December 31, 2017

Breaking Down all Strongholds

It is December 31, and I am sitting at my computer, thinking to myself, and wondering what tomorrow will hold for me. Yes, tonight is New Year's Eve, and tomorrow is the first day of the new year. I see 2018 as a year of great promise, and I feel confident that it will be my best year yet!

Still, there is some doubt mixed with fear, and a little dose of apprehension, but God be praised, what is to be certain is that 2018 will be better than 2017. Each year so far since my life took such a strong and hard turn in 2010 has bested and out performed the previous year.

More so, as I have come to experience the newness of life, the wonders and joys of spending time with the Lord, doing His work, and living as a committed follower of Jesus Christ, I have come to see that every day is a day to rejoice in, to give thanks for, and to cherish (to love, to consider carefully, and to use wisely).

Furthermore, I have come to learn that every day is filled with new opportunities, new challenges, and new adventures. I believe that 2018 will have adventures, challenges, and opportunities that are far bigger, better, and bolder than whatever I experienced in 2017. Yes, I am confident of this fact, so very confident that I shout out this statement of belief:  the new year holds miracles, mercies, and magnificent mornings -- ready and waiting -- to be experienced.

Today, it is with great joy, excitement, and reflection that I look back on the previous year and begin to think metaphorically about the coming months with the hope of achieving all that God has planned, purposed, and predestined me to achieve. He is good to me, so very good to me!
Reflection on 2017

As I look back over the past year in order to take stock of my life, my progress, and my plans (those that came to pass and those that didn't), I remark that much of what I considered valued and important has remained. Some of what I had hoped to enjoy dissipated and some was left behind to simmer and smolder, as the embers were snuffed out by the passage of time.

My life is in flux, as it has been since January 2010 when I made the decision to seek separation from my then husband after several months of intensive crisis counseling with the hope of saving our fractured marriage. I had hoped that we would be able to reconcile and restore our marriage, but instead, what happened was that I found myself living alone in a marriage that was not what I had thought it was, and after much deliberation, heartache, and pain, I decided it was best to go alone rather than to remain coupled with someone who clearly had no interest or desire to remain connected to me. In the end, it took four years before a divorce decree was issued, but in that time, I learned a lot about myself, both good and bad, and I came to terms with much of the sorrow and suffering, knowing and recognizing that what I had endured was partly the fault of others, and partly my own stubborness and unwillingness to listen and obey God.

Within that time, however, my life didn't sputter and die out like a dead car battery. Instead, it flourished as I took the reins and began to deeply listen to the Lord as He would lead and guide me. I gave up my life, my marriage, and in return, I gained a new future, a shiny new future -- one filled with endless opportunities for advancement and adventure.

Today, I sit here as a confirmed professor, a PhD. I have a job I love. I have good practical work, and what is more, I have passion, intensity, and I have a determination to see all that God has in mind for me come to pass. I am no longer sitting on the sidelines, but I am reaching for the stars as the Lord hangs them near me. I am looking up, listening to Him, and then letting Him provide a way for me. I am doing the very thing He has asked me to do, and with His grace, mercy, and provision, I am beginning to see just the crack of light as it peaks beneath His marvelous doorway. I am seeing what is in that cupboard -- you know -- the one Lucy walked through to enter into the mythical land of Narnia. It is the same way with me as I move through the wardrobe, and make my way into this new and awesome land. I am able to push my way through the fur coats to see the magical land only because He has given me the key, and He has permitted me to see what lays beyond my imagination. I am moving now into a new realm, a new way of thinking that truly says "ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE" and with that thought, I realize that "NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE WITH GOD." Yes, there is nothing out of His reach. There is no star too far for Him to catch, and there is no way too deep, too dark, too high, or too mighty that He is not able to scale, climb, and walk. He is able, always able, but when I do not look to His hand, His ability, and His providential will, I am out of luck. I am lost amid a sea of endless blue. But, when He says, "Here I AM -- follow me," the adventure just begins.

I am ready for a new adventure, and I am ready to tackle the heights and the depths of His marvelous will. I am ready to go and do, to go and see, and to go and experience all that He has in store for my life. I don't know what to expect, but whatever happens it will be marvelous, wonderful, and supernaturally charged. It will be GREAT as Tony the Tiger says, and I am ready to see His GREATNESS as He passes before me and as He leads me on toward the promised land. Yes, I am heading home, but before I arrive, there is much work to be done, much road to travel, and many, many places to see, people to meet, and experiences to enjoy. I am ready, Lord, let's go!
Choosing His Awesome Way

The past couple days have been filled with such rancor. I couldn't really put my finger on it, but let's just say that I was not a "Happy Camper." No, I was not myself, and in my grumpy and depressed state, I simply saw everything as black, bleak, and so very bloody awful (as the British say!) I was miserable, but after some time in thought, and some struggles with emotions, I came to my senses this morning. I came to understand something that for the longest time had been so foreign to me. I came to see something that has literally changed my life, shaped my outlook, and altered my perspective. What is more, this new idea burst forth in my mind today, and though it was intended for a different purpose (in delivery), it actually landed right in my lap, and the message was received LOUD AND CLEAR.

I will do my best to explain, but it would be better to just watch the entire message here:

This morning at Scottsdale Bible Church, our regular pastor was absent due to a death in his family. This meant that Lucas Cooper, longtime friend and former pastor at SBC, but who now pastors a church in Toronto, Canada, was guest speaker. I wasn't quite sure what to expect when he said that his message was going to be on "submission" in marriage. I am guessing now (in hindsight) that this was a message he had ready to share since he was called quickly to fill in. Still, the message seemed so oddly constructed, and well, it just made me sit there and wonder "what is going on." However, as I listened to the message, I realized that God was using this man to speak a nugget of truth into my life, and that nugget had to do with submission.

You see, I am single. I am a divorced woman, and for 30 years of marriage, I could easily have been described as a ultra conservative Christian wife. You know, I was raised and then indoctrinated in my very ultra conservative church experience that men were the leaders of the family and that women were wives and mothers, and that headship, well, it went to the man always. More so, I believed that I was obligated to submit to my husband, and that in submission, my way would give way to his way. In fact, I think you could easily say that one of the reasons I ended up single and divorced was simply because of this line of thinking. I allowed my ex-husband to make terrible, awful, and yes, sinful decisions. I didn't stand my ground. I didn't say "NO!" when I should have said it loudly, clearly, and with strong conviction. I also did not seek help when I saw my ex-husband's addiction to pornography, and later when I witnessed behaviors that were clearly not God honoring nor in line with the message of Christ. In short, I obeyed myself right into divorce.

Now, understand that I had a really good biblical understanding of men and women, equal but different, and so forth. The problem was that I believed that submission meant something very different from what the Bible says it means. In truth, because I lacked an understanding of the Greek, I assumed that wives were to submit to their husbands just as much as husbands were to love their wives as Christ loved the church. The point was that I didn't really get the whole "sacrifice" thing, and because of this point, I naturally assumed that all men were in headship over me instead of just my husband.

So, this message on submission simply reinvented my understanding of what it means to submit to a husband. It also reinvented my understanding of the sacrifice that is expected between husbands and wives, and that it has nothing to do with equality or even with different roles. It is all about sacrifice -- mirroring Christ's sacrifice -- and in this way, the nature of the love relationship between husband and wife simply became more than I had ever imagined. More so, as I considered my own experience, I realized that my marriage was as far from the scriptural ideal as possible. Furthermore, as I look at most of my friend's marriages, I can say the same thing. It doesn't matter if these are happy marriages or not, the point is that the most perfect example of the relationship with the Godhead is marriage (not parent-child, sibling, friendship, etc.). Thus, in marriage if a couple is not sacrificing themselves daily for each other, they are doing it WRONG.

This message really was more than just a message on submission in marriage. It was something Pastor Cooper said and that was that Paul (the Apostle) wrote Ephesian's 5 not just to instruct the church in how to love one another, but rather to show the depth of Christ's love for us. In this way, if we simply view all relationships in this light, we can begin to see that every relationship we have should mirror Christ's love. It is not just about choosing to love another person; rather, it is about loving them completely, wholeheartedly, with the same passion and intensity that Christ loves us.

