May 23, 2015

Sensing Movement...Again!

It is a good Saturday in Phoenix, Arizona. It is a particularly good day in that the skies are blue, and the sun is shining -- all without our normal high temperatures! Yes, it is 9:30 a.m., and I am sitting at my desk with my window open! Woohoo! This is SO NOT a normal May day.

It is May 23rd, and that means that I have approximately two weeks until I fly to VA Beach for my summer residency at Regent University. I am excited to head to VA again (this is the third summer), but part of me wishes I didn't have to go simply due to the expense of traveling there and back. I love to visit Regent. It is such a lovely campus, and I do get time to spend with my colleagues and my Professors. I enjoy the camaraderie of campus class, but I hate to spend the money on hotel, airfare, car rental, and meals. It adds up to quite an expense, and while I am covering my costs partially through financial aid, I still see the debt each summer, and well...I shudder! The good news is that this is my last summer visit. I will have to go in February for my exams, but other than that I should be able to stave off any more visits until graduation day. I pray, Lord willing, that I can walk in the ceremony. The entire program takes 3 days, and from what I have heard, it is a wonderful experience.

The Lord is my Provider

Today, as I sit here and think about my life, I realize that the Lord has provided for each and every need. I mean, HE HAS PROVIDED. He is Jehovah-Jireh, which means "The LORD Will Provide A Sacrifice" (Genesis 22:14). There are many Names of God in the Hebrew Old Testament. This Name is associated with Abraham, specifically when God provided a ram to fulfill the command to sacrifice his son, Isaac. Abraham memorialized the name of God in this way -- he declared that the Lord had provided a sacrifice, but doing so he said it in a way that encompassed a particular event while foreshadowing future provision, that of the Lord Jesus Christ, our PASSOVER LAMB. Let me explain...

Jehovah-Jireh means that the Lord WILL provide -- it is all encompassing of past, present and future need. It simply reminds us that the Lord provides for each need, not once, but in a very mindful way. Some people say that this Name of God was used only in this context, and not in any other way. I do not hold to this view, but rather see the Name as a proclamation of the Lord's overarching provision for His children. The Word says that the Father (Jehovah) knows our needs, and that He provides for all His creation (sparrows and people, alike). Thus, the Lord knows our needs, and He provides for us today, tomorrow, and into our future days. This should bring the believer hope because it bears testimony to remind us that God is ever present, always near, and always listening to us. We do not serve a God who is neglectful of our needs. Nor do we serve a God who is distant, far away or uncaring. No, our God is ever present, always available, and ready to meet our needs with abundance and sufficiency.

I call upon the Lord often, and when I do, I use this particular Name (as well as many others, see right). In this way, I am saying to the Lord that I know He will provide for me today. I am also saying that I trust Him to provide for me tomorrow. I trust Him, and I know that He is well-aware of my needs, even the needs that I do not recognize yet. For example, I have needs for travel expense. I have a rough idea of what it will cost me to travel from Phoenix to Virginia Beach. I know what the estimate is for a car rental and hotel. I have these needs in mind, and while I know I can pay for them with my credit card (and I will), I am simply purchasing a present need with the expectancy of future payment. Yes, I am borrowing money to attend school.

Now, many people, Christians and non-Christians, would be hesitant to do that because it would appear that the debt is being pushed or rolled from one season to the next. In truth, this happens, but since this is a requirement for my PhD program, I am stuck between the proverbial "rock and hard space." I have to attend residency to remain a part of the program. This means that I have to attend each summer I am registered for courses (until I reach ABD status). The mounting school debt scares me, of course it does, but I am convinced that I am where I belong, and that I am following after the Lord's will for my life. Therefore, I have prayed earnestly for His provision, and each summer, the Lord provides for me. In turn, each year, He provides a way for me to attend Regent, and I know that in time, I will be provided with the financial resources to pay back all of my student loans. Jehovah-Jireh is the Name of the God that means "the Lord WILL PROVIDE!" Selah!

Movement and Timing

I am sensing the Lord's movement in my life. I have blogged recently about how I felt the Lord was calling me to apply for administrative positions in addition to teaching ones. I have struggled recently with understanding why the Lord would move me into teaching only to take me out of it after 2-3 years. Yet, I feel His press upon me, which says to me "apply here." I apply wherever and whenever I feel the Spirit leading me. Sometimes nothing comes of it, but sometimes there is a response, an email or a phone call. Perhaps this time, there will be a response that bears testimony to me that this is His provision for me.

