July 11, 2016

Getting Back on Track

Happy Monday! It is a good day to be alive and living in the land of the blessed! I am feeling pretty well today, better than I was yesterday, but not back to my 100% form yet. Hopefully, in a couple days, I will be back on track and feeling my best again. This is my prayer, of course, and I am committed to doing whatever I can to help see that outcome come to pass. Selah!

I slept pretty well last night, though I had trouble falling to sleep. I don't think I drifted off until well after 12:30 a.m. I tried to rest, but my mind was racing, thinking about so many things, that it was difficult to relax. Finally, I crashed and then slept all the way through to 8:30 this morning. God is good to me, so very good to me. He has helped me relax some over the past couple days, to rest and to let things go that have been overwhelming me and keeping me from moving forward in my life. It has been difficult to come to terms with a number of situations I am faced with right now, but overall, I know the Lord has me covered. I know that I am where I am for a reason, and regardless of what I think, feel or do, He is LORD, and that means He has this well-in-hand. I can rest; I can rest.

Things Are This Way For a Reason

Today I woke up thinking about my old life. There is a part of me that misses that life. There is a part of me that misses the safety and security of being married, of being a part of "something," of being a part of a family. Then there is the part of me that wonders how I got to where I am today. I mean, I remember the choices I made that led me to this place, but as time passes by, I forget why I made them. I forget the details that convinced me to choose this way over another way. In hindsight, I think sometimes that I made a mistake, that I walked away from my marriage too hastily, and that had I remained in that relationship, well, things might have been better. Then, there is the part of me that remembers why I am there in this place today, and all the hard work, effort, and tears exerted to bring me from that difficult and dark place to this light-filled and blessed place. Then, I remember how faithful God was to help me, cover me, carry me through so that I could experience blessing, provision, goodness again. Yes, even though there are times when I regret the past, there are more times that I remember the past for what it was, and I thank God for delivering me from the hardship, the hurt, and the unhealthy conditions of my former life. Yes, I thank God for His mighty and merciful deliverance this good, good day. Selah!

I think what started this trip down memory lane this morning was an email I received with an update on my former in-laws health. I have known for sometime now that they are not well. My ex-husband and I do talk occasionally and he had said that his parents were failing. I blogged about the news that I had heard regarding his Dad a couple weeks ago, how the email made it sound "imminent." However, today I see that his Dad is in long-term hospice care, you know, the kind where folks go when there is nothing left for them to do, but wait the end out? I had also heard that his Mom had fallen again, and that she was in the hospital. She is recovering, which is a good thing.

As I read the email, my mind wandered back to that time when I was still part of this family. I remember all the "falls and spills" that his parents had suffered. I remembered all the difficult calls, the difficult days, and the difficult unending demands that were asked of us back then. Now, I feel sorry for both of them. I feel sorry that this is the way their lives are ending. Of course, my parents have illness issues as well, but generally speaking, both are in better shape. Even with my Mom's CLL and recent Breast Cancer, she is doing well. Her memory is failing, but she still is able to do many things. My Dad's physical ability is worsening, of course, but generally, he goes where he wants still and does most of what he wants, albeit slower than he'd like.

I thought about my former sister-in-law and the burden she has carried for the past six or so years. I feel sorry for her for sure, and I appreciate the depth of her care for her parents. Our relationship was stormy at best, and even though I felt I tried to be a good friend to her, I never was able to be one. She had jealously toward me, she envied my relationship with my Mom, and she struggled to accept me as an equal. I never could do anything "right" in that family. I never could "please" anyone, so after a time, I just gave up trying to do that and would participate out of duty. Now, though, I see her life, and I envy her status. I pray for her and her husband often. I am glad they are happy in life, have a solid marriage, and their children seem to be well-adjusted and happy too. I am glad they were able to make a good life for themselves, and even though she has to care for her parents this way, overall, I am glad she is able to do it.

In all of this recollection, one thing comes to the forefront and that is that I am where I am for a reason. I mean, the choices I made collectively brought me to this place today. I cannot say that it was one thing that changed my path, but rather it was a collection of efforts, choices, approaches that provided this way for me.

Today, I am a teacher, a college professor.
Today, I live with my parents while I finish my PhD.
Today, I am invested in ministry, a life of ministry.

I am still a Mom. I am still a good daughter to my parents. I am still a friend to many. But, the labels I have lost are those of wife, daughter-in-law, sister-in-law. Part of my identity was lost in the divorce. Part of my life was ripped away from me, and as a result, I had to learn how to live missing a big part of myself. It was hard for me to do, but I did it. I let the Lord heal me, heal my broken spirit mostly, and then heal my broken heart. The healing that I have received has made it possible for me to pick up my cross and carry it further down the road. I am able to do all things because Christ Jesus has strengthened me (Phil. 4:13). Yes, my Lord has given His strength to me in order to help me carry on, move on.

