September 30, 2016

Ready and Waiting

It is the last day of the month, and I am sitting here at my desk thinking how this entire year has just flown by. I mean, like "zippity-split" fast. It was this time last year when I was starting to prepare for my qualification exams. I was completing my last required course, "Theology of Communication," and I was enrolled as a teaching assistant in a doctoral "History of Communications" course. In all, I was super BUSY. I was teaching four classes at that time, and with all the papers and other projects, I was pretty well slammed the entire semester. I remember thinking that Fall 2015 was my most intensive semester to date.

Well, here I am now on the backside of that semester, and I can say that Fall 2016 is positioned to take the cake for "intensity." I am preparing my proposal (almost ready to defend it), and I am teaching five classes now (six in two weeks). Am I thoroughly crazy or what? Yes, I am teaching my little heart out all the while I am working on my dissertation. I have so much work planned for the second part of the semester, and unless the Lord does something BIG TIME, I am not even sure I will survive it all. In truth, I feel fine. Now, that is a weird statement to make, but it is the truth.

Honestly, I am telling the truth. I am slammed beyond slammed, and yet, I feel absolutely fine. I feel like this is nothing but "normal." It is really funny (ha ha), but just yesterday I thought about teaching 3 classes as a full-time faculty. As I was considering it, I heard myself say, "Lord, won't I be BORED teaching full-time with just three classes?" Yes, I mean it, sincerely. I am afraid that I will be bored if I don't teach more classes or go back to school. I am so used to working round the clock, and I admit it -- I love the pressure, the intensity, the demand. I love being SLAMMED.

I don't know why I feel the way I do, but perhaps it is because I am used to teaching large classes of freshman students. In fact, my spring courses at GCU each have 95 students in them -- and I picked them -- I really did. I could have chosen smaller classes, but I went right for the BIG ones. I guess the fact is that I am very comfortable with large classes. I prefer them, really, I do. And, not just for the money, I mean. I do get paid by the student, but still, I just like these big rooms. I like the feedback I get with 95 students versus 29. I guess I like that feeling of being ON in a big room. Oh, my goodness, what have you done to me, Lord?

I cannot believe that I really just said that, considering how I was plagued by fear of public speaking. Now, I am sitting here and writing that I really like being "out there," and well, that just shocks me. I guess the Lord is really having His way with me, know what I mean? If He has chosen for me to be comfortable with large groups, then so be it. I guess He must want me to learn how to be comfortable in front of audiences, so thanks be to God, He has put me in a position where I regularly teach (and preach) to groups of 50 or more. So thankful for His provision, so thankful for His mercy and His grace.

Oh, Lord, please continue to develop, refine, and prepare me for your work. Please help me to learn how to reach large audiences so I can be an effective minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Please help me to learn how to teach large groups, preach the Word accurately and without error, and to minister en masse. I believe this is your will, so I ask Holy Spirit to give to me, grace me, with the skills and gifts I need so I can do this mighty and humbling work. I ask all this in the matchless and merciful Name of Jesus, my Lord and my Savior, Amen. Selah!

In Closing

Weird as it may be, I love what I do. Sure, there are days when I feel like an utter failure. I have days when I think, "Oh, did I blow that session." I solider on, though. I get up the next day and march on. I would love to be "on" all the time, you know, always winning, but there are good days and bad days, and some days, I just blow it big time. Still, the Lord is gracious to me. He covers me with His goodness, and in this way, I carry on. I carry on.

I am glad that it is Friday. I am glad that this is the last class, the wrap-up class for my essays in all three classes. Pretty much, I go today and walk my students through peer review. It is easy-breezy, and I am thankful that this is all I need to do. I am grateful for GCU's curriculum plan. It makes teaching Composition a real joy. I love teaching writing, and in truth, I love it more than I love teaching literature -- which is saying A LOT! I love literature, oh yes! But, there is something really satisfying about writing curriculum, and I really love the up/down aspect of teaching composition. I love that I teach content for three weeks, drafting and revising for two. I love the pattern, the repetition, and overall, the ease of teaching this subject. God is good to me, you know. He has made all this possible, and today, I humble and in my oh-so inarticulate way, say "thank you" to Him. He is so good to me, so very, very good to me.

As I close out this blog post, I am sitting here thinking to myself, "God is Good. He is so very good!" I think of all that could be right now, all the hardship, heartache, and headache that I could be embroiled in right now, and praise be to God, I am free. I am saved from all of that difficulty. I have zero problems right now, and while the little difficulty I face can be significant at times, in truth, my life is smooth, is good, is so even-keel right now. The Lord has made my path smooth. He has made a way for me, and it is a good way. He has opened doors and shown me exactly how to go. I stand here, ready and waiting to be set on the next course, the next adventure. I ask now, Lord, that you release me to go, to walk on, to experience this marvelous and magnificent life -- the life you have prepared, planned, and prospered me to walk in -- this good, good day.

September 29, 2016

Preparing to Go

It is a wet day here in Phoenix. Yes, you heard me right! It is raining lightly now, but earlier this morning, we had a very nice solid down pour. I am not sure why we are getting so much rain in September, but we are, and I am so thankful for it. It seemed like our monsoon stayed to the west of us all summer long, and now as we are heading into Fall, we are finally seeing rain. Whatever the reason, I am content. It is good to see gray skies and to hear raindrops falling softly right outside my window today.

Moreover, it is a cool day. My Yahoo weather app says that it is cloudy and 79 outside (woohoo!) so that means it is NICE, so very nice, out my door right now. Praise God! How I love the cool fall weather and the grayish skies that come along with its arrival!


Fall Skies Are Here

It is Thursday, September 29, and that means that in less that two days, it will be October 1st! I am so excited for October to arrive. First, it is my birthday month, and while I am not happy about my birthday (number 54), I am happy to have the cool-fall like weather that October brings to the desert southwest. Yes, we may not get falling leaves, but we do get moderate weather (lows in the 80s), and well, that is such a blessing, such a blessing.

Second, I love the way the sky looks in fall here in AZ. I was telling this to my parents yesterday -- how the sky is different somehow -- less intense, more pallid -- than normal. Perhaps it is just the way the sun sits in the sky or the fact that the sun is less "intense" then normal, but the colors and the shades are cool and they make me very happy.

I have blogged about this before, how I love pinks and blues and grays in the skies. I do not care for blue and yellow -- the colors of Arizona's summer sun -- at all. I mean, our skies are cornflower blue (beautiful, intense), but with the hot yellow sun, the color and the hard contrast really do a number on my eyes. I also find that the harsh contrast bothers me so much that my attitude and my mood suffers. It is interesting, but just right now -- this minute I mean -- I thought about this fact and it dawned on me that the reason I cannot stand the harsh light is because of my IRLEN Syndrome. Sigh!

You see, I am a low-light person, and as such, I cannot handle any harsh light. I mean, harsh light gives me headaches, makes me feel sick, and yes, even causes me to get irritable. As a result, I choose to live in the dim light of the low watt incandescent bulb. I prefer the soft shadows, the peachy pinks and warm glows of yellow, to that of stark, bright, and intense light. Thus, I prefer -- no, I need natural sunlight -- the soft filtered kind of sunlight. I have been this way since I was a child, and the fact remains that I simply cannot tolerate any bright light, but extreme harsh light -- whether natural or man-made -- is the worst possible thing for me.

I was never formerly diagnosed with IRLEN Syndrome. It is not something most doctors or eye specialists are familiar with and many people simply believe it is not a real disorder. Yet, there is research out there that has demonstrated an actual visual processing disorder that affects upwards of 40% of the population. IRLEN Syndrome, if you are not familiar with it, is "is a perceptual processing disorder. It is not an optical problem. It is a problem with the brain's ability to process visual information" (IRLEN.com). It is also called Meares-Irlen Syndrome, Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome, or Visual Stress.

I learned about IRLEN about 10 years ago when I was homeschooling my son. I was researching processing disorders, since I believed that my son suffered from some type of visual learning problem. He was in 5th grade and couldn't read, write or spell. He simply struggled to process language, yet he was super smart, had an excellent vocabulary, but when it came to testing, he always tested low. I was struggling to find curriculum to teach him at home, and one day while browsing the Internet, I landed on Irlen.com and well -- I found my answer! Yes, I found MY ANSWER and not his. I saw my childhood right there in black and white and I knew that all my struggles as a child were not made up. In fact, according to Irlen.com, this visual processing disorder runs in families. My older brother is dyslexic. I have this visual disorder and was told that I had some language processing problems but because I didn't pronounce as dyslexic, my condition was overlooked. Mostly, I was told that I was lazy, unfocused, and that I was simply "klutzy." Of course, almost all my symptoms are typical of Irlen sufferers, so once I found out that this is what I actually have, I knew instantly that I have suffered with visual stress my entire life.