The Lord knows that I have particular needs right now. Pushing aside my school debt and loans, I have practical needs that must be met each month. I have been honest with my needs, and while I am not destitute, I do have a certain need each month, and while my teaching pay has covered that need during the school year, it falls short during the long summer months. This goes part-and-parcel with teaching as most instructors and Professors work for 9 months only. The remaining 3 months of each year must be provided for out of savings or other income. I am comfortable with this plan, but in truth, I prefer to follow the more 'traditional year or 12 months of income' plan. I mean, it is easier to budget when you know that you are paid in regular cycles, every other week, for example. I also have need for medical benefits. Right now, I am not sure what the penalty will be for not having insurance this year. My guess is that it won't be too significant so long as I continue to work adjunct. However, I would prefer to have full benefits so that I can show the government I am covered by a work-provided plan. The Lord knows this, and He is aware of my physical needs.

Outside of monthly expenses, I have some other smaller financial needs too. I have a couple credit cards that need to be paid off. I carry about 60% debt burden, and while it is not sky high, it is too high for my debt-income ratio. I want this to be reduced to less than 30% while I am working to rebuild my credit lines. Considering I started with zero credit, I am well pleased that I am currently at a modest level of credit. I know that some Christian financial planners do not recommend using credit cards, and while I agree with them in principal, I also know that no successful or wealthy person every got that way by living without credit (not in this century, for sure). I think it is impossible to live without credit, unless of course, the plan was to purchase a house, live off the land, and not engage in any type of modern or global work. Even farmers and those individuals who attempt to live off the grid, at one time, were part of the system (just saying).

Debt and credit card use is a nasty word among many Christian circles. Some people have no problem with it while others are against it because they believe it is unbiblical. I tend to side with the "use it wisely" approach because I believe that in my line of work, in my pursuit of knowledge, and in my calling to fulfill the Lord's will, I must use my credit to support me temporarily while I reestablish myself as a viable and self-sufficient worker. Yes, I use my credit wisely, and that means that I do not purchase anything that is not a "need." I also do not purchase anything without prayerful consideration. I wait until the Lord provides, and sometimes, that provision uses my credit card temporarily. I believe this approach is moderate and careful. I do not intend to be in debt for much longer. I am temporarily in debt, but that is only to facilitate my schooling, and to enable me to transition from a formerly married woman to a single and self-supporting woman.

Moreover, I am working to rebuild my credit. I have a solid plan for my future, and I believe it is God-blessed and favored. I have sought the Lord for guidance on how to be financially independent, to accumulate wealth, and to manage my credit. I believe the Lord has honored my request for this knowledge, and He has helped me learn how to be a wise financial manager and steward. In prayerful consideration, I have approached my financial future in order to accomplish the following:
  1. To raise my credit score to 750 (on a scale of 900 - this would be above average) so that I can qualify for a good mortgage rate and purchase a house someday
  2. To invest my earnings in safe investments along with some more risky ones to build funds for retirement
  3. To become financially independent and not reliant upon any one person for my needs
I have prayed about my financial needs as well as my future, and I am confident that my life is in good hands (the Lord's). I am slowly progressing toward my goal of financial independence, and my plan right now is to be established within the next two years. By established, I mean to be settled in a permanent position either teaching or working in administration for a college or university. I will have full-time income, benefits, and a 401k package. I will also be in a position to purchase my own home, a modest yet solid home, and I will begin to invest wisely in safe short-term investments as well as longer term, more risky investments. My long-term goal is to retire at age 70 with the following:
  • A modest home that is paid for completely
  • A significant portfolio of investments that will pay dividends throughout the course of my life
  • A retirement future that is modest (average) so that I can live comfortably on my reserves until the end of my days
In addition to these three things, some specific short-term goals include paying off my school loans (in two chunks, the first half in 2015, the rest by 2020), purchasing a newer car (a slightly larger car than my Nissan Sentra by 2016), carrying little to no revolving credit debt (under 30% at all times by end of 2015), establishing credit lines of $10K on all major credit cards (Bank, Amex, etc. by end of 2016), and preparing for relocation (at the Lord's discretion, probably by 2017) with all expenses covered.

