June 30, 2017

Friday, Friday, Friday

It is a good day here in sunny and hot, Phoenix. Yes, the air is very warm, and the skies are clear. Hence, the HOT part of the description this morning. It is 10:53 and I am sitting here at my desk, drinking coffee, and thinking about life and other important things. Well, not really. I am sitting here drinking coffee, the life and other things, is best described as an overstatement, LOL! I am feeling better, emotionally, better. I slept well, soundly, but I had a weird, weird dream where I prophesied the future to a group of people I didn’t really know. It was a weird dream, and I woke up feeling like whatever happened in my dream may really happen in life. Premonition? I am not sure, but suffice it to say, my mind is working and wondering along these lines.


So while I was writing this post, my son came in to inform me that my car would not start. Yep. Dead battery. Sigh! We took a look and found out that the battery was almost 4 years old. Praise God! It had a two-year limited warranty and it lasted for almost 4 years! In the desert. In the heat. It is a miracle of God that the car didn’t die while he was traveling somewhere like Tuscan or Southern California or while we were on vacation in Indiana earlier in the month (he was home alone). Instead, the battery died in the driveway. Right while I was home, and right after my dad got home from the auto repair place (after a check-up on his truck). Yes, God is good. He is good to me — to us!

Now, I am back at my desk, eating a bagel and drinking a fresh cup of coffee. I am glad that the battery is installed, and my son is off to school where he is working on a music project with the faculty and staff of the music department. Did I say He is good? Yes. I will say it again — He is so very good, so very good!
Let’s Get Moving!

Yesterday was a good day for me, despite the fit and start, and despite the fact that I lost my temper, my cool, and I had to be prickly over my transcript issue. God moved ahead of me, and He helped me “get er done” as Larry the Cable Guy says so. I pushed a little. I got some other people to help me push, and boom! The deed was done. My transcript was approved, degree posted, and graduation date noted. I am graduated.

What is more is the fact that once my degree posted, events began to move, to shift, to start. I received an email from one of my supervisors asking to interview me for a full-time position. I received acknowledgement that my employment verification hold-up at Grantham was released, finally moving forward after almost 3-months of stasis. Yes, the universe declared His glory, and events coincided, and well, things — BIG BEAUTIFUL BOLD things — started to move.

I have been waiting for movement, for change, to take place in my life for months. The last year has been especially hard on me. Not only did I complete my PhD, but I managed to teach 6-7 classes AND help care for my parents (share the burden).

More so, I had to deal with teaching at multiple schools, different learning systems, and different approaches to curriculum. I had to manage so much variety, that at times, I felt overwhelmed and overdone.

Furthermore, the past year, while the culminating event of my life (at this point in time, I mean) was to graduate, I realized that this event was really just the top of one mountain peak. It wasn’t the end, it was only the beginning. In fact, as I scanned the scenery, I realized that the mountain top I was standing on was part of a series of peaks, a chain of mountains that I began to climb back in 2007. I began this climb up when I made the decision to surrender fully to the Lord, to embrace the life He had for me, and to do whatever work He assigned to me to do. I have been scaling mountains, some high and some low, for a long time, and in between the highs and lows, I have found myself in desert places, in the wilderness, and in valleys that weren’t always fertile and green.

Consequently, as I have moved from place to place, journeying in this desert land, in this wilderness, I have come to be comfortable in this lifestyle. I have come to accept this as “my life.” It wasn’t until I arrived at my destination this week, that I realized that my world was about to change — forever — and that I was about to embark on a new journey, one that would lead me to new places, new heights, and yes, even new lows — new desert, new land.

Yesterday, it dawned on me that I have been waiting for this new “life” to begin, and while I have waited to be released from this wilderness experience, I have not always looked forward with anticipation for my future life to begin. There were many days, many times, when the fear of change, the fear of moving forward, the fear of the unknown captivated all my thoughts and domineered all my attention. Some days, I was so distressed that the mere thought of what might be tomorrow caused me to panic, caused me to stop in my tracks. Other days, I felt like a champion fighter, a gladiator in the ring. I was filled with such boldness that I could have tamed a lion. Yes, in thinking back over the past years, there were days when I was weak and days when I was strong, and in between, there were so many days of helplessness and many days of wonder and awe. Yet, as a whole, I never lost sight of the One who helped me, who kept me together during the nights, and who comforted me during the days. I never lost sight of His hand upon me, and His gentle encouragement to “get up and get moving.” As I scaled each mountain, I gained new insight, developed new strengths, and became more confident, not in myself, but in Him alone. In the end, I realized that this entire experience was designed for this purpose, to keep me right where He wanted me — needed me to be — and that was to keep me wholly dependent on Him. My eyes were opened as I realized that every step on this difficult path was made easier by His strength, His wisdom, and His ability. He has done this work. He has carried me from high to low and now He has said, “You are ready. You are ready to be promoted. You are ready to go.”

Rest Before Moving

Figuratively speaking, it is as if I have spent the past ten years working my way up to this very BIG door. The path to this door was difficult to find, and along the way, I had many options, many choices, and many decisions to make — some that would have taken me in different directions. I stuck to this path, however, and I scaled impossible mountains to get to this point in time. I arrived here at this door some time ago, but when I tried to open the door, I found that it wouldn’t open. The door was locked. It was locked, and no matter how hard I tried to turn the handle, the door simply would not open. Thus, despite wanting to move on, I had to wait here at the door, patiently wait, until He was ready to unlock the door, open it, and then bid me to walk on. I feel like I have been waiting at this door for many months, but really it has just been one or two months only. The waiting, as they say it, about killed me.

Yes, waiting at this place was probably one of the more difficult aspects of the entire journey. You see, in my view, the difficult part, besides all the walking, climbing, and hard tasks in this wilderness place, was the waiting. It was waiting for the door to open — waiting after so much hard work — and being patient knowing that the door would not open through my effort or with any help from anyone, save the Lord.

Moreover, it was the fact that while I was in the wilderness, in transition, I was busy, very busy. I had a lot of work to do, and in doing that work, my mind was occupied. I was always busy. This business kept me from noticing how close I was to the door because my mind was engaged in my work. But, once that work was completed — as in once I graduated — I finally looked up. When I lifted my eyes, I saw how close I was to the next adventure, I saw the door was right before me. The funny fact of the matter is that I had arrived without really even knowing it! I was so excited to have finally arrived, but once I found the door locked, the waiting became incredibly challenging to me. It was like, “What now?”  I felt that I was ready to move on, but nothing I did or could do would open that door. I crumbled from impatience. I got mad, and I grumbled at the Lord. Why now, Lord? Why now?

As I look back over the past couple of months this particular lesson was a hard one to learn. I think it took a couple months off (summer vacation) for me to grasp that there was a reason I was asked to rest, to be patient, and to wait. I learned that in this waiting period, it was imperative for me to rest (to cease striving), and that in resting, I had to patiently endure the time between graduation and promotion. I couldn’t rush the process. I couldn’t do anything to make events happen sooner or faster. No, I had to wait for His timing, and in that waiting, I had to learn how to  be content with my life. I had to accept my life as it is today, on the one hand, and I had to agree with what my life would be in the future on the other. I also had to relent, to let go, and to accept the plans and paths He has for me.

In truth, I came to accept that there was a reason for this short, but intense wait. I wish I could say that I was a model disciple during this time. I wish I could say that I was a saint and not a sinner (LOL!) I wasn’t very saint-like, and I wasn’t a very good disciple most days. No, I was impatient. I didn’t want to stop moving; I didn’t want to rest. Sadly, I also didn’t understand that the Lord had work to do on the other side of the door. He had work to do, and I, in my impatient and childish way, wanted to go “now!” Thankfully, after some relational moments with the Lord, I relented. I changed my attitude, my mind, and my heart, and I let go. I surrendered, yet again, and then things, wonderful things, began to shift, to change for me. The long and the short of it was that although I understood that I had to attend to my studies, work to gain experience, etc., I also had to learn how to rest, to abide, and to trust in the Lord. This last bit of waiting was more about my heart and mind than my physical condition. I had to change my heart, my mind, and my attitude, and I had learn to be content. I had to patiently WAIT for His best to be revealed.

Now, the door has unlocked, and it is open and waiting for me to cross the threshold. I am ready with my bags packed, dressed for the weather, so to speak, and all “geared up” to make my way into this new place, to walk on into this new adventure. I don’t know where I am going, though. I just know that He has asked me to go, to walk through the door, and to move forward into the plans He has for my life. I am to walk forward, not looking back, but to walk forward with eagerness, excitement, and anticipation of the good work He intends to perform through me. I need to walk through the door, and today, I pick myself up, and I plan to get myself out that door! Yes, I am going to get up, get out, and get moving!

