January 26, 2017

Preparing for Next Steps

It is a good Thursday morning, and I am sitting in my home office, thinking about my next steps. I had a really long day yesterday, and I crashed hard last night after I got home from work. My days at GCU are taking a toll on me physically. Though I love this school, and I love teaching on campus, my body, my voice, and my mind are really running out of steam. These large courses are really causing me to think twice about my future here, and while I can certainly teach smaller courses, the truth is that the money in these big classes is the draw for me. I need to make more money, so I pick these big courses. In future, though, I am considering whether the offset -- money versus health -- is worth it. I mean, is the extra cash worth the stress and toll on my body? I am not so sure.

Then, there is my teaching at ASU. I really like this curriculum, but the workload is so heavy, that I am feeling the brunt of carrying just one class here. I like the pay, but the grind is going to be a challenge for me. I had heard this before, from other faculty, and well, I am experiencing it first hand. Of course, it is a blessing that it is online, and for that very reason, I will hang in and do my best.

My preferred school, of all the schools where I teach, is Regent University. I love this school! I love everything about it, and I love the very fact that this school has a heart for God and a love for students. I love, love, love everything about Regent -- from the curriculum to the faculty to the ministry effort. It is my favorite school, and Lord willing, I hope to be able to teach there until I can no longer teach (retirement, I mean).

So, here I sit in the quiet of my home, and I think to myself, "I could really get used to working from home full-time." I like the fact that I was able to sleep in today. My body was exhausted from my day yesterday, and so I loved the fact that I slept until I woke up. I am now here with my "boys" and they are resting beside me. My home is quiet, peaceful, and for the most part, I feel at ease here. There is nothing happening outside my little cocoon to worry me. At the least, I do not think there is anything to be concerned over today.
Thinking About Tomorrow

I think about my future. I wonder about the Lord's will for my life, His plan, and where He intends for me to go next. I blogged this week about blooming here in Phoenix, about staying put and just enjoying the blessing of every day life right here in the desert. I tried that "bloom mentality" on yesterday, and well, it just didn't fit. I don't get it. I mean, I do understand what I should be doing, but whenever I try to be "settled" here, like let everything go, stop thinking (note -- not worrying, but just thinking, considering or pondering) about moving, I get this feeling like something is not right with my little world. Why is this so? Why do I feel this sense of "wrongness" whenever I stop thinking about moving? But, when I think about moving, then I start to panic, fear, and feel all worried about the logistics of moving. Sigh! Am I a hopeless case?

This morning I woke up and thought to myself, "Carol, something is wrong." Okay, I really thought, "I feel like something is wrong," but I haven't been able to put my finger on it. My first thought was that I had done something wrong, like sin behavior, but then I know I am not condemned, and that I have confessed my sinful thoughts and actions to the Lord. I don't believe this is a matter of sin. Then, I thought perhaps I am being oppressed, and well, I took care of that right off. I confessed the Word over my life, and I stood my ground against my enemy. I don't think this is the case either. So what could it be?

Perhaps it is my thinking, my intent to remain put that has caused me to feel uncomfortable this morning. Perhaps it is just tiredness, oh the tiredness that has caused me to feel so unwell. Or perhaps it is just the fact that the Lord is trying to tell me something, to show me something, and I have not been willing to accept His determination, His will, His way, and I think that there must be some minor conflict within my soul that is causing me to feel sort of "pricked."  I am not sure, but I know this, whatever is at root, the Lord will show me. He is good about helping me to see the truth, to know the truth, so I am trusting Him today to show me the truth so I can accept it and then move on.
Options and More Options

As of right now, I sense that I have three options to choose from regarding my future life. Option 1 is to do nothing, stay where I am, to hunker down and do the work provided to me. This is the "practical" option that accepts my "lot in life," and understands that for now, this is the life the Lord has provided to me. Option 2 is a faith-option, one that places hope and trust in the Lord for His best outcome. This option asks me to trust Him, to rely on Him, and to seek Him in finding the truth, in knowing which way to go, and then in actually "going" or "following" after Him. Option 3 is trickier because this option is the "wait and see" option. I wait and see what the Lord intends to do, and until that time of revelation, I attend to 1 but I hope for 2. I think for the longest time, I have been focused on Option 3. This has been my "go to mentality," and I have used it to good effect. I have been busy, very busy with my current work, all the while, I have patiently waited for some sign that would tell me what to do next.

In my current predicament, I think the reason I feel the way I do today is because I switched from the "wait and see" mode to the "hunker on down" mode. I changed my focus, and while there is nothing wrong with attending to basic needs, if I no longer believe the Lord has a greater plan for my life than to teach part-time at five schools, well, then I start to feel depressed and anxious about the future. But, if I remain in the "wait and see" mode or I switch to the "faith mode" then I feel optimistic about what might be next for me. I begin to see possibility where there seemed to be empty walls and closed doors.

As such, I think whenever I start to take the "well, this is it" approach, as in "this is the reality of my situation, so accept it, bub!," I really begin to lose my countenance, and I start to feel a sense of hopelessness that simply undermines my faith in God. My heart seems to delight in thinking about possible change, and whenever I do, I find great encouragement, and I feel better, happier, lighter, so to speak. I am of the mind now that the reason I feel the way I do is because I made the decision to settle here in Phoenix, and in all honesty, I don't think this is the Lord's intention for me. He may desire I settle temporarily here, until a job opens up, for example, but I don't think He intends to keep me here. No, no matter how much it makes sense to stay put, I simply do not see my life here as a permanent destination, rather it is just a "passing through" destination on the way to another new horizon, another new place to learn, to love, and to let Him use me for His name and His praise.

What's Next?

