GCU begins two weeks after). In all, He has provided a good solution to my income needs this month.

Part of me, though, worries a bit about working through the summer. I felt I needed more rest, and frankly, since I haven't been sleeping well, I thought having to go back to work so soon might not give me the full down-time I need before fall kicks in. Yet, I trust the Lord. He knows what is best for me. If this is His provision, and I believe it is so, then I must rest in it. I must accept what He offers to me. I must accept His gift, and I must let Him take care of all the details so that I can enjoy the blessing He has provided to me. Selah!

Receiving His Word

I guess it was a couple weeks ago now when I heard the Lord tell me to be patient and to wait for work to come to me. I had been praying for confirmation on a teaching job, and since I still had so many applications in play, I was hopeful that one or more would pan out before the end of May. I thought perhaps I would get that "full-time" offer, you know, and then all my worries would vanish. LOL! Instead, I was given the "wait" sign from the Lord. You know, when you pray over a solution, and all you sense is a calm command that says to your spirit, "Wait, my child, just wait!"

In the end, after waiting through April and May, none of the new job opportunities I applied for worked out (yet). I was getting frustrated about the delay, and my prayers were probably sounding a bit like a "grumble" rather than a praise. I was feeling down like "there will be no more work," which is untrue (of course), but my countenance was sullen, and I was starting to move into that "panic mode" that sometimes rushes on me. So, then toward the end of last month, I was asking the Lord for His help again, but this time, I said I was going to trust Him to provide for me. Yes, I was going to accept whatever He provided, and I was going to believe He would care for me over the long and dry (income-wise) summer. It was at this time when I heard Him say to me, "Just be patient, Carol. There will be more work. Just wait." I felt as if He was telling me to wait (again), and that I would definitely hear back on some opportunities for more work. I was getting tired of waiting, you know, but I had no choice in the matter. So rather than continue to grumble, I chose instead to be patient, to wait in "faith," and to trust in Him for His provision -- whatever that may be. It wasn't long after that I started to get this feeling that a job was about to make itself known to me. Yes, I felt certain that an offer was forthcoming. Moreover, I had promised the Lord that when this offer came to me, I would accept it -- no questions asked -- because it would be testimony, confirmation of His provision. Then, last week the first offer came as a surprise to me. I knew that I was approved to teach at OCU, but I hadn't received any word on when I might get a contract. When it came last week, it was such a blessing, such a relief. I was ecstatic to think I would be teaching a short, 5-week class this summer.. Then on Thursday, when I was feeling more confident, a second offer came totally out of the blue. I was blindsided by the offer to teach at GCU over the summer (it has never happened before). I accepted both without hesitation. I simply said, "Yes!," when asked if I could teach them.

Praise for His Provision

The Lord has made this possible for me. He has provided a way for me, and I have now a steady stream of income (a small, not huge amount) to help me ease over the weeks until my fall contracts kick in. As I think about the way that He has provided for me, I realize that all my worrying was for naught. I simply wasted precious time, time that could have been used to rest, to be at peace in all my circumstances.
“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.” ~Corrie Ten Boom
I hate worry. Worry means "give way to anxiety or unease; allow one's mind to dwell on difficulty or troubles" (DIctionary.com). When we worry, we focus more on our problems and less on the One who can solve them. Worry short-circuits our faith, and makes us vulnerable to temptation by the enemy. The enemy often preys on us when we are consumed by worry. It is at this time when we open ourselves up to doubt, and once we start to doubt the goodness of God, His provision for our life, we find ourselves sliding down a slippery slope into disbelief and despair.

Faith on the other hand is believing in what you cannot see. It is believing that God is in control even when it seems like everything going on around you is out of control. It is trusting in God, in His nature -- despite appearances. Faith powers through the doubt, stops the "worry train," and enables right thinking, time-based thinking. Faith says to us, "what is happening to me today, may not be the same tomorrow." We can hang on, persevere, and in doing so, we can see that today and tomorrow contain different outcomes. When we look forward with hope, with faithful anticipation, we can expect good things to come to pass -- even if -- the day today seems full of contradictions and unrealized expectations.

My life is a perfect example of what happens when you allow worry, fear, and doubt to consume you. I would describe myself as a "worry wart," you know the kind of person who always worried over every little thing. I have come a long, long way since the days when I was consumed by fear, consumed to the point of sickness. The Lord has healed much of that disease, and I am far more calm now, far less prone to upsets and panic attacks. Yes, I am able to calmly stand during difficult times. 

The Lord has provided His peace to me during times of great trial and stress. I have learned how to let go of many things, to trust Him completely for the big UNKNOWN, and to rest in His provision EVEN when I cannot always see it. 

