November 26, 2016

Good Saturday!

It is a great day today in Phoenix. Yes, it is cool, and somewhat cloudy, and overall, it is blissful day. I slept really well last night, thanks in part, to my hard day of work (decorating the house), and the fact that I turned my mattress around. I think the latter was the ticket because I slept without any pain last night, and I woke up without a headache!

In all, I am feeling well — refreshed, relaxed, and well rested — praise be to God! I still have a lot on my to-do list to accomplish before Sunday, but I feel confident that I will get everything done before tomorrow.

My prayer today is to finish up my tasks so that I can attend to my grading for GCU and ACU. I have less than two and a half weeks at each school, so I need to make sure I am ready to teach come Monday. My online sections are in good shape, but I have some discussion board posts to respond to, and I have to prepare for the final couple of weeks there as well. I feel confident, as I said above, that I can do everything on my list before Sunday evening. God is good to me, and He has me so well-covered. Selah!


Enjoying the Season

It has been a good week off for me. I have worked hard, but I also have relaxed some, shopped some, and generally, used the time to relax some. I have been stressed, needless to say, over the past year and a half, and while I didn’t get my dissertation project work completed (more on that later), I did do a number of things that I’ve wanted to do for a long time, but never felt I had (a) the resources to do them and (b) the time to do them.

This year, with my Regent contracts, I am in a much better position to actually purchase some things — just because — and not out of dire necessity. It has been a long, long time since I have been in this position. The last time was when I moved from my shared home to my first “real” home. I’ve blogged about my financial struggles throughout the course of my marriage before, but in truth, I spent almost 30 years living from “hand to mouth,” so that meant that I never was in a position to buy anything unless it was a necessity. This meant that I never purchased items for my home, to decorate or even change styles. No, I used towels until they were threadbare, and sheets with holes in them, simply because I couldn’t afford to replace them. I made the most of my frugal and bare life, but when I found myself single, and when I was able to finally think about my first home, I knew I wanted to make it in my style. I didn’t have much money, but I had a little extra going into Christmas 2011. I had been working full-time at UOPX for five months, so in addition to being able to pay all my bills on time (woohoo!), I also was able to buy some extras right as the holiday season was beginning.

First off, I bought my oak buffet, something I have wanted since I was first married. I got it for a sweet deal, $100 plus delivery, at our local TurnStyle consignment store. I also purchased slipcovers for my sofa and chair, and really, the investment ($150) made all the difference. I changed the color, and I covered the rips and tears from years of abuse. I bought some accessories like my giant mirror (over my fireplace), and oodles of art work, to help set my style. I bought a big screen TV and a new bed. I also bought new linens, towels, etc. Some of my family gave me a house warming party, so I also was given some lovely new items to help make my home special. It was a long-time in coming because when I got married, I moved into my then husband’s apartment, and I lived with his college dorm-like decor. I never had the chance to decorate because he didn’t see any value in it.

Second, after settling into my new life as a single woman, I began to develop certain tastes and desires that were long-held buried. I started to think about moving someday, about purchasing a home, and about starting a new life on my own. I was on my own back then, but it had been 30 years since I was single, and learning how to live on my own was a challenge for me. I still considered my ex-husband to be a part of our family. I invited him to Christmas, for example, believing it was best for my son. I bought him gifts, etc. I pretty much treated him with respect, and I gave of myself in ways like I had all those years before. It took time for me to separate myself from the thoughts of “us,’ but in the end — it happened — I started to see myself as a whole individual and not half of a broken couple.

The more time I spent alone, the more time I had to consider “my life,” and what I wanted for “my life” down the road. Little did I know that the Lord would take me from my position as enrollment advisor and send me through a PhD program to become a professor. I had hoped it was so, dreamed it could be so, but never really believed it would become so…that is…until the day the Lord pressed Regent University on my heart and mind. Of course, it was only two years later that I left that town home to move into this rental home that I now share with my aging parents in order to facilitate His will in my life. Yes, moving into this home made it possible for me to go back to school and to work on my PhD. I am about to graduate now, and praise be to God, I am ready to finally, FINALLY, be settled.

