April 25, 2017

Wake Up Call

It is Tuesday, and today is my final “day off” for the semester. I know that sounds weird, but for the past couple years, I have reserved my Tuesdays and Thursdays during the fall and spring semesters as “work from home” days. It was on these days that I completed the majority of my studies in my doctoral program. I also used these days for grading student assignments. My Tuesdays and Thursdays at home were important to me. They functioned as rest days as well as work days, but the combination worked well simply because I was at home and not pressured to be any where in particular. Technically, today is my last work from home day because tomorrow, Wednesday, is the official end of the semester at GCU. This means that come Thursday, I will be “on summer vacation” from my campus-teaching duties. I will still have online classes to finish, but generally speaking, I will be in full-on vacation mode.

I have to say that despite the day off, I am not relaxed or at rest. In truth, I am feeling panicked and stressed, and those feelings are making this blessed day seem less than “blessed.” I am good, I mean. I am in a good place, and praise be to God, I have a good plan of attack, a good future set in front of me, and I am about to close out a very good, but hard, four years of work towards my lifetime goal of a PhD. I have finished strong, and I am ready to move on to my next goal. However, I am not 100% sure what that next goal is right now. I have some ideas, some thoughts on the matter, but really I am not sure where I am to go or what I am do to for the next year, two years, or five years of my life.

Today, I feel confused. Today, I feel out of sorts. Today, I feel like I need clarification from the Lord so that I know what path He wants me to follow (this one, of course). I need to know that I am right where I belong, and that the plans He has for my life, are coming to pass. I don’t need to do anything differently, go anywhere special, or plan anything at all; rather, I need to simply stand. I need to stay right where I am and wait on the Lord for His blessed clarification and confirmation.

I am thinking that the reason why I feel so confused today is simply because this is the end of the semester and there are tasks that must be done. Yet, I know I will accomplish everything on my plate, it is more so that I am panicked a bit over the details. I feel like I have lost my focus, and perhaps, I have shifted my line of sight somewhat and now I am off-kilter. This could explain why I feel the way I do. Perhaps I moved to the left, when I should have moved right. Or perhaps the Lord told me to stand still, and I didn’t listen and moved ever so slightly off His intended mark. I missed the mark, as they say in the “biz.” I didn’t step on the white X that He so clearly marked for me. I don’t know, but I feel like this is partly why I am struggling so this week.

Furthermore, I know that my graduation from Regent is important, and not just to me, but to the Lord’s work. This reason, in and of itself, could be why I feel so down. I mean, I know I must be commissioned for His work, and to fail to do so, would be displeasing to my Father in Heaven. Thus, I must go to Regent, go to the ceremony, and I must be dedicated and commissioned by my School and Faculty. It is non-negotiable. It must be done. My enemy doesn’t want me to do either thing because that would mean I was released to fulfill my mandate and my calling. Being commissioned is the first step in being empowered by the Holy Spirit to do His specific work, therefore, I must go and be commissioned.

As I consider all of these things, I realize that I am being harassed by my enemy. He is causing a great deal of confusion for me. I feel muddled in my head today. I feel like I have this oppressive little cloud surrounding me, and that with that cloudiness, my glasses/my vision is foggy. I need clarification. I need to be able to see my path clearly.

Lord, please help me this day to see my path, to know your will, and to feel confident that I am right where I am supposed to be.
Leaning On and Trusting in the Lord

So as I mentioned above, I am needing some clarification that I am right where I am supposed to be, and that despite my feelings of unwellness, I need some confirmation that the Lord has me so well covered this good, good day. In short, I need a wake-up call from the Lord.

Merriam-Webster defines a wake-up call as “a person or thing that causes people to become fully alert to an unsatisfactory situation and to take action to remedy it.” I am thinking that this is what I need today — some person or thing — to help me see what I need to do or what actions steps I need to make in order to get myself moving forward again. Yes, I need a wake-up call from the Lord. I need to hear His sweet voice tell me that everything will be okay, that my life is in good order, and that all my efforts, my hard work, and my faithfulness have not been for naught (as the saying goes). I need to know that my life matters, that it really, really matters.

I am normally the one who encourages others. I am normally the cheerleader who shouts out exhortations of “You can do it! The Lord has you in His hand! Trust Him!” Today, though, I need a good shout out. I need some measure, some communication, some—something to help me feel as if my hard work and effort to get my PhD has been worth it. I know this sounds crazy, but I actually feel so low today that I cannot imagine how I will pick myself back up. I need a boost of confirmation, encouragement, and simply affirmation that will help me scale the next mountain, lift that heavy burden, and yes, “Keep on, keeping on.” He is able. He is good. He is my Victor and Champion, and in Him I can do all things. I know this is true, but I need some simple motivation, inspiration, and good news to help me feel better.

Proverbs 3:5-6 says that we are trust in the Lord. We are to not lean on (or rely on) our own understanding, but rather we are to acknowledge the Lord as Sovereign and Wise. In this way, we shift our focus from our own faulty abilities, and we look to the One who is Perfect, all-knowing, and all-wise. We will find the answers we seek when we seek the Lord. The promise from Scripture is that  “if” we do this — trust, rely on, and acknowledge Him — then He (God) will make our paths go straight (as toward His ultimate goal for us). I believe this is true, and therefore, I know that whenever I feel confused, confounded, or simply concerned about my life, in general, I have shifted my focus from Him to me. I have changed my perspective, and unfortunately, from my perspective things tend to look hopeless and bleak. Yet, from His perspective, everything is always in clear focus. Thus, it is to my good, to my benefit to look up and to look away from my daily life. I am to look toward His glory, which is His coming again. I am to look toward His second coming, and to take heart and know that where I am today is right where the Father desires me to be — in His merciful, tender, and compassionate care. I may not be on the best footing, and the plans may be a bit wonky, but I am in His care, and He has hold of me. I can carry on simply with the knowledge that He has promised to never leave me nor forsake me.
Resting In and Yielding to His Provision

I guess what this means, all of this rambling, is that lately I have been fixated on my future. I have been so focused on what will be in a month, two months, or ten months, that I haven’t really taken any time to evaluate my progress thus far. I have simply had laser vision, and in this way, I have missed the forest because of all the trees. I feel as if the Lord is reminding me that despite my feelings, which wane, I have been blessed and favored over the course of the past 7-10 years. He has never once let me go, never once not provided for me, and never once said that it was up to me to “figure my life out.” Rather, the Lord has graciously provided good practical work, comfortable living spaces, and exciting career and educational goals for me to pursue. 

More so, He has opened doors for me that no man could have opened, and He has carefully ordered my steps so that I didn’t end up where I didn’t belong (or where He didn’t want me to belong). In short, my life, my entire life since my divorce was ordered, planned, and prepared for one thing and that was to prosper my way, to give me a future that was filled with blessed hope. My life went from bad to awful, but then in the midst of tragedy, His glorious light filled my darkness and showed me a way out. Yes, I received instruction on how to walk out of that dark and dank place, and with His merciful light shining brightly, I was able to see the path before me. I was able to see the path and once I trusted Him enough to be able to follow Him, I walked out of that darkness and into the beautiful sunshine that has been my life for the last dozen years.

In this way, the Lord opened the door to the cage that held me captive, and in doing so, He gave me permission to fly free from my self-imposed prison. It was in this open door that I first came to experience His forgiveness, and as I struggled to even walk through that door, I also heard Him promise me that He would help me, guide me, and provide for me. But, He said, I must trust Him. I must rely on Him. I must look to Him, and in doing so, He would show me the way to go.

I have come to this place of His mercy and grace, and every day, I give Him thanks for rescuing me from the hardships, the hardness, and the heartbreak that was my former life. Now, I have His blessing, His mercy, and His goodness, and day in and day out, I am not alone. He is with me. He is always with me, and He guides me, instructs me, and helps me to see possibilities where there seems to be no possible way. Luke 1:37 reminds us that with God all things are possible. We know that with man, many things are not possible, yet with God there are no limitations to His abilities. Thus, when we rest in and rely on Him, we open ourselves up to His provision, to His possibility. In this manner, we come to experience manifold blessings, opportunities that would not be available to us. We must rest in and yield to Him since He is the One who is providing and guiding us — and — we must resist the temptation to take hold of the reins and the desire to run our own way.

I have done this too many times to count, and unfortunately, I feel like I have done this again recently. I have attempted to “drive my own bus,” when the Lord is firmly in the driver’s seat. I have been that awful back-seat driver, telling Him what should and should be. Instead, I should have simply received His gracious provision, thanked Him for it, and let Him carry on. After all, He is Lord. He is King. He is God.

In closing, I realize that my feelings today are summed up in my own desire to determine my future. I have tried to “help” me make things come to pass. I should have waited as He instructed, so now I have this awful feeling of rushing the process. I should have simply let go, waited, and let the Lord do what He does best — show up and make miracles happen.

