February 28, 2017

Blessed Tuesday

It is a blessed day here in Phoenix. I woke up to the sound of rain pounding my window. At first, I wasn’t sure what was happening, but after I got up and looked out the blind, I realized a strong thunderstorm had passed right over our home. The good news is that the rain has cleared the air, and the sunshine has returned. It is lovely outside right now — with a mix of blue skies and big puffy white clouds.

This morning I am at home, as is usual for my day off. I am feeling relaxed, refreshed, and very contented. I finished my first class at ASU, and while I have grading to do between now and Friday, for the most part, that course is finished. It was a good experience, though I think the program and assignment directions are really complicated for students to follow, but I am sure with time, I will get a better handle on how to help them grasp what to do each week. I am waiting to see if I will be scheduled for another course in the next session. I was asked if I was interested, but I haven’t heard anything back yet.

I do have my on-going courses at GCU, and we are just hitting the mid-point of the semester. There are 8 weeks left to go before summer, and praise be to God, so far everything has gone well. I love my campus classes, but in truth, I get really tired right about now. Still, my students are so wonderful, and I love to see their faces every week.

I already know that I have classes at Regent beginning March 13. I also just received an email asking if I wanted to teach over the summer. I said, “YES!” If courses are available for both sessions, this would be such a blessing to me. I could “in effect” teach four classes each semester during the year and two classes over the summer — all online. I would be in such a good place, such a good place.

I applied for the full-time instructor post at ASU, but even if that doesn’t come to pass, I should have plenty of work to do this fall with my campus classes at GCU and then my online options through both Regent and ASU. In all, I am in this very solid place, academically and financially. Of course, it would be nice to be hired as an Assistant Professor, after all, I did go to graduate school to get the title. But, even if this doesn’t come to pass this year, I am content to remain as an adjunct professor or a full-time non-tenure track Instructor, as the Lord wills it.

This morning, then, I give Him praise. I am well set for summer, and I have a good schedule for fall. I am rested, and this week and next will be very low-key for me. I do need to prep for my defense, and that means creating a presentation and a run-down sheet (sort of like what I did for my orals defense) so I can be ready to engage in discussion with my professors on campus. Overall, I am confident that I will successfully defend my research, and that I will graduate. Lord willing, I will graduate from Regent University in two weeks!
Moving Forward

I just returned from getting my hair cut and dropping off my dissertation for overnight mail to my professor who lives on the West coast.  I decided to chop my hair off again simply because when it gets long, it gets really unruly. I have cow-licks and a bit of curl, and with the gray wiry hair, everything just goes all wonky on me. I want to look professional for my defense, so with my new style (pixie), I should be able to easily look nice. I need to color my hair too, but that will be for later tonight.

In other good news, before coming back home, I received an email from ASU asking me to teach in the second semester (coming up in March). I am please. I feel really good that I will be able to continue teaching for them on a regular basis. Right now, I anticipate that I will have enough contracts between all these schools to make a solid income. I will need to continue to purchase my own benefits, but frankly, I am making enough money now that I probably could sustain this pace for a time, anyway.

Praising God, I am so praising God right now!

February 27, 2017

Dissertation is Done!

I cannot believe I am saying this, but…my dissertation is finished. I spent the majority of Saturday and Sunday proofreading, editing, and publishing my dissertation in order to get it ready to send to my committee. The final copy looks lovely, and I think it is definitely a solid contender. I completed all the various to-dos on it yesterday, and by late evening, I sent a copy to each of my professors. I still need to print one copy and overnight it to one of my faculty members who needs to read a paper-copy rather than an electronic copy. My praise today goes to the Lord who has faithfully brought me through to this point in time. I give Him all the credit, all the honor, and yes, all the praise. He has done this for me. He has helped me, challenged me, and provided for me. He has made this way possible, and today, I can rest — really rest — in the thought that the final piece of my PhD is completed. Now, I still have to defend my work, and praise be to God, I will do that with His grace and favor, come March 13, 2017. Until then, though, I rest. I can say that today, I am 7/8 of the way to my goal, and within two weeks, I will be done. 100% done. Praise God for His goodness, His mercy, and His grace! He is good, so very good to me! Selah!

Getting My Groove Back

My Dad said to me that it will be good to have his daughter back. I know he meant well. He simply meant to say that the past four years, I have been distracted, and my life has been focused on one thing — graduating with my PhD. The funny thing is that my Dad thinks my life will change, but in truth, it will not change at all. Sure, I won’t have PhD work to do anymore, but I will still have loads of grading and course prep, and I will be actively engaged in other scholarly pursuits. I am not sure what he thinks will happen to me come March 13th, but I hope he will not be disappointed.

Right now, I feel like the next couple weeks will be a whirlwind for me. I have to prepare for my final defense, and then I have to fly to VA to sit that defense. Afterwards, I will have to finish my edits, revisions, and changes, get my copy to the proofreader and then submit my paper to the library for publication in ProQuest’s database for Dissertations and Theses. All of this needs to be done prior to April 15th. Then once this is all finished, I will travel my last time to VA for graduation. In all, the second half of this semester will be very busy, but in a good way. My teaching semester ends as well, so after May 6, 2017, I will be a free person for the entire summer. My plans right now include a long, well-deserved rest. I plan to rest, to sleep well, and to enjoy my summer. I also plan to get in shape — yes — all the posts about diet and exercise, well, with the stress and strain of doctoral study have come to naught. I plan on joining the health club down the street and to start working out so I can lose this weight and finally get into shape.

Long-term my plans are the same as they are now: work, work, and more work. I am praying for a full-time position, of course, but until the Lord provides me with one, I am happy and content to have the part-time work that I have now. In all, my life is going to slow down quite a bit. I am a little worried that I will be bored, but I believe the Lord has a plan for that as well. He knows that I need to be really busy to keep active, so I am sure He has some things for me to do up His glorious sleeves.

I am getting my groove back, as they say, but only in the sense that after some well-needed rest, I will be back to my old self, and that means more rested, more calm and contemplative, and more ready to engage with life — or with the people in my life.

God has provided an abundant life for me, and with His provision, I am able to move forward and take hold of the opportunities He has in store for me. I am able to see the future has He sees it. I am able to believe that what He is saying is possible for me is really POSSIBLE for me. I am trusting in His word, believing in faith that what He says is true, and then resting in that knowledge. What God says doesn’t contradict His word or His testimony. He is faithful, righteous, and good, and as such, His word stands throughout time. He is faithful. He is good. He keeps His word.

As I think about my future self, one thing is for certain. The person I see in 5 years is a stronger, more able version of the person I am today. I don’t see decline. I don’t see a darker, gloomier future. I only see health, vitality, and a bright, hopeful and opportunistic future for my life. I can imagine good things, only good things, and in this way, my life has zero chance of failure. There is no failure on the horizon. Yes, there are challenges ahead, some difficult ones too, but there is no failure. I believe Paul’s words to the Philippians in 1:6 (BSB) where he said, “For I am confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will continue to perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” The work God has begun in me will be brought to completion. There is no failure in God’s rule book or design for life. I cannot fail. I cannot falter. I cannot lose hope. Why? Because my trust and my faith rest in Him alone. I do not look to my own hands. I do not look to my own abilities. No, I look to the finished work of Christ and the cross that reminds me that my debt has been paid, my failure has been accounted for, and as a redeemed child of God, I am set in a position of favor, of blessing, and of honor. I am counted among the redeemed, and I give praise for that fact this good, good day.

Psalm 107:1-2 (BSB) says, "Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, For His lovingkindness is everlasting. Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, Whom He has redeemed from the hand of the adversary.”

I cry out with the psalmist, and I pay tribute and honor to the Lord, my redeemer. He has redeemed me from the hand of my adversary. I am set free. I am established. I am good.

In Closing

As I think more about my next few weeks, I realize that my life is about to turn, and with that turn, new avenues and adventures will appear before me. I will be ready to try them out, to test them, to experience them. I will be ready to do whatever good work He has for me, and I will readily engage in ministry and in life because this is His good will for me. I am beginning to walk in this way, to move toward the fulfillment of His will for my life, and in doing so, I am about to become something brand new. I am about to be transformed again. This time, not from my former sin life; rather, I am to be transformed to walk in a new way, in newness, and all of this is to prepare me, to ready me, for the work He has in store for me. This work is significant, and it is good practical work along with good solid ministry work. I must be focused, determined, and willing to do this work. I am not sure what this work will be, other than teaching (of course), but I believe it will be more than I had ever imagined. I believe it will be more that I have ever dreamed possible. He has a great plan for my life, and I am so excited to walk in it. I am so excited to see what the marvelous and good hand of the Lord will provide to me.

February 26, 2017

Making More Progress Today

It is Saturday, such a blessed Saturday! I am feeling fine, and I am thanking the Lord for His marvelous goodness today. I woke up with some sinus pain and pressure, but after a good swig of hot coffee, the pain seems to be settling back down to a dull ache right above my right eyebrow. I am sure it is the weather — or a combination of — the weather and allergies. Needless to say, I feel fine EXCEPT for the minor nuisance headache.

Today is one of two finishing days for me. I need to finish my dissertation project today and tomorrow so that I can mail a clean, beautiful copy off to my committee by March 1. I am in good shape to do that, though I do have some other grading to do. In truth, I will be glad when all I have to do is grade. I will be glad to be through this PhD program. I will be so glad to be able to finally move on from graduate school.

