June 1, 2016

Up and Down

It is Wednesday, and that means it is the middle of the week. I cannot believe it is June 1st already. I mean, the year is half over! I am thinking back to last June and how I was getting ready to head to VA Beach for my summer residency. It was the last required residency for me, and praise be to God, my summer class was such a blast. Not only did I get to spend it with some of my best friends and colleagues, but the class itself helped me learn how to write for publication (as opposed to writing for my own interest). As a result of that class, I now have a paper submitted to a journal and pending publication this August. I learned so much about how to be a scholar, how to write for publication, and how to submit my articles to potential outlets for manuscript consideration. It was such a good experience, practical, fundamental, and of course, fun.

Now I am sitting here today thinking about my summer plans. Just last month, I had such solid plans, you know, plans to work on my dissertation and be ready to "defend" come fall. Well, my chair has been ill, and he is beyond swamped with his other work, and dissertation proposals have been put on the back burner. It is unfortunate in some ways, but in other ways it is fortuitous. I mean, I get my summer off to rest, and this means that I am "free" to do whatever the Lord leads, guides and provides for me to do. I had wanted to move onto my dissertation, especially after working so hard to submit three chapters mid-May. However, I don't hold the times and epochs as He does, so I have had to let this go. I have had to let the timing of my defense go. It has been difficult for me to sit back and say, "Ok, Lord, I trust you on this one," but that is what I have had to do.

Some folks would say that I should fight for this end, push through it, demand my way. I cannot do that without His permission, and for now, I have been given the "let's wait" sign. I will wait and watch and allow the Lord to do whatever He has determined is best for me. I know this is His project, His defense too, so I am not going on ahead without Him. He has a great plan for my life, a good solid plan, and I need to be able to rest in His provision. I need to be able to let Him lead me.  Lord, I am trusting you to lead this proposal, this defense. I will wait for your timing, your provision, and of course, your guidance as you prepare my way. I trust you, and I rest in your sufficiency this good, good day! Selah!

California Dreaming

Last night, I slept well. I had a good night's rest, and until about 5 or 6 a.m., I would have said I slept very soundly. However, I woke from a bad dream, and my heart and my mind where in "panic mode." This is not the way I like to wake up. No, I prefer to wake up easy, gently, and with no real care. But, this morning, I woke up angry, upset, and in a panic situation, and I thought, "This day is not boding well." I mean, what is up? Why is this happening? Is this shadow cast over me for a reason? Is there some lesson to be learned from my early morning experience? I don't know, I just don't know. Let me explain...

My dream started in California. I guess I had my son on my mind as he is in San Diego with our church's high school ministry team. He and I chatted by text yesterday, and last night, he sent me a message saying that the temperature was 64 degrees. I said it was 90 here, and he said he would like to live in CA. I responded with "It takes a lot of money to live in CA" and that was the end of our conversation. I went to bed later on, tucked in and feeling fine, but woke up thinking about CA.

In my dream, I had been driving around the countryside. The skies were variable, cloudy with part showers and part sunshine. The breeze was lovely and cool. I had a jacket on, so it must have been one of those cool late spring days. I was thinking I was up in Humboldt county or somewhere near the ocean. I really just remember the last part of the dream where I was sitting in a restaurant. I was waiting to meet someone, so I was eating dinner on my own. The table I sat at was near a window, and I was eating pasta. It was nice, pleasant, and I was staring out the window at the drizzly day. The next thing I know, the waiter came over and packed up my meal. Some other people came and sat at my table, and I was being pushed out before I was finished with my meal. I got up and walked over to the cash register to pay for my meal when I noticed that my bill was $108.00. I couldn't believe that someone had charged my credit card without my knowledge. I thought, "This meal was only $16.99" but there on the receipt was a bill for over a hundred dollars. What is more there was a credit on the bill for $1100. It looked like someone had charged my card, reversed the charge and left the balance at $108. As I turned around to ask the manager about the bill, I saw my ex-husband sitting at a table with a bunch of people. I recognized him because he had a Hawaiian shirt on (he always wore those shirts when we were married). Then a man came up to me and said that the charge was for an annuity I had bought for $300. I said, "I didn't buy an annuity" and he said that my ex (by name) authorized the purchase. I told the man I didn't want anything from him, and then I turned to walk out. I shook his hand, and threw the bill for my dinner at my ex. I walked out.

