July 16, 2016

Giving God the Praise!

It is Saturday, and I am praising the Lord for His goodness today. I had another good night, and despite continued weird dreams (again with the dreams), I slept really well. The good news is that I woke up feeling refreshed and feeling better, overall, better. I think receiving the news that Regent was hiring me to teach adjunct made all the difference. I have been praying over that opportunity for a while, and after months passed with no real news, I thought the door had closed on me. Praise be to God, the door was still opened, and after a short call with the Chair of the department, I was offered a contract for fall. Hopefully, more contracts will come as I need them. PTL!

I am jumping for joy still because this has been my dream. I asked the Lord if I could teach at Regent University when I first started my PhD program back in 2013. I never thought it would be possible. I mean, Regent only hires well-qualified candidates, typically ones with a PhD, and they are choosy on whom they approve. This past year, however, Regent had their highest enrollment ever. So, I think because they are growing in enrollment and they need more teachers, the timing was "right" for me to be hired there. The same thing happened to me with GCU back in 2013. I finally was hired at GCU after applying for several years with no luck. Then the timing coalesced right when they needed more teachers to handle their increased enrollment, and "presto!" I was hired to teach on campus. God's timing for this position seems to align in the same way. I am experienced now with almost 4 years of teaching college courses, and I am ABD (almost done with my PhD). It seems fortuitous that this position opened right when I needed it most. God is good that way, and while I am thankful that my school is growing and doing well, I am all the more thankful to God for opening this door for me. I love Regent, and I am excited to be able to teach for them.

It is funny, really, how just this past week, I was so panicked. I was so overwhelmed, depressed, and feeling hopeless. Now, I am on top of the moon. I am feeling as if a mighty rush of wind has come through and filled my sails, and I am off and sailing again. It has been a long stagnant summer, but praise to God, I am good. I am moving again, and I am feeling so confident that my life is going to get better (as in financially better). I am also excited to think about the opportunities I have to experience teaching at my other schools too. In all, I see God's generous and blessed provision as needed rain -- falling from the heavens -- right when I needed it most. He is good, so very good to me!

Taking New Ground

This morning while I was giving the Lord praise, I started thinking about this verse from Malachi 3:10. I know this verse is bandied about by the "health, wealth, and prosperity" gospel preachers, leaving many Christians to wonder whether or not that the "idea" of prosperity is true.
Bring all the tithes (the tenth) into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you [so great] a blessing until there is no more room to receive it.
In reading the verse in context, what Malachi was saying was that it was up to God's people to support His priests and ministers, the preachers and teachers of our day, so that they could continue to serve God and do His appointed work. Without their help in bringing in the harvest, these people would not have the food they needed to continue to serve God.

In like ways, it is important to remember that many churches do not have denominations that provide support to the organization. The members pay the pastor and the church workers salaries. Thus, if the people of God bring in a partial harvest, not the full tithe, then the ministers cannot live to do what God has called them to do. I think for many Christians today, the idea of tithing has gotten such a bad rap. They believe that they are not obligated to provide for God's full-time ministry workers. They believe that it is "optional" to bring in the tithe; after all, as Christ followers we are under grace and not the law.

Yet, for many believers, financial strain is a by-product of worldly living. Many people live beyond their means, racking up large debt, and then wondering how God will bail them out. I know this is true in my case. I have amassed a bit of credit card debt in order to cover my limited income during summertime. I don't like it, and I want to be solvent, completely settled whereby my debt load is discharged, and I am free and clear from any worldly institution that has hold over me. I know that to be an honorable servant, I need to manage my money well. After all, God is the One who provides for me. As such, I need to use His provision with integrity and honesty.

My prayer today is to use the money that is coming to me to serve God and to serve others. I believe that the Lord will provide for my daily needs, so my hope and my prayer is to use the resources God provides that are beyond my daily needs to minister to others who are in need. I want to be a cheerful giver because cheerfulness pleases God. I want to share my wealth with others, to bless them, to help them, and to encourage them. If I can ease a burden temporarily, then perhaps that easing will bring some measure of peace. Often I have found that when a small need is met, it is much easier to see the bigger need in clear focus. In some ways, by off-loading a small debt or small burden, the person who is struggling is given a bit of breathing room, so to speak. I certainly cannot solve every problem, every situation, but I can help bring peace and comfort to those the Lord leads to me. I can provide some relief, some small measure of relief, and in this way, I can bring comfort to those in need.

My added teaching contract will supply my needs this fall. In combination with my other contracts, I should be comfortable and able to keep my bills in check. But, I am short income to pay down my credit cards and save for critical needs. In many ways, I am stabilized but not set free. I need extra income that is above and beyond what I am making to really take care of my debt burden. I am trusting the Lord to provide extra for me so that I can discharge my debts completely, and be ready to move as He leads me.