Will this come to pass? Will I achieve this level of modest retirement?

Absolutely. I am 100% confident that the Lord will provide for me. I have no reason to doubt His provision or to think that He is not able to guide me into wise financial planning and life decisions. He has graciously provided for me, daily provision as well as more significant future provision, and therefore, it follows that what has transpired in the past, repeats in the present, will continue to produce similar outcomes in the future. It just makes sense to me.

Some Possibilities

As the Lord moves in my life, one thing is certain: change is coming. I always sense His movement, and typically when He moves, change follows. If the movement is slight, the change is a minor hiccup in my life, a blimp on the radar, and casually bump to let me know that He has shifted me slightly to the left or the right. However, when major change has come, this always seems to follow a significant shift in the Lord's movement. Sometimes this has been a major realignment of goals or a move (physical) to a new home or job. In every single instance, a major move by the Lord has caused major change in my life. Temporarily I feel the swaying of the momentum, but after a time, the movement stops, and a new door or opportunity opens for me. It has been this way for the past 8 years. Major moves result in major changes. I can recall most of these huge shifts, and I can bear witness to the fact that while I didn't see them coming (most, not all), I was aware of the Lord's presence in the midst of the movement. I felt His presence, and I remained calm and in control (in short, I didn't freak out -- too badly, I mean!)

The Lord has moved like this before, and whenever He has, good things have resulted. I felt His movement just before I found out about my ex-husband's behavior. The result was the beginning of the end of my marriage, which was devastating to start, but in the end proved liberating and filled with amazing peace and contentment. I felt His movement just before I found out that my home was going into foreclosure. The result was losing a home, but gaining a life of freedom in a new, better, and more beautiful place. I felt His movement just before I changed jobs at CVS Caremark to go to Grand Canyon. The result was two years of teaching contracts that stretched me, prepared me, and provided a way for me to complete incredibly intensive studies at Regent.

Now I feel His movement again, and this time, I am seeing some difficult days ahead, mostly in my Mom's deterioration and loss of memory. The result at this time is unknown, but I believe it will be to provide me with a better job that will cover me through the next two years here in Phoenix. I won't know until He moves me completely, but I believe what will come will be an opportunity that opens doors for me to move permanently elsewhere. I am confident that the Lord doesn't intend for me to remain in Phoenix. However, until things are resolved here, I must remain and see things through to the end. I believe that the Lord will use my time here wisely, to continue to prepare me for His work, and to build my credit worthiness so that I can accomplish the goals He has conveyed to me. I believe the Lord will provide a good job here in Phoenix.

In the near term (between now and 2017), He will prepare me to receive a good job offer in the place of His choosing (a new state). He will also provide a way for me to purchase a home in this place, and He will provide all the resources necessary to move me from here to there. I am confident that His plan for my relocation is perfect, and that His timing is excellent. So while I may desire to go now, I see that the Lord is preparing me to go, that He is wrapping up things in Phoenix in order for me to leave with every door closed. I am trusting His provision for the next two years, and I am believing in faith that He will enable me to transition smoothly from one job to the next, from one home to the next, from one life to the next. He is good, so very good to me. All the time, He is good. Selah!

May 21, 2015

Which Way to Go?

I don't know why I am thinking about Home Schooling today, but I am. Maybe it is because so many of my old friends are planning for fall now (using the summer to plan). Just thinking about doing that, about making plans for the new year, makes me winsome and sad. I miss home schooling; I so missing homeschooling. Sigh!

I am still on several home school email and support lists, just to keep my hand in the business, but I don't really do anything anymore as far as curriculum or even offering daily advice/support (I just don't have time). Occasionally, I will post a reply to a question posted by a concerned Mom, but generally, I am a lurker only (reading posts). Yes, those good old days are behind me, and now I am a full-time instructor (part-time at two schools) where I am able to teach and to mentor several hundred students each semester. The path from there to here has been a long one, and at times, a very difficult one. Yet, here I am, and I marvel at the transformation of my experience, my character, and my desires. God has provided a wonderful job for me, and I love the fact that I get to teach students every day. He is good, so very good to me.