As I was walking back to my hotel (I think), another man came up beside me. I didn't recognize him either, but he was walking in the same direction. I remember he had blue slacks on with a blue striped shirt and suspenders. He was an older man, but very nicely groomed. I got into an elevator with this man (and some other people) and as we started to go down, I said to him that this is why I am no longer married to my husband. I put up with fraud for so many years, and this was just another example of his behavior toward me. I was upset, angry, and feeling used. Then, just like that, I woke up.

I think the worst part of the dream was the fraud. I felt like I had been taken advantage of by my ex-husband, and that I was stuck with a huge charge to my credit card. I didn't authorize the charge, but now I was stuck having to pay for something I didn't order, want, or approve. I was angry that I was in this situation whereby I was being forced to do something I didn't want to do. What's more was the fact that I felt so alone. I was walking back along this stretch of road. Why? I don't know. I had a car at some point in the dream, but here I was walking. I was fuming and talking to myself when this man walks up to me. I talked with him briefly and then when I started to say that my ex always did this sort of thing, he turned away from me. In the elevator, all the people turned away from me. It was like they turned their backs on me.

I am sure this dream is representative of something because I haven't had any contact with my ex in a long while. I don't avoid him, per se, it is just that our paths do not cross anymore. My son stays in contact with his dad, and for the most part, my life just goes on its own merry way. This dream was strange to me, and frankly, I haven't had these types of feelings in a long time either. I am not angry with my ex at all, not anymore, yet in this dream I was very, very upset with his behavior. I was angry and I felt abused by him. Why? Why now? Why these feelings after so many years of peaceful relations between us?

Interpretation of the Dream

I sometimes do get dreams that have meaning. Lately, I would say that I haven't been dreaming at all. I know researchers tell that we dream all the time, but that we just don't remember those dreams. I typically remember my dreams. There have been times in my life when every night I had vivid dreams -- terrifying or influential -- but nonetheless memorable dreams. I don't think I have had a dream in over 8 months. I mean like no dreams at all. I thought that the reason I wasn't dreaming was because of my overworked mind due to my qualification exam studies and such. Now, I am not sure. I am wondering if I simply haven't been dreaming for a reason. Hmmm....

In this dream, I was waiting for someone. It wasn't my son. It was someone else. They were to be met somewhere else, and I was stopped at a by-way, a restaurant whereby I was eating a meal. I remember thinking that I would meet this person soon. I just was in this place to stop and get a bite to eat and then I would move on to my destination, to the place where I would meet this person.

The atmosphere was casual. I didn't know anyone, and I wasn't expecting to see anyone personally during my dinner. I was surprised to see my ex and his friends, and I was surprised that he didn't come up to me to say "hello" or introduce me to the people he was with (after the financial fiasco, I mean). It was like we were two people in the same place, but doing different -- independent things. He had his business friends, and I was sitting at a table all alone.

When the waiter came to move me on, it was as if he was instructed to do so. I didn't get to leave him a tip and I remembered thinking that I didn't have time to pack properly. I mean, finish my meal, leave him a tip (he was a good waiter). I was just handed a sack with my leftovers and a bill slip that appeared to be marked "paid."

The bill itself was so odd. It didn't tally properly, and when I tried to figure it out, I was interrupted by this older man, white haired and standing next to me in a tan jacket. He was the one who said I had purchased an annuity. I remember thinking this man was elderly, older, and seemed sweet and kind. He didn't really have a clue as to what my ex was up to, but that didn't surprise me at all. Most of my ex's business friends are very nice people.

Then there was the long walk to an unknown place. I remember walking down an off-ramp toward a road. I remember walking along with this man in his suspenders. I remember he seeming very kind toward me. I remember thinking I knew him or at the least recognized him. The elevator was different. I don't know why we went down, but I thought it was to take us to a lower level where we would keep on walking some more. The people in the elevator were women and another man. I didn't recognize them at all.