I really never connected the two together because I have always had visual processing problems. I mean, as a child, I couldn't read very well. I struggled with reading for many years, and finally, I was able to learn how to memorize words to the point where I could guess 50% of the time and get them correct. Over the years, I have struggled with other aspects of IRLEN such as my clumsiness and my inability to catch balls or judge distances. I alway thought it was my poor vision (-725 in each eye, plus some astigmatism) that caused the problem. Now, though, I know that my inability to park correctly or my tendency to always turn right versus left is just part of my brain wiring. I simply have learned to adapt to my condition. It amazes me that I am able to do doctoral level coursework, but in truth, as someone with a visual processing disorder, I take comfort in knowing that I was always smart as a child, but I simply couldn't see well enough to be able to perform in class like my peers.

The funny thing is that here I am at 54 years of age, lamenting that I am stuck in the desert where contrast runs high almost all year long, and finally I am coming to the understanding that I need to move where there are low-light conditions most of the year. Now, I don't necessarily want to live in the frozen north or in the rainy Pacific Northwest, but there is something about northern skies that draws me in, that comforts me, and that gives my weary eyes a break.

Over the past 10 or so years, I have noticed that I struggle to live in Arizona. The intensity of the sun is the biggest problem, and of course, the unending and unrelenting heat is a contributing factor. I have thought a lot about this and I realize now how much my eyesight has suffered since coming here 20 years ago (this November 1). I mean, the frequency of headaches, which I blame on seasonal allergies and sinus may actually be the result of intense sun-filled days. I think the problem started for me when I moved here in the late fall, early winter. I came at a time when the sun was not as intense as it is normally in the summer. I remember that first summer well. We were living in a rented condo in Scottsdale, and I spent the entire summer indoors. I felt like a trapped animal, only venturing out during the evening hours. I became severely depressed, and I returned to San Jose for nearly three weeks in order to "get better." In the end, I came back to Scottsdale, but I never really understood how the sun affected me. On top of all of that, I also became very, very ill from a lung infection (I think I contracted Valley Fever), and I nearly died.

I have survived these past years by spending most of my days indoors. I mean like I am indoors unless I have to go to the store or to work. The rest of the time, I sit inside in low-light. I never thought that my photosensitivity would be such a hardship until this past summer. I think year 20, has been by far the most difficult for me. This summer we had little monsoon weather reach us so that meant 100% sunny skies. Today, is such a blessing for me, simply because it is gray outside. Lovely, wet, gray!!


In Closing

As I sit here and enjoy the blessing of the gray sky, I cannot help but thank the Lord for His provision this good, good day. I am so grateful that He has sent the rain to comfort me. I am praying these cloudy days and wet conditions will continue. I am so ready to leave the heat and bright lights of Arizona and head to the wet, gray climate that blankets much of the middle and eastern parts of the US. Oh yes, Lord, I am so ready to move. I pray you will open that door soon, Lord. I pray you will take me to a place where I will no longer suffer with the effects of intense light and hard contrasts. Selah!

September 28, 2016

Wednesday

Okay, so not the best title I could come up with, but it is Wednesday, and well, I am feeling every inch of this "hump day!" Yes, I am downright worn out, and I am struggling just to keep my head above water today. I am not sure why, so I have to blame my enemy and remember to stand tall. I am fully clothed in the amor of God, and though, I struggle some today, I know that my King, my Victor, and my Champion goes before me. The battle belongs to the Lord this good day. This battle is His, and He is always VICTORIOUS!

This day, while good, has been difficult for me. I hate it when I start my day feeling so blue, so very off, and so very "UGH -- annoyed," yet this is how I feel or well, how I felt earlier this morning. Let me explain...


Confused Today

So today arrived with a grand thud. I mean, my Monday and Tuesday were both "good days," and for the most part, were not stressful or filled with anything difficult or depressing. Wednesday came in like a mighty roar, and while I am doing okay now, my morning was fraught with feelings, emotions, and general discord that said to me, "something seems off and not quite right." I tried my best to discern what was off, but it wasn't until I finished my class at ACU, and I was heading back home that I realized that the confusion I felt was the result of my own action, a decisive action, that sent me spinning out in another direction. Yes, the long and short of it is that I started to doubt God's provision, and in doing so, I realized that my enemy tempted me just a wee bit, just enough to get me to stop and consider his taunt. I heard him say, "Did the Lord really say this...to you?" Oh, just like our first parents in the garden of Eden, I listened to the serpent, and I questioned the authority of my Lord. I questioned His word, and in doing so, I started to doubt the efficacy of it. Sigh!

The good news is that I am now back where I belong, and in retreating from my walk on the wild side (so to speak), I am feeling better again. It is funny how this happens to me all the time. Yes, my flesh is weak. Thank goodness, the Spirit of God is strong, and He is always willing to help me remain steadfast in His plans and purpose for my life.

As I think about my life these past couple days, one thing comes to mind. First, I am good. I am in a very good place, and the Lord is blessing me with blessing upon blessing each and every day. Second, I know my purpose. I know why I am here, how I got here, and thank God, where I am going. I get it. I understand it. It makes such good sense to me. Third, while I may have ups and downs, daily ins and outs, I am moving forward in His expressed will for my life. This means that I am heading in the correct direction. I am following my Lord, listening to Him, heeding His advice, and in this way, He is preparing my way, going before me, and making my path straight. His word is true! In the Psalms we read that the Lord will make our path straight and level, and in this way, if we trust in Him, we are able to walk on after Him. We will not stumble or fall down. We are able to follow Him, stay on course, and in the end, experience the great reward for a faithful life.

Today, therefore, I feel good. I feel like I know what I am supposed to do, where to go, and yes even, how to get there. I don't have all my little ducks lined up just yet, but I feel confident that within the next couple months, the Lord's provision will be revealed to me. I have asked for His will in no uncertain terms so that I will know for "sure and positive" where I am to go. I want to go with His blessing and provision so I am believing in faith that the Lord will open a door for a full-time job, and that job, will be the "THING" that helps me, guides me, and provides for me so I can relocate. I have thought long and hard about this and I am now convinced that the job will be the open door for me. I had considered moving simply to move, meaning going to a place without a job on the "faith ticket" whereby I believe the Lord wanted me to relocate for ministry. Now, though, I am believing that the Lord will open the door to work, and I will go because of the work. Yes, ministry will be there as well, but the job will come, the job will be offered, and I will accept it and then move as part of the job relo-package. I believe it makes good sense to me, thus, this is what I am believing in faith for the Lord to do in my life. Bring me a full-time job, Lord, so I can go to this place with provision.

Moreover, as I think about all of this "moving" and "going," I realize that between now and then, He has to take care of some pretty big business items. I need loans reduced, credit established, and a bunch of debt paid off. I need to be able to go in style, and I want to make this whole moving thing easy as pie, so to speak. I am praying for full-provision -- money, resources, gains, etc., so that I can move with confidence. Furthermore, I want to buy a house when I go, and not rent any longer. This is a huge deal to me, and I believe in faith that the motivation is from the Lord rather than just my own desire. My prayer is for a house and the ability to purchase a house so that I can move once only. My boys are getting too old to be moving house, so I want to move once and be settled. I think this is agreeable with the Lord, so now I wait for Him to provide what is needed so I can move and buy a home.

Lastly, I know that He has all these details worked out for me, so I let this go. Just like in "Frozen," I am letting go and letting my Lord lead me. He is my Jehovah-Jireh, and as such, I am wholly dependent upon Him for my every need. I have need, Lord, great need, but I believe in faith that you are the One who is able to meet every need with sufficiency, so I let this go -- all of it -- and I rest in your abilities as God to deliver your promises to me. You are God, you are good, and your grace is sufficient this good, good day. Selah!


In Closing

This strange and crazy Wednesday began with a thud, but now it has turned around, and as I head over to campus at GCU, I am praying for His abundant blessing upon my life. I am asking Him to provide to me in a mighty way, to see to all these needs and with His abundant and good provision, open doors for me. I need to go, Lord, and I want to obey you. Please make my path smooth, straight and level. Please open the door, grant me permission, and then provide every single thing I need in order to go now. I ask all this in the mighty, merciful and most majestic Name of Jesus, the Christ -- my Lord and my Savior. You are God, and I worship you this good, good day for you are worthy to be praised, to be honored, and to be glorified.