As I reflect on this fact, I realize that no matter what I would have done in the moment, my life would have been changed. You see, my ex-husband wasn't repentant. He didn't want to remain married to me. He wanted out of our marriage, and was actively engaged in seeking female companionship. He wasn't going to stop doing this behavior, and even after counseling, refused to admit he had committed any wrongdoing. I was faced with two choices. I could remain in the marriage, living with an adulterous and unrepentant husband or I could walk away from the sinful behavior and live a single life. I chose the latter because it was better for me and for my then teenage son. I made the decision to let the marriage end, to walk away, rather than to stick my head in the sand and give approval to blatantly sinful behavior. In the end, we divorced. Since that time, I have had to pick up the pieces and build a new life. I have worked very hard to build a new life, but I cannot help but have remorse over the failure of my marriage. This was not God's design. It was not His intent. The marriage failed because one person committed adultery and the other person decided to call it quits. Yes, it was a split decision. He wanted out, and so did I. We walked our separate ways, and now we live in reconciliation, but not in restoration.

Sometimes I wonder what my life would have been like had I stayed put. Unfortunately, we were in deep financial straits, our home was foreclosed, and we were faced with moving someplace. My ex-husband took an apartment across town; I moved into a town home north of us. I was happy in my town home. It was my first real home ever. I had never lived on my own before marriage, so having my own place was special, wonderful, and blissful to me. I loved decorating it, having people over, and generally being my own person. It was a wonderful feeling to be in control, in charge of my life this way.

My ex-husband has made ends meet in his own way, but he hasn't helped financially with the care of his son at all. I have footed the bill for cars, college, and everything in between. I have made sure my son had health insurance. I saw to it that he went to the dentist and doctor for check ups. In many ways, my ex-husband simply let us both go, and he walked away toward his own desires for his life.

I blog about how I believe God has given me the desires of my heart, and how today I am the recipient of a number of those desires. First, the Lord gave me the desire to be single again. I know that sounds awful to say it that way, but in truth, I am very happy being single. I really am content to live a wholly-devoted single life. Second, the Lord gave me the desire to return to school to study for graduate degrees, namely a PhD. I am almost finished with this degree, and I am excited to think what He has in mind for me next. Third, the Lord gave me the opportunity to help care for my parents. I am struggling with this desire now because living with them strains our relationship. But, still I consider it a blessing to be able to be here and help out the way I do. Last, the Lord gave me the opportunity to become a college instructor. More so, I desired to teach English and this is what I do today. He made a way for me to learn how to be a teacher, a good one at that, and now He has given me a career path to follow. In all, the Lord has given me several desires that were in my heart, and while my life isn't perfect by any means, it is good. It is very good, indeed.

My desires and the desires of His heart do align. I have a deep desire to do ministry, and my education is ministry-focused. Thus, I believe that the Lord gave me both -- my personal desires and His spiritual desires -- so that I could have a vision for my future. I needed to see what my future could be like so that I could follow something, some lead. You see, maybe it is my personality (I don't know) or maybe it is just the way the Lord works, but without a path to follow, I would have floundered and never achieved anything at all. The Lord graciously gave me a map, a road map, and He asked me to trust Him to provide for me while I followed the route He laid out for me. I was hesitant and unsure, but in the end, I followed after Him. I trusted Him enough to step out in faith and follow Him. Now, I am farther down that road, deeper into unknown territory, and still He asks me to trust Him, to follow after Him. I cannot turn around (I tried that with the business role I applied for but was rejected). I cannot stop and stay here. No, I have to keep on moving forward, keep on trusting that He knows where He is going, and that as I follow Him, more and more of this life will make sense to me. Until I am in the clear, I have to let go and let Him lead, guide and provide for me.

Getting Back on Track

With this in mind, I am ready to get back on track. I guess what I mean is that I am ready to pick up stakes and pack my bags so I can keep on moving. I have been sitting here for too long, and there is more out there to see and do. I need to go, to start moving, and that means that I need to get my head in gear and get going.

The Lord has a great plan for my life. I say this often, and I mean it. I believe it is true. I don't know all the details of that plan nor do I have everything figured out, but I am convinced, utterly convinced that He has a good plan, and that His good plan is coming to pass. I know that in order for His plan to come to pass, I have to let go of the present. I have to let go of all that I am holding on to so tightly. I cannot stay where I am (spiritually and literally). I have to be flexible, adaptable, and moveable. If not, then the Lord will wait here for me until I come round to what He is asking me to do. No, I am ready, Lord. I am ready now.

