August 8, 2017
This is the Day!
As I consider my needs long term, I realize that right now, I have everything covered. I mean, I have a nice home to live in, a reliable car to drive, and I have good practical work to do every day. More so, I have my education behind me, such blessing as it was, and that means that I am able to move forward without thinking about any more school. I love school, don't get me wrong, and for a time, I thought I would just keep on going, adding in more degrees as time passed by. Now, though, I feel like I did when I finished my Masters' degree. I was so ready for a break. God was gracious and gave me a whole year to rest from my Masters before I began my Ph.D.
In hindsight, I can see how beneficial it was for me. I needed to decompress, but also, I was in this "move" phase where I had to move from my townhome to the home I am in now. I really needed to focus on work for a time, and on giving myself to my practical work. When the year rolled around, so much had changed for me. I was ready to tackle doctoral work, and I was ready for a major life change. I moved from my town home to this shared home, and then later, I left my cushy 9-5 job for a job working as an Instructional Assistant and then Adjunct teacher. The process was important, and even though I really didn't see what was to come (meaning back then, I was panicked over the change), I felt confident that I was making the right decision at the right time. Let me explain...
First, it was difficult to leave my own home (the first in 30 years) to move back in with my parents. I had just come through a difficult separation, and while the divorce wouldn't happen for another year, I had lost my home, the home I shared with my husband (first to infidelity and second to foreclosure). I had moved from that home to a rented place near the community college so that my son could ride his bike to school. The home I rented was a lovely place, and the Lord provided it to me through His power and His authority. I say that because I was given placement over five other applications, and in the 18-months that I lived there, I was able to reside in peace. It was a blessed placement. It was His best for me during one of the most difficult times of my life.
Second, when I made the decision to leave that home and move back in with my parents, I was so unsure if I was making the right choice. I mean, I was giving up my freedom, my space, and my needs for that of my parents. I was returning to my former life, and in that way, it was so difficult to know if the decision would work out well for all of us. In the end, while there were some challenges, the fact remained that I had obeyed the Lord, followed His lead, and moved to a home that I could have never afforded on my own. Moreover, the time I have spent with my parents has been worthwhile. I have enjoyed their company, and I know that my presence here has given them more freedom than had they lived on their own in an apartment. Let's say, they have extended their abilities to live alone simply because I am here with them. It has been a good thing.
Third, the decision to leave my cushy job, the highest paying job I have held thus far in my career, was really trying. I was unhappy at CVS, mostly due to poor management decisions, but I liked the work -- a lot. I liked the environment, and I liked the challenge. I enjoyed going to work most days. But, the thought of trying to manage the workload and school was simply too much for me, and I asked the Lord for another way, a way that would make it possible for me to do well in my studies. I wanted all "As" and I knew that I would have to work very hard to do that level of work. Plus, I knew that my doctoral program was all about Him, so I wanted to give Him my best. The Lord provided a way for me to do just that, and in the end, I graduated with a perfect 4.0 GPA. It was not easy, but I did my best, and praise to God, I was able to grow in more ways that I could have ever imagined had I stayed in my old position. I knew the decision to transition to teaching was a good one, and today, I know for certain it was the best decision I could have ever made, bar none.
Fourth, learning how to do a different kind of work was very challenging for me. I am adaptable, capable, and pretty flexible, but I am a control-driven person. I manage details well. I need to administrate, and teaching doesn't always allow me to be in control of all those details -- namely -- my students and their performance. It was so difficult learning to let go, to accept my students' weaknesses, and to realize that I couldn't control the outcome. However, as I have let go of what I can't control, I have embraced what I can. In this way, I have grown more precise, more specific, and yes, more empowered to change what is within my grasp. I guess you could say that I have become wiser in the process. I can let some things go because I understand my role and responsibility better.