In some ways, I will be sad too. This is the fulfillment of a long-held dream, and I have worked very hard to achieve this goal. Now, though, I am ready to do other things, to work toward other things, and praise be to God, I am ready enjoy my life. As Joyce Meyer says, I am ready to start living and “enjoying my everyday life!”

My prayer today is to simply rest — LIKE AS IN REST — in my work. I have to let the Lord finish this project, and that means, I have to let Him do what He does best, and that is to bring events to a close. I am so ready to be done, but I don’t want to rush. I don’t want to finish with weakness. I want, instead, to close out this chapter of my life and to make it special. I mean, I have put my best into this program, and praise be to God, I am determined to see it through to the end with a Bang! Yes, I want to see fireworks at the end of this long, dry, and very difficult trail.
Moving On Without Plans

So as I approach this day, I realize that I have no plans for my life AFTER May 6, 2017. I mean, sure, I have my teaching contracts for GCU, and I have potential contracts for Regent, but other than these “potential” teaching assignments, I don’t really have anything “settled." I feel confident that the Lord does have a plan for the next academic year, and that plan will include a full-time position. However, if that position doesn’t come to pass, my prayer is that I will have enough part-time work to cover my needs, to keep me afloat, until that full-time position of His choosing does comes to pass. Selah!

Right now, I am content to remain here in Phoenix and to remain as I am (adjunct) until the Lord promotes me to Instructor or Assistant Professor. There are very few full-time jobs in my field right now (in Phoenix), so I am not sure what the Lord intends to do about more work. However, I received an email yesterday saying that ASU is hiring more faculty for the Writers’ Studio. I wasn’t sure if the job was for full-time or part-time, but nonetheless, I applied for the job posting just the same. My prayer is that perhaps this time, I will be selected for a one-year full-time contract (I applied for this job last year). This would be super convenient, but if it doesn’t happen, I am happy to remain on staff as part-time associate faculty.

I believe the Lord does intend to move me into a full-time position soon. More so, I believe He intends to “move me” some place else soon as well. However, I am not sure if this means moving, as in relocating, or just moving locally like from my current home to a new place. Right now, though, I am thinking that this “moving” may simply be to settle me rather than physically up and move me, as in relocate me. Let me explain…

Phoenix or Bust

I have always felt that I wouldn’t remain in Phoenix long-term, but I also have felt that the Lord was asking me to remain here for a time. I have tried to wrestle with the competing feelings of needing to move and wanting to stay, and often, I have felt this push/pull sensation ramp up. I want to go, He asks me to stay. I want to stay, He asks me to go. It has caused confusion for me because in my literal and so-very black and white mindset, there can only be one way. I simply don’t do life with contingencies or with these incongruities. Still, this is what He seems to be demonstrating to me. He seems to be saying to me that “going” is not always about “get up and get going,” rather, it is about going along with His will, choosing to accept His will.  In this way, when we follow after Him regardless of where we physically reside, we are actively engaging in this “going business.”

As an aside, I think the Bible stories we read as children and then later study in church give us the wrong impression of what God means when He speaks about “going” or “following” His will. In some ways, we get these two words mixed up. In truth, going and following are different, but I think the context is similar at times. When we think of going, our human minds think of getting in the car and driving to some place — as in — going to the store. When we think about the word follow, we think about “following the leader,” as in the child’s game we played in school. We follow the person in front of us.

The same is true whenever  we think about the examples of going that we read about in the Bible. For example, I tend to think about Lot and his family. This story always comes to my mind, and I recall the devastating details of how Lot’s wife looked back after the Angel of the Lord said to her — do not look back. Or I think about Abraham and how God told him to pick up his family and leave his home. Last, I think of the words of Jesus who said to the person who wanted time to take care of his father’s funeral arrangements, and Jesus replied “let the dead bury their own dead." The idea here is that often I tend to take one story, one very particular story, and think about the ramifications of that story as applies to my life. In this way, sometimes I read into allegory and come out with a personal application. But, I forget that often in historical stories, where the facts are clearly addressed for a particular time and place and person, that I need to be careful not to think this way.

In either way, I have taken Scripture literally, and sometimes I have interpreted the allegory correctly. But, at other times, I have ended up confused. I think my thoughts on moving have been confused at times. So what does this mean for me today?

Right now, I think it simply means that God is calling me to stay in Phoenix. He has not permitted me as such to move anywhere else so I have to accept this as a real fact. He may be asking me to stay here permanently, and I have to be ready, willing, and agreeable to staying in this city.

So what do I do after May 6, 2017?

For now, I stay steady. I will enjoy my summer, and I will continue to trust the Lord to provide a full-time job for me once I advance to PhD status. Until then, it is steady-on. I will complete the work He has called me to complete.

February 24, 2017

It is Finished!

Happy Fri-Yay! I received an email this morning with confirmation that my dissertation is approved for defense. My second-draft of my chapter five was approved today, so that means that I am set to defend my research on March 13, 2017! Woohoo! I cannot believe that I am on the road out of town, so to speak. Just two weeks ago, I didn't know if I would even graduate, let alone finish my dissertation this spring. Now, I am ready to defend, and while I still have work to get my document ready for presentation and defense, the hard work, the real work, is done. I am finished. My research is completed. God has been so faithful to me. He has provided everything I needed to complete this work, and in the end, He will receive all the praise, the honor, and the glory. I am so happy to be done. I am so happy to be finished. I have worked hard the past two years to get to this point, and in doing so, I have completed my studies with a 4.0 GPA, passed my comprehensive exams, and engaged in scholarly work that has resulted in a finished dissertation.

In so many ways, it is surreal. I cannot believe that I have done all this work, AND I have managed to work almost full-time for the past four years. Yes, He has sustained me. He has given me insight, wisdom, and focus to complete this work, and I am in awe of Him right now. I mean, I am sitting here at my computer, feeling nothing -- literally nothing -- other than peace. I am at rest. I am at peace. And, praise be to God, I am in this wonderfully safe, warm, and completely healing space. I feel as if I have just scaled the biggest and baddest mountain, and as a result, I am right where He desires me to be.

Can it get any better than this? I am sure it will -- I mean -- I have to defend and then finish the particulars in order to walk in graduation, but for the most part, I have left the hilly terrain and mountainous regions behind me. From this particular vantage point, the skyline looks beautiful. I am in this amazing place, and it is all because He said to me twelve years ago, "Carol, will you trust me?" I, of course, said very tentatively, "Yes, Lord, but only if you will help me to trust you." He has been faithful to me. He led me through some difficult storms, and He sheltered me when I felt so lost and alone. In this way, He was a Father to me, a Husband to me, and a Friend to me. He held my hand, gave me hope, and encouraged me to "keep on keeping on." He receives the praise today. He receives the glory today. He is my King, my Shepherd, and My Rock. In His name, I give Him all honor, and I rejoice with the psalmist who said,

The LORD lives, and blessed be my rock; 
And exalted be the God of my salvation! (Psalm 18:46, NASB)

February 23, 2017

Making Final Preparations

Happy Thursday! It is a sunny, but windy day here in Phoenix. Today is my day off, and because it is Thursday, this means that I have one more day of “teaching” before I can relax and enjoy the weekend. I have a lot on my plate today, but I am relaxing and chilling-out a bit before I jump into my work. Mostly, I have to finish the very last section of my paper. I have lost my mo-jo, as they say, and I am struggling to finish my dissertation. I guess now that I have my defense date set, I am so ready to relax, to just rest! I have to finish, though, and that means that I have to get this last little bit of work done today. No excuses!

It is all good, really. I am ready to make my plane reservation, and book my room at the Founders Inn and Spa. In truth, I am ready to be done, to be finished, to graduate. I have been working toward this day for four years, so it is exciting to be this close to the finish line. I guess you could say that I have “senioritis” like most of my senior students do. I really cannot wait for summer to get here, and to be able to rest — like rest — for three whole months!

In all, I am resting in the fact that God has made all of this possible. He has made a way for me to finish strong. I almost lost all hope a couple weeks back, simply because I wasn’t making any headway, and I felt so overwhelmed by the final “home stretch.” God, though, has been good to me. He has made all of this come to pass, and as such, I am able to let this go, to let all the worries and fears pass, and simply REST in His provision, His goodness, and yes, His abilities to seem me through to the very end. I am ready, I am so ready to move on.

Preparing to Go and to Stay

Yesterday was a good day for me. I went to school, did my three classes, and as I was coming home, I thought about all that God had already done for me, through me, and with me to prepare me for this next season of my life. I mean, I am in this very solid place right now. I have a good life, a very happy life, and my home is settled now. I know that while I want to move, to go elsewhere, I really sense that the Lord is saying to me that I should be content to remain where I am, to simply stay put, and to enjoy the blessing of His provision right here in the desert, in the Valley of the Sun.