1. Picking Up Stakes

This is such a funny way of saying "moving on," but if you think about all those summer camping trips, I think you get the picture. Picking up stakes simply means to pull the tent stakes from the ground so you can pack your bags (tent and belongings) and get in the car and head to your next destination (home for some, new places to see for others). In my case, I am heading home. I am heading to my final literal resting place. I believe that the Lord desires me to live in one place until I die. I don't mean to sound morbid or anything, it is just that I have this feeling that He intends for me to settle once for all. I will live in a place where I will spend the next 20, 30, or 40 years of my life. I will live in the home where He will call me to final rest. Yes, I will die in my own bed, my own home, when the end of my journey finally arrives.

The place I live in now is temporary, and I think this is why I struggle so with living here. I want my permanent home, the home the Lord has promised me. I want to go there now, be settled there so I don't have to worry or think about moving again. I want to rest, to put down roots, to create a life for myself where I am "home," in every sense of the word. I have longed for this place since I was a child. It has been a desire of my heart, a dream, and I cannot think of anything I desire more (relatively speaking). However, before I can leave Phoenix and relocate, I need to get some things in order. I need to get my life in better shape, all of my life, I mean. I need to physically get well. I need to financially get healed. I need to sort out my parents and my son. I need to plan for the move itself, to find a home, consider the financial implications, and of course, secure a job so I can live there. All of these details are in His keeping, so really I can think about them, but I have little to say in the matter. The Lord will provide for me -- physically, materially, spiritually -- and He will see to this way. I know this, I believe this is true, and I rest in His abilities to keep His word to me. Selah, it is truth! Amen!

2. Agreeing to Go is Half the Battle

I am ready to go. This means that I have agreed to go where the Lord desires. Agreeing to go is half the battle, so they say. You know, once you make up your mind, then the rest is easier to handle. It is the first part, agreeing, making the choice, deciding, etc. I have battled the Lord over going for now on three years. I have held my ground, begged, pleaded, and generally, dug my heels in to avoid having to "go" anywhere. It is not that I have wanted to stay in Phoenix, more so it was that I didn't want to displease my parents and leave them behind. I didn't want to leave the only life I have known for a life that is completely unknown to me. I asked the Lord to remain here in Phoenix until I graduated. I asked Him to keep me here until the last minute, and He has relented. He has permitted me to remain for a time only. I have known that this is the case for the past couple years, that 2017 would be the latest I could remain here. Now, it is 2016, mid-year, and I am feeling the push to get things in order, to make my plans ready, and to be prepared to move.

Where will I go? As of now, I believe the Lord has a place in mind for me that is suitable for ministry. It is not the place of my choosing, per se. It is the place of His choosing. He has chosen a destination that meets my needs for financial security. He has chosen a place where I can live comfortably and easily on limited income. He has chosen a place where there is good work to do, plenty of ministry work, and where I can live out my days in relative peace.

Living in peace is important to me. The Word says in Romans 12:17-18 (NIV), "Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Carefully consider what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible on your part, live at peace with everyone. Do not avenge yourselves, beloved, but leave room for God’s wrath". And again in Proverbs 16:17 (NLT) we read, "When people's lives please the LORD, even their enemies are at peace with them." My heart's desire is to live in peace, to create a home of peace, and to be at peace with everyone. This means that I want to live some place where I can be at rest, at peace.

For now, while my home is peaceful, I am not content. I need to be my own person again, and that means taking full responsibility for my life (paying my own way). My parents have been gracious to me, and I am thankful for their help, but now I must step out on my own and take back my authority and live as a Godly single woman. This means that I must go where He sends me. I must live where He tells me to live. I must do the work He has prepared for me to do. There is no other way. My map, my road map, clearly has this destination marked out on it. And, now that I have agreed with the Lord that this is the "next" step for me, I must do the work necessary to pack up and move on down the road.

3. Making Provision

I have said all along that I cannot move until I have provision to move. I still believe this is true, but rather than feel unwell about it, as if I am unable to do anything to change my situation, I realize that the Lord is the One who will provide for me. I have trusted Him thus far, so now I must continue to trust Him. When things look the bleakest, then you know the sun is about to rise. I feel that change is on the horizon, but for now, I must endure this time. I must remain faithful and not lose hope. The Lord has a way planned and prepared for me. He will make it happen. He will make a way where there seems to be no way. I know this, I believe this is true. I will rest in His provision, and in His ability to make this happen.
Counting The Days

If you think about it, in the Old Testament in specific, God always set timelines for His people. He always gave them relative times to understand His will and His word. He would use the words "time" to signify a period of time (say a year). He would say "half times" to show that He meant half the period. In other words, the Lord always gave His people an idea of what was to come and when to expect it to come. He is good that way. He knows we need to "know" details in order to make plans, to prepare, to arrange, and then to be ready when the "time" arrives. In my own life, the Lord has been clear about timelines. I have been following a timeline that was communicated to me back in 2006. This timeline has pretty much been spot on. Many of the things the Lord said would come to pass during certain times, actually did happen. The timing was very close to what He said it would be. For example, I knew that I would complete my PhD in 2017, that my son would graduate in the same year, and that I would move to a new place at that time. Furthermore, events coalesced in such a way to keep to this timeline. My son was set to graduate much earlier, but due to his indecision and his changing of schools and majors, his timeline has aligned with what the Lord said it would be. He could have graduated in 2014 or 2016, had he stayed on certain paths, but since he diverged and tried other courses of studies, he is now set to graduate when I do. Likewise, I should have started Regent in the summer of 2012. This would have made my graduation date May 2016. Instead, I wasn't able to graduate from Mercy in time, so I am on track to graduate in May of 2017. The Lord's timing is perfect, always perfect.