As I sat there and listened to this message, tears fell from my eyes to my cheeks. I couldn't help but see that my marriage was ruined by self-interest. Sure, there was pornography and marital and emotional adultery, but more than anything else, there was a selfish pursuit, a love of self, that destroyed the marriage from the inside out. It was destined to fail because Christ and His love was not the center. We were married in a Christian church, and we both confessed to be Christians. In fact, I would say we were sincere in our faith, and we did pursue faith -- church -- with a sense of duty and obligation. We served in ministry. We did "God things," but at the root, there was not deep love of the Savior within the marriage. There was no deep abiding love for God that permeated every thought, every decision, and every action. Instead, there was selfish love -- love of money, things, sex -- but not the life giving sacrifice of a dying Savior to help us to understand what true love really is and why His love for us is life changing.

My heart was kindled when Pastor Cooper gave three pieces of advice to single men, women, and married couples in the congregation. He said that single men need to learn to love; single women need to find a lover, and married couples need submit to love. His point was that young men need to learn how to love others more than themselves; young women need to wait to find a man who will love them like Christ loves the Church (do not settle); and couples need to love one another through sacrificial actions so they are constantly demonstrating Christ's love to each other. In sum, I came to see that marriage is more than a blessed union, a place for sex and children, or even a longterm relationship. It is the pinnacle example of Christ's love, and with that high calling, it is reserved (or should be) for those who understand the committment, the focus, and the sacrifice necessary to live in such a way.

I guess my grand takeaway from this message was simply this: I came to see the multitude of mistakes I made in my marriage. I was given a gift of sharing life with another person, and in that special place of trust, intimacy, and knowledge, I blew it. I behaved badly because of the way I was raised, the cultural influence, and the bad teaching from an ultra conservative church leader. In all, I realized that my experience was quite common, but sadly, as I held in my hand the potential for a beautiful thing, sin marred that beauty, and quickly turned what could have been wonderful into something awful, dark, and dirty. It was not the blessed union I was promised; rather, it was a dark, difficult, and disgustingly distructive experience.

The good news is that despite the reality of what was impressed upon me, I came away with a renewed sense of appreciation for Christ and His life-giving sacrifice. I came away with a vision of what should be in marriage, rather than what I experienced. Although, I am not intending to ever marry again, I now see more clearly what is required to make a marriage succeed. It is mutual sacrifice, and it is a deep love that says "I love you more than I love myself." I have never found that type of love yet, I mean -- outside of my Savior. I have experienced friendship love and even erotic love, but I have yet to experience true AGAPE love. I have yet to experience the kind of love that Christ has for me.
In Closing

As I close this blog post today, I sit here and I think about the fact that I am where I am because of a multitude of choices and actions, some of them good and some of them pretty awful. I am at this place on the road of life simply because I took various turns and twists, and when it all came down to it, I passed this way. Now, I am ready to move on in my life, to close up shop here, and take some new path to a new adventure. But, what sticks with me most is the fact that no matter where I go, where I stop or stay, I am right where I am supposed to be because my Lord and my Savior-God is with me. I cannot go wrong so long as I am leaning on, abiding in, and resting completely in His sacrificial love for me. So when He says to me to "stop and rest," He is doing it with love in His voice. When He says, "You can do it, Carol!" He is telling me, encouraging me with conviction of His belief in me. And, when He tells me to trust Him, He is reminding me that He loves me so much that He would never willingly or unwittingly place me in harms way. No, when my Savior speaks, it is with love -- a sacrificial love -- that seeks only my best. This is His AGAPE LOVE, and when I submit to Him, I am saying that I am willing to receive His sacrifice of love. I will listen and I will obey, not because I must or have to do so; but rather, I will do it because it is His sacrifice of love that seeks my best, always my very best. He is good to me, so very good to me! Selah!

December 28, 2017

End of the Month Blues

It is December 28, and I am so tired. I know! It is 10:22 in the morning, and I am struggling to keep my eyes open! I am not sure why I am so tired, but part of me thinks it is the whole "Christmas" season along with the mad dash to finish my teaching schedule and input final grades. In short, I had a very busy and hard December!

Still, it seems that since Christmas day, I have struggled to pull myself from the bed. I am also finding that I cannot fall asleep on time anymore. I head to bed around 11 p.m., but I am still awake at 12:30. My mind just cannot shut down for the night. Sigh!

I am hoping that the difficulty falling asleep and the difficulty waking up will dissipate now that I have plenty of time to rest. In fact, I was thinking about it today, how I am teaching four online classes at Grantham, and I am spending about two hours per day total to interact and respond to my students as well as grade incoming assignments. I am trying to be active and present in the classroom every day, and in this way, my workload is leveled out. In truth, I am finding it so much easier to take care of these courses than I did when I was teaching on campus AND teaching online. I am really pleased that my spring schedule is 100% online. I am seeing that this path for work will give me the maximum amount of time to do other things like write, research, and simply have a "real life" again. Yes, I am excited to see what my Spring 2018 semester looks like!

Preparing for More Work

So, right now, I have confirmed six online courses (one at Regent and ASU along with the four at Grantham). I am still not approved to teach at Liberty University, and I pray that this delay is resolved soon. I am not sure what I can do about the delay, but God has this school in His hand, and if this is His will, then it will come to pass.

For now, though, I think January-March is set with just six online classes. I know that seems like a lot of work, but after teaching nine this fall, both on campus and online, I really think I can easily handle 8 so long as I am home full-time. God knows my strengths and weaknesses, and He knows what I am able to handle as far as my workload and life balance. I am ready, however, to take whatever contracts He brings to me, so if another school should pop into the mix, so be it. I am okay with the amount of work and the pay that He has approved for me. He is my manager, after all, and with His approval and provision, I am well set. I am finding that I can do all things through Christ because it is His strength and abilities that make it possible. I really am in this very good, this very sweet, and this very special place in my life. I give Him praise. I honor Him, and I bow down to worship Him this good, good day.

Today is a good day, therefore, to give Him praise and to honor His holy name. I lift up the name of Jesus, and I confess in His name that I am unable to do anything at all. In truth, I am worn out, and I feel so completely unable to even focus today. But, God is to be praised, I know that with His strength, I will take care of everything on my to-do list. With His grace and mercy, I will do what He asks of me, and I will succeed in every single endeavor.

As I prepare for more work, I am also thinking about other work, as in research and writing projects, that I have wanted to tackle since before my dissertation. Now that I will have time on my hands, I want to be about that business as well. I have some ideas for articles, and well, if the Lord is willing, I would like to make 2018 a time of publishing success. I would like to publish one or two articles each year, and in this way, I would like to keep my hand active in scholarly pursuits. I am not sure if this is His will or not, but I am open to it, and I am willing to transcribe whatever work He has in mind for me.

I also want to begin to pursue my ministry writing project. I have had this one on my mind for about 7 years now, and I know that in order to get this project off the ground, I simply need His timing and provision to do it. I am not even sure what the Lord intends for me to produce, but I know it will be a good thing and a useful thing.

The Lord is gracious to me. He is kind to me. He provides abundantly to me, and not just in materialistic ways. He gives me His peace. He comforts me with His presence, and most of all, He demonstrates His faithfulness to me. He is always with me, and I am no longer afraid of what He may ask me to do. I know I will do what He asks when He asks it, and with His strength and ability, I will do it to the fullest. I will succeed. I will achieve. I will do it all for His name and praise and honor. Selah!

Change of Plans, Change of Scenery

This past month has been grueling as I mentioned, but in all of the difficulty, many new things came into focus that had been shrouded in mystery. For example, I thought perhaps the Lord was going to plant me permanently here in Phoenix. I had a good job opportunity at GCU, and I was one of two final candidates for the position. I was up for it, open to it, and ready to take on the commitment as full-time faculty. There were many "perks" to this job, and the department seemed to really like me and my teaching style. I had made "peace" with the idea of staying in Phoenix, living here through my days, and teaching on campus for the next 15 years. But, then this job didn't come to pass, and I was left in this weird place, this unknown place, whereby I had to envision a very different future. At the same time that the Phoenix door was closing, the Liberty door opened. I considered it providential, and with my on-going needs here at home, my parent's continual care and such, the opportunity seemed heaven-sent. But, the process to be hired at Liberty was a long one, and even now, after two months, I am still in limbo.