His Plans and His Timeline

With all of this in mind, I come to the best part of this post — the PLANS! Yes, I love planning, and the Lord knows how planning helps me to rest, to relax, and to be ready to move forward in His will. He is good to let me know some of His plans. I don’t know everything, and as it should be, but I know some of His will, and for these little bits and pieces of information, I give Him thanks and praise.

Thus as scripture says, the plans and steps (or stages) of my life have been established by the Lord (Prov. 16:9). More so, Psalm 37:23 (AMP) says,

The steps of a [good and righteous] man are directed and established by the Lord,
And He delights in his way [and blesses his path].

The Lord has ordered and established the steps (or stages) of my life. He has directed my steps, and in this way, He is establishing me as I follow along the path He has laid out for me. Therefore, I know my steps, and I know that I am to continue to move through this new door and adventure just as I have previously — just one step at a time. 

1) The first order of business was to get my PhD degree posted so I could order a transcript from the National Student Clearinghouse. I did this last night, and I have an electronic copy on my computer, ready and available, to send to any and all prospective employers should they ask for it. I am ready with my resume and my transcript. Now, I can wait for the call to interview, and then the offer for full-time employment. Step one, therefore, is about completion of present work. It is all about completing the tasks assigned in this time frame, doing everything, checking the boxes, so to speak, so that step two, moving can take place. I could not begin to move without step one being completed, and now that it is done (all but done), I am ready to begin step two’s tasks. I am moving, hurrah! I am ready to go!

[x] Update resume (June 1, 2017)
[x] Degree posts (June 29, 2017)
[x] Order transcript from National Clearing House (June 29, 2017)
[x] Email transcript to Grantham for resolution of employment verification (June 29, 2017)
[x] Receive call to interview for full-time position (June 29, 2017)
[  ] Interview for Faculty position (July 6, 2017)
[  ] Job offer (July/August timeframe)

2) Step two or the second order of business is to prepare my life for change or changeover, I should say. I believe that step two involves a physical move to a new location, a new home, and a new place. Step two also involves getting hired full-time and situating myself for full-time work. It is more of a mindshift, really. I need to get my head into the game, and I need to start seeing my life differently. I am not to continue to think of my life as temporary, transitory, or as tentative any more. Instead, I am to consider my steps going forward as planned, prepared, and position for His praise, honor, and glory. I am moving from transition and wilderness into my promised land. I am moving toward establishment, settlement, and finally being firmly planted so I can do His blessed work. In this way, I am to look at my blessing (now and future), and I am to begin to walk in it. This means that I will need to stand up to the enemy, fully armed, ready with my shield of faith and the Sword of the Spirit, and strongly, confidently, walk on as He leads, guides, and provides for me. I am to walk on — in His work. In His will. In His way. I am to do all these things, not in my own strength, but in His strength. He is my King. He is my shelter, my Lord, my rock and refuge. I walk on knowing to whom I belong, and that the plans He has for me have been ordained before the foundation of the world. I am to boldly walk on this good, good day. Step two is all about going, moving, forward momentum. It is traveling from point A to B, and it is destination oriented.

[x] Stand firm and know your calling and mandate (June 15, 2017)
[x] Take courage (Josh. 1:9) and do not panic or be afraid (June 20, 2017)
[x] Know your blessing (provision) and believe that God will accomplish His will and His work

3) Step three or the third order of business involves settlement and establishment. I don’t have much information on this step, only that I feel the push to go, the push to move, and in doing so, I am open to the movement as the Lord leads. I am still not sure if this movement is figurative or literal. Am I to physically move to another state or am I to remain right where I am at now? Does it mean staying in Phoenix, but moving to another home? Until the Lord clarifies this third step, I am to be busy with the work He has already given to me, which is to finish my classes at Regent (summer), and consider my fall course load. If the full-time job materializes, my path shifts slightly. I let go my campus classes (adjunct) and retain only my online classes. I also have to manage some other concerns, but again, I have only sketchy details. I need a car for my son. I need a car for myself (mine is going on 7 years old, and while it runs well, I am sensing some issues down the road). I need to deal with student loans, credit card debt, and healthcare benefits. All of these “things” exist outside my hand. I don’t have the money to pay student loans, credit cards (off), or buy a new car. I have savings, and I have good income, but I am not financially secure to the point where I could pay my debt off completely. Moreover, I certainly do not have any kind of savings to help me purchase a home. I have some, as I mentioned, but not enough. So step or stage three is off in the distance. The only thing I can do now is prepare for it. I can be proactive, and I can be attentive to the Lord as He provides for me. I trust Him for this part of my future, and in the way, I have confidence that He will settle me either here or in another place, and He will provide for each need that exists — regardless of my home address.
In Closing

The day is quickly slipping away from me, and I need to get in the shower and dressed. I need to take care of student business today. I need to grade essays and discussion boards, and generally, do teacher-y stuff. God has me well covered this good day, and I thank Him for His permission and provision to move forward. He has my steps ordered and directed, and thus, I can with confidence walk boldly in my blessing, seeking to do His work and His will all along the way. He is good to me, so very good to me!

June 29, 2017

Learning to Let Things Go

Happy Thursday! It is Thursday, and well, I am sitting at my computer thinking to myself that it is also June 29, 2017. It is almost the first of July, and that means that we are past the 6-month mark of the year. Yes, in 6-months, this year will come to an end, and a new year will begin. I am thinking about what the next year holds for me. I mean, where will I be in 6-months? What will 2018 look like for me?

My mind is so focused on the next 3-6-9 months that nearly a day goes by when I don’t find myself feeling depressed over the lack of progress in my life, the lack of movement toward a full-time faculty position, and generally, a lack of knowledge about where I will be, what I will do, and how I will do it. I am stuck in this wilderness of waiting, and while I am learning how to be content where I am, to remain still, I am finding that as the days progress, plod on so to speak, I am becoming less and less content and at peace to remain where I am.

A good case in point is this morning. I woke up this morning, feeling off, and wondering what ill will was waiting for me. I had this sense of doom and gloom, and instead of praising the Lord, meditating on His goodness, I gave into the feelings, and I began to think negatively about my entire life situation.

Yesterday, I blogged about the fact that where the mind goes, the body follows. In my experience, today in particular, I bear testimony to this fact. My mind went to negative thoughts and feelings, and my body responded in a like manner. I was grumpy when I woke up, and grumpy as the morning progressed. In truth, today has been a rough day — and it is only 10:00 a.m. *Sigh*. What is wrong with me? Why am I feeling this way? I am contentious, argumentative, and generally, disagreeable. I am rarely this way, but today — this morning — for some reason, I am not functioning in His love. I am not walking in Agape love. I am not thinking, feeling, and responding with His intention and mindset.

I am sure the reason why I feel the way I do is because my morning started off with a fit. I woke up early, at 6:20, and I struggled to fall back to sleep. I got up, fed the boys, and tried my best to sleep in a bit longer — hoping to make it to 7, but my mind raced, and I found myself unable to drift off again. What is more is the fact of the matter was that I woke up thinking about the day, how it is Thursday, and how it has been one week since I contacted Regent about my transcript. In truth, I thought about how it has been 3 weeks (all Thursdays) when I first got involved in my transcript issue. It has been three weeks — 20 days — and no change to my status has happened, despite all the promises that things would be resolved, cleared away, and good. So this morning, I was worried, stressed, and I didn’t feel very well simply because I knew that another week had passed without any change. I felt panicked, pricked, and insensitive — all because of the fact that my official transcript is still not resolved. I prayed about my situation, how I am still in limbo, and I asked the Lord what I should do. I felt He wanted me to call the registrar, and even with my heart and mind set on being gracious, I simply let my prickiness poke out. I wasn’t as nice as I could be, and thus, I found myself at the end of a nasty stick.

I sort of knew that I might have to get prickly, and well, I hate it when this is the case. I so do not like contentiousness. I so do not like to get angry. Thus, I rolled over this morning, my mind ran through the scenario, how I would have to call the Registrar’s office AGAIN, and maybe this time, I would have to get angry in order to get my point across. I already was thinking about losing my cool — even before I dialed the phone — and sure enough, I did. I lost it. I got prickly. *Sigh!*

Now, I am sitting here thinking about how I fell into temptation this morning, how I sinned when I let my anger get the best of me. I am still thinking about it, how I failed to be gracious and kind, and how I really didn’t trust the Lord to resolve the situation without my intervention. I simply didn’t wait. I wasn’t patient. I didn’t endure. I didn’t worship the Lord, praise His name, and wait on His provision. Instead, I got prickly. I got my dander up, and I took control.