It is amazing to me just to sit and to consider that fact that I am now full-time college instructor. My desire to teach initially, way back when, was to teach college level courses (English mostly). After I graduated from SJSU in 1993, I attempted a Masters program, butI abruptly dropped it because my ex-husband wasn't supportive nor was my family willing to help me care for my then, 1-year old son, so I could go on to school. Had I waited another 6 months or so, my son could have gone to the day care program at my school. It was a neat opportunity that allowed single Mom's the chance to get an education.  The student workers who were studying to become early childhood educators would have watched him for the couple hours I was in class each day. The Lord had other designs, of course, and I stepped out of the graduate study path and stayed on the Mom path. Back then I felt a bit like Alice in Wonderland when she came upon the Cheshire cat. Alice had a decision to make, which path to choose, so she asked the cat and he replied "where do you want to go?" When she answered, "I don't know," the cat replied, "then it doesn't matter." If it were only so easy, only so easy...

Does Our Path Matter?

In Lewis Carroll's wonderful way with words, the entire dynamic of choosing a path was summed up by the words of the Cheshire cat. Truthfully, it is very hard to be "directed" if you don't know where you are going. In fact, how would you know if you are on the right path for sure because without an end goal in mind, nothing would be certain. I know that this is a mystery to some people. Some folks (and I know a few like this) find that flitting and flying through life on a feather is a good thing. It reminds me of the wisdom of "Forrest Gump" where Forrest shares Mama's sage advice on life. Forrest says, "Mama always said 'life is like a box of chocolates -- you never know what you are going to get.'" Yes, with the "feather in the wind" approach you are almost guaranteed to experience randomness in life -- you will never know what you will get because you will have no direction in mind, no goals to achieve, and no objectives to meet. In short, life will be random, pointless, and without any defining characteristics.

Of course, there are many who would disagree. They feel that the "whatever goes, whatever happens" approach is just fine. I think it is a noble idea to choose such an approach, but only when, and if, you are willing to never complain about the outcome (the chocolate you receive). I mean, if you have taken a "willy nilly" random "crap shoot" like attitude, then you shouldn't complain about what you get in the end. Know what I mean?

Life Is Ordered and Not Chaos

I feel that life is ordered or that it can be ordered and that it is not random or happenstance. I happen to hold to a Biblical view of the creation story, and with that belief, I firmly choose to accept that God has my steps ordered, my life directed, and my days planned. Furthermore, if I believe that I am on a set path, a path that has a predicted outcome, then I know what to expect. I believe that as a born-again believer in Jesus Christ, my days are numbered, and my future is secure. I know where I am going, and I know the path I am on. I am not asking the Cheshire cat or any other mythical creature (or real for that matter) to help me choose a way to go. My path is not random, and it does matter, the way I choose to go. I mean, am I following the Lord's plan for my life? If so, then the path that I am on is directly proportional to the steps I take today. For example, I know that the outer calling on my life is to arrive at my eternal destination (Heaven) ready and complete to enter into a life of bliss. My path then according to this outer calling is to be "conformed" to the likeness (the character) of my Savior, Jesus Christ. I am to manifest His character and that means that progressively I am to learn how to relate to others in the same way He related to them. I am to become like Christ in every area of my life. This is my upward, my outer calling, and the path I am on includes learning how to interact and engage with others so that I can adapt my behaviors, my attitudes, and my heart's leanings toward gracious living. I am to give grace to my brother's and sister's in Christ and to the world (so much as I am able to do so).

Moreover, if my outer calling is predicated on learning to be like Jesus, then what is my inner calling? My inner calling is that specific work that God has laid on my heart, a work that seeks to serve Him and others, to demonstrate Christ's love and sacrifice in a multitude of ways. In my case, I believe that my inner calling is to be a teacher and to teach others (children, teens, young adults) how to love God and love others in Christ-like ways. It also includes teaching people how to be reconciled, and to be reconciled, I must help them learn to communicate better. It is my calling then to be a Communications teacher, to teach the people God brings to me or through my actual job, so that they can learn how to repair damaged relationships. I am to reconcile people to one another, to show them how to be gracious in their speech and conduct, and to help them see the value in building relationships for the Kingdom of God.