I had to make a decision in December, and that decision was to exit out of my on-campus contracts (teaching three communication courses) so that I could be open to teaching online for this school. It was a relief, but it was also a scary thing, to let go of a sure paying job for something which was not confirmed nor assured. Yet, I believed the Lord's hand was in this open door, so I sent in my request to be removed from the contract, and I waited for confirmation from this new school. It did come, of course, but only in the request to submit final documents to HR. I have not heard back, and I am not sure what will be other than to say that the Lord knows the timing and the outcome of this event. Should it come to pass, and I believe it will, then I will teach online at another school. Until it does, however, my future destination is unknown. I honestly do not know whether 2018 will see me still in Phoenix or if I will receive the call to move elsewhere in the USA. My parents needs are a strong factor, none the less, and my son is still planning to attend (Lord willing) Berklee College of Music in Spain, but without any confirmation at this time, the truth be told, I really do not know what January will look like or where I will be once March, April or May arrive.

Today, I sit here and I think about my future life. Will I be here in Phoenix? Will I be somewhere green, lush, and full of trees? I just don't know much at all save this, and that is wherever I end up, it will be because the Lord selected it for me, planned and purposed it, and then provided a way for me to be settled, to be content, and to be fixed (as in permanently established) there. I long to be "fixed" as in a permanent station. It is hard to live a temporary existence, but as Paul said in Philippians 3:20 (NLT), "But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior." What I want, to be established and settled in one place, is not to be in this life. I want to set down roots, to be secured to the ground, so to speak, but the Lord desires that I remain flexible, fluid, and able to travel -- to move about the country -- as Southwest Air's tagline states. I am to be able to go, and despite the fact that I want to stay, to remain, and to not be uprooted continually, the Lord has other plans for me. He has promised me security; His. He has promised me provision; plenty. He has promised me a good and comfortable life, and in this way, He has said that I don't have to fear or be worried or consumed with the details of the passage. I must simply be willing and agreeable to go and do the work He has called me, trained me, and equipped me to do.

This transitory status is not to my liking. I am not happy when I don't know my day's end. However, the Lord has kept me in this state of flux for almost 8 years now, and I can imagine that this was how Abraham felt when God moved him from his homeland to a strange place, a foreign place, but a place promised to be filled with "milk and honey." Abraham had to journey a long while before he was able to settle down and create a new life for himself and his family. The Lord moved him through the land, and in the end, he was buried in Hebron, the land of Canaan along with Sarah, his wife (Genesis 19). Thus, in my case, for the next 20, 30, 40 or more years, the Lord may move me every so often to simply help me to see that my home is not here, it is not on the Earth, but my true home is in heaven, and it is to this home that I long to see, to be, and to live.

I think this is why I struggle so with going and staying, with making decisions on whether to live in the desert or to move to mountains or the ocean. I simply want something I cannot have -- yet. I want paradise, and I want it now and not at some point in my future. My heart and my mind are being transformed so that I can do good practical work for the Lord. I am readying myself to do this work, and I know and I understand that the work I do is not stationary as in fixed in one place. I can do my practical work now from any location where I have high-speed Internet. I can do my ministry work (the writing, teaching, and presenting) anywhere there are people who will listen to me. Furthermore, with the exception of my parents, my son is able or will be able to live anywhere he chooses because his work will be similar to mine -- self-guided, directed, and produced. In this way, we are nomadic. We are able to up and move should the Lord desire it, and with this ability, we become mobile workers in God's kingdom. I never thought I would say this at all, but I can see now how the past 30 or so years prepared me for this lifestyle. I can see how all the moves I have made, up there, over here, and finally down to the desert, has made me "portable." I don't want to be portable. I want to be fixed. I want to stay put, be always in the same place, but God has another plan for my life, and He is asking me to be flexible to go and do His work where He wants me to do it. Perhaps I will stay for a year. Perhaps I will stay for many years. It doesn't matter how long I actually stay, what matters more is my attitude and my gratitude for the opportunity to be used this way by God.

In Closing

It is hard to live without knowing what will be tomorrow. I have the assurance that my tomorrow will look pretty much like my today does, but I don't know that fact. I guess you could say that this is true for most people. Honestly, no one knows their days or how they will end, but for many people, unless a job change or life change occurs, many people are pretty much content to remain where they are for the longterm. I want this so much, to know that today, tomorrow, and every single day henceforth will be spent right here, right where I am. I don't want to think about moving -- again! Yet, this is not what the Lord has said to me. He hasn't said, "Carol, settle down and be content to put down roots." Instead, He has said to me, "Carol, be prepared. Be ready to go!" So, I must make myself ready to go, and whether that is spiritually (as in the Lord is about to return) or physical (as in we are going to move to X place by summer 2018), I just know that I have this feeling of needing to go, but no real sense (confirmed) of where that will be at this time.

My days are to be about His business, this I know. My ways are to conform to His word. I am to obey and follow after Him, and in this way, I am to go where He sends me. I am to live where He tells me to live, and I am to do the work He has prepared for me to do. I am ready, Lord, and I am willing to go now. Please open that door, show me that place, and provide the necessary resources so that I can go and do whatever it is that you desire me to do in your name, with your power, and through your ability. I ask this now in Jesus' Name, Amen! So be it, thy will be done. Selah!

December 26, 2017

The Day After

It is December 26, 2017. Yes, it is the day after Christmas, and well, I am spent. I am beaten. I am so worn out. Yesterday, was a good day for our family. We had a very small Christmas, sort of a Charlie Brown type. We spent the morning exchanging gifts and watching TV, and then later we had our good friends, Barb and Steve, over for dinner. The evening was nice, the food was good, and the conversation was interesting. After everyone left, though, and the dishes were done and put away, I crashed. I did most of the work, though my Mom did help me prepare some of the dishes. I wanted to make sure the holiday was a good one, and while I worked the entire day, in truth, I think it turned out nicely. But, I am glad it is over, and I am glad to be moving on today.

I slept soundly, praise the Lord, and I woke up around 9 a.m. still feeling like I needed a couple extra hours of sleep. Winston was being his usual self, which simply means he was being mischievous and getting into trouble. Ike was snoring under the bed, and with the rumble of his sleep, I ended up drifting back off for another hour or so. It is now 11 a.m., and I am up and drinking my coffee, though I feel a bit peaked today. I really am so thankful that today is a "holiday" in the sense that I don't have any work to do. I am thankful that I am off now, off from my campus job, and that the coming weeks and months will be filled with online responsibilities. God is good to me. He is so good to provide this type of work for me to do. I can rest well now. I can finish my work, and I can take as much time as possible to rest. Praise God, I can rest now.

It's a Good Day Today

I am sitting here at my home computer, thanking the Lord that Christmas is over. I know, I are thinking, " said you loved Christmas!" It is true. I do love Christmas. I love the season of Christmas, and I love all the decorations and festivities associated with it. But, I don't love the holiday. I don't love the pressure. I don't love the performance of Christmas. I simply feel pressured to perform, to keep up with all the happy folks out there who post pictures on Facebook and Instagram. You know, all the "Christmas Jammies" photos and the like. I get it. I am happy for these people, and I am glad they have such good family times. However, in my life, Christmas itself, has never really been a happy time of the year. Well, not since childhood. In my adult/married years, Christmas meant performance. It meant mandatory attendance. It meant doing things I didn't want to do just to "please" people I didn't even know. It wasn't the stuff of sweet memories like my childhood. It was pressured, it was rushed, and it was so "forced." I spent nearly 25 years living in this type of vacuum. I had to make "Christmas magic," and in doing so, I found that year after year, I simply came to loathe the entire weeks from Thanksgiving to New Years.  I wanted to get through the year-end hassle so that I could simply relax and know that there would be no more pressure until the following year.

After my marriage ended, I made a vow that I would never suffer another miserable Christmas. I did my best, and I think for the first two Christmases, I achieved a nice balance between family commitment and pressure to be "perfect." Once I moved in with my parents, things changed. I had to take on more of a leadership role, I had to assume the responsibility, and in some ways, I jumped back into that performance routine. The wonder of the season was lost because I became the "worker" that worked to make Christmas happen for my family.

