July 5, 2017

It is Wednesday and…

It is Wednesday. Yes, it is the day after the holiday, and well, I am sitting here thinking to myself, drinking my coffee, and just chilling out. Yesterday was a good day all around. Nothing much happened. I enjoyed the holiday, and I had a good evening with my family. I didn’t watch fireworks, but I did catch a glimpse of them on TV.

I spent most of my evening interacting with my students, and watching episode 3 of “Loch Ness.” The latter is “Loch Ness,” a crime drama/thriller set in the beautiful (fictional) town of Lochnafoy, Loch Ness, Scotland. The series, produced by ITV and released as an Amazon original series, follows the events of a small crime squad living in the picturesque and somewhat remote community as they try to solve a serial murder. So far, Amazon has released one episode each Monday (out of six in series 1). I caught episode 3 last night, and I cannot wait for the next installment.

In addition to watching Amazon, I really just relaxed and spent the evening thinking about how blessed I am to be living in America (for all her warts and issues), and how fortunate I am to be the recipient of God’s grace and mercy. Yes, I thought about how fortunate, highly favored — BLESSED — I am to live in this great country and to have the freedom to work from home, teach college students, and enjoy the safety and security of being an American citizen.
Cultivating Thankfulness

As I considered my position, the favor and blessing I am presently receiving, I couldn’t help but give thanks to the Lord for His goodness and His mercy. I mean, who am I that I should deserve anything at all, let alone His goodness, His grace and mercy? Psalm 8”3-4 (AMP) says it this way,

When I see and consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have established,
What is man that You are mindful of him,
And the son of [earthborn] man that You care for him?

And, in Micah 7:8, the prophet says,

Who is a God like you,
who pardons sin and forgives the transgression
of the remnant of his inheritance?
You do not stay angry forever
but delight to show mercy.

Paul reminds us in Ephesians 2:4-5 that it was,

Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.

Today is a day of praise. I am choosing to be thankful because of the goodness of God. He has richly provided for my every need, and while I don’t always have what I think I should (as in a full-time job), what I do have is good. God has provided enough for me. I have enough to be well-covered. I am safe and secure in my home, and I have good purposeful work to do that provides not only satisfaction but daily enjoyment. I am finally working in a job that I really enjoy. I love what I get to do, and I look forward to doing my job each and every day. I cannot say that I have ever had a job where I felt this way. Sure, I have had good jobs before. I had several good paying jobs where I worked in competitive environments with ruthless and sometimes shifty employers. I was not always treated well, and despite the pay, the company treated me as if “they owned” every aspect of my life. I worked like a dog, as they say, and often, I made myself ill from the stress of the workload or the animosity present in the workplace. My current work now is the first time in years where I have no ill will, no difficult peers to contend with or no stress in the workplace. More so, the work I do is really enjoyable, and I love the fact that I get to mentor students every single day, encourage them, help them, and teach them how to be better students. I am blessed. I am favored, and I am in a very good role, occupation, and career — thanks to God!

I can remember how two years ago, I was still struggling with whether or not I should remain in higher education. I was frustrated at the lack of progress in my work, and I wasn’t having the best experience in my campus-based adjunct positions. The classes were fine, but I felt like I was in a dead end place — not a job — but the school was a dead end for me. I wasn’t going to be hired full-time, and the likelihood that I would be promoted in either place was simply not an option. I didn’t have any online work at that time, so I only had two schools and the pay rate was not high enough to cover my expenses. Then, doors opened once I became ABD, and I started to be offered online contract work. At first, I balked at the idea of working from home. I had been self-employed for 15 years, and while it worked well when my son was little, I hated the fact that I never knew when the money would arrive — would I get paid this week — or would I have to pinch pennies for another week or several weeks to come? I wasn’t sure I wanted to give up the face to face interaction with my students or not physically hang out on campus.

Once I started working at Regent, however, my attitude changed. Regent offered me a wonderful curriculum, a great experience, and a stress-free approach to teaching. I started working at Regent last summer, and over the course of the past year, I have had the blessing of teaching continually for them. I love the work I do, and I love this school (my school). Likewise, in 2017, I was offered a part-time position working from home, teaching at ASU, the local public university here in Phoenix. I wasn’t sure I would like the approach, but after spending the spring working in a team environment, and now completing the summer, I have found my niche, so to speak. I have found that I love working from home as a teacher. I guess this type of work suits me. I really enjoy the personal, one-on-one interaction I get with my students, and I enjoy the interface (Blackboard) and the way the coursework is designed and implemented. 