The path I am on is fixed, it is settled. This path was decided for me at the cross of Calvary. I made the decision to follow this path when I placed my faith in Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I have been on this path since that day, and while I have been confused at times over whether I am to go here or there (physically), my path has not shifted. I am set to finish this race of faith, and that means that I will come to the end of my days having lived my life according to His plan for salvation, sanctification and future glorification. God is good, so very good to me.

What About Other Paths?

I hear this question from time to time, and I struggle myself to understand the various paths or opportunities the Lord allows me to experience. I mean, I know I am on the grand overarching path that leads to eternity, and the steps I take each day help me to become more and more like Him (in my attitude, behaviors, and thinking). Yet, what about all the paths that I can choose for a career, a place to live, a school to attend? How do I know what path to take for all these other decisions in life?

I used to believe that my path was fixed, but so often, I found that I was presented with various options for life. I would ask the Lord, "Lord, which way do I go?" and in much the same way as the Cheshire cat, the Lord would say to me, "it doesn't matter." I thought, "Oh, no! Of course, it matters! What if I choose the wrong path? Go the wrong way?"

In truth, I have come to understand this matter better or more clearly. You see, so long as your outer calling and inner calling are set in motion, the path you choose to follow for your daily life doesn't matter. It really doesn't matter. I do believe the Lord directs our steps, helps us choose the better course of action, but I don't believe that there is one right way to go, one path only. I have experienced in my life many different options or courses, and while some were easier than others, generally, they were equal in their outcome. Let me explain...

If you want to have confidence to know that the path you are on or the path you plan to take is a good one, then follow this approach:
  1. Make sure your outer calling in secure. Are you saved? Are you seeking the Lord with all your heart, your mind, your strength and your soul? Do you have a personal, intimate relationship with the Lord? Are you studying His word, spending time with Him in prayer, seeking wise advice from pastors, teachers, parents, and friends? Generally, is your life "right with the Lord?" If so, go to step 2. If not, get on your knees and do some business with the Lord. Forsake all idols, submit to His authority, and stop sinning (oh, please stop sinning). Trust Him for His healing grace, and then pick up your cross and follow after Him (again!)
  2. Identify your inner calling. This is crucial for the next series of steps so if you have never taken a spiritual assessment, do it now. There are several online that are free. Take more than one, and see if you see patterns or relationships. Note similarities, and then think back on what you naturally do when called to serve (Do you volunteer to help or lead? Do you like to work behind the scenes? Are you creative or an artist?) Here are a couple of sites you can try, if you want to do this now:
  3. Once you have your assessment complete, you can begin to develop a profile that will help you determine if your inner calling matches your professional career or life choice. To create a profile, simply start making lists to see where the items meet your spiritual gifts assessment. You should be able to tell if whether your classes, practical jobs, or ministry service has aligned with your spiritual gifts. In most cases, you should find some relationship between your daily work or ministry service and the calling of the Holy Spirit. For example, my spiritual gifts generally include the following key areas: administration (directing ministries), exhortation (encouragement), and discernment (judgment/false teaching). Some of my other gifts are personal such as faith, wisdom, knowledge, or prophecy. If I look at the top three, I will see that most of the practical jobs I have had over the course of my life have been in administration (task oriented, directing or overseeing projects). My personal approach to relationships is through exhortation, and my intuition in work or life is directed toward recognizing false teaching or heresy. In ministry, I have served as a Children's Director, AWANA Commander, and in other production capacities (website administrator, for example). In all these examples, I used my spiritual gift of administration to lead or direct people or facilitate a project. In my profession, I have worked in similar positions up until I started teaching in 2013. I have always worked in an administrative position or as a project manager or analyst.
  4. Using your spiritual gifts every day. Some people assume that their spiritual gifts have an on/off switch, and that the only time they use them is in ministry or church service. This is not the case. God has given specific gifts to you in order for you to fulfill your role in the Body of Christ. The key to living a fulfilled spiritual life is to be active and allow the Holy Spirit to use your gifts whenever He desires to use them. This means in your current place of work, in the church, in your home, at school, etc. You do not have to work in full-time Christian ministry to use your gifts. The Holy Spirit is able to use your gifts right where you are, right now, and He can work miracles through you because He is God. Many times we believe that our spiritual gifts are only for ministry, and while this is primarily true, these special gifts were given as a blessing to us as well as to the church. Therefore, I can encourage and exhort (my gift) anyplace I choose -- Walmart, at school, while standing in line at the DMV office. It doesn't matter -- the Holy Spirit is active and present in my life so that means that He can use whatever gift He needs to use, whenever He needs to use it.
  5. Aligning your practical work with your spiritual work. Sometimes God will place a particular call on your life and ask you to consider doing a different type of work. Perhaps it is a different job or career. It might be to return to college to get a degree or professional certificate. If God has laid a particular career path on your heart, then it is important to follow that desire. However, for many people, the Lord expects them to serve where they are, and that means to work in whatever job He provides to them. For some this might be ministering to coworkers through gracious speech, conduct or living (personal evangelism). It might also mean finding opportunities in a current job in order to develop ministry gifts (such as taking classes through work, seeking promotions, or other ways to build leadership skill).
Putting it All Together