Heavenly Father, I admit that I tried to rush this process. I wanted to know where I would work, what type of job I would do, and even what kind of home I would live in. I have been pressuring you to reveal your will even though you said it would come to pass soon. I have tried to get you to relent, and in doing so, I have acted like a spoiled child who doesn’t get his or her way. I am sorry for my behavior, and I am sorry that I didn’t listen to your advice to simply rest in you completely. Now, I am miserable, and it is from my own hand and thoughts. I ask that you would forgive me from my sin of impatience, and restore to me your blessing and favor. I will wait. I will be patient. I will let you do what you need to do, and I will not look at the timing as being off or slow. I will wait, Lord. I will yield, submit, and patiently endure while you open the doors you desire to open. I ask this all in Jesus’ name, Amen.

April 24, 2017

Oh, Monday, Monday, Monday!

It is a beautiful Monday here in sunny, and yes, warm Phoenix. The skies are clear, and the air temperature is going hit close to 93 today. It is lovely outside right now, but the hot summer is just around the corner, and that means preparing for hot, hot, hot summer days. I am ready, really I am. I mean, this is my 21st year of living in the desert, and frankly, when you have survived one summer in Phoenix, you can survive another. I don’t mind them now like I used to do so. I do miss having access to a pool, though. My parents had a lovely pool that we used almost daily when my son was growing up. Since they downside and moved in with me, though, we are pool-less now. It is a good thing considering the cost to maintain a pool nowadays. Still, the thought of jumping in, relaxing in, and just enjoying a cool pool on a very hot summer day, well, it makes me SIGH!

I woke up this morning feeling less than chipper. I didn’t sleep well last night, and I suffered with feelings of panic all night long. Partly this was due to the sensation that I was being bitten by bugs. I have been suffering with bug bites for a long while now, and last night, I had this “itchy” feeling that simply wouldn’t go away. Yesterday, I woke up with a big round swelling on my forearm, and the Friday before, I had two similar bites on my right hand. I am not making this up, but I cannot for the life of me figure out what is biting me. ICK!

The worst part is that this whole bug-biting thing has caused me to go a bit OCD. It all coincided with my oral exams last year. I was stressed beyond stress, and after traveling to Virginia and passing my exams, I came home and experienced a rash on both of my upper arms. I looked like I had been bitten by some bug in five or six places on each arm. Of course, I itched them (scratched them), and then ended up with a mild secondary infection. The problem was that after those bites healed, I continued to scan my arms for more bites. This process of scanning for bites led me to fixate on them, and well, needless to say, I still have bites on my upper arms (new ones) and leftover scars from the previous ones. This “picking” process is actually a disorder, and while I am not proud to say that I have had this and do still when under extreme stress, I have to admit that part of the reason I still have open sores on my arms is because I simply wouldn’t let them heal initially.

Thus, I spent the entire night trying to not scratch. I put lots of Neosporin on my existing bites, but frankly, the pain and the itch is still bothering me today. I am determined to let this rest, and to simply let God and nature do what they do best, which is to heal wounds.

More so, last night, my mind raced over the impending semester end, and I struggled to deal with the fact that my three schools are all ending at similar times. My GCU classes end on Wednesday, my ASU classes end on May 2, and my Regent classes end May 6. I have so much grading to do between now and then, and well, I am STRESSED. Plus, I am flying to VA in May 3, participating in graduation, etc., and in between, I am going to be grading. Sigh!

So after a fitful and stressful night, I woke up thinking that I wished today was Wednesday. At the least, my summer would have started, and I could just finish grading and say “good bye” to one of the most difficult, stressful, and challenging semesters of my life. Sigh!
Resting in Him

I read this really interesting blog post today. It was written by strategist, Greg Morse, for John Piper’s organization, Desiring God. Morse wrote this article on April 17, and the theme was on finding contentment in singleness. I guess I read it because of the title, which really caught my attention, and said, “Marriage is not the Mission,” but in truth, I read it because I thought the topic itself was interesting to me.

Like I said, the title caught my eye, so I actually click on the link and read the entire article. In fact, I almost bookmarked it because I thought it was so good. Morse writes about a difficult subject for single people to discuss, especially with their married family and friends. In this article, he discusses the mistaken belief that God put the mission of marriage ahead of the great commission. More so, Morse stressed that for many people, married and singles alike, the belief that we were designed to be married has permeated our minds and made it almost impossible to find contentment in any place OUTSIDE this context.

As a formerly married person, this topic and his analysis struck a chord with me for several reasons. First, I had been married. I was married for almost 30 years, and in that time, I learned both the blessing and the curse of being united, one flesh. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the union. I love the covenant of marriage. It is was just that in my marriage, I didn’t really enjoy the blessing part of the union. I saw mostly the curse. However, notwithstanding, I am not anti-marriage nor do I see any issue with remarriage (on biblical grounds of course). It is just that I, too, have heard to comments, the encouragement from well wishers that “someday” I would find my “right person.”

Second, for my entire life (pre-marriage), I believed that a woman was only fulfilled within the context of marriage. I was raised in a conservative home, conservative church, thus I believed that my identity was more about being a wife and a mother than being a Christ follower. Yes, being someone’s wife and bearing children was considered a most high calling.

Third, during my marriage, I was constantly instructed that my place was in the home, and that my contentment came from being a “good wife” and a “good mother.” My husband was the head of my home, and as such, he was the provider. It was all very Godly and God-centered, but in my limited understanding, my joy was to come from my loving and protective husband and the fact that I was privileged to be a SAHM.

Last, despite the fact that I received a clear calling from God early on in my life, and without any hesitation I gave up my calling to pursue marriage, I spent the majority of my life feeling used, abused, and unfilled spiritually. Moreover, I felt guilt and shame for not following God’s call and mandate on my life, and what is more, I struggled with acceptance of my role especially when my husband believed my calling was somehow less important or material to his desire for wealth and prosperity.

Thus, I came to this article this morning (as it arrived on my feed) with a bit of apprehension and curiosity. As I mentioned, Morse stressed the fact that being married is indeed a blessed union, a sovereign covenant between God and man — yet — he framed his essay around what I consider to be a more important topic, and that is the great commission and the calling of all Christians to go and seek and save the lost.

You see, Morse identified something that I have seen as pervasive in conservative Christianity for a long time, and that is the misplaced understanding that marriage somehow supplants mission and ministry in God’s kingdom. Somehow good people, good God-fearing people, got this idea that the mission of the church was to “reproduce” rather than to “seek and save.” The words of Genesis 1:28 where God says to Adam, "God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground” became the mandate for all Christians. Our job was first and foremost to reproduce children. And, within Biblical context, this meant that we were to bear children in Christian families where both Mother and Father were united in love and community.

I am not disagreeing with God’s word in this matter at all, however, I do see Morse’ point. If you read the words of Jesus in Matthew 28, verses 16 and following,

"Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

If we look at the “therefore go and make,” the command given and the context does not assume that those going would be husband’s and wives; no, not in the least. The command was given to all people to “go” which suggests that Jesus placed the great commission on the minds and hearts of all His followers — men AND women — alike.

This reading simply suggests that while God’s original command to reproduce and subdue the earth is His intentional design, it never was meant to supplant Jesus’ call to all of us to be His ministers across this earth.

Thus, if you think about it realistically, while the desire to be married is normal, natural, and for most people, something they don’t really think much about, the drive to require marriage as “proof” of ministry fitness is outside the boundaries the mandate. It is man-made. Now, I know that the New Testament bears note because Paul wrote of the qualifications of an elder, and one of those qualifications was that the man be married — to one wife. However, not every disciple was a married man, thus to assume that only married men can serve in this capacity is again a man-made rule to interpret something that was framed in cultural context.

I guess what I am trying to say is this: God calls us all to serve Him. He gives ministries and gifts to each believer in Christ Jesus. We are all commanded to go and make disciples, and for many of us, we will do that as a team — a husband and wife — team. Yet, there is no mandate from scripture that required marriage before engaging in the mission, and that is the truth of Morse’ article. In fact, the author stresses that the mission should come FIRST.

As I thought about his words today, and I reflected on my own life, one thing is sure. I identified with his essay simply because as a single person who is wholly devoted to Christ Jesus, I have experienced more joy, more supernatural and blessed spiritual happiness since becoming single than in any of the many years I worked, served, and lived as a united team. In truth, I am much happier, satisfied, and content in Jesus now that I am single then when I was a married believer.

Furthermore, my calling and my mandate are significant parts of my new life. I see my calling now clearly, and I am empowered with vision and ability to do the work the Lord asks of me. I no longer am standing behind a man, who may or may not, agree that I should or shouldn’t engage in ministry. Rather, I go because the Lord calls me. I go without hesitation, and I work for His praise alone. Yes, I work alone. I am not lonely. I am filled with the blessed Holy Spirit, and I do this work for one reason: to bring praise to my Father in heaven.
Making Sense of This All

In this way, I realize that for many people, married is the natural consequence of physical attraction. It is God’s design for men and women, for sure; but it is not His only design. I believe God is no respecter of persons, in that He is able to use marrieds and singles in His Kingdom work. Therefore, while seeking marriage is a good thing, it is not to become the end goal, which is what I see many young people do. They think they will only be happy and fulfilled when they are married. Women, especially those raised in the church and in conservative homes, seek motherhood as their ultimate goal. This is a misapplication of Scripture, in my view. While marriage and motherhood is a blessed thing, placing such high focus on it is very Catholic in my opinion. The same is the whole idea that marriage has one purpose and that is to produce children. This idea is not only Catholic, but also Mormon inspired. Again, don’t get me wrong. I think children are a blessing, and scripture is clear in the way in which we are to treat the blessedness of children. However, we must remember that our mission first and foremost is in Matthew 28:16-20. It is not Genesis 1:28.