This really was the last Christmas of that sort. I made a new vow, and I said emphatically that this Christmas was the last for dinner, for holding any sort of "event," and instead, next year would simply be a celebration of the reason why we celebrate in the first place: Jesus, our Savior! My son announced that from this point on, he referred Amazon gift cards to gifts, and I said "fine." My life just got even more simple. I realized that all the "hubbub" of the holiday surrounds a mistaken belief that Christmas is about the gifts we give. Yes, I understand -- Jesus is the GIFT we have received -- and in turn, we give gifts to others. But, I was reminded this year that in my favorite Dickens' story, 'A Christmas Carol,' it is Scrooge's nephew, Fred, that says that Christmas is when we give gifts to the poor. And, it is the kind gentlemen who come to ask Mr. Scrooge for a "handsome donation" to remember the poor and those who lack warmth and comfort during the cold season. I thought about this fact, and I realized that Jesus said we were to remember the poor. It was James who said that caring for the poor, the orphan, and the widow is "pure religion." Thus, as I think about my life today, my last "Christmas" experience, I realize that my goal for celebration moving forward is to do as Christ commands -- to give to those who have a need. My family, my friends, my social circle do not have needs. We are wealthy in comparison, thus my next Christmas will be about giving to those who need it most.

Change of Attitude; Change of Heart

Now with that out of the way, I am ready to move on to a new "season" in life. Yes, my life just got better because I am leaving the old way behind and embracing a new way, a different way. In this manner, I am casting off my cares of the past and replacing them with His cares for my future life. I am freed, yes, I have been set free from the routine, the rattle, and the rancor of a performance-driven life. I am embracing a new way, and that way is not about achievement anymore, but rather it is about doing good works, being charitable and hospitable, and in the end, living my life day in and day out as a living witness, a testimony to the goodness and graciousness of God. I am living now to please the Lord, and I am no longer living to please any man, woman or child. I am choosing today to embrace a form of ecumenicalism that says "no matter your color or your creed," I will show you the love of Christ through my good works rather than my words. Sure, I will share the gospel message, but not firstly in words. I will share it through a cup of tea, a biscuit, or a warm blanket. I will share it with those who need a hand up or a handout. I will make my life about doing His work materialistically in a world that is dying from material pursuits. You see, everyone in this world is working to the steam engine of a system that says to produce wealth is the end goal, the high achievement, the 'be all' of existence. Yet, so many are unable to even produce a good meal for themselves or their families. I know there are many reasons for poverty, and there are many solutions that rely on institutions such as the government or the church. Yet, I think the best solution is to meet the needs as the needs arise, and that means to give when and where it is needed.

I guess what I am trying to say is that I realized this year that my life is blessed beyond measure. For the first time in a very long time, well perhaps forever, I am no longer one of those people in need. I have no need. I blog about it regularly, and I give thanks to God for the fact that my need is met with His sufficiency. But, it was this year when that fact rushed home and squashed me. I was at the store thinking to myself that my needs this year were for a good pair of slippers. Yes, my old ones were pretty trashing and stinky, and well, a new pair would be really nice. My Mom bought me new slippers. She also bought me a lovely Psalm bracelet. I thought, what else do I need? My brother gave me a gift card to Amazon, and well, I will buy something with it more than likely, but in truth, what do I need that I don't already have on hand? Nothing. I need nothing.

The thought really hit me as I was leaving Walmart on Sunday. I saw a homeless man, begging for a handout. I normally drive past these folks because they are always there, always standing with their signs, and frankly, I wonder if they really are homeless or just making bucks as a panhandler. I felt this overwhelming desire to give this man $5 bucks. I didn't because I was in the lane to go straight, and there was no way to pull aside and hand him the money. There were too many cars, too much rush to get out of the parking lot. So, I drove by, and I thought to myself, "This is what I must do with the money God has given to me." I have more than enough to share now, and there is no reason for me to not share with people in need. I felt bad, really bad that I missed an opportunity to bless this person, but I also understood the message that came through loud and clear to me. Gift giving should be for those who cannot give gifts. I am to share my good fortune, my blessed state, with people of all walks of life -- not just the homeless panhandler -- but with the mother of children, the father that sits alone at night, the widow with no friends or the worker who works without ceasing just to pay their bills. No matter what color, what creed, what political persuasion, I am to seek, to serve, and to save the lost as Christ's hands and feet. My ministry is clear. My path has been confirmed, and I see the tasks as if they magically appeared to me. In fact, it was just the other day when the Lord spoke to me in a dream and said to me, "Carol, in the next couple days, you will know what to do. You will be confirmed in my way, and you will see the path clearly." Of course, I thought the confirmation would be about my life, the plans He had for me, where He was sending me and so forth. Instead, what I realize today is that this work, this ministry work, has no "place tag" attached to it. I can do it in Phoenix or in Boston. I can do it today, tomorrow, and every single day moving forward. I am simply to do it, without question or without hesitation, and I do it with one goal in mind, and that is to share the love of Christ with a hurting world. I am to minister with His good gifts and bring healing, joy, and restoration with the message of hope that I carry within me.

Resting Now in His Peace and Good Will

As I sit here today, I realize that I have entered into His rest and that I have His peace and goodwill in and through my life. I am in this blessed place, this wonderful station in life whereby I am no longer poor. I am no longer cast aside, struggling to make ends meet, worried and consumed by a drive to put food on my table. I am well-set. I have a good future ahead of me, and I have more than enough money to take care of my small needs and still bless others. I can be a blessing now. I can do the thing I asked of the Lord many years ago, and that was to become a blessing to others. I have the money now to share with the needy, to donate to charity, and so forth. But more so, I now have the time to give of myself to others through hands-on opportunities. This past year was a crazy one for me, and this past semester, in particular, was a nightmare. I cannot believe that I taught 9 classes over the course of 16 weeks. I poured myself out for my students, and I found I was drained, strained, and well, brain-dead most days during the semester. Now, though, my future is securely tied to online teaching, and this means that I have better control over my time. I can work in the evenings if I choose to do so. I can work in the mornings if that works best. I can divide my courses up by hours in the day, and in the end, I can control how much time is spent to teaching students and how much time is left over for me to do the business of life. I am excited to see how the Lord intends to change my routine, how He intends to make it possible for me to work consistently as an online teacher and still be able to devote time to His work, His communications ministry work, I mean.

Thus, today, I embrace the "new me." I make a plan of attack that says "Let's make this happen," and in doing so, I take action to begin to work in a way that brings pleasure to my Father in heaven. I think about and do the things that I know please Him. I put Him first, and with this effort, I am saying that today and henceforth to wit, I will put "first things first." Christ and His message of peace, the gospel of reconciliation, and the plans of restoration are now my business. I am working full-time in Kingdom business, and I teach as a means to an end. I am blessed to be a teacher. I am blessed to have such good practical and convenient work, but I am now on His business night and day, day in and day out, and my life and routine are ordered to suit. I am no longer seeking my own pleasure, my own advancement, but instead, I am seeking to do His work, in His way, and through the power of His will so that I can be used up, fully used for the Kingdom of God in Christ Jesus. God is good! He is so good to me! Selah!

In Closing

As I close this blog post, I give Him thanks and praise today because what He has shown me, no -- given to me -- is the greatest gift this side of Heaven. God has shown me the way to go. He has shown me how to live my life to the fullest, to be engaged, and to be invested in what He considers most and best blessed. He has made it possible for me to supercharge my life, to make my life about Him and His will and not to take offense or feel "less than special" when I am not being lifted up, highlighted or promoted. He has said, "This is the path for you to walk on" and I know today, yes, I know today that it is the blessed way to go.

My life has been transformed through the powerful experience of knowing God. I have met Him in personal ways, and as a result, I am no longer focused on ME and MY WANTS. I am focused now on doing what He desires and in being obedient to Him as He calls me, commands me, and comforts me to go and meet the needs of those people who cross my path this good, good day.

I close this post then with this thought: what if every Christian divested themselves of their own selfcentered focus and embraced a God-centered focus that saw people first, faith, faults, and failures last? Could we change the world for Christ if we simply went out and ministered as Christ did, in His way, and with His power and ability? I think the answer is a resounding yes! May it be so, may it be so! Selah!

December 24, 2017

Yes, It is Christmas!

