May 31, 2016

When Ready, Press Go!

It is Tuesday, May 31, 2016. It is a good day here in sunny and warm, Phoenix. I woke up early today so I could run to Walmart and pick up a swim suit for my son (his "mysteriously" disappeared). He is heading over to San Diego this morning along with the high school ministry leaders for a weeklong camp at Point Loma University. I sure he would have survived without swim trunks, but like any good Mom, I didn't want him to spend the entire week at the beach without one. Sigh!

So here I am, blogging, and thinking to myself that I do too much for my young adult son. I mean, after all, he is a almost a grown man (at 22). Yet, there is part of me that sees that little boy whenever I look at him. I see the young man, the good young man, too -- but I also see the boy that still needs his "mum" from time to time. I do try to stay out of his business, and I do try to not meddle. But there are times when I am needed, and rather than say, "Sorry, Bud! It's all up to you," I step in and help out.

I guess as I age, I am becoming more like my Mom. My Mom was always "there" for us when we were kids, and she was there for us as grown adults. She didn't meddle in our business, but if you needed her, she was there for you. You could call and ask for help, and she would give it to you. If you needed money, she had it. If you needed clothing, she would buy it. If you needed her to clean your house (or help you do it), she always volunteered. She was that way, and I came to rely on her especially when my own child was young. My Dad was similar, though not always as agreeable. He pretty much would help you out, if you really needed it. Sometimes he would be grumpy and unwilling, but most of the time, he would do what you asked of him. I think I was fortunate to have such good supportive parents. Did we take advantage of them? Not really, at the least, I don't think so. I think we appreciated them (my brothers and me), and I don't think we infringed on their life too much. Still, my parents were gracious to us. They were always available to help, always there to listen, and always willing to lend a hand. My brothers stay in touch with my parents weekly. They call, they write and send cards, and they come to visit. I think their response demonstrates their appreciation for their parents, and while life wasn't always so rosy (we did have our moments of disagreement), most of the time, we were a happy and well-adjusted family.

I love my son dearly. I am sorry for the loss of family stability in his teen years. I am sorry that my ex-husband chose to end our marriage, our family unit, right at a time when our son needed both of his parents most. Yet, here we are, and the past is put away. My prayer, of course, is that someday, my son will see just how much his Mom loves him. I hope he will know that he is loved, valued, and deeply wanted and appreciated. I hope he will always feel this love the way I felt it from my parents. I hope that if all else fails in his life, he will know that he can count on his "mum" to be there for him just the way my parents were there for me. I hope it is so, I hope it is so.

Let's Go ~ Press Play

There you have it. There you have the story of my life. I grew up in a time when little girls dreamed of being married, of having babies, and of living a life similar to their own childhood. Our little world was filled with traditional things -- husband, children, homes. We weren't all gung ho on a career, and in fact, any fleeting dreams of career would be tempered by the reality that once you were married and carrying a child, you would retire from work and take up the mantle of "homemaker." Back then, staying at home was a good thing. No one made fun of you. No one said you were "less than" a person because you were at home with your children. No one thought any differently about you. In fact, it was the working woman who left her children in care that seemed out of the normal, unusual, and suspect. Of course, over time things changed, society changed, people's views on the matter changed. More and more young girls had dreams of "becoming" something when they grew up, and while husband and children still mattered, the idea of "giving up" a career for them was considered silly and ill-conceived. You could have both, the feminists said. You could be a working mom.

I am not bashing working moms because I was one. I had the blessing of working from home for a good number of years, but I did work outside the home too. I missed being a true SAHM, and while I didn't mind working (at times), I really would have preferred to be at home and making my home my number one priority. Still, as I said previously, the past is the past, but I cannot help but admit that I really did miss being a wife and mother.

Now, I am employed as a teacher, and I love my job. I cannot think of any other work I would rather do. I wish I would have done this line of work years ago, not only for the pension/retirement, but also because I think it would have been a good job for me. My family would have been blessed, for sure, and my son would have grown up around schools. I would have enjoyed teaching elementary, middle or high school. I would have loved to have taught college too. But, this is the life I have now, and God be praised, I am blessed to be a teacher.

My desire, of course, is to continue to do this work until I can retire at age 70 or thereabouts. This means that I can expect to work full-time for another 17 years. In all, I will retire from teaching after 20 years. It will be a good career for me, a good career move. My goal is to find a full-time faculty position somewhere soon. Perhaps by this fall, but if not, then in the Spring. My hope is that it will be online so I have freedom to move to another state without worry about needing to live close to campus. I could, for all intents and purposes, live anywhere as long as I have Internet access. For now, I am content to teach on campus and on line. This seems to be the Lord's provision for a time, and I am happy to have both opportunities. My prayer is to receive a full-time offer as soon as I am available to take it. If it is to be for fall, I would like it to be before July simply so I can let GCU know I won't be teaching there next semester. If not, though, I will just stick with what I have for now, which is one summer class (PTL!) at OCU, and four fall classes at  GCU and ACU. God is good, so very good to me.

Planning for Fall

As I think about my next steps, moving from adjunct to full-time, one thing is certain -- I must wait for the Lord's timing and provision of the "best" job for me. You see, I don't want to apply to jobs only to be short-lined to the recycle bin. Yep, it happens often. Schools don't even get your resume because someone in HR doesn't connect your skills and abilities to the position listed. It could be a lack of experience or publication, etc. Or it is simply bad timing. I know that the Lord has something in mind for me, and with His favor and blessing, that job will open up, and I will be considered for it. I cannot rush the process, and as such, I have to be ready when the time comes. Right now, I have some good positives to add to my resume. I have some great student feedback, and for the most part, I think I look good on paper. The key is to wait for the Lord to open that door, and then put me in the right place at the right time. He is good, so very good to me.

Thus, as I plan out this move from adjunct to full-time, I realize that I can do nothing in my own way. I cannot seek jobs that are not of His provision, and I cannot even apply to jobs that aren't prompted by His Spirit. I have to be patient and wait. The right job at the right time, that is what I want. I don't want to end up in a job that is a poor fit for my skills or that pressures me or causes me to be so overwhelmed that I cannot focus on finishing my dissertation. God knows what I can and cannot do, and He is aware of my needs right now. Therefore, His way is best. I rest in His way. I let this go, and I look up and say, "Yea, Lord -- your will, your way, and your work is all I desire."

It is true that prepping and planning are second nature to me, so to wait patiently and do nothing, just eats at me, it really gets me down. Yet, I know that I can be the most well-planned person in the world, and still not be ready when the time comes. How do you plan for a life when you don't know where you will be or the work you will do? It is difficult, to say the least. I mean, I know I will teach, but where? I know I will teach English, but what classes (developmental writing, first-year, or literature)? Do I have the right curriculum, textbooks, syllabi and assignments? Am I ready to tackle classes without pre-planned and prepped curriculum (like at OCU or GCU)? Can I handle a new class without any real time to work something up? Good questions, and many of which, I lack answers for because I simply do not know what to expect. My preparation, then, must include getting my ducks in a row. I must have the materials selected, the courses defined, and the assignments ready to go. I must have my life, my teaching life, so well planned that I can take on any assignment with ease.

I've been thinking a lot about this lately, how I would like to teach literature courses and such. Yet, I rarely get the chance to do that so I often just settle for composition courses. I love both, and I enjoy teaching a combination of courses just to keep things fresh and easy. Yet, I wonder if I am ready to take on a combination approach to teaching. This semester, for example, I am teaching Introduction to Communication at ACU. I've taught this course two times now, and while I like it, I don't really care for the textbook I must use. It is okay, and I do my best with the material, but I still haven't quite figured the class out. I teach something similar at GCU, and I like the textbook they use better. But, if I had to push myself, I probably would be able to wing a communications class easily. The same is true for World, American or British literature. I think I could easily teach a survey class in any of these subject areas. I just don't have syllabi prepared. I need to do this, and this summer would be a good time to create these courses.

Preparing for Fall

So I am thinking that perhaps I should devote some time this summer to creating courses for "potential" classes. I am thinking I might need to purchase some curriculum. I am thinking I might need to visit Covenant Home School Resource center in Phoenix and purchase some English textbooks. There is no need to purchase new books, just used ones will work well for me. I could order some from Amazon too, but hmmmm....I will need to think this through more.

I can envision teaching American Literature easily. A college semester course is the equivalent of a year of high school level coursework. I could create a semester class using any number of sources, but I think most colleges use an anthology. It bums me to think I gave away all my Norton Anthology's before I moved back in 2011. I had everything I would have needed to teach any number of classes. Sigh!

Okay, so this is my plan for prepping for "potential classes" this fall:

Step one -> find some syllabi online that look good to me (that I like) and then adapt courses and assignments based off of a standard design.

Step two -> procure a text, like an anthology so I have access to the selected works. Of course, I could use online copies (save some $$$).

Step three -> Create the class in WORD so I have a pdf of the course to send to prospective schools. Put said "course" online and make it available to anyone who wants to borrow it for their own use (home educators, perhaps?)

Step four -> be ready to move when the Lord says, "Go!"