As I sit here today, I have come to this conclusion. Many good people are seeking love and fulfillment in one union alone. Jesus said we were to practice two things — baptism and communion. He didn’t say marriage was to be listed among these lasting ordinances. Marriage is a beautiful picture of God’s love for mankind and it represents the mutual submission of the Trinity. It is a good thing, a high honor, and yes, I believe a blessed institution. But for many people, marriage will never be something they will enjoy. Nor will they ever experience the blessing of children. No matter how much they seek to do so, they may never be united in holy marriage and produce children to mature in a holy family life.

The emphasis on mission over marriage really resonated with me because as Morse said so eloquently, the blessing, the fulfillment comes from a relationship with Jesus and not ones’ spouse. God be praised, if your spouse is united in ministry and mission. However, for those of us who are single, whether by design or unfortunate circumstances, the emphasis is on the mission. The mission, the mandate, and the calling are unique and wonderful provisions by the Lord. Therefore, it is vital to not miss the mission. God has a great plan for our lives, and He has many wonderful things in store for each one of us. If we make Him our priority, placing everything in submission to Him, then we will find that deep and satisfying contentment that can only be fulfilled by God. Everything else is as C.S. Lewis says, “is second.”

In conclusion, as I wrap up this post, I am reminded of Matthew 6:33, where Jesus says,

Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.
My goal is to seek Him first. Everything else will fall into place if I put my emphasis on Jesus Christ, alone.

April 23, 2017

Last Week Before Summer!

It is Sunday, and I am at home, once again. My son has my car, and I am here alone. It is a lovely day in sunny and warm, Phoenix, and praise be to God, I am ready to tackle my remaining grading. I want to finish everything on my plate so that I can be ready for the big finish: my last day of class on Wednesday. I am ready, so ready for this semester to be over!

I’ve got a lot on my plate today, thanks in part to a busy day yesterday.  My nephew, his girlfriend, and their good friend (from out of town), came over to visit mid-day. It was great to see them, but it interrupted my plan to grade. I goofed in thinking I could put off my grading until the afternoon (sigh!) and chose, instead, to go to the grocery store and to Kohls. I needed to do both, but you know…the best laid plans and all. I didn’t know they were coming over, so while I enjoyed visiting with them, my grading took a back seat. So now, I am yet again, behind the “eight ball.” I’ve got it covered, I am confident, but my plan to rest today has been ka-smooshed.

Frogs and Dreams

I rested semi-well last night. I went to bed quite early, and I think I fell asleep right away. I had a strange “teacher” dream, and I woke up this morning thinking about it, and what it meant, if anything. In the dream, I was in class with another teacher, about my age. This teacher reminded me of one of my son’s music teachers or a teacher from his college, ACU (why? I don’t really know, but she was older, heavy set with blondish/grayish hair). In my dream, I was explaining how to use proper references (library versus Internet), when this other teacher came in and began to explain that we were going to play a game. One of the students asked me about using an Internet source, and I was explaining the order of using good credible sources. I remember that as I was writing sources on the blackboard, the chalk wasn’t showing up very well. I tried to write clearly, but the words seemed to either fade into the background or not stick to the greenish/black background. I thought it was odd that there wasn’t a white board in classroom because one uses chalkboards anymore! I continued to write my list when this other teacher showed up and began to talk over me. She erased my list, and told the class that we were going to play a game.

I thought is was odd that this other teacher interrupted my lecture, and that she called on me specifically, saying I was to do something important or be a part of her game. She treated me as if I knew what the game was and how to play it, but I was clueless, of course. I took a seat at a nearby table. The group of students was all male, and they seemed more than happy to play a game. I pretended to know what I was doing and went along with what this teacher was asking them to do. The game, as weird as it may sound, was about frogs. It was a spiritual game, I think. It had these game pieces, a set of dice, and then these gummy frogs. One of the boys wanted to eat the frogs because he was hungry. The others started moving their pieces around the board. The board was like a bingo board, you know, with 12 or 15 squares. The squares said things, and then there were game cards that told you what to do. I just remember looking at these little frogs and then these containers (they were round) printed with some spiritual saying on them. Each one had a frog on it with a quote. The whole game made no sense to me, and even when we finished playing it, and one of the boys “won,” I didn’t understand what was happening. I just sat there. That is — until I started to speak to one of the girls sitting near me.

As the game ended, I remember looking up at this sweet blonde girl — she reminded me of one of my freshman students — who was seated near me. I said to her, “What are you doing the next couple weeks?” She replied, “I am going to teach!” I laughed because I knew she would be teaching high school, and that I knew how hard it would be on her. I wished her well, and I told her that she better prepare for the hard time she will have with high school kids. She laughed and said she was ready for them. We chatted briefly, I then told her that there were days where I didn’t like my job at all, but they were few and far between. The majority of the time, I told her, that I loved my job!

As I left the classroom, I thought that this girl would really learn how to teach English because she would be teaching high school. I said, “I wish I would have had that opportunity,” thinking that had I taught high school English, I would be an expert by now. Instead, I walked down the hallway shaking my head and wondering what I was doing in this school, how I came to be a teacher at all, and why I was playing a game about frogs with a bunch of students who appeared to be high school or early college age.

Interpretation (if there is one)

According to DreamMoods.com, "To see a frog in your dream represents a potential for change or the unexpected. The frog may be a prince in disguise and thus signify transformation, renewal or rebirth.” More so, Aunty Flo’s dream dictionary says that frogs appear in women’s dreams more often than in men. Men, it seems, dream of toads. Aunty Flo says, “Despite it being unattractive, a frog can be associated with positive times.” Frogs in dreams can be, “a sign of the unpredictable, changeable, and spontaneous events in life.” Hmmm.

While I don’t buy into the dream interpretation thing simply because to pay attention to it can cause you to become enamored with the occult, and that of course, is strictly forbidden in God’s word, I do think it is interesting that certain things, animals in particular, have a meaning associated with them. From a cultural studies perspective, I think it is interesting to see how meaning is derived at by humans, and that over time, certain a meaning has “stuck” with certain things such as objects, places, animals, or even types of events (like my dream of tornadoes).

Biblically speaking, I do believe dreams are to be interpreted. Take Joseph’s interpretation of the famine that was coming to Egypt or Daniel’s interpretation of the writing on the wall. Clearly, God gave prophetic understanding to His people, and He often used them to interpret signs and wonders for nonbelievers. The point was always to foretell the future, and to demonstrate the sovereignty and will of the LORD.

So while I won’t say I have prophetic vision or the ability to interpret dreams, I will say that I have always been a “dreamer.” I have always had vivid dreams, and often my dreams seem to have some meaning associated with them. I don’t prophesy dreams for others, no. Rather, my dreams always seem to have something to say about me, my life, circumstances in my life, or even past events that need some clarification or understanding. I don’t always take “stock” in the dream or the interpretation, but I do think about them and what they could mean. Sometimes, I have received insight or understanding in the form of clarification, especially on past events. 

In short, some times my dreams have helped me to understand difficult times in my past, and with proper consideration, mediation, and then confession, I have come to a point where I am set free. So for example, as a child, I used to have paralyzing dreams about tornadoes. And, when I say paralyzing dreams, I mean dreams that were so vivid and real that I would wake up from them in a dripping sweat, panicked with racing heart, and paralyzed by fear to the point where I couldn’t move. I dreamt this way throughout my childhood and young adult years. It took considered effort and understanding to realize that the turmoil of my childhood, the abuse I suffered, and the years of fear were all related to one specific event when I witnessed a tornado near my home. For me, the symbol of tornado represented my childhood fear of abuse. 

Thus, whenever I was afraid as an adult, panicked over some event, or put into a place where I felt incapable of being free — I would dream of tornados. Once, I discovered how this symbol of nature was directly tied to my childhood experience, with the Lord’s help, I was able to finally be set free. In fact, my first visit to VA was a turning point for me. I was in my hotel and we had a tornado pass over top. I stayed in my room, rather than go to the basement like I should have. I was completely calm as I heard the voice of the Lord tell me to not be afraid. I watched the storm pass, and after it cleared and I ventured out, I knew that the Lord would never leave me. I could face my worst nightmare, a tornado, and not be moved. He was my ROCK, my REFUGE, and my STRONG TOWER.