Unfortunately, as I have moved around and lived in different homes, I have often made the decision to treat each move as if it was a pit-stop rather than a long-term stay. In this way, I have maintained the “temporary” mentality, and I have avoided putting down roots. Now that I know that I will be in Phoenix for a time, whether it is through the end of 2017 or 2018, I realized that I don’t have to live as if I am in the midst of a move; I can live the way I want despite the lack of permanent housing. I may not know where I will be in 2017 or 2018, but I can make my space as comfortable as possible despite the lack of “knowledge” on where the Lord intends to settle me. In this way, I can develop my style now, and allow it to build toward my final destination, wherever that may be (Lord, willing). So with this new mindset, I decided to invest in some items this week, and in doing so, I took advantage of the steep Black Friday deals.

Living in a Small Space

My greatest need, and that of my son, is more space. We discussed this dilemma last night, how we each need more space. He needs studio space, and I need office space. We live combined — meaning that we do multiple things — in our small spaces, and we make the best of it. It is not a perfect solution, and it is not a long-term solution, but for now, it works.

In my small space, which is about 11x11, I have a Queen bed, a small lingerie chest, a book case, a storage cube, a 20-gallon fish tank, a corner desk, a filing cabinet, and a buffet. I have a lot in my very small space. I hate being cluttered, and I don’t like it when there is no “white space” around, but suffice to say, I am pretty well-packed in this small space.

My desire is to great a bigger office area so that I can feel more “professorial” day-to-day. For now, I have limited options, but I can make some small changes that will help me carve out more room. I’ve made my plan, but this week, I focused on my decorating my space and giving Lenny, my fish, the larger space he needs for health and happiness.

My office-renovation will have to wait a couple more weeks or until I have some free time to purchase what I want.The plan, however, is to swap my corner desk (Walmart) for a Parson’s desk (a smaller and more narrow desk) that will fit along the window wall in my room. This will give me a corner nook where I can create visual space. I have debated over the options, but I finally settled on getting a black Parsons’ desk from Walmart. This desk is narrow and will fit my needs. It is about 39x20, but with my iMac, I think it will work for me. Next, I need a new chair, and I found one that is highly rated at Walmart.com. It is narrow, without arms, and it should allow me room to maneuver. Last, I intend to replace my 4-shelf white bookcase with a 5-shelf black book case. This should adequately handle my needs for books.

For now, I think I will wait a couple weeks, at the least, until school is out. I also want to paint my headboard (metal) and my small dresser black. I will need time to do this in the garage, and once everything is swapped out and refreshed, I think I will be ready for 2017.

This past week, I did get some super deals on items from Kohls and Ikea. I have my bed almost ready (yay), and once these items arrive (next week), my room will start to take on a new look. I am excited to begin decorating in my Pottery Barn style (on the cheap), and I can’t wait to see how everything looks once it is all in place.

It is a challenge to live in such confined space, but the Lord has shown me that I can do it, and I can do it with some style and flair. My bedroom is getting a face-lift, and thanks to the Lord, I was able to purchase a number of new things for relatively less money than usual. My Black Friday purchases ended up costing me about $175, but without all the coupons and other store discounts, I would have spent closer to $500. My little investment netted me some wonderful finds:
  • A $200 duvet for $70
  • A $40 set of percale sheets for $20
  • A $80 coverlet for $30
  • Two $40 pillow shams for $20
In addition, I bought a dust ruffle the week before for $25 and a $100 fish tank for $60. The $50 cube storage organizer was on sale for $37.

