March 4, 2017

Planning for My Future

Happy Saturday! It is a lovely day here in sunny and warm, Phoenix. The skies are clear, and the air temperature is warm, but not too hot (yet!) It is March 4th, and that means that spring has arrived in the desert. The wildflowers are in bloom, and frankly, the desert is abound with the sights, sounds, and smells of spring!

March is by far my favorite month. I think it is breathtakingly beautiful when all the flowers are planted in and around homes, businesses, and resorts. I love to drive down the major north-south thoroughfares during this month just to see how the planned developments have “fitted” out their entrances.

Normally, there is a profusion of color, and the clear and mild air just makes for a beautiful day to stroll, to sit, and to enjoy the blessing of Phoenix. Of course, in a month’s time, the heat will be back, and well, it will quickly turn hot. But until then, Phoenix is beautiful, and I am blessed to be here in this lovely city on this very good, good day.

This morning arrived with a thud, LOL! Well, according to my Dad, it actually arrived with the sound of a machine gun blaring next to his window. In truth, it was one of our desert Woodpeckers. They tend to come out now and really get to pecking the side of the house, especially the roof line and fire place in order to attract a mate. The rapid-fire sound of their “pitt, pitt, pitt” is annoying, but it simply means that life is in full-swing here in the Valley of the Sun, and for all its intents and purposes, it is a good thing.

Realizing His Good Provision

I woke up after being startled by my cat Winston as he jumped on the bed. I tried to roll over, but soon I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to fall asleep again (not with the boys playing on the bed) so I got up, and I took care of their needs. Now I am settled down with my coffee to do some work on the computer. Winston, my faithful companion, is on my desk. My mind is filled with all sorts of thoughts, some of them unpleasant (something to do with work), but generally, I am thankful that today is a low-key day. I have little work to do since my class at ASU ended, and my two classes at Regent wrap up today. I have some left-over grading for GCU, and I need to begin my presentation for my defense, but overall, today is a very calm and quiet day. Praise God! It is such a calm and quiet day!

After I rolled out of bed and took care of the personal to-do’s that I do every morning, I settled down at my computer to take care of some business. I paid a bill (oh, how I love online bill-pay), and then checked my bank accounts. I am in a good place with my finances right now, and with the opportunity to add another school to my list of contracts, I feel confident that my income will continue to increase overtime. I spent some time reviewing my accounts, and then I opened savings account (at my second bank).  It feels good to spread the wealth around, so to speak. It’s not like I have a ton of money right now, but I have enough that I can move it around a bit, and that thought is so encouraging to me. I love the fact that I have extra income that I don’t need to live on. This extra cash, while not a huge amount, represents a major change in my financial situation and my financial future. For the first time in seven years, I am in this place where I can actually say that I don’t need money, that I don’t NEED money.

I hate to say that aloud, but the truth be told, I am in a good place — so long as my contracts hold out. I mean, if any of them fall out of place, then I will need to scramble some. But for now, all is well. This is why I am taking advantage of the “flush” to set aside “nuts for winter,” LOL! Yes, I am storing my money in places where it will stay put, Lord willing. Of course, I am reliant on Him for His goodness and provision, so everything I do, I do for His name and His praise. I thank Him today for the blessing of bill paying, for the blessing of having enough to cover my needs. I am thanking Him today for the “extra” that has come to me, and that with this extra, I am able to put some money aside for future use. My prayer today is that this provision stream continues, and that over the next six-eight months, I will continue to see prosperity and promise for my future. This is my prayer, this is my prayer.

Making Some Plans for Tomorrow

So with this in mind, I am starting to think about my future tomorrows. I have been in this holding pattern since I started my doctoral program, and now that I am almost finished, I am in this good place. My life is beginning to be settled, and with this settled feeling, I am ready to put down roots and start to make plans for the next five, 10 and 20 years. Yes, I am in long-term planning mode today, and it feels so good to finally be able to see past my graduation date. For many people, this long-range planning is something that they either forget to do or they never feel they are able to do. Most of the time, the reason they forget or cannot seem to get around to planning long term is simply because they are so focused on making ends meet — the necessities and daily business — that is life. I know that feeling well. I remember how long I lived in that scary place, whereby every effort, every thought, was constricted and focused on just one thing — getting through each day.