I can think of the following courses I may be asked to teach in the near term:

  • First-Year Composition (I and II)
  • Developmental or Fundamental Writing Skills
  • American Literature I and II
  • The Short Story
  • Research Writing or Academic Writing
I pretty much have FYC completed, and I have taught Short Story twice now. As for the other courses, I will need more prep and planning to carry them off, but they are relatively easy for me to cobble together. After all, I have my BA and MA in English Humanities and Literature. I pretty much know what the standard fare is when it comes to teaching these courses. Still, I need a plan, a lesson plan, and I need something that would work well to transition me into full-time teaching. God is good to me, and He knows me well. If these are the courses He wants me to teach, then He will provide the curriculum, texts, and other resources I need to do it. I am trusting Him on this matter. He leads, guides, and provides (my new "mantra") -- so be it -- thy will be done! Selah!


Now, I see. Well, I think I see. I had planned to spend my entire summer conducting my research, but I haven't received any feedback on my proposal yet. It has been two weeks and no word. I called and left a message for my professor so hopefully we will connect this week. I have some questions, and I need feedback to know what to work on next. Still, if nothing happens, then I have to believe that the Lord desires I rest this summer and tackle this other project. I am okay with this approach, should it be His will. I guess I will just have to wait and see, to wait and let this pass. I know He has me well-covered, and I know that He knows exactly what He wants from me. I will sit and wait. I will be patient. I will endure, and in the end, He will show me the way to go. For now, I wait. I patiently wait. And, while I wait, I will be busy doing practical work, cleaning house, so to speak, and making myself ready for His next provision -- that full-time English faculty position. God is good, so very good to me. He knows me best, and with His help, He will provide to me the best possible job. It will come when He is ready for it to come, and until then, I will rest in the timing, the knowledge, and the truth that He helps me to understand. I must be made ready. I must be prepared. I must have a plan of action. When He is ready, He will tell me to go. Then, I will know that the time has come, and I will feel rested, refreshed, and ready to tackle this new and wonderful learning and working opportunity.

May 30, 2016

Memorial Day

It is Memorial Day, and I am here sitting in my room, blogging and thinking retrospectively about my life. I seem to always think about my life, but today, I am thinking more about the fact that I am in such a good place IN my life. I mean, my life is going well right now. Everything, from work to school to home, seems to be running smoothly. I am feeling well, and I am well-rested. I have a sense of overall "goodness" permeating my life, and I am feeling as though everything, and I mean, EVERYTHING is going to turn out well. I am excited for my future, happy to be where I am today, and pleased with my past (yes, all of it). I recognize today that my past is not something to run away from, but rather it is there to accept, to appreciate, and yes, to learn from as life experience. I have so much to be thankful for in my life, so much goodness and happiness. I have memories that are both sweet and sad, but overall, I can say that my life has been so very good, so very, very good.

As I consider my life from this "new" perspective, a perspective that respects the past, enjoys the present, and anticipates the future, all I can say is that it "feels good" to think this way. I mean, finally, I feel like I am free from the past memories, the thoughts, the feelings, and the imaginings of my life as it was lived and experienced. I am not to the point where I no longer remember details or even emotions as they are attached to each memory, I just mean that I am able to think back on the past and sort through the details and remember the "good" that was a part of the experience. Let me explain...

Dealing with the Past

A couple weeks ago, I blogged about a memory I had when I was 12 or 13. My family had come to visit from Ohio, and my parents took all of us to the museums in Chicago. It was a special family trip, and going to the museums, well, that was a huge present. I loved to go to the museums, and since I grew up in the south suburbs of the city, I took regular field trips all through elementary and junior high school. On this particular occasion, while viewing one of the upstairs exhibits, my aunt got to laughing and wet her pants. It was funny back then (now, we would be horrified -- different time and place) and that incident was an oft-repeated family story. As I processed those memories of a happy family trip, I also remembered all the other times associated with that period in my life. In truth,my childhood was a mix of funny parts and difficult parts, of joy and of sadness, of blessing and frankly, of cursing.

This time in my childhood wasn't particularly happy for me. While I can say that I had a good childhood, overall, my time between 4th grade and 8th grade was particularly difficult. Things were at their worst for me when I was in Junior High School. It was during this time when I was regularly abused (verbally, physically, and sexually) by certain kids and one or two teachers who attended and taught there. Thus, when I think back to my time in Junior High School, many of the memories are filled with pain. Yes, this period in my life was not a happy time for me, and those experiences hurt me so deeply, wounded my spirit and my soul, and caused me a great deal of psychological harm as a result.

However, when I think back to that time now, I am able to sort through these experiences and find nuggets of happiness, small memories where there was love, joy, peace, and laughter. It is important to accept the past, for sure, and I have done this. I have accepted the trauma of my youth, how those experiences hurt me socially and mentally, and how many of the more difficult experiences made it very difficult for me to find intimacy in relationships. Yet, once I accepted the past, all of it, I was able to heal, to be healed, and in that way, I was able to finally move past the pain and the emotional hurt.

I read a quote by Christine Caine the other day. She said,
"The long series of disappointments you accumulate in a lifetime can stop you from moving forward into all the goodness God has planned for you – and that means they’ll be stopping not only you, but also all those God has destined you to reach along your life journey" (from Undaunted).
Moreover, in her new book, Unashamed, Caine says that you must, "reveal what needs to be healed" and that you must "embrace the pain of recovery" in order to experience true freedom. I so agree with her statement because I know in my own life that being set free was a process. I would recite Scripture where it says, "So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed" (John 8:36 ESV). The problem for me was that while I believed God's word was true, I didn't feel set free. No, I was still bound in guilt and shame. I was still living in this status where I said "I am free," all the while I was moaning about in chains and dressing in sackcloth.

Overtime, the Lord helped me see that He had set me free. I was no longer bound to my experiences of the past. They were forever a part of me, but I wasn't defined by them. I bore the scars of those events, those terrible and at times, terrorizing events, but I had survived, I had overcome, and as His witness, my life still had purpose. Yes, God had an amazing plan for me, but I couldn't even begin to experience, to envision or engage in that plan until I let the past rest. I had to let it go. I had to accept it, understand it, and deal with it. Once I did, I was truly free to move forward and to begin to enjoy my life.

Preparing for the Future

For the past couple months now, I have been trying to focus on my future. I have been trying to change my mindset so that I look forward to the future, not with fear or worry or doubt, but rather with hopeful expectation of His mighty and merciful goodness. I blog daily, and in doing so, I am often focused on my future hopes. I mean, my work as a professor, my schooling and graduation, and of course, my next stage of life -- being settled some place, perhaps married again, and engaging in ministry -- as the Lord leads, guides, and provides.

The problem has been that while it is a good thing to look forward, to keep an eye on the sky, so to speak, sometimes we are either stuck revisiting the past or we are always off into the dreamy bliss of future expectations. As a result, we rarely are able to enjoy the present, the here and now. Lately, this has been brought to my mind, and as I have meditated on it, I have come to realize that it is good to enjoy everyday living. 

I often follow Joyce Meyer as I enjoy her books, teaching series, and other devotional studies. One of the things she has said over the years is that we must not forget to enjoy every day life. As a victim of abuse, she knows first hand how easy it is to be trapped by your emotional baggage. She understands that it is very comforting to remain a victim, and often we do this as a result of our wounding experience. The problem is that if we choose to remain a victim, we end up imprisoning ourselves in a place where God doesn't desire us to be. In her best-selling book, Battlefield of the Mind, she states, “Our past may explain why we're suffering but we must not use it as an excuse to stay in bondage.” She is right, of course. I cannot wipe away my past, forget that it ever existed, but I can accept it. I can accept what it was and how it hurt me. I can move on from it, learn as a result of it, and in time, share my journey to healing and freedom so others can follow me out of that prison cell of pain, sorrow, guilt and shame.

You see, I was in bondage to my past for too many years, and as such, I missed out a lot on enjoying my life. I spent my days reliving the past or day-dreaming about a different future -- but -- I didn't do anything to change my situation. I just accepted that it was my lot in life to suffer. Finally, after spending time in the Word, studying and listening to gifted preachers teach on the subject, I realized that God gave me the power to say no. I could begin to take control of my life by simply saying, "I am sorry, but this or that doesn't align with the Word of God." I changed my mind, and as a consequence my attitude shifted and I began to see that I had choices in my life. I didn't have to stay stuck in the past or a daydream, but I could begin to make changes today, in the here and now, that would affect my future. Joyce Meyer says, “You can suffer the pain of change or suffer remaining the way you are.” I chose to change my thinking, and in time (not overnight), my life began to change course.

Furthermore, as I took time to allow God's healing power wash over my life, I came to understand that God desired for me to be healed. I am not talking the super-fantastico "healing" that you often see on TV by charismatic holiness pastors and preachers. No, I am talking about true healing, the kind that is available to us through the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ. Jesus came to bring healing and freedom, and as a Christ follower, that healing and freedom was provided for me at the cross of Calvary. It is up to me to accept it, to embrace it, and to allow it to take root in my life. Meyer says in her book, Beauty for Ashes, “God wants you to be delivered from what you have done and from what has been done to you - Both are equally important to Him.” 