Now, I still have dreams, but not as often. In fact, most of the time, I sleep without even remembering them. Researchers say we all dream, but that we don’t always wake up and remember the details the next day. Some people are bothered by them, and some people have them regularly. It is unusual to have vivid dreams, like the kind I had growing up, or to be plagued by dreams that cause disruption on a nightly basis, but that some people do suffer like this (sadly). Like I said, for me, it was a regular occurrence up until about two years ago. I don’t remember the exact reason why my dreams ended, but they did. Now, I have dreams that I can recall maybe once every 6 or so weeks.

Back to the frog and my dream. Mark Twain once said, “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” I remember this quote because I often use it in class when I talk on procrastination. It is a good thought, a reminder that often we procrastinate when we are faced with a particularly daunting challenge or some uncomfortable or unpleasant task. By eating that which is “worst,” we get it over with, and then can know that our day has every possibility of getting better. I mean, what is the worst that could happen on any given day? Eating a live frog is probably not even on your radar, know what I mean?

In my case, I don’t think my dream was about procrastination. I guess you could draw that connection considering I didn’t get my work done yesterday, and instead of jumping to my grading (no pun intended), I went shopping. I think though that my dream just wasn’t about frogs, and I certainly wasn’t eating them (well, the gummy frogs might give that impression). No, the frogs in my dream were not live frogs at all. The were little ceramic frogs, little gummy bear like frogs, and papers, boards, and containers imprinted with frogs and sayings about frogs. There was a spiritual connection because the game board had to due with life, almost like a version of the game of Life or Monopoly. I remember that the moves were dictated by dice.

Aunty Flo’s Dream Dictionary says this about dice:

"A die in your dream is a sign of an organized life. A die makes you think of luck and gambling right away. The dream guides you to believe in a providential chance. Seeing yourself playing dice means that you are taking some risks, and you are playing with your fate. Dreaming of many dice can indicate a risky situation. Dice in dreams usually refer to your fortune. Dreaming of them could mean that your success will change in the near future.”

I think the idea is fascinating, really. I get the whole connection between gambling and risk. Fate, as it is said, is the predetermined path one takes. It is fate. It is destiny. Hmmm.

Dreammoods.org says that board games are also an interesting feature in some dreams. They state, "To see or play board games in your dream signifies your progress in life. How you do in the board game is analogous to the setbacks and accomplishments in your waking life. Consider the name of the board game you are playing in your dream for additional significance.”

With all this in mind, I have to say that I can see some connection between my dream and a possible interpretation, however, like I stated before, most of this is conjecture or nonsense. I do believe that at times, I have dreams that could be interpreted, and that sometimes those dreams actually do have a connection to my current reality or life experience.

In this scenario, I can see the following connections, symbolic or not.

First, I am a teacher, and I do teach English. I felt that I was in a classroom with high school age + students. I was teaching when another teaching walked into the room. I recognized this teacher, but she was not someone I knew or had ever taught along side. She was acting as if she was the lead teacher, and in this way, I was made to feel like I was a secondary influence, an assistant, or even a student teacher. The game she wanted to play made no sense to me. I was confused, and I felt as if she simply took over or pushed me aside. Connection: I currently teach at GCU where I have assistants who help me. This semester, in particular, I have had one individual who has consistently tried to usurp my authority in the classroom. It has been difficult, to say the least, but I chose to be accommodating, and to work with this person since I knew I only had to be in the same room with this person for 15 weeks.

Second, the game itself was nonsensical. It made no real sense, though it had a connection to other real-life board games, bingo mostly. Bingo is a “ game in which players mark off numbers on cards as the numbers are drawn randomly by a caller, the winner being the first person to mark off five numbers in a row or another required pattern” (Dictionary.com). It is a game of chance. It is also a saying used to denote “satisfaction or surprise at a sudden positive event or outcome” (Dictionary.com). In this particular game, however, frogs were used as game pieces. Frogs from dreams are considered a fortuitous symbol or a sign of positive change. Perhaps the game was related to a change in fortune or the possibility of a change in my future. I don’t know. I think it is interesting that the person who wanted to play the game was this secondary teacher. Connection: I am not a game player, it should be noted. I do not play games normally, and I don’t play mental games EVER. In fact, I shun games to the point of purposefully staying away from them. I don’t gamble or play board games. I don’t do the mind games, either. I simply feel that games often are used for dishonest purposes, and in my life experience, games were always used to make winners and losers (me, mostly). The game players in my life liked to “play to win,” and they made the experience one of humiliation. Thus, games are not a positive thing to me. I don’t enjoy them, and I don’t play them. Perhaps this is why I was confused. I am not a game player, therefore, I don’t understand the rules of how to play the game. I often will struggle with rules whenever I do play new games. I mean, I know how to play Monopoly, for example, but if someone introduces me to a new game, say a card game, I will often feel confused or confounded with the directions.

Third, the students seemed interested in playing the game, and my conversation with the young girl at the end of the dream suggested to me that the class was over or that it was toward the end of the school year. Connection: It is the end of the year.

Fourth, and finally, the spiritual aspect of this game stuck with me. I remember looking at the can, sort of a cylindrical container or maybe a pot, and the saying on the front of it had writing about life, quoted words, that had a spiritual connotation. I don’t remember the words, but the picture on the container looked like something you might find in a Hallmark store. It looked like it was a real game, with real game pieces, and real connection to some inspirational moment. As a Christian, I noted the spiritual significance of the game, but I didn’t see the words or couldn’t recall what they said. This suggested to me that the words that were either not available to me or that I wasn’t permitted to see the writing. Perhaps the words had no measure or significance, I don’t know. I just know that before I turned to speak to this student, I carefully looked at the words, and while I saw them and recognized the writing, I couldn’t read what was written. Connection: I am stumped at this point other than to say that I was glad the game was over. I didn’t get it, I didn’t grasp the meaning, and while the students seemed amused, they didn’t seem to care one way or the other about it. I think what this means is that the person in my classroom might have been entertaining to my students, but the context of what was shared or done, had no lasting effect.

All of this is to say that apparently I have been concerned about the effect and influence this particular person had in my class. The game, the frogs, the interruption, all of it proved to be nonsensical. In hindsight, I probably should have done something right away to stop the game, but I stepped aside, and I allowed this person to have a voice in my room. In truth, I would do this with anyone simply out of courtesy. However, what I received in return was disruption, and this unwelcome presence that simply served to undermine my authority and integrity in the class. As I think about this dream and make connections, I really do not know the truth. Perhaps my dream was just about frogs, lol! Or perhaps it was about my future, and that despite the game, the unusual interruption, etc., my future is about to change — for the better. So while I don’t put a lot of stock in dreams, I do believe that in this case, my future is going to change. I have blogged about my future, how my path is clearly set, and how I am waiting for the Lord to reveal His will to me. I am waiting for Him to open that next door, and once He does, my future life will be settled. In short, I know my future is secure because it is in His hands, and as such, I believe that my future is already planned, prepared, and position to be prosperous and positive.
Putting It All Together

As I sit here today, listening to my church online, I realize that I am in this special place right now. This is my last weekend before school ends. I am closing out my fourth year of teaching at GCU, and I have this strong inclination that this will be my last at this school. I have loved teaching here, and I have enjoyed the blessing of so many special students, but I have never felt that there was a permanent place for me. GCU has been preparatory for me, and thankfully, as a result of my experience here, I have been able to teach other places, and now I have a good “setup” with several online schools. I believe this is the direction the Lord is leading me, and for that I am so thankful. I am so very thankful for His provision of online teaching.

My life is coming to a close as I know it — in the sense of transition — and I am about to begin a formal move toward establishment. What this means is that for the past seven years, I have worked and studied to become a full-time professor. The Lord has provided temporary work to me, and I have been able to complete my doctoral program as a result. Now, I am ready to be moved into a full-time faculty position. With this move, I will also be ready to move out of my current rental home and into  my own place. Furthermore, I will be able to begin making plans for my retirement and my future, in addition to beginning to work toward the ministry calling that I believe the Lord has for me. I am ready to be my own person, to be established, to be planted and well-watered. But, in order to do this, I must leave my temporary work behind. I must accept my calling and the mandate that is moving me to the position as faculty member and into full-time ministry. I must prepare myself for change. My future is to begin with a major life change, and that major life change will include a new job, a new home, and a new focus. I know this, I can sense that this is the unexpected event, the uncertainty that was hidden in the message of the frog game. There is information to be known, but I cannot see it. I must rest, wait for it, and in time, the Lord will make all things clear to me. Until that time, I finish my semester out, letting the events of the last 15 weeks go. I rest in His abilities to provide for me, and I trust that He will show me, reveal to me, and help me to see His marvelous plan of action.

In conclusion, frogs aside, I believe that my life is about to get a massive shake-up, and in this way, I will be forced to take a lead role in my family. I will begin to make decisions that impact all our lives, and I will become the head of household as the Lord has said to me for the past four years. I will become the head of my own household, and in this role, I will work, serve, and minister as the Lord leads, guides, and provides for me. He is good. He is so very good to me.