I have since confessed my sin to the Lord. I have since taken responsibility for my lack of patience. I have had to “stand down,” and while I don’t like the fact that I got uppity, I am glad for the result. I did push things along, and the right people now are informed and working on the problem. It wasn’t that they weren’t working on it, it was just that my paper was probably at the bottom of a stack of papers. I assumed my case was special, and without really considering all the other people who were ahead of me, I made my case known. I should have remained humble. I should have believed He would clear the mess, instead, I simply pushed. I pushed and I made noise. *Sigh!*

Lesson learned. Panic over. Pain and sorrow ongoing.

I learned that I have still much to learn. Yes, I am the grasshopper to the Master, and frankly, I have much to learn, so much to learn.
Letting Go

So today is a good case in point. I think I should go back to sleep. I think I need to go back to sleep. I think I need to go way back to the beginning of the day and simply "do it over." Yes, I am in need of a major do-over.


As the day has progressed, I've found myself even more stuck in this place of unknowingness. The blessing in all of this "unknown" is that my transcript has been shifted, praise God! Yes, as the morning wore on, my push turned to shove, and by mid-afternoon, I received word that my transcript had cleared, and I was officially graduated. God is so good. He is so very good to me.

In between all the pushing, shoving, and humbling of spirit, I realized that I was feeling pressured to achieve, arrive, and accomplish something that perhaps the Lord wanted me to do. I mean, I have been patiently waiting for movement, and I have sensed that He was indeed ready to move. My transcript was the cog in the wheel, so to speak. It needed a good hard push.

After the delight of hearing the news that my transcript was released, I laid down on the bed with my boys and promptly fell asleep. I was thinking about the Lord's will, His plan, and what might happen now that the cog was removed.

Two hours later.

Two hours passed and I slept like a rock. I mean, I fell asleep hard. I woke up to my son returning home, and with his crashing around, I sort of was startled awake. I had already started to wake up on my own, and I had checked my phone for emails and updates. Lo and behold, I had an invitation to interview sitting in my inbox. Yes, I had an invitation to interview.

I should say that I have been waiting for an email asking me to interview for months. The Lord had revealed to me that I wouldn't apply for a job, but rather I would be solicited for one. I thought it would just come out of the blue, but in reality, this interview request was part of a submission I made earlier in the year -- a good 3 months ago. In truth, I had forgotten about it. Now, I am set to interview next Thursday.

So what does this mean for me? I wonder about my strong push this morning and how my feeling like I needed to get the ball rolling set other events in motion. I don't know if this job will come to pass. It is for one of the school's where I already work, so it is a full-time position. Should I not be selected, I would still keep my part-time work. I would be content either way.

However, this means -- literally -- that the decision to stay in Phoenix is 99% made. I mean, should this job come to pass, I would need to remain. I would need to REMAIN. The Lord has said to me, "Remain" but I assumed that was spiritually intended, as in don't move spiritually. I guess He meant physically remain as well.

For now, I am overwhelmed by His gracious hand. I am overwhelmed by His provision. I am overwhelmed by His presence. He has faithfully kept His word to me, and I am now ready to be promoted. I am ready to be promoted to full-time faculty. I have my degree. I have my transcript. I have experience. I am ready. I am ready. God be praised, I am ready to go and do His will and work.

June 27, 2017

Where the Mind Goes…

So yesterday was a good day. I didn’t do much at all, other than take care of some business around the house. I rested mostly, slept about 2.5 hours in the afternoon (not sure why I was so tired), and then worked on my classes in the evening. In all, it was a pretty uneventful day.

I am guessing the reason why I was so tired had to do with my serious hot flashes that seem to be coming on more and more during the night. I felt pretty washed out yesterday, so I am thinking that my sleep disruption that has been accruing for a while simply caught up with me, and well, I just zonked out.

I slept better last night, though, I still struggled to fall asleep. I think I did sleep soundly, and when I woke up this morning, I had that “I’m dead as a doorknob” feeling. I mean, I felt so draggy when I first woke up. I really prefer to wake refreshed, but lately, I have been “hungover” and again I think it is due to my waning hormones more than anything else.

Still, I am feeling well. I have a slight headache (sinus), and I feel a bit wonky still (off-kilter). The hot coffee is doing it’s thing — magic — and I am starting to wake up and feel more like myself.

Seeking Clarification

The plans for today include grading portfolios, checking in on all my students at Regent (two classes is always a rush), and then working on my buffet (clearing the clutter). Hopefully, in the middle of all of that teacher doing and cleaning doing, I will find some clarity of mind, I will come to that place of peace again.

I am not sure what happened, but yesterday, I lost my peace. I woke up feeling calm, settled, and then something happened, and I stressed and struggled all day long. I went to bed last night feeling that something wasn’t quite right, and even this morning, I still have this nagging sensation that I have done something wrong — like really wrong. Perhaps it was my desire to move forward, take some big steps forward, and in doing so, I simply encountered my enemy. Or perhaps it wasn’t my moving forward at all, but rather my interpretation of events, situations, or scenarios where I drew conclusions that were not correct. I am not sure, but this morning, my prayer is for clarification. I am asking the Lord to help me understand if I am off the mark or if I am where I should be but I have misread some of the signs. In either case, I am asking the Lord to help me to know and to understand — to comprehend — so that I can feel peaceful again, calm and sorted, and I can remain steady and faithful on the path He has me on today.

So, as I mentioned previously, I am in this place where I don’t feel necessarily at peace. I sort of feel off, like I have misstepped in my interpretation or I have taken a slight off-the-mark turn. I am not sure what happened or how I got to where I am, but one thing I have learned over the course of the past 10 or so years is that when a loss of peace occurs, the first thing to do is to confess. Yes, the first order of business is to confess any known sin (the intentional behaviors — words, thoughts, and deeds). The second order of business is to confess any unknown sin (the unintentional behaviors — words, thoughts, and deeds). Once confession is done, the next order is to ascertain what actions may have prompted a change in peace factor. For me, this just means I may have turned a certain way, either figuratively or literally, and that turn may have caused me to lose my sense of peace, my feelings of “it’s good, it’s okay.” My next step in the process of understanding how I came to lose my peace is to simply backtrack, to turn around and walk back to where I last had a sense of peace. Often, the answer is easy — I just walked too far ahead of the Lord — and I got myself to a place I wasn’t meant to be. I turn around, say “I’m sorry” for walking ahead of Him, and most of the time, my peace returns. However, sometimes, just turning around isn’t enough. Sometimes, I have to confront a thought that has lead me astray. Sometimes I have let my enemy suggest a way that is not the way God told me to go, and in doing so, if I follow that thought, I often find that my peace goes with it. I lose my peace when I listen to the lies of the enemy.

How to Stay Focused

Physical actions are often what we think of when we find ourselves off-the-mark. We agree to do something we shouldn’t or we accept an offer that is not God-ordained, and well, we know it in short order. We find ourselves in drama — in chaos — and we know that we made a huge mistake. Sometimes our mistakes are the result of foolish behavior, but sometimes our mistakes are the result of a lack of foresight or critical thinking. Yes, sometimes we run ahead of the Lord into a situation that looks really good, really appealing, but is a situation that simply looks good on the outside, but is rotten on the inside.

Unfortunately, physical actions that lead to missteps are not the easiest mistakes to correct. Depending on the severity of the decision, the outcome might be life altering. This is why Scripture stresses the need for wise counsel as well as prayerful submission to the Lord in all matters (of heart, especially). Before we run out the door, we should be well-prayed, well-prayed, so that we know for certain we are going in the right direction, making good choices, and keeping the Lord’s will for our life front and center.

Mental actions, conversely, are a different matter altogether. Mental actions are thoughts that we give life to in order to bring them to the point of physical action. In essence, thoughts are the forerunners of action. What we think, we often do, so to speak. If you think about that cheesecake, you may find yourself greatly tempted to eat that cheesecake. The more we think on something, the more we desire it. It is a known fact that our thoughts often lead to action, thus our mental state is of vital importance when it comes to making good decisions, good choices for our lives.

A mental turn is when we consider another option, even after we are pretty well settled on a particular path or direction. A mental turn happens when someone says to us, “Have you thought about this…” and we give thought to their words. At the moment of the suggestion, we have two options: 1) consider their words or 2) reject them out of hand. I believe this process is what Paul was speaking about when he wrote to the church at Corinth. Paul urged the believers there to understand how important it was to control thoughts and to destroy deceptive ideas (beliefs, philosophies, ideologies, and worldviews) that ran contrary to the Word of God. More so, he stressed that believers needed to stay firm, focused on God’s purpose, and to “capture every thought” that could lead one astray from that purpose. In 2 Corinthians 10:5-6, we read:

“Our battle is to bring down every deceptive idea and every imposing argument that people erect against the true knowledge of God. We capture every thought to focus on our purpose: understanding and acknowledging the authority of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:3-6).