Now that I have been healed from my past -- meaning from the sins I committed and the sins others committed toward me -- I am able to live a life that is free from guilt and shame. I can live my life now without attachment to the past, and my future no longer has to be a dream. My future is now part of my reality, and I choose every day the kind of future I hope to enjoy. Meyer says, “Happiness is not a feeling, it is a choice. To be happy, one must choose to be happy, not respond to a circumstance that now controls your happiness.” As I look to my future, I realize that what I do today, how I enjoy my life today, will have great impact on what my future ends up to be. I can make decisions today that will be in my best interest tomorrow. But, if I am stuck in the past, living in the past, I am not in the right mindset to even think about tomorrow.

Living for Today

Thus, it is vital to grab hold of today. The Word says it this way, "So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom" (Psalm 90:12). We are to take into consideration the days that the Lord has given to us, making wise use of them. James 4:14 tells us to remember that tomorrow is unknown, therefore, we are to not plan on our tomorrows because they are like a mist or a vapor. He writes, "What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes."

Our life, our days, are precious gifts from the Lord, and He has a plan for how He desires we spend them. We can go about living according to our own wishes or we can live our lives surrendered to His will. If we choose the former, then our life will be a matter of our own doing. Our choices, our power, our own control. This is a life that doesn't honor the Lord nor does it align with His Word. Thus, as Christian's we are called to follow Him, to let Him lead us into better days. In learning how to abide in Him, to lean upon Him, and to let Him be the Vine (John 15:15), we will come to experience all that is destined to us through Christ's death, burial, and resurrection. Yes, we can come to see that He has a great plan for each of us, and that in His way, He will lead us, guide us, and provide for us. We can be healed from the past, set free from the guilt and shame of our sins and our painful experiences, and we can be established to walk in a way that will bring happiness to ourselves and to our families. This is my choice. This is my choice this good, good day.

As I close out this blog post today, I am sitting here thinking meditatively how great a God we serve. I love the Lord with my whole heart, and I love what He has done for me. He has ransomed me, freed me, and given me a place of honor and of preference within His kingdom. I am His child, and He loves me dearly. I can go and do whatever is asked of me because of His great love for me. He is my King, my Shepherd, and my Lord. I look forward to this good, good day. I look forward to experiencing and enjoying my life each day from now on. I look forward to my future because I know that He is the One who has it planned out for me. I rest in Him completely. I trust in Him, and in doing so, I let whatever He determines for my life to come to pass. As He wills, so be it. Amen. Selah!

May 29, 2016

My Mind is at Rest

It is a blessed Lord’s Day, and I am at rest. I mean, REST! I woke up feeling rather joyless this morning. I slept well, even though I didn’t hit the sack until nearly 1 a.m. Yes, my good friend and I were on the phone for about five hours last night, and finally, after I was yawning so terribly, we said good night. I rested well for the most part. I slept soundly, and woke up on my own. I heard the strains of the Indianapolis 500 coming from the family room, and I knew it was Sunday, May 29th. It is a ritual in our house, or at the least, it has been since I was a child, that this day is reserved for the race. I mean, everything stops. No other noise is allowed, and no interruptions can take place while the race is in progress. Of course, while I like the race, I simply cannot tolerate the “no noise” due to race day rule. Sigh!

The Good Shepherd

In order to stay out of the fray, I got myself up and ready for church, and I headed over to Scottsdale Bible Church for a good Sunday of praise and worship. I am so glad I went today. I mean, I didn’t have any reason not to do so, except for the fact that I was a bit tired from my late night of conversation with my love. Still, I needed some quality time with the Lord and His people, so I made the journey over this morning. The worship center was pretty full, given that it is the Sunday of a holiday weekend. I suspected less people today, but the sanctuary seemed to be its normal “almost filled” status. Our normal worship team was missing, but the young man who led the music did a super job. The message was part of our regular series on the Book of John, and today, the pastor covered John 10:1-21. This passage is the portion of scripture that covers the allegory of the Good Shepherd. It was familiar fare, but the pastor did a super job bringing it home. He stressed followership, which I love, and made a strong case for the difference between being a strong believer and a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. In church lingo, the difference is huge. You see, many people consider themselves strong believers in the Lord. They may be longtime Christians, active in church and ministry, students of the Word, etc., but they aren’t followers of the Lord. They are Christians, yes — born again — but they haven’t surrendered their lives, their days and nights, to following Him yet. They are still in control, going their own way, leaning on their own understanding, and creating plans of their own making. They haven’t come into that deeper, more intimate relationship of being a follower of Jesus.

I loved this message because it spoke so surely to my heart and my mind. Much of what the pastor said was almost spot on to my experience as a Christian. I spent the better part of 30 years becoming a strong and ardent believer in God. I knew the Word well. I attended church faithfully. I served in ministry, and I loved everything about “church” and being a Christian. But, I was firmly rooted in my own self-directed life. I was living what I thought was the best way, mostly through legalism and adherence to the Law, and as a result, I was miserable. I was always feeling the guilt and shame of living a life less than what I believed was required of me. I prayed, I cried, I tried, I gave my all, and nothing I did ever really made a difference for me. Until, that is, I gave it all up, laid it all down, and accepted His gift of grace. Not for my sins — that had been dealt with so long ago — but grace for my life, my failed attempts at legalistic perfection (or Christian perfection). I accepted freedom, the freedom to be a follower instead of a leader. The freedom to let go and to start living my life as the Lord leads me. Miracles began to happen. My life changed. I changed. I became new — like brand new — and my heart and my mind started to understand the Word from this new perspective. I was less punitive toward others, more forgiving, and more willing to let things slide. I didn’t hold that harsh line anymore. I was open to accepting others, no matter how flawed they were, for the very fact that they were brothers and sisters in Christ. I simply became someone who mellowed out, chilled out, and while my intense passion for the Lord increased ten-fold, my work level (my doing) dropped to next to nothing. I stopped doing in my own strength, and starting living in His.

This message was confirmatory to me, and it helped me see how frequently believers in Christ miss the open door. They live so near to Christ, but not in Him. They miss the blessedness of a life that is designed around followership.

As I listened to the pastor preach, I realized that even though I made the decision to become a wholly devoted follower of Christ Jesus nearly ten years ago this spring, I still am not always doing what I should. I mean, I listen, but I do not always follow. It is obedience with me, really. I listen, but at times, I refuse to follow where He leads. It has been a problem for a time, and I have had to learn, really progress through experiences that helped me deal with trust issues. I had to learn how to trust the Lord, then I had to learn how to abide in Him, and now I am learning how to rest. It is progressive. Trust comes first. Trust is learning to do more than just believe something is true and reliable. Trust is letting go and knowing, really believing, that the Lord has you covered -- that He IS, that He is the Great I AM. It is believing that no matter the circumstance, no matter the situation, He is there with you, and He will take care of you. Abiding is knowing where your provision, sustenance comes from, and it takes into consideration leaning on the Lord. To abide means that you acknowledge where your Source for life comes from and that your efforts, while noble, are not enough to get the job done. You must lean on and abide in the True Vine. Lastly, resting is letting go and letting the Lord lead, guide, and provide. It means you are in 100% dependence upon Him for everything — every breath, every morsel you eat, every thought you think -- and every deed you commit. You are wholly dependent on Him, and as such, you understand that nothing will be accomplished in your own way. It is all His way, all the time.

I have come to learn what it means to be a follower. It has taken time, lots of time. It has required sacrifice, and some painful experiences to help me learn how to do it. I am not a perfect follower because I still goof up, I mess up, but I keep on trying my best. I keep on surrendering my life, daily, to His leadership, and then I follow. I obey. I walk after Him. I have grown tremendously over the past ten years, and now that I am on the brink of a new life, new changes, and such, I realize that these next steps cannot take place until I am ready to let Him lead. I am ready. As of today, I am ready.

My Mind is at Rest

Today, as I left church, I had this amazing sense of peace of mind. I cannot really explain it other than to say that my mind is eased. It is like a rubber baby bumper has been placed around my mind today. You know, like when you are a kid at the carnival and you are in the bumper cars. You are bumping and crashing into other cars, but the big bumper cushions the blow. My mind has been cranked to this high level of tension, mostly due to my recent scholarly work, but also through stress -- worry, fear, doubt -- about everything in my life. My body has been at peace. I have felt the anxiety wear off, slowly coming down from a 9 out of 10 to about a 3 or 4. I have felt rested, refreshed, and relaxed, but my mind was racing, always trying to stay on top of all the details. Now, it just feels protected, like cushioned, and with that comes a sense of well-being, of comfort, and of relaxation. My mind is at rest, and it feels so good to let the worries go.