I believe that if the Lord is calling me to move from AZ, then He has to provide a way for me to do that very thing. He must provide the resources I need to make it possible for me to move. I have to go, I know this, I hear Him tell me this almost daily. Yet, I know that to go with integrity means that I must have little to no credit card debt and have sufficient funds set aside to enable me to relocate (house, services, etc.) Furthermore, I must have a good job in place where I am able to make sufficient monthly income so that my monthly costs are covered. I need a certain amount to live on, and while I can live pretty frugally, I need to have "extra" to build savings and to be used as that measure of blessing for other people.

As I consider my own needs, I realize that I can live on less than I currently need today. My biggest cost by far is my car. I can reduce this debt by paying my car off. In doing so, I will save $300 per month that could be used toward paying a credit card bill. Second, if I can reduce my living costs (shelter and expenses) by half, I can save quite a bit of money which will offset my needs even further. Right now, I spend $1000 in rent and utilities. This is pretty decent here in Phoenix, but since I am looking to live in another part of the country, I believe I can reduce this to less than $500, especially if I can purchase a house for cash (my goal). Other expenses such as food, clothing, etc. are minimal, and since I hope to live in a part of the country where I can garden, I should be able to grow some of my own food. With some frugal approaches, I could potentially manage my food needs and save about $100 per month by not going out to eat. Last, I would like to own some acreage so that I can build a working farm. I don't anticipate having large livestock, but I am thinking about a small cottage industry to enable me to earn something on top of my teaching salary. I hope to have chickens for eggs, and some small livestock that produces a product (renewal) but that is easy to care for and doesn't need special provision. I am not sure yet, but I have been thinking about raising Alpaca's for their wool. I know, sounds crazy, but I have always wanted to spin wool and make rugs and other items to sell. It is up to the Lord to provide, so I am open to managing whatever trade He thinks best for me. The income produced will be negligible, so I am thinking that if the farm can pay for itself, then it will be a win-win scenario.

In terms of ministry, my calling is to help the church communicate faith more effectively. To do this, I know that I will be engaged in teaching ministry that will require that I produce curriculum of some sort. This might be video/DVDs or books or some combination. I already believe the Lord intends for me to write, so I believe I will write as part of my ministry work. This ministry will produce income for me, but not to be used to live on or to manage my life. No, this income will be for ministry use only. Thus, in a ministry capacity, all the income produced will be returned to the Lord for His use. I believe in this way, I can use the resources this ministry produces to benefit others. With the exception of paying for facilities (if needed) or travel, all the income would be used as an outreach to benefit and comfort God's people.

With all this in mind, I realize that I have to be ready to go when God says to "get up and go!" I am thinking now that this will be within the next year. I have contracts set for fall, and more than likely, I will teach locally in the springtime as well. The time for moving would be summer 2017, after I graduate and after my son graduates. Then we can go. Until that time, I must rest in His provision. I must allow the Lord to increase my portion in the way He thinks best, and I must do whatever work He provides for me to do. I will trust Him to keep my head above water, so to speak, and I will rest in His sufficiency. I believe so strongly that this is His will now. I believe so strongly that this is what He has in mind for me.

My goal for the fall, then, is to teach and to finish my research project so I can graduate on time. This is my number 1 and 2 priority. I must be focused, determined, and steady. I am resting in His abilities to see me through, keep me steady, and I know that He will do what is best for me. My hope is to receive the money I need to pay my card debt off by the end of the year. I don't know how this will be, but I am trusting the Lord to do it. Second, I hope to have money set aside to pay my student loans. Again, my hands are empty so it will be up to Him to do it. Third, and this is the big need, I hope to have some way to purchase a piece of property so I can move. This property needs to have a livable dwelling (renovation is acceptable) along with about 15 acres of pasture land. It could be part pasture and part woods. The cost needs to be reasonable and affordable. I already know that there are rural loans that would permit me to purchase a farm and live on it. Plus, as a woman, I could qualify for no-money down loans from the government. I am considering this as a possibility, but I would rather not have a payment, if possible.

The whole moving, setting up a home/farm, is new to me. I have wanted this since I was a child, and it appears that this is a desire the Lord intends to give to me. At first, I would always think about it, about living on a farm. But, then I would choose more worldly options (newer homes, better comfort). Lately, the Lord has pressed on me this desire. I thought for a time it was my desire and not His, but now I believe it is His desire for me as well. Furthermore, I struggled with living in a rural area because of services. I have spent a fair amount of time researching energy costs, ways to heat older homes, etc., and I see that there are many ways to live very comfortably without spending a lot of money every year. I am frugal, of course, but I am not willing to compromise on heat or cooling. I want to be warm in the winter and cool in the summer. I will sacrifice "looks" for comfort any day. My hope is to find a place that needs cosmetic work and not major gut renovation. In truth, I would prefer small renovation to large, so I am praying the Lord show me the property that would work for me.