Phoenix is not my choice. I do not really want to stay here at all, but something is happening here, and as a result, I feel like I must be content to remain. I may not like it, I may not want it, but I feel as if the Lord wants me to stay put, and to be considerate of all the Phoenix offers to me. First of all, this is where I already have work. I have plenty of work — good work — but so far there has been no movement toward a full-time position at any of my existing schools. This causes me concern, but I realize that the Lord is the One who promotes, so if He has chosen for me to remain as adjunct faculty, then He has a reason for it. Second, despite my lack of full-time work, I actually am making a significant amount of income with all my jobs — collectively speaking. I am doing well. In fact, I am thinking that this year alone, by the year’s end, I will have made more money than previously in all of my jobs since I first starting working full-time some 30 years ago. Thus, there is blessing in this place. I am being blessed through my efforts, and for now, I am being well-looked after and provided for so…why complain? Third, I have family here. My parents are here and so is my son, and for all intents and purposes, we are a family, living together. Again, this is the Lord’s design, so it must be for a reason. Last, despite the heat and the sunshine (all the time), the weather in Phoenix is better than the weather in colder climes. It is a lovely, and oh-so balmy 69 today. This is a far cry from the blizzard ravishing the Midwest today.  More so, while housing is expensive, it is not impossible to find a home here. Yes, the pricing is higher than say a small town in the Midwest, but the jobs, the lifestyle, and the opportunities that come with living in a major metropolitan area are worth the trade off.

With this in mind, I also have to consider my network of friends. While this has been a small part of my life, it has to factor in somewhat to the whole mix of things. I do have friends here. I do have a church that I love, and I do have opportunities for ministry. In many ways, there is room to grow here, to mature in ministry, and there is plenty of good practical work to do in this place. It might not be green, filled with trees, lakes and ponds, but there are people here who need the gospel just as much as the people who live elsewhere. I guess what I am saying is that I am feeling this need to put down roots, and for so long, I didn’t want to dig my roots in here in Phoenix. I wanted to move some place else, and as such, I was not satisfied with what was here. This doesn’t mean that I loathe it here at all. It is lovely — and there are spectacular views all around me. It is just that this place doesn’t suit my style, my temperament, my desires. It does however happen to be the place where I live, and for that, I think I need to reassess my desires, my wants so that they really match my needs.

In many ways, I have tried to move from Phoenix. I have applied to numerous jobs all over the USA for the past 10 years. None of them have come to pass, no, not one of them. In all, the only success I have had occurred when I applied here, in this place, right where I live now. Thus, there is a part of me that recognizes that the Lord seems to be saying to me, asking me to consider putting down roots right in this place. I guess this is what He is saying to me. I mean, I am not panicked about staying, and I am not anxious about living here anymore. It is like I have this sense of peace about it all, about my life, about what He intends to do with my life. I feel confident that He will provide for me. I feel confident that He will make a way. I feel confident that when it is all said and done, I will have a home, a good job, and a life that is predicated on serving Him completely, wholly, and with sincere devotion all the days of my life. I guess I am ready to settle down, to put down roots and to say that “Yes, Phoenix is where I am to remain.”

Blooming is Possible in the Desert

I started to think about this thought the other day, how I never was happen living in Phoenix because such a part of my life was left behind in San Jose, California. It will be 21 years this November that I said good-bye to San Jose and hello to hot and dry, Phoenix. I really didn’t know what I was doing when I left the beautiful and perfect weather that belonged to San Jose. I came here on a whim, thinking that leaving expensive California and fleeing our debt-ridden life would somehow save my struggling marriage and open doors of opportunity for me and for my family. In hindsight, I gave up everything dear to me to come here, and I plunged my family in a bitter battle of family war and manipulation that lasted nearly 13 years. I suffered for 13 long years in a dysfunctional family, being pulled, guilted, and controlled in order to do what was expected of me. In the end, with crushing debt, personal hardship, and mental anguish, the bottom of my life fell out, and as such the little I held onto slipped through my fingers like sand on the beach.

The past 7 years since that time have been filled with upheaval. My life has been reshaped, reformed, and restored, and as such, I am now living in a new way. But, my heart is till hardened toward this place I call home. I have had a hard time accepting the fact that perhaps the Lord is choosing to keep me in Phoenix for my own good. I was praying about this last night, asking why I couldn’t move elsewhere, and I heard the Lord say to me, “Moving is about what is best for you and not anyone else.” I thought about those words as I drove home from GCU, and I wondered what really was best for me. I mean, I love the thought of picking up stakes, moving to a new place, and beginning a new life some place else. But, no matter how often I think about it, I cannot get this place, the place I live in now, out of my mind. I cannot think about life anywhere else. Why is this so?

My life is new, it is an open book, as they say, and that means that I have chapters yet to be written to my story. Yet, there is this part of me that thinks that somehow Phoenix will play a more significant part of my life down the road. My son seems content to remain here now, which was not always the case. For so many years, I wanted to move so that he could have a better life, but he seems to have figured out how to have a good life all on his own. This means that what matters now is what is really best for me. I mean, is it in my best interest to move away from Phoenix and start over someplace new?

I’ve prayed about it, thought about it, and wondered about it often. Today, though I can say with almost certainty, that it feels like the Lord is calling me to stay here, to not think about leaving and moving away. He seems to be saying, “It is good here, Carol. We can make something of this place.” I don’t have any specifics or details, but I feel strongly that my life has more story to it, and that story is partly about this place. I cannot leave just yet. I cannot go just yet. It is not about the job. It is not about my parents and their end of life care. It is not about my son, either. It is about me. God is not finished with me in this place yet, and thus, I must stay. I must be content to remain where I am until He is finished with His work in me and through me. It is all for His name, His praise, and His glory — so I must do as He asks me to do. I must wait. I must be patient. But, mostly, I must be content. I must remain faithful, watchful, and expectant. I must look for His hand of blessing, and until I see His guidance lead me elsewhere, I will simply be happy to be where I am. It is really all about accepting that God has a plan, and that plan may or may not align with what we want or think or feel. His plan is always good, and as such, His plan is good — through and through.

In Closing

As I close out this blog post and begin to write my last little section of my dissertation, I realize that I am where I am today for a very good reason. I live in this house, I share this home, and I do this work all because God in Heaven — my Father — delighted for me to do these things. He made the choice. He made the decision, and He said, “Yes, you may do this or that. You may have this good thing or that good thing.” I have been a cheerful recipient of His goodness, but I have not always maintained a cheerful attitude when things didn’t seem to be going my way. Now, I see that His goodness has manifested itself in my life in so many intangible ways. I see His overflow as it washes over me. I see His grace and His mercy as it blesses me, soothes me, and gentle caresses me. He is good to me. He gives me good gifts, and He provides for me. So today, with all this in mind, I rest. I let the rest go. I say, “I am happy today for the blessing is good. It is enough. I need no more.” He has satisfied my every need, and I lay my arms down, I lay my burdens down, and I let go, I relent, and I accept His provision as He has graciously provided it to me. Selah!

February 22, 2017

News and Notes

Happy Hump Day! Yes, it is Wednesday, and I am getting ready to head back to school for this short week. It was so nice having my Monday off. I was able to take care of many things that I had on my to-do list, and in all, I was able to rest well. I would love to have today off too, just to rest and relax, but I am content to get back into the swing of things today. Overall, I am a bit tired, but I feel well. I am also ready to make some life changes, so I guess that is a good thing.

It is a beautiful day here in sunny, and yes, warm Phoenix. The skies are clear and the air has a bit of a crisp chill to it. The day is looking to shape up nicely. I think our expected high is 72 -- almost perfect -- especially for February 23, 2017. It is a lovely day, and I am eager and excited for it. I have had some good news, and right now, I am feeling so blessed, so amazingly and wonderfully blessed. Selah!

Happiness, Peace, and Joy

On the news front, I received really good news from my professor yesterday. I didn’t have a conference call due to the exams taking place on campus, but I did receive confirmation on my chapter four rewrite. I am good to go, which just means that barring no unfortunate circumstances, I am ready to defend. I am working on finishing my chapter 5 rewrite today (I had hoped to finish it last evening, but I ran out of steam). In all, if I send my chapter 5 off today, my professor should green light me to defend the week of March 13th. This means that I am set as far as graduation goes. I just need to do the work to finish this dissertation up.

I am relieved, so relieved. With this good news, I can start to plan my trip. I can begin to envision an end in sight, and with that end comes brand new things -- a job, for one -- but also other new and exciting avenues, opportunities, and open doors. Thus, I am on the threshold, literally the threshold of my next adventure.

I used to think that my next adventure consisted of more school, you know, another degree past this one. But, in truth, I am pretty well done with school. I can remember how I said that I wanted to have all these degrees -- multiple Masters or PhDs. Well, that was before the dissertation, and frankly now, I cannot imagine going through this process again. Once is enough for me. Once is enough in a lifetime.

Now, however, I am content to be where I am. In fact, as I was waking up this morning, I said to the Lord, "Oh, thank you for my life today!" I had been thinking about my younger self, the young woman who wanted to become a teacher -- way back when -- but who chose to get married instead. I was thinking about what my life would have been like had I chosen that other path. I was thinking about how my life would have been blessed financially, materially, and that I would have had such a good life early on. But, then I realized that despite my choice to marry, and despite the heartache and heartbreak, my life has turned out well. I have a blessed son, whom I love, and I have such a good life now. Yes, right NOW. I may not have had the best life before, but God has turned my situation around completely, and the life I have now is incomparable. In truth, I have the best of both worlds. I was married. I had a child. I am now single. I still have that blessed child -- but now he is a young man. I am grown up, and I have handled the hardship and responsibilities of being a single parent well. Now my life is filled with new things, different things, and even though my life didn't turn out as planned (as in I didn't remain married), what I have to show for my life is significant.