I am guilty of not staying on tasks, of not remaining fixed on purpose. Yes, I often make mental turns, where I consider a thought or an action, and in doing so, I begin to move toward that thought. I begin to think about the thought, give it presence, and in short order, I am easily led down the wrong thought path. Sometimes we don’t give enough credence to our thought life. We think about sinful thoughts, and we know what to do in order to take control or authority over them, but we don’t always treat casual thoughts in the same way. We often let our mind wander, and when we do, we can easily entertain thoughts that are planted by our enemy, thoughts that are positioned for one purpose — to knock us off our game plan. Yes, our enemy can speak lies to us that are so innocuous, so simple, that we allow them past the gates of our stronghold. In short, we let the lies in along with the truth.

The process of mental turning is critical to physical action, thus where your thoughts go, your body often follows. Subsequently, the adage that says, “Change your mind, change your outcome,” is often true. Our minds are the battleground the enemy uses in his attempt to destroy us. He attacks us mentally because he knows that he can easily push us off the target, the path we are on, simply by suggesting another way, another very plausible and seemingly good way. This is especially true if the way we are walking is in obedience to God. Keep in mind that I am not talking about thoughts that would lead us away from God, rather, I am talking about thoughts that serve to diminish our ability to do the will of God. The hard and true fact of the matter is that our enemy knows that for some strong believers (myself included), there is little likelihood that I will turn away from God — not now, not at this point in my life — so he doesn’t always attack me with the “Did God really say” approach that He used to cause Adam and Eve to doubt God’s sovereignty and plan. Sometimes he is more subtle than this, and in doing so, he suggests ideas and thoughts that seem good on the outside, but are less than the perfect will of God on the inside. When we consider these thoughts, when we give them air to breath and room to grow, we might find that our conscience is muddled, and our once clear path to accomplishing the Lord’s will is not so clear any more. Satan often uses these wily tactics with firm believers because he knows that he can cause us to doubt God’s word as well as His intention without a lot of effort. In many way, he attacks us by simply making us consider other options, other ideas, that might be God approved, but not God ordained (I will explain this later). Our enemy is a subtle and devious schemer, who seeks to kill, steal, and destroy us (John 10:10) and the plans God has for us, in any way possible.

Therefore, controlling our thought life is the first step (after confession) to help us stand firm against the trickery of the enemy. Joyce Meyer writes about the mind as a battlefield in her best-selling book, “The Battlefield of the Mind.” Meyer understands the power of the mind, and in her book, she helps her readers come to terms with the problem and power of thoughts. She stresses the need for metacognition or the process of “thinking about thinking” in order to overcome negative thoughts that can lead to negative life outcomes. She writes, "Thoughts are powerful, and according to the writer of the book of Proverbs, they have creative ability. 'For as he thinks in his heart, so is he. As one who reckons, he says to you, eat and drink, yet his heart is not with you [but is grudging the cost]'” (Proverbs 23:7).

In a blog post written by the staff at the Church of the Living God, the author says something similar when he writes, “Our bodies follow our minds. What we think matters.” The staff writer is sharing a story of faithfulness and diligence in preparing our minds for battle with the enemy. Paul says in Ephesians 6:12, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against.” As such, our battle requires a mindset that is prepared for warfare. In essence, we must show up ready to do battle with the enemy, and that means showing up with our “game face on” and our mind ready to take action.

My mistake this past week has been to question the Lord’s plan for my life. As I have blogged about my experience over the past dozen or so years, I often find myself in situations where I question the veracity of the Lord’s word to me. I question His authority, His purpose, and His plan, but more so I question is integrity, His character when I seek other advice, other counsel or I consider other “options” rather than accepting what the Lord has offered to me. You see, I weigh the offer, I test it, and in this way, I test the Lord. The Lord is patient with me, gracious to me, and despite the fact that I do this (more than once, I admit), He often doesn’t chastise me for doing it. He does, however, permit me to learn lessons as a result, though.

I believe that this past week was another opportunity for me to learn a good lesson, a lesson in obedience, and a lesson in standing fast and not giving sway to thoughts that suggest other options or avenues. Yes, I learned “the hard way,” that with God there is only one acceptable response and that is to obey His word, and to be faithful to keep it.

Lesson #1

Do what the Lord tells you to do. The first part of the life lesson for me was a reminder that God calls His people to obedience, and that obedience is one of the ways we demonstrate our love for Him. Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” Obedience to God’s word is always a priority. This means we are to obey the written word as well as the spoken word (testimony, revelation, and exhortation). The story of Jonah illustrates what can happen we do not obey. Likewise, the story of Lot’s wife reminds us that when the Lord says to do some and we fail to heed, consequences will follow.

Lesson #2

God has a plan for our lives, and His plan includes general and specific characteristics. By this I mean that God has a general plan for His people. Peter said, "The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent” (2 Peter 3:9 NLT) as a reminder that God’s promised deliverance and reward are for everyone. Furthermore, Paul writes to Timothy, “This is good and pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4 NLT). God’s general will includes His plan of salvation, to save us and to save others. This is the great commission with which Jesus commands His disciples; It applies to all believers in Christ Jesus, we are all commanded to go into the world and preach the good news. But, outside of this general will for each Christian, God does have a unique and wonderful plan that considers our natural and spiritual gifts, and often helps position us so that we can fulfill the great commission. You see, while we may say, “God wants me to be a teacher,” and we believe we have been equipped to do so, we must also realize that as part of His will, we are to teach more than just our subject area (for me, it is English). We are to use our gift and His will for our life in combination to further His plan for His creation.

Lesson #3

Following the plan God has for our life is not optional. Once we have taken hold of His gift of grace, received salvation, we are adopted into the family of God. By His mercy and goodness, we are also grafted into His plan and purpose. Thus, we have a role to play within the Body of Christ. We are gifted in certain ways, and we are to purpose our gifts with passion and intensity so that we do our part. Paul uses the analogy of a body to help believers understand that we are all made uniquely to serve one purpose — to be the body of Christ. Therefore, we must do our part, whether we are called as an eye, an ear, a foot or a hand. We all must do what God has called us, created us, to do. But we are not to do this for our own purpose — toward our own design — rather we are to work together in unity, harmony, and with one mind, the very mind of Christ. In this way, we will become the living body of our Lord, and we will do His work here on earth.

Once we learn our position and purpose, we are to attend to that end goal. We are to be the best ear we can be, the best foot possible — in all — with the desire to worship and glorify God, the Father. We are not to squabble, have gross divisions, but we are to seek to serve one another in humility and with submission. We must, however, do our part, and this is non-negotiable. We must grow up in mind and in body, understanding the lateness of the hour, so to speak. We must realize that we are to make every effort to be on guard, to be focused, to be faithful because as Peter says, “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8 NIV).

Lesson #4

Though we may not always understand the plans the Lord has for our life, our response to His plan is to recognize His sovereignty and His will in creating, establishing, and bringing those plans to pass. He is sovereign. He rules over us. He is King, and we are His subjects. There is headship involved in this relationship, and we must not lose sight of who He is and who we are. He is Creator, and we are the created. In the Old Testament and New Testament, the writers often refer to God as the Potter, and in this way, they use a simple analogy to demonstrate the difference between the Potter who creates, and the clay, that is used to be made into some object or thing. Paul says this in Romans 9:21, “But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to Him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” in speaking of the vessels formed for good use and for destruction. In Jeremiah 18:4, the prophet was told to go down to the potter’s house and observe how the potter was working the clay. Jeremiah writes these words, “And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do” suggesting again that the Potter (God) has total control and authority to make whatever He desires and designs from the clay in His hands. Likewise, in Isaiah 64:7-8 NIV, we read,

"There is no one who calls on Your name, Who arouses himself to take hold of You; For You have hidden Your face from us And have delivered us into the power of our iniquities.  But now, O LORD, You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand.”

In this way, we are reminded that God is God alone, and His will, His work, and His way are known only to Him. He chooses what to reveal to us, and Scripture clearly provides His general will for us in the words of Jesus in Matthew 28:18-19 NIV,

“I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you.”

In understanding His specific will for our lives, the believer must draw near to the Lord, abide in Him as John 15:15 says, and spend time resting (being still) in His presence. Yes, the only way the believer in Jesus will come to know the expressed, precise and unique will that God has for their life is to be wholly devoted and wholly dependent on Him.