September 27, 2016

Tuesday Post

Good morning, world! It is a cloudy Tuesday in Phoenix. I woke up around 8:00, after passing a rather uneventful night. I did sleep well, but I still didn't fall asleep until close to 1:00 a.m. I am not sure why this is happening, but my mind simply will not let me rest. I need a good solid 8-9 hours of sleep, and when I only get 5-6, well, I feel so sluggish and awful. My prayer today is to rest and to enjoy this good day off. I have a lot to do, grading papers and such, but generally, I am working from home, resting, and enjoying the blessing of having some mid-week "downtime."

It is interesting to think about it this way, but in truth, I love my flexible schedule. I love the fact that I have two days off each week to enjoy being at home. I love that I can sleep in and not have to rush around to get out the door. I cannot tell you how much having my mornings free means to me. I guess it is part of that "night owl" syndrome. I have never been a morning person. My Mom, on the other hand, is a morning person. She wakes up cheerful and is always ready to do work first thing in the morning. Not so with this girl. I mean, I do work, but my mornings are slo-ooo-ow, and I like to ease into them. I have my coffee, I read the news, I check my email and social media feeds. I sit with my boys, and I pretty much move at a snails pace. Sometime around mid-morning (10-11), I start to perk up, and then from 11 onwards, I am a whirling dervish. I can work late into the night, past midnight, and still go strong. I love to work at night; in fact, I prefer it. If I had my druthers, I would have my mornings free and work from 2-10 or even 3-11.  This would be my preferred work schedule, for sure.

God's Good Gift

Yesterday was a tough day for me. I didn't sleep well Sunday night, so when I woke up Monday morning, I was dog-tired and frazzled. I was determined to do my best, despite being so tired, so I prayed for the Lord to help me get through the day. I was trusting Him to help me, and in fact, I prayed it on my way to ACU and to GCU. I said, "Lord, I am so tired today. Please teach through me. Please do these classes for me!" Well, in typical God-like fashion, that is exactly what He did. He showed up, He wowed in the classroom, and by the end of the day, I was feeling so much better. So much better.

In fact, out of all my classes yesterday, my last class, was my best. I was a bit worried about it since my mentor, one of the full-time faculty, was coming to my class to observe me (as part of my contract). There was part of me that was worried about what she would think, whether she would think I was doing a good job, etc. Another part of me was low-key, I mean, I really like this gal. She is a great lady, and she has been really supportive of me during my doctoral program. Plus, I appreciated her time because she left her class to come to mine. She came in right as class was starting, and after only five minutes observing me, she left with a wave. I wondered about it, as if I did something wrong, but I figured she had to get back to class, so I just pushed on with my lesson. This morning, I received an email from her saying that she left my class early because she didn't need to be there! She said I am awesome, great, etc. Sigh! I really appreciated the feedback because, well you know, I need the positive affirmation. It felt good to be recognized by my peer, and to know that a full-time faculty member in the department thinks I am a super teacher. Yes! Thank you, Jesus! Thank you for sending me the positive feedback I needed yesterday!

I started to think about this positive experience this morning, and how it was earlier on Monday when I asked the Lord to bring me some good news, some encouragement and positive affirmation. As I mentioned previously, I was worn out heading to campus, and frankly, I just needed some good news. And, praise be to God, in typical fashion, He delivered BIG TIME! In fact, I had several positive and rich encounters with students throughout the day yesterday, and in each case, I felt that I was being used by God to communicate love, appreciation, and grace to them. It was so nice to be able to be with my students in this way, to share their trials, and to leave them with some positive encouragement, some hope, some grace-filled word.

Encouragement is such a powerful thing. Encouragement can change lives.

I am an encourager. I have the gift of exhortation, and as such, I am a natural cheerleader. I love to encourage. I love to build up, to lift up, and to help people realize their God-given potential. I love to speak works of life, to speak into people's lives and to help them see just how special they really are. This is my area of spiritual gifting, and I love it when the Holy Spirit uses me to speak and exhort in this way.

As I sit here today, I realize that through the small experiences I had yesterday, just how clearly the Lord is using me to exhort and encourage young people through my profession as a teacher. Yes, in one moment of time and one specific experience, I realized the reason God called me to teach. Many people teach. Many people come to teaching for varied and valid reasons. Some seek promotion, scholarship, positions of authority. Some like to hear themselves speak (LOL!), and some want to make a difference in the lives of young people. I fall into that latter case. I want to be used to make a difference for God's kingdom. I want to be used in a way that God receives all the praise, honor, and glory. I want to be used daily so that my life can be a living sacrifice. I want God to be glorified as I do His work, and in that way, I want Him to speak through me, teach through me, reach people through me.

I reflect on my calling, and why God decided it was best for me to teach. I have thought a lot about this reason, and while I know that teaching is a good profession, it is not the most lucrative or the easiest to get into (at the college level). I wondered if God gave me this job simply so I would have a good career. I wondered if He put me here to teach so that I would have a safe place to work (in a Christian college). I wondered why now, I mean, why now He has moved to make me a teacher. Then, yesterday as I was leaving GCU, I realized that He has called me to teach because it is the one way I can be an encourager -- day in and day out -- and that in this way I can use my gift of exhortation to encourage my students, to build them up, to make them feel better about themselves, their lives, and the path they are on. I realized yesterday that THIS is why I am a teacher. This is what I do best.

It is weird, really, when I think about it, how just a couple years ago (2013), I was so fixed on remaining in business, working in business. I felt sure that I could have a good life working as an analyst and earning solid income over the course of my remaining working years. I never imagined that I would be so enamored with teaching. I did think about it often. I mean, I thought about IT a lot. You know, I thought about how I never finished my masters degree, how I never followed His calling to become a teacher (when I was young, before I married, and before my son was born). In many ways, I have regretted never pursuing teaching. Oh, how I regretted that choice, how I did not follow the Lord, did not accept His provision for my life, and by extension, because I did not listen or heed His guidance, I lost valuable time and the blessing associated with walking in my purpose (sigh!) In truth, I never imagined how much I would enjoy teaching college. I thought I would enjoy it, but not the way I actually do -- if that makes sense? I imagined teaching writing and literature to students, but I never really thought I would like it, love it, I mean. I never really thought that I could experience such complete joy and fulfillment from doing any job, let along this one.

Job satisfaction comes and goes. I mean, I have worked in a lot of jobs over the past 30 some years. Some of them I have loathed, really loathed. Some were okay, and some were "nah - neither here nor there." Teaching is a job unlike any other. I never expected to really love my job, yet I do love it. I know many people who teach, but many that do not enjoy it. They no longer find the work satisfying to them -- it is boring, routine, filled with contention. Yes, I know there are a lot of negatives about teaching in particular -- politics, corrupt systems, etc. But, of all the work I have done, all the jobs I have pursued -- THIS job -- is the one that fits me so well, delights me so much, and causes me to experience such joy.

I cannot really explain it other than to say that the Lord has given me the desire of my heart -- to be a teacher -- but He has also given me a gift that is beyond words and measure. He has given me the desire, the fulfillment of that desire, but more so, He has given me the ability to do the job well, like really well. In every way, I am blessed. I am right where He desires me to be, and I doing the work He has called me to do. He has blessed me with every spiritual blessing, with every physical blessing, and in this way, my life is blessed through and through. I am in awe of His provision for my life. I am in awe of His goodness, His mercy, and His grace this good, good day. Selah!


In Closing

On this good Tuesday, I give the Lord thanks for His abundant and sufficient provision. I thank Him for His goodness toward me, His kind thoughts about me, and His deep and abiding care for me. He is good to me, so very good to me!

September 26, 2016

Good Monday

It is a good Monday here in partly cloudy Phoenix. I am enjoying this good day from the respite of my office. I had a good morning at ACU, and now I am resting a bit before I head over to GCU for my second round of classes today. It is funny how my schedule always seems to work this way, but it does. Last fall, I also had a morning break between my 7 am and 12:30 pm classes. It was nice actually to have some time in between, even though I really didn't enjoy taking a 7 am class. LOL!

This year, my schedule is very similar to what I had back in 2014. I taught at ACU for one class and then at GCU for two classes. The only difference is that I have three classes at GCU. I have gotten to the point where I can easily teach 4-5 classes without too much fuss, but praise and thanks be to God, I can only do it with His strength and ability. I cannot do it in my own strength, I just cannot. I struggle with even the most mundane tasks, but when His power is ignited, I can truly do all things through Christ who gives me strength! Selah!