My parents, for example, celebrated their 58th wedding anniversary yesterday. Fifty-eight years is a long time to be married, and praise God, they still love one another. I was thinking that this year, 2017, would mark my 33rd year of marriage, had my ex-husband chosen to remain with us and not follow after other women. Even in that thought, though, I realized that while I might be married for 33 years, I would not have the blessed change that I have now. You see, my ex-husband would not have allowed me -- and I say allowed as in given me permission -- to return to school. No way, no how. He says now, "I knew you could do it! I always knew you had it in you!" But this just belies the truth. He never wanted me to succeed in this way, and he forbid me to talk about returning to graduate school, becoming a teacher, and living out this outcome. So, in many ways, the life I have today is the result of that marriage failure. I became someone new as a result of his choice to walk away. In many ways, I became the person I was meant to be because what I am doing today is so much a part of me -- the inner me -- that I cannot even begin to describe what it means to me to do it. I love my work. I love being a teacher, and I can say that I am fulfilling my destiny. Unfortunately, the only way I was able to fulfill this destiny was to lose something that mattered so much to me. I had to be crushed, bruised, and broken in order to begin to see a new life, a new way, and receive a new hope.

I bear testimony that when things turn bad, when the world crushes you, the Lord can take the broken bits and pieces and create something beautiful from it. In truth, He makes beauty from the ashes of sin and sorrow. I am new because He allowed me, gave me permission, to restart my life.

I know that idea of restarting a life after marriage failure sticks in the craw (so to speak) of some conservative Christians. The idea of divorce is anathema to them, and no matter the circumstances, divorced people are some how "less" than ideal Christians. Yet, I can say that while I didn't see divorce coming, and in the dark days leading up to divorce, I didn't want it. In fact, I fought as hard as possible to avoid it, when it eventually came, the realization that I was stuck "in liminality" -- stuck between two states -- separated but still married. I had to make a choice; I had to choose to remain connected to a man who didn't want to live with me, remain married to me OR I had to walk into the unknown, trusting the Lord to provide a way for me.

I chose to trust the Lord. I chose to believe that the Lord was able to make my life better, to restore what was lost, and to give life back to what was dead. I chose to walk in faith, and in doing so, I chose a new way, His way, as my path to follow. And, seven years later, I can say that I am the better for that choice. My life has improved greatly as a single person. My life has improved 10-fold, no -- 100-fold -- over the life I once shared with my husband. My son is happy and content. He has a great path and plan to follow as well, and he is mentally, emotionally, and yes, spiritually thriving. My home life, while not perfect at this time, is improved as well. I have a good home, I have the comfort of my parents, and I have a nice quality of life.

In fact, I would say that I beat the odds when it come to life improvement after divorce. I am not sure of the statistics, but generally, it is said that men do better financially than women after divorce. Most women suffer with financial struggle, whereas most men, are able to move on with ease. Of course, this is not always the case, as my good friend will testify. Some men do not recover financially, but I think in the general case where the man has a good job and say the wife stays at home, doesn't work, etc., the divorced woman with children often does suffer more (financially, I mean).

Along these lines, there is research out of the UK that has suggested that while my statement that men and women differ on financial accounts post divorce -- women the study says -- appear to be better able to handle life change then men. Thus, according to a study conducted by Professor Yannis Georgellis, Director of the Centre for Research in Employment, Skills and Society at Kingston Business School, the results showed that despite the fact that most women live longer in poverty, they are actually more happier after the divorce occurs (The Daily Mail, 2013). The study was based on "10,000 people in the UK between the ages of 16 and 60 who were regularly questioned and asked to rate their own happiness before and after major milestones in their lives" (para. 9). The research suggested that the reason why women fair better is because women cope better when major life change occurs. Furthermore, the study also revealed that for men, losing one's job is more significant than losing a spouse or a loved one. Thus, for men, divorce might not be as difficult if they have a solid job, a good income, and the means to financially carry on. As strange as this may sound, the study also suggested that women involved in an unhappy marriage see hope and possibility on the horizon after divorce. They look at it as though their life can only get better. In this way, many women in this study said they felt liberated after the divorce. 

With this aside, what is interesting to me is the fact that while I was devastated at the life change, I also saw the change as a positive one (after a time). My faith in God was integral to that sense of hope. I felt that if the Lord permitted this to happen to me, He had to have a good reason for it. I was not happy about the change, of course, and I didn't know what to do for a long while after it happened. But, I trusted the Lord enough to realize that no matter what happened to me or my son, there would be "life" after it.  This means that today, as I sit here and survey my life, I realize that I have learned to cope with this change, and instead of just moving on, making ends meet, I have embraced the change and worked hard to make a better life for myself. 

In this way, I have been able to adapt to being single much more readily than other people I know. For example, I know many divorced men and women who loathe being single. The long for companionship, and as such, they jump in and out of relationships -- hoping that the next one -- will be IT for them. I didn't do that, and while I read about the time it takes to realize closure after divorce (one study suggested it took 1 year for every 5 years of marriage before the divorced person can even begin to process the change), I took the time to wait for a relationship, to wait until I felt that I had no longer any animosity for my ex-husband, and where I could feel confident and comfortable engaging in relationship behavior. Unfortunately, for me, this has been more difficult than I thought. I had family and friends say to me, "You'll find someone else, Carol!" I didn't want to find anyone else, and often, I would say that to them. They would reply with, "In time, you'll be ready to move on," as if losing someone in divorce was just a matter of time until you could replace them with a newer model. In my view, I didn't want anyone at all. I guess that is the imperative here. I didn't want a husband. I had one already, and while my marriage wasn't great, it wasn't all that bad either. But, after experiencing a husband for nearly 26 years, I welcomed the freedom that came with being single. In this way, I was very content to be single for a long time. I was, and I still am, very content to do things "my way."

I guess all this is to say that as my life has changed, from ashes into this beautiful thing, I have come to realize how much I have endured and grown through the process. I have come to understand my needs and wants really well, and in that way, I have also come to understand what I no longer will put up with or accept (as in behavior, attitude or even personality). I simply am content to be on my own for ever. This doesn't mean that I don't appreciate the differences between men and women, and that I don't enjoy relationships with men, because I do. It just means that I am not sure I want to endure another life change now. I am very happy with the direction of my life, the way my life is going, the prosperity I am experiencing, and well, I don't know if I want to let all this go. I feel like the Lord has set me free, and I don't want to exchange my freedom for any reason or anyone. This must sound really harsh, but after what I endured during my marriage, I simply am happy to be free. I am happy to be where I am, content in and through it all, and for that I thank the Lord for His goodness and His graciousness in my life.
In Closing

This day, I am thankful to the Lord for opening my eyes to see just how blessed my life really is, and for giving me the opportunity to explore and experience new opportunities and open doors. I am ready for His next steps, and that means that I am eager and excited to do what He is calling me to do. I want so much to go and do His work, and I want to enjoy my life -- my everyday life. I am content to remain as I am, to live and to do this good work, and I am happy, filled with peace and joy at the thought that this is the life the Lord has chosen for me. Selah!

February 21, 2017

Making Plans and Moving On

It is Tuesday, my last day off from my four-day weekend, and I am feeling blue. I mean to say that I am just feeling a bit out of sorts today, nothing major, nothing minor, just a bit off. I woke up late, for starters, and then I had to deal with some upheaval here at home. In all, I feel sort of like the little child for whom the teacher sends a note home saying, “Doesn’t play well with others.” I just feel like I need a time-out today, but I don’t really have time to be out of the loop today. I have work to do, and I am in that liminal space — betwixt and between — and I am about to cross over into the big UNKNOWN place of my next destination.

Plans and Prospering

God is good to me. He has made such a fantastic way for me to go. Just this morning, I was feeling glum over my options. I was reading Facebook and checking Instagram, which I normally do in the early morning hours, but I kept feeling as if my life didn’t match up to that of my friends. I see my friends involved in happy events, visiting with family, seeing new places, and generally smiling and enjoying life. Then I look at my feed — nothing but my cats and dinner with my parents — and of course, work and study. This is my life — boring as it can be — and I think to myself, “Is this all there is to life?”

When I was married, my ex-husband was a good one for making plans. We always had plans. We drove out into the countryside — just to look at things. Or we would go to dinner, a movie, or some golf event. In the winter, we would go up to the mountains to ski. In the summer, we would drive over to the beach to spend the day. We were always going places and doing things.

After our son was born, we still did these kinds of things. However, times got tough, money-wise, and the trips to places slowed to a crawl. Furthermore, he became more involved with his business, and the trips began to revolve around making money or new business opportunities. There was less family time, less spending time together and enjoying the beauty of God’s creation. It was all about making money.

As time wore on, the trips ended, and he went his way and I usually stayed home with our then small son. I spent a lot of time with my family, simply to get out of the house and have something fun to do. I shopped with my Mom or we hung out at their pool. My ex dropped in for dinner, but that was about it. I pretty much got very used to always being alone.

The days wore into months and then years, and before I was aware of it, our lives had split apart. He had other interests including female admirers, and I had the church, my son, and my family. I spent all my time either working from home (in his business) or at church engaged in activities for my son. I tried to balance marriage, but my ex was more interested in his business and his business connections. He filled his life with things outside our marriage, and I filled my life with church, family, and home. We lived two separate lives, with different goals and desires, and in the end, we came to the breaking point where we made the decision to live apart. Since that time, he has continued to live his life following his interests and desires. I have chosen to follow a similar path, but with the Lord’s guidance, I have also engaged in scholarly and academic pursuits that have provided not only interest to me, but friends, and a new path to follow.