In truth, I love this work so much that I am praying the Lord opens a door for me full-time. I would love to be able to do this work on a full-time basis and to know that I could invest myself into it. Tomorrow, I interview with one of my schools for a full-time position. I am trusting the Lord that if this is His will, then the job will come to pass. If not, then I will continue to wait and watch for His open door. I am thankful for the opportunity to interview, however, and I know that whatever comes to pass will be for the best.

I am also thanking the Lord for the privilege of living in the home I share with my parents. Lately, I have been thinking about moving out on my own and moving to a new place, a new city or town. But, I would be remiss if I didn’t give the Lord thanks for the home I am in now. A good friend of mine is moving locally (in her home town) and her move made me think how blessed I am to be staying put for a while yet. I mean, I am ready to go, but the whole process of moving is so stressful. I am glad that the Lord has chosen for me to move slowly through this process — job first — move (if any) second. He knows me so well, and I am grateful that He is carefully moving through the various steps  toward being established.

I am also thankful that I have a decent car to drive. I have been shopping online for a new car for my son, and at this point in time, I don’t have all the money I need to buy one for him. My car is doing double-duty and we have been ride-sharing for almost a year. I know he wants his own car, but with his work schedule (variable) and school commitments, he hasn’t been able to work full-time or steadily to the point of saving enough money on his own. My car is ready to be traded in for a newer model, but I don’t want to do that until the time is right. For now, we continue to share, and thanks be to God, my car is in good order. I am praying for a new car soon, but until the Lord opens that specific door, I feel like what we currently have is good enough. I am blessed with my car, and I am fortunate to have it to share with my son.

Lastly, I am thankful that I have my good health. I have been struggling with some back issues, and last night, I was awakened at 3:30 with sciatica pain. I did some stretching before bed, and I was able to rest for a couple hours, but something triggered the nerve reaction, and I woke up in agony. After I took some Advil, I used the heating pad to relax and within about 20 minutes or so, I was fast asleep again. I am still sore today, but nothing like last night. I was thinking about my physical problems and how the majority of my health-related concerns are tied to my structural abnormalities (scoliosis and osteoarthritis). I have good blood pressure, no heart conditions, diabetes, or other problems. For the most part, my pain exists in my lower back, my neck, and my hip/thigh and ankle. It is all related to my spinal twisting and bending, and the resultant muscle strain that occurs as a result. I can do very little about my structural issues, other than stay healthy, work out/lift weights, and keep my weight in check. 

The Lord has provided richly for me. I have my needs met with His sufficiency. I have enough income set aside to cover me this summer (praise be to God!) I have a good car, and with my teaching online, my son is able to use it to go to work, school, and his music events. I have teaching contracts that pay me steady income, and praise be to God, with my summer contracts, I will be able to move into fall without any lack! I have my health, and while I really am 20 pounds over weight, I am in good overall shape. Yes, I need to workout. I have weak muscles, and I lack toning, but I don’t have any major medical issues. In fact, I haven’t been to the doctor (other than for dental and eye check ups) in nearly 4 years. I have had no colds, flu, or other serious health matters. God has protected me, provided for me, and prepared me in such a way so that I can walk on — into His will — and tackle the work He has in store for me. He is good to me, so very good to me!
Getting Reading to Go

So yesterday, I blogged about my discovery of sorts that my desire to go, to move, wasn’t my idea or born out of my own selfish want or need. However, today, I realized that while I have made a good discovery, I still am standing still, preparing to go without really being able to go. Moreover, as I think about going, I see how complex my life is right now. I see that my life has so many intertwined elements and that I cannot easily move without some threads coming loose. Thus, while I feel the desire to go, I also realize that the process of going is one that requires great care. The Lord has not chosen to move me yet, and there is reason for that delay. While I feel the desire to go, the Lord has to provide a way for me to go. I have a complicated life, and for the short and long term, I am where I am because the Lord has decided it is best. I mean, I may want to return to the Midwest because of my strong affinity toward the place or because I feel the Lord leading me this direction. Yet, until He opens a door for me, I must rest here. I must wait patiently here. I must be busy with the work He has provided for me to do right here and now.