What if your current work conflicts with your spiritual gifts or doesn't allow you the opportunity to use or develop your gifts because the workplace is hostile to Christians or Christianity? This is a valid concern, but I think it needs to be assessed properly in order to identify whether or not this particular job is the Lord's will for your life? For example, if you are in a job that brings you no daily satisfaction, that creates stress on your life or that doesn't meet your needs financially, then the wise decision is to look elsewhere. I do not believe that the Lord places you in difficult jobs simply to frustrate you. He may allow you to remain in a difficult job in order to help you see His overarching will for your life, to refine your understanding of your calling, or to provide opportunity for growth. However, I do not see the Lord placing people in positions where they are berated or beaten down. This is not to say He couldn't choose to do that, but as a loving God desiring only the best for His children, it doesn't seem to follow His methods or means.

I struggle most with this concept of job satisfaction = spiritual gift alignment. If I am honest with myself, then my job or career choice is not best suited for my spiritual gifts. Teaching is a weaker skill for me. On my spiritual gift assessment, teaching ranks high, but it is not the highest of my gifts. My gifts are in order: administration, discernment, faith, prophecy, wisdom, exhortation, knowledge, and teaching (35-30). My weaker gifts are serving, pastoring, mercy, evangelism, and giving (23-14).  If I consider the positions I have held in the church, I have always served in my strength (administration). If I look at the jobs I have held most recently, I have worked in two of three weaker positions, and one very strong position. Right now, I am in a weak position (relatively speaking).

How to Reconcile and Make a Good Choice

Since I believe the Lord called me to return to Regent University to study Communication, I have been focused on teaching as a viable career option. I enjoy teaching, and I find the process of teaching along with the freedom it brings to be a good fit. However, job satisfaction aside, teaching doesn't really fit me as well as say communications/media or marketing analyst type work. I enjoy using my administration skill most, and I love the feeling of accomplishment that comes from doing this kind of work. I love working with projects more than people, and I enjoy directing or managing resources. I find that I am less stressed and more at ease when I am in control of outcomes. If I wanted to switch jobs, change careers, the best option for me would be to find a position where I can use my strongest gift daily. This would be to find some type of administrative position where I could use my spiritual gift for order, task and detail orientation, and direction of people, programs or resources to the best use. 

Is this a must? Must you align your spiritual gifts with your practical daily work? This is a difficult question to answer simply because it is individual and personal. I would say that my gut answer would be yes, unless of course, the Lord calls you otherwise. For example, let's say that your spiritual gifts are most strong in pastoring, mercy, and serving. You love working with people, and you want to help them overcome trials, struggles or difficulties. You may find enough comfort working in the church, in prayer ministry or in visiting with shut-ins or the homebound. You may decide to pursue a degree in social work and work with people who have special needs. This career would facilitate your gift of mercy and your love of pastoring/shepherding people. Working in this type of job would provide deep satisfaction on a daily basis, and could bring great comfort in knowing that your skills were being used by the Holy Spirit to minister to people daily.

Keep in mind that the traditional role of mother is unique. In my view, a woman who is able to stay at home and raise children already has an important job. In God's view, raising children is highly valued and esteemed. Therefore the mother who is at home can easily use her skills to build up her family, and to support her husband in his career or ministry work. I realize that many women are single and have children. In this case, the Lord provides as He is able to do so, and I believe that a career position must first and foremost not keep Moms from being Moms. I digress...