Last, the transformational change that occurred as a result of these decisions was life creating. What I mean by this is simply that the change created a new kind of life for me. I left behind the old "Carol" while I embraced the new "Carol" and in this way, I was transformed into this very different kind of person. No longer was I timid and unsure of my mental and intellectual faculties, rather, I was emboldened with the knowledge that for once and for all, in short -- I am SMART. I am not Einstein brilliant, mind you, but I am very, very intelligent. My proof is in the Ph.D. pudding as they say. I was able to complete two advanced degrees with a 3.9 and 4.0 GPA, and I did both in less than 8 years. I proved to myself, rather than to others, that I was "once and for all" a smart cookie. I cannot tell you what my accomplished has done for my inner self-esteem, but suffice it to say, all those horrible naysayers from my childhood and early working career are figuratively put to shame. They called me names, made me feel inadequate, and after my effort was extended, I proved them wrong. They don't know that fact, mind you, but inside of me, I felt the stamp of VICTORY as the Lord pronounced my efforts to be worthy and well-done! I did it, I achieved the most difficult thing imaginable, and I was transformed through the process! Praise God! He is good, He is so good to me.
In addition to my achievement, the new life that was created for me came as a result of my willingness to change from corporate work to academic work. I found my passion, my desire, and yes, even my intensity as I settled into this niche. I found my "sweet spot," and while I don't have that steady "tenure" position, what I do have is a wonderful career that brings me enjoyment day in and day out. I can easily say that I love my life -- my work life -- and I love the work I do.
Furthermore, inside of me, something else has changed. The process of learning to let go, let God lead, and let Him provide for me has changed me in ways that I cannot always express. My faith has grown significantly as I have learned to lean on Him and depend on Him. I have needed His help every day -- just to maintain my lifestyle -- and in this way, I have become accustomed to reaching out for His hand. He is my Shepherd, my Guide, and I have become very comfortable as His sheep and servant. I simply am content to be where I am -- to remain where I am -- throughout my remaining days. There is comfort in knowing your place, in resting (ceasing to strive), and in this way, I have come to understand the blessing of abiding in His sweet presence. I am happy to abide, and when I abide, I feel at peace. I have rest. I am completely comforted. It is hard to explain, but I have learned how to be this way through the difficult transition that took place -- from separation to divorce -- and later through the various pathway changes that impacted and influenced my home life and my career and education.
Today, I can say that the path I am on is a good one. It has been rocky, difficult, challenging, and at times, almost unscalable, but now, at least for a short while, it is smooth and easy to walk. I am walking at an easy pace, and I am comfortable. Hopefully, soon, the path will again lead me upward, to new heights, to new challenges, and in this way, I will continue to gain strength, maturity, and wisdom. I long to scale new heights, to see what He has in mind and in store for me, but I know that with each new challenge comes a time of preparation, a time of intense preparation, in order to be ready, to be "fit" for the work He has decided I should do. I feel that I am about to enter another time of preparation, and not just in my daily schedule (as in preparing for my teaching duties) but in my life. This time, I am preparing for more challenging days ahead, and sadly some of that preparation will include heartache and heartbreak as I have to face my parents' eventual deaths. I know that sounds morbid, but I have to be realistic and practical and that means that some day my parents, whom I dearly love, will no longer be with me. They have provided comfort to me, their presence and their lives have been intertwined with mine. They will not always be here, and as they each turn 84, the days become shorter, less numbered, so to speak. It is a fact of life, and the Lord has graciously helped me accept this fact, and now is helping me to prepare for the day when I will be completely alone.
Likewise, as my son completes his final year of school, plans are already in place for him to study abroad for a year. This means that with my parents eventual passing, and my son's year abroad, I will be all alone -- all alone. I will have no one to live with me, save my cats, and for the first time ever in my entire life, I will be single in mind, body, and spirit. I will be all alone, and I will have to deal with this change. I need to prepare for it, and while I understand it is part of the change of life, I still have to be ready to handle it. I am a strong person, and I value my alone time, but I have never been 100% alone before, and this is a new state of being for me. I have to be ready, made ready, and the Lord is working to help me be comfortable in my season of aloneness.