April 21, 2017

Coming Near to the End

Happy Friday! I am so glad this week has come to an end. I have to go to school today, but I can see the bright summer light at the end of my long, long, long semester tunnel. It is a good day, despite waking up with another headache (oh!) It is the rising pressure, of course, and for the next several months, this will be the normal pattern. I have to say, while I am happy to have low humidity, I am not looking forward to sunny and HOT temperatures from this point forward. Of course, the monsoon is on the horizon, and perhaps this year, we will have plenty of stormy weather come July and August.

For now, though, I am thanking the Lord for His provision of sun and warm temperatures. I am thankful that it is April 21st, and it is going to be another sunny and warm day in Phoenix. I am ready for summer — it is so hard to believe I am saying this — but I believe my summer of 2017 is going to be FREAKING AWESOME!
Plans for the Day

So today, I am heading over to campus to teach my last Friday class of the semester. Next week, I only have Monday and Wednesday and then I am finished — fin, finis, fineto! I am so looking forward to starting my summer, and that means taking my time, enjoying my days, and simply resting in His good pleasure.

As of right now, I only have one summer class scheduled for June. I am hoping to pick up another from ASU, but I haven’t heard anything on that accord yet. In fact, I am hoping to also hear back from Grantham University at some point. They seemed really upset that my transcript wasn’t available, even when I clearly told them I wouldn’t have access to it until May. Oh well!

In all, I am thankful for the lack of work as much as I am thankful for the hope for work. In either case, I will be joyful. I mean, less work is a blessing. I can fully rest and recover. More work is a blessing too because I will be able to earn some much needed cash during my dry period. Either way, I am blessed. I let the need go, and I rest in His abilities to provide for me. If He wants me to work over the summer, so be it. If He wants me to rest and not work, so be it. I am content. I am choosing to be content. I will continue to put on contentment because this is the life He has created for me, and I am blessed, highly favored, and so well provided for in it. He is good to me. He is so very good to me!

This morning, I woke up feeling less than my best. In truth, with the headache sitting behind my eyes, I simply didn’t feel like getting up. My normal low-key Friday is a bit pushed since my son and I need to get to the rental agency before noon to pick up the car I reserved. Hopefully, we will not have any issues getting the car, and I will not be late getting to school. Praise God for the provision, and I praise God for His goodness in making this opportunity possible. Right now, I am simply stressed with having to leave the house in the middle of my morning. I guess you could say I am getting old. I am set in my ways, and I am not very flexible. Sigh.

Understanding My Needs

I’ve been thinking more and more about where I am today and where the Lord seems to be sending me for work. I know that He has this figured out, so I am trying hard not to overthink it. In specific, I was discussing my work with my Dad, and he said he “hoped” I wasn’t planning on moving any where soon. I understood his concern. He and my Mom are in tenuous shape, and frankly, the whole process of moving would be difficult for them. I mean, mentally, physically, emotionally difficult. They really need to stay where they are until the time comes when they can no longer care for themselves, and then the decision will need to be made for better quality care. It is not that I don’t care for them or provide for them, but it is more so that they need regular meals, and when I am gone during the day, I don’t think they eat. Furthermore, I don’t clean like I should. I keep my end of the house tidy, but it is not deep cleaned. They need housekeeping because my Mom can no longer do it. Then there is my Dad’s hobbies, which are overtaking the garage, and he is unable to keep up with them. In truth, we need a deep cleaning, reorganizing, and yes, downsizing to take place. However, until I am free from work, this will have to wait. I will need to attend to these needs this summer, but until then, I have to let this need go.

I am looking at homes in my area, and with the current economy as it is, the housing marketing is hot. Most homes sell within days or weeks, and very few are available (decent, safe) under $200K. This means that I will have to consider purchasing a home that costs somewhere between $250-300K, if I want to live in a safe and nice area. There are plenty of homes in this range, but as I said, they go quickly. I will need a downpayment and I will need to be able to afford this price of a house. I think with my income, I can do it. I need the downpayment, however, but I believe the Lord will provide that for me soon.

I have given up hope of having the kind of home I long for and dream about since these types of homes do not exist in my area. I have several choices in style: California ranch (what I call the box-style), the modern/contemporary (the big box with lots of empty space), or the Spanish/Mediterranean (with peaked tile roofs and Saltillo tile). In Phoenix, most of the homes are one of these three types. We also have some cool mid-century homes, but these go really, really fast. My preference now is to have a home that fits my needs. I prefer one-level to two, but I will take a two-level home if that is what comes to pass. I will also take a pool, despite the extra cost. In Phoenix, in the summer, a pool is a blessing. I would prefer no HOA, but most of the homes around me have HOA’s, so I will deal with that as it comes to me. Mostly, I need 3 bedrooms with an office space or 4 bedrooms (one for office). My son will live with me for a while, I am guessing, and he will need two rooms or a really large room to accommodate his bed and personal things along with room for his music setup/studio and other gear. I am not particular about a fireplace nor do I need a living and family room. One is fine. However, I would like a decent kitchen, and I would like indoor laundry (not in the garage) if possible. Two bathrooms are necessary, with a half-bath, only in the event of a two-story house. Otherwise, I am good to go.

I have been looking near school (ACU) as right now we are centrally located. We are about 30 minutes drive from the church where my son works, GCU, and ASU. We live down the street from ACU, so really, this area is optimal. We have shopping malls, hospitals, Home Depot, etc., plus oodles of restaurants and grocery stores near by. It is a good location.

If I work from home, and right now, this is what I believe the Lord intends to provide to me, I have to have Cox Communications (like I do now), and I need Gigablast 1G Internet. I know, sounds crazy, but with my constant need to be online and my son’s need to do things (heavy internet things), we have to have the super fast and reliable connection. I don’t care about TV or phone, so I am cool with their bundle or splitting it up like I did before with AT&T (cell/DirecTV). However, I believe I have to be bundled for Gigablast, so I really do not care too much one way or another.

Other things I am considering is the fact that newer homes rely on APS whereas older homes have a combination of APS and SW Gas. APS will be more expensive, but not every area has access to gas. Thus, living closer to where I am now, could be a benefit. In AZ, electricity is high, so having gas for heating, water, and cooking can really save $$$ in the winter months. Of course, you pay through the nose come summer, but saving some costs at other times of the year is a blessing.

Last, I have decided on my style for decorating. I have spent the past year or so on Pinterest (it is my new addiction), and I have decided that I favor three styles: eclectic, modern, and farmhouse/country. Eclectic is my preferred style now, and after many months, I feel it is the style that resonates with me and that it has been my hidden style for most of my life. My parents are traditional, so while I like traditional lines, I tend to lean more modern and contemporary than strictly traditional.

Thus, eclectic allows me to have some traditional, some contemporary, and some of my favorite Scandinavian and rustic (Mediterranean) touches mixed in. For many years, I was all farmhouse and country, and while I liked that style (because it was my in-laws style), I never was able to really pull it off, so my home always looked like a mish-mash of clashing styles.

Now, I am settled, and I have finally identified the style that suits me best. It is an intellectual style that incorporates my love of art with my love of books. It is clean and uncluttered like the Scandinavian modern homes I love, but it has enough texture to give the style that comfortable “put up your feet” feeling.

With this in mind, I feel ready to step out on my own. I simply need a job, a downpayment, and a resolution to my parents care needs. Once these things are in place, I will begin to look for a home where I can put down roots and start living. I know that sounds weird, like really weird, but the fact is that I feel I have been living in transition since 2010. I was forced out of my home due to my husband’s lifestyle choice, and then I moved to one place (temporary) before landing in this other place (temporary). I have been in transition due to my education as well, and since I have been working part-time for the past four-five years, I feel that I am ready to take on full-time work, full-time living. This means that there will be no more school in my future. It means that I will apply myself to work, to do good work, but mostly to earning as much income as I possibly can so I can retire at age 70. My new goal is retirement, and so I must be focused on the work, the job, and the outcome in order to realize a quality of life after I stop teaching full-time.
In Closing

As I close out this blog post today, I affirm my decision to remain where I am for the time being. I know the plans the Lord has for me, says Jeremiah 29:11, and while I don’t have all the details, I take heart in knowing that He has a good future in mind for me. I am resting in His provision, trusting Him to guide me, and then letting go of my need to be in control. I am resting — relaxing — and letting Him reveal to me His explicit and expressed will so I can know for certain that the way I am going is the way of His blessed counsel. He is good to me. He is so very good to me.

April 20, 2017

Thankful Thursday

It is a great day here in sunny and warm, Phoenix. The skies are clear, and my head has finally stopped aching. Yes, I have had a recurring migraine the past three days, but today, my head no longer hurts. I am thankful for this fact, praise God, and I am so grateful that I am home from school, and that I can enjoy this blessed day.

I wish I could say that I slept well last night, but I didn't. My cat, Ike, woke me up around 3:30. He wanted into the hall closet, so naturally, he started to pound. With every single pound, he became more intense, and well, after a couple minutes, I had to get up. As soon as I got up, of course, he stopped. Sigh! I tried to go back to sleep, but instead, I tossed and turned for a good hour. Thankfully, I did drift off to sleep close to five, and then I was able to sleep for a couple more hours. I feel pretty well rested despite the interruption, and well, God be praised, I am feeling good now.