I know that in order to see this next stage come to pass, several things must happen. I cannot manipulate them or control these things, so if this is the Lord's will for me, then He will make it happen. If not, then it will not be. I am resting in this now. If He makes a way for me to go and do this work, then I will know that this is His intention and provision. If not, then He will show me otherwise.

Making a Go

With Malachi 3:10 in mind, I am thinking that the Lord intends for me to be in full-time ministry at some point. I believe this is why He is moving me from being campus teacher to an online one. In this way, I will have the freedom to manage multiple entities -- teaching, farm work, and ministry. I will be one busy girl, but I like to be busy. I like to have a lot to do so I don't get bored. I think this combination will fit me well.

My prayer is the prayer of Jabez (1 Chron. 4:10). Jabez, Scripture says, was more honorable than all his brothers and sisters. He cried out to the Lord and said,
"Now Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, "Oh that You would bless me indeed and enlarge my border, and that Your hand might be with me, and that You would keep me from harm that it may not pain me!" And God granted him what he requested."
I am asking the Lord to enlarge my border, to increase my portion. I am doing so with the understanding that whatever the Lord chooses to give to me will be His gift. Therefore, I am not to use His gift in anyway to serve myself. I am to use it to serve God and to serve others. Thus, what I am asking for is not to be made comfortable, but to be "kept" comfortable (by His hand and blessing). In this way, I am asking Him to provide a lifestyle to me that will enable me to be comfortable. I am not seeking wealth, prosperity, or blessing so I can have things, rather I am seeking His blessing in order to live a modest life and to be fully able to do His work -- serving others. This is my heart. This is the Father's heart. My desire is to live in such a way that my needs are met, yet I am able to meet the needs of others as the Lord leads and guides me.

I want my life to be a living testimony to His faithfulness and goodness in my life. As such, I want to live my life wholly devoted to Him. I want to be completely focused on doing His work, and to doing the ministry He calls me to do. I don't want to be distracted by things -- worldly and inconsequential things. Instead, I want to be able to live modestly, comfortably, so that my needs are met, but I am not overly fixated on my lifestyle. In fact, I don't want to think about my lifestyle at all. I simply want to live well, eat well, and do my work well. I don't need fancy cars, houses, or other "items" to bring me happiness. No, my happiness, my joy, my gladness comes from the Lord and from doing His work here on earth.

Steps and Making Plans

I have blogged a lot about taking those next steps and making plans to get ready so I can go. The truth is that I cannot do either without His provision. I believe that He has released me to go, and that I am now able to start taking steps toward that end. This means that the plans I make will be in accordance with His will. I will start to move in the direction of His leading, and then He will open the doors necessary to provide for me. Each step has a provision. Each step must be taken in order. Once the step is taken, the provision given, then I can make progress toward the completion of His plan to settle me, to relocate and settle me.

It is exciting to think that finally His will is coming to pass. I have waited for this day for so long, hoped for it, and yes, even believed for a time that it would never come. But, here it is today. I am moving again, and praise be to God, it feels good to be moving on down that road! Selah!

For now, I have these steps in mind. The Lord will clarify and change them as suits His plan, but this is what I think is logical and reasonable for me.

  1. Complete dissertation research by mid-October.
  2. Begin writing results in October-November.
  3. Proof and send to committee in December.
  4. Receive any corrections or revisions in January.
  5. Schedule defense in January.
  6. Confirm degree in January.
  7. Finalize changes in February.
  8. Submit for publication in March.
  9. Apply for graduation in April.
  10. Graduate in May.
At the same time as above, I need to be working toward solvency so I can be in good credit shape to move.
  • Pay down credit cards to less than 30% of credit limit
  • Build savings to the point where 1/3 of income is set aside
  • Apply for rural loan approval so I can be qualified for purchasing a piece of property
  • Begin looking seriously (February-April)
  • Purchase a property in April-May
  • Plan renovation (apply for a renovation loan, if needed) and hire a contractor
  • Pack and move (June-July)
In all, I think this timeline is very doable for me. I have other smaller needs too, but mostly this is what I see in front of me. If this is His desire, then He will make a way for it to happen. I am believing Psalm 37:4-5 (NIV):

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

This is my life verse, and I have believed it is true for close to 10 years now. The Lord has faithfully provided for me, clarified His desires, and then given me the strength and resources necessary to achieve them. I have seen His handiwork, and I believe that what He has done in the past, He will continue to do in the present and in the future. He is good, so very good to me.

In Closing

My heart today is filled with joy. I am completely at ease and at rest. I hope to accomplish much work on my chapter one revisions and still be able to enjoy this good, good day. I am excited for my future, and I am filled with such hope in the plans the Lord has for me. He is so good to me. He is kind, faithful, good, and loving. He cares for me. I love the Lord. I lift up my voice, and I give Him praise this good, good day.

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