It is a good Sunday morning here in sunny and chilly, Phoenix. The skies are clear, but the air temperature is crisp -- much like a nice fall day elsewhere. The weather is set to be cool through this week, but we have no rain or other storms on the horizon. This December has been very mild for us. I guess it is a "La Nina" year after all. We've had little rain and no really cold or freezing temperatures so far, and unless things change, the weather through the New Year looks to be about the same as today. Cool and sunny. Every single day.

It is Christmas eve, and I am sitting here at home wondering which service to attend today. Our church, Scottsdale Bible Church, has so many service offerings, but none of them are late as usual. Instead, the latest service is 7 p.m. I am thinking I will attend the 5 p.m. service so that I have my evening free to spend with my family. For now, though, I am sitting at my computer and working on my last minute gift/grocery list.

Tomorrow, we have friends coming for dinner. I think I have everything on the "to-do" list, but I am so not sure. It isn't that I lack preparation, rather it is that I have had to deal with preparing for Christmas AND caring for my parents (shopping, mostly). Normally, I really look forward to this time of year, but with all the rush to complete grading and the extra work here at home, my time of enjoyment has boiled down to a few moments of peace, rest, and reflection. Still, I am thankful for this day, for the privilege of caring for my parents, and for the wonderful blessings God has provided to me. I am in a good place, despite the feelings of panic. I am safe, secure, and sound. My future is in His hands, and the hope I have inside of me is due to His continual presence in my life. In truth, it is my experience with God, daily, consistent, and always present, that gives me a reason to get up every single day, and helps me to stay focused on the tasks at hand. It is His life in me, so to speak, that keeps me on track, and provides a sense of purpose, wonder and excitement as I face the uncertainty of the coming year. In all, He is good, and I bless His Holy Name. I give God thanks for sending Jesus as my Savior, and I lift up a sacrifice of praise simply because I know that I am where I am today due to His good favor and His sweet blessing (mercy and grace). I take no account of my life, my work, or even my will in this matter. He has done this, He has made this possible, and it is to His name that I lift my praise and thanks! Selah!

Reflecting and Remembering

Last night I had another epiphany. I was walking out the door of my house, heading out to Wendy's to pick up a quick dinner for my family, when I walked past my son's SUV. I stopped for a moment and thought, "Maybe I should drive DJ's SUV to Wendy's." I caught myself mid-thought with the words, "DJ's SUV," and I marveled at the provision of this beautiful car. I mean, it was just six months that I was blogging about how we needed a second car and how I had no way of purchasing one. More so, my son needed an SUV, and that had been our plan for nearly two years of ride-sharing. I was tired of sharing my little Sentra, and well, it was kind of getting beat up with all the gear he would toss into it each day. Still, I was thankful we had a good car to share, and though I was hopeful that God would provide another car to us, I simply had no idea how or when that would happen.

I got into my little Sentra, started the engine, and drove off thinking that it was such a neat thing to have a beautiful new car sitting in the driveway, and how that car was an answer to a prayer. In fact, it was better than what I had prayed. It was a gift beyond all gifts, so to speak. I never believed I would be able to purchase a brand new car, and yet, that is what I did with the Lord's gracious help and provision.

My heart started to think deeply about all the "other" gifts God has blessed me with over the past 10 years. As I drove down the street to the shopping center, my eyes welled up with tears of gratefulness, heartfelt thanks to God, the Gracious Giver of all Good Things. Yes, God has provided amply to me, and in this way, I know in my heart, that over the next month to a year, He will provide exactly what is needed to me.

I sit here today and I give Him praise. I thank Him for His faithfulness, His goodness, and His grace. I don't deserve what He has provided to me. I don't deserve anything but His wrath. Yet, in His merciful kindness, He has made a way for me. I am saved, praise the Lord. I am sanctified by Jesus' blood and righteousness, and I am on my way to future glorification in Christ Jesus. My life, the beginning, the middle and the end is known and planned. He knows my days. He knows me, and for these two things, I give Him thanks. Thank you, Abba Father, for knowing me and for letting me know you in return. Thank you for the relationship we share, the good fellowship we keep, and the blessed journey we take together. Thank you for honoring me, and for allowing me to experience you in this unique and wonderful way. I truly feel like Enoch, whom the Word described as "walking with God." I prayed to be like two patriarchs many years ago (Abraham and Enoch), and I can say that God has delighted in my soul to allow me to experience faith and friendship on both accounts. I am blessed by His daily presence, and I am confirmed and committed to spending my eternity with Him. I am in such a good place, such a wonderful place simply because the God of the Universe allowed me to experience Him in this way. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

More Good to Come

As I sit here and give Him thanks, I remember that while my life has been difficult (and it has), it has also been really, really, really good. I mean, I have everything I want today except for my own home. I have a job I love to do. I have my precious son, whom I adore and cherish. I have my parents near me, and I have a quiet space to live, to contemplate life, and to do good practical work. I live in no fear. There is no drama in my life. I have peace inside my home and outside my home. I have no wants, no lack, no empty drawers or buckets or bowls. What is more, I have a future filled with promise, and I have a plan to follow that suggests to me that what is to come is far more spectacular than what has passed by already. In this way, my future looks so amazingly bright. It is filled with hope, with excitement, with anticipation, and with goodness -- always His goodness. I know there is sadness, sorrow, and yes, even some depressed days ahead, but overall, over all the remaining days of my life, there is joy, there is light, and there is His sweet presence. He is good to me, so very good to me!

This new year, 2018, is filled with such amazing hope. I have a good future, a secure future, and I know that more than likely I will not be sitting at this computer, in this house in Phoenix, come next December 24. Instead, I will be sitting in my own home office, my very own office, where I will be thinking, remembering, and reflecting on the mercy and grace God showered on me in the previous months and year. I will look back and say, "God is good." I will remember His faithfulness, His kindness, and His mercy as I endured hardship, traveled so far from home, and made a new life for myself and my son. I will look at all that I have overcome during the year, and I will marvel at His hand of blessing and prosperity. I will think to myself, just as I did with my son's car, "How amazing it is to see the hand of the Lord, the blessing of the Lord, come to pass in my life -- in this way." Yes, I will marvel, and then I will magnify the Lord. I will lift up a sacrifice of praise to the Lord for His goodness, His love, and His rich kindness, and in doing so, I will rest at His feet. I will say to Him, "Lord, you are too good to me. You are too high, to marvelous, and too good for me!"

In Conclusion

I close this blog post today with this one thought in mind: I am where I am today because the Lord of Host, the God of the Universe, the Magnificent One, has made this possible for me. I am not here by circumstance or happenstance, but I am at this spot, this place on the road of my life because He has ordained it, made it come to pass, and created opportunities and doors that opened for me. I walked on after Him. I trusted Him. I relied on Him, and in this way, I experienced ever greater portions of faith, of dependency, and of merciful goodness as a result. He has done this, made this way possible, and today and every day henceforth, I will give Him praise!

December 16, 2017

Sensing The Time

Happy Saturday! It is December 16, and I am sitting here at my home computer, blogging, as I always do, and thinking about the fact that in less than 9 days, it will be Christmas. Yes, I am not even ready for Christmas. I haven't sent one card nor have I shopped for gifts (online or in stores). I am wrapping my semester at GCU and Regent, and I am working extra time to get all my grading done before next weekend. I really would like to have most of next week to enjoy the blessed season, and to reflect on the goodness of God and the sweetness of His greatest gift, Jesus! My prayer is to have most of my work done today and tomorrow so that heading into next week, I can begin to relax, rest, and recover from my very long and very hard semester of work.

Sounds of the Season

Last night, I had a wonderful evening at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. My seat was in the 5th row, about 6 seats in (about center stage), and I was mesmerized! Not only was the Christmas performance, "Sounds of the Season with David Britton" great, but I got to watch my son play keyboards in a major venue to boot! Truthfully, I needed this performance. My heart and my mind were occupied for almost two hours with glorious vocals including a rousing gospel choir, and of course, beautiful music performed by top-notch musicians. I sat there glued to my seat, and the entire atmosphere was just the "ticket," so to speak. I was transformed by the musical performance, and I came to see Christmas once again for what it truly is -- a celebration of God's miracle, the birth of a Savior, and the glorious pronouncement from heaven that God loves us so deeply, so compassionately, and so completely.