New Steps Lead to New Places
One of the ways the Lord is preparing me is in His insistence that I "go." I have blogged ad infinitum about the many times the Lord has said to me, "Go!" His voice has clearly expressed His command, and with that command, I have said, "Yes, Lord, I will go!" However, as I have blogged, rarely have I gone anywhere at all. I have pretty much stayed in this place, mostly due to the fact that I had no resources to help me move from here to there. Now, however, as the time comes to a close on this chapter of my life, I am in this very good place. I am ready to really go, to really pick up stakes and move to a new place. As I think back over the many times He has said for me to go, I realize now that He was telling me I was to go, but not necessarily at that moment in time. He was telling me to go -- as in "you have my permission to go" -- but I was to wait for the provision to go. I am sure I got the message mixed up because I have felt guilty for not actually going anywhere at all. Now, though, I see that all of the previous years have led me to this place, to the maturity required to be ready to really go forward. It is very possible that the Lord's command to go was simply a confirmation that I would "go someday" and that I would need to be ready for that day. Hence, I believe that now that day has come. I am to go, and I am ready to go. He has made me ready, and with His constant presence, and His promised provision, I can "see" my way. I can actually see the possibility of going whereas before I could barely even imagine it. Now, it is a realistic option for me, and with my foresight, I can see even fine details. Yes, the time has come for me to go, and I am ready -- not just physically, but mentally and spiritually -- ready to go.
Ready to Move, But Not Prepared
During the early years of my journey with the Lord, I believed I would move some place other than Phoenix. As I have blogged before, I have considered a number of other places in the midwest and east. I have looked north, south, east, and west, and while I believed that I would move eventually, I never really understood the timing nor the process that would lead me, prepare me, and make me ready to actually move. I would say that over the past 10 years, I have tried to figure out where the Lord intended to plant me. Would it be in Chattanooga, TN? Would it be in Virginia Beach, VA? Would it be in Northern Illinois? Or would I remain here in Phoenix?
As I reflect back, I can see why I have focused on each place. Each place coincided with a specific season in my life, and in each season, I had certain needs. For example, Tennessee was the place I first considered when my life was in deep despair and turmoil (2007). My marriage was beginning to crumble, and I was desperate for some solution to our problem. There was a very strong possibility (at that time) that I would end up a single woman, but not through a divorce, rather through death. Between 2007-09, my now ex-husband suffered two major illnesses that for all intents and purposes should have taken his life. I was told as much by the doctors. I was told to be prepared for the strong possibility of this happening to me. I believed it was a matter of time, so my drive to relocate was more of necessity than desire. I believed the Lord was calling me to a place, to work, and to live where I could realistically raise my son as a single woman. As time passed, I never moved there. My ex-husband miraculously recovered (again the doctors said it was impossible), but with his recovery, he made the decision to follow a different path in his life, a path that didn't include me or our son. So despite the physical recovery, our marriage came to an end in 2010. I ended up a single woman, divorced, and left facing life alone.
As I think back on those difficult and dark days leading up to my separation and divorce, I remember that it was during this same time that I asked the Lord for three specific things. First, I asked for Him to heal my husband and restore our marriage. Second, I asked for a proper job (a proper job consisted of one that paid a regular salary and not being self-employed) for me and for my husband. I knew that I needed a job that would provide for all of us since my husband was not able to work for much of the time that followed. In my specific request, I asked the Lord for a job that I would love (be passionate about) and that would honor and serve Him. I didn't ask for a specific type of job other than one that I could do for the rest of my days, whereby I would have a "title" (such as a doctor, lawyer, or other professional) so that I didn't have to explain what I did when I was asked. Third, I asked for a ministry position that would fill my life and give it purpose. I worked in voluntary ministry roles for years, but I wanted to be "about my Father's business" daily, and for that, I wanted a full-time ministry position.
