September 10, 2016
It felt good to really sleep in. I mean it, I haven't rested like this in such a long, long time. Last night, after I came home from GCU, I knew that I was going to have an early night. I was beat, just beat, and while my feet were a bit sore, I was actually in pretty good shape (pain-wise). My family had pizza, and it was almost immediately after eating, that I felt this urge to lay down. I decided to watch something on my iPad for a little while, but before I could even turn it on, my eyes snapped shut, and I was down for the count. I woke up close to 8 p.m., and then I found myself fully awake again. I did finally crawl into bed around 11 p.m., and once I drifted off to sleep, it was "bye-bye, Carol time." Yes, I was dead to the world and sleeping hard, well, it just felt so good to me.
I am sort of disappointed that it is now 11:40 a.m., and my morning has been wasted (so to speak). I am just getting to my blog, and I still have so much "to do" today. However, the good news is that I don't have any other plans but to write my paper and interact with my students online. Yes, my day is relatively low-key.
In many ways, I was lamenting to my Mom this morning how as a teacher, I have no "time off" during the year. I mean, I take all my work home with me. I said to her today that in some ways, I miss working 9-5 and leaving my "work" at my workplace. I guess the blessing in teaching is that I do have my holidays and my summers off. In truth, our time off is just lumped all together during one period only where as people in business get their evenings and weekends free all year long. It probably is even when you add it all up, but still, I thought how nice it would be to spend the day doing something fun rather than spend it on school (dissertation) and grading (teaching). Sigh! I know, I know...you cannot have it both ways, Carol!
Looking Forward to FUN
As I think about my life, I realize that for the past 14 years, I have not had a vacation of any substance. In fact, I would say that I haven't had any "fun" in that time either. When I mean, "fun," I mean just doing something outside of the house, some little trip, travel or event. I have spent the past 14 years sitting at home, taking short breaks to go to Walmart, but not really doing anything that could be construed as a relaxing activity. Sure, in that 14 years, at least half of it was devoted to working and school, and well, that pretty much took up all my time -- free and not-so-free. Still, when I look at my friends on Facebook, I see all the "fun" things they do. They are either off traveling or they are hanging out with their "honey" going to the ballpark, hiking, or just enjoying spending some time out in nature. My life, on the other hand, is absolutely boring. I sit at home on the computer, and I spend all my time immersed in my work. It is like this is all I do. I don't mind working hard; nope, not at all. I am a hard worker, always have been, and always will be. But, there has to be some downtime, some respite, some relief just to take the edge off.
My niece and her boyfriend posted a picture of their day at the county fair. I was telling my Mom how much I used to love to go to the fair. My good friend, Martha, would always call to ask me to go to the fair with her. We had so much fun walking through all the exhibits, looking at the animals, and generally just hanging out with one another. I loved spending time at the fair. I've been to our fair once since coming to AZ and it was a so-so experience for me. The county fair is in April and the state fair is in October. Neither are spectacular, and frankly, the weather tends to make walking around the fair not a pleasant endeavor. I so miss the good ole county fair back in my childhood and young adulthood days. I miss the cooler September temperatures and the way that everyone, and I mean, everyone, turned out for the fair.
In truth, the fair is just one part of my life that I miss. I miss so much about my life in the midwest, and really for that matter, even my life in California. I regret so much that I came to Arizona some days. I mean, I did come here for a reason. Yes, it WAS for a reason, you know. I just have to say that I gave up something wonderful to come to a place solely for the hope that I would be able to buy a house. That was it, really. Yes, the real reason why I left my family and moved to the desert was simply to afford a "better" life for me and my family. It wasn't for any other reason, even though I said it was. I had hoped that with moving to AZ, my family would be able to live more comfortably on less income. It was all about down-sizing and living a modest life. I thought it was possible to live better here because the cost of living was less than it was in California.
In my haste to solve our mounting financial problems, I disregarded what my heart was telling me, that in moving away, I would be giving up my friends, my family, and the environment I loved. I was so bound and determined to resolve our problems, that I willingly gave up my family, leaving them all behind, simply to avoid the deepening financial trouble we were experiencing. I was so afraid of being evicted again and worried about running from the law, legal action, and the IRS. I thought if we "started over" here in AZ, it would be the solution to all our problems. In some ways, it wasn't the solution at all, but rather it was the last nail in the coffin, so to speak, of an already dying relationship and lifestyle. Yes, I simply hastened my family's demise by leaving a place where I had good opportunities and connections for a place where I knew no one, had nothing, and even had little in connection with the environment (for example, I gave up my love of the outdoors, green trees, skiing, and beach for the harsh life of the desert). I learned the hard way that the old adage that says "Life is not always greener on the other side" is true. In the end, my life was not made greener by moving here. Instead, our financial life never improved, and even after 13 years of hard work and effort, we ended up further in debt, and on the brink of losing everything -- our marriage -- included.
Arizona wasn't the place of my dreams, for sure. It has been a difficult place to live, and while I have made the most of it, in hindsight, I realize that I gave up something precious, something valuable -- my family and my friends -- in order to have something I thought would make me happy. You see, I placed more value on material things, than on the spiritual things. I valued having no more worries about money, no more worries about financial matters and all the stress that went along with the lifestyle we were living over that of good relationships, good friendships, and deeply rooted family love. My ex-husband's family was not my family, even though I did my best to get along with them, spend time with them, and love them. I tried very hard to fit into their family, but their family dynamic, their relationships with one another were so difficult for me that often I ended up just letting them have their way. It was easier, less traumatic, less difficult for me if I just gave in and went along with them. Even now, I find that I am doing the same thing with my parents and even with my son. I am simply giving in, letting them have their way, rather than choosing to live my life as I want to live it.
