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.

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