My former life was like that, always busy with today, and never forward-thinking toward tomorrow. My ex was great about talking about doing things “down the road,” but we never made plans and we never made the changes necessary to see those plans come to pass. In the end, it was just talk. A whole lot of talk. After our divorce, I made the conscious decision to do something better, to plan my life, and to actually pursue the plan. It has been difficult to do the work involved in carrying out the plan (the planning part is easy for me), but I have to say that I have learned the value and the lesson in carrying it out. I’ve learned to endure, to patiently wait for outcomes, and even to suffer the disappointment when outcomes didn’t come to pass as I had hoped they would. Still, the lesson has been valuable, and I have realized that I can develop powers and behaviors that have the ability to affect change.

When I look back on my life, I see how my plan of action has come to pass. First off, I was able to accomplish two major life goals in just seven short years. I accomplished a major career change, at the mid-point of my life, and I completed my advanced education right in the middle of a significant life change. I am in this wonderfully warm place right now, but not without hard work and effort. No, I had to really sacrifice, make difficult choices, and in the end, I accomplished my goals. Now, I am ready to make some new goals, some new plans, and to begin to move toward the life I believe the Lord has in mind for me.

This life, the life I believe He is asking me — no providing for me — is different then I expected. I have had some time to consider it, to think deeply about it, and now that my mind is clear (as in not so cluttered with dissertation thoughts), I am able to more effectively consider my life and what I want from my life. Interestingly, that is a new phrase for me to say — what I want from my life. You see, for so many years, I have lived as a people pleaser. Yes, I admit it. I used to believe that the only way to make people like me was to please them. I was a people pleaser, and because of my need for approval, I would do most anything to keep people from being mad at me. I worked hard to make people like me, accept me, and even approve of me. The problem with being a people pleaser is that often I would get taken advantage, and in the end, rarely did these people like, accept or approve of me. It was wasted effort.

Lately, I have come to see my life, my personality, my gifts, and my talents as being “on loan” from the Lord. He has given me everything I need to be successful in this life, and with His blessing and provision, I am being asked to use what He has given for His name and His praise. This means that in all my weirdness, my wired ways, I am being asked to put on my “big girl panties” and go out in the big and bad world and take the light of Christ into places where there is darkness. Yes, I am being asked to bloom where I am planted, to do His work right where I am at, and in doing so, I am being asked to make a difference in the lives of those the Lord brings to me. This is my calling. This is my ministry, and as such, I am being asked to accept the terms and conditions of His agreement — His covenant — and in doing so, I am accepting His offer, His provision, His goodness. It is a trade off. He provides for me so I can do His work. He guides me to where He wants me to do His work. He leads me (shows me, helps me, teaches me) so I can be effective in that work. In all, I do this work for Him, and as such, He makes sure that whatever comes from my effort — there is praise as a result. Yes, I may not receive the praise of men, but He receives the praise, and that is all that really matters. Selah!

This is why it is important to not squander the time the Lord has given to each one of us. It is vitally important that once you figure out your calling, your mandate, and you receive your provision, you don’t waste time, but rather, you get down and dirty. You must stick your hands in the dirt and start working. I realized this fact earlier in the week. I was stressed over a work situation (a minor issue), and I was panicked over my dissertation. In all, neither were worth worrying over, yet I let both distract me from some important — more important — issues. As I was praying over my life, the Lord simply reminded me that when I say I trust Him, I am to actually trust Him. This means I am to live as though I trust Him. I am to act as though I really do trust Him.

If you trust me, then you will not worry.
If you trust me, then you will believe what I am saying is true.
If you trust me, then you will let go and rest (cease striving).

In all things, if I say I trust the Lord implicitly, then I really do need to act as if my trust is firmly and securely placed in Him — KWIM?

This week, I realized that I was trusting the Lord for most everything. In fact, I was active in faith, believing and even resting in the Lord completely. Good things started to happen for me, and with those good things, prosperity and blessing seemed to be falling from the sky like manna from heaven. I started to sense that I was walking in my purpose, that I was right where I was meant to be, and that the Lord was pleased with my efforts. In short, He liked what I was doing in His name, and He approved of me (accepted me too). Yes, I began to feel approved in His eyes, and with that sense, I began to see that whenever I put trust into action, good things happen.