Now that I have my senses back to where they need to be, I am ready to consider Option 2 as my next "go to mindset." You see, I have been in the wait and see mode for so long, that in truth, I am ready to try something different. I am ready to trust the Lord, to step out in faith, and really try something new.

It is a good day today. I am in such a good place today, and praise be to God, I am starting to see how this whole "faith plan" works. God doesn't just give you the desires of your heart (Ps. 37:4-5); rather, He causes you to desire the things that He wants to give you. And, once you grasp that the desire He gives to you are His, then you begin this process of actually wanting these things. The time between grasping and wanting can range from immediate to many months or even years. But, once everything clicks and you "get it," then the Lord begins to deliver on His desires for your life. I have borne testimony to this fact. He has given me desires that were in my heart, but not always on the forefront of my mind. Now, these desires are all I think about, day in and day out, and without wavering much, they are simply deep wants and needs that I feel like I "must have" in order to live my life. As weird as that may sound, I feel so confident that the desires I have in my heart are really His desires that I am willing to go wherever He leads just to have these desires released to me and brought to life. This means that when I feel this desire to "go" or to "move" someplace else, I struggle at times with thinking that it is just wishful thinking or my own preference. I try to downplay the significance of the desire, and in doing so, I end up feeling ill over it. I wonder, "Is this just me, Lord?" Or, is this a desire the Lord has for me? In the end, I normally, usually, typically, relent. I give in to His desire, and I let Him has His way.

This is how I feel today. I feel like all my wishful thinking, all my wanting to move, especially to the place of my childhood memory, is not really my desire at all; rather, it is His desire for my life. Let me explain...

This past week, I have been so intensely focused on my dissertation. On top of that work, I have also been focused on my teaching contracts. In all, I have been on crazy-busy girl. Yet, despite the busyness of my life, I have also felt strongly that the time was coming for me to go. I panicked some at the thought of "going" ahead of my family, of leaving my comfortable life to really up and move on my own. My son is settled, I would say. My parents need my help and care, I would remind myself. I have a good home here. My jobs are here. I would repeat these "truths," and then in the end, I would agree that the most practical decision is to simply stay here, put down roots, and bloom, as they say, where the Lord has planted you.

But...my heart would not rest. I would still feel like something was wrong with me, that something wasn't quite right. Then I would recant, and I would confess my dependency on Him, and in doing so,  I would reaffirm His right over my life. His right to choose, to decide, and yes, to move me wherever He desired me to move.

The more I struggle to understand this simple concept, the more I find that I am no longer at rest. The Lord has given to me certain desires, and these desires are non-negotiable. I cannot rest if I am not 100% aligned with His will for my life, and while I know that certain things fall well within His overarching and supreme will for me, clearly He has some more localized desires that He wants me to embrace, to accept, and yes, to trust Him for in faith.

Today, therefore, I am ready to get back on track, and to rest in the fact that the desires I have in my heart are His desires just as much as they are my desires. Thus, I am letting go of my need to control the choice. Instead, I am embracing faith option 2, which simply says, "Yes, Lord, where you lead, I will follow." I am no longer going to try to fit His will into my timeline or even to the place where I happen to be at present. Instead, I am going to agree that His will is so significant, that this temporary place holder simply is not big enough to hold all His good will toward me. I must go to the place of His choosing, and in this way, I must walk out my faith, walk in it, so that He can do this marvelous work through me. He is good to me. He is so very good to me.
In Closing

The short of it is this: I believe the Lord has a great plan for my life, and it is not so much tied to a "place," as it is tied to my willingness to go where He leads. While Phoenix is my home now, I seriously do not see it as my home long-term. This has always been the case, and nothing in my recent past has changed my line of thinking. However, because I don't see potential jobs out there, it is really easy to simply believe that this is what the Lord desires now. Often, the problem with this way of rationalizing the situation is simply that we accept the inevitable without really keeping possibilities as an option. In short, we lose our hope.

The Lord does have a plan for your life and for my life, but sometimes where we are is of our own making. We made the decision to live in a certain place, to set down roots, to make the best of our own life, and when things are not going well or as we had hoped, we tend to say that it is somehow the Lord's will for us. The problem with this line of thinking is that we are saying that the Lord wills for us to be in a particular situation that could have been the result of a bad choice. We will say, "Well, if He wanted it differently, He would make it so" but that just reinforces our own rational belief. We made the mistake, and since the Lord isn't moving to help us, He must want us to suffer with our choice. The truth is that He may indeed use our bad choice as a life lesson, but like with all lessons, once you learn the value of it, you are ready to move on. If you continue to re-do the lesson, like a child would do with a pencil and eraser, eventually you will rip and tear the paper to shreds. Sometimes, you have to turn the paper in to the Master and say, I am done. I completed the work, and I am ready to take on more new life lessons.

I am guilty of doing this very thing, of repeating lessons that the Lord never intended me to repeat. I learned the value and truth of the lesson, but instead of moving on, I sat there, head held down in shame as if I was a poor student, unable to grasp the significance of my actions. After many repeat episodes, I finally understood what I was doing wrong. The next time an opportunity came around, I said, "Okay, I am ready. I am done with this lesson. Let's go."

My great-take away today is simply this...when you say you are ready to go, the Lord takes you at your word. You are making a confession of faith, and when you go back on your word, you are being double-minded, unsteady and unstable. This wavering bears testimony to your faith, your level of faith, and your willingness to step out in faith. I am a good one to talk about wavering, but today, I am saying to the Lord, "Yes, Lord, I have wavered. I have been double-minded in the past. Now, though, I am done with this life lesson, and I am ready for more work, more challenging work." I am ready to step out in faith and to go where He sends me. I am ready to do His work, for His name, and to follow after Him wherever He leads me. I will go, Lord. I will go.

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