In good measure, I left the theater thinking that my life just improved ten-fold and that as I work to complete my tasks this weekend, something truly wonderful is about to happen to me. I don't know what that wonderful thing will be, but I sure do feel it inside. I have this sense of peace, like complete peace, and I have this marvelous hope that seems to be comforting me as I look forward in time. In many ways, I feel like I am peering through the looking glass, and while I can see some images that make sense to me, much of what I do see is shrouded in mist. Yet, I feel the call to step through the glass, just like Alice did, and begin a wonderful new adventure. I am so ready, so very ready, and what is more, I am filled with excitement to think that next year at this time, my life will be radically different. It will be so vastly different than it is today. How amazing is that?

God has given me vision, a new vision, and that vision seems to be saying to me that where I am at today is where He intends to keep me. I have blogged so much about wanting to go, desiring it, thinking and dreaming about it, and last night, as I was driving home, I realized that what God has given to me here today is about as good as it gets if you know what I mean. My students at Regent read Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" last week. We are all familiar with the story of redemption, with the amazing transformation of one miserly old man who after meeting the three Ghosts or Spirits of Christmas, is reminded that Christian joy and charity are tightly linked. In order to experience the joy of Christmas, one must receive the joy given -- Jesus the Christ. In order to share the Christmas story, one must be engaged in charity, giving of good works, and the blessing of using our worldly goods for more than simply building a temporal empire, but rather to give to the poor and the less fortunate in our society. Sure, I am interpreting this story through a Christian lens, but in truth, Scrooge comes to see Christmas as a time of giving, and not as a "Bah Humbug" experience.

In a like manner, I came to see my life anew as I left the SCPA and drove home through Scottsdale. The shopping district was ablaze in Christmas lights, and many of the places I passed on my way home were reminders to me that at one time, I believed Scottsdale (Phoenix too) was a new door of opportunity. I looked to the hope of a new life living here in the valley, and in this way, I thought that my life had nowhere to go, but up! Unfortunately, living here proved not so pleasant. I struggled with deep despair and depression after leaving my family in Northern California. I was abandoned by my then-husband as he spent all his time on his business. I raised my child on my own, and even after I started working for my husband as a designer, I spent most of my time alone. He did his thing, and I was left caring for the house, our child, and working long hard hours just to keep our heads above water. The perfect life I imagined when I first arrived was quickly overshadowed by my in-law's insistence that we do everything they wanted when they wanted. More so, there were duties and obligations that I had not foreseen, and in the end, I came to loathe this place. In truth, I hated every moment I lived here, and even despite the fact that my parents retired here in 2000, I simply detested everything about this place -- the oppressive heat, the dirt, and most of all -- the failed dreams and unfulfilled plans of what was promised to me, but never delivered.

Last night, as I drove past many familiar scenes, I prayed to the Lord to change my heart, my mind, and my attitude about this place. Yes, I decided to engage in an "attitude of gratitude," and instead of seeing all the negatives about living here, I gave thanks for all the positives and the negatives about my life in the desert. I thanked the Lord for every single up and down in my life I had experienced during the last 20 years. I thanked Him for everything I have today, but also for everything that had passed -- good and bad -- and I claimed the truth of Scripture that says that God causes ALL THINGS TO WORK FOR OUR GOOD. In short, I made a proclamation that the good and the bad of my life worked together to bring about the very good I have this day. I am good today BECAUSE of everything that has happened to me previously. It has all worked into this favor, this blessing, this hope I experience, day in and day out. My attitude of gratitude simply reversed my thought process. I am thankful for my life, in sum, in toto, and in this way, I am able to say that the good I have today was hard wrought from the experiences (positive and negative) of my former life. It is all good, all so very good. Thank you, Jesus! Thank you, thank you, thank you, Jesus! Selah!

Coming Unglued

This morning, I woke up with a pounding headache. My eyes were swollen shut, and every time I tried to open them, I experienced a rush of pain. I am not sure why this was so, but suffice it to say it was probably dirt, dust, well, the stuff of living in the desert. After I got up, got moving I should say, and had my coffee, the pain in my head subsided. I was able to sit at the computer for a time, catch up on some work, and generally sit and reflect a bit of my night, my glorious good night.

My good night turned into a pretty good day (so far), and with that in mind, I feel confident to say that I am ready to embrace the life God has for me right here in Phoenix, in the Valley of the Sun. I know this may sound so trite, but the truth is that for so long I simply wanted to live someplace else. I am not saying that my mindset is different from the reality of living here; no, not at all. Nothing will change the fact that it is hotter than you know what for six months of the year. It is dirty, dusty, filled with snakes and scorpions, and well, cacti. There is little to no greenery -- no grass -- and even our trees are not the trees of my former life. Pines are non-existent unless you travel north, and most of what we see along the roadside is rock, debris, and scrubby brush. It is not "pretty" by any stretch of the imagination. But, here I am. I am in this place, and for good or for bad, I am where I am for a reason. God has blessed me here, and not anywhere else. He has opened doors for me here. He has given me oodles of practical work, and right here, right now, I have everything I need to live comfortably, to be successful, prosperous, and content. I have a good life, a really good life, and while it doesn't look like much on the outside, on the inside, it is beautiful, good, and pleasant. Yes, I have a very good and pleasant life. I am blessed. I am favored, and I have His goodness in and through my life. Selah!

As I think about this today, I marvel at His goodness toward me. I have done nothing to warrant His love. I have not managed to be "good" in any way, yet His love endures. His mercy is from everlasting. I am in this blessed place because it is His decision to keep me here. I have blogged about how I have struggled to separate the staying and going aspects of His commands. I am to remain, but I am to go. How can you stay and go at the same time? I have not been able to grasp the fact that the Lord can ask you to do two very different things and for each to make perfect sense -- to Him -- I mean. For example, I am to stay put, to remain where He has me, which simply means to be wholly dependent and completely surrendered to His will, His way, and His word. But, I am also to go and do His work. In this way, I am to remain positionally surrendered, yielded, submitted, bent and humbled. Yet, the work He calls me to do is active, present, and full-time engaging. Thus, I am to go and do His work. I do His work with this same attitude and position -- in humility -- and I rely on Him for His grace, His mercy, and His provision to do everything associated with His special calling and mandate for my life. Therefore, the going provision is simply this: go and do the work assigned.

I have been so confused, so terribly confused. I have thought that I had to go somewhere else to do this work, and while I am not saying that I was completely off the mark in that line of thinking, what I am saying is that I really was thinking that I had to "go" someplace else before I could begin this work. In truth, I WANTED to go someplace else. I wanted it with all my heart, my mind, my soul, and yes, my strength. I wanted to live in another state, in someplace DIFFERENT, in order to remove the stain and the stench of the life I had here in Phoenix. I know -- I am over-reacting -- but the truth is that I wanted to leave this place, all the memories, the negative ones more than I wanted to do His work. I was making the whole "let's move" business my focus, and I realize now that even though the Lord said clearly, "Carol, you can live anywhere you want and do my work," I assumed that I still had to go to do anything at all.

I guess you could say that I put the going business ahead of His ministry business. I knew and understood the truth, but I so wanted to exchange the dirt for the green that my eyesight just wasn't very clear. I already knew what I was to do, and in fact, often when I prayed and asked the Lord to help me to understand, I would hear Him say to me, "Carol, you already know this answer. You already know what I have said. You know where you are to go." I would then beg and plead for Him to remind me, to refresh my memory, and I would confess that in my frailty, I had "forgotten" what He had said. Of course, I was thinking He has said: "Go to Illinois!" You know, like a voice from heaven directing me to a specific place (yes, Old Testament theatrics!) Instead, the Lord had spoken to me so many months ago, right while I was in Virginia Beach getting ready to graduate. He had said to me that I couldn't begin His work until I was dedicated, commissioned, and of course, graduated. I had to be dedicated (with prayer and oil), and I had to be commissioned to go and do the Lord's work. In addition, He clearly said to me that I was to remain where I was and that I was to be content in it. Of course, in my shortsightedness, I thought He meant physically and not positionally. Later, I thought it was reversed. But, now I see He meant both.

Remain where you are today, and remain in the position you are right now. Do not move to the left or the right, but stay right where you are this day.

