March 18, 2017

Blessings of Rest and Relaxation

It is a blessed Saturday here in sunny and warm, Phoenix. Yes, the air temperature is going to hit mid-90s today, and praise be to God, I am ready for the warm weather. In fact, I am so ready for summer, that I am thinking of starting my bikini diet today (LOL!) Well, let’s just say, I am thinking of going low-carb to see if I can shake loose the extra 10 pounds I added to my petite frame since last summer. I have wanted to do this, tried to do, planned and prepared to do it, but with all the stress over work and my doctoral studies, I simply gave up, gave in, and wimped out. Now, though, I am feeling more refreshed, more relaxed, and well, more ready to really get this old body back into some semblance of shape. Good shape, that is. I have let go my desire to be skinny again, and now, I simply want to be trimmed and toned and have less flab around my hips, thighs, and middle. I do want to lose 20 pounds still — that magic number — but between you and me and the wall, I will take 5, 10 or even 15 as a huge blessing and achievement.

Today, thus, I am going to have my eggs, and go low-carb (Atkins). I had success previously, and if I can kick my body into ketosis, I should be able to burn off 5-6 pounds in my first week. I know, hopeful, so hopeful. In reality, I would just be happy with a steady 1-2 pound drop over the next 7 weeks. Oh my goodness -- I would be so happy!

So with this in mind, I am marking my graduation date as my target today. I think if I can lose 10-14 pounds, and build some strength, I should be able to feel better and fit into my summer clothing. More so, my parents are planning to go to Indiana in mid-June now, so between now and then, it would be good to be somewhat slimmer. I would be more comfortable flying, and I would also feel better walking about in shorts. I know that in order to get the weight off, I have to start now. The longer I put it off, the more I will have to lose. I cannot delay any longer, and frankly, I know that I need to move — to physically get myself moving — so I can feel better and start looking better.

Plans for the Day

Today, my plans include resting, some work around the house, and taking care of my sick fish. Yes, I need to do a deep cleaning of Lenny’s tank, and I also need to do some regular house cleaning. My Mom and I may go out to the store later on, but generally, I am going to take it easy. This is my Saturday before my break, and while I can laze about some, I really need to take care of some business dealing with my house and home.

My son is in Las Vegas, and part of me would really love to get into his room and do a deep cleaning of it. He will be back home on Monday, and then he leaves for Southern CA on Wednesday. In all likelihood, I won’t be able to get into his room or do anything because he really doesn’t like it whenever I do. My prayer is that someday soon he will get bitten by the “clean” bug, and he will start to keep his room tidy. Until then, sigh! I simply keep his door closed.

I am excited to think that soon, perhaps very soon, I may be out on my own again. I am not tossing my parents out, by any means, I just am thinking forward to the day when I will be able to plan for my own home, and that thought, excites me. I am so ready to be my own person, to be on my own, and to be able to move forward in the life the Lord has for me. He has made my new life possible, and He has made my life so good. I don’t mean to brag because I know that there are many people out there who are suffering with unfortunate circumstances. Many people I know are struggling with debt, loss of jobs, illness, and other physical and psychological concerns, and in truth, their “life” is not very good at the moment. I understand this is the case, and while I don’t mean to boast about my life being so “great” and all, I cannot hide the truth, and that is that for some reason, the Lord has chosen to bless my life during this season of it. I take no credit for it. I have done nothing to warrant it. I am simply bearing testimony to the fact that the Lord has chosen, seen fit rather, to create a life for me that is modest, comfortable, and oh so very, good.

He is good, so very good to me! Selah!

Thinking and Moving Forward

I am trying to figure out why things seem to be going so well for me. I mean, it was less than two months ago when I was so panicked, so worried, and so fearful that my life was not getting any better. Then, I had this epiphany moment whereby I made the conscious decision to embrace the life the Lord has provided, accept the fact that I am poised and positioned to remain here in Phoenix, and well, the stress, the strain, and the struggle seemed to simmer down. I mean, I started to feel better, more content, and more at peace than ever before. I started to accept the fact that I may never have one job; rather, I would have work at multiple jobs. I also gave up hope for that illustrious title of “Assistant Professor,” and instead, I accepted the title of “Adjunct Instructor.” It was hard for me to let these thoughts go, but in the end, I made the decision to be gracious and thankful for the good gifts the Lord has already given to me. He has blessed me beyond all measure of blessing, and to want more than what I currently have, well, that was the mark of greediness. Should the Lord choose to lift me up, so be it. But, should the Lord choose to keep me down, right where I am at present, well, I have to respond in the same way. I have to say, “So be it, Lord. Not my will, but thy will be done.”