I cannot believe that I have three more teaching sessions before the semester ends. Partly this was the reason why I couldn't fall back to sleep. My mind was racing over some issues from earlier in the day, and I simply couldn't let it rest. I prayed, read the Word, and eventually confronted the cause -- my enemy -- who was taunting me. In short order, the taunts and conviction ceased, and I fell back to sleep. God is good to me, so very good to me, and even with the on-going oppression, I was able to recover my peace quickly. Thus, today, I feel really well rested, really well rested.

On Tap for Today

So as luck would have it, I am about to rent a car for my son to drive to Las Vegas. He was given an opportunity to see Hans Zimmer in concert, and since I cannot let him take my car due to my travel needs tomorrow, we decided to rent a car. He has some special codes for ASCAP and I have my FastBreak account. In between both of us, I was able to rent him a Ford Focus for under $40. Of course, he will have the cost of gas, but truthfully, for the cost of the rental car, the safety of knowing it is brand new, I am relieved. He is a good driver with a clean record, so I am not concerned about his failure to head the law. He is taking a friend along, and I am sure they both (both are music students) will have a great time. Hans Zimmer is one of my son's favorite composers. I know this will be a great "compositional" experience for him.

My parents are out at Bible Study, and I am home alone. It is so nice to be home alone. I know that sounds weird, but really, I love the quiet of being in the house alone. There is no TV noise, no Ham Radio noise, no washer running, vacuum sound -- nothing, nada, no sounds at all. It is bliss for me, pure bliss. I am blessed to be in this home, and yes, I am thankful this day for the opportunity to share it with my parents. I am looking forward to the day when I will have my own place, of course, but until the Lord provides, I am content. I am good. I am joyful and happy to be here this good, good day.

I have a mountain of grading to grind through today, but praise God, I know I will get it done. I am so ready to be on break -- summer break -- and I am so ready to be packing for my trip to Regent. I have been checking the registrar in my.regent.edu daily -- just to see if my degree has posted. I had received an email that said that once you are "cleared for graduation," your degree will post in Genisys. I haven't seen it yet,  but I was cleared last week. I am hoping it will be today!

In other good news, I pulled my latest credit report, and I was so pleased to see that my credit score is now over 715. This has been such a long, long, long process. When I first started living on my own back in 2010, my credit score was at 620. In fact, it dropped into the high 500s, for some unknown reason, early on, but since then it has been in a steady incline. My initial low score was in part to having no credit of my own, but also it was due to my ex-husband's abuse of my credit over many years. I was the only one who had credit, and he was not consistent with paying credit cards. We were in debt most of our married life, and we had defaulted on loans and cards several times. It wasn't a pretty sight, and once I walked free, I asked the Lord to help me learn how to manage my money, credit, and to always be responsible for my debt. He has been so faithful. He has helped me rebuild my credit from $0 to well over $25K, and what is more, He has shown me how to manage my credit and my finances so that I am always in control of my money.

I do have debt, mostly school loans, but I well on my way to zero-ing out my credit card balances. I have already paid close to $8K this year, and I have a plan to pay the balance of my cards off this fall. In all, my credit-to-debt ratio is now at less than 40%, and I am working hard to bring that down to less than 10%. More so, my credit to income ratio is very good right now. I have credit power, though I do not intend to exercise it. I am saving for a car for my son, and I would like to trade my car in on a newer model. I also want to qualify for a home loan as soon as I have a full-time job. In all, the Lord has managed my finances, given me grace, and helped me learn how to be a wise steward of His gifts.
Some Ideas and Other Thoughts

It is a good day, therefore, to celebrate. I am pleased that I can rent my son a safe car to drive to Las Vegas (and for a low fee), and that my credit is now in the range I set for myself back in 2010. I feel so ready to step out into this new life, and to embrace the change the Lord has in mind for me. I cannot tell you how great it feels to finally see my future on the horizon. You see, I have been working so diligently to see certain things come to pass, and in that way, I have been consistent in my approach. I have worked on two graduate degrees, and now I have completed this work and done so with excellence.

More so, I have worked in a number of jobs over the past 7 years, but now I am firmly established as a teacher in higher education. I love my job, my students, and I look forward to tomorrow (all my tomorrows).

Furthermore, I have a plan of action, so to speak, and that plan includes being hired full-time at a university, settling into full-time teaching, engaging in research. This plan also includes establishing a path to retirement, saving a lot of money over the next 15 years, so that I can live comfortably through my golden years.

In addition, this plan factors in my needs for a comfortable home where I can live and work (since I will be working from home). It also includes a new vehicle for me (one that I will keep longterm), and a good used car for my son (so he can finish school and then develop his own plan of action).

In all, my plan is one of prosperity, solidarity, and establishment. I believe the Lord has blessed and has given me favor to pursue these things. I am not grasping at straws, trying to make money come from nothing; rather, I am working hard (very hard) to save, to plan, and to be diligent and faithful in every thing I do. I don't have plans to purchase things I don't need, to travel where I have no reason to go or to indulge in passions or things that do not honor the Lord. No, may it never be. I will go and do whatever He asks me to do, and I will trust that He will provide -- meet all my needs  with His sufficiency. He is good, so very good to me. Selah!

My specific plan of action is as follows:

  • Graduate from Regent University on May 6, 2017
  • Be promoted to full-time faculty in June, 2017
  • Purchase a second car for my son in June, 2017
  • Trade-in my car for a new car in August, 2017
  • Begin to look for a house and apply for a loan in late September or early October, 2017
I am not sure of the timeline above, but this is the plan I have had in mind now for several months. The Lord knows my needs, and while some of this might sound wishful, the truth is that I believe every item is a "must" according to the Lord. And, while I am happy to be here with my parents, I have always felt that in 2017, I would step out on my own and begin to pursue the Lord's interests full-time. This would coincide with a move for me, a new home, and though I thought that new home might be located in another state, I am now of the mindset that the Lord simply meant that I would "move" house -- to a new home -- not necessarily to a new state, if that makes sense. The only reason I say this now is that I have been fixated on moving to another state, yet the Lord has not opened any doors for me to do so. It was more like I was permitted to consider it as an option, but when it really came down to it, my life as it is now, is the life He has chosen for me to keep. I am to be established right where I am at present. Should the Lord lead me elsewhere, I will go. I will follow Him, but for now, it seems like the only place I have found blessing and favor is the place where I reside today.

My heart is settled now. I realize that in my effort to interpret the Lord's will, I may have read things in that were not correct. This is not to say that I read in what I wanted; rather, it simply says that I guessed at what I thought the Lord was saying, and my guess was a little off the mark. I interpreted words as I believed they were defined, when in fact, the Lord had much broader or narrower definitions. It is an easy error to make since the Lord knows His mind, and His word tells us that we do not. We can infer and do our best to interpret, but sometimes we simply goof. Praise be to God, in all my interpretation, I never took a step until I felt He gave me permission to do so. In this way, I was prevented from making mistakes. I may have made mental errors, but at least I didn't make any physical ones. I think erred in my thinking, and in that way, I may have been confused or even confounded for a time, but I never did anything to disrupt my current way of life or anything that could have hurt my family. Thank you, Jesus, for your grace while I tried to come to terms with my life, my future, and the plans you had for both of these things.

My life is in His hands, and with this statement, I let go my need to plan and to figure out His will. I will continue to seek His advice and counsel, but from this point on, I know the path I am on, and He has said I am to rest in it. This means that there will be no change for me from this point forward. I am settled. I am established. I have been planted in Phoenix, and the Lord has chosen to water me deeply. He intends for me to stay put, to grow strong, and to develop my ministry here in this desert place. He has determined that I will not move away at this point in time, and while my heart is sad in some respects, I think I am also relieved. I was so impatient, so anxious about moving away from here, and for a long time, I considered it, but I felt so uneasy about it. I had no peace about it. I assumed it was because of my life, my studies, and all the things that were still up in the air. Now, though, I realize that I was focused on something that was not meant to be. I considered it, studied it, posited it -- but in the end -- I came down to the realization that where I am today is the place He has decided to keep me.

I guess you could say that I made the decision to stop looking for a future some place else, and I embraced the future that is right in front of me. Sure, I don't have everything I need right now. And, I don't see any full-time jobs here yet. But, I have this sense of peace that I am where I am supposed to be, and while that doesn't mean that the Lord "could" move me, I just don't see it happening in my life. My life is here in Phoenix. My parents are here, my son is here, and my life is here. I can imagine living elsewhere, and I have tried really, really hard to envision it, but I can never feel calm or peaceful about it. It is only here where I have peace. I can look at homes in the Phoenix area, and the more I do, the more peace I have inside of me. It is like I know this is His plan, His will, and for the next season of my life, I am to embrace it, take hold of it, and trust the Lord to provide for it.
In Closing

As I close out this blog post, I am encouraged in the thought that the plan the Lord has for my life is rich, full, and vividly exciting. I believe that the next 3 months will be telling. I am so looking forward to my graduation from Regent. I believe that it will be while I am at Regent that I receive the testimony I need for ministry. Yes, I believe that I will KNOW the plans the Lord has for me during my commissioning ceremony. You see, I have always known that it was vitally important that I attend graduation, and that I graduate in 2017. Even when I was thrashing around, thinking I would not graduate, the Lord consistently revealed to me that, yes, I would graduate. He has had this day in mind, and He has made it possible for me to experience it. My ministry, my mandate, and my calling are summed up in the studies and work I completed at Regent. Thus, I must go to graduation, walk through these days, and in the end, I will be rewarded with His confirmation of the plans He has for my life. Selah!