Thinking More

So this weekend was good for me. I accomplished everything on my to-do list, and I rested quite a bit. I didn't sleep well last night, but that was probably due to the fact that I fell asleep mid afternoon and slept for a couple hours. I thought I was getting sick, but in the end, I simply was tired. Go figure. I feel fine today, a bit groggy, but overall, fine.

It is weird, really, to think how a little thing like sleep or lack thereof, can ruin your entire day. I am feeling punchy, so as I down my eggs and my second cup of coffee today, I am hoping to perk up here soon. My prayer is to feel better, more refreshed before I drive over to campus in a half-hour. The time will fly by so hopefully the caffeine will kick into gear, and I will start to feel better soon.

Today is a good day for me, despite feeling groggy. I really have been thinking more and more about my desires, my wants, and my needs. I mean, I have been thinking specifically about what it would "take" to make me happy. You know, what would I need to have in my life for me to be happy, really happy? This is assuming, of course, that I am not happy right now (which I am). I guess I was thinking that if I won a million dollars in the lottery, would that make me happy? In truth, it would not. I started to think about happiness and what constitutes happiness, and frankly, I realized that far too much effort is expended on the "pursuit of happiness." In many ways, I fall victim to the pursuit of happiness all the time. I think I will be happy when I lose 20 pounds, get in shape, grow my hair out, get that full-time job, etc. Yet, in reality, I am very happy now, very content, very good in my soul, so to speak. So really? What do I need, want and desire that I presently do not have that would be a game-changer for me?

As I think about my needs, I realize that they are mostly material. This morning, as I was praying, I asked the Lord to take over the search process in regard to a job and a place to relocate. He is in control, of course, but I am finding that I am too focused on the search parameters to be objective anymore. I want, want, want...and that means that my will is more important than His will. No can do! I will not super cede His precious wants for my idle desires. I will not do it. Selah!

In this way, I guess what I am saying is that I have decided to accept His good gifts as they are offered -- rather -- than to deal and bargain with the Lord to see if I can get what I want or think I want instead. Yes, His gifts are more than enough for me.

My mind has been fixed on my situation here in Phoenix for now on three years. I had the opportunity to move to a different place back in 2012. I mean, I was working in a job that would have made it very possible for me to relocate to the Chicago area, to transfer with my company. I chose instead to leave this job and move into teaching instead of staying in the Pharmacy-benefits management industry. It was a good move, don't get me wrong, but I mean to say that I was position at that time that made it very possible for me to be able to move outside of Arizona. At that time, my parents were still in their home. I was in my rented town home, and while they didn't like the idea of me moving away from them,+ they would have accepted it had I been offered a big promotion in Chicago. My son wanted to move there to attend school, and I really liked the area where my company had their office. I was strongly pulled to relocate there, but the Lord prevailed on me, and I left this job for teaching, and well, the rest is history.

I had other opportunities to move as well. Right after my life hit the skids in 2009, the Lord pressed on me the idea of moving to TN, Chattanooga to be precise. I was ready to go, ready to leave, but I had no job and with the full care of my son in mind, I simply couldn't imagine packing up and going anywhere on my own. Little did I know that the Lord would provide a good career for me, and had I been willing to step out in faith, well, I could be living in TN and enjoying my life as a single woman.

I tarried here for many reasons, but suffice it to say, I am here because I refused to take the gift that was offered to me. I asked for more, and in this way, the Lord has kept me right where I am until I learned this lesson of gracious receiving. I have learned that when the Lord opens His hand, it is wise to simply say, "Thank you," to Him. When we dicker around, ask for more, or even suggest we are not thrilled with the offer, we insult His graciousness. We insult the Giver who gives so graciously to us, who is always thinking about what is best for us. I have learned this lesson the hard way. I tarried and right now, I am dealing with more difficultly than I could have imagined. I have a good life, for sure, but it is not without struggle. If I had moved previously, the whole issue of caring for my parents would be moot. A solution would be found that didn't revolve around me, I can assure you. My brothers would have jumped in, and well, a solution that would have worked for us all would have been discovered. Instead, this burden has fallen mostly to me, and the care and the concern are weighing on me heavily. Now, I am stuck and not free to go simply because of my responsibilities here at home.

What am I to do now?

Well, I think the answer is simple really. I must confess my arrogance to the Lord, beg for His mercy, and then relent of my stubborn and steadfast attitude that has wanted my way over His way these past few years. I must let go, and I do let go. I accept what He considers best given my situation, and praise be to God, I know He will do what is best for me. I know He will do what is best today and tomorrow and every day going forward into my future life. He is good, always so good to me! Selah!

This morning before I headed to campus, I did this very thing. I confessed my sin to the Lord, asked Him to forgive me, and I accepted whatever gift He had in store for me. I accepted the gift of a job (future), a home (future), and a life (future) as coming from His hand. I gave up my right to decide, to choose, to pick, and I accepted that He knew what was best for me. He knows what I need right now, today as well as what I will need tomorrow. I am content to let Him pick and choose the life that suits His purpose over a life that suits my purpose and makes me happy. Yes, I have decided to let my happiness resolve or revolve around Jesus, and in doing so, my happiness is no longer tied to any person, place or thing. I am resolved to be in love with Jesus, and to let Him make all choices, all decisions, and all determinations for my future life. His will be done, selah!


In Closing

This means that whether I stay or I go, am now following His will and that means that I accept the gift He has given to me. He knows what is best for me and for my future, so I let go of my pride, my hurt, and my need to be "right," in order to let Him reign in every area of my life this good, good day. He is worthy, so very worthy of all our praise! Selah, Amen! So be it, thy will be done.


September 25, 2016

Sunday Blessings

It is a beautiful day here in sunny and warm, Phoenix. Yes, I am actually saying that it is beautiful and it is SUNNY and WARM! The weather outside is lovely, just lovely. I woke up around 8 am this morning, and when I took the garbage out, I couldn't believe how pleasant it was outside. I mean as in  PLEASANT. Yes, it was absolutely spot-on perfect. It is 91 outside right now, and our high today is supposed to be 93. WOW! I am rejoicing over a 93! Well, when you factor in the humidity, which is nary a degree above 10%, the result is perfection. It is warm enough to wear shorts or capris, but not too warm to be uncomfortable. Perfect, perfect, perfect. In truth, this is our fall in Arizona. Yes, and despite the fact that we will not have a change of seasons with leaves turning fall colors and then the trees shedding their leaves to brace for winter, it is still a little bit different from our long hot and humid summer. I am feeling giddy over the fall-like temperatures, and I cannot wait for October and the 'even' cooler weather to arrive.

God is good, so very good to me. I am thanking Him today, giving Him a sacrifice of praise, simply to say that what He has provided to me (as in living here, working here, being able to make it here), well, it is good, so VERY, VERY GOOD. The Lord has provided for me, and while my heart longs to live elsewhere, this is the place of His choosing for now. This is His choice for me. I rest, I abide, and I wait for His direction, His release, and His permission to go to my next stop, my next destination. My prayer is that soon the Lord will show me how I am to get from point A (Phoenix) to point B (His choice) so that I can begin the actual preparation, the action move itself. Oh, what joys, what praise, what mercy! He has this all figured out, and even though I would like to know NOW, I realize that all things must work together, as in His timing is perfect and scripture says that, indeed -- ALL THINGS WORK TOGETHER FOR OUR GOOD. I believe it, I am trusting Him to work out all these details in my life. Selah!


Plans for Today

I cannot believe I am actually saying this but today I have absolutely ZERO plans. I mean, NONE. Nada. Not one plan. Yes, I worked my proverbial backside off yesterday, and praise be to God, I finished everything (and I mean -- everything!) on my to-do list. My day yesterday was great. Not only did I take care of my online students (always time consuming), but I completed six required training sessions for Regent University. Two were human resource related and four were teaching related. I did them all, passed my quizzes, etc. I am relieved. I am so relieved. On top of all of that, I also graded tests and quizzes and I had time to go to the grocery store late in the day. In all, I was one very productive little bunny.