Wrap Up Life Lesson

What this means to me today is simply that I know both the general and unique will the Lord has for my life. I know what the Lord has asked me to do with my life as a teacher and communicator. I know the plans, so to speak, He has for my life. What I don’t know is the details, the tiny details that consist of steps, many steps forward, from one place (this one) to the next. I don’t know how to get from here to there, so to speak. I don’t have a good map, in layman’s terms. But, what I do have is instruction to help me submit, yield, rest, be patient, and so forth, while the Lord, the Potter, makes a way for me to go. You see, I have been told how to live my life, which is more about the process of how to become more Christ like than the path used to make me more Christ like. I liken it to how I teach writing to my students. Writing consists of two things: thinking about writing (the process), and creating the written product (the outcome). Most of the time, we only think of the latter, the production of a written text. We don’t always give consideration to the process involved in writing. In this way, I am not just speaking about drafting, editing, proofing, etc. (the steps), but really I am thinking about the mental action that occurs before we even put pen to paper. It is metacognition, it is the process of thinking about thinking about writing. In Christian terms, the metacognition is the process of thinking about becoming more Christ-like. We are to become like Him, and the outcome is the finished product of all that thinking work. The more we think about Him, the more we desire to become like Him. The more we obey His words, the more that obedience is worked out for the world to see. It all starts inside our head, in our heart, and then through daily application, daily abidance in Him, we eventually will be transformed to the point where we will be like Him.

I don’t know how to get myself from a physical place (Phoenix) to another physical place (Virginia). I mean, sure, I can read a map, plot a course, and drive from A to B to C. But from a spiritual point of view, if the Lord desires to move me from A to B to C, there is more to that move than simply sticking a pin on the map. There are decisions, choices, options, etc. that all must be carefully weighed, and with the Lord’s help and the guidance of trusted counselors, the map — the chart — will be made clear to me. Until then, however, I need to focus on the internal part, the obedience part, the becoming like Jesus part. The Potter, my Father in heaven, is more than able to create pin markers for me. He is able to move me from A to B to C with ease, but He needs me to be settled, to be fixed in my purpose, in my calling, in my unique plan. He needs me to stop moving about, stop trying to figure out the map, and focus more on the inward heart and mind motivation that begins and ends with obedience. I will go. I will follow. I will obey.

In Closing

I know what I have done. I understand now how I got myself all twisted up (again), and it had more to do with my willingness to entertain other ideas, other thoughts, other options long after the Lord has said, “This is my will.” I bargained with the Lord for other things that I thought were just as good as what He was offering to me. I asked for more, when He had already given me everything I needed. I lost track of my purpose, my overarching plan that includes both His kingdom mandate and the specific work, training, and calling He has graciously given to me. I wanted more, but not to become more like Him, rather to simply have my own way, to have what I liked “better.”

The confusion stemmed from my own mental actions. I let the enemy confuse me by suggesting other, really good options, which the  Lord, my God, had already said “No.” I fell prey to the taunt, “Did God really say this to you…” when I should have simply said, “This is what the Lord said,” and then followed suit with obedience. The enemy, Satan, doesn’t like it when Christians obey God, when they listen, heed, and follow the Word. He will flee just as James says in chapter 4, verse 7 (NET):

"Therefore, submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will run away from you.”

Submit means, “accept or yield to a superior force or to the authority or will of another person” (Dictionary.com), and as such, when we submit, we surrender to God not because we are being forced to do so, but rather because He is God and as God, He knows what is best for us. He is the Potter and we are the clay. In nearly 5,000 years, this fact has not changed. He is Creator, and we are His creation.

June 26, 2017

Thoughts for Today

It is a good morning, and I am sitting at my desk, blogging away the early morning hours. It is 9:15, and so far this morning, I have managed to get myself out of bed, and out to the kitchen for coffee and a bagel. Not too shabby if I say so myself. I am not feeling 100% my best today. I didn’t sleep well last night, and I tossed and turned as well as had hot flashes (really hot ones) several times. I didn’t turn my fan on, so every time I flashed, I suffered miserably as I was soaked to the skin with sweat. I hate hot flashes, and recently, I have had more intense ones than previously experienced. I am thinking it is because I am going on 10 months without a menstruation cycle, and according to the medical professionals, 12 months without a period signals full-on menopause. I guess I am getting close to the end of my reproductive years, and as such, my body is just a bit haywire most days. Still, the lack of quality sleep coupled with the hot flashes and some weird dreams has taken a toll on me physically and mentally this morning. I am worn out, and I feel off my game today. Thank goodness, it is Monday, and I have a light (almost light) day ahead of me. God is good. He is so good to me!

Hope and Faith = Belief

So, despite my feeling off, I am spending most of my time reading blogs, social media, and other articles that I happen to find as I browse the Internet today. I enjoy reading for the most part, but sometimes I get rankled, and well, I don’t really like to get my ire worked up early on in the day. Yesterday, my hackles were charged up due to a post regarding Pew Research’s findings that 63 out of 100 people in America (if America only had 100 people) considered themselves to be religious. I thought the study was interesting, but the comments were horrid, absolutely horrid. Most were from atheists who delighted in stating that all people of faith (all, not just Christians, but every single person who claims faith in a higher being or some spiritual purpose) are looney. The vitriol was difficult to take, and for a time, I was really upset by the fact that so many people of non-faith (no faith, no belief system) had such hatred for people who do. I mean, it was like unless you were a completely rational and logical person (which presumes you can have no belief system outside of science), you were ignorant, stupid, and plain crazy. One poster suggested all people of faith be locked up as insane. I thought it was amazing that these people could be so violent in their expression — really what social media calls “haters” — simply because of the fact that not everyone agrees with their views on life, the origins of life, and the possibility of something greater, bigger, and unknowable existing outside their worldview and perspective.

What Life Looks Like Without Hope

The turning point in my understanding came to me when I realized that these people (and most on the site were clearly atheist) were so hostile to people who believed differently, who held a different worldview. They were intolerant of anyone who thought differently or saw the world differently. And, rather than accept the fact that there is much in this world that is presently unknown, they assumed that all things are knowable, and that somehow their rationality makes them more intelligent and knowledgeable than anyone else. The arrogance was amazing to me because they refused to accept the fact that some people were actually smarter than they were. More so, the real fact that was apparent by their rant was that they believed, they trusted in, they placed their faith, in something just as surely as the people they were railing against. Yep, these so called non-believers were believers in science and rationalism, and as such, they were adherents to a faith-based system as clearly as the Hindus, Muslims, Jews, Pagans, and Christians they maligned.

It took me a while to come to this understanding, and after my ire and hackles settled back down, I moved on to a place of sorrow and sadness for these people. You see, from the tone of their comments, the language they used, the way they spoke against other people not like them, what became clear to me was the fact that most atheists (the vocal ones I witnessed) were really sad people. Sad, lonely, and lost people. These people were the adult version of the bully on the playground, the child who breaks every balloon just to steal the joy from another child on his or her birthday. Yes, these folks were bent on causing pain, suffering, and sorrow — stealing joy — from others who had found a way of life that brought them happiness and peace. In short, the atheists on this website were sore losers, people upset and not wanting anyone else to be happy in life. It was pretty clear to me that the most hateful comments came from people who simply hated life — and everyone and everything in it. Yes, they were haters of everything good in the world, and they made sure that anyone who seemed to enjoy life was centered and fired upon as the target of their anger, hatred, and pessimistic worldview. It was really sad once I came to terms with it. I saw the horror in these peoples words — a life with no hope — a life with a hard stop at the end of it. They were the exact reflection of Thomas Hobbs famous quote:

“No arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death: and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short” (Hobbes from Leviathan)

My heart breaks for people who despite their own choice in hard living, demand the same from everyone else. No Pollyanna’s allowed in the door; no idealists are permitted. The life of the atheist is hard, precise, and unforgiving. There is no hope, no future pleasure, just hard, difficult, and dark living. 


Plans for Today

At present, my plans include grading final portfolio for my class at ASU. I am not sure if I will be assigned to teach in session B this summer or not. This class doesn’t begin until midweek, and I may not even know if I will be assigned until the weekend. It really depends on attendance, and whether or not they need extra instructors. I am OK with either end because I have my two classes at Regent gearing up, and well, the slower pace is a blessing to me. But, should the Lord will it, I will gladly teach a second session this summer. I do enjoy the money, and the extra income will be a blessing as we turn into the middle part of the off-season. Yes, a little extra oomph in my income would be a sweet provision, should the Lord choose to provide it to me.     

On other good news, one of my colleagues just received word that he has been hired full-time to teach at Southeastern University in Lakeland, FL. I can count two colleagues now that have received job offers from this AG school. I am very happy for him, as this position is definitely a boost up and confirmation of his hard work toward his PhD. I am thankful that God is rewarding my faithful colleagues with good practical work, but also with the provision of a new life that will be both rewarding and satisfying.      

The funny thing is that both of my colleagues are not PhD’s yet. One is still in her 3rd year, and the other is ABD. Here I sit as a fully-formed PhD, and I have no work on the horizon. Part of me wonders if I need to switch denominations and join the AG ranks! I know, just kidding, but there seems to be something to it. I am thankful for what I have, which is enough, and for the provision the Lord has graciously given to me. In time, I will have my offer. I time, I will be promoted too. It is hard to see my friends and colleagues move up ahead of me, but I am choosing to celebrate with them because I know they would do the same thing for me. They would be the first to wish me well, and to cheer me on as I am promoted to Assistant Professor at the school of the Lord’s choosing.