Thus, when I think about His timing, I realize that no matter what I do or the errors I make, His timing is always perfect. His word always comes to pass. This tells me that I can rest in this knowledge, in this fact. I may not understand the details, but I can take comfort to know that His word will come to pass as spoken. He is faithful to keep to His side of the bargain (covenant).

My timeline matches His now, and that means that I am no longer waiting "willy nilly" for something to happen. I can rest in the knowledge that IT will happen when He says it will. This means that for all intents and purposes, the job hunt, the search for a full-time position that has been futile up to this point, simply is an indicator of His timing on the matter. He has a job for me. It will come to pass in His time. Until then, I need to attend to the work He has assigned to me, work that must be completed on time. I realized this today when I was thinking about my past life, how such much of my life centered on circumstance. I never had a plan. My ex-husband never had a plan. I tried to make a plan, I did. He simply wasn't interested in my plan or the plan I thought the Lord wanted for our life. Now, though I see that God doesn't do anything without a plan. He never just "does" things without carefully considering them, and deciding to do them based on what is best for His creation, His children, His kingdom. My life, thus, has been planned out. He has made a way for me, and I am following in His plan according to His timeline. This means I can rest in the knowledge that everything will work out according to His plan. Nothing will happen that is not part of His plan, and I will go and do the work He has planned for me -- all because -- it is His will. His will comes to pass because it is His desire for it to be so.

I believe I am on the countdown to move elsewhere. I believe that part of that countdown includes my education coming to a close. I believe that my current situation is temporary. My discomfort financially is temporary as well. My need for full-time employment is known, but for now, is set off in the distance. I will get a full-time job soon. I will get the employment I need. It is His will, so be it. It is His provision, so it will come to pass.

My timeline for finishing my degree coincides with my move. Therefore, between now and then, I must finish my dissertation, and I must graduate. Simple. It is simple. I must do this work. I must teach as He provides, but my work, His work, hinges on my graduation. It is my first love after the Lord Himself. It is my priority right now. I cannot allow anything, any worries, any doubts, any fears keep me from finishing my degree. I must attend to it, focus on it, and do the work. He will help me, and together we will accomplish it in time. I know this is true. I believe it is true. I rest in the knowledge that it is true. Selah!

Moving When He Calls

As of right now, I will remain where I am until I finish my dissertation. I will not move. I will not go anywhere. Thus, it will be up to the Lord to provide enough provision for me to meet my daily needs. Once I am finished, we will go. We will pick up stakes and we will move on down the road. Until that time, my heart and my mind are fixed on this one goal. I will finish my PhD. I will do this work. He will be honored by it, and in the end, I will walk across that stage with a sense of pride that says "He did this work through me!"

My next steps, consequently include teaching part-time this fall to help me focus on my dissertation. After January, I will be free to work full-time. I will need a full-time job so I believe that this will be His provision for me. Will it be as a teacher? Yes, it will. Will I teach on campus or online? I believe I will teach from home because this suits me best and provides the freedom I need to do ministry full-time. I need to do both things, so working from home will allow me to do this work. What about my parents and my son? For now, I believe that the Lord has their care well in His hand. I can worry about it, stress over it, but frankly, I cannot do anything to change their lives at this point in time. I cannot do anything to help them outside of what I already do. The Lord has to provide a way for them, and since my parents know Him, their care ultimately rests in His hands. As for my son, I believe He will move with me for a time. He will come to where I am because he has also felt the need to move. Will he stay with me long-term? No, I don't think so. I simply think he will stay with me until he understands the Lord's will for his own life. Then the Lord will call him to go, and he will follow after Him just like I did.

In Closing

As I close out this blog post, I have to say that I feel better today. I was very stressed yesterday, almost panicked-stressed. Today, I feel better. I feel more assured that the plans the Lord has are coming to pass, and while I feel uncertain about some of the details, I am confident in His role and His responsibility to provide for me. He knows me so well. He knows what I need, and I am resting in this knowledge. He has me well-covered this good, good day. I am blessed, favored, and highly fortunate this good day. I give all the praise, the honor, and the glory to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen, so be it. Selah!

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