I remember the process clearly. I was researching possible jobs in Chattanooga, believing that the Lord wanted me to move there, when I came across Tennessee Temple University. I browsed the website, looking at jobs, etc., and it was at this moment when I thought about continuing my education. I really hadn't thought about graduate school for a long while, but something about this school just made me think about getting a Masters' degree and working at a college or university as a career. I remember asking the Lord if it would ever be possible for me to return to school (at some point) to get my Masters degree. As I said, I had never really thought about it as a possibility since my husband, up to that point, had forbidden it.
After some more time researching online, I found a non-profit organization that combined ministry and education. I had never heard of the group before, and even to this day, I don't remember their name or their website address. However, I do remember feeling this strong pull toward their ministry, and I remember thinking that if I could do something like what this organization was doing, I would be so happy. I spent some time considering their open jobs but was disappointed when I noticed that for all the administrative jobs, the educational requirement was a Ph.D. I remember thinking, "Lord, I would love to do this work, but I don't have the education required." Still, I prayed about the job, the organization, and the education, despite the fact that the cost to me would be 8 years of schooling. How could I return to school when my path had been previously blocked? I wasn't sure what the Lord wanted me to do, but I felt this strong desire to pray about this position more and more, so I did. I remember the day like it was yesterday. I prayed in the Spirit, and I asked the Lord if I could return to school to be educated for a ministry position like this one, and then, if I could go and do this kind of work as a result of that education.
In hindsight, the funny thing is I never did move to TN, and like I said, I don't even remember the name of the organization that had the job I thought I wanted. More so, over the years, I have tried to find the organization, but I cannot find them on the Internet. It is like this organization all but vanished! Yet, the outcome of that experience, those prayers, have been the path my life has followed. I didn't work for that ministry organization. I didn't move to TN. But, I did go back to school, complete two degrees, and now I am an adjunct instructor. Moreover, I am confident that the Lord does have a ministry for me, and that ministry requires the coveted, sought after, and deeply wanted, Ph.D.
Prepared and Trained, Now What?
I believe now that the years in between have been set aside for preparation and training. The Lord gave me the desire to move, to relocate, but He also gave me the desire to be educated and to move into a position that would enable me to do this specific work. Moreover, the desire to move has created a willingness to follow the Lord. In obedience, I have looked at many places, possible places, where I could do my eventual work and ministry. I have explored so many options for relocation, but in all these years, I have not moved anywhere at all. Why is this so? Why haven't I moved yet? I believe the reason why I haven't moved yet is simply that the Lord wasn't ready for me to move. The Lord wasn't finished preparing me to move, and with my preparation now complete, I am ready to go.
Yet, how can I go without His provision to enable me to go. I believe that this is the next step on His agenda for my life. I believe that the Lord is making the provision ready for me, and until it comes to me, must wait patiently. I must wait for His blessed provision. I believe God never tells us to go empty handed. He always provides for us. Therefore, as I wait for His blessed provision, I am to be busy doing what I can to prepare for this move. I have planned it out tentatively. I have scoped out possible places for living. I have considered many options, many possibilities, and many paths. I am settled right now on one path, but I am waiting for clarification and provision and an open door. For now, I simply wait. I do what I can, but I wait for His leading. If what I feel is His will, His plan, and His purpose for my life, it will come to pass. I believe it will be so, but for now, I must simply hold onto my faith, my belief, and my assurance that He will lead, guide, and provide for me all the days of my life. He is good to me, so very good to me.
As I close this blog post, I am comforted in the knowledge that I am right where the Lord wants me to be. I am doing the work He desires for me to do. I am living out my days, temporary as they are. I am working, steadily toward His anticipated outcome, and I am faithfully attending to the tasks He has given to me. I am ready to go, but I know that the next 6-9 or even 12 months will determine the actual timing of the event. I cannot run ahead of the Lord nor can I try to make His plans come to pass on my own. I must be patient. I must wait. I must trust Him to provide, and in doing so, I will reap the blessed benefit of His bounty. He is good to me, so very good to me!