So with that said, I close this blog post. My trusted friend, Winston, is lounging on my desk, making it really hard to do work. I am ready to get moving forward, in everything I mean, but I know that until the Lord does it, I have to wait. I have to be still. I have to sit still. He knows what is best for me, and I trust in His opinion, His counsel, and His wisdom.         

June 25, 2017

Ready to Go!

It is a blessed Sunday here in hot and sunny, Phoenix. The skies are clear, and the forecast for the next dozen or so days is much the same: hot. I am thankful for good cold, AC, and I am thankful that I don’t have to venture outside today unless I really, really, really want to do so. Hooray!

My morning was spent as many in the past — I woke up early and spent the first hours at home alone. I attended my church, Scottsdale Bible Church, via Livestream. I am anxious to get back to attending in person but until I have my car back (soon, I hope, very soon), I am content to join in the 11:00 service and participate online (in a live way). It is a wonderful experience to attend church online. I don’t recommend it as a regular practice because I believe God desires His people to do “life” together, and that means in physical proximity to one another. However, the blessing of live streaming an event is simply that people far and wide can attend. I love this fact of technology, and for me, live streaming services has made it possible for me to attend my home church and enjoy the blessing of worship and awesome messages from right here in my home. God is good to me, so very good to me!

Praise and Blessing

This morning was another rock solid message from a guest pastor. The summers at SBC are filled with rotating pastors, since our own senior pastor is on vacation. He normally takes personal time during the summer to spend with his wife and children, to visit his extended family in Michigan and Ohio, and to do his summer study break (when he works on sermon series for the following year). This summer’s series includes a number of well-known local pastors along with some from other states. Today, for example, we had Pastor Carl Klausen. Carl is from Chicago, and is a radio host for Moody Radio. He also is pastor of a new startup church called, 180 Chicago. Carl has preached for us before, but not in the past 8-10 years. He was on fire this morning, and his message was powerful. I was humbled, left in wonder, and challenged to submit and surrender even further to Christ as a result. Good stuff. Really good stuff.

In all, as I sit here today, I marvel at the wonders of the Lord. It was earlier today when I heard the Lord say to me that today would be a good day, a really good day, and that I would come to understand more clearly His will for my life. Of course, I hoped for details, you know — juicy details — of when, how, why, and wherefore. Instead, I received a powerful message that simply showed me how to position myself strategically to receive keener insight and yes, clarity, for the vision God has for my life. I didn’t get the details, but I sure did learn how to get ready to receive them, praise be to God!

Now, I am ready, so very ready to go. I feel compelled to go forward, to begin moving forward, and with that forward movement, I am prepared to defend myself against the enemy and his attack. I am ready, geared up as they say, and while I am not looking forward to a good bashing, I know that this is what will be. I must go forward into the will of the Lord, and any time I move up one, two, or a dozen steps, my enemy is right there ready to pound me good. I stand fully clothed in the armor of God, and I have the WORD inside of me, yet I know he will attack me. He will hit me where it hurts most, where I am most vulnerable. The message today, though, provided insight in how to thwart that attack — well, lets just say — how to lessen its effect. The message was all about surrendering and submitting to God, getting down on your knees and embracing your brokenness. It was about being at rock bottom, and giving everything to God, every single thing — mind, body, and spirit — to God. The business of being laid out before the Lord is all about humility, and the acknowledgement that no human part of us can accomplish the Lord’s work. It is about really understanding what it means to abide in Christ, and what it means to be wholly dependent on the Lord for everything — not just spiritual needs, but physical and emotional needs as well. It is about walking alone, leaving the mockers and foolish people in our lives behind, and following after the Lord with every ounce of our being.

I realize that the message preached is not a new one. I have heard something similar before, but the power with which the message was delivered and its timing were unique. I was transformed through the hearing, and in that way, I was changed from moment to moment, from glory to glory. Yes, I developed insight, received clarity, and in many ways, the eyes of my heart were opened to seeing the Lord’s work and will differently. I came to see my life differently. I came to see confirmation of my path, the path I have been on for the past 10 years, as the path of the Lord’s choosing. I came to understand that everything He has told me, said to me, revealed to me, was true. The pastor today said words to the congregation that basically were the same words I received in testimony from the Lord. I mean — like I was able to say — “Oh, so I am right where I am supposed to be?” I was able to be confirmed. I am doing what He wants. I am going in the right direction. I am living my life as He wants me to live it. Sure, the material, tangible things are not all aligned yet, but spiritually I am doing exactly what I must do in order to begin to receive His blessings, His reward, His provision. I am right where I belong, and praise be to God, I am ready to take the next big step forward.

As I move forward, I am ready to take on more and more of His work. I am ready to begin to develop the ministry He has called me to develop. I am ready to meet the people He has prepared for me to meet. I am ready to take on the tasks, the workload, and all the difficulties and challenges associated with His will. I am ready, but I know that the only way I will be able to do what He is asking me to do, is to humbly submit and yield, to lay fully still before Him and let Him do this work in and through me. I must be emptied out so He can fill me up. I must be the branch to His vine, and I must let Him produce the good fruit in me. I am ready, Lord. I am ready to be used for your Name and for your Praise and to bring you Glory.

In Closing

Today is a good day, a really good day. I am yielded. I am humbled. I am ready to be used by God for His glory. I rest now in my work because I know that what the Lord asks of me cannot be done in my strength, through my intellect, or because of my passion or pursuit. I must relent, let go, relinquish all authority and power and control over my life, and I must let Him lead, guide, and provide for me. In truth, I can do all things through Christ alone. Thus, it is in His name that I confess my utter dependency, and it is with His power that I do the tasks and the work assigned to me this good, good day. He alone is worthy to be praised. He alone is worthy to be praised! Selah! So be it. Thy will be done, Amen.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phil. 4:13 NIV)

June 24, 2017

It is Saturday!

Hello, Saturday! Where have you been all week? Yes, it is Saturday, and I am home and resting in my very comfortable, almost “Shabby” bedroom/office. I am at peace. I am resting comfortably, and I am sensing this amazing calm right now. I just feel good — about everything — and praise be to God, I am thinking this has to do with His will and work and not with anything that I have done. At the least, I feel pretty confident that this is all about HIM and “oh so" not about me. Selah!

It is a good afternoon, and I am blogging late due to a busy morning. I didn’t do anything amazing this morning, but rather, I spent most of my early hours working around the house, helping my parents, and dealing with my two very active cats. My parents are out of the house right now, and my son is still slumbering away in his room next door. I am at my desk with my faithful friend, Winston, and well, I am enjoying the blessed peace and calm and quiet of my urban home. Yes, you heard me right! I am enjoying the blessed peace, calm, and quiet of my home — right here in the middle of Phoenix, and right on the corner of Busy and Busier Street (in my neck of the woods, Greenway Road is one of the busiest East-West thoroughfares).

I am blogging now since I have a bit of downtime before I have to get to grading student projects. My class at ASU has come to a close, and final submissions are due tomorrow. I have some projects from earlier in the week to grade, and I need to update the grade book so that I can post final grades by next Wednesday. My other courses at Regent are finishing up Week 1, and I have some discussion to attend to as well as topic ideas to approve. In all, my grading is really low key, but I have timing and deadline issues to consider.

I still haven’t heard a peep on my transcript. I had hoped (fingers crossed) that the Registrar’s office would update my file yesterday, but it appears that nothing happened. I was told the case would be resolved by the weekend, and well, here it is Saturday, and there is no resolution. Perhaps Monday will bring me good news? I sure do hope so, but even if I must wait again, I will wait. I believe the Lord is Lord over this issue just as much as He is Lord over ALL of His creation. I can do nothing but trust in my Lord’s hand and power and authority, so I wait. I wait with hopeful expectation that my degree will finally post, and with that event, I will be one step closer to being hired full-time. I believe it. I am hopeful. I am expectant. He is good. He is so good to me. Selah!
Shabby Thoughts

So I spent most of yesterday working in my room. I have been on a kick to get my room in better shape now that summer is here and because I have more free time. I have gone round and round with style, decisions about design and color, and I have finally embraced what I think is the best style for me. I hate to admit it, but the Lord does know me best. I was pretty much settled on Modern Farmhouse (a la Joanna Gaines), but the Lord was not quite ready to let me stick with such a “kitchy” style (meaning popular or fadish). He pressed on me to consider other styles first, and over the past 8-10 months, I have gathered thousands of pins on Pinterest that explored Traditional/Transitional, Farmhouse, Modern, Eclectic, and yes, New Country (or really English/French Country). I explored design styles, paint colors, fabric choices, and even room layouts until I finally ran out of steam (and pins, LOL!) As of today, I have pinned:

  • 3,883 pins for Modern
  • 3,566 pins for Farmhouse
  • 3,008 pins for Eclectic
  • 2,101 pins for Country
  • 1,732 pins for Transitional

Can you see how Pinterest has become my new best friend? Well, not really, but the social media platform has served a valuable purpose in my oh-so harried life. I found pinning to be the ultimate in relaxation for me. In many ways, Pinterest tapped into my love of reading design magazines. I used to spend my evenings (20-30) years ago with stacks and stacks of old magazines. I would pour myself a cup of coffee or tea and I would read articles and look at pictures in books and magazines as a means of relaxation. When I moved house and relocated to Phoenix, I tossed all my magazines out (I had almost every issue of Country Living from 1985 through 1996). Pinterest is the 21st century version of day-dreaming with magazines. I love, love, love Pinterest.