This means that today is a true "day of rest." I am resting today, relaxing, and enjoying my family time. I have some light reading to do, and some preparation work for next week, but in all, I am in such a good place right now. God has enabled me to be empowered with His grace in order to do all the work on my list. My plate is so very full these days. I am busy teaching five classes, and I am about to start my research. In about a month, I will pick up two new classes, and then I will be teaching six classes AND be immersed in my research. It seems so overwhelmingly impossible to me. But, I know the One who is leading me through this workload, and He is the One who has provided the jobs to me. This tells me that He thinks -- know HE KNOWS -- I can do all these things. He is helping me, guiding me, writing through me, engaging with students for me, etc. He is doing it all, and as such, I lay down my hands, my head, and my heart at His feet. I lift up a sacrifice of praise to Him. He is worthy. He can do it. And, I cannot. I know I cannot so I rest in His abilities now. I let Him lead, guide and provide for me. He is doing something wonderful, mighty, and miraculous right now, and I stand in awe of Him. It is like I am watching Him part the Red Sea, carve the tablets of stone, split the veil. Yes, I am standing on the side lines and I am watching Him do what He does best -- show up and be God. Oh my -- I am faint with excitement, anticipation, and with such joy. He is amazing, and I give Him all praise, all honor, and all glory this good, good day. Selah!

September 23, 2016

Strange Things

It is Friday or as my favorite "meme" says, "FRI-YAY!" I am so glad this week is over. In fact, this has been a GREAT week for me. I accomplished everything on my to-do list, and I am well-set to enjoy a fabulous weekend celebrating my son's 23rd birthday. I am good, so very good, and in all, I feel well (despite the tummy troubles this morning). I really feel well inside, deep down in my soul, and I feel good about my life and the direction for my life.

It is funny how that happens, really. I had a period of time not so long ago when I felt absolutely miserable about my life, when I thought there was no hope, and when I believed (erroneously) that my life had little purpose, value and function. Now, though, my life has value. It has meaning. And, I feel directed and confident in my purpose. It is such a good feeling to experience, and as such, I have this sense of "wellness," an overall wellness, that percolates up through my soul and outward to my face and my very being.

Today is a good day. And, yes, despite all the racial tension, the hate, the violence taking place in our streets today, I still think we live in a great country. We live in a wonderful place where individuals, no matter race or color, can achieve their goals, their dreams, and their desires simply by working hard, studying hard, and pursuing excellence in all things. My hope is to be a light and a beacon for those that are lost in this muddied mess of post modern thought and for anyone who thinks that violence and hatred are the way to bring about change. Never in the history of mankind as evil begat good. Never, never, not once. Thus, as Christians and followers of Christ, we must make it our goal to help lead the people who are lost, who are confused, and who are caught up in this madness -- out of it -- and into a place where there is no color, no division, no separation. Yes, only in Christ is there no division or separation. Paul said it this way in Galatians 3:27-29 NIV:

For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise.

I think about all of this violence, brother against brother and such, and I wonder what our dear Heavenly Father thinks about it. I mean, does this violence in any way pay tribute and honor to our King? I think not. Even during the height of racial segregation, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. recognized that violence never would bring honor and glory to the Lord. He often pleaded with his audience to not take that road, because as he often reasoned, it would not lead them to victory. It was these now famous words that spawned the belief in non-violent protest. He said,

“Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars... Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

In truth, his words echoed Paul's words when he wrote about peace and vengeance in Romans 12:18-20 (BSB):

If it is possible on your part, live at peace with everyone. Do not avenge yourselves, beloved, but leave room for God’s wrath. For it is written: “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” On the contrary, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink. For in so doing, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

Yes, Paul reminds his audience that the Lord says, "Vengeance is Mine," in order to put the onus on God as the only One who is able to accurately assess penalty, and who is Just and Justifier of all mankind. He is saying that this matter belongs to the Lord, and warns that when we run the risk of offending our God, our very Just, Righteous, and Honorable, God, we ever we act as judge and jury in matters such as these.


Finding Peace

As I mentioned at the top of this post, I am feeling well today despite some tummy troubles. I am in this great place right now, a place where I am feeling so full, so content, and so miraculously well in every area of my life. I mean, I am content to be a professor (adjunct now, but full time soon). I am content to remain where I am in Phoenix until the Lord provides another place for me to live. I am content to finish and graduate from Regent in 2017. I am content to take care of my parents through the end of their lives. I am content to be right where God has me because I know that I am at peace whenever I am in the middle of His will. Yes, when I am in the middle of His mighty will, then I have peace.

More so, I have peace when I regularly, daily, give Him praise. The Word says it this way,

For here we do not have a permanent city, but we are looking for the city that is to come. Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise, the fruit of lips that confess His name (Hebrews 13:14-15 Berean Study Bible).

We are encouraged to continually offer praise to God -- in good times and in bad times -- as a measure of our worship and sacrifice. In the Old Testament, faithful Jews offered sacrifices of animals in order to seek the Lord's forgiveness for sins and for His continued blessing over their lives. Throughout the Old Testament, specifically in Leviticus and in Deuteronomy, we read about all the ritual sacrifices that were required by God's covenant people. In the New Testament, however, we are told that Jesus is our Sacrifice, and that it was His body and blood that once and forever paid the price (the cost) for the forgiveness and remission of our sins. In this way, Jesus Christ paid the penalty for our sins, and as such, we can be reconciled and returned to peaceful relations with God.

We give praise (joyful adoration) to God for His grace and His gift of a Savior. We pray and praise God in order to thank Him for all the goodness He brings to us. So why then does this verse, in particular, call our praise sacrificial when normally our praise is spontaneous and a joyful and happy exclamation of God's goodness and grace?

GotQuestions.org says it this way:

To praise God in those times requires personal sacrifice. It takes an act of the will to lay our all on the altar before a God we don't understand. When we bring a "sacrifice of praise," we choose to believe that, even though life is not going as we think it should, God is still good and can be trusted (Psalm 135:2; Nahum 1:7). When we choose to praise God in spite of the storms, He is honored, and our faith grows deeper (Malachi 3:13-17; Job 13:15).

In other words, when we praise God during hard times, we are offering our "sacrifice" to Him because we are saying that while we don't understand what God is doing in the moment, we will trust Him for the outcome. We are to praise God regardless, yet it is much more difficult to praise Him when things are not going well, than when things are wonderful, positive, and seem to be overflowing with blessing.

Lately, I have started to praise God in this way. It is not that my life is going poorly at all, but rather, I have decided to give it a try and see if my attitude, my behavior, and my overall temperament (countenance)  as a result of sacrificially praising God. What I have found so far is that all of these things have seen a positive change. I feel better. I think more clearly. I have a much better attitude. Yes, I can say that simply by sacrificially praising God, my entire comportment has taken on a brighter, more optimistic outlook. I am blessed by simply praising God for His blessing in my life. Go figure that one...


In Closing

As I think about this good day, one thing is certain: Our God is a gracious and good God. I cannot state it enough -- He is a God who loves us so completely, covers us so willingly, and provides for us with such sufficiency. Today, thus, I lift up a sacrifice of praise because my God is my everything. From start to finish, beginning to end, He is everything to me! Selah!

September 22, 2016

Moving Beyond Immediacy

Happy Thursday! Yes, it is another end of the week, and today, I am thinking about my colleagues who are sitting their comprehensive exams at Regent University. It was 8 months ago when I was over at ACU, in the same boat, in the same high-intensity stress filled situation. Oh my goodness -- how time sure does fly! Now, I am writing my dissertation, and I am so close to graduating with my PhD. It has been such an amazing ride, the time of my life, and I stand in awe of God for His goodness and His grace to enable me to accomplish this dream.

I say, "this dream," because in truth, I believe that getting my PhD was His dream to start, and that He put that dream into my heart way back in 1992 when I was about to finish my undergraduate studies at San Jose State University. I can still remember the day when my professor, Dr. Olcott, said to me, "Carol, you should think about getting your PhD." I thought she was joking, of course, but all these years later, I still think fondly about the way she encouraged me to pursue my interests and my intellectual curiosity for the humanities. I do believe it was "kismet," in some ways, and I credit much of my undergraduate study for preparing me for graduate school -- despite the long delay of 17 years -- between degrees. My education at SJSU was intense, and my classes in the Humanities department were thorough and pushed academic writing and critical analysis to an extreme. I loved my program, and I think now how blessed I was to have studied Humanities when I did. Truthfully, my worldview shifted after that program, and my study was foundational for my later graduate study in English and Communication. I am right where I belong, thanks in part, to my undergraduate study, my professors at SJSU, and of course, my Lord, who gave me the permission, the provision, and the protection to study this particular degree. Selah!

