November 18, 2016

Making Progress Again

Well, Friday has arrived, and I must say it is definitely feeling crisp and cool. In fact, I would say it is downright chilly outside. I was so chilled last night that I put my flannel sheets on the bed, and then this morning, I put my fuzzy fleecy robe on. Yes, it is beginning to look a lot like CHRISTMAS! At the least, Christmas here in Arizona (the desert-y mild kind of Christmas).

I don't mind, really. While I prefer the snowy kind, the type that comes with all the old fashioned charm, the truth is that the mild kind of weather we normally have is pretty nice. Most people would give anything just to come here and "winter" with us. I am the opposite, in that I would probably give anything to go to the wintry north (well, at least during Christmas time). LOL!

Remembering Christmas

My mind and my heart are stuck somewhere in my childhood today. It is funny, but all of this trip down memory lane started on Monday when in a "flash," I had this weird moment when I was transported back to my 4th grade class at Highlands Elementary School. Yes, I saw myself in class making those funny little Thanksgiving crafts. I think it was one of my students and a comment he made about the holiday that sent my mind reeling. We were laughing and joking in class and something my student said (I don't recall) just sent me back to a time when life was so much easier. I remember making crafts in school during the week before Thanksgiving and then throughout the early part of December. Sure, we did school too, but mostly we just had holiday parties and other special events as school wrapped for mid-year.

Today is my last day before fall break, and that means that I have to send my students away with some instruction before they leave. I have no real plans for my students other than to spend time writing, finding articles, picking topics and such. I guess I should plan something good for them to do, but in truth, I am worn out. I am ready for the holiday's to begin.

All of this end of year hub-bub reminds me of how lucky I am, how blessed I mean, to be a teacher. I wish, oh-so I wish, I would have done this job sooner. I absolutely love teaching college. It is my calling, for sure. I mean, one of my callings. I am still convinced that my number one calling is to help the church communicate faith more effectively, and as such, this calling is what led me to Regent University. But, outside of communication, there is another calling, another practical calling and that is to teach students English literature and composition. I cannot tell you how much I enjoy teaching students. Even when I really blow it, I still love my job. And, when I say "blow it," I mean as in when I give a horrible performance in class -- lose my notes, my place, my mind -- LOL! Despite my foibles, I love what I do. My prayer every single day is that I don't get fired for my inadequacy (ha ha!) I really do pray that daily. I ask the Lord to cover me so that I don't lose my job!!

My heart is firmly fixed on what I do now, and teaching is such a part of who I am. In truth, I think being a teacher has always been a part of who I am. It was just a part of me that laid dormant for so many years. Now it has been reactivated, revitalized, and I am ready to do this work for as long as possible. I know many teachers who are counting the days to retirement, but for me, I am just happy to have a job. I am happy to be able to do the thing I love, day in and day out.

My prayer is that the Lord opens a door for me full-time once I finish my PhD. I am thinking online would be super, but I am willing to do whatever He has in mind for me. My hope is that I can stay at my current schools until that time (as in not get let go). I don't see why I would get let go, but still I think about it because I make so many mistakes. I know part of my error is simply due to the strain I am under as I finish my PhD. Once I am done, praise be to God, then I should not be so fractured in my thinking. At the least, this is my prayer. Oh, Lord, may my mind stay put together until I finish this degree!! Selah!

Making Good Plans

As I wrap up my early morning, I am thinking about my to-list again. I have so much to do, and I have so little time to do it. For now, though, I am content. I am choosing to be content, to find joy in what is right in front of me, which is my family, my home, and my good and practical work. Yes, the Lord has graciously provided for me. I am intentionally choosing to spend less time thinking about all the what-ifs of tomorrow, and instead, I am choosing to focus on here and now. I am choosing to live my life in this present moment, though part of me will always think about the plans for my life, my to-dos and such, because that is just the way I am wired. In fact, I am thinking more about planning, scheduling, and just getting more organized (in every area of my life). I am thinking that this season, this break that is so welcomed and wanted, needs to be put to good use. I certainly will be writing a lot, but I will have some other free time to enjoy as well. I think I will plan on getting my life organized, put in better shape, so that my 2017 simply ROCKS!

Well, that is my plan for today, any hoo!

So What is Next?

Right now, and I mean "right now," one of the things I am pondering is what to do next. I mean, what to do next, as in "how to plan my next move." You see, while I wait for the Lord to open that door for me, I also know that I cannot just sit still and do nothing. I have to keep busy. I have to remain alert. And, I have to stay focused on the tasks He has given to me now. I cannot ask for a better job, if I am not willing to do the job the Lord has provided for me now. You see, I think we often are so hung up on the "better" job (or substitute any other thing) that we neglect to attend to the work the Lord has graciously provided to us. In many ways, we allow our discontentment to become apparent because we are always looking for something or some way to make our life better.

I know I have been guilty of this for a long while now. I know that I have placed my future above or ahead of my present. I have done this, and lately, I have come to realize that the Lord wants us to be active in the moment, yet always looking ahead. We need to be alert for what may be on the horizon, but we also have to keep our hand to the wheel, so to speak. Consider it this way...

A captain of a vessel will be attuned to the needs of his ship in order to make sure nothing goes wrong on the voyage. He attends to his crew and passengers, all the while, making sure to steer a safe passage to their intended destination. He is aware of the outcome, the end result, of landing safely at the dock, but in the in between time, he is alert and paying attention to all the needs on board his ship. He watches the weather, navigates the seas, and he charts his course to ensure he will arrive without any problems or accidents. He is present in the moment, yet he is still actively focused on the future.

This is how we are to be, as God's elect, I mean. We are focused on our future, our heavenly portal, but we are also tasked with navigating our ship through the waters, safe guarding our passengers along the way. We are multi-taskers in this regard, but we must not lose sight of the end, the goal of the journey. We have to arrive safely.

