July 4, 2016

Fourth of July

It is the 4th of July, the 240th anniversary of our nation's independence. I wonder how many young people even know why we celebrate today. So many school's have removed history from the curriculum. For those that have kept it in, they have replaced the truth with a watered-down, "authorized" version that is filled with political correctness. Sigh!

Still today is a good day to thank the Lord for the men AND women who sacrificed so much during the early years of our nation to bring about the freedom we share and enjoy today. For without their sacrifice, our country wouldn't be one of the greatest nation's on earth, and a nation who still (the majority) seek to love and to worship God. My ancestors were part of the group of men who fought to free our country from the oppressive regime of English dominance, and thankfully, they lived to tell their children about their experiences. I am thankful for their service during perilous times, and their willingness to take up arms to secure our rights and our freedom so many years ago today! God is good; yes, all the time, He is good!

Making Plans and Such

It is a good day today. I woke up feeling better (yay!), and I slept well last night. In all, I am ready to start my first week of July with a bang (no pun intended)!  My goal today is simple. I need to complete the revisions on my paper so that I will be prepared to meet with my professor tomorrow by phone. My hope is that he will have more work for me to do for the next two weeks, so that by the end of July, I will be ready to defend (present in academic terms) my proposal for research. I feel confident that what I gave to him was quality content. He will, no doubt, find errors and areas that need correction or clarification, but overall, I gave him plenty to work with for this first draft. I am relaxed, at ease, and ready to begin this project now. I think I finally have let the worry and fear go regarding my present situation, and I have placed my faith and my trust in the Lord to see me through to the end. I mean, what else can I do? I can continue to stress, to strive, to fret and to fear, but what will that get me? Nothing more than a major headache and an ulcer! No, if I trust Him to provide for my needs, then I can let that worry go. I can simply accept my life as it is, and know that this is where He has me today. I can take comfort in knowing that "greater is He who is in me, than he who is in the world," (1 John 4:4) and that "I can do all things through Christ" (Phil. 4:13). My God has me well-covered this good, good day. Selah! It is so -- Amen!

Things To Do/Checklist

So my to-do list is rather short today. In fact, I have had a to-do list for some time now, but because I allowed the enemy to cause me to become paralyzed with fear, I haven't accomplished as much as I had hoped. Now, I am ready, willing and able to do whatever He needs me to do, so I am ready to get some work done. Praise be to God, I can do this! I can do this!

  1. Proposal - My research proposal is priority number one for me. I need to be ready to present my research to my committee by the first part of August. This allows me the entire semester (fall) to collect my data, analyze it, interpret the results, and write up the findings. It is a lot of work to do, and I had hoped to be collecting that data now, but suffice it to say, this is the timing of it now. My proposal is the key to my dissertation, and I cannot move forward without approval from my chair and committee members. Thus, this is my focus for the next two months.
  2. Teacher Prep - So for a short time, I dallied with the thought of becoming something else. I thought it would be easier to just change career fields so that I could make more money. I assumed that would solve ALL my problems. Instead, I ended up miserable, feeling like I was over-qualified, over-educated, and undervalued (my Dad's consensus). Now, I have come to terms with myself, with my inner desires and motivations, and with the fact that I have spent the better part of four years learning this trade. I have come to understand how ingrained teaching has become -- it is a part of me -- part of my experience. Thus, I have embraced it whole-heartedly, and I am ready now to do the work necessary to focus on teaching as a career for the rest of my life. Therefore, I have to begin to setup my power points, lesson plans, and my teaching aids in order to be ready for fall. I will be teaching four classes, three english and one communication, and while I have most of the curriculum settled, I need to get it in order. School begins at ACU on 8/15 and at GCU on 8/25. I am not sure if I will be teaching any online classes at OCU or not, so I simply have to be prepared for fall.
  3. Around the House - The good news is that my checklist for "house" tasks is almost non-existent. I cleaned my bedroom and closet last month. I have some small items still to tackle, but mostly, everything else is done. I would like to clear my storage area, but now I need to wait until fall due to the heat and humidity. I think I will plan a couple of storage sorting days for early fall (October) when the weather should be very pleasant.
My to-do list looks pretty good actually. Number 1 and 2 are both big projects so truthfully they will take the lion-share of my time this summer and fall. However, since I don't have any other worries or concerns, I should be able to focus on them consistently to make great progress on them. My timeline for numbers 1 and 2 is as follows:

  • Complete final proposal by end of July.
  • Present proposal in August.
  • Begin collecting data in September (three-four weeks).
  • Import data, analyze, and interpret it in October.
  • Write chapters 4-5 in November.
  • Finalize dissertation for presentation in December.
  • Present formal defense in January.
Teacher Prep
  • Review power points for each class by end of July.
  • Create a lesson plan/reading handout for each class by end of July.
  • Create syllabus for COM 203 by end of July.
If you consider my summer thus far, I think I am OK on timing and completion dates. I have spent a lot of time resting and relaxing (binge-watching Netflix) when I probably should have been working on some of these projects. In all, though, I am in fine shape for fall. Truthfully, I needed the "down time" and the break from all work to refresh and recharge my batteries.

Good, Good Vibrations

It is weird how smooth your life becomes once you accept the truth about certain things. You know, I was so stressed last week, wondering whether I would be called for that job, and wondering whether I had made the "right" decision in applying. My whole life seemed to depend on a positive outcome. It was like if I didn't get hired, my life, my entire life would spin and sputter downward. I felt it, this "doom and gloom" pervasive sensation, that caused me to hyperventilate. I was a mess, a sick mess -- that is -- until I made the decision to turn back toward this path. Once I was back on this path, I knew that I had to do more than just pick up where I had left off and plod on. I knew that the only way to really be happy, to really be contented was to embrace a fully surrendered attitude (heart and mind). After some deeply moving prayer, I surrendered to His way, and instantly all that "doom and gloom" lifted. It took a little time before I started to FEEL better. Since that time, my circumstances have not changed one iota. No, I am still in the exact same place I was last week. I am still "stuck" right where I was pre-panic. I wish it were not so, but I am still watching as my savings account is depleted and my checking account draws closer and closer to that thin red line. I am not sure how I will make it to August and my first pay check. But, I am not worried about it anymore. It is like the truth, the reality of my situation, my life, God's call on my life, seemed to provide such clarity for me. My focus came into play, and I began to see that He is everything, my ALL IN ALL. I know I have said that before, and I have said I was fully leaning on Him, trusting Him for my needs, and believing in faith that He would see me through to the end. Yet, I didn't always act that way on the inside. I put on a good show. I "looked" the part well. All the while, I was a jumbled, panicked, and frazzled mess.

I still don't completely understand what happened between last week and now. I may never really understand it, but I can say that I feel better about the direction my life is heading. I think the best way to explain it is this way. For the past several years, I have focused on God's will for my life (a good thing). I have tried to understand my calling and to know more assuredly what God wanted me to do with my life (as in His work). I struggled with the notion of "work," and didn't understand the difference between job (daily, practical work) and the work you do for God (ministry). I was confused between the two because as a teacher, often the job and the work are one-in-same. I guess you could say this is true for a number of professions such as pastor, minister, doctor, lawyer, or other types of direct services (those that serve the poor or the neglected or the sick). Many times, people will say they are "called" to teach or minister. I couldn't differentiate between my calling (to teach people how to communicate faith) and my daily work (to teach people how to write well). The two seemed like different paths, and because I felt certain I was to do ministry full-time, I couldn't understand how I would do what God was asking me to do.

Then came the realization that my focus on work had taken over my life. I came to understand that the work I do, doesn't matter so long as I am doing what God asks me to do. This knowledge was a relief in some ways, but in other ways, served only to confound me all the more. It took some time before I grasped the whole meaning of it all, and when I did, I realized that what the Lord had been saying to me, that the "job" was immaterial made sense. I realized that He was after my heart, and not my work. He wanted me to "be" His servant, not just do servant work. He wanted me to come to learn how to rest in Him completely, and whether I taught school or conducted business, my life would be about surrender and not about producing results. It was not rocket science. It was not difficult to grasp, to understand, or to accept. It was just that I was so bent on producing results, controlling outcomes, that I had become super-sensitized to focusing on work and all that work offers and affords. As such, I lost my perspective. I lost my genuine desire to be with Him and to let Him be with me. I lost that blessed relationship that says to me "Trust me, Carol. I will provide for you. I will care for you."