I think it was last night when the whole "going and staying" business dawned on me. As I left Scottsdale to drive back home, I simply remembered clearly that I am in this place for a reason, and while I don't really like it here, there is something "good" about it. The twinkling lights, the stores with their holiday wreaths, and even the train park where I took my son when he was little served as reminders that this place has "good" written on it. This place has possibilities and though it is expensive to live here, and it is hot (so very hot), it is also a place where God is at work, where His work is being done, and where people are hearing the Gospel message and where lives are being changed as a result. I may not "like" the place where I live, but that is temporal and of less account. I am thankful for God's goodness, the gracious provision, and the bountiful blessing of possibilities.

The Lord opened my eyes to see that despite my shallowness, I really am in a very special place. I have everything He desires for me to have this day, and the future plans are sure and secure in His hands. I can wait. I can be patient. I can trust Him to be faithful, to keep His word to me, to fulfill His promises. I can do what He asks me to do here, and I can do it with His blessing. I am anointed for this good work, and I am dedicated to it. God has called me, equipped me, and He has mandated that I do a very specific thing for His kingdom. I need to focus now on doing this work, and stop looking to go someplace else, to live someplace else. I am to simply be ready and willing, and then He will enable me to do what He wants when He wants, and where He wants. Until that time, I will remain focused, fixed, and faithfully attentive to His plan, His wonderful plan for my life. I will not deviate from the path I am on, and I will not worry about the unknown in my future. I will simply remain steady, be active, and do what He is asking me to do this good, good day.

In Closing

As I close this blog post today, I feel ready to tackle the new adventure as it unfolds. I honestly do not have any "new" news. I just feel confident that I am on track, that my mind is clear, and that my vision has refocused to the point where I can see now what was just yesterday hidden. I can see His way, His path and it is clearly marked. Go this way, Carol. Do not leave the path. Do not dally. Be present, active, and fruitful. Do the good work I have called you to do and leave the rest of the details up to me.

December 14, 2017

Confident and Confirmed

I had a great day on campus yesterday. The sadness of the previous day was overshadowed by the good vibes of spending quality time with my students, helping them to make last minute adjustments to their final essays, and simply laughing and enjoying each other's company.

In truth, the campus was eerily silent. It was late on Monday night when two distraught freshman students climbed to the top of the 5th-floor parking garage and decided to jump off -- thus -- ending their lives. One student achieved his intended goal and was pronounced dead at the scene. The other student survived, miraculously, but is in a coma, and her condition is uncertain and unknown at this time. The sadness that enveloped this final week of classes, the mad rush to complete finals, and to escape to winter break was simply diminished by the news that despite all the happiness, bright lights, and good cheer on campus, there was and still is, an ominous presence of depression that has won victory in and through the lives of two young people.

I spent the majority of Tuesday and Wednesday thinking about these two young people, and how they felt that they had no other option than to commit suicide. I thought, "But wait! You are only 18! I didn't start really living until I was in my 30's, 40's and 50's!" I had no way of knowing what my eventual future would look like at 18 years of age. I read some of the Tweets from the one young man, and frankly, I was scared to think that this young man was even attending our "Christian" University. I don't mean to say anything about this man, his name is still being withheld, but clearly, he was troubled. I read the reports that said he was always cheerful, so loving, such a sweetheart, but his social media channel showed a completely different side to his personality. I would use the words "deeply troubled," "dark," and well, while the outside may have "looked normal," what was on the inside was a different story.

Again, I don't mean to say anything bad about this young person, but I read so many comments about how the school and faculty should do more, reach out more, help more, etc. Frankly, that is an awful lot of guilt and shame to dump on faculty and staff who do a marvelous job ministering to the students they work with day in and day out. Each week, I have the blessing of teaching close to 300 students. I do my best to get to know their name, and if I can, to hear their story. Not all want to be in a close relationship with me. Many don't even bother to come to my class on a regular basis. I file my reports, document concerns, but at the end of each day, I limp home, eat dinner, and begin the arduous task of grading mountains of paperwork. Yes, I have little free time to even enjoy my family or to think about my own needs.

I am glad that my school does have a good crisis intervention program, but like all schools, we are not in the business of mental health. We are in the business of education, and thus, some of the onus on mental health must fall to the parents and the family members. The medical community is well-poised to intervene, but even they cannot help if the family or the family member at the center, refuses treatment. It is a difficult problem with a very narrow solution.

Thus, as I left campus yesterday, I couldn't help but feel bittersweet about my experience. I worked hard this semester, and I did mentor about two dozen students personally. Not a bad ratio, really. I had close to 300 students this semester, and I think I was able to reach about 10% of them. My heart was heavy, but there was this wonderful spirit of goodwill and cheerfulness that ushered me out and sent me on my way with happy thoughts, sweet memories, and good feelings about my future steps, the next stage or phase of my life, so to speak.

Terms End, Life Goes On

As I sat here today and graded my essays, I had the sweet pleasure of speaking to a friend of mine who is getting ready to defend her proposal. I felt God calling me to confirm her path, and so I did. I offered my testimony so that she would feel confident that she is doing the very thing God wants her to do. It is a priviledge to speak life into people, and I appreciate the fact that the Lord opened a door for me to spend about 1.5 hours on the phone with her. I am so happy for her research, and I believe the Lord has such a wonderful plan for her life.

The funny thing is that my time spent on the phone today had an added benefit. I was confirmed in my own path. I shared with my friend how I struggle to see my colleagues promoted when here I sit as an adjunct English teacher. I am not receiving any accolades, no promotions, no opportunities for research. I am simply teaching students how to write, and while I love what I do, there is part of me that feels I am standing still while my colleagues are on the fast train going to greater heights and more blessed regions.

Yet, as I shared my story with my friend, I said these words:

I am where God wants me. I am an English teacher, and this is exactly what He said I would be. My PhD is for His work, and in His time, I will create the materials He asks me to create. Until then, I am to be about His business of teaching students how to write essays.

I know my life is not bright and shiny, and when compared to the mountain of debt I hold today, I do wonder if all the hard work was really worth the effort. Then, I remember His calling on my life, and His word to me. I realize that I am not called to high achievement. I am not called to produce articles for publication, and I am not called to teach at a fancy University. I am called to do exactly what I am doing, and I am choosing -- no I am -- happy and content to do it.

In fact, I am thankful for the work I do. I was telling my parents this last evening. I said that I am so thankful for this work, and that I truly do love what I do. I know my life is good, my life is just as He desires it to be, and I am so thankful for what I have today. I know my tomorrows are all in His hand. I am good. I need nothing more. I have my Savior's love, His presence, and His goodwill in and through my life. I have everything I need, and I am so very good.

More so, as I left campus (I am digressing some), I thought about the number of students that came up to me and told me that I was their favorite teacher, and that of all their teachers on campus, I was the best. It felt good to hear their sweet words, many from students that barely spoke a word to me all term. I left thinking I had made a difference in their lives, and that I am moving on to online teaching where I will do the same, have the same effect, just through the computer and not face to face. God is good to me, and I love His provision. His provision, yes! He has given me the desires of my heart, and for that gift, I am truly thankful.

In Closing

I am so ready to rest. My semester at GCU and my time there has come to an end. I will no longer teach on campus for this school, and in truth, I am OK with that fact. I am ready to begin the new life He has for me, and that new life requires -- no -- depends that I have more freetime during the day to do His work. I am ready for my future, and for the wonderful possibilities that exist for me now that I am free from campus work and solely teaching online. He is good to me, so very good to me! Praise God! He is so very good to me!

December 13, 2017

Welcome Home!

It has been such a long semester, but praise be to God, it is over. Today is my last official day on campus, and I am ready to retire from my FTF duties. Well, not forever, because as the Lord leads, He may provide a campus position to me at some point in my future. But for now, I am blessed. I am ready to relax, rest, and rejuvenate from my graduate school journey. I am ready to spend more time at home, less time prepping and preparing, and really more quality productive time interacting with my students. God is good to me. He has a wonderful plan for my life, and with every nuance of His plan, I know I am well-kept. I don't have to worry, fret or fear. I am able to rest, to really rest.