As I consider this today, I realize that sometimes I focus so much on the end goal, the arrival at my destination, that I forget to take care of the things necessary to ensure my safety. I forget to take care of myself, mostly, but I also set my family and my friends aside as well. I need to be more mindful of my actions, and in this way, I need to remember that my life has two purposes. One is here and now, the daily business of life, and one is my future role in God's kingdom. I have to be successful in both areas, and I have to make sure that neither suffers, neither is left behind.

Making Good Progress

Some things that have been on my mind lately deal with my son's decision to take another year to finish school. I have worried about this for a couple weeks, thinking how I will handle this change, when in reality, I have lost sight of the end goal. You see, whether I stay or I go (as in the Lord's will), my son will be fine. More so, if I choose to remain in Phoenix another year, so be it. I mean, I have my parents to think about as well, and frankly, I am not going to up and leave them in the lurch. I have to wait until their situation is resolved (as in care). I cannot go where I want to go without them, and they cannot remain where they want to remain without me. I guess you could say that for all intents and purposes, we are a boxed set now. I may not like it, but I believe that the Lord has placed their long-term care in my hands. Note, not my brother's and my hands, just my hands. My brother, the younger, has said recently that he will not physically care for my parents. He had said otherwise previously, but now that he has other plans in mind, he simply will not take on this burden. My older siblings have not said one way or another because they believe I am well-suited to the task. Therefore, I believe this is the Lord's will for my life. I am to care for my parents until the end of their days.

Moreover, I am to care for my son as he continues to seek the Lord's will for his life. I have considered this fairly, and I feel confident that to remain here in Phoenix until he graduates is a wise move. I mean, he needs a home, and the stability we bring. And, while home life can be difficult at times, our shared home is better than no home or no stability at all. Thus, as of now and unless something changes, I am thinking that my plans for moving in 2017 are on hold for one more year. This may change come spring, especially if I receive an offer for work, but for now, I will simply accept this as reality -- it is my reality -- and I am okay with it.

Furthermore, I have come to terms with the fact that I cannot be separated from my parents, no matter how much I wish it were possible, at this time and place. I cannot walk away from them when they need my care. It is not really my physical care, either. It is that they cannot live on their own (physically or financially) without some help. Therefore, we are together for a reason. This is the Lord's will, and instead of balking at it like I have the past year or so, I am accepting it and asking the Lord to improve the situation, to make it better, less stressful and more peaceful.

Lastly, my journey to professorship has taken time. I was telling my Dad the other day how it will be 7 years since I started my graduate education come springtime. I have devoted 7 years of my life to pursuing my PhD. He was surprised at the time, but in truth, it has been 7 years (or will be) since I returned to graduate school to get my Masters in English Literature in 2010.

In all, I have devoted a major portion of my life to this goal, and while it is coming to a close, my life as a professor is just getting started. I will begin my 5th year of teaching in fall 2017. That means that I will have five years of teaching under my belt, a Masters and Phd, when the new school year begins again. More so, it is hard to believe, but true; I have come a long way from being an Enrollment Advisor at UOPX. I have come even further since I stopped working as a self-employed Web Designer. My life has changed, been upended, and not just because of divorce, but I have made a 180 degree turn around since that time. I have returned to the path the Lord laid out for me when I was in high school. I have taken up the mantle of His calling, and I am now doing the very work He purposed and planned for me to do well before I made the fateful decision to marry. I have been given a second-chance, a second start, and I intend to do my very best. I intend to walk in this way, to follow the Lord, and to let Him open doors, take me places, and show me the work He desires that I do. I intend to make His way, my way. I intend to make decisions, choices, and path changes in order to accomplish His will for me and for my life. This means that while I may not understand everything that is happening to me or around me, I know that my life has purpose. It is planned. And that plan is coming to pass. Yes, I am making progress again, and it is all in thanks for the Lord, who is gracious, kind, and so patient with me. He is good to me, so very good to me. Selah!

In Closing

Today is a good day. It is a very good day. It is the culmination of a very long semester, a hard and difficult (challenging) semester. I am now ready to tackle my research phase of my dissertation, and I am beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I am content in my work, and while I would prefer to live on my own, I am content to remain where I am in this shared home until the Lord provides something else for me. For now, I am choosing to focus on joyous living, courageous giving, and plenteous devotion -- for in all three -- I can bring praise and honor to the Lord. He is good to me, and He has graciously provided for all my needs. He has met my needs with His sufficiency.

My life has changed, drastically and radically, since the day I laid down the line and gave an ultimatum to my ex-husband asking him to choose his path (me or her). He chose the other woman, and in that one moment of sanity, clarity, and grace, I took leave. I took his leave. I said, "okay" and I moved on. I let the Lord close that door, and without really knowing what would be or how I would make it, I said I would trust Him to provide. He has done just that for me. He has provided a home, a career, a path for me to follow. I have a ministry calling and mandate, and now I have education, position, and financial resources to actually do what He asks me to do. Before, I was 100% reliant on my ex-husband for everything. I had no say, no control, no part in what we produced or how we lived. I lived as his partner, but really I was just his slave. I did what he wanted, when he wanted it, and when he chose another woman over me, I trusted the Lord, who gave me power and presence of mind to simply say, "enough." I walked away, and in doing so, the Lord showed me a new way to go.

Now, seven years later, I am a professor at three major Christian universities. I am about to graduate with my PhD, and I am ready to be a self-made, self-supported woman of God. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. I can go where He sends me, do this work in His name, and I can live as He leads, guides, and provides for me. I can do this work because it is the Lord who does the work in me and through me. It is all for His name, His praise, and His glory. To God be the glory, forever and ever, Amen.

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