Now, I am at the finish line — almost, I mean. I am so close to finishing my degree, to being finished with my degree and I am starting to make new plans. Plans for my future, plans where to live, and plans for the next 10-20 or 30 years of my life. I am only 54, and Lord willing, if I live to be 90 or even 100 (possible, always, of course), this means that I have about 46 years left to live life well.  What I do with those 46 years is important, and I believe the Lord has a plan for these years, and He intends that I follow that plan. The problem has been one of discernment, figuring out that plan, and then trusting the Lord to provide a way for the plan to come to pass. Trusting, I should say, that He would bring His plans to pass, and that I would be a recipient of those blessed plans.

Yesterday, I blogged about my life and some of the challenges I was facing with my revision and drafting on my dissertation. I was struggling to make sense of some parts, and I was panicked over graduating. I had come up with two options, the first to remain on the present track, and the second, to push graduation out to 2018. In the end, the plan the Lord had for me was confirmed, and that was to remain where I am and to push toward finishing my degree and graduating in 2017. How did this come to pass? Basically, I received an email from my professor yesterday telling me that unless I didn’t finish (complete my revisions) by March 1, I would be set up to defend my dissertation the week of March 13th. In short, graduation was up to me. I had to finish my dissertation. I had to submit a clean copy to my professors by the 1st, and then the rest would fall into place as anticipated. Honestly, had I not heard from him, I would have assumed that my changes and revision work wouldn’t be completed in time — hence — option 2. Instead, the Lord chose for my professor, with whom I have a conference call today, to at the least give me a reminder that I am on track to finish this year, and not next. Thus, as I sit here, I am thinking about this plan, this path, and how the Lord has said that 2017 would be the year for my graduation. I guess I am relieved, but I am also overwhelmed by it. In truth, the Lord has said that I am to graduate, and it appears that it will be so. Selah!

This opens up new plans for me, new possibilities. I have to decide where to go next, what to do, and how to do it. I mean, what do I do for full-time work? Will a job come to pass or will I continue to work part-time as adjunct until some unknown future date?

For now, I focus on these next important steps. The future is in His hands, and He has this planned out. I simply must obey Him, follow Him, and let Him lead me through these next 4-6 weeks and then I should know, or at the least, have a better feeling of what He wants me to do for my future life.

Until then, I rest. I wait. I patiently wait. I look up. I trust. I rely on Him, and I acknowledge that He is the One who directs my steps, He is the One who makes all things possible.

Pathways and Purposes

As the Lord leads, He provides. I believe this is true. I have seen the testimony, and therefore, I believe that God leads us to places where He is able — only He is able — to provide for us. We go and do work, and the Lord provides favor, grace, mercy, and goodness to us as we do His work. In a similar way, when we are resting in His provision, God opens up doors and opportunities for even more blessing. Again, I have experienced this more than once. I have seen the Lord reward my obedience by providing some new measure of blessing as I faithfully walk on or endure some hardship or trial. He has rewarded me with goodness, blessing, honor and favor, but He has also rewarded me with financial solvency. For example, this past semester I have had the pleasure to teach at ASU as associate faculty. I have taught one class there, and there is a possibility of teaching a second this March. My prayer is that I am selected to teach, but if not, I know the Lord will provide. In His way, however, this additional line of work has provided a couple thousand dollars to me, dollars that I don’t necessarily need to live on at this time. If this second job comes to pass, I will have set aside about $6K, without really doing much for it. Yes, I had to do the work, but what I mean is without having to sacrifice my lifestyle much, I will be able to set aside this money, not touch it or use it, unless the Lord directs me to do so.

Likewise, I have been able to purchase the tools and resources that I have needed for my schooling as well as for my own life. For example, just yesterday, I was able to purchase a new laptop from Apple. I have wanted a MacBook Air for a long while as my HP laptop was a dinosaur — slow and always having issues. I didn’t have the money to spend to invest in something I wouldn’t use daily, so I have gone without for the past couple years. I have lugged my heavier laptop (7 pounds) around airports and to VA for school, but in truth, I have not really felt it was valuable to me or helpful to me in my studies or even lifestyle. However, last January, the Lord permitted me to purchase a new computer — and iMac 27” — to help with my studies (due to my poor eyesight). I was able to use Apple credit to do so, and this January, I paid this computer off (no interest — 18 months, but I needed 12 to pay it off). I have prayed about getting a new laptop for several years, and this past week or so, the Lord laid it on my heart to invest in a laptop for school, work, and travel. So since I had paid off my Apple credit, I was able to purchase this new laptop for the same deal — 18 months, no interest. I will take the same path and pay on it monthly until next January, and then I will pay it off as well.

My life has been steadily improving over the course of the past 5-6 years. I have come to this place of solvency, which simply means that I have been able to manage my lifestyle and live within my means without having to sacrifice any necessities (like food, clothing, or utilities — as in my former life). I have travelled to VA for the required trips, and I will continue to do so two more times until I am finished at Regent. Furthermore, I have been able to set aside some savings, and with the current jobs I hold now, my prayer is that I will be able to set aside another $6K by the year end. This would mean that I would have $12K in savings. I know that doesn’t sound like much, really, but it actually is a nice chunk of change for an adjunct — part-time — professor.

What is more, I have been closely monitoring my credit for the past 7 years. When I separated from my ex-husband, I had very little credit to my name. Our combined score was around 580, which is terrible in this credit and consumer driven world. My ex was notorious for abusing credit, and for a long while, we couldn’t even secure a credit card with some savings. We relied on debit only, and our bank account was routinely overdrawn. After we separated, I was able to open my own bank account. I went to my local bank and the banker there was very gracious to me. My Dad helped me get started, and because I was already a student, I was able to open a student checking/savings account with $200. Moreover, in about 6 months of good savings practice, the bank gave me a student credit card, a real credit card with a small limit of about $300. I used it wisely, and after I was employed by Macy’s, I started to build my credit up slowly. It took time, but when I was ready to move into my own place, my credit score was up to about 630. Furthermore, my bank account had enough money for me to put a down payment/deposit on the rental unit, and I was able to setup utilities and pay those deposits as well.

It has been 7 years, and through it all, I have learned how to manage money well. My credit score just reached 728, and I am well on my way to get that up closer to 800. My credit to debt limit (CTD) is at 30%, which is down from the close to 80% it was last year (due to all my travel expenses). I hope to have my ratio under 20% within the next 3-4 months. Lastly, my debt to income ratio (DTI) which FICO scores are based on is now close to where it needs to be to qualify for good mortgage rates and other financial offers. In all, the Lord has shown me how to live comfortably on what I can earn as an adjunct professor. I have the tools I need to be successful. I understand money matters, and as a good saver, I have been able to set aside money now for emergency use. My prayer is that over the next year, I will be able to increase my income, lower my debt, and push my credit score into that privileged range of 800 or better.

The Lord has provided a way for me to restore my finances, and while I am not where I should be at my age, I am in a good place to begin saving for retirement. I have a good financial plan in order, and with the Lord’s continued blessing, I will be able to retire with my house paid for and enough money in the bank to continue to live comfortably the rest of my days.

Next Steps…

Thus, my next steps are 1) graduate from Regent with my Phd; 2) be offered a full-time teaching position online; 3) continue to work part-time at Regent until retirement; pay off all debt (credit card, car loan, and student loan); 4) save for retirement; and then retire and begin full-time ministry work.

The Lord has approved my plan, and He is blessing me as I pursue it. I am trusting Him, believing in faith, and looking toward His hand of continued favor so that I can move to the location of His choosing. My move, whether it is here in Phoenix (to a purchased home) or in another state is solely predicated on 1) a job offer; and 2) the Lord’s design and will (really, these are reversed, but you get the picture).

The job must come. This is the hinge-pin for my next steps. I cannot move or begin to build financial security without a job. I can live on what I am making now, and I can live comfortably, but I cannot build financial security for retirement without a full-time position. Therefore, this is my next step. I am trusting the Lord to show me where to apply, how to go about getting this next job, and then to handle all the details associated with it. I need the Lord to push these doors open, and to set me in the place of His choosing for long-term success and satisfaction. I have said that I will go where He sends me. I will do the work He has prepared for me to do (good practical work and good ministry work). I will live in the home He provides to me, and I will be content — satisfied, happy, joyful — in this way. He is the One who leads, guides, and provides for me. He is the One who is the instigator, the emancipator, and the giver of all good things. I rest in His sufficiency, in His abilities to do what He has promised, and in this way, I wait patiently for His fulfillment of the plans He has in mind and in store for me. I do all things for one purpose and that is to bring Him praise. I honor His name, and in this way, my Father in Heaven in glorified. I am good because He has made my life so very good.

In Closing

I close this blog post in order to prepare for my conference call (if there is to be one today) and to finish my work on chapter 5 of my dissertation. I must finish it today so it can be sent for review. I am ready to be finished, and praise be to God, I am ready to graduate. I am ready to move on to the next place — His place — and I am ready, so ready to begin to live the life He has called me to live. He is good, so very good to me. He is gracious, good, and always giving to me the grace I need to do this work — His work. I do it His way this good day so that He is glorified. I do it all for His name, His praise, and His honor.