My prayer today is to experience this blessed restfulness as an on-going way of life. I want my mind to be completely resting in the Lord. I want my heart, my body, my soul, and my mind to be 100% obedient. You know it is like this:

"You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might" (Deut. 6:5 NASB)

and again here:

"...and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul (life), and with all your mind (thought, understanding), and with all your strength" (Mark 12:30 AMP)

I have been progressively learning how to love the Lord with my whole heart and life. I have struggled with the mind part and of course with the strength part. Now, I feel like I have crossed the threshold, and I am resting with my mind. I am at rest in my heart, my life, my mind, and my strength. My entire being, inside and out, is at rest in the Lord. 

Today is a blessed day, a good day. I am blessed to be alive and to be living in the way of His choosing. He is good to me, so very good to me!

Psalm 17:19 (AMP)
Blessed be His glorious name forever;
And may the whole earth be filled with His glory.
Amen and Amen.

May 28, 2016

Confirmation

Happy Saturday! Yes, it is a beautiful Saturday here in sunny and warm, Phoenix. The skies are clear and the air is warm. The high today should be in the mid-90s, but with the low humidity, the outside temperature is not unbearable. The 100s are around the corner, and the forecast is calling for mid-100s toward the end of next week. I am so not ready for the heat of summer, but for now and until the Lord moves me elsewhere, this is my life.

Today is a good day. I am blessed, so very blessed. I am sitting here in my home office thinking about all the good the Lord has brought into my life. I am officially "hired" at Ohio Christian University, and I am scheduled to facilitate my first English Composition class mid-July. I am excited to begin teaching at this school as I believe it is the Lord's provision to help me transition to full-time online teaching. I don't know if this will be the school of His choosing, but I was greatly encouraged to receive an offer for part-time work. Furthermore, while I was perusing their website, I saw that they have just added an online Bachelors of Arts degree in English. This could mean more part-time work or it could lead to a full-time position down the road.

As I think about the Lord's provision, I realize that all my worries, fears, and doubts about money are slowly fading away. Sure, I still don't see complete coverage for summer, but I do see possibilities where before there only seemed shortfalls. Now, I see that the Lord has been telling me what would be, but in my inability to fully trust Him, I chose instead to worry rather than patiently wait in faith. Lesson learned well. As of today, I will be teaching four English composition courses and one communication course. I will be Associate Faculty at three schools, two local and one distance. My continual prayer is for the Lord to open up an opportunity where I can teach full-time online. I really see this as the answer, the solution, and while I will miss working one-on-one with students in a traditional setting, I am content to teach from a distance if this is His will for me.

My desire is to teach online simply because I think it would provide a simple solution to my relocation plans. For instance, with online work, I can move anywhere the Lord leads me. Furthermore, with online, I am no longer bound to a schedule that requires me to drive to school and back. Lastly, online allows me more free time at home to do other things. Not only can I manage my home better (less fatigue, for example), but also I can write papers, do classes (as the Lord directs) and start a ministry. I can do everything He requires of me from the comfort and convenience of my own home. I really see this as a win-win combination, and I hope that this is His will. I feel that it is, I sense it I mean, so for now, I rest while He orchestrates the jobs, the schools, and the classes that He wants me to teach. He is good, and He is faithful -- always!


No Other News

So besides my job news, I am really sitting here with little to do. I thought about working on my curriculum for fall, and I may actually do that today. Or I may just rest and let the day pass by. I don't know. I am blessed to have these days off. I am blessed to have this freedom, for sure. I am not as tired as I was earlier in the week, so perhaps I am finally getting rested, adjusted to the downtime. He is good to provide this to me, and I am thankful for the blessing of time off.

In closing today, I simply remember that He is in control of my life. He is making good things come to pass, and I am resting in the security of His promises this good day. I am resting in the One who has everything under control. There is no detail unnoticed, no issue or concern uncared for or tossed aside. He knows my needs. He understands what I can and cannot do, and since He knows the plans He has for my life, I can rest in His provision. I can trust Him to provide the right job at the right time for the right amount of pay. Furthermore, I can let Him lead me because He is not going to take me into harm's way. He is not going to let go of my hand or let me try to make ends meet. No, He is going to satisfy every need, every desire, and every sincere wish for me. This doesn't mean He does what I ask of Him; no, not at all. Rather it simply means that I have turned over these desires, wants, needs, and wishes to Him. In return, He gives to me what He wants, and I graciously and without grumbling accept what He provides to me. He will sustain me, comfort me, protect me, and provide for me. He is the VINE and I am the branch. I am to abide, lean on, and trust in Him. I rest in His abilities, knowledge, and power, and then He does everything else. He is my King, my Savior, and my LORD. I rest in Him today. He is good, so very good to me! Selah!

May 27, 2016

It’s Friday!

It is Friday, and I am happy to be alive! Yes, it is a good day to be alive, to be free, and to be living in such a blessed and wonderful state of grace!! God is good, so very good to me. I am giving Him all the praise and honor today because He is good to me. I mean, HE IS SO VERY GOOD TO ME! Selah!

Truth be told, I woke up a bit stiff and sore, and I am still very tired. I am not sure why I am so exhausted, but I find that while I am sleeping soundly, I am simply not waking up refreshed. I feel tired until I get up, start moving around, and I get my first cup of coffee. I sure hope this is not an indicator of things to come. I mean, I am too young to be so tired every morning. Sigh!

Some Good News

I finally received word back on my article. The assistant editor has forwarded my paper to the editor, so unless something happens, I think I can safely say that my paper has been accepted for publication. I am “tentatively” celebrating at this time. Once I get the “two thumbs up” from the journal, I will be overjoyed!  I have been looking forward to the day when I could get one of my paper's published. I have always dreamed about being a scholarly writer; I just never thought I would actually do it. Now, I am on the cusp of being a published author, and that idea, the dream, seems more real now than ever before. I am blessed, so very blessed.

When I think about how God provided the perfect solution to me, to teach and to become a writer, I stand amazed at His goodness and His grace. I mean, He orchestrated my success, and while it took longer than I thought, His word to me is coming to pass. You see, He was clear on the steps involved in transitioning from corporate work to academic work. I didn't understand the process, so for me, I felt like things (the details) were slow in coming together. What was more difficult was that I felt like I was spinning my wheels. And, for the longest time, I never felt like I was really making any progress at all. In truth, though, everything (all those details) were coming to pass in a specific order and within His specific timeframe. I didn't understand how things work in academia. I just thought that I would experience the same blessing and favor as I did when I worked in corporate business. I expected that I would be "promoted" up faster, sooner, and without as much effort. I didn't understand that these types of blessings take much longer to realize in this very different environment.

As weird as it may sound, in higher education, the whole institution of academia, has such ingrained policies and procedures. The process from start to finish is stagnant. So thoughts of moving in and up, whether getting employed or receiving promotions or acceptance for publication, takes years to realize. In many ways, it is like Aesop's Fable of the Tortoise and the Hare. In corporate business, where I worked for many years, everything moves at a rabbit's pace. It seems like what is here today is gone by tomorrow. You get in, you get moving, and with good effort on your part, you begin to experience success in short order. The potential for success, whether in position, power, or prestige, is available so long as you are willing to put forth effort and remain diligent. Personally, I found success came easy to me, relatively easy, I mean. I worked hard, stayed focused, and did a good job. In the end, I was rewarded. But, when I moved into higher education, everything changed. It was like my forward progression just came to a halt. No matter how hard I tried, my efforts were not rewarded in the same way. It was the flip side of the story where you read how the tortoise creeps on, slowly inching its way to the end. Everything and everyone who works in higher education seems to know this fact, and they accept the truth that nothing moves fast, change takes time, and success comes on very, very slowly.

My problem was that I wanted everything to happen instantly. I understood there would be learning curves, time delays and the like. I just didn't think that it would take so long for me to see any measure of success. Of course, truth be told, I did receive plenty of "success," and I have overtime, seen a lot of good results. My mindset had to shift, and I had to slow down. I had to take things as they came to me rather than rushing out to find them. I had to put my entrepreneurial spirit on the back burner and accept how things are done, handled, and completed in higher education. My "do it now" attitude had to be replaced with a more casual, "whatever" approach. I had to take things one at a time instead of in a rapid fire sequence like I was used to experiencing. In some ways, the pace of working in higher education was not welcomed. I wanted it all NOW. As time passed, though, I came to see the blessing of going slow, of taking time, and of enjoying the process involved in teaching. I came to see that it wasn't about results at all. It was about people, processes, and putting the needs of others ahead of my own. I put my achievement-oriented personality on hold, and I embraced the compassionate side of my personality. As I slowed down, I started to relax. As I started to relax, I began to enjoy my days. And, as I enjoyed my days, I began to see the blessing wrapped up in this way of life. I am now enjoying my life as a teacher, and I can say whole-heartedly that there is no other job I ever want to do. I am content, fully and finally, content. God is good, so very good to me! Selah!

Blessing #2 - More Work

My other good news is that I logged into Ohio Christian University's email server today and I received word that I have been moved to "approved" status for associate faculty. This means that I am now approved to teach provisionally at this school. I will be assigned an 8-week class shortly, and I will work with my mentor to learn how to teach at this school. At first, I wasn't thrilled with OCU's online facilitation approach. I thought it lacked individuality, and I wanted more say in how the classroom is run. However, now that I am on break for the summer, I am seeing the blessing in this approach. In truth, I am happy to teach/facilitate in whatever way the school wants. I just want to work, and I want to learn how to be a good teacher, whether online or on campus. The more experience, the better, in my book.