The Lord appears to not be doing the latter, and instead, He has opened doors for me to be successful right here in Phoenix. This thought scares me to some extent because my heart has been fixed on moving someplace else — any where, really — but here. Now, though, I see that the Lord has made it possible for me to remain here in Phoenix, to have enough work to earn a decent living, and to be comfortable to boot. This means that while I don’t own my own house yet, there is a possibility that in time, I could buy a small home that would fit my needs well. I could afford a home, I mean. This thought is what excites me more than anything because I had come to be so fixed on the idea that it was impossible for me to ever purchase a home in Phoenix (the median price of a home in my area is $250K). I never imagined even thinking that I could afford a home of this price, yet the Lord has shown me ways in which it will be possible -- in time -- that is.

What is more significant, is the fact that as I plan my life here in Phoenix, I come to see the blessing of being "planted." I have come to see that there is anxiety when we spend all our time looking for our future, and when we forget the opportunities that exist right here in the present. I have so wanted a "future" that was filled with hope, and I think after all the years where I spent living my life from hand-to-mouth, in fear of being evicted, and always looking backwards and over my shoulder for the tax man, I got into this habit of thinking that the only possible solution was to escape, to run away, and to find some new life -- over there -- in another place. Lately, though, I have come to see how the Lord has blessed me right where I am at now. He has given me good, practical work that I enjoy. He has made it possible for me to earn a living, a decent, yet modest living. I have my needs met, and with that fact, I can live comfortably now. I am no longer panicked about tomorrow. Moreover, as I consider my future, I see more of the same. I see the next 10-15 years of my life working as a college professor. I see my future include scholarship that focuses on the church and church communication. I see opportunities for presentation at conferences, travel, and other perks that come along with a life as a professor. Furthermore, while I see a lot of work -- and I mean -- WORK, I also see times of rest. I see that I will have my summers free, my holidays off, and in many ways, while I will work very hard during the school year, I will have significant down time to relax and recover. I will not be stressed to the breaking point, and I will have a future that is steady.

In many ways, this is what I asked the Lord for some 11 years ago. I remember praying, begging really, and asking Him to provide me with what I called "steady work." I wanted a career that wouldn't disappear tomorrow. I wanted one job, one career, whereby I could devote my life to pursuing and then when I was ready to retire, I could say, "Oh, yes, I was X for X years." I wanted a title to go with my name, and I wanted a job where I could simply say, "I was such and such." It is weird, but I always hated the fact that whenever I was asked "So what do you do for a career?" my  answer was always "I've done so many different things." I didn't want to be known as a "jack of all trades." No, I wanted to be known for doing one thing really well.

In my prayer back then, the idea of being a teacher always was first and foremost in my mind. I wanted to be a teacher, and often I would say this to the Lord. Lord, I wish I could say, "I was a teacher." I wanted to have the title of "teacher" attached to my name, and what is more, I wanted to work as a teacher until the time of my retirement. Little did I know back then that this was the path the Lord would choose for me to pursue. He opened the door up, and after some really shaky moments early on, I stepped on to this path, and well, I have been blessed to be able to remain in it. Now, I see this as my "title." I am a teacher, and I love it.

With Blessing Comes Loss

As my life began to change, however, so much of what I thought was real, steady, and true, fell away. It was like the Lord handed me a gift, but the exchange included significant loss. In the past 10 or so years, I have lost my marriage, my extended family, and through the heartache of divorce, I lost my own sense of self. In less than four years, I went from being someone's wife to a single person. I ended up as a no one, a nobody, a person without any family ties, no future, no hope. I was shattered, and it was so hard to lose that sense of who I was and what I knew, but I understood that I had to go through the shredding process so that the Lord could give to me this life of newness and blessing.  As such, I am a different person now. I have a different life, and now, I am in this wonderfully blessed place where I can begin to imagine myself in this career, living as a professor, and doing professorial work for the rest of my days. The Lord has blessed me with a future filled with opportunity and hope. He has blessed me and made my life good.

Therefore, as I close out this blog post, I am reminded of the words of Jeremiah 29:11 where the Lord said to the nation of Israel:

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

The plan the Lord has for my life is known only to Him. He has made a way for me to prosper in this place, in this land, and He has given me a future that is filled with hope. Today, I look up, and with a heart filled with gratitude, I express my thanks to God, my Father, for His gracious and merciful gifts. He has given me a future and a new hope, and for that, I am thankful. I am so very thankful to God, my Savior and my King. He has redeemed me, saved me, and placed me on this path toward future glory. May God be praised forevermore, and may His Name be honored throughout all the nations.

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