Today, then, is a good day to remember the long journey, the long road, that I have taken to get to this point and place in time. I have traveled far from where I started, and the road ahead of me seems unending at times. Yet, I know that the path will surely end, and that at some point "down the road," I will arrive at my destination. God be praised, I will arrive! Until then, I remain focused. I stay fixed, firmly fixed, and I remain dedicated to the pursuit, to the purpose, and to the potential outcome that awaits my performance and my achievement. God is good, so very good to me, and I believe -- no, I KNOW -- He has a great plan for my life. I am convinced of it. I am absolutely convinced that the path that I am on, while rocky and uneven at times, is the path I am supposed to be on. I am right where I belong, and as such, I am in this sweet, wonderful, and "oh so" good place. I believe it. I feel it. I know it.


The New "Me!"

I titled this section of this post, "The New Me!" because once again, I am ready to begin the process of becoming "brand new." I know it sounds strange, but over the course of my life, I have cycled through several reinventions of me -- of my personality, my style, my growth, my development. As I have searched for meaning -- attempted to make sense of my life, to understand my vulnerabilities and my weaknesses -- I have spent a lot of time evaluating my past. I have spent time reviewing, revisiting, and yes, even re-envisioning my past experiences in order to understand better my motivations, my perceptions, and my assumptions so that I can improve my life. My desire is not to improve only in tangible ways (that is always the focus), but also in ways that are "intangible" (or not readily apparent). I want to be the best I can be, and by that, I mean simply to become the best person I can be given my limitations (fixed limits -- age, abilities, etc.). In many ways, I simply want to arrive at my destination in the best shape possible. I want to look good, feel good, and I want to possess a keen mind, a clear head, and be empowered to make decisions, choices, with mental focus and determination. In order to accomplish that aim, I must take inventory of my current status, and then decide what, if anything, must be changed, added or eliminated to ensure my success.

Right now, my overall focus has been on finishing my education and securing a solid teaching position (somewhere). I have made this pursuit my number one and number two goal.  In truth, goal number one is paramount to everything else. I mean, without my PhD, that secure position will not be possible. As such, all my effort has been pushed toward that end. I have to graduate. I have to finish. I am so close, and praise be to God, in time, I will be done (His will be done!) I have to remind myself daily that where I am today, teaching adjunct at several schools is simply part-and-parcel to the process. I have to gain experience, and while I would love a full-time job for security and provision, I simply know that what I have is good. It is enough, and praise God, it will be enough until He determines otherwise.

Since I have my ducks aligned in a row right now, and my goals are clearly in focus, the plans I have made seem to be producing good results and moving me closer and closer toward that end. I have been steady, stalwart, and now I am starting to see the goal posts in the near distance. I am almost there, almost to the pinnacle of success, to that point where I can say, "I did it! I am done!" Until then, however, I have to remain steady, yes -- steady. I have to finish this course, check off all the little check boxes that remain on my grand "to do" list.

My goals are in view, and the steps -- the plans and procedures -- needed to accomplish them are clearly designed and functioning well. Now, I must decide what to do next -- as in -- what to do AFTER I achieve my goals. My mind races through a wide-range of options, but so far, nothing has really "stuck" with me. Part of me wants to rest, like really rest (like a long vacation rest!) Another part of me wants to keep on going, to achieve more, to pursue another major life goal. I am not sure what I will do, but for now, I am content to consider these options as possible next steps:
  • Return to school to pursue another degree
  • Settle into teaching and pursue scholarship
  • Start a ministry to help the church communicate more effectively the message of the Cross
I've blogged about returning to school before, and while I have secondary interests and desires, I am unsure whether I have it in me to tackle another Masters or PhD program. I am pretty well spent, but intellectually speaking, I enjoy school, I enjoy studying and learning at this level, so going back to school is a plausible option for me. Some aligned interests for study have included:
  • Linguistics (MA)
Of these interests, what seems possible for me is a second masters degree in linguistics or in socio or psycho-linguistics that would then lead into a PhD in that social science discipline. I can see me studying along these lines simply to facilitate my over-arching interest in communication. Literature, on the other hand, is always a passion of mine. I have my Masters in English Literature, and I always felt somewhat sad that I didn't pursue the PhD in Literature when I had the chance back in 1992. I could easily pick this up, especially now since I teach both composition and literature studies. I would need to find a program that was 100% online, and a program that would allow me to study either American or British literature in specific. For now, I am thinking about a degree program only for the benefit of continued intellectual study and to afford opportunities for scholarship.

I really like the idea of settling into teaching and producing scholarship. I mean, with my first article published, I am eager to start the next one (I have a bunch of ideas in my head). I have to finish my research, and frankly, it is a massive project that will take time. I hope to publish at least one study from my data, but after that, I want to tackle some other interests -- mostly -- language and literature or language and linguistics. I also have some interest in visual rhetoric, so that is a possibility too. I know that with a tenure track position, I will be required to pursue scholarship as a part of my contract. I can see myself producing articles, conducting studies, etc., that would serve to meet that requirement. I am just wondering if I have what it takes to do it on my own or if it would be better to take a program whereby I would be forced to do this level of work (KWIM?)

Lastly, I know the Lord intends for me to do ministry, and by "doing ministry," I mean to start a ministry where I use my PhD in Communication. Again, I am of the impression that this ministry is something that will come in time, so I don't feel the push to start it now. Rather, I think it will develop overtime, and then when I am ready to retire from teaching, it is something I will do full-time in my golden years. At the least, this is how I feel now.

So with this in mind, I would say that once I graduate, I am thinking that both (1) and (2) are likely scenarios for me. I will probably step aside and take some time to get into my new job (when I have one) before thinking about starting a degree program. More than likely, I will work on presenting my dissertation at a conference first, followed by submitting my research for publication (as an article). After that point, I would be in a better position to start looking for another degree program, and to decide whether I want to focus next on humanities or social science. Also, I need to consider the language requirements of English, and that means that I would need to pass two language exams in order to meet the criteria of the program (ugh!)

As I think about this idea of more school, one thing comes to mind, and that is how to pay for school. Yeah, always a big concern. I am thinking that if the Lord puts me in a good school for teaching -- perhaps -- they will have a program that would suit my needs. If so, I would probably get a tuition waiver or credit in order to enable me to go back to school without breaking the bank. The other idea is to find a school that follows the Oxford model like Regent does. I really like this approach to graduate studies. It works well for my style, and I like the emphasis on discussion rather than teaching rote memorization and regurgitation. Oh well...I've got time to think more about this in the coming year. For now, it is back to the business at hand -- dissertation and writing mode!


In Closing

As I think about all of this, I realize that before I can tackle tomorrow, I have to attend to this day. So, with that in mind, I close this post so I can focus on my dissertation and my graduation! LOL! I am thanking God for the rain (as it softly hits my window), and for the blessing of having this day off today. I am rested, feeling better (no headache), and generally in good shape for the next few weeks and months as I move toward the finish line. I pray for His grace and His mercy as I complete my tasks. I ask for His blessing over my finances as He moves to improve my situation and open doors for me to work full-time. Until then, I remain constant, fixed, and focused on what "must needs" done this good, good day. He is so good to me, so very good to me! Selah!


September 20, 2016

Tuesday Musings

It is a good day today. Yes, it is Tuesday, September 20, 2016. I mention the date simply because tomorrow is my baby's 23rd birthday. It is hard to believe that my little bundle of joy turns 23 tomorrow but he does. He has been a blessing to me, enriching my life, giving it purpose and focus, and bringing me joy -- day in and day out -- since he was born. I am blessed by his unique wonderfulness, and it is such a great honor to watch him grow and develop into such a good young man. God has graced me with the blessing of being a mother, and I give Him thanks and praise every day for the special gift of my son, my only child.

Today, therefore, is a good day simply because I am safe, I am sound, and I am secure in my heavenly Father's love. His mercy surrounds me, and His grace enables me to live in peace. I am at rest today, in part due to His grace, but also because He has given me treasure beyond words. I am filled to full, completely and wholly, as a result of His marvelous presence in my life. I am in awe of His goodness, and as I consider His precious gift of life, His continued manifestation of grace and goodness in my life, and His unending faithfulness, I am unable to stand -- I must kneel before Him and bring in a sacrifice of praise. Only He is worthy to be praised! Only He is worthy of our adoration and our reverence! He is good, so very good to me! Selah!