I am trusting my life to the Lord, for sure. I am seeking His will in all that I do, but I have to say there is a part of me that is disappointed in what I currently have and where I am currently going. I trust the Lord, I do. I am resting in His provision, but there is part of me that sees emptiness, loneliness, and isolation in my future. I feel trapped inside my home. I feel isolated by my work. I feel so alone some days, and it is not just companionship I seek, rather it is community connection. I do not want to be an island anymore. I do not want to live in my home and have my home be everything to me.
The Need for Community
My blog tag line includes the words, "community," because back in 2010, the Lord pressed upon me this idea of community connection as part of my ministry. I was to engage in community building, within the church, and to help people see how they can build community with redemptive communication. This is one of the reasons why I studied communication and not English as a graduate student. I am called to pursue communication, and that means, that as my calling is specific, I am to do this work daily -- now and in my future -- day in and day out. I am to foster, to encourage, and to assist in the building of community.
I've tried to put my finger on the way I feel, how I have this deep loneliness inside of me and how I long to have community around me. I have thought that this longing is part of my childhood experiences, how I grew up in smaller towns, and how I was immersed in community activities. But, when I think back on my life, and my experiences, I don't see a lot of community involvement at all. I had my family, and I lived a pretty normal middle-class existence. There was no strong community connection for me. Yet, I feel pulled to places where there is a sense of community, and I cannot explain why I long to live in a place where community is valued. Perhaps it is just old fashioned thinking or perhaps it is because I have these memories and dreams about life in a small town somewhere.
More so, I feel this deep need to be involved in community outreach, to work in places where I can help build connections, to help people find other people. I know my ministry is directly to the church, and by that I mean that God is calling me to work with people who are already committed to Him and to His Son, Christ Jesus. My ministry is not to evangelize, to reach the lost, per se; rather it is to help the Church, build and foster community from within. Yet, I also know that God is calling me to go and live in places where there are a lot of people who have no church connection at all. These are not people who do not know Him, no. These are people who know Him but who have wandered away from Him because of the damage the church has done to them. When I say this I mean the damage that Christians have done to other Christians -- words that have been spoken, actions that have been taken, and messages communicated -- which have not brought people together, but distanced them.
I don't know how the Lord intends for me to work in this line of ministry, but I know He does. I think the reason why I feel this deep burden, this deep need for community connection is not so much that I need it (though I do), but that the Lord needs me to actively pursue it so that others will come to experience the need as well.
I guess what I am saying is that the reason I feel so strongly about living in the Midwest is not so much about my childhood experience, but it is about the Lord's desire for me to go and minister to people there. Perhaps it is my mindset, which is more midwestern that western. Or perhaps it is my upbringing which makes me easy to fit in a midwestern place. I don't know. I just know that the Lord desires that I go back to where I came from, to go home, and to do ministry in this place.
I was just thinking about this idea of going home, and about community building, and the thought crossed my mind that perhaps all this is about Him and not about me. You know, perhaps the desire for community is the Father's desire and not mine at all. Perhaps it is God's heart that is burdened. Perhaps it is the deep sorrow He feels when He hears His people cursing one another, creating tension within the Body, and living in isolation as a result. Perhaps my desire to go, to move, to work and to live in this new place is simply a reflection of the Father's heart. I am being called to go home, and that home may or may not be tied to a specific place -- but I believe it is. Perhaps "home," simply means His home, and that I am called to return to work in the Body of Christ so that I can begin to help my brothers and sisters get along with one another.
Psalm 133 reminds us that it is "good and pleasant" for the brethren to live together -- to live in harmony with one another. I believe God desires for His children to get along. Like any good parent, He is tired of the squabbling, the angry outbursts, and all the sibling rivalry. He wants us to be a happy and harmonious family, living in unison, and working together to bring about His will on earth. But we cannot do that if we cannot get along with one another. It is time we learn how to communicate more effectively and to stop arguing and start living our faith from the inside out. Yes, we must live our faith inside our homes (and our HOME, His Body) as well as outside our homes.
Today, I think about community connection, and my heart longs to return home. I do long to go home. I long to live wherever He thinks there is work to be done. I know that this means here and now, but there is still part of me that feels He is calling me to leave Arizona soon. I struggle with this thought, with moving from here to a new place. Yet, I know that if it is His will, He will make a way for me. If this is His call to me, then I must answer it. I must be the one to say, "Yes, Lord, send me."
The Lord is calling me to ministry, I feel it, I know it. I have answered that call with a "yes," and now I am waiting for Him to move me. I have asked that He would clarify my steps, prepare my way, and make it obvious to me so that I would be convinced, firmly and utterly convinced of where I am to go. Now, I ask that He would provide for me, to make a door and pathway open so I can follow. I ask that He is ready to provide the tools, the resources, and yes, the financial ability so that I can go and do His work. I know that I am called, thus He has equipped me. I must simply obey and do the work He is asking me to do. I wait upon Him. I look up and I listen. I watch and I heed His Holy Spirit, and in this way, He will make everything known to me very, very soon. He is good to me, so very good to me!