A Case in Point: As an adjunct instructor, I work semester to semester, and not on a 9-month contract. This means that I receive pay for the work I perform during the semester only. When the end of the spring semester comes, and it comes early for me (at the end of April or first of May), I will have a long summer of no income (almost 3.5 months). Without the extra income that would be paid over 9-months, there is only what I have saved to get me through to the next semester (in the fall). This pattern of work/no work has been the norm for me the past three years. I have struggled with it, mostly because when the summer comes, I see my expenses mount, and with no fresh income, my savings begin to dwindle down. I become frightened of running out, of overdrawing my accounts, of not paying my bills. In truth, I panic at the thought of losing everything I have worked so hard to build since my separation and my divorce. This is why I long for the rest that comes with full-time stable work. I long for it, desire it, and deeply see the need for it. Yet, the Lord's timing has not permitted that solution to me. I have part-time work only. So over the past three summers, I have had to learn how to deal with this shortfall. Each summer has been easier, and I have to say that this past summer has been the easiest to navigate thus far. 

In thinking back, I remember my first summer without a job (in 2014). I thought I was going to die. Literally. Every day, I would be racked by fear, and I would cry out to the Lord for His help, His provision. I was in my first year of doctoral classes then, so there was no "summer work" for me to do. I thought I wouldn't make it through that summer, not without more income, yet the Lord kept my ship afloat. I survived, and I made it through my second year of doctoral study. When 2015 came around, I once again found myself in that panicked position. I prayed, but I found that I wasn't as fearful. I had His testimony of provision from the previous summer so I knew He would provide for me. Again, there was no extra work, just my second-year doctoral classes until the fall teaching semester began. 

Now, that it is the beginning of the summer of 2016, I don't have any classes to complete anymore because I am a candidate and no longer a doctoral student. I had hoped to begin my dissertation research project, but the Lord's timing placed that plan on hold. As I found myself with extra time on my hands, I struggled with what to do with myself each day. I prayed about my free time, asking the Lord to provide something for me to do. Little did I think I would receive work for the summer. No, I just assumed He would help me make it through until fall like He did the previous summers. In fact, I believed that any word I received on teaching contracts would be for fall 2016 and not for summer.  I simply had no new work on my radar screen at this time. Graciously, though, the Lord provided something for me to do, and with His provision came an extra blessing of income to help me wait patiently for the fall term to arrive. 

In this manner, and over the course of the past couple years, He has tempered me, for sure. He has taught me how to rest in Him alone. He has given me the blessing of peace of mind, comfort of soul and spirit, and blessed rest for my weary body. I am good today because He has been so good to me. I am experiencing His blessing -- not because of anything I have done -- but because of His genuine care, love and affection. I am blessed by His grace and His mercy. He has made this happen, and He is good to me. He is so very good to me! Selah!

Shifting Gears

Today is a good day, then. I am blessed, overly blessed, and I am highly favored. God's gracious hand is upon me, and that means that the plans He has for my life are blessed, good, and designed for my benefit. I praise Him today, and I cry out with the psalmist who said, 

Bless and affectionately praise the Lord, O my soul,
And all that is [deep] within me, bless His holy name.
Bless and affectionately praise the Lord, O my soul,
And do not forget any of His benefits;

Yes, let us not forget the benefits of our Lord. As we trust in Him, rely upon Him, believe and rest in Him, we must never forget His goodness, His mercy, and His marvelous grace. He is good to us. He loves us dearly, deeply, and with such firm devotion. I give Him praise today for He is good to me. He has chosen to bless me out of His bountiful mercy and goodness. I am at peace, resting in His care, and living with the knowledge that He has a great and wonderful plan for my life.

I shift gears as I think about His goodness today. I think about all that He has done for me, how He has taken what was a shambled and ruddy mess, and turned that mess into something beautiful. He has transformed me, inside and out, into something of His own design. I am made new, brand new, and each day, I have the blessing of experiencing what it means to be His disciple, His follower, His servant. I look forward to the work He has prepared for me to do, and I embrace the work now as well as the work down the road. I take heed to see that whatever I do this good day, I do it with this in mind: I am no longer my own. I belong to Him, and as such, my days and my ways are no longer mine to rule. I am to go and do His work only. I am to go and live where He tells me to live. And, I am to go and do this work wholly, completely, and without diversion (looking neither to the left or the right) as He leads, guides, and provides for me.

His name is to be praised. Blessed is the name of the Lord, my ROCK and my REFUGE! Selah!

Psalm 21 (AMP)

O Lord the king will delight in Your strength,
And in Your salvation how greatly will he rejoice!

You have given him his heart’s desire,
And You have not withheld the request of his lips. Selah.

For You meet him with blessings of good things;
You set a crown of pure gold on his head.
He asked life of You,
And You gave it to him,
Long life forever and evermore.

His glory is great because of Your victory;
Splendor and majesty You bestow upon him.

For You make him most blessed [and a blessing] forever;
You make him joyful with the joy of Your presence.

For the king [confidently] trusts in the Lord,
And through the lovingkindness (faithfulness, goodness)
 of the Most High he will never be shaken.

Your hand will reach out and defeat all your enemies;
Your right hand will reach those who hate you.

You will make them as [if in] a blazing oven in the time of your anger;
The Lord will swallow them up in His wrath,
And the fire will devour them.

Their offspring You will destroy from the earth,
And their descendants from the sons of men.

For they planned evil against You;
They devised a [malevolent] plot
And they will not succeed.

For You will make them turn their backs [in defeat];
You will aim Your bowstring [of divine justice] at their faces.

Be exalted, Lord, in Your strength;
We will sing and praise Your power.

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