February 20, 2017

Monday, Monday

It is Monday, and I am at home, resting up for this good day off. Yes, it is President’s Day, and I have this day as a holiday. I am rested, which is such a good thing. I ended up not working too late last evening simply because I was tired and I felt I needed fresh eyes for today. I am pleased, overall. I worked very hard this weekend, and I wrote an extra 39 pages for my data and analysis section. I also graded almost all my student essays (except for the 30 I will grade this morning). In short, I took care of everything that was critical on my to-do list, and while I didn’t get all my grading done, I will do that this morning and then say, “Buh-Bye” to grading for another four weeks (hooray!) In all, this has been a busy week, and today, as I sit here, I am thanking the Lord for His provision of strength, resilience, and fortitude. He made it possible for me to get to where I am this good day, and as such, I am resting in His grace and mercy. I am resting, praise be to God, I am resting.
Making Sense of Some Things

So this weekend, I came face to face with my greatest fear — not graduating in May. I am not sure why I have made this May my “do or die” date, but truthfully, I am of the opinion that I have made it into more than it needed to be. For example, in order to finish my dissertation and graduate, I would have to have five completed chapters, proofed and reviewed by my committee before mid-March. This is a hard-and-fixed date, and frankly, I have been pushed to the limits to make the deadline. However, lately, I have had this feeling that it would be better to rest and to take it slowly, so I started thinking that perhaps I could finish my work over the summer. You know, delay graduation until fall. I hated that idea, that I would miss walking with my peers, but in truth, now I am thinking, “What is the big deal?” I mean I am teaching so  many classes, writing myself silly, and in many ways, I would really like to do my dissertation defense when I am calm and really ready to do it.

My mind has been fixed on graduating by May 2017. I felt positive that I had to graduate by this May, and that if I didn’t, well, something would or wouldn’t happen. Right now, I am saying to myself, “What is the worse thing that could happen to me?” I am adjunct, but I know that with my PhD in hand, I would have a better chance to be hired full-time. However, the Lord is my Manager, and as such, He determines when I am promoted and when I am to remain as I am. In this way, I know that if He determines that I must have my PhD in hand by May, then it will be so. If He determines that it is fine to wait until fall, then it will be so. I have made this whole mess — this whole finish line thing — into something it was not meant to be. Instead of resting and trusting the Lord for His timing, I simply let the pressure ramp up so high that I literally thought I would explode. In this way, I have made a mountain — out of a mountain — for sure!

My heart is content today to wait. I feel confident that what I have done thus far is good, but perhaps it is not quite good enough. I don’t want to do shoddy work, so I am ready to see this through in the way and fashion that honors the Lord. I am ready to work and to finish, but not in haste. I am ready to settle down and finish this degree with all the provision of the Lord.

Some plans…

So this morning is February 20th, and I am thinking about how last year at this time, I was preparing to fly to VA for my Oral exams. I was pressured then too, but throughout that whole process, I felt the Lord pushing me forward. I knew in my head and in my heart that it was His intention for me to pass my exams. Thus, I went into the defense feeling nervous, anxious, but praise be to God, I was able to pass and move to the next phase, candidacy. I am sitting here today thinking that I would not be where I am without His help, His grace, His word in and through my life. I am sitting here today and I am thanking the Lord for His constant presence in my life. I honestly would not be this close to being done had the Lord not permitted it, permitted me to do this degree. Thus, whether I finish now or later, it will be as He has determined it. I simply want to do good honorable and practical work. I want to do what He wants me to do, and therefore, I have to acknowledge that perhaps I have been rushed and pressured of my own accord and not of His prod.

In thinking about plans, I must accept the fact that the Lord determines my beginning and my end. Proverbs 16:9 NIV says, “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps,” which simply means that while I may make plans, the Lord is the One who is behind everything, behind all the tasks and the accomplishments. I plan, but He leads, guides, and provides for me. The Lord has this all planned out — my graduation — I mean. He has this planned, purposed, and there is an end in sight. It might just not be this May. It might not be in two months. It might be in three or four or even five months.

As I consider putting off my graduation, I remember that it is the Lord who has laid the timeline before me. In hindsight, I remember how I was so disappointed when my graduation from Mercy College didn’t happen as I had planned. I had completed my Masters thesis, but because I didn’t finish the exam (missed it), I ended up having to miss graduating in the spring. It wasn’t the end of anything, really, but it did mess up my plans for beginning my PhD at Regent University. Yes, I had hoped to begin my PhD program in May of 2012, which would have put me on track to graduate in May of 2016. This was the plan. This was my timeline, and I believed it was the timeline of the Lord. But through no fault of my own, and due to a missed requirement at Mercy College, I ended up being pushed back for graduation until August 2012. I mean, I finished my thesis, but my degree wasn’t conferred on time, so that meant that I had to wait another year before beginning the next program. So, in May of 2013, I entered Regent, and Praise God, what a blessing it was for me to wait. 

The Lord knew it was best for me to begin in 2013 and not 2012. I love my cohort, and I love the people I have met along the way. So while a couple of my colleagues have finished ahead of me (two in 2016), the majority of my colleagues are on track to finish in 2018. I am in the middle with a small group, but we are all struggling to finish by this May. It seems like I am in the same place I was with Mercy, where I am rushing to finish, but finding some hiccups along the way.

My prayer is to finish still. I would like to go into the summer with the knowledge that I am done, finished, graduated. But there is this lingering thought that perhaps it would be nice to finish with my group, with the majority of my group, I mean. It would be so lovely to walk in the ceremony with everyone I know. How special! How wonderful! Yet, the Lord has this timeline, and as such, I let those thoughts go and concentrate on the here-and-the-now. He is my King, thus, I must do as He says.

Options Ahead of Me

I feel that I have several options ahead of me at this point in time. 

Option 1: Push Hard to Finish by May

Option 1 is what I have been working toward since last October, and that is to graduate on time this May, 2017. This is the plan I am on, have been on, and for all intents and purposes, this is the plan He has said I am to stay on.

Option 2: Work Steadily to Finish by October

Option 2 is to delay graduation for one year, which simply means to complete my final defense in the fall. This would allow me to graduate by December, 2017. I would walk in the May ceremony following, but I would finish my dissertation in December and not in April.

I haven’t spoken with my chair about changing the timeline simply because I assumed my only option was number 1. But lately, and after conversations with others, I am feeling that perhaps pushing this research and write up out is not that bad of a choice — at the least, not now. I mean, I would have far more time to plan for a flight back east, and I would be able to purchase my airfare and my hotel when I am not so slammed. The blessing would be that I could take the summer to finish, to finalize my research, to really do a good job. I would like to feel confident that the work I am doing is good, and not just half-way, not just thrown together.

Which option will I choose? Well, for now, I am sticking with Option 1 until I hear otherwise. I sent my chapter four off again this morning, compressing that puppy as small as I can get it so my professor would be able to read through it. I appreciate his time, and I pray that it is better than version 1 — well — more complete than version 1, to be exact.

My plan for today, beside resting, is to finish chapter 5. I haven’t even looked at it, and really, I don’t want to do so. I want to rest. I want to let this all go, but I have to stick with the plan — His plan — and that includes being faithful, finishing strong.
In Closing

As I close out this blog post, I am sitting here thinking how blessed my life is at this very moment. I have everything I need to be happy and content. I have the blessedness of my Lord at my side, and I have my family close by to support me as well. I have a lovely home, warm and safe. I have a good job (multiple) where I get to do the best work ever. I have enough money in the bank to cover my needs, and I am feeling well (physically). I have some future needs, of course, but for today, I have enough. I have enough work to satisfy me. I have my education to challenge me. I have so much to be thankful for so today, I simply rest. I say, “It is good enough,” and I let everything else go.

February 18, 2017

Rainy Day

It is a rainy day here in Phoenix. The weather forecast calls for showers all day today and tomorrow. In some ways, it is a perfect Saturday in February. I am loving the wetness, and the gray skies and clouds are soothing my need for change this good, good day. I am feeling well, for the most part. I woke up with a sinus headache, and still a bit grumpy from my not-so-nice day yesterday. But, overall, after a good cup of Dunk-in Donuts coffee and a donut, I am starting to feel better.

I slept fitfully and tossed and turned most of the night. I fell asleep around 7 p.m. last night, and instead of grading, which was on my to-do list, I simply curled up in a ball on the bed and fell asleep — hard. I mean I crashed. Yesterday, was a difficult day, and by the time I made it home, I was pretty much spent. I meant mentally and emotionally spent. I made myself a sandwich, and after eating dinner and watching an episode of “Midsomer Murders” on Netflix, I finally gave in and laid down to rest my eyes. Zonk!

Yes, I woke up at 10 p.m., noticed that all the lights were turned off in the house, and decided to get undressed and into the bed, proper — know what I mean? My parents had turned in early, and my son is over in LA for the weekend. I fed the cats before I retired to bed, and then drifted off rather quickly once I was buried deep beneath the covers.

The sun didn’t rise this morning, but I heard the rain as it hit my window. I woke up around 5, I think, and my boys figured that 5 was the perfect time to get up and start the day. So — not! I rolled over and forced myself to stay in bed, and thankfully, I woke up closer to 8 a.m. before I really decided it was time to get up and get moving.

Today is D-Day for me. I have to make progress on my dissertation, and my plan includes revising both chapters so I can send them off to my professor by tomorrow p.m. The Lord is in charge of the program, but I am feeling a bit panicked despite His authority and control. I also have a lot of grading to do, and I have this awful feeling that something is missing — like something is being left out or behind. I am paranoid that I have forgotten to do something important, and this thought is nagging me. Still, I either believe the Lord and trust Him or I do not. I am choosing to trust Him this good day, and thus, I have let my project go. I have chosen to let Him have all the glory and praise, and that means that He is the only One who can finish this paper and do it well. He is able, and I am not. Thus, I rest. I let go. I trust Him. I rely on Him. I wait upon Him this good, good day.