What is more is the fact that once I graduate, I walk free as a PhD, and that means that I will be ready to be promoted to a full-time faculty position. In fact, I will be available, so to speak, and I believe it will be at this time that I will find out about the position He wants me to have. Until then, I have to wait. I have to finish my classes on campus, close my classes online, and do all the due-diligence work required at the end of the semester. The summer holds a new life, a new way, a new future -- bright and shiny -- and it will be revealed to me. I will know His plan, I will see the path clearly, and I will walk on after my Lord and my Savior, Jesus the King!

April 19, 2017

Only 3 More Days!

It is Wednesday, April, 19, 2017 — and that means — that I have only three more teaching days at GCU. Yes, I have three more teaching days until I am officially done for the year — the YEAR! It is a long closure for the school year, and I would have to say that the final push from spring 2016 through to spring 2017 has been the most difficult period of my life (notwithstanding the years leading up to my divorce). I should say, most challenging, and certainly most intellectually stimulating. I devoted more time to my studies over the past 17 months than at any other time in my higher education career. I mean, I studied to pass doctoral exams, and then I worked non-stop on my dissertation. I finally capped that off when I went to defend said dissertation last March. In all, I have worked tirelessly toward this one pursuit, and now after 7 years of study, I am finished. I am finished!

My graduation plans are in place. I have my air, hotel, and car reservation set. I’ve RSVP’d for the ceremony, and I’ve ordered my regalia. I am in the waiting mode now, just counting down the days until I leave for VA. I cannot wait. I mean, I CANNOT WAIT! My good friends and colleagues are still trying to wrap up the final items — submitting to the database, getting an outside reader — but they are well on their way to being finished too. It is exciting to stop and think that I will be back on campus for one last visit on May 3-7, 2017. I am weepy at the thought, but praise be to God, I am so ready to be released so I can move on to bigger and brighter horizons! God be praised, I am ready to begin His next blessed adventure!
The Next Adventure

So this morning, while I laid in bed, cringing from a migraine headache, I heard the Lord speak to me. He always seems to call to me when I am in that half-dream, half-wake place. I was restless due to the pain, so I had gotten up around 4 a.m. to take some Advil. I knew that if I didn’t get up then, I would be down for the count today. And, since this is my last full week of classes, there was no way I could be sick or out for the day. I rustled myself from bed, downed some Advil, and then crawled back into my nice warm and comfy cocoon. The Lord spoke, and I listened. I know that sounds weird to say, and many people would take issue with what I am saying now, but in truth, it was just as if He was speaking to me. I digress.

I was half-sleeping, half-waking, when He began to tell me what will be over the course of the next couple weeks. Most of this I already knew — waiting mostly — but there was confirmation in the mixture, and with confirmation came a sense of great relief. I don’t recall most of it, which is unfortunate, I just know that during that time, my headache disappeared as I drifted off into a very deep, deep sleep. I woke up around 9 this morning, headache free, and with a deep sense of peace inside of me. I feel confident, bold, and ready. I also have this wonderful peace in my heart, and a sense of calmness as far as my next steps are concerned. I cannot really explain it other than to say that I feel good, like really good. I feel like the weight of the world is now off my shoulders, and I am at rest.

Like I said, some of what I heard this morning was old news. It was confirmation of sorts on what would be. I knew, for example, that I had to wait for my degree to post before I would find that illusive full-time job. I have been looking, by the way, and I have seen nothing available that meets what I believe is the Lord’s guided direction for my next job. I know I have to wait, and I have known that schools hiring PhDs will want proof — a transcript — and that proof will not be available to me until after May 6, 2017. But, there were other words that I didn’t know, some dealing with my current experience here in Phoenix, and some dealing with my teaching abilities at my present schools. These are things that I will watch for — to look for — confirmation. The Word clearly says that if we receive testimony from the Lord and it doesn’t come to pass, well then, it wasn’t from the Lord (Deut. 18:22). I will wait for the confirmation to come to pass, and then I will know that what I heard was really from the Lord. I should say that there have been a number of times throughout my life where I have had similar experiences, where I heard specific things, and in time, they absolutely were proved true.

My passion and zeal, excluded, I know that I must be patient and wait for the Lord to demonstrate His power, might, and authority over these particular areas of my life. I must wait for the Lord, and in doing so, I will see His glory. With this in mind, I have this sense that what I heard was true, but again, I will wait to see it come to pass. My prayer today is for the Lord to confirm to me in other ways so that I can see His revealed will for my next steps. I am asking the Lord to do what He does best, and that is to keep His Word, and to make His promises come to pass. He is good like this, all the time, He is good.

Fit for a King

Today, thus, I prepare for my third of five remaining teaching days. I prepare with a happy heart because I know that my time at GCU is coming to an end. Yes, I blogged the other day how I had received another rejection email from them, and while the rejection had less sting this time, I have read the “writing on the wall,” so to speak, and that is that it is time to pack my bags and move on. It is funny how these things happen, how the Lord allows rejection to move us into a different place. In fact, often rejection is a way for us to see that we are following a wrong lead. It comes as a closed door, and rather than turning around and heading a new way, we often just stay in front of the closed door, simmering in our own hurt and feelings of being dejected. I have been there too many times, so this time around, I prepared myself for the rejection. When it came, I was hurt — for a short time only — but I took that “no” as a big “yes” from the Lord. I believed His Word that He had a better job waiting for me, a better suited position, and that He was not leaving me standing there grieving over lost opportunity, but rather He was preparing to move me into fresh water and good current so I could go to His blessed best.

Rejection hurts our feelings, and often we wonder why the person or organization rejected us. We forget that we don’t always know what is going on inside that person’s mind or within that organization, and in this way, we superimpose our feelings on top of the circumstance or situation. Rather, we should simply accept it as a “no thank you,” and move on. The Word says we are to keep on asking, keep on seeking, and keep on knocking in order to know the will of the Father. Matthew 7:7-8 (BSB) says,

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

Thus, we are encouraged to not give in when the door doesn’t open. Instead, we are to keep on asking, seeking, and yes, knocking until the right door opens. We don’t give up. We keep on pursuing the will of the Father, and in this way, the door will open, and we will receive what we ask, find what we seek, and open the door that is closed. Yes, it will be as the Father has said it will be. He is good. He is faithful. He will keep His promise.

I’ve been knocking on a lot of doors over the past three years. I have received some of what I have asked for — several good part-time online positions — but I haven’t received that one special full-time job. This door, the full-time door, has been closed until now. I believed, and I still believe that this is because I needed to have my “PhD in hand,” and until May or even the beginning of June, that wouldn’t be possible. Now, though, I am so close, and with just a few more weeks, I will be ready. I will be graduated, with degree in hand, and I will have that blessed transcript that bears witness to this fact.  Until then, I know I must keep on knocking. I must keep on faithfully looking for the door that He will open for me.

It is interesting to note that over the past three years, the only jobs I have been blessed with have come from mysterious sources. For example, the Lord clearly spoke to me about working at GCU as an IA. This was several years prior to actually starting there. I remember it vividly. The Lord showed me a job that I could have with my Master’s degree. He said it would be a good “start.” I balked at the contract-status, and of course, the low pay (hourly). Even when I finally took the position, I only did it for 2 of the 3 months. I panicked, and I ran back to corporate America where I stayed for all of 3 weeks. It was a bust for me, and I came back with tail between my legs, begging for a second chance. I have stayed since, and in the interim, the Lord moved me from IA to Adjunct. I have worked at other schools too, and in all these cases, the jobs came about without my knocking on any doors.

My good friend, Heather, hooked me up at ACU. Now, I have been there three years, and my son attends this school on a full scholarship. God blessed my time there, even if the curriculum and the program wasn’t a good fit for me longterm. I landed at Regent through His insistence that I apply for Adjunct. I waited for nearly 6 months before I heard anything from them, and then after I was approved, it seemed like it was another 6 months before I received a contract to teach. Now I teach every semester, and they keep me very busy. Praise be to God.

ASU came about as well in a like manner. I didn’t even think about applying there because I didn’t want to drive the 30-45 minutes, in traffic, to teach on campus. The Lord encouraged me to check their faculty listings, and I did. I applied for a full-time, online position, and even interviewed with them last summer. I didn’t get that job, and I was so disappointed about it; but as the Lord would have it, in January, I received an email asking me if I would teach adjunct. I said, yes. I have been there this semester, and I am poised to be regular adjunct from here on out.