If all works out well, I should have a class to teach this summer. Perhaps I will have a regular schedule through the next year where I could teach 1-2 classes. The recruiter said this was possible, but I know that scheduling is based on needs. So if I could teach 1 class, say, in fall and spring, this would be good for me. I am still waiting on Regent University, and I believe that in time, I will receive a call to teach online for them as well. I also am "in process" at Colorado Christian University. I think I have very good prospects for part-time online teaching. The key for me is time management. I need to manage my time well so that I don't let any of these schools down. Of course, my prayer is for one full-time position. But until the Lord opens that door for me, I will be content to teach at whatever schools want me. I will teach part-time or full-time and for any number of schools. I just want to earn a decent salary so I can live more comfortably. Yet, I say with Paul that I am content in riches or in poverty. I am choosing to be content this good, good day. Selah!

Update: I received an email confirmation for an 8-week contract beginning in July. This is a perfect gift -- right when I needed some extra income. God is so good to me!
Leaning on the Lord

Today's inspirational reminder is from Joyce Meyer. Joyce writes, "When we lean on God, we actually enter into His rest and can enjoy our lives, no matter what our circumstances may be." I love this quote because it reminds me why we must "lean on" and abide in the Lord. If we want to be at rest, to cease from striving in this world, we must rest in the Lord. Resting in the Lord means to trust Him, to let Him take the lead in every area and to provide for us in the way He chooses to provide. It means we must lay aside our desire to be in control, to make decisions based in human understanding. Instead, we acknowledge our need, we say aloud, "Lord, I don't know how to solve this dilemma, this problem, and I need your help to do it."

Resting has been one of the hardest life lessons for me to learn. I have struggled with resting for years, and in the past couple months, the Lord has shown me how my unwillingness to rest has caused great harm to my body. My lack of rest has taken a toll on my physical, mental, and emotional state. I have been running around on empty, and my body now is telling me "enough!" I know better, of course I do, but I still try to remain in control, to be the one who makes the decisions as to what to do, where to go, and how to do everything. I need to rest, to rest in the Lord, to lean on Him for everything. When I do lean on Him, my life seems to slow down, to that tortoise pace, and I can relax. I can find refreshment for my world-weary soul. God knows our limits, our ends, and He knows that we need to rest frequently.

As I think about my life today, I realize that for all my striving and struggling, I haven't managed to make a whole lot of difference in my circumstances. All I have done is create stress for myself. I have set myself up for pain, sorrow, and suffering -- needlessly -- all because I refused to allow the Lord to lead me and guide me into that blessed rest. My "take away" for the day is to remember that when God leads, He provides. When He provides, He guides. We need only allow Him His rightful place to find blessed peace and rest. I want to rest now. I want to accept whatever He offers me. I want to know and to be incomplete surrender to Him. I want to believe that what is coming to me is good, always for my good, for my blessing, for my rest. May the Lord lead me and guide me this good day. May I lean on, abide in, and rest in Him today and always. In Jesus' Name, amen. Selah!

May 26, 2016

Getting Ready to Go

It is a blessed Thursday, and I am finally awake! Yes, I stayed up way too late last night. I am not a spring chicken anymore so late nights (until 3 a.m.) just don't do this girls' body well. Of course, I enjoyed myself, enjoyed spending time with my good man, and enjoyed being able to share some time with him despite the time change and his current work schedule. God is good, though, and He has provided a way for us to stay connected to one another throughout these past 23 months. I thank the Lord for providing such a good friend to me, such a sweet, wonderful, and amazing friend. I cannot imagine what my life would be like without him as a part of it. I have become "accustomed to his face" as the wonderful Lerner and Lowe song goes. I am blessed, so very blessed to have this special person in my life. I am looking forward to the day when we can finally spend time together "face to face," when we can finally "do" life together. Until then, I am content to enjoy this blessed friendship as the Lord leads, provides, and guides us in it. Selah!

Moving and Going

Just yesterday, I blogged about how I was sensing the Lord's movement in my life, how things seemed to be picking up for me, and how I was feeling as if the Lord was going to bring some change into my life very soon. Today, I am still feeling this way, but I guess you could say that I am more settled now, more ready to begin this process. It is a process, after all, a process that has a beginning, middle and an end. The process isn't a quick one whereby you just "pick up" and go. No, this process, at the least for me, is a long, long, long one. I have been in the "moving process" now for six years. I have been in the "preparing to move" process for nearly ten. It seems that my mind has been focused on relocating for so long that I simply live in this "transition." I am not content to remain where I am because I am always thinking that the time might be right for me to "go." It is weird, really weird, but this is just the way it has been for me.

I've tried to figure it out. I've tried to get a handle on why the Lord would be pressing on me this need to move IF He didn't really plan for me to move. I mean, why put inside me this deep desire to move when really He just wanted me to set down roots where I am right now. I have been here in Phoenix for nearly 20 years (come November), and while I have come to terms with my life here, the truth is that I have never been happy here at all. I've never been content to live in Phoenix. I really didn't want to come here in the first place, but I saw Phoenix as the way to flee from all our problems. And, for a time, it happened. All the stress of San Jose melted into the hot summers of Phoenix. But then new stress developed, major new stress, far more intensive stress than what was experienced in San Jose. I knew I had made a mistake shortly after moving here. I knew that I had gone against the Lord's will for our life by leaving San Jose. I was sick -- almost to the point of death (twice) -- and I was so depressed that I had to go back home to get medical care. Yes, I was emotionally on the brink of suicide, even though I wasn't going to say that it was so. The only thing that kept me from committing suicide was my precious son, whom I loved dearly, and whom I believed was given to me as a gift. I was to shepherd him, care for him, and bring him up in the fear and admonition of the Lord. I knew that this was the charge the Lord had given to me, communicated to me, and I couldn't let anyone else take that responsibility from me. I stood my ground, recovered my well-being, and I returned back to Phoenix to live out a life that was never going to be blessed, never going to be happy, never going to be successful.

Of course, since that time, things have changed. I have become settled here. I have accepted the fact that this is the place of my choosing. I chose to come here. I chose to convince my ex-husband that this is the place we should live. In the end, I am the one that brought us here. I have learned to be content with this decision, and I have learned to put up with the heat and the hardship. But, inside my heart, deep within my heart, I always knew that this wasn't going to be my home forever. It was temporary, just for a time (a long time).

Now, I am a different person. I am a grown woman with a grown son (praise be to God), and I have a blessed new life. My home is shared with my parents, and while that is a trial at times, it is a good provision from the Lord. I have been blessed as my days transitioned from the old life to this new one. So much has changed for me. I have become this bold, dynamic, and positive person. I have thrown off the shackles that bound me, and I have stepped into a faith-walk that has required great sacrifice. I am growing, learning, and abiding in the Lord, and I am making plans for my future. I am still to remain where I am for a time, but the Lord has permitted me to consider life elsewhere. I have looked at cities and towns across the USA, from north to south and east to west. I have considered small towns and major metropolitan cities. I have considered what life might be like in these places, even pursued logistical planning to move on many occasions. Yet, still I remain right where I am -- no movement -- no change in my location.

I have wondered why this is so, why the Lord lets me plan a move, but then doesn't actually move me. For a long time, I just assumed it was my unwillingness to go. I mean, I have to be willing to go, and even with all the detailed plans, when it came down to it, I haven't been willing to let go of what I know as "home." Now, though, I wonder if this isn't really the case. I am sure my unwillingness to go is a part of the problem, but now I think that it is more a matter of His unwillingness to let me go. You see, I have said time and time again that I would go, that I was willing to go, agreeable to going. Yet, the Lord didn't move me. He didn't move me. There have been so many times when I could have been transferred, say with my job at UOPX or CVS, and the Lord didn't permit it. Furthermore, when I was living on my own, He could have opened doors at other jobs like United Healthcare, and permitted me to take a position in another state. I applied, I was applying like crazy, but the jobs didn't materialize, and the work never opened up opportunities for me to move.

Now, I am in this place. I am about to graduate with my PhD, and I am ready to take on a full-time teaching position. I can move, I mean, now is a good time to move. But, still, He doesn't move me. He doesn't send me anywhere. He says for me to be still, to wait, to remain for a time. So I remain. I stay. I sit still.

I am thinking today that all of this moving, this sense of moving has been for one purpose. It has been to show me that my desire to move is more about "change" than really about moving to do His work. I have always liked to change things around, to rearrange furniture, to paint walls, etc. I like the temporary feeling of 'newness,' of 'freshness,' that comes from small changes. In this way, I think of moving as changing my lifestyle, changing the way I do my daily life. It is true, of course, that change brings a sense of newness, especially when life has gotten really stale. Now, though, I do wonder if the deep desire to move was predicated on my poor decision to come to Phoenix, and my willingness to run away from the life I have had here.