What This Means Today

In many ways, I guess you could say that I learned the lesson of trust. I learned what it meant to put words to deeds, and as a result, I received blessing. In my case, this blessing was the reward of a possibly permanent full-time job. I am ecstatic in thinking about it this way, and perhaps in the next week or so, once I know more of the details, my thoughts might change on that matter. But, for now, I am hopeful, expectant, and oh so very happy with the provision the Lord has gracious given to me.

Thus, as I think about this new provision of work, I am able to begin to make plans. Prior to this time, I was stuck, so to speak. I believed that the only way forward came as part of a relocation package — a job offer. I never expected to be offered a position that I had applied for almost three years prior, but this is what has happened. Now, I wait on the details, and with that waiting, I am anticipating my next steps.

The good news is that this job doesn’t require relocation. It is online so I am able to stay put, to continue to live where I live now, and to work heartily unto the Lord while He prospers me here in Phoenix. In many ways, this job simply confirms to me what I already had been feeling. I have sensed for the past two years or so that the Lord was going to provide me with a job that was online. This was in part to facilitate caring for my aging parents. Secondly, and more importantly, it substantiates a claim the Lord made to me over 10 years ago that I would (a) work from home and (b) live wherever I wanted to live without concern for the place. I naturally assumed that working from home would mean remaining as a website designer (my former job) and that living where I wanted to live was somehow still going to be restricted to a particular place. Now, though, I realize that the Lord has provided both to me — all without moving me one iota — from where I am at present.

Additionally, as my prayers for my parents well-being and my son’s needs have filled my daily prayer calendar, my worries over their care are no longer an issue. I realize that the Lord has called me to care for my parents through the end of their lives, and while that may be difficult for some to fathom, the truth is that I have known this would be the case for four years. It became more obvious in 2015-2016, and now that we are 1/4 of the way through 2017, the need is significant. My parents need me to care for them, and the Lord has tasked me with this job. I am content to remain as their primary caregiver through their days end, as the Lord wills. I trust Him. I believe He will care for me, and through me, He will provide for their care as well.

Moreover, I have prayed for a home of my own, and while I don’t mind sharing a place with my parents, I would like my own things. Yet, I have not felt the urge to move, as in find my own place. I have simply believed that (a) the Lord will offer me a job someplace else, and (b) I would buy a home once I was settled. Now, however, the Lord has offered me a job here, and I believe that I will buy a place in the Phoenix area very soon. I never thought it could be possible to buy a home here, but that was because I was thinking small. I was imagining my life as adjunct, my puny income, and my high debt. Now, I see my life as full, with a good income, and low debt. Plus, the Lord has graciously showed me that I can spend a moderate amount of money and purchase a lovely home. I don’t have to live in my old run-down neighborhood, rather I can live in a lovely neighborhood with lovely homes. I simply need to be patient and wait for the right house to come on the market. In His time, owning a home in Phoenix is possible.

Change Your Mind, Change Your Future

Some of this has been the result of a mind change. In fact, it was two weeks ago, after a rather bad day at GCU, that I asked the Lord for His help to change my mind. Note: I asked for a mind change, and not an attitude change (I will explain). I remember the day well. It was ONE of Those days when everything seemed to be going downhill fast. Yes, nothing was going well for me, and on top of my bad experience on campus, I was stressed beyond my limit, panicked over my dissertation deadline, and feeling grumpy about the lack of happy times at home. It was a “bad day at Black Rock,” so to speak.

I remember walking to my car, almost crying, and asking the Lord to help me. I really was in bad shape, and I needed His help. As I uttered the words, I heard myself say, “Lord, your word says that we have the mind of Christ, so that means that my mind is supposed to be thinking about things the way you think about them. My heart should be aligned with the Father’s will, and my actions should produce the results you want.” I stopped in my tracks, and then I said, “Lord, this is not what I am seeing happen in my life right now. I am not acting like I should. Help me to have a new mind, your mind, and to think and to see life as you see it.”

After I spoke those words, I got in my car and headed home. I don’t recall anything magically happening to me, but over the next couple of days, I started to feel less upset, less stressed, and generally less worried. Granted, I was focused on my dissertation, and the issues at school subsided, so it was difficult to say these changes were the result of my prayer. I chalked them up to better times — that is — until today, I mean.