In all, when the Lord provides good practical work, He provides it. He doesn’t ask you to go and find it. Rather, He directs you to the place where you are to apply, and then He does this mysterious thing where He opens the door. The HR folks, departments, and so forth, simply give you favor. You are hired. I have seen this same pattern repeat itself now since 2010, when I was “figuratively” on my own (I wouldn’t move out until 2011). He provided everything to me — job, house, graduate school, money, car, insurance, etc. — to establish me as my own person. I did nothing other than receive His blessing. He showed me where to go, what places to approach, what businesses and services to use, and even what apartment homes to visit. He led me through all the necessary steps to see me setup on my own, and in this way, everything I did actually came to pass. It was like He opened those doors and I walked on through them. I was shown favor, and I received blessing.

Now, I am in a similar place. I have almost everything I need to be settled, but in order to be established longterm, I need more significant provision. I cannot live with my parents forever, and they are in need of better care (soon). I cannot prepare for my future on adjunct salary. I need real benefits, and not Obama Care, and I need to have a home that is mine, in my name. I need security and provision, and while I am not in any need now, I see that longterm (5-10-15 years from now), my needs will be far more serious. I need to think about tomorrow, and that means making some changes today.

My life, while not fit for a King, is designed, planned, and managed by a King. Yes, I live my life in wholehearted devotion to my King. I look to His hand. I wait for His blessing. I listened to His counsel, and in this way, I receive His protection and provision. I do nothing of my own accord. I don’t try to figure these things out. I wait for His leading. I rest in His guiding, and then I accept His providing for my needs. He is my Lord, my Savior, and yes, He is my King.
In Closing

As I close this blog post, I remember all the good things the Lord has provided to me over the past 7 years. I remember how frustrated I was, how scared and alone, and how overwhelmed the whole process of change was for me. I used to panic to the point of sickness at the very thought of change. Now, I welcome it. I know that change is good, and that change can bring better days. I want change to come into my life because it means that I am moving, growing, maturing. I want the Lord to change my life. In fact, I will often hear myself say, “Oh, Lord, please change my life.” Of course, I don’t mean take me out of teaching (sometimes, when I am frustrated, I will think this way for a moment), rather I mean, “Do your will, let your will come to pass, bring the fresh change I hear you speak of now.” I long to see His will come to pass, and I long to see what amazing things the Lord has in store for me. I want to see Him praised. I want to see Him honored. I want Him to be glorified by my work, my efforts, and my sacrifices. I want others to praise Him as well, and in all things, I want the Father’s will to be done.  For now, though, I rest. I wait patiently for the confirmation that I believe is coming to me. Once it comes, then I will know which way to go, and then I will pick up my cross, and I will follow Him.

April 18, 2017

Making Some Changes

Happy Tuesday! I am at home today, and it is a good, good day in sunny and warm, Phoenix. The skies are hazy today, and we have a very high air quality advisory. Still, I feel blessed to live in this beautiful place. I feel content to be a Phoenician, and despite being a transplant, I am getting more and more comfortable with the moniker. I feel like the Lord is turning my situation around, and today, more than ever, I am coming to terms with the events that led me to this desert place. In truth, I would say that as of yesterday, I am determined to accept my lot, so to speak, and to accept the fact that this is the place where the Lord intends to firmly establish me in order for me to produce good fruit. I cannot say how I came to feel this way, but yesterday I simply had this sense, this deeply rooted sense that seemed to be saying to me (if that is possible), that my life and the outcome of my life, was tied to this place. More so, I feel like my mindset has shifted, and my feelings about Phoenix, have changed from loathing and hatred to joy and possibilities. Let me explain…

Attitude is Everything

Yesterday, I was on my way to GCU when I heard the Lord speaking to me. You know, like in my heart and mind, pressing in on me in that special way that only He does. I was praying at the time, and I felt like the Lord was speaking directly to my heart. I had been confessing my attitude of late, and I was talking to Him about my desire for a new life, moving, and such. I was also sharing my feelings about being rejected by GCU (for a permanent position), and about my need to a full-time job. In short, I was pouring out my sorrows, confusion, and general displeasure with some of the more recent events in my life. I felt like the Lord was saying several things to me. The first was that it was up to me to accept my life as it is, and that in doing so, I had to accept the fact that some of the outcome I experience today is the direct result of choices I have made in the past. This was not really new or earth shaking, but it was a reminder that the Lord doesn’t wipe away all our foolish mistakes, and sometimes, He lets us suffer the consequences of our poor decisions.

Second, I felt that He was telling me that the reason why I was overlooked at GCU was simply a matter of mismatch. In this way, what He was saying was that it was neither my fault nor that of GCU in that my skills and experience didn’t line up with what they wanted. Furthermore, I felt He was saying to me that the position He had for me was a better fit, that it would suit me more comfortably, and that in the end, the position I had applied for simply was not His will for me.

Last, my life in Phoenix has been rough. I have suffered greatly over the past 20 years, and even though the last 7 have been much, much better, I have not really made a way for myself here. As such, I have desired to move some place new, simply for a change of scene and to experience a better life. I was looking for “happiness in all the wrong places" as the song goes. I was thinking that the grass would be greener over there —> in a different state, and that by moving, somehow my life would be better. In reality, I came to see that my life here is pretty good. In fact, I would say that it is very good. I needed a new perspective, and after my prayer time in the car, and then a good day on campus teaching, I left school thinking that the Lord was saying to me that what He has provided here in Phoenix is good for me. I have a good life, but as long as I continue to think of it as being difficult, challenging, or not comfortable — then — I would continue feel like it was difficult, challenging, and uncomfortable. I needed to look at my life through different lenses, and once I did, I began to see that what I have been given is a great thing, and that my life has real possibility.

After my long day at work yesterday, I came home and promptly crashed. I laid on my bed thinking to myself, “who am I kidding?” Meaning that I realized the fact that I cannot teach full-time on campus — any where — simply because of my back and my need to be off my feet. Teaching face-to-face has been a glorious experience, but the truth is that my back, legs, and feet simply cannot handle the stress and strain. I need to have more seat time, and in the way, I can recover more quickly. I laid there and I confessed that the Lord knew what was best for me, and with all these part-time online positions, I realized that what He was providing was really the very best thing possible. He was giving to me a way to work from home whereby I can stay off my feet and my health can recover. He is good to me, so very good to me.

This morning, I woke up and my first thought was that I was going to have to rush out the door to take my son to school. He needs my car, but I have an appointment to get my oil changed. I was panicked, pinched, and pressured, and as a result, I didn’t sleep well at all. I woke up early — at 4 — and then couldn’t get back to sleep for a long while. I am tired, so very tired, and the first thought I had was, “Oh, Lord! Not on my day off! You know I need my downtime.” Again, the truth rang out. I realized that the Lord knows I need my days at home, and while I am a work-a-holic, and I love to be busy, I need to be busy in my own way. I need my schedule, and I need to be able to live according to my own timeline. I cannot work someone else’s hours, and I need to sleep when I am tired, rest when I need to rest, and work in between. He knows me well, and I believe He is providing a job that will work with these special needs. I need accommodation, and in this way, I will work very hard, long and hard, but I have to have my freedom. I can no longer go and do what other people want. I need to be free to say, “No thanks,” if I am tired. I need to be free to stay up late, if called on or to be free to sleep in, when my body needs it. This is the fact of my life now, and the cause of this need is simple. I have spent the past 40 plus years living in chronic stress and cortisol overload. I am near adrenal failure due to this prolonged stressed way of life. Now, I suffer from chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, and my own structural issues (due to scoliosis and injury). My body has born the brunt of the stress and injury, and while I keep going (like the Energizer Bunny), I simply cannot do things the same way that other people do. I need to REST. I believe this is why the Lord constantly says to me, “Carol, rest.” I need physical, emotional, mental rest just as much as I need spiritual rest. I have that peace — that blessed rest — that is promised with my salvation, but I still need rest in all the other areas of my life. I need rest.

With all this in mind, what I am saying today is that I realize what the Lord is offering to me, and it is very good. He is providing a way of life that “suits me.” He is providing a way of life that will enable me to be very productive and achieve desired results — all without having to stand on my feet or without having to keep awful hours. Instead, He is giving me prolonged rest so I can recover my health and vitality. Furthermore, as I wait on Him for His deliverance, I realize that my attitude must be one of total reliance and dependence. This means that I am to wait with joy. I am to be patient with  happy expectation. I am not to slunk around with a somber gloomy face and say like Eeyore, “It is okay…I don’t mind” in that long, drawn out voice. No, rather I am to be eager, excited, and filled with joy — not for any other reason — but for the very joy of the Lord. My attitude is important, and I am to cultivate a spirit of joy, of expectation, and of eager excitement and anticipation. He is so worth the wait! He is so worth the wait!
In Closing

As I sit here today, I give the Lord thanks for His blessed provision of rest. I give Him thanks for meeting my deepest needs with sufficiency. I give Him thanks for the goodness He has brought into my life. And, I give Him thanks for His mercy, and for His grace. He is worthy to be praised! He is so worthy to be praised!