It is interesting to reflect on my motivation in this way. You see, for a long time after I had separated from my husband, I couldn't imagine moving so far away from him. I know -- weird, right? I know a number of women who have been divorced and the first thing they do is move far away from their ex-husband. For me, even though I was glad to be free from that marriage, I still had deep emotional attachment to my ex-husband. I still cared for him, about him, and couldn't imagine living far from him. In time, those feelings subsided. I still see him occasionally, but we have little to do with one another. We don't talk on the phone; we text. We don't spend time together outside of the casual "hello" at a function featuring our son. It is as if this part of my life is dead now, and I have no feelings or need to remain connected to him. I am sure it is natural, the death of a loved one, even the death of a marriage, takes time to settle. The feelings don't subside overnight, and as everyone grieves differently, for different periods of time, only the Lord knows when the "time" is right for moving on.

Secondly, I struggle to leave my parents behind. I struggle now that my Mom needs more care, and my Dad is in failing health. My head says, "Just wait this out. Just wait until it is over," even if that means staying here for another five or ten years. I don't want to do this -- I don't want to put my life on hold until they pass away. I have thought about this a lot lately, especially after my brothers' came to visit this past weekend. They are very content to allow me to sacrifice my life, to give up my freedom to remain as caregivers for my parents. Yet, I am not content to do this nor do I think this is the Lord's will for my life.

Last, I have waited here until my son graduated. First, it was until he finished high school. Now, it is until he finishes college. I didn't want to uproot him in the middle of his schooling, so I waited. I waited until I could get all my little ducks in a row. I needed the money to move. I needed a job to move. I needed a place to live. It seemed like there was always a reason why I couldn't go. I didn't have the resources (I still don't). I didn't know where to go. It was always something, always something.

Dissatisfaction and Moving

As I think about moving, I hear myself saying, "If you are so dissatisfied with life in Phoenix, then why don't you go somewhere else?" Yes, I should take my own advice. I have complained, griped, and stated boldly that I wanted to move, and yet I do not move. I have tried, planned, imagined, envisioned the whole process, from start to finish, and still I do not go. Why? Why is this so? I guess partly it is because I don't want to repeat the past, especially the mistakes I made in the past. Let me explain...

My cousin recently lost her husband after many years of marriage. They had relocated to Phoenix a few years back and were happily living here. They had bought a lovely home with a pool, had a fishing boat, and for the most part, were enjoying their semi-retirement. Then her husband got sick, cancer, and he died. She couldn't bear to live in the house anymore so she sold it. She left her family (my family) and another cousin with whom she was very close to move to the other side of the country. She has been there now two years, and she says she is happy most days. I can tell that she is not really happy. She has a lovely home near the ocean, and she seems in good shape. But, she is not happy, not really happy at all. I felt that she was moving to leave the hurt memories of her life here in Phoenix behind. It was her way of dealing with the loss of her husband. She packed up and she changed scenery. I think she really did want to go, really wanted to try this new place out, but in hindsight, I think she realized what she gave up to move. Despite the pain, the suffering, and the sorrow here, she gave up family and friendships simply to find solace in a new place.

I don't want to do this same thing. I don't want to leave Phoenix and go some place else simply to avoid the pain I experience here. I don't want to try a new place, hoping it will solve all my problems, when the place is really not the problem at all. It is the mindset. It is the way we think and feel when we are in the midst of trial, turmoil, or temptation. Yes, I think there are times when we place a lot of faith in a move, when we think the move will change our circumstances and improve our life. The problem is that while this might be true to some extent, it might also not be true at all. Moving to move is never a good idea. I guess -- unless you were young and had no life to begin with -- then moving may be fun, exciting and an adventure. But when you are my age, in your early 50s, moving comes with a great cost. There are many things to consider when starting over, and the place, while important, is really the least of the concern.

I have looked at more than 500 homes over the course of the past ten years. I have imagined purchasing them, living in them, decorating them. In all of these homes, from inexpensive to very expensive, I have never once felt like I was "home." I never once thought, "this is it!" No, I saw lots of potential, lots of nice neighborhoods and country life, but never once did I feel like I had found the place where I would be content, happy, and settled.

Am I placing more emphasis on the place, the city or town, then on the work the Lord has called me to do?

That is a tough question, but one that I think is worthy of pondering. You see, I do think that I have placed a lot of emphasis on the place. I have put "place" at the top of my list, my needs list, for the past ten years. I pray, "Lord, where will I go?" I ask Him to clarify, to show me, to lead me to this place so I can go there and do His work. Yet, I already know what He has said to me. I can do my work, I mean His work, anywhere. I need to be within driving distance to an airport, but I also can live anywhere because the work I do doesn't require a specific place. I will work on my own, do my own work, so there is no "organization" with whom to be employed. Furthermore, outside of teaching, whether on campus or online, my only "need" is a job at a college or university. I can teach anywhere, so long as I can get hired (LOL!)

Moreover, the place is not critical to anything I do. So in essence, I am free to move about the country as the Lord opens doors for me. I don't have to go to Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, or Atlanta to do practical or ministry work. I can do it right where I live -- so here in Phoenix or there in the deep south. I don't need anything special to do this work. I have everything I need. I have my computer, my books, the Internet, etc. I have what I need, short of a house and an office, but other than that, I am good to go. I can pack my things and move tomorrow. I can set down, sign up for Internet, plug my things in and presto! I am back in business.

Furthermore, as far as my son goes, he is in a similar way. Of course, he prefers to have super fiber optic high speed Internet for his stuff, but generally, he needs a room to sleep in and work in. He can work from home as a musician, studio recording engineer or he can get a job doing some other practical work. He is pretty flexible. He doesn't require much to be moved either. This makes both of us very adaptable. Yes, we do have some preferences, but as far as needs go, we are easy movers.

Preferences -- That's the Rub!

I have always said to the Lord that I am particular. Well, in truth, He says this to me. I am particular, which just means "exceptionally selective, attentive, or exacting" or "fastidious or fussy" (Dictionary.com). I know what I like, and I want what I like. Well -- I would prefer to have what I like -- let's just put it that way. The Lord knows that I am intensely focused, very detailed oriented, and as such, I tend to want things to be a certain way. I am a bit OCD, which doesn't really help me much, and can get in the way when it comes to making decisions. Also, I tend to vacillate for a time. I analyze everything to the "nth" degree so my mind becomes pre-occupied by details. This tendency can get me stuck in a rut for a time, and until something shakes loose, I will continue to fixate on the details. Usually, it is a crisis of sorts that pulls my head up, and then I see how deeply I have been digging for answers in the wrong places. Then, after some fresh air, the answers come to me, and I realize that I almost missed the clues simply because I was so determined to figure things out my own way.

How do I stop this madness? How do I find my contentment in what I have and not in what I may have down the road?

I think the key here is to recognize the pattern of behavior. I need to realize three things:

  1. Moving is not about the place, it is about the mindset, the mental ascent that agrees to consider things from another perspective.
  2. Moving is not about the place, but about the people who live IN the place.
  3. Moving is not about adventure, though adventure can be part of the package. Rather it is about purposed and productive work -- going, doing, being -- is purposed and it is planned.
This means that moving is never about changing the scenery, leaving problems behind or looking for a place to solve a current issue or concern. No, moving is always part of the process of growing. It is part of the process, that is all. It is not the end-all or the be-all. It is simply part of the process of life.

Now that I have thought about it more, I realize that I have looked to the place in some ways like that of a desired outcome. I looked to the place and thought, "my life will be better there." Now, this is not to say that moving to a new place will improve your circumstances, because there are times when it can do that. For example, if you take a promotion at work, moving to a new office could net you more income, more responsibilities, better career options, etc. Moving, thus, could be a step up to a higher quality of life. But, there are no guarantees. Happiness doesn't reside in places or things, rather it resides in the Lord and in His work. The key to happiness is to be settled and content in your relationship with the Lord. The natural outflow of that relationship will be to generate happiness or contentment (satisfaction, fulfillment, etc.) in every area of your life. This means that what matters most to the Lord is for us to be content in our relationship with Him first and foremost. Second, the Lord desires that we find part of our sense of happiness in the relationships with share other people. Our families, our friends, our church, our peers and coworkers all contribute to our overall sense of happiness, of well-being, of contentment. Things can provide satisfaction too. Jobs, for example, can provide challenges too, in a good way, so we can derive satisfaction from them. Working and serving people in ministry can also bring us great joy, a sense of accomplishment, and a feeling of valuation and worth. But, happiness itself is not to be sought in anything save the Lord.

Thus, I realize that all my efforts to move, to relocate, were partly fueled by my desire for change. I have wanted to experience "newness," a fresh change of pace, and moving was the thing I felt would do that for me. Now, though, I see that while moving in and of itself is part of God's plan for my life, it is just part of that plan. It is not THE PLAN. No, the plan involves His work, and therefore, I have confused moving to a new place as being integral to the plan itself.