As I reflect back over the past couple weeks, I see many things, but mostly I see my attitude change. I mentioned above that I had asked for a mind change and not just an attitude change, and here is why. An attitude simply is defined as “a settled way of thinking or feeling about someone or something, typically one that is reflected in a person’s behavior” (Dictionary.com). This definition is stating that attitude stems from the way one thinks, and that thinking differently begets different behaviors. It is a progressive change that begins with the mind and ends with action. Thus, in my case, while I wanted different behaviors, in order for that to happen, I had to have a mind change (change my thinking).

One of the first things to change in my life over the past two weeks was my appreciation of Phoenix. I made the decision, literally, to think of Phoenix in positive terms and not negative terms. I changed my thinking about this desert place, and while I didn’t lose grip on reality because come June when it is 120 degrees, well it will still be HOT and miserable! I simply chose to see the beautiful instead of the bad. 

The second thing to change was my thinking about my role as caregiver for my parents. Again, I decided to accept the fact that the Lord called me to this time and place, and thus, this was His will in the matter. I accepted my role, for what it is worth, and I decided to be happy in it.

The third thing to change was my thinking about my work, my job, and the prospect of working full-time. I had already accepted that I might have to remain as adjunct for a while, and rather than panic over the income, I simply decided to accept the fact that the Lord was responsible for that income, and as such, He would determine how much was “enough” for me. This meant that whether I taught one job or five, the Lord would measure out my portion as He determined it was best. I rested in His sufficiency and abilities, and as such, I trusted Him to be my provider.

The last thing to change was my thinking about moving or relocating to another place all together. I looked over my options, and I realized that a place is just a place, and a house is just a house. I may “prefer” to live in Illinois or Wisconsin because those are places of happy childhood memories, but life is not going to be better there (it might or it might not). Instead, I decided to bloom here, right where the Lord had me planted, and with that thought, I began to see that while I might not like Phoenix homes (the style, I mean), since a home is just a home, as long as it is warm in the winter and cool in the summer, it is fine. I will be happy. I will be satisfied.

In all, my mindset shifted, and I stopped seeing the negatives and I started to see only positives. The other day, as I was driving across town, I looked over the mountain preserve and I said to myself, “Lord, this is a beautiful place from up here.” The road I take over to GCU goes through Lookout Mountain, and from the top, the vista is lovely. As I made my way over to school, I realized that there are some lovely neighborhoods tucked in here and there. Furthermore, there are lovely shopping centers, and other necessities all along the way. In truth, I live in a metropolitan city that provides the best healthcare in the nation, the best quality of life (people do come here to retire), and a generally conservative political approach to governance (plus low taxes). My mind started to see the good that is here, right in front of me, and with that shift, I realized that the place where I live is not all that bad.

What is more is the fact that as I started to walk to class the other day, I prayed over my job at GCU. I thanked the Lord for His graciousness in providing this job, and I thanked Him for my students. I saw my ministry in focus, and I realized that despite the negative situation I am in currently, the outcome will be good, regardless of that sticky point. I will go and minister to these students, and in doing so, I will please my Father in heaven, which is all that matters. I will do what the Lord wants, and if others are unhappy about it, so be it. I will be gracious, good, and kind, and I will trust the Lord for His provision and His protection over me. I will love the Lord, and I will love these students. May the Lord be praised in all I do for He is good to me. He is so very good to me.
In Closing

As I reflect on God’s goodness today, I realize that the reason why I have experienced such blessing the last couple weeks has been because of the prayer I prayed. I honestly asked to have the mind of Christ — to think and to do — the things Christ would do. I haven’t stopped everything, mind you, and I am not experiencing uber goodness in every area of my life, but I am feeling better, definitely more positive and hopeful, and what is more, I simple feel content, happy and at peace. In all, that prayer was the best prayer I could have prayed in my view. I plan on praying for the mind of Christ daily, not as in “may I have it,” but rather as in “may I walk it out” so that my Father in Heaven is pleased. This is my prayer today. “Lord, may I walk out my purpose, and may I live out the mind of Christ each day as you lead, guide, and provide for me.”

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