In fact, as I consider my next “moves” so to speak, I realize that from this point forward, I cannot go on my own without the Lord moving first. I cannot go until He says, “it is time to go,” and I cannot begin that process until He provides all the necessary details to support that “going.” For example, I cannot consider moving without a job. I am hoping to be hired full-time to teach online, and with teaching online, I should be free to move wherever I want (no strings). Yet, I cannot take any steps forward until I have secured a job. More so, once the job is settled, I cannot begin to think about moving until I know what plans the Lord has for my parents (long term) or my son (college). I mean, I cannot leave and not consider my parents care situation. I cannot leave without helping my son find a place to live while he finishes his last year of school. Furthermore, with our ride sharing setup now, I cannot leave until he has his own car for school, work, and events. As you can see, my life is a complexity that requires careful planning and provision to meet not only my needs but the needs of my parents and my son.

Thus, while I may be GUNG HO on “going,” I understand that I cannot go without proper planning and preparation. I don’t know how long I will be preparing to go, but when I think of the patriarchs in the Old Testament, I know that with God, timing is critical. His timing, and His conception of time is far different then our understanding so we think of time in literal second, minutes and hours, but the Bible says that God doesn’t see time in this way. 2 Peter 3:8 says, “Nevertheless, do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like one day.” In this way, my desire to go, to move, to be planted elsewhere often produces this immediate sensation like I need to get going now. Whereas, with the Lord, the desire to go may be carried out of many days, weeks, or even months (or years, for that matter). 

Therefore, I am beginning to see that my desire to Go and His preparation to go are all part of His grand plan for my life. I am ready to go, for sure. I feel the push, the desire, the want, but at this time, I see no provision or even clear pathway to go. I feel His movement, but I don’t see any forward momentum just yet. Perhaps in a month. Perhaps by the year end. Perhaps by the time my son graduates from college. I don’t know, but what I do know is that the signal to go has been warming up for a long, long time. Yes, I have felt the desire to go, to move, for the past 10 years, and yet, here I remain, here I stay. Many things have changed during the past 10 years, and I can say now that I am far better prepared to go than ever before. I have resources, I have references, and I have a good career that can sustain me in virtually (and I do mean virtually) any place on the planet.

The Lord is not slow. He is not slow in bringing His plans to pass. He is not slow in how He prepares us for work either. He is careful, considerate, and compassionate. He knows our needs intimately, and He knows our limits — what we can and cannot handle. In this way, He is careful in how and when He moves us. Perhaps He chooses to move us from one job to another or from one position to another. Or perhaps He dumps us out of our complacency by allowing us to lose our job, our career or our home. Perhaps He allows misfortune to follow us or the consequences of poor decisions to catch up with us. The Lord knows our end, and as such, He understands our days far better than we do.

In my case, it has been 11 years since I started down this path. It was March of 2006 when I had an epiphany moment, when I realized that I had been a Christ follower for nearly 28 years without really ever sensing that I loved Him. More so, I realized that while I had made a decision to follow after Him, I never surrendered my will to Him. Not completely, I mean. It was in 2006 when I fell on my knees and when I fully surrendered my life to Him. Completely to Him, I mean. Yes, I acknowledged that I had walked with the Lord during those years, but often at a distance, and only with a few periods of closeness and intimacy. Moreover, I had received a call on my life, a call to live wholly devoted to Him, single, and to follow Him as a missionary and a teacher when I was a young girl (only 16). I was passionately on fire back then, but I lived a sheltered life, and fear raged within me and all around me. I was so young, scared, and immature. I didn’t know how to stand up to my parents, my peers, or the pressure I felt to conform, to be what others said I should be.

In the end, I abandoned that call because of family and peer pressure. I got involved with a man, later married, and never became a missionary or a teacher. More so, my marriage was difficult and filled with sin, sorrow, and suffering. My life was a shambles. I lived with intense guilt and conviction, and despite my attempts to serve the Lord (which I did), I never felt any real love for the Lord. I felt fear. I felt panic, and I believed I deserved His wrath for not only my sins, but for my refusal to follow Him, and my rejection of the plan He had for my life.

Then, one day back in March of 2006, after I had hit my proverbial “rock bottom,” I gave in. I surrendered my life, repented of my selfish desires, and my sinful disobedience, and I began the long walk back to intimate fellowship. I spent years relearning what it meant to obey the Lord. I took 3 years to read my Bible (each year a different Bible), and I devoted myself to 100% followership. Then in 2007, and in 2009, my ex-husband became seriously ill, to the point of death, and my faith was sorely tested. Did I trust the Lord enough to walk alone, should He call my husband home? Could I imagine being single, living singly after so many years of marriage? How would I live? How would I survive? What would I do for work?

