It is a beautiful day in sunny and mild, Virginia Beach, Virginia! Yes, I made it to my destination after a very long, long day of travel. My trip was uneventful, for the most part, but the strain of making connections and so forth, always takes its toll on me physically. Even though I checked my luggage, I still struggled to make it through to Norfolk, weaving and hustling to make a connecting flight out of Charlotte. Thank the Lord, I made it safely to VA, and after picking up my car, I leisurely travelled the 7 miles to campus.
My room at the Hampton Inn and Suites in Chesapeake is nice. The hotel has had some renovation work done since my last visit, and while still looking the same, definitely has been spruced up with paint and new carpet. I was pleased to seem my normal room after several years away. I was thinking that this visit will mark my 6th to VA in less than 4 years. I never believed I could do this program -- I mean -- the program itself but also the travel required to be a part of it. Yet, here I am, ready to graduate, and well, I did it. I really did it.
Today is Thursday, May 4, and that means that I have the Doctoral Dedication ceremony to attend at 1 p.m. I need to go to rehearsal for tomorrow's commissioning ceremony at 11, so right now, I am thinking that I will simply get dressed and head over to campus (with laptop), and hang out in between events. I have grading to do, so I can find a spot in the Ordinary to sit and grade student papers.
I am excited to get moving forward, and this day marks the first of a three day celebration for doctoral students. My regalia is not what I expected. It is not as nice as I had hoped, but then again, I can see the reason why I paid $80 for it and why the real stuff costs $600 or more dollars. Sigh! I will have to invest in a new set after I get hired permanently. Until then, I am happy to have the whole outfit to wear to two of the three days. I'm going to try to press mine slightly later today, and hopefully snap a picture to post here. One of my peers will take a full picture of me (on Saturday), so I will have a couple options to send with my announcement (late, but doing my duty).
Today, I am in awe of the Lord. I stand amazed at His goodness toward me. I cannot give or bear testimony enough to the Lord's faithfulness, and to His provision of this wonderful blessing in my life. Not only did He provide a way for me when I thought there was no hope for my future, but He made a promise to me, and that was that He would see me through this path. He would help me, carry me, and show me how to go, how to succeed as a teacher, and how to manage graduate school, life, and work. He showed me how to manage my time, how to develop ideas, and how to pursue excellence in everything I attempted. As a result, I am now a graduate of another blessed school, this time, however, with a PhD in Communication. My Lord has been faithful to me. He has kept His word, and what is more, He has never once left me alone to try and figure out how to accomplish this goal. He led me from that first tentative step of applying to Regent, all the way through to the final defense of my dissertation. In between, He developed and transformed me as a person, a scholar, and an educator. I am brand new, made new, and I truly do believe that all things are possible.
My future is an open book, so to speak, with many new chapters waiting for me to write. I believe the plan the Lord has for my future is good, and I know that I would not be here today if it were not His will that I be so. He gave me this dream 25 years ago, and while I had to wait for it to come to pass, I never lost a sense of the desire or want. I sure did lose hope. In fact, I thought the possibility of obtaining my PhD was all but a wishful thought after many years of post undergraduate study. I simply gave up, thinking that I had missed the boat, so to speak, and that I had to live with the choices I made, decisions, and consequences of my actions. I soldiered on, as the saying goes, never thinking that the Lord intended for me to complete graduate study some day down the road. But that is what He did.
You see, I had this dream, this desire, and over the years, the feeling would come and go. It would sometimes burn hot within me, and I would be filled with regret. Other times, I would feel bittersweet, lost in the moment of realization that I was not "meant" to have this outcome. I never ever considered that perhaps down the road, the opportunity would come to me. No, that door was closed, in my view. Not just because time had passed, but really because my then ex-husband, simply wouldn't allow it. He said no, and no meant, NEVER GONNA HAPPEN. In his view, I had my time in school, and now I was to work. He didn't want me to become a teacher, and in fact, he expressly forbid me to even attempt it. He said he would divorce me if I pursued it, and well, that is what happened 25 years later, though not for the same reason. I believed I had let the Lord down, walked away from His will, chosen to not pursue His calling.
As such, I gave up my dream, my desire, and because of my disobedience back then, I really believed that my future life was set, settled, and that a PhD would never be a part of it. How wrong I was to think so narrowly, to think the Lord makes foolish promises, and that He gives desires so willy-nilly like. Oh, no! May it never be! The Lord is faithful and He doesn't relent. He doesn't take back His promises to us. He keeps His word. I learned that lesson the hard way, through heartache, heart break, and disillusionment. But now, here I am. I getting ready to receive an incredible honor, getting ready to be commissioned, dedicated, and graduated as a PhD. I do not deserve this honor. I do not deserve His good favor. But, God is good to me. He is so good to me. He has done this for me, and today, I give Him thanks and praise. He alone is worthy to be praised. He alone is worthy to receive all honor. I will give Him praise, honor, and glory. He is my King, and to Him, I bow down and worship.