Now, I am back where I belong. Not on the path to teaching, per se (even though that is where I am at today), but rather back on the path to growing and maturing in Christ. I am back to the way that places Him first and foremost in my life, in the center of every thing, every cause, every decision, every opportunity, and every blessing. I just happen to be working as a teacher too, and I am doing this kind of work only because it suits me. I think the big bonus besides surrendering to His authority, will and way, is that I have come to see that He truly has given me the desires of my heart. In Psalm 37:4-5 AMP it says,

Delight yourself in the Lord,
And He will give you the desires and petitions of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord;
Trust in Him also and He will do it.

These two verses are my "life verses." I claimed them back in 2006 when I was reading my Bible one day. I had begun a study of Proverbs and Psalms, and I had read this Psalm at least 3-4 times through previously. On this one particular day, I was praying and I said to the Lord, "Is this really true? If I make you my delight, will you give me the desires of my heart, Lord?" I heard this voice inside my head say to me, "Yes, it is true." I responded then with, "Okay, then I will do it. I will make you my delight, my focus, and my worship." Since that day, I have experienced an amazing transformation. I became fixed on doing things God's way. Yes, shortly thereafter, I became very legalistic and I even embraced a life of oblation. I adopted a way that was most holy to me, and I applied measures to keep my feet from stumbling. I found incredible peace. I came to experience a sense of holiness in and through my life. After a time, however, I found that the way seemed harsh, difficult, and troublesome. It was the law, of course. It was man made rules to keep people righteous, and while I was seeking Him as my sufficiency, I was also applying rules to manage my flesh. I came back around to grace, and I realized that I didn't have to live a certain way. I could allow the Holy Spirit control and He would help me manage my fleshly will, desires, wants, and needs. It was a liberating experience for me; one I will never forget. 

These verses, still, spoke to my heart, and to this day, I believe that the Lord has delivered what He promised. He has given me the true spiritual desire of my heart (to know Him, love Him, and serve Him) along with some of the fleshly desires I had as well (teaching, preaching, studying the word and other subjects, cello, etc.). He has graciously given to me the desires of my heart.

Working Unto The Lord

I think the big "A HA" was when I realized that the work I do each day is really unimportant so much as it is a necessary part of life. I mean, we must work to earn a living, and that living (wage) is used to keep us alive and to care for our families. So whether we dump garbage for a living or teach preschoolers, the "work" (the business of working) is a good thing. Our attitude, our heart, and our willingness to do the work matters to God a lot. We are to work heartily as though our earthly master was the Lord Jesus Christ. We are to be honorable in our business dealings (not cheating or stealing), and we are to pay our workers (if we are a boss or owner) a fair wage. We are to be fair, just, and good in our work relationships, but there is no job that is better or worse. In this way, whether you are a nurse, a military professional, a tradesman -- for example -- what you bring to the day is all about your character, your witness and your testimony. The Lord may indeed give you grace gifts to supernaturally do difficult work or He may simply use your natural inclination and your heart desires to guide you to a specific path. Sometimes He will tell you to do certain work, and then He will show you how to go about doing that work. Many missionaries, pastors or other full-time professional Christian workers will say that God directed them to a specific type of work. But, often God simply allows us to choose our path so long as it is honorable and good. We are not to engage in gambling, for example, or illegal dealings. We are to "render unto Caesar" so to speak, to be in submission to those in authority over us, even if those people are not Christian or are hostile to Christ, Himself.

This realization came late last week as I was praying over this job opportunity. I wanted so much to know if what I was pursuing was His will for life. As I asked, pleaded, and demanded, I heard the voice of the Lord reply to me with a "yes" answer. I became confused. I mean, how could both options, teaching and business, be your will? Shouldn't it be one way or the other? "Not necessarily" came the reply.  I sighed, and I uttered, "I am confused, Lord. Help me to understand your will."