My mind is racing this morning as I contemplate everything that needs doing, but I am letting all the pressure and the pain go. I am choosing to rest in my Lord, and in His sufficiency, for He alone is able to see me through this very dark byway. He will lead me into the light, and I will find my way out.

It is a good day, therefore, to practice the discipline that leads to success. I know that He is able to do this work, and that He will make a way for me. I know that He can show me what to change, what to keep, what to add, etc. and the final product will be good. He will do it, I am sure of it. He knows what is best, and I will let Him have His day. I will let Him do this good work in order to bring His Name praise. I rest, I relent, I relinquish, and I let the Lord receive the reward.
Trust and Obey

I am trusting the Lord today. I am choosing obedience because I know that the only way I will finish my project is to let the Lord do it. I have tried my best, worked until the wee hours, and in the end, I have run out of strength. I have run out of mind-control, and by that I simply mean, thoughts, ideas, words. Yes, my students laughed at me yesterday when I said that I had no more words for them, and that all my words were put into my dissertation. They got a kick out of that thought, but it is true, really true. I am struggling just to put pen to paper (or thoughts to keyboard) today. I am struggling with clear thinking, calm mindset, and the ability to carefully articulate my thoughts. I am in a blue funk, and this funk is really deep and murky. Yet, I know the Lord has me well in hand, and that He will lead me out. He will show me the way out.

My mind, in times like these, runs to thoughts that are easily remembered. Yesterday, while I was in the midst of crisis (here at home), all I could mumble was the children’s song, “Trust and obey — for there is no other way — to be happy in Jesus — than to trust and obey.” Why, this little song? I think because songs are one way we can remember important things. We memorize things unintentionally or intentionally, but when we recall them from deep storage, there are times when we need some little trigger to pull the memory out. The trigger could be sight, a smell, or even a song. In my case, I tend to remember songs and Psalms this way. I also remember psalms and other bible verses that have been set to song, like Psalm 100 and James 4:10. The latter is from this song that comes back to me time and time again.

Humble thyself in the sight of the Lord
Humble thyself in the sight of the Lord
And He shall lift you up (higher and higher)
And He shall lift you up

Humble thyself in the sight of the Lord
Humble thyself in the sight of the Lord
And He shall lift you up (higher and higher)
And He shall lift you up
And He shall lift you up (up into heaven)
And He shall lift you up

Or Psalm 95, one of my favorites to sing acapella in the car:

Come, let us worship and bow down
And kneel before the Lord, our Maker
Come, let us worship and bow down
And kneel before the Lord, our Maker

He is our God, He is our God
We are the people of His pasture
He is our God, He is our God
We are the sheep of His hand

Come, let us worship and bow down
And kneel before the Lord, our Maker
Come, let us worship and bow down
And kneel before the Lord, our Maker

Worship the Lord in holiness
Let the whole earth stand in awe
He will come to judge the earth
In righteousness and truth

Or this refrain, which was originally published in 1840:

For “they that wait upon the Lord
shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings,
they shall mount up with wings as eagles,
They shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint;
They shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint;
They shall run and not be weary,
shall walk and not faint.”

Lately, I have been confused and confounded by the clouds covering my path. I have found that I have been plunged into the darkness, and while I have tried to reach up and rescue myself from this dark place, I have been allowed to linger, to sit and to stir. I know that the Lord has allowed this to be for a reason. I blogged about it the other day, how I felt the Lord was allowing me to learn an important life lesson, and that lesson was that in laying down my life in order to follow Him in obedience, I also had to let go of my reliance on my own ability to “think” myself free. What I mean is that I have always known that the Lord endowed me with keen insight and a rational brain. I am a thinker by nature, and as such, I have this scholarly brain. I am not as keen as some scholars, oh never! But, I have the mind and the intellect of a scholar, and as such, I know that I am able to think problems through, create possible scenarios, and develop plans that often lead to success. It is a gift, for sure, and I use it every single day. However, sometimes I rely on my gift of insight more than I should. I sometimes look to myself more than to the Lord to figure things out, and while I know the Lord desires for me to actually use my brain for good (and I do), He also wants me to rely on Him for His wisdom, judgment and determination. Let me explain…

Humble Thyself in the Sight of the Lord

It all started two weeks ago. At the first part of February, I received my chapter four back from my professor. I knew that my chapter was not perfect. In fact, I hadn’t even run it through Grammarly.com before sending it off two weeks prior because I was rushed to finish, rushed to have something to send. I felt it was in need of more serious proofing and revision, but I had to send something to him to review, and I so I sent what I had completed (best as it could be). Mind you, it wasn’t terrible, per se; but it wasn’t my best effort. Still, I knew it was strong, and I was so relieved to have sent it for review. However, the copy I received back was filled with comments — loads of them — and when I sat down to read them, I immediately felt crestfallen. Furthermore, my professor missed our call and so when we did speak, it was rushed and a bit short (on time, I mean). So without much direction, I looked at the comments and I thought to myself, “I have to rewrite this entire chapter!” 

I spent most of the first part of the previous week mad at myself for being so busy. I berated myself daily, and I was upset that I had submitted something so awful for my professor to read. I really kicked myself hard, and I felt like I had ruined any hope of graduating. Yes, I believed the negative thoughts that told me I would never graduate and I would never be able to fix the paper in time. As a result of all the negative self-talk, I stewed over the required changes, and then I tried to push myself to fix my paper over the weekend. In fact, I pushed myself to fix my paper so hard, and I pressured myself to do it by Sunday, that I made myself ill. I literally made myself ill. My family was in town for a birthday, and instead of enjoying their visit, I locked myself off in my bedroom to work on my paper. In all, I let my failure — drive me to try and overcome the deficiencies in my paper. As I normally do, when push comes to shove, I make plans. I make these grand plans in order to take control of a failing situation. So, just like I normally do, I made this grand plan, this awesome goal to send the changes off on Monday so that I would be prepared for my conference call on Tuesday. The good news is that I actually added some 17 pages of clarification and amplification, addressing some of the issues and comments my professor had made for me. The bad news was that I didn’t like the work. I didn’t care for the changes, but I was bound and determined to do some work. In the end, I didn’t make my deadline. I had grading to do, and that family birthday, so when Sunday ended, I had to accept the fact that I wasn’t going to get chapter 4 finished in time. 

Consequently, Tuesday arrived with a thud. I still felt like such an utter failure, but I was looking forward to a call from my professor because he always encourages me, cheers me up. Instead, my professor sent chapter 5 with more revisions. I glanced at them, feeling already shaken, and frankly, what I saw was off-putting. I knew then and there that I was not in any good mindset to even tackle them. I cried most of that day, and I gave up all hope of graduating this year. Then to make matters worse, my professor kindly suggested I work on edits rather than speaking with him on the phone. I felt like he was saying to me, “Uh, Carol, you need to get busy and fix this work.” I was sunk, so horribly sunk. I felt like a whipped puppy, to use that phrase. I thought, “My work is horrible,” and I really believed I would never be able to finish on time.

So all week long I prayed over these changes, and I asked the Lord for His help, but it wasn’t forthcoming. The more I tried to work on my paper, the more I simply wandered around — like Moses in the desert. I simply went round, round, and round again. More so, I felt pressured at work, pressured at home, and frankly, I felt like I was waging a losing battle. 

When Friday came I still had my game plan in order. It was a second revision game plan, I should add. The first had failed, so naturally, I came up with a second plan. I would come home from work, do all my grading, so that Saturday and Sunday, I could knock out the changes. I would send my copy off to my professor on Monday, and well, I would be done. My beautiful plan. It was perfect. It would work so long as nothing intervened to stop it. But something wasn’t quite right, something just felt off. And, in between all the plans, the decisions, I still had this awful feeling like I was a major failure. No matter how hard I tried, I simply couldn’t finish this work. I felt so afraid as if I was lost, hopelessly lost. On top of all of that, my entire week at work was so very difficult. I felt like I was on trial at work, constantly being scrutinized, and no matter what I did, how gracious I was or acted, nothing seemed to be going my way. Thus, when the week ended, I wanted to chuck it all — the job, the dissertation, the whole mess. Last, if this wasn’t enough…to compound matters, I had a set-to with my Dad yesterday. I won’t go into the details, but suffice it to say, I left home here at noon in an angry huff, and when I came home last night, things weren’t any better. The tension was sky high, and any thoughts of doing good productive work, well, they just flew out the window.

Intermission —

This morning, I woke up to those rainy skies, and after a trip to Dunk-in Donuts, I was praying about my day. I was asking the Lord how I would possible finish my work, what with all the hufflepuff here at home. I sat down at the computer, frustrated and worried about my day, when I heard those simply little words percolate back up into my mind. 

“Trust and obey.” 
“There is no other way” 
“To be happy in Jesus” 
“You must trust and obey.”
Life Application

Did I learn my lesson? I sure hope so. I think the lesson learned was one of humility and reliance upon the Lord. You see, as a very capable individual (VCI), I am the type of person that tends to take the bull by the horns and gets down to business. I will take the lead in the campaign, I will stand on the line and hold the defense, and I will take the full authority necessary to get the job done. I do it often, and most of the time, I am successful at it. This time, however, I came to the end of myself, so to speak, and like my wireless solar keyboard (that I love, BTW), I simply ran out of sunlight to keep myself powered up, charged up, and able to withstand the heat of the battle. In short, my end came, and I was routed, bested, and beaten. I didn’t trust in the Lord, and I didn’t rely on His insight and wisdom. I didn’t obey what He was saying to me, which was to rest — like to lay down my arms and rest. I didn’t let Him lead, guide, and provide for me, even though I loudly protested and said this was what I was going to do. Instead, a stewed, I wandered about, and I ended up run off my feet, rushed into hysterics, and completely lacking in all wisdom, judgement and ability. I lost my way. I let my enemy beat me at my own game. 