Therefore, through Him let us continually offer up to God a sacrifice of praise,
that is, the fruit of our lips that confess His name.
Hebrews 13:15 (HCSB)


Planning and Purpose

I woke up this morning with a major headache. Yes, I woke up around 6 am with a migraine, sort of a combination of tension headache and sinus headache. I am sure it is because of the falling pressure as a large weather system moves in from southern California and northern Mexico. I doubt we will see much rain, even though our forecast today does call for showers. The change in pressure, no doubt, triggered my headache. I got up after a bit, took a couple Advil and a Sudafed, and headed back to bed with the ice pack. Thankfully, I was able to get my headache under control before APS arrived at the door to let us know the power was going to be off for a short while. This notification ended up taking the better part of a half-hour as we had issues with the breaker panel being locked and so forth. In the end, I was able to get my cup of coffee before the power went out, and then the APS service man did whatever he needed to do and went on his way. In all, my morning began very early and despite the pain, I was able to recover nicely. I am sitting at my computer blogging and it is just now turning 10 a.m. God is good, so very good to me.

As I consider this good day, one thing comes to mind: how can I make the most of my time, accomplish all my tasks, and still remain at rest (as in relaxed and not stressed)? I struggle so with managing all my to-do's and with making sure that I am attending to everything and everyone on my list. It is a challenge some days as I feel like a rubber band being stretched. Oh, how I am longing for the day when I teach at one campus only, and when I can manage my classes and my students without losing control of my mind, my time, or my energy! I pray the Lord opens that door for me soon -- so very soon!

Just this morning, I was thinking how difficult it is to manage so many different schools and classes. I am blessed to have this many teaching opportunities, but frankly, I feel as if I cannot meet the needs of my students well. I really do not like this feeling, and I worry if I am doing a good job. I mean, the last thing I need is to find out that I have been cut loose, so to speak, for failing to meet my student's needs.

So today, I am considering options. I am thinking about what needs to be done in order to secure a position where I can teach at one school only, if that is possible. I love teaching at Regent, and I could be very happy to put all my "eggs" in this basket, but the Lord would have to open that door for me. Right now, I see my work there as adjunct only. Perhaps in time, the Lord will provide a way for me to teach there full-time. Until then, I will continue to pray over Regent, seek His will concerning Regent, and trust Him for placement, position, and promotion at Regent. He is good, He is faithful, and I know He will prevail in these matters.

This means for me that I need to look elsewhere for that full-time position. I am sure I am not meant to remain in AZ longterm. In fact, I was praying about this the other day, how the desire to move from AZ has been with me for now on 10 years. I was asking the Lord for clarification when this thought popped into my head: perhaps my desire to move from AZ is not really my desire? I mean, like with graduate school, the desire started out as mine (or so I thought), but in the end, I realized it was His desire for my life. I started to think that perhaps my desire to move from AZ was His desire. After all, since I moved here in 1996, I have rarely had a time when I felt that this was the place I was to remain "forever." In this way, I said to the Lord, that perhaps what I feel in my heart is simply His desire to move, to relocate.  You see, this desire to move has never waned, just like my desire to become a teacher and to return to graduate school to get my PhD. I often had to let it go, place it on simmer, so to speak, because my life simply wasn't open (by that I mean my family, my support system, my finances, my time, etc.) to permitting me to go back to school.

Similarly, I feel the same way about moving. I have had this desire, intense at times, and simmering at others, to move. It is not about running away, I should state that emphatically. Sure, in the beginning, there was some of this mixed in. I was lonely, I felt I had made a mistake moving here, I was disappointed in living here, but truthfully, I simply felt as if I didn't belong here. Arizona was not my home, and while I believe my only true "home" is with the Lord, I do have family connections and ties to other places here in the USA. For example, I have family in California, Nevada, Maryland, Ohio, Florida, New York, and Illinois. I have friends across the USA as well, but my ties to places are really more about memories of my childhood and feelings of "home" as well as where my actual family resides. Granted, my parents are here in AZ, so in some regards, AZ is home as well. But, still as I think about it, I have this sense about me that tells me that Arizona is not my home nor my final destination.

When I think about jobs, this idea of home comes into play. I mean, where do I want to live and work? Where should I go?

The Lord has been pressing on me, yesterday in particular, this need to "go." In fact, I feel so strongly that He is telling me I must go now. Of course, I am not sure what that means. Really, how can I go now? I just have this sense of urgency that is making it difficult for me to concentrate. If He wants me to go, I will go. I just need to know where, and then how to get there. Right now, I think I am stuck where I am until I finish my dissertation. I need to focus on graduating, and that means, staying put until I have that degree in hand. Furthermore, I am contracted for fall so I cannot move now until spring time. I have contracts set for spring, but I have not signed them. This means that for all "intents and purposes," I am physically here until May 2017.

The plan all along has been to remain here until May 2017. This is my graduation date as well as my son's and after this date, we are "technically" free to move. Anywhere. About the country as Southwest Airlines likes to say. But where, Lord? Where do you want me to go?

Lately, I have been focused on this question in particular. I pretty much have given up the idea of moving anywhere "willy nilly." I feel confident that the Lord will put me in a major University -- a school that has the ability to hire me as full-time faculty and pay me a decent salary. This means that the school has to be big enough to pay a good and fair wage. I am not moving to a place where I will barely make a living. Some small schools barely pay a living wage, and frankly, I cannot make ends meet, pay my loans, etc. on what I make now. No, the place He moves me will have to meet several criteria, namely:

  1. Provide a full-time tenure position (ranked)
  2. Offer competitive salary at a living wage
  3. Exist within a major metropolitan area
  4. Afford decent housing
  5. Include amenities such as entertainment, shopping, and jobs (for my son)
  6. Allow me to engage in ministry work
Realistically speaking, the place has to be near a major city, like Phoenix, because this is where one will find good paying jobs. Small rural towns, as much as I love them, are not going to work. I thought long and hard about this, but I realize that as much as I want to live in the country, practically speaking, I have to deal with my debt, and the only way out of debt is to work, work, work. I need to work someplace where I can live comfortably AND still take care of my debt burden.

I have also realized that I have to be open to moving to cold places. And, while I have no issue with snow, I do worry about the cold and the ice and driving in them. I realize that some schools located in cold places may have a hard time attracting professors so perhaps this is why the Lord has put the idea of moving to the cold on my mind. I have to go where the job is and not where I want because of my own desires.

All of this is to say that if the Lord is telling me to go now, then He must be saying that there is a job opening for me soon. I need to be ready to apply, and I need to open my mind and my heart to the school regardless of its location. I get it, I do. I just don't know how I will handle this process right now. I just don't know if the Lord will make it obvious to my parents or if He will simply make it happen regardless of their knowledge. I am trusting Him completely. He is aware of my fragile situation here at home, and He does know what is best for me.


Moving and More

As I feel this push to go, I have to stop and ask myself, why now? Why right now? I have so much on my plate and "now" isn't really the best time to go, you know what I mean?

When I think about God's timing, my mind runs to the Old Testament prophets who wrote about the coming Messiah. The people were getting restless and God's promised savior had not arrived. Habakkuk 2:3 (ESV) is a good reminder that the Lord's timing is never really off. His timing may appear to be slow, but we are encouraged to be patient and wait for the Lord to reveal His promised reward to us. In this verse we read, "For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay." The prophet reminds us that the promised Messiah and the promised redemption for Israel (and the all mankind by extension) was coming despite the long, long wait between the vision and the revelation. Yet, eventually the Promise did come to the world. We celebrate the arrival of that Promise every Christmas when we remember our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ's, birth. For Christians, we still wait for the Promised One, but this time, we wait for another reason, we wait for His second coming when He will return in glory and in power to vanquish Satan and his army and usher in the our promised new heaven and earth. His second coming seems slow for us, and given the tenuous time currently (the violence, hatred, wars, famines, etc.), we take hope in knowing that He is faithful, and that He will keep His promise to us. He is coming again! Selah!

Then there are times when we wait for more pressing, more personal needs. David writes about this in Psalm 27:14 (ESV) when he says, "Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!" We are encouraged to remember to trust in the Lord, to wait for Him to meet us, to heal us, to care for us. We must be patient and wait for the Lord.  Likewise, Isaiah says something similar as he reminded the people of his time, and us now, to rest in the Lord, to look to the Lord when we are weary and so very tired. In Isaiah 40:13 (ESV) we read these familiar words:

"But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint." 

I sit here today and think how impatient I have been while waiting for the Lord to bring me His promised reward. I waited nearly 10 years before I could have a child, but the wait was well worth it. I waited almost 17 years to return to graduate school, and without fail, He provided a way for me. I completed two levels of graduate school in seven years, and today I am finally working in a promised profession. It only took 33 years for me to realize my desire of being a teacher. Now, I am about to embark on this new vision, to move to this new place, and after years -- literally years -- I am going to be living on my own. Yes, it has been 32 years since I lived on my own (technically, I lived on my own for two years briefly before moving in with my parents in 2013), and this time, I am ready to do it and to enjoy it.