In my case, I see two paths before me. I have seen these two paths for a long while, ever since I returned to graduate school. I have followed the administration path for a time, and then I stepped over to the teaching path in order to facilitate my doctoral studies. Now, I am at the point where I am ready to work full-time, to have a position that will make the most of three things:
  1. My advanced degree in Communication
  2. My experience in Communications, in general, along with technology, media, and marketing
  3. My willingness to be used by the Lord to do His work in complete (ministry=job=life calling)
As I consider the paths I have in front of me, this is what I see:
  • One path leads further on through teaching, a full-time academic position in higher education
  • One path leads me into an administrative position, also in higher education
Therefore, I am presented with two options, both are good, both are viable, and both are open to me. So which do I choose? How do I choose the path to follow? Enter the Cheshire cat.

If you don't know where you are going, then it doesn't matter.

Hmmm....

Do I know where I am going? Yes, I do. I am following the outer and inner calling of the Lord, and that means that my path is set and fixed. I am heading toward my heavenly destination. However, in this life, in the dailyness of this life, I am simply passing time. I am working in jobs that bring me into contact with people whom the Lord chooses for me to build relationships with, and that means, that everything I do is "ministry oriented." I am using my life choices to develop skills, to build intentional relationships, and to fulfill my calling to be a communications teacher (in title or not). Yes, I am using my degree, my studies, and my life experience to help the church learn how to reconcile one another, while in my day-to-day world, I am using my degree, my studies, and my experience to do good practical work, to earn an income, to provide a viable future for me and my family. In short, everything I do is predicated on serving God and others. I am being conformed to His image and to His character so that whether I teach or I administrate, I am doing the work the Lord has called me to do. Amen, Selah!

Thus, my choice is a simple one. The decision I make is simply to choose a path. I can go on into teaching and I will find the path blessed. I can switch and move into administration, and I will also find the path blessed. Is one better than the other? Is one more blessed? In short, yes. If I work in my strength, I will find the most ease and ability, and I will enjoy satisfaction because I will be using my gifts as they are best suited to me. I will also find that I am able to succeed, to be promoted, and to find job progression easier. Why? Business or corporate type positions are less structured than teaching roles, and therefore, there is freedom for promotion. In teaching, there is a cap on salary and on experience, and the movement upward is limited because of the structure of the academic institution. 

As I consider the options the Lord has for me, I know this -- I am on the path of His choosing. I am going where He wants me to go. I may find myself doing something different in short order, but I will have the confidence to know that whatever it is I do eventually, it will be good, it will be blessed, and it will provide for me and for my family. Of this, I am 100% sure.

May 20, 2015

The End is in Sight

Today is a great day in beautiful and sunny Phoenix, Arizona! It is 12:00 p.m., and I haven't even started my day yet. Well, this is not really true. I woke up early again, around 5:00, and then fell back to sleep. Thankfully, I didn't over sleep and miss my 9:00 a.m. appointment with my Advisor at Regent University! I had a great conversation with my professor, and I am set for my summer research work. I am still not 100% sold on what I am to do for my research, but I am going to walk in faith and continue to pursue the Megachurch mindset.

As I think about my dissertation topic, I begin to panic because it means I am close to finishing my studies at Regent University. My prayer is that I can finish strong, and that I can overcome these last hurdles that seem to be keeping me from settling into the plan the Lord has for my life. I have so much to be thankful for today, and I am giving Him praise and testimony because of what He has done in me and through me these past couple years. I am excited about my future, the hopes and dreams I have for myself, and I am looking forward to the next months and years as the Lord prepares me and trains me to do His work. God is good, so very good to me!