My head gets it. I understand what I have done, and why I was doing it. Now, I need to retreat some to reflect on this truth. I need to realize that God hasn't moved me yet because I wasn't ready to go. I might have been willing, and even, agreeable; but I had the wrong mindset. I was placing too much emphasis on moving, and not enough emphasis on what the Lord was asking me to do once I got there. I wasn't thinking KINGDOMLY, rather I was thinking very WORLDLY.

Setting Everything Straight

Now that I have my mind back in check, I realize several truths that need to be considered further.
  • God has provided a great career track for me. As a teacher, I have the opportunity to do work anywhere in the country, even from home, and I can do this work until I am ready to retire.
  • God has opened doors for me here in Phoenix, though temporary and part-time, but nonetheless He has blessed me in my career start.
  • God has provided opportunities for me to grow as a scholar, a researcher, and even now a published author -- all as part -- of His way of making me ready to become a Professor.
  • God has made it possible for me to remain here, temporarily, while I complete my degree. He has given me comfort, shelter, and a way of life that is conducive to being productive.
  • God has made new friendships for me, mostly at a distance, so that I would see that my life is not tied to a single place. My life is filled with many good people who live all over the USA.
  • God has ordained a special friendship for me, a loving companion-like friendship that has provided for deep emotional support and love.
  • God has given me the blessed option of caring for my aging parents, and He has provided a way for me to do that now.
  • God has made a way for me, for ministry and for work, and this way is beginning to take shape, to come to full and to fruition.
  • God has given me every gift I need to be able to do His work. I am well-approved, ready, and prepared (equipped and trained) to begin His work.
As I think about all that the Lord has done for me, I realize that where I am today is part of this process. You see, whether or not Phoenix was the "best" move for me to have made back in 1996 is really immaterial at this point in time. It is "what it is" so to speak. It may not have been the best decision, but it was a decision made, and a decision lived. My life has produced good results regardless of where I have lived. I mean, God used my life here in Phoenix to bless others. I may have endured great suffering, difficult and trying relationships, and even the failure of a marriage here in Phoenix -- but PHOENIX -- wasn't to blame. The place was just that -- a place -- where I happened to be living at the time. The place is nothing. It is a dot on the map of life.

I see now how I have made the place into something more mysterious and magical than it really needs to be. I am often the one who will say to others contemplating moving that there are many "good places" to live in the US -- if you are willing to consider them as such. Sometimes we think the only quality of life is in this place or that place. And while that may be true if you are seeking worldly things (hype, money, fame, etc.); for the Christ-follower, however, the place is just a spot where the Lord allows you to rest, to catch your breath, to learn something new. It is just part of the journey we take, following after Him.

In this way, I see that my journey is to follow Him from where I am today to where He wants me to be tomorrow. Spiritually, I am to follow Him all the way to Heaven. I am to follow Him until the end of my days, and that may mean that I stay put in one city for 20-30 years. Or it may mean that I pack up and go every couple years. It really will depend on His desire for ministry, for work, for meeting the spiritual needs of the people in the places He chooses for me to go.

I guess in all, I have come to understand that wherever He leads me, I will go. I will live, do, work, play, and be content -- but not in the place -- but in the fact that I am doing what He asks me to do. I will work unto the Lord will a full heart and a willingness to go and to do His bidding. He is my Lord. I go and I do as He commands me to go and do. Selah!

May 25, 2016

The Lord Moves

You know that saying that goes "the Lord moves in mysterious ways," well, after yesterday, I think it is truth. I mean, yesterday, the Lord gave me such a GREAT day. I had a fun time working with one of the doctoral advisors at Regent University, and I got to meet some prospective students. It was so nice to be able to give back to my school in this way. Then, I received some great news regarding my paper that I had submitted over to the Journal of Instructional Research. It looks like my paper is going to be published this August. In all, the day was more than I had expected, and yet, for my part, I really did nothing special, nothing at all. The Lord moved through the process, made a way possible, and in the end, simply allowed me to "tag" along with Him. It was an exceptional experience, and praise be to God, it gave me such a good sense of well-being, of wholeness, and of healing. I feel as though everything in my life is coming together, as if the Lord is moving to pull all these separate parts into one cohesive whole. I am excited to see what He makes come to pass next, and I am ready to tackle the next steps, to enjoy the blessing as He moves through my life and makes it into His very own possession.

Counting the Cost

Just yesterday, I felt confident that I had "figured" out my next steps. I mean, I felt like so many things were falling into place that for certain, I had discerned the Lord's plan for my life. Then, later in the evening, after I had time to rest some, I realized that my life is not about a serious of steps. No, my life and the plan the Lord has for it is not about following a map. You see, in my mind, I tend to visualize my life as a journey one takes, starting at point A (for example) and proceeding to point B. In this way, I am the traveler walking on a path that is taking me to my destination. I stop along the way, I see this site and that site, but I keep on moving toward my goal, my final resting place. I guess this idea is correct in some ways. The Apostle Paul writes that we are to stay strong, finish the race set before us, and in this way, the same idea comes to suggest that we are on a course of some sort. In this course of life, we are journeying along the way, doing the work the Lord has for us. Yet, lately, I have thought about how often our life doesn't follow a prescribed path. It sort of meanders around, sometimes stopping for long periods of time, and other times, moving at a very fast pace. I have been thinking if perhaps the journey part is true -- meaning that as Christians -- we all walk a path that leads us to eternity (from faith to faith, glory to glory). But, our physical journey, our road, is not always mapped out and clearly defined. Often, we stumble and bumble about, going here and there, and not really making a straight line of progress from one point to another. I have always thought that this tarrying was a diversion, a messed up signal and a tactic of the enemy to thwart our progress to God's glorious end result. Now, though, I am starting to think that this is really how our lives are to be, that it is not about getting to the destination (a particular place on a map), but rather that it is to enjoy our life where we are and for the time we have been given. There is work to be done here and now, today and tomorrow. Yes, there is work to be done over there, and there, and there (figuratively pointing to places on the globe), and the time is at hand. Still, not every one is called to go overseas to ministry. Not everyone is called to pastor a local church. How does it really work out, this faith life, this walk, I mean? How does God call and use people? Is there really a pattern, a set way or is it rather haphazard and random?

Yesterday, I was asking the Lord to help me understand my calling and my message. I wanted some clarification on what He was asking me to do (ministry-wise), and so I was reading online, on websites and blogs that had articles about ministry callings. For one, I know my calling (as a prophet), and two, I know my message (to help the church communicate faith more effectively in this postmodern age). I have received both by personal revelation, meaning that somehow the Lord has communicated to me that this is how I am to function in His church, and that I am specifically to attend to this ministry focus (communication). I have known for a time that my studies at Regent were not to build me up or make me a professor. No, I have known that my time was to prepare and train me to engage in communications as a ministry. Thus, I went to Regent to study to be a minister who understands the theory and practice of communication for the expressed purpose of helping the Church, God's church (the people who make up the body of Christ), apply this knowledge to their own skill so that they can become more effective communicators of faith to this generation.

My question to the Lord was really more along the lines of "how" to do this work. I mean, I understand what I am to do, just not how to do it. I get the reasoning, the rationale, and I get the importance of the work (overall), but I lack specifics that will help me begin to do this work. How do I get going, how do I start, where do I start, and when do I start? As I put my questions to the Lord, I felt this sense of awareness that the work I am to do is to start now, like today. I also got the impression that the work I would do would require some measure of sacrifice, some cost, and that cost would be great, very great. I also came to understand that within that cost was great blessing, great blessing that would offset the cost and give me the comfort to know that it (the work) was all worth it.

So, after praying about it, reading some on the Internet, I determined that whatever the Lord intended to do with me, He was going to do without letting me in on all the details. Yes, I realized that He was going to do it rather haphazardly (hence, my opening dialogue). I had envisioned this very ordered, structured path to follow --> Get my PhD, find a job in a ministry, start "doing" the work. Instead, the Lord has not shown me any path to follow, outside of getting my PhD. No, instead, it appears that I will do this work along side of my teaching career. I will teach students English Composition full-time, and I will earn a living as a professor. But, along side of that good and noble work, I will also engage in communications ministry, not through a church (as in an actual church), rather on my own.

It makes sense to me because I have been feeling that the Lord intended for me to work from home. I have been looking for work from home teaching jobs, applying to them, and I do believe this is His planned provision. Working from home would allow me the time to do both things -- teach and ministry -- without overloading my body too much. I am comfortable being on the computer for 8-10 hours a day, so I can see this as a viable provision. Of course, I need to find that "work from home" job, and so far, I don't have any leads on it. Moreover, as the Lord prepares me, I realize that the plan He has for my life is rather random in appearance. I will not work for some ministry organization that is already doing prepared work. I will do something unique and only as He leads. This means that I will not have any boss over me, save the Lord. I will go and do and speak and preach and teach -- all as He leads me. I like this idea, of being independent and not under the authority of a organization a lot. I like the idea of simply producing work that is pleasing to the Lord, that is directed toward whatever goal He has in mind for me. I feel this way, praise God, and I think I can comfortably live a good life, doing practical work (teaching) and ministry work (Communications).