Some points of interest in this dream:
  • I am waiting to meet someone in real life. I am waiting to go and meet my good friend, the man I love, but for now that hasn't been possible. Sometimes it does seem like I am waiting and waiting and waiting, and that the Lord hasn't opened a door to permit me to go and visit, to go and spend time with him (FTF).
  • My ex and I do live in the same place (Phoenix), and we do attend the same church (SBC). We don't associate with one another anymore, and in many ways, the fact that he didn't come up to me is not strange. He will often ignore me or not see me when we are at church. Sometimes I go to a different worship venue just to avoid that uncomfortable feeling that we have to meet and say "hello" to one another.
  • The feeling of being pushed aside has been with me for a long time. I would say that I always felt this way in my marriage, and then toward the end when it was crumbling, clearly I was the unwanted woman. I was pushed over for another, and that sense of not being wanted, has stuck with me.
  • The two men are strange. One shaking my hand and appearing to be genuinely friendly, and the other walking beside me as I went to my destination. They both seemed to care about me, to want to help me or at the least, see me cared for in some way (protected, provided for, etc.)
  • The people in the elevator were by-standers who ignored me, turned away from me, but why? I am thinking because I was venting my problems, and perhaps they didn't want to hear my story anymore.
So there you have it. Some commonalities in this dream that perhaps suggest meaning. I don't know. I really don't know. I guess you could easily draw conclusions through any of these connections. I think there is some reason why I dreamed what I dreamed, but I honestly do not know what the answer is or why I was so angry. Like I said, I haven't been angry at my ex in years, and for the most part, we are reconciled to be our son's divorced parents. We have a truce, and there is no animosity between us, but in this dream, clearly there was something going on. Perhaps I just over-reacted. I am known to do this, and since this was patterned behavior, I assumed the worst rather than the best. Perhaps my ex was trying to provide some measure for me or our son, and I took it as a negative rather than a positive. I wouldn't be surprised, but then I would be surprised that he would do something like this for us. It never happened in all our 30 years of marriage, so why now? Why in a dream?

I am left scratching my head, wondering if this was just nonsense, just an unpleasant dream. Perhaps it was, perhaps it was.
Managing My Debt

It is interesting to think about how sometimes you have these strange dreams and you think they might mean one thing when they actually mean another. I was praying about my dream this morning because it was bothering me. I asked the Lord, "Lord, what does this mean?" I think the dream itself was a picture of my financial well-being. You know, my current state of affairs. I worry about my financial situation a lot, and I blog often about how I am waiting for a full-time job to open up so I can have financial security and no longer have to worry about where my income will come from semester by semester. It would be a blessing to have income regularly or at least for 9 months of the year. I could rest easier knowing that I had a year contract.

Furthermore, because of my status as a doctoral student, I have had to travel back and forth to VA many times. This has caused a burden on me financially, and I worry about my credit card debt. I also have student loans, and while I have had some scholarship money to ease that burden, I still suffer from worry over how I will pay back my loans.

Then, today, as I was out in the kitchen fixing my breakfast, my Mom was talking to me, and I was struck by the fact that she is not able to do much "thinking" anymore. She can still do some things, routine things, but she cannot care for herself anymore. I cannot help but think that in a very short time my parents will need to consider another arrangement for their care. My Mom's memory is failing rapidly, and my Dad's health is deteriorating. I am stuck in the middle of their care nightmare, so to speak, and I worry about how they will live. I mean, I know I am to go, to do the Lord's work elsewhere, but my parents need my help. I cannot leave them now, but I cannot stay either. I am stuck between two places, here and there, and I am unable to solve their care needs or my own financial concerns.

In some ways, then this dream seems to suggest that someone is looking out for me. The older gentleman who had provided the annuity to me seemed genuinely unaware of the situation. He had provided some means of support for me, and I didn't understand what was happening to me or why I was being moved on. Now I think that this dream represented my life as it is and as it will be. I know the Lord will provide for me into my future. An annuity is a financial product that when it comes to term begins to pay out regular monthly installments through the end of a person's life. I don't have an annuity, but I know people who do. My in-laws bought annuities with their retirement savings, and they lived on the monthly pay out along with their social security. My parents invested differently, and they lost a lot of money in the stock market crash of 2009. Most of their retirement is gone, so now they are facing an uncertain future with unfortunate medical care and expenses. I am still working, but I have no financial retirement at all. I have not had enough money to invest in anything, so there is no "pay out" for me to secure at this time. Still, it seemed as though someone wanted me to have this financial resource for my protection. Perhaps it will really come to pass. Perhaps this is the Lord's provision for my financial needs.