In order to finish my office area, I will need a new desk, bookcase, and chair. If I purchase these through Walmart.com, I will probably save some more money. I am going to look at a similar Parson’s desk at Big Lots today. It is more expensive ($90 versus $50), but it might be a lot nicer quality. The bookcase is regularly $35 and the chair is about $35. So in all, I will need to spend about $120-170 to finish my office off. I still have some decorating to do, as in changing my pictures and other art work out for more stylish options, but I will do this over the break, and as I find some good deals.

Living with Purpose

I think the key in all of this “newness” is realizing that life has a purpose. I know that for many years, especially when I was married and feeling so unloved and unwanted, that I believed my life had no purpose, and as such, my existence was meaningless. I share this openly simply to say that even as a Christian, my living circumstances worked hard against my beliefs, and in the end, while I believed I was loved, saved, and that my eternal destination was secure — my present life — simply was difficult, unpleasant, and filled with suffering. I struggled to find meaning in my life, and with that, often I believed that “I deserved” the hardship I was enduring. It was hard to maintain the mindset of James, who said in chapter 1, verses 2-4 (MSG),

Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.

What made matters worse is that my hardship didn’t end after a short time. No, in truth, I suffered enormous hardship — financial, material, spiritual, emotional and mental — for nearly 30 years. In this way, the pain and the suffering simply simmered. There were times when the pain lessened some, but mostly, I learned to endure, to bury it deep inside of me, and to stick my head in the sand so as not to cause more upset than necessary. 

It wasn’t until I came to terms with my situation and circumstances, and I fully accepted my responsibility for where I was (and wasn’t) that I began to see the path I had taken led me very far from the Lord’s true purpose for my life. The more that truth resonated within me, the more sad I became because I knew that I had walked away from the Lord’s plan and design in order to satisfy my own wants, needs, and desires. Yes, I made the decision that took me far away from His perfect will, and while He never let go of me, I suffered the consequences of my actions.

Once I accepted my responsibility, and I repented from my sinful desires, I found the Lord gracious and merciful and so willing to help me get back on track. Of course, I never thought that in the process of getting my life back on track, my then husband would choose to go his own way. Yes, in many ways, as I drew nearer to the Lord, and more intent on following Him closely, my husband walked further away. It was as if my desire to be wholly devoted to the Lord caused my husband to want nothing to do with the Lord at all, and instead, move toward satisfying his own lustful and wicked desires.

In the end, I found my path back to God, my purpose clarified — but at a great cost. I ended up single instead of married. I lost my life, my identity, and my convoluted purpose and meaning, simply by choosing to return to the Lord, and recommitting my life to follow after Him. On the flip-side, the blessing was that despite my marriage ending, and the difficult days, months, and years that followed, I actually came to see God’s divine purpose, plan, and I received His calling and His mandate for my life.

Redeeming the Years

The Lord gave me meaning and purpose again, despite all those years of sorrow. I am in a new place now, with a new vision, and with a new sense of wellness that can only be attributed to the Lord and His marvelous goodness and grace.

Thus, living with purpose, simply means knowing that God has a plan for your life, and that plan is unique and specific to the call and the mandate He has placed on it. Learning how to identify that plan, and then accepting that call is the first step in feeling as if your life has meaning. For me, it was realizing that a long time before I met my husband, the Lord chose for me to live a single life. I know that sounds odd to say it that way, but what I mean is that some people are called to singleness, and while all young men and young women should remain virtuous and chaste, most will find that special someone with whom they will share the majority of their life. 

In my case, I never desired male companionship. I never was very good at dating or relationships, and I was very content to be alone. I had many male friends, but the whole sexual thing was difficult for me. I wanted nothing to do with it, and while I believed in the beautiful blessing of marriage and children, I simply didn’t see myself that way. I did want children, of course. I love children, and the Lord has always given me a heart for ministering to children, but with my physical challenges, I honestly was afraid of bearing children — for fear — of what it would do to my back. I was content to be single, and I was just beginning to find myself when I met my ex-husband. I felt so strongly that the Lord didn’t want me to date this man, and even in my heart, I didn’t want to date him. Yet, I was struggling emotionally and mentally, and he seemed to genuinely care about me. I saw him as my salvation, really. I saw him as a way out of the pain and the suffering in my life.