It took some time but after a bit, I realized what He was saying to me. In truth, the job I was pursuing was just fine as far as the Lord's will for my life. It was a good job! Yes, it was a well-paying, stable job that would provide well for my family. My heart, however, was pulling me back to the other job, the one I had been doing for three years. Why? Why did I feel strongly attracted to this job more than the other? Ah! That was the nugget, the gem, I had been looking to find for months now. I found it when I realized, yes I understood, that teaching was one of those heart desires of mine. I had wanted to be a teacher for so long, and here I was doing the very thing I had prayed about, waited for, studied hard to achieve, and was finally doing it. It was a heart desire of mine, and the Lord graciously allowed me to do it. Once I accepted this truth, that the Lord provided one of my fleshly desires, I realized what an awesome gift I had received. I couldn't turn my back on it because it was something deep in my heart that I still wanted to do. Yes, I had to accept that this job would never provide as well as that other one. And, right now, I am only adjunct and not full-time, so income is difficult. Still, this is the one job I enjoy doing, the one job I can say "suits me well."

With this acknowledgement, I surrendered to the Lord my desire to teach college. I gave it to Him as a sacrifice. I said, "Lord, if you want me to continue teaching college, then you have to provide enough income for me to live on comfortably, on modestly." I confessed to Him that I cannot make this path prove itself viable; I cannot earn more income on my own. As a result, I was determined to stay put, to stay right where I am, I mean -- if this is what He has provided to me. In this way, I was saying to Him that I am content, satisfied, and that I believe this work and the pay I receive is enough. Furthermore, I am confident that He will provide more income when I need more income, and until then, I will be faithful to do this work.

I know this process may seem silly to some. I mean, really? Didn't I see the truth a long, long, time ago? I wish I could say that this was so, and perhaps in some ways, it was so. But, being the dense (somewhat) and very stubborn person I am, I refused to relent, to surrender, and to yield my way to Him. In the end, it took a lot of heartache, struggle, confusion, and finally pain to get me to submit to His way. Now that I am here, my prayer is that I don't stray again. I don't want to do my own thing, to try to make ends meet, so to speak. I would rather rest and rely on Him to provide for each and every need. I would rather seek His will, His way, and then know for sure, that whatever comes is His blessing for my life. I am content to let Him lead, guide and provide for me.

In Conclusion

So here we are back at the beginning it seems. Yes, I have returned to this path because I acknowledged that it was a gift given to me by the Lord. It was a blessing, a favor of His, and in that way, I am happy to remain in this "gift" as long as He desires me to do so. For now, I believe that it will be for life, for the rest of my life. I may not always teach college classes, but  I will teach others how to communicate their faith, how to witness, how to live a Christian life. I will teach them whatever the Lord places on my heart. I will be a teacher, a trainer of men and women who will come to maturity and grace through His will for their lives. I will be a partner in that work, and I will do that work until the day I die. I may be blessed with full-time work soon or I may have to continue to teach part-time for longer than I think necessary. He knows my needs. He is aware of what I can and cannot do. Today, I rest in His provision, in His sufficiency, and I trust Him to meet each need as it comes. I cannot bank on tomorrow. He has provided manna for only one day. 

We Thank You, Lord
Words by Susan H. Petersen (1997)

We thank You, Lord, and worship You with gladness;
We praise Your name and lift our hearts in song;
For You are good, Your love endures forever,
Your faithfulness continues all day long.
You’ve lavished us with every spiritual blessing;
We thank You, Lord, and praise You now in song.

We thank You, Lord, for everyday provisions,
For daily food, for clothes and shelter too,
or health and strength and grace for every trial,
For this free land where we can worship You.
You crown each day with Your abundant goodness;
We thank You, Lord, and lift our praise to You.

We thank You, Lord, for giving us salvation.
You sent Your Son that we might be forgiv’n.
Far as the east from west, our sins have vanished;
Now justified, we’re citizens of Heav’n.
You’ve sealed us with Your promised Holy Spirit;
We thank You, Lord, for love so freely giv’n!

We thank You, Lord, for giving us the Bible
To guide our steps, if we’ll but hear and read,
And for Your Church, a worldwide living body,
That gives sweet fellowship and meets our need.
We are encouraged, and we worship gladly;
We thank You, Lord, You’ve made us rich indeed!

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good!
His faithful love endures forever.

Psalm 107:1 (NLT) 

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