So I digress. After spending 10 months pinning myself silly, I really was able to discover my true decorating identity. I realized that for one thing, I happen to love a lot about several different styles. I also came to accept the fact that I am quiet eclectic in my tastes and my preferences run the gamut from shabby chic to bohemian to ultra modern. I really like many styles, but when I had to finally choose, finally decide on the style that I could live with for the next 20-30 years, I settled on Country French or New Country as I call it.

Country French is a design style that mixes rustic, industrial (some) with French couture. There is a sense of elegance to the style, but not too much “fancy” to ruin my appreciation of farmhouse and Americana. Country French embraces the beauty and boldness of the Queen Anne and Victorian period all the while keeping things fresh and light. Typically this style includes a lot of white, beiges, creams with mixtures of blues, greens, browns, and reds.

I am not glitz and glamour, but there is a part of me that enjoys some sparkle. I like mercury glass for example, and I appreciate old mirrors with film and haze. I like whitewashed furniture with ticking, toile, and checks. I like beiges, tans, creams, and white along with lots of brown. I like the way that these colors blend with one another. I am a bit shabby as the fad goes in that I do like crystal chandeliers and English transferware. I like doilies, Battenberg lace, and slipcovered sofas and chairs. In all, I am Country at heart, but with an upscale and desire to bring in rustic comfort.

My bedroom, for example, is a little bit Country French. I have added some pieces overtime, but I still don’t have the look quite right. Partly this is due to a lack of space, but also it is due to the fact that I have had to start over. I was thinking back to my first apartment. My ex-husband and I had a rag-tag collection of furniture, mostly cast offs. I decorated our apartment in what would be called “Flea Market” or today, “Shabby Chic.” I didn’t know that I was doing that back in the early 80s, when all the rage was primitive country, but I liked the colors of roses, the sway of geraniums, and the old fashioned way lace curtains ruffle in the breeze. Yes, I was a shabby girl, but I never knew it.

Years later, almost every magazine I would pick up at the market would be one that featured my colors, my style. I didn’t put any name to it until just recently when I started to think about decorating my own place — my first real home — and I had to make a decision as to how I would do it. Now, I am content. Now, I have a style in mind, and while my final version may not be catalog worthy, it will be unique to me, and it will represent all the things I love most — white, creams, tans — and beautiful light (soft, creamy wonderful light). Yes, I am ready to decorate, ready to create my own style, to design my own place, and ready, thank the Lord, to embrace a style that says, “Hey world, this is ME!”
My Purpose and My Identity

How is decorating important to my sense of self? I have prayed about this for a while, and I asked the Lord why He was so bent on having me explore design styles. Sure, I needed an outlet for my frustration, and Pinterest fit the bill. But in truth, I think there was more to me accepting my style, finding a style, I should say, and then really embracing it. First off, I really had to come to terms with an important point and that was that my identity (the real me) is founded in Christ. I am a Child of God, and I find all value, worth and esteem in His opinion of me. He has accepted me as His own child, and as such, I am valued by Him. He esteems me, loves me, cares for me, and as a result, I am no longer at odds with the Lord. I am on His side, so to speak.

My identity is not found in the work I do. I am a teacher. Teaching is a label for me, and yes, it is something I do and I love to do. However, my identity is not formed through my teaching. I teach because the Lord provided teaching as a career for me to do to earn income and to pay bills. I appreciate the fact that teaching suits me, that I love to do it, and that the Lord chose a way for me that blesses me day in and day out. However, I do not find my joy, my satisfaction or my good pleasure in teaching. I love it, don’t get me wrong, but my joy, my satisfaction, and my good pleasure come from my relationship with the Lord. He is my everything, and He is the source of all my sufficiency.

Secondly, once I accepted my identity as being rooted and firmly planted in Christ, I began to think about how my identity is shaped (internally) and expressed (externally). What do people see when they look at me? Do they see a fashion model? Do they see a Mom? Do they see a teacher? What do they see in me, personality wise, when they meet me? Do they read correctly that I am a wholly devoted follower of Jesus Christ or do they see the world first and Christ second? More so, when people come into my home what do they find? Do they find the world, the trappings of the world or do they find a community of hope, love, and mercy? How does my external world match with my internal world? What message do I communicate to those around me, outside my family?

With all of these questions in mind, I started to think about how I need to work on my external world. I need to shape my external world so that it matches what I say I believe, feel, and think on the inside. I need to create spaces that cause people to feel welcome, at home, and to make them want to sit a while. I started to view my space as more than “my space.” I started to see the spaces I inhabit as community spaces where people can gather together. With this new mindset, I realized that I had to design space that suited more than just my style preference. I needed to design space that embodied what the Lord wanted to do in that space. In this way, my personal space merged with public space, and as a result, my ideas, my thoughts on what would work/not work changed. Now, I am not saying that my private home needs to be designed like a Starbucks, but I am saying that my private space needs to function like a Starbucks. It needs to be open to strangers, comfortable for sitting, lounging, and just hanging out. It needs to have a vibe, a good vibe, and that good vibe is created through a combination of several things.

Space: In interior design, the way a space is laid out is important to the overall atmosphere. Open spaces suggest an invitation whereas closed spaces say “stay out.” Space design needs to be considered, especially in furniture choice and placement. Lighting in space design is also really important because how a space is lit will determine how people feel about using the space. Bright light is good for working, soft light is good for romance or quiet study.

Function: The function of a room is also an important consideration. Tiny rooms make it really difficult to have people in them. If there is no room to move around, the function of the space becomes diminished. Large rooms, on the other hand, can give plenty of space for activities, but without careful planning, they can also feel like bowling alleys or conference rooms (no personality or so large they are like a cavern).

Style: Style refers to how a room is decorated. It can be a combination of furnishings, but it can also be designed with hardscape (flooring) or wall surface. For example, tile or wood floors give a certain feel to a room. Barn siding also can create a certain feel or look. Likewise, open arches or cut-outs in the wall shout modern or contemporary whereas columns or other architectural detail say traditional. Colors from darks to lights give a room a presence, and lighting as mentioned before can illuminate a room and make it more functional or practical.

I’ve thought a lot about the space I inhabit. Right now, my space is limited to my room. Although, I share an entire 4-bedroom home with my parents and son, my personal space is really just a 11x11 room. Someday, though, I will have my own home. I will have more space to design, and I want to make sure I am on the right track, thinking community rather than private, and being open to the idea of sharing my space with my brothers and sisters in Christ as well as those who are seeking to learn more about Him.

The space requirements that I have are minimal now, but in time, I see that I need private and public space in my home. I also need professional space. I need a full office to do my work from home. I need a bedroom for my rest and relaxation. I need public space in a kitchen, dining area and common area for when I entertain friends and family. My son, should he remain with me, needs a bedroom and a studio room. Thus, at a minimum, we need a 4-bedroom house. If I want guests to stay over, I need 5 bedrooms. It is hard for me to imagine that I need this much space, but since I work from home, my space allocation doubles.

The function of these rooms, the public ones, is pretty simple. I need a place where people can sit and talk. I need a place where people can watch TV (movies or other things). I need a place to prepare food. I need bathrooms, of course, and then laundry facilities. In short, I need my space to function well. I need a decent size kitchen, not a galley hallway. I need space for a big table with at least 8-10 chairs. I need a family area where I can have me big screen TV and enough seating to accommodate 10 people easily. Yes, I intend to host gatherings whereby I will easily have 8-10 people in my home.

Thus, as I think about the space and the function, I must consider what to do with that space once I have it in hand. I can certainly just leave it as a blank canvas, a big white box (or tan as most come these days). But, since I am familiar with design and how atmosphere is created with lighting, furniture and placement, I realize that in order to create an inviting place where people feel welcome, I must also consider the colors and the overall effect that each room has on visitors. Therefore, the past 10-months of pinning had purpose outside of simply helping me relax and rest from my hard work of teaching and doctoral study. Yes, my pinning prepared me to design a home that will be used by the Lord for His work and His will. Selah!
In Closing

As I think about all of this today, I am reminded that the Lord does nothing short of perfection. He leaves “no stone unturned,” and in this way, He is careful regarding details. He lacks nothing when it comes to designing spaces that He intends to use, and with a humble spirit, He will help, guide, and provide so that the spaces we create and live in and enjoy can be used for His praise, honor, and glory.