All of this waiting, all of this patience has afforded me opportunity to learn many life lessons. Some of these lessons have been difficult ones to learn. Some have been crushing blows (such as when my marriage failed), yet others have been eye-opening, heart affirming, and identity-creating. I am in such a good place right now -- mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually -- I am strong. I am resilient, and I am at rest. I know the Lord has a wonderful plan for me, and that plan is for me to go -- to go where He is sending me. I don't have the details. I don't know the place. I don't know the job. But, I know that He is saying I must go now, so I agree with His word, and I place my faith and my trust in His Name. I look up and I say "Yes, Lord, I am ready to go."

Lead on, Lord, and I will follow. Go, and I will follow after you.

September 19, 2016

Plans for Today

It is Monday…good Monday, and I am so relieved, so relieved. I passed a good night, even though I didn't fall asleep right after I turned into bed last night around 10:40 p.m. I think I finally drifted off to sleep around 12:00, but when the dawn broke, I was wide awake and ready to get "at" my day. I didn't get up, oh no! I mean, why spoil a perfectly good morning and get up before I absolutely had to get up? Still, I feel good, and for that reason alone, I am praising His holy name! Selah!

It is week 4, 5 and 6 at my schools (GCU, Regent, and ACU), respectively. It is a good day and a good week. I am feeling well, praise God, and I am relaxed and rested from my very long weekend. Yes, I worked my proverbial backside off trying to finish my chapter 2 and 3 revisions, and thanks be to the God above, I did it. I submitted my revisions to my professor before 9 p.m. last evening. I cannot believe I revised almost 45 pages of content in just 20 hours of work, but I did, and I am thanking the Lord for His grace and His mercy. He is good, so very good to me!

The Week Ahead

As my new week begins, I am ready to tackle completing my proposal as well as care for my students (on campus and online). My prayer this week is to stay focused, to not give up or in, and to remain constant in my approach. I am determined to persevere, and that means, to be disciplined and steady. I am running this race of faith to win, and not to limp over the finish line with a big THUD! No, I am running this race as though I am a disciplined endurance runner, ready, prepared, equipped, and trained for every good work the Lord has in mind for me.

Many of my colleagues are sitting their comprehensive exams this week. Of course, I am praying for their good success, but I cannot help remember how I felt last February when I was ready to face those dreaded two-days of exams. Oh my goodness! I was a ball of nervous energy, and I was so stressed that I barely could function. Thanks to God, I passed, and I know my colleagues will all do well too. Still, I cannot help but feel for them as they tackle what will be the second most difficult part of their PhD program.

Yes, the second most difficult part simply means that writing the dissertation is by all accounts, the first most difficult part! LOL! I am thankful to be where I am today, even though I would have rather finished my proposal in May and spent the summer collecting data. The Lord had a different plan for me, so despite the delay, I feel good about where I am now. I have a much better handle on what I am about to do, how to do it, and what the outcome will be as I do it, than at any time prior to this week. The Lord was good to me this weekend. He not only helped me revise my work, but He provided clarity of focus and a renewed determination to get this proposal done. Now, I need to wait for my professor to review it, and Lord willing, he will give me the "two thumbs up" so I can prepare my formal presentation. God is good, so very, very good to me.

In Closing

I am about to head back over to campus now, so this blog post is short and sweet. I am giving God all the glory for His marvelous work today. I am thanking and praising Him for His provision and His goodness. My life is on the upswing, and I can feel that good things are on their way. Yes, good, His good, is about to be released into my life, and I can feel it. He is worthy, so worthy to be praised, honored and glorified this good, good day!

September 18, 2016

Sunday Revision

It is a blessed day here in sunny and cool Phoenix! Yes, it is lovely outside! The temperature is right about 72 — near perfect — for our normal hot and dry climate. The skies are clear and blue, and frankly, it is absolutely delightful right now.

My family has all headed over to church, and I am sitting here alone in the quiet — pondering the solitude. Well, it is just me and the cats, but even with these fur balls, the house is still and silent. I am home from church today while I complete my chapter three revisions for my dissertation. I was telling my Dad this morning how most PhD candidates take a year or more off from work to complete their final writing and research project. I am working full-time, and while I have some time during the week to do my research and revisions, I am having to use my full weekend to write. I simply cannot work round the clock, late in the evening, and expect to function well.

In addition, I have finally let go the guilt and shame over missing church, and I have decided to use my time for worship in this way. I know that sounds weird, but a friend of mine who happens to be an advisor at Regent University prayed this way for me. She said that my study and work time on my project is my “act of worship.” In truth, she said that my study and preparation for qualifications was my worship, but the point is the same. It is all a matter of perspective, really. In her view, if God has called you to study at this level (she means the PhD) then, He has a purpose in mind for it. The work you do, all of it — class work, papers, and yes, theses — are part of the work you do for His name (Col. 3:17). Therefore, when you do your work, you work unto the Lord, and in this way, your work is service. I didn’t quite see it that way initially, but since I have made this turn into the final stretch for my degree, I get her point. My PhD is all about His name and it is designed and purposed for His glory. Therefore, it is my act of worship whenever I devote time to it, whenever I consider it, and whenever I depend on Him for His help and His guidance while writing, researching or even revising. Thus, today, I have decided to spend my worship time engaged in this scholarly process in order to bring His name praise. This project is all about Him anyway, and my topic — the American megachurch — is His choice. So I am letting it be, I am resting in the fact that this is what the Lord needs me to do today, and that in time and when I am finished, I will have weeks, months and years to fellowship in church with the Body of Christ.


Progress So Far

Yesterday was a really good day for me. In fact, I would say that this week, overall, has been really good. I accomplished a lot, and yes, that feeling of accomplishment just “sat well” with me. On Tuesday, I spent most of my day off in order to get organized. I tackled a number of small things, and started the week off on a good footing. On Thursday, I was sidelined some, but I still graded most of my student essays from my online class. So yesterday, my plan was to spend the majority of the day writing my revisions for chapter two of my dissertation.

My morning ended up focused on finishing grading for my online class. I completed the rest of the essays, assigned grades, and then started into my dissertation around 1 p.m. I worked steadily, only taking a break at 6 p.m. to go grab a bite to eat. I fed my Mom (Dad wanted a milkshake only), and then retreated back to my room for more work. I completed my revision around 11 p.m. In all, I spent about 10 hours writing, adding some extra research, and generally, editing my long (30 page) literature review section. It was a bug to complete, but I did it. I have to admit that it reads much better. In fact, I would say that it reads really well. I am so relieved, so very relieved.

This means that I am on track to finish my chapter three revisions today. This is the method section of my research proposal and frankly it is the most awkward part to write. I am using a mixed methods approach, and I simply do not have a handle on what I will do or how I will do it. My plan today is to read some dissertations that are similar and then pattern my section after them. I think this will help me reduce the clutter and focus more so I can clearly articulate my plan of action. Lord willing, that is, Lord willing.

My goal this weekend was to complete both chapters so I could send these to my professor for review. I am hoping to get back on track for my actual proposal defense by the end of this month. This is my plan, of course. If I can propose by the end of the month, then I will be able to begin my data collection as planned — in October. I will then write chapters 4-5 over the course of November and December. My projected time to completion is the end of the year. I would then have January and February to consider revisions before my final defense in the spring of 2017. Again, this is all pending my work this weekend. I need to complete this revision today so that I am on track for the next series of steps in the process.

I am pleased, however, with what I have done. I spent some time yesterday printing out revision two and putting it into a binder. I thought it would be good to have it documented this way. I need to create my index today and put my reference list together. I am thinking that the TOC and the references list will come in handy as I review my work. I can double-check references to make sure I have my quotes cited properly, my page numbers and such, all in order. If I can do this now, it will save me a lot of work later on. Organization is my friend. I keep reminding me of that fact. It will help, it will help, so take the time, Carol, and get yourself organized. Yes, Lord, I will.


In Closing

As I lift my prayer to the Lord this morning, I am remembering how much I have to be thankful for this good day. My life, as it is, is good. The Lord has provided a way for me that is good, it is secure, it is sweet, and it is producing fruit (praise God!) I seek Him now, I rest in His abilities and His sufficiency, and I trust that He will cover me well this good, good day.