Closing Out and Moving On

I still haven't heard from Liberty University, and while I am worried a bit, I also know that I can do nothing but rest in the matter. The Lord is in control, and if He says this job will come to pass, well, then it will come to pass! I really am well-set for spring, and even without my work at GCU, I know that I have good income coming to me. Yes, it would be better with Liberty set aside already, but I know that I must be patient and simply wait. I will wait, Lord, I will wait.

Some things are closed already, and some things are in the process of closing. For example, I am now pretty much on my own. I have spent the last year working very hard to complete my PhD. I spent the past seven years working toward one goal, to complete my education. In the process, I have let jobs, people (friends), and even my family go. I had to focus 100% of my attention on this pursuit, and I know that not everyone understands my reasons or my rationale, but the truth is that I found it impossible to do what the Lord was asking me to do AND be in a relationship or have a full-time job or be present and active in ministry. I had to let some things go. In fact, I remember sitting in the first summer residency course and some of the older students (3rd year) said to us: you will have to decide what to let go of in order to complete this program. I realized the second year that these students were correct. It is all consuming, all consuming, and even after it is finished, the process to repair and recover what was lost during that time of isolation, slowly is restored.

Right now, there is me, my son, and my parents. My extended family stops in from time to time, but I have no other "connections" to speak of or even potential connections to consider. I am solely devoted to the Lord, and in this way, I am His and He is mine. It has been difficult for me to accept that this situation has resolved in the way that it has, but for all the wishing, hoping and wanting, I came to see that this is my life. It is the path I have chosen, and it is the path I believe the Lord desires for me to remain on.

What does this mean for me?

I guess I am saying that for the future, my prospects for companionship are ended. I do not see any hope of a friendship developing that has the potential to last. I am saddened at that thought, but I am also pragmatic as well. I know myself, and I know my ways. I am here for a reason, and this life, this solitary life is what has developed after 30 years of marriage, three years of being single. I will never get married again, and I will never experience that life. However, while I certainly do miss the companionship, I also see that the road I am on is not for everyone. In truth, very few can walk beside me. I work 24/7/365 days a year, and I never stop. Well, I do stop, but I work around the clock to do the work assigned to me. I like to work, I guess. I enjoy working, and I love the way it makes me feel to work. I simply am not a "downtime" person. Though, I need rest. I do need some vacation time, but I really do love my work, and I love to work.

Perhaps it is my personality type. Perhaps it is simply the way I am wired, but I am most comfortable when I am working, 100% invested in my tasks, and simply consumed by what I do each day. I love to be engrossed, to be so fixed that I barely eat. I love to be this attracted to and in love with my work, and I derive a measure of pleasure from the whole process. There are very few people who understand the nature of what I do, how I do it, and why I do it. Even my parents do not understand it. They will say, "Carol, you work too hard" or "Carol, we don't want to see you spend all your time at the computer." I understand their concerns, and I get what they are saying, but I love, love, love the work I do, and I am passionate about it. I cannot stop until I am finished, and even then, the work never ends.

My friend said to me that all I do is grade, and well, this is true. I do grade. I grade A LOT. The grading never ends, and it is time-consuming. I don't have any free time, well very little free time, but I don't mind it. I don't mind doing what I do because I love the response I receive from my students. I love what I do. There is little more to say on that score.

So, as I close my year out, I accept the fact that I am a workaholic. I always have been this way, I mean. I can remember working 60-70 hours a week at ShareBase, Inc. (back in the 1980s). I worked this way when I was self-employed. I simply work. My son says that he doesn't know anyone who works as hard as I do, who is able to accomplish as much as I can, and who can manage so many projects at once. It is true. I manage a lot of data, and I love this work. I so love this work.

It is funny to think of it this way, but I am actually okay with this path. I really do not have any issues, concerns or worries about it. I like to work, and so long as the Lord provides the quantity and quality of work, I am good.

Making Some Plans

Another thing that I have accepted is the fact that my desires for moving are prompted by an inner longing to return to a childhood way of life. I miss my life in IL, and the funny thing is that while I wanted so desparately to leave it when I was 15, the truth is that I miss it terribly, and I wish I could go back and well, live it again. I know, wishful thinking. Let me explain.

When I left IL as a sophomore in high school, I had a circle of friends that brought me great joy and companionship. I was loved. I was accepted, and I was known, if that makes sense. My weird quirky ways were accepted by my friends, and as such, I was happy in that place. However, I also suffer horribly with abuse, at home and at school, and the peer pressure was strong back then. I wanted to be free from the pressure, and rather than stick it out, enduring it, I begged the Lord to move me. Now, I am not saying He moved me because I asked Him to do so, but shortly thereafter, my Dad came and told me that we were moving to CA. I thought, "My prayers are answered!" I so looked forward to my life in CA. I thought it would be better than IL, but when it came down to it, it was nothing like what I had back home. I never made good friends. I suffered even more abuse when I was isolated by my peer group. I suffered sexual abuse at the hand of a young man, and despite my experience, I found myself all alone without anyone to help me. I jumped into a relationship with my ex-husband, and well, that was a mistake from the start. Yet, through it all, I experienced a great renewal of my faith, and my devotion to the Lord depeened. Suffice it to say, moving to CA and the experiences there were life-shattering and life-forming. I grew up. I found my hope and reason to live in Jesus. In all, it turned out for the best.

Now, though, I see my childhood friends remain connected to one another, and I so miss their friendship. I know they think about me, that they are sincere when they say they miss me, and well, that thought cheers me. But, here I am, alone. Here I am all alone.

You see, it was back in CA when a youth group friend said to me quite caustically, "Carol, you don't have friends, you have acquaintances!" I know she meant well, but her words stunned me, and to this day, I think about her expression. She was right, of course. I didn't make friends. I collected acquaintances because you know, acquaintances come and go. You don't get hurt by acquaintances. You simply let them walk out your life without much fuss, and then you say, "Oh well, may they experience better times ahead!"

I am 55 years old, and I don't have any friends. I have many aquaintances, and the closest thing I have now to true friends is my study group from my doctoral program. I was blessed by these ladies, and I cherish each of them. I know them, and they know me, and well, it is a good, sweet distant friendship. Yet, I don't have any close friends here in Phoenix, and I think to myself, that perhaps if I moved back home, back to IL, I would meet some people who could be friends with me. But, then I know that with my work schedule, my choice of life, I would simply have more acquaintances, and not more friends.

To have friends one must be a friend, and well, I am just not very good at being a friend. I never have been, really. I was friends as a child simply because life forced us all together. I lived in the same neighborhood, went to the same school, did everything -- parties, summers, experiences -- with these 4 girls. I did life with them, if you can call almost eight years (from 9 to 16), life.

Now, I am at this age, and I wonder if I will have friends in my future. I know I will have to give up my work to have friends, but I also know that the work the Lord calls me to do is very important. I know that whatever happens, the Lord is with me. He is my Friend, my Companion, and as such, even if I do not share my life with another person (deeply, intimately), I will always have His enduring and guiding Presence in my life. Selah!

Thus, what I am trying to say is that I long to go home, to where I belong, to where I am accepted, loved, and where I can experience true friendship. For me, this place is in IL, my former childhood home because that is the last place where I had all those things. I get it now, I get the drive to leave Phoenix. It is not about my ex-husband, my parents, or my son; rather, it is just about me wanting something I can no longer have, and not being content to accept what is right in front of me.

In Closing

I have made up my mind to be content right where I am. I am alone, and well, it is by choice. I live in Phoenix, again by choice. I work hard, almost non-stop, and this too is by choice. I have no friendships because I don't stop long enough to cultivate friendships nor do I desire to be intimate with anyone simply out of fear of abandonment (from my childhood experiences and my marriage). I am a mess in many ways, but I am a glorious mess as I have come to understand my inner workings, my mindset, and my leanings. I accept myself, my workaholic, single, isolated self, and I realize that the only one who can help me to change my way is the Lord. I am open to changing, but my fear must be replaced with faith, and I must learn how to let people in my life. I must learn how to live comfortably right where I am, no more wishing to run to someplace else, and in this way, I can fully accept all the wonderful gifts the Lord has in mind for me. I am choosing to remain in Phoenix rather than run away, and in doing so, I am asking the Lord to open a door for me to experience His blessing in friendship, companionship, and well, just life as He leads, guides, and provides it to me. Selah!