Today, consequently, I learned that my space, as much as it is about me, is also His space, and in this way, His design, style, and management requires that I let go, and that I let Him direct me so that what is created suits His purpose. His purpose, I should note, is above and beyond my purpose. His purpose factors in my needs, but ultimately, it is about His work and what He intends to do in and through the space He provides for that work.

June 23, 2017

Friday or FRI-YAY!

It is a good day in sunny and hot, Phoenix. Yes, it is set to be another HOT day in the Valley of the Sun. I am getting used to the triple digits, but part of me still hopes for some break from the monotony of the “same old, same old” thing. I checked the weather report for day, and the forecast calls for sun (no surprise there) and 112 degree heat. Yes, it is summer in Phoenix!

Summer Days and Summer Plans

Summer days like we have in June call for smart planning. It is impossible to spend the day outdoors, so instead, options for work indoors take preeminence. For me, that includes teaching summer school online, but also it includes some work around the inside of the house. Yesterday, for example, I finally made the decision to do something about the fish tank in my room. The tank has been 3/4 full for over a month now, and it has remained empty since my fish, Lenny, passed away back in early March. For a time, I thought I might want to get another fish, but with my schedule and such, I decided that it was best to forgo fish and let the tank be used by someone else who really loves fish or has a need for a good 20 gallon tank to house reptiles.

So with this plan in mind, yesterday, I did the deed. I emptied the 20 gallon tank and took it outside to dry. I still need to clean it, but I intend to offer it for sale to anyone who might want it. The process of cleaning out the tank took less time than I had thought, but the benefit of doing it yesterday meant that I had the opportunity to reorganize my room a bit. I took some photos of my room after cleaning, and I have to say that I really like to “look.” I still want to change a few things around, but for now, I am happy with what I have done to make my room feel a bit more “Shabby” and a bit more like me (or my style).

One of the things I would like to do today (if I can) is find a piece of metal art to go above my bed. I was looking online at Kirklands, and I found this really cute scroll work piece for $15.

I need to go over to the store to see if they have it in stock. If not, I can order it online and have it shipped to the store for free. I think the scroll work will look better on my wall than the country folk art print that is there now.

Another item that I need to buy is a small mirror to go in the space between the lamp and the end of the bed frame. Now that the fish tank is gone, this space looks empty. I thought about putting up a picture, but I think a square or round mirror will look nicer. I found this little round scalloped mirror at Target for $15. I think it is a bargain and it will look great in this spot.

I am also thinking of spray painting my headboard white. I’ve vacillated about whether to paint it black or white for 6-7 months, but now that I am sort of going all “Shabby” in my room, I think white suits my style best. My Dad said he would help me, but the heat is pretty intolerable, so I think painting the headboard will have to wait until fall. I could just buy a new headboard, but I kind of like this one. It is just this weird green color — sort of a light sage green. I really would prefer it to be either white or black.

I’ve blogged about how I am running out of book space for a while now, and the small shelf unit I bought to hold the tank never really was used for anything other than storage. I am trying to figure out how I can get another bookcase in my room without giving up my bed or dresser or desk, but so far, I am stuck. I pretty much just cram my books into the case as I can, which is not a pretty look. One area I have considered repurposing is the area where the cat condo sits. My cats don’t use this condo at all, except to get cat toys (I tossed them on the floor for the photo). 

I have about 40 inches between the book case and my file cabinet/printer (not shown). I’ve thought about getting one of those cheapy book/cubby units at Walmart. I thought I could turn it on its side and then create a book space as well as a kitty window seat.

Now, though, I have turned it into a display place and bookshelf/unit, which means that my desk has miraculously gone from cluttered to cleared (yay!) 

Today, my task is to clean out my buffet. I use my buffet as a catch-all for books and papers, and every so often it gets stuffed to the point where it is overflowing. I have wanted to declutter it as well, so the plan is to work on the buffet later this afternoon.

Theology and Bible books are on the first shelf behind the glass

The drawers and doors are crammed with storage and paper

In all, I am feeling good about my space again. I am feeling like there might be a way to make my small room more appealing, and while I cannot move to my own place just yet, I can start to plan some small changes in preparation for that move.

One of the areas I think I will work on next, after the buffet that is, is the bathroom. My bathroom is used by me and my son, and it is beige and blue and sort of a “Beach” feel. I never really decorated it when we moved in because I didn’t have the time to do it. I used my Mom’s decor from her old house, and simply bought a blue/green shower curtain to pull everything together. I like blue, mind you; but I really prefer my Shabby Chic look in beige, cream, and white better. I am thinking the easiest fix is to change the shower curtain (for white), purchase a new beige rug, and then pick up a few new white towels to go with all the gold, beige, and brown towels I have now. Then, I will add some shabby decor, and presto! My bathroom will look more like my room in an instant.

After the bathroom is redecorated, I plan to focus on the hall closet that sits right outside my bedroom door. It is jammed as well, and the space is really not very functional. I need to clean it out, toss out all the old towels and linens and then use some plastic bins to sort and organize some of the items that are stored in there so that I can use them as needed. Right now, I have to dig around and often I don’t even know if what I want is in the closet or not.

Making New Plans

I guess you can say that I am trying my best to make the “most” of my current living situation. I am trying to make my style come about despite the fact that I live with my parents in a home we both rent. I am trying to make my home look more like me and less like my Mom. Although, I love my Mom and her style has always been traditional, I simply prefer something different, and now after living together for 4 years, I am really feeling the desire to make a home “nest” again. I want to have a place that is mine, reflects my style, and feels “good to me.” I hope that doesn’t sound crazy, but I have this desire to “nest,” and no, I am not pregnant or thinking about marriage or a major lifestyle change. I think I am just ready to set down roots, dig in, and make a life for myself. And, making a life means to me, making my style, embracing my style, and making my home reflect me and my identity. It is what I desire now that I am almost 55 years old, and while I am content to remain as I am, sharing this home with my parents and son, I feel that the time has come for me to step out and be my own person. I am ready to be ME.

The plans the Lord has for my life include, I believe, a place of my own. I believe this is right and proper, and since I am now a professor and capable of earning a decent living wage, I feel that I am ready to act and live like a grown up acts and lives. Mind you, I do live this way now, but I really want my own space, and in that desire comes freedom to do as I please (within the Lord’s will, of course). I really want to have my own place, with my own things, and designed and styled to suit my preferences.

I know that I must wait for this to be. I cannot have what I want now. I have to be patient, and in time, I will have what I want. I will be able to have all the things I desire, and to design and decorate once I am on my own. Until then, I simply can dream and envision, and yes, design a little bit here and there, as the Lord provides and wills it to be so. He knows my needs. He knows me best, and He knows that there are times when I do feel really constrained to remain in my very small space. I know also that my son feels this way too. He feels cramped in his small room, and since we both intend to work from home, to have studio and office space, we really need a house that is designed to function in this way. We cannot do proper business from a bedroom that is shared sleep and work space. No, we need enough room to spread out, to have sleeping space for relaxing and retreating after a long day, and functional office/studio space where we both can be creative, inventive, and yes, do research and study.

My parents do not understand this as a need. They simply see life through old-fashioned 9-5 eyes. My Dad thinks we spend too much time in our rooms, but that is because he sees work as something to you do outside the home. Work at home is for hobbies, for play, for enjoyment — it is not for income or a profession. But, in 2017, work from home is a viable way to earn a living, and since I teach from home and my son intends to compose and record music from home, well this then is our life. Our needs are shifting now to compensate for those needs.

In time, the Lord will provide — of this I am sure. My hope today is for some movement forward in the Lord’s plan for my life. I am waiting for my transcript to post, and then I feel confident that the Lord will show me that full-time job. I believe everything hinges on my degree posting, and until it does, I am stuck in “status quo” mode. I will wait, Lord. I will be patient. I will endure until the time comes when you release me to go forward, to embrace the life you have called me to live.

In Closing

As I close this blog post today, I remember that nothing will happen outside the Lord’s will for my life. Nothing will change until He says “change.” Until then, I look up. I rest in His timing, and I wait for His word to go, to stay, to change, to move. He is the author and finisher of my faith, and He has a great plan in store for me. I must heed His timing, His direction, and above all, His counsel. I must listen, abide, and heed — obey — and in this way, His work, His will, and His way will come to pass in and through my life. It is so. So be it, Lord. Amen.