I believe now that it was the Lord’s intention for me to remain single — life long — single. Yet, I chose to engage in a relationship that led to marriage. I walked into the marriage believing that somehow the Lord would redeem my actions. I entered into a difficult relationship, and I endured many years of suffering as a result. The emotional abuse was especially difficult as was the financial hardship and psychological control. I did get pregnant, and praise be to God, I gave birth to my beautiful boy. But, as I had feared early on, I suffered greatly with the pain of childbirth, and to this day, my back has been damaged as a result. The pain I endure daily is the result of giving birth, a traumatic birth, to my one and only child.

In many ways, the Lord has redeemed the years the locust ate (Joel 2:25). He has repaid my debt burden, and He has emancipated me from the sorrow and the hardship. He has given me newness of life, a new direction, a new focus, and He has renewed my purpose. He has given me His plan, and His plan has made it possible for me to accomplish so many wonderful things in just a very short amount of time. Now, I am ready to step out into this brave new world, to embrace it, and to take hold of the goodness the Lord has set aside for me. This includes good, practical and prosperous work. It includes a lifestyle that is modest and comfortable. It includes exciting ministry opportunities. And, it includes a plan and a path that will lead me homeward, home to my eternal destiny, and my final resting place. He has made all this possible, but the cost has been expensive, far more than I could have ever expected or anticipated. 

Covenant Keeping

I have made a covenant with the Lord, promises so to speak, as to what I will do in return for His goodness and favor in my life. One of the many promises I have made to the Lord is to live wholly devoted to Him. A second promise is that I will remain as I am and not seek a companion or male friend. I will trust the Lord, and should He provide such a person to me, it will not be of my own hand or doing. Third, I have promised the Lord that I would devote my entire life to His calling, and in that way, I would “go where He sends me, live where He tells me to live, and do the work He has asked me to do.” I would not seek my own way. I would not go where He has not permitted me to go. I will not even think about living any place other than the place of His choosing. In these three things, I have made a covenant with the Lord that says,
  • He is God, and I will seek Him earnestly all the days of my life (Ps. 63)
  • He has a plan and a purpose for my life, and that plan is for good and not for harm (Jer. 29:11)
  • He is my sole-provider (Gen. 22:14) and my sole-protector (Ps. 18:2)
As I endeavor to keep this covenant with the Lord, I am reminded of the steep penalty for breaking covenant. In the Old Testament, those that entered into covenant with the Lord were given great freedom and blessing. The Lord graciously provided for them. But, in return, they were forbidden to do many things, and mostly, they were told how to live and where to live. The Lord provided well for His people, but the penalty for breaking covenant was harsh. Under the legal system of the Mosaic law, the penalty was often death. Praise be to God, that penalty has been replaced by the grace of the new covenant. Yet, still, there is penalty under this new grace-based covenant, and that is a loss of relationship, of communion, and of fellowship with the Lord. I intend to never enter into that place again, Lord willing. I intend to keep my side of the bargain since it was the Lord who graciously forgave me and permitted me a second chance to walk in His way, in His will, and in His work. Oh, my goodness, yes! I am a covenant keeping daughter of the King of Glory! Amen, praise be to God, it is true! Selah!


In Closing

As I close out this blog post today, I am reminded of the goodness of God, and of the grace and mercy that comes though the blood and the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus, the Christ. I thank God today for the freedom to live as I do. I thank Him for the blessing, the mercy, and the goodness of His provision. I thank the Lord for providing a new way for me, a second-chance to redeem the plan, and for the opportunity to walk in His goodness each and every day of my life. He is good to me, so very good to me. Praise be to God, He is good. He is so very good to me!

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