God is Faithful
I learned the hard lesson of God's faithfulness over the past 30 years. I learned to trust the Lord, to lean on Him, and to abide in Him. I learned that there are two ways for Christians to walk. One is in obedience, and the other is in disobedience. I learned that as a Christ follower, we are given these options every day, and we must choose to follow in obedience. It is a life lesson. If we follow, if we obey, we receive blessing and honor. If we follow but with disobedience in our heart, we often receive the strong stick of correction. It is like the willful child. The parent doesn't disown their disobedient child, they simply discipline them until they learn to obey. God is similar in that as our Father, He would prefer to bless us rather than correct us, but He knows that we are often willful and stubborn. We are not disobedient to the point of walking away from the faith; no, not at all. Rather, we are simply childish, in that we want our own way.
In my life, I spent a lot of my following years as a child. I was willful, demanding, and often, disobedient to the Lord. I suffered correction, and frankly, I deserved it. I needed a swift kick, yet my Lord was lovingly gracious to me. He mostly allowed me to suffer through consequences rather than through correction. I learned that my choices had actions, and often those actions, produced painful results. I didn't repent right away, and even when I did ask forgiveness, I would run right back to what I knew, what was comfortable to me. It wasn't until my entire life came crashing down that I realized just how willful I had been, how far I had walked with a stubborn and unrepentent heart.
Yes, it took many years of hard labor, hard toil before I was to the breaking point. When that point came, I was willing to admit my failure to obey. I was willing to admit that I had walked the wrong way, and after so many years, I had simply accepted the fact that I was mistaken, that I was misled, and that I was miserable. I didn't believe I could come back. I really thought that I was set to live in the bed I made (as that saying goes). But, the Lord is gracious and merciful. He permitted me to return, and what is more, just like the prodigal son, I was received with open arms. I was given my rightful place, my joys and my blessings, everything that was mine in Christ Jesus, was still there -- waiting for me. I simply had walked so far in the wrong direction that I believed there was no hope.
The word says that with God all things are possible, and I have come to believe this is the case. All things are possible. The Lord is able to do everything concerning His will. In my case, after I came back, repentant and with a humbled heart, my life didn't immediately improve. My spiritual condition did, of course, and with that, I renewed zeal and vigor. But my home life didn't magically get better. In fact, it got worse. Much, much worse. In the end, I came back to the Lord, sought His forgiveness, and He graciously restored me to my former state. I was given His grace, His blessing, and His favor. My personal life, though, continue to fall apart, to explode really, and before it was all said and done, I found myself on the brink of divorce without any plan or way to go.
The Lord was my steady rock, my faithful companion, and despite incredible odds, He gave me a path to follow. I struggled for a long while, not really knowing if I was doing the right thing, going the right way, making the right choices. In all, however, He kept me safe. He provided me with jobs, houses, and income so I could make a new life for myself. He never let me down. Not once. I say this with great humility, but I started with no money, no income, no assets. Now, I have several bank accounts, all to overflowing. I am flush, as they say, and while I am not wealthy by any means, I am comfortable. I can pay my bills. I can purchase needs. I can travel to VA for graduation. I can do all these things because He has provided the money, the resources for me to do them. He carried me from the infant stage to maturity, and along the way, He taught me how to manage money, how to plan for retirement, and how to live a holy and God-honoring life. I am in love with my Lord, and there is nothing more to say on that point. He is my everything. He has done all of this, and now that I am ready to embark on a new path, a next adventure, I am trusting Him for the outcome. I don't know what He intends to do, but if my past is a good indicator, then the next phase of my life should be amazing as well. I cannot wait to see what the Lord has in mind for me. It is going to be good!
As I close this blog post and begin my day, I am thinking that the Lord has something wonderful in store for me today. I am ready for His best, and whatever that best may be, I am so very ready for it. I want to do His will -- no compromises -- and with this intent, I want to be in a place of grace, mercy, and favor from this moment forward. I have one task ahead of me and that is to live my life fully devoted to Him, and as His follower, that means to continue to walk in faith and obedience. I will obey His word, I will follow after Him, and in this way, I will live my life as His own. He is my King. My Shepherd. My Lord. Adonai, I worship you this good, good day, and I give you thanks. To God be the glory, forever and ever, Amen.