More so, as I think about doing these two things, practical work and ministry work, I realize that in order to do them to the Lord's approval, I have to let Him do the work through me. Like my experience yesterday demonstrated, I thought I had everything figured out, and then the Lord just did what He wanted and I received the blessing as a result. I didn't do anything. I just "tagged" along with Him. Now, I think that this is how He prefers to do it. I cannot really put it into words other than to say that it makes sense to me. He goes where He wills, and I follow Him around. It is like my cats when they follow me in the morning. I determine what work to do, and they just hang with me. I know that sounds crass to associate "hanging out" with the Lord because a lot of young people in this generation will say that about the Lord. You know, "Jesus is my homeboy" for example. This is not what I am talking about at all. I am talking about the way the disciples followed the Lord, how they hung out with Him, lived with Him, and how they did everything with Him as a companion. They left their lives, their families, etc., to follow the Lord. They counted the cost in lost connections, but the blessing they received was far more valuable to them. In this way, I see my life. I have left behind so many things that entangled me, snared me, and kept me from living a life fully and wholly devoted to the Lord. Now as a single person, a woman who is her "own person," I am able to follow after the Lord without waiting for permission from my parents, my husband, or a boss. I can go and do whatever work the Lord asks of me without waiting for approval from someone in authority over me. Furthermore, I can put His work first in my life. It takes priority over everything else. I don't have to do work assigned to me, work that is not approved by the Lord. Instead, I do the job of His provision, for the hours of His choosing. Then, I rest. I do not allow worldly ideas, worldly desires, or worldly visions consume my time. I do the work, and I move on. I rest in between, but my mind is fully focused, fully engaged in His work. There is NO OTHER WORK for me to do, than the work He assigns to me.

It has taken me a LONG time to come to terms with this spiritual truth. I remember Him saying this to me a couple years ago when I was in between jobs. I needed a job, a different job, and I wanted something that paid more money, offered better "perks," was closer to home, etc. I had all of these "must needs," and the Lord said to me that there would be NO job for me except for the work He assigned to me to do. I did get a different job, and I did work in that job for a year, but in the end, I left that job to start teaching, and since that time, the matter has been closed. No matter what work I do (as in practical, good, provisional work), it will never take the place of the WORK He assigns to me to do. The practical job is inconsequential to ministry.

I didn't get this at all, and whenever I would share this with friends or family, they would counter with how blessed I was to teach, how God clearly had called me to teach, and how He was providing teaching work to me. All of this was true, of course, and yes, I am blessed to teach. But, every single time I put more emphasis on my teaching -- whether in the class or outside the class -- or in looking for a full-time job, nothing happens at all. If I elevate teaching or make it the focus as though it is the "ministry work," the Lord reminds me sharply that it is NOT what He called me to do. Teaching is what He provided for me to do, and yes, He has blessed me in the application of it. I am called as a prophet or as "a person regarded as an inspired teacher or proclaimer of the will of God" (Dictionary.com). A prophet is someone called by God for a specific purpose and ministry. I do not proclaim to know the mind of God or speak on His behalf in all biblical matters -- not like the Old Testament prophets and the Apostles did. No, I just mean that God has anointed me for a particular ministry, and that ministry requires speaking with His authority regarding certain matters that do pertain to the Church as a whole. Honestly, I don't really understand it other than to say that God does call certain people to "offices" and these offices are biblically grounded (such as Apostles, prophets, pastors, evangelists, teachers). I don't know why God has called me as such, but since I was a child, I have known two things: one, I love God and two, I love His word.

I do take my calling very seriously. I do understand that I cannot set it aside or refuse to do what the Lord has asked me to do (like Jonah). No, I must engage in this work whole-heartedly and with the intention of allowing the Lord to move as He desires. This means that as of today, I am ready to begin this work, this special and wonderful work. I am ready to let everything that hinders me fall to the wayside, and I am ready to embrace my calling fully, completely, and with the assurance that He has something specific, special for me to do.


Discerning the Will of God

The hardest part for me has been to discern the will of God for my life. I mean, how do I know what is His will for my life (specifically)? I often think I understand it, only to find that I was wrong. I made some mistake in the interpretation of His expressed will for me. I hate it when I make mistakes like this, when I say something only to be proven wrong. I hate it when I think I have it all ordered, all mapped out, and then BAM! life intervenes, and I go zooming off in a different direction. One thing is certain, and that is that despite all the "fits and starts" (and there have been many), I have been heading in the same direction now for ten years or more. Yes, I would even say that I have been heading in the right direction for the majority of my life. Some cases in point:

  • As a child, I felt a deep kinship with God from my earliest years 
  • I loved going to church, being at church, singing hymns, and learning about God in Sunday School
  • I had imaginary friends, whom I communicated with all the time. These friends kept me company so I wasn't alone (as the youngest child and only girl, I was normally alone a lot)
  • I grew up in a time of relative ease, in freedom, and while I suffered a lot with emotional and physical abuse, I always believed God was with me
  • I professed faith very early on and I became an ardent follower even though I didn't understand more than the fact that God was very important to me and that I HAD to do certain things (like go to church, read my Bible, study to learn about Him and His word)
  • In my young teens, I formed friendships that kept me safe from the world and worldly influences
  • In my teens, I was isolated and alone most of the time, but as a result, I spent a great deal of that time in study, in prayer, and in quiet solitude
  • I received my calling at 17, and I felt His presence in a different way than before. As a result, I became enamored of His word, of studying it and knowing it deeply.
  • I was baptized in my early 20s, and after that experience, I became "on fire" for the Lord, seeking to know Him more deeply. I started in-depth bible studies and became convinced of the necessity of living a righteous, holy, and pure life.
  • I was active in ministry, working with children for years, and developing the ability to teach children the Word.
  • I was called to home school my son, and while I initially rejected the idea, I finally embraced it when he was 10. My life changed as a result -- fundamentally and wholly changed -- as a result.
  • At the age of 44, I experienced God in a personal way, a deeply transformational way and I became further convinced of the need to live a Godly life by forsaking all worldly attachments.
  • I embraced a life of spiritual distancing from all worldly influences, choosing to become an oblate for a time (someone who is not part of a religious order, but who lives a life similar to a nun or priest -- forsaking the world for a life with God)
  • I spent three years studying the Word, hours per day
  • I became convinced of my need to live wholly devoted to God, to be about His business (work) and to change every aspect of my life in order to fulfill my calling
All of this is to say that it will be 10 years next June when my life changed for good. In 2007, my ex-husband suffered one of three major life illnesses that forever changed the trajectory of my life. I didn't know then that the Lord would remove me from my marriage. I didn't know then that what was a difficult road, would become even more difficult as the medical crisis lead to a marital crisis, which eventually led to divorce. I had no clue that the Lord was preparing me, training me, and equipping me to deal with the death of a marriage. Furthermore, I had no idea that the Lord was moving me to a life of single devotion, of complete and utter dependency upon Him. 

Today, I look back and I see all the the Lord has done for me. I see how from the earliest memories He was my constant companion. He never left me alone. He saved me time and time again, and He set me aside to keep me safe. I have always looked back on my aloneness as a negative thing, when in truth, it was a positive thing. I have always loved being alone. I love the quiet, the peace, and the solitude. In fact, I desire quiet more than anything else. I do enjoy gatherings, and I do like being with people, but I would much rather be alone -- just with the Lord -- than to be part of the noisy bustle of life. Even in the noise, I am often deeply reflective, thinking, sitting quietly by myself. I don't mind it, really. I don't have a problem being all alone. I do get lonely at times, but I am not willing to give up my alone time with the Lord for the crash and bang of being in the midst of people. No, I think I could have lived as a prophet many years ago, alone in the wilderness, and been perfectly content. Well, maybe.



Making Peace with my Calling

I think I am finally at peace with my calling. I mean, after all these years, I am finally at peace with the fact that I am what I am, where I am, and doing the thing I am doing -- all because of the Lord's provision. He has made this life possible, and He has formed me to be this way. I do believe I have been set apart in this way since my birth. I have always been this way. I am comfortable being this way. I have always felt different, not accepted by others, and as a result, I have always lived on the sidelines, the wallpaper, so to speak. I've always seen that as a sad thing, being the wall flower in the room. But now, I see that I am the way I am because God ordained for me to be so. He has a perfect plan for me, and I am content to be the person He has created me to be. I don't want to be anyone else or do anything else. I am content to be just the way I am, and for the rest of my days, I will walk on this journey with the Lord by my side. Just Him and me. We will walk, we will tarry, and we will enjoy this life. So be it. Thy will be done. Selah!

The goodness, I guess, is that in this way, I don't have to keep on looking for the way to go. I can just let it happen, let it develop as He leads. I don't have to plan anymore or prepare for the next 30 years. I simply have to abide in Him and let Him lead me as He desires. I am okay with giving Him this place, and with finally, letting go of my need to control my circumstances, my surroundings, and my outcomes. He is good. I trust Him. He will do as He pleases, and I know that whatever comes my way, it will be a blessing. It will be good. He is good to me, always so very good to me, and I rest in the knowledge that His goodness is from before time began. He is GOOD, always so good. Selah!