It has been a long road for me, and right now, I am content to remain where I am for a short time only. I believe that the Lord will provide for me in time. He has a plan, and that plan is good. I just don't know when I will go or where. I don't know how He will move me. I don't know what to do about my parents and their needs. Then there is my son, and while he is pretty much okay on his own, he doesn't have anyway to support himself at this time. He doesn't have his life worked out in detail, and that concerns me too. Yet, here I am and the Lord clearly is doing something in my life. He is moving me, changing me, growing me, tempering me. He is making a way for me, and I am trusting Him to lead me, to guide me, and to provide for me. I know He will. I am sure of it. I just don't know how He will do it. I just don't know when it will happen.

Letting Go of the Past

The other day, I blogged about finally being free from the past. I have been struggling with being set free for many years, and while I have experienced great freedom of sorts, I am still tied to many things here in Phoenix. First off, there are my parents. They need my care so I cannot plan any move without considering their needs. Then there is my son who still has another year to graduate from college. Last, there is my job (plural) where I teach locally. I don't have any job to go to so I cannot just up and move willy-nilly.

I have work to do here and now, and there is great work for me to do tomorrow (and into the future). I know I have to complete all the work -- regardless of the time -- before I can move to the next stage of my life. I have to go where He sends me, and I have to do the work He has prepared for me to do. I cannot say I want to go here and then choose my own way. I can only go where He leads me. I cannot go anywhere else. The funny thing is often we forget that we are yoked to Him. If He is the lead oxen, and I am yoked to Him as a junior or disciple oxen, then I cannot go where I want. He leads me with the tug of the yoke, and I must follow. I cannot pull my own way, choose my own way. No, I must let Him lead me, guide me, and in doing so, provide for me. I cannot try to have my way anymore. If I do, all I will get for my effort is a sore neck (know what I mean?)

The Lord leads me and guides me. He is my gentle Teacher. He is my gentle Instructor, and in doing so, I learn from Him. I move with Him, in stride, and I walk along side learning as He helps me. I learn from His gentle ways, and I become like Him. I cannot try to be the leader and allow Him to be the follower. It doesn't work that way. No, I must rest and allow the yoke to sit easy on my shoulders. I must walk along side of Him, letting Him be my gracious and kind and good guide. He is good to me, always so very good to me.

Interestingly, if you stay with this allegory of the oxen, you will realize that once they are yoked together, the oxen do not get opportunity to look behind them to see where they have been. They can only look forward. They can only walk down the path, not in reverse. Unless the team is turned around, which takes time and great effort, the team will walk on as the farmer gently beckons them. I think about this today, how I am yoked to my Lord, and because of my condition, I cannot look backward without difficulty. I cannot turn myself around so long as I am under His yoke. This means that the past is behind me. I cannot revisit it or return to it. I have to walk on. I have to go where He leads me. I have to let Him guide me into the future, and I have to trust that He will provide for me each step of the way.

In closing today, I am reminded of these verses in Matthew 11:28-29 AMP where Jesus says,

"Come to Me, all who are weary and heavily burdened [by religious rituals that provide no peace], and I will give you rest [refreshing your souls with salvation]. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me [following Me as My disciple], for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest (renewal, blessed quiet) for your souls."

I am weary and in need of rest. Not just for my soul, but for my mind, my body, and my spirit. I need rest. I need to stop worrying about the things I cannot control, and to let my Lord gently teach me how to approach each day, each task, and each situation. I must let Him lead me, guide me, and provide for me as only He can do. He is my gentle and humble Lord, and as His disciple, I must let Him be and do what only He can be and do. He is my LORD, and I rest my case now. I rest in His sufficiency, His shelter, and His blessed care for my life. Selah!

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