I was so unsure back then, and when I found out that my ex-husband had been involved with other women, having internet affairs and telephone sex, etc., I realize that my marriage was a sham. I mean, I had been faithful to a man who had not been faithful to me. I was in a precarious position. I worked as part of his business, and even though I had my degree (BA), I had no real career. Sure, I had been a successful website designer, but I believed that I was not doing the work the Lord wanted me to do. I was doing the work I had been asked to do by my then husband, and I worked for pennies, never really seeing any return on my time.

In 2010, I made the decision to follow the Lord, even if that meant alone. My ex-husband refused to give up his girlfriend (even though she was married), and he refused to commit to our marriage and our family. I gave him an ultimatum — me and our family or the other woman. He chose her, and as a Christ follower, I knew that I couldn’t live in a marriage where infidelity was tolerated. I made a difficult choice that day, but I believed I was standing on the word of God, and that God would provide for me. I made the choice to walk away, but in walking away, I accepted the fact that I had no way of providing for myself. I mean, I had no money, no career, no bank account, and no car. I had nothing but the roof over my head (which was soon to be foreclosed). I had no other alternative than to trust the Lord for His provision. I laid at His feet, poured out my broken and devastated heart, and in that moment of sheer panic, dread, and fear, I received His word to me. Did I love Him? Would I follow Him? Could I trust Him for my life? My answer was YES! 

It wasn’t easy to walk away from 26 years of marriage. I suffered great shame in my Christ-centered community because in my church, the man or woman didn’t seek divorce. It was not an option. Yet, I had a husband that didn’t love me, want me, or want to give up his desires for another person. I had two choices at that time. I could settled being second-best, the woman my husband didn’t want, in order to remain married and keep the shame under cover OR I could bare the stigma of divorce, and I could walk away as a single person. I chose the latter, and throughout the process of learning how to be single and wholly devoted to the Lord, I was remade. I was given a new identity in Christ, and I was taught how to live on my own. 

I didn’t learn everything overnight. I started small, working part-time while remaining in my home with my ex-husband (for 18 months). I bought a used car so I could get to work. Then, after a year of part-time work; the Lord provided full-time work along with a town home for me to rent. I changed jobs three times in two years, first leaving UOPX for CVS and then leaving CVS for GCU (love those acronyms). I also bought a second, newer car, and I financed it for the first time in my life. I worked hard in those early years, learning how to save my money, build up credit, use credit, and position myself financially for success. In addition, I returned to graduate school and I completed two degrees, a MA in Literature and a PhD in Communication. 

I also began working as an Instructional Assistant before moving into an Adjunct Instructor role. Now, almost four years later, I am ready to be promoted to a full-time professor. In 11 years, I have been transformed, completely reinvented, and I am walking on in my life seeking to serve the Lord with my whole heart, my entire body, and my complete soul as the Word says in Deuteronomy 6:5, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” I love Him now in ways I cannot express. I follow after Him because He never once left me, abandoned me, or gave me up for another. No, instead, He forgave me for all my sins: my sin of disobedience, distance, and disloyalty. He forgave me and He restored my soul and my sense of self. He gave me security and provision — the two things I desired most — and in this way, He gave me the gift of life and liberty founded securing and steadfastly in His love. Yes, I am well-loved, so well-loved.

Now, it is 2017, and I am a PhD. I am ready to go, to move, to be moved, but the Lord is taking His time. He is careful just as He was when I first returned to Him. He gave me little — little reward — and in time, that reward grew as my faithfulness and obedience grew. I have come to trust Him, to rely on Him, to rest in Him, and in this way, I have also come to see that the Lord doesn’t do anything according to our timeline. He takes His time. He knows what is best.
In Conclusion

As I close this blog post, I think back on all the Lord has done for me over the past 11 years. He began this process, and in time, it has come to completion. I have been remade, reinvented, and repositioned for His glory and His grace. I do all things now with this in mind — I seek to honor, to praise, and to worship Him, and in this way, nothing in my life is coincidence or happenstance. I am walking in blessing, in favor, and with His grace and mercy as my safety and security. He will provide for me, meet every single need, and He will make my way smooth and straight. I will patiently wait for His provision, and in doing so, I will know that whatever comes to pass will be His blessed goodness as it rains down upon my life. He is good to me, so very, very, very good to me! Selah!

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