Thus, today, I sit here blogging, trying to wrest away a tension headache, and think to myself, 

“Lord, I have no strength to complete the tasks on my list. I simply have too much work to do and not enough time to do them all. I cannot complete this work at all. I have nothing left to give. I ask you to help me now, to show me the way out, and to give me the strength I need to do this work.”

I know this work is His will, and therefore, He will do it. I must lay down now and let Him do this work. It is for His name, His praise, and His honor. 

February 17, 2017

The Lord is Good

It is Friday - Again! Praise God for Fridays! I am so thankful that today is the last day of the work week, and that Monday is a holiday! Hooray! I expect to finish my dissertation (revisions) so I can rest up for next week. I have approximately two weeks to finish in order to make the deadline for review and defense. This means that with the final changes made today-Monday, my dissertation will either be given the “go or no-go" for defense in March. My prayer is for the defense to come the week before spring break. This would give me the entire week of spring break to make deficiency repairs, to engage a proofreader, and then to begin the arduous task of submitting my copy to ProQuest. My hope is that between now and the end of the month, my chair thinks my dissertation is in good enough shape to really defend. I am trusting the Lord for His provision of grace — an extra measure of grace — in order to finish strong and graduate on time. This is His work, so His timing is perfect. I believe it, and I claim it in Jesus' Name!

Moving Forward in Faith

So today, I woke up feeling as if I was being asked to take a major leap of faith. I have been working steadily on my project, and I have been managing my classes. I am stressed, of course, and the strain of managing so much work has taken its toll on me. Yet, I am still here — swinging — as they say. I am still hanging tough, and I am placing my faith, my whole kernel of faith, on the Lord. He is able to do this work. He is able to manage my needs. He is able to supply every want and need with sufficiency.

As I woke up, I couldn’t help but think about how fortunate I am to be alive. I mean, I am in one-piece, and thanks be to God, I am still able to mentally control my thoughts. I have had a life of stress, and I have suffered from mental exhaustion and anguish for now on 30 years. My brain has had to function through fog and fear, and in the end, there were times when I really thought I was going to lose control, I was going to go crazy. I know that sounds awful, but for someone that has struggled with mental issues, and I readily admit this, it is a constant fear that I am going to go insane. I know, I am not. I guess I just mean that I will someday lose my ability to think — to rationally, to logically, and to completely — be able to think, to process, to create, to develop, and to communicate. I don’t know why, but I have had this feeling lately that I am at the breaking point, mentally. I never imagined that getting a PhD would be so difficult. In truth, it is not that the degree is so difficult, rather it is all the extra stuff that goes on while you are getting the degree that becomes difficult. Consider it this way:

I teach 6 classes each semester
I care for my Mom (part-care) who has Alzheimers
I care for my Dad (part-care) who is disabled due to Post-Polio
I care for my college-aged son
I am almost finished with my PhD
I have no solid work — just adjunct — which is contractual
I am single, without any support other than what the Lord provides for me
I am menopausal, and that means my hormones are depleted, so my body is screaming for help

In all, I have stressors that deal with family life as well as stressors that are related to work, life, and the balance between the two. I am mentally overwhelmed. I am seriously depleted physically, and emotionally, well, I am at a point where I have pretty much shut down all my emotions just to manage these other things.

Spiritually, I am strong. Spiritually, I am a work horse, so to speak. I believe in faith that the Lord has a plan for my life, and that His plan is good. I believe the Word of the Lord, the testimony of the Saints, and in this way, I walk on in faith. I don’t mean to toot my own horn; no, not at all. I just mean that without my faith in God, I would not function. I would not be able to handle all of this. I would literally be falling apart. Instead, He has made this way possible. He has made it possible for me to work at this grueling pace, to deliver the goods, to meet each appointment, and to keep all of this rolling forward. How is this possible? It is only possible because He has determined for it to be so, and as a result, His will is coming to pass in and through my life. He has done this for me. He has made this all possible, and praise be to God, my life is GOOD. My life is so very good. I wouldn’t change one bit of it, save maybe less mental stress, nor would I want to change any of the issues, concerns or items on my to-do list. No, this is the life I want. This is the life He has given to me, and I readily, cheerfully, and with a grateful heart, accept it. He is good to me. He gives me good things, and I love Him deeply and devotedly. He is my ALL IN ALL.

Planning for a Future Life

I sit here today and I blog. I blog about the little things in my life. I blog about my blessings, my fortunate blessings, and I give Him thanks for the beauty with which He surrounds my life. In fact, today, as I was driving my son over to church so he could go with the Jr. High Group to Disneyland this weekend, I was thanking the Lord for the provision of this life. I mean, here is my son, aged 23, and the Lord has made sure that he is never far from church or the reach and influence of the church. My son has doubts in his faith. He struggles with normal young man issues, but he has remained a part of the local church since he was a child. He has continued to serve at church, to work at church, and to attend church. He is faithful. He is strong. He is so blessed.

As we were driving over to Scottsdale, he was telling me about the opportunities he will have to travel for school this spring. In March, he has at least two trips for music/performance as part of his scholarship commitment. He is touring, promoting the school, and as such, he is getting to travel and enjoy the freedom of being a young adult. God has provided such wonderful mentors for him at his school, and then He has provided strong young men to befriend him and encourage him. This, of course, was my prayer way back when. I mean, when I separated from my ex-husband, my biggest concern was my son’s spiritual welfare. The Lord has graciously provided a covering for him, and today, he is strong, determined, and well, so well.

I am confident that the Lord has a good plan for His life, and that plan will include music, musical direction, technical direction as well as teaching. He is working part-time as a teaching assistant, and now he is thinking he would like to become an adjunct instructor when he graduates next spring (2018). This is the Lord’s doing for certain. He has made this way possible, and praise be to God, I am rejoicing with the Saints and the angels in heaven that God’s will is being done in and through my son’s life as well as my own. He is so good to us! He is so very good to us!

My life plans are still in flux, but I know that the Lord intends to establish me as a teacher. I may not remain in Arizona, but for the near term, this is where I am to be settled. I still think about moving away, to a new place, but until the Lord opens that door, I will remain where I am — contentedly where I am — I should say. Thus, my life is planned according to His will, and that means that wherever He leads, I will follow. I can no longer see my life separated from my King, my Savior, and my Lord. He is everything to me, and without Him, I would literally fall a part, to pieces, I mean. I need Him to hold me together, and I thank Him for doing just that, for keeping my life — my whole life — as one happy, healthy, whole piece!

Today, thus marks a turning point for me. I had mentioned yesterday how I had to let things go and just accept the fact that I could not finish on my own. I had to let go of the intellectual desire to control the outcome, and as such, I have been able to accomplish much good work. Now, I must move on. Now, I must pick up my stake and move to the next spot in the road. The Lord has asked me to move, and I have agreed. I am moving on down the road, and I am making plans to be settled in this new place, this new spot for a while. I may remain in Phoenix or I may go some place else, but regardless of the physically location, I am mentally engaged and actively seeking His will. I am choosing His will over any desire I have, and in this way, I am saying that there will be no other way save His will, His way. I am bearing testimony that today, specifically, I walk out in faith. I honestly do not know how I will do what He is asking me to do, but I am being moved — pulled along by His merciful current — and soon there will be a resting place. Soon, I will find a little byway to sit and spend time resting. Until then, the current is swift and at times it appears dangerous. My Lord holds me tightly, and He keeps me afloat. Yet, I long for the still water, the place where I can simply bathe in the warmth of the sun while the water gentle moves by. Until that time, however, I cling to Him. I hold fast to what I know is the truth, and I do not let go. I must not let go. He will see me through, and in His way, I will arrive at that place of rest in one piece. I will arrive in one glorious piece, praise God!

Now, I must make ready for the changes that are to come into my life this good day. No matter what happens to me, I will stay steady, remain focused, and determine to complete the tasks He asks me to do. No matter what happens today, I will not let go of Him. I will hold on to Him, and I will trust that He will see me through the next one-two-three weeks before my final defense. He is good to me, so very good to me!

In Closing

Today, thus is a good day. I have completed this week, and I am ready for the weekend. I still have some prepping to do before class, but generally speaking, I am in such a good place. I am in such a very good place. My God has made me healthy. He has helped me overcome fear — the fear of change — and the fear of the unknown. He has made me strong, resilient and like the blessed Cedars of Lebanon — I stand tall, strong, and unbending. I am strong. I am healthy. I am good. He has given me a bright and beautiful future, and that future is filled with such hope.  Thus, as I prepare for this good day, I remember that He is in control of my future. I make no plans outside those that He has determined for me. I wait on Him to unleash His mercy, His grace, and His blessed goodness. I wait for Him to open doors and to move me through those open doors. I wait for Him to enable me to do the work He has planned for me to do. It is with His assurance, His promise, and His provision that I do all these things. I take no credit, no honor, no praise. I am thankful, grateful, but I give Him the praise, the honor, and the glory. He alone is worthy! He alone is so worthy to be praised!