Last evening, I had the opportunity to have a fun conversation with my friend. We are figuring out how to do video chat, which is always a challenge (technologically-speaking). I love the fact that we can see one another as we speak -- it makes it almost like we are in the same room, and that is such a special blessing. It has been fun being in a long distance relationship because it requires far more effort than in a daily face-to-face one. I know that for some people they find that LDR don't work for them, and I think the reason for this is because they (the people involved) need physical contact for the relationship to work. Most people seem to be attracted by physical characteristics first, and then come to find personality or other interests as a secondary benefit. When you engage in a LDR, you don't always have that physical proximity as a primary motivator so you have to talk, really communicate, in order to establish interest. It also means that you have to listen well, really listen, so that you can get a sense of the other persons personality. All of this is to say that in my opinion, it requires more work, more effort, and more commitment to be involved with someone through the Internet, phone, email, and social media, then it does to be able to hang out in frequent proximity. I know that in time, proximity is important, especially as relationships develop, but for now I feel so grateful with what the Lord has provided and is clearly blessing. God is good, so very good to me!

As I think about my life (and I always do), one thing is for sure. I am in a very good place right now, a very good place indeed. I am set for summer courses, and I have most of my teaching contracts in place for fall. I am still waiting on ACU, but I am sure that contract will come soon. Moreover, I applied (yet again) to Western Governors University to be an English Evaluator. This is a part-time online position, and I am qualified for it. WGU never responds to any of my applications, so while I am hopeful that perhaps this time they will, there is part of me that thinks that it is an academic exercise for me to apply. Oh well...

My prayer today is for the Lord to move in a mighty way, and for a job offer to come that will provide more significant income to cover my expenses heading into next year. I am good, really I am good, but the jobs that are out there do pay significantly more than what I am currently making, and frankly, more income and benefits (of which I have none currently) would bless me abundantly. I would like to take a trip to visit my friend in AL, and while I do have a voucher for airfare (I have to use it by December), I would like to have some extra funds to cover all the other expenses. I hope that I can go and see him between summer and Christmas, but I will wait for the Lord to open that door for me. I would like to check out the area, and of course, spend some quality time there so that I can get a good feel for what might be the Lord's will for my life. However, until then, I am steadily waiting for the Lord's provision in other areas, and I feel confident that He will provide for my every need.

Right now, I need a job with income and benefits. I am waffling back and forth on whether it is better to wait for that better job or to pursue something local as a temporary measure. I feel that I need this extra income, not so much to make me more comfortable, but to help my parents be more comfortable. I know that sounds weird, but it is like I feel the Lord saying to me that He intends to provide more income so that I can help offset some costs that are on the horizon. I am not sure what that means other than I have this feeling that it is OK for me to pray for a different job, even a job that will relocate me. For a time this spring, I felt like the Lord was holding me back, telling me to wait, to not apply for anymore jobs. I stopped applying, and I slowly received confirmation back that the jobs I had applied for were not coming to pass. I was OK with that news, after all, it meant that I didn't have to plan a major move this summer. Now, though it seems that He is moving in my life again, and so perhaps, this is why I feel this need to start looking. I don't know...it is so hard to know what to do. In the short run, I am set. In the long run, my life is an open book. I am trusting the Lord to provide regardless of the outcome, and to show me the way to go so that there is no mistake about it. I am moving in His direction, and that means that I am committed to doing the work He has in mind for me. God is good, so very good to me! Selah!

So what does this mean for me today?

Well, I think it means that the end of my trials is very near. I feel good about the direction I am heading, and I have confidence that everything is coming to pass as the Lord desires it for my life. There are some "unknowns" right now, always unknowns, but for the most part they are minor unknowns. The BIG unknowns seems to be settled and fixed, and that means that I can rest and that I no longer have to worry about what may or may not happen. God knows where He intends for me to teach full-time. He knows where He wants me to live (now and in the future), and He knows my days, my weeks, my months, and my years. He has the plan all figured out, and praise be to God, that means that I don't have to worry about it at all. It is done, and He knows it! Hallelujah! He has me so well covered.

The Lord works in mighty and mysterious ways, and I for one, am thankful that He is God and I am not. I mean, would I goof up BIG TIME! Yes, I would. Instead, I can rest in His sufficiency, and in His provision. I can take heed and move in His time. I can listen, I can obey, and I can walk in faithfulness to Him as He leads me on. God is so wonderfully good all the time, and my life, my simple and ordinary life is purposed, planned, and perfected through His marvelous and magnificent grace. He is good, so very good to me! Praise be to God, the Father, He is good! So very, very good!

May 18, 2015

Change...Signs that things are moving again...

It is a lovely morning in Phoenix. I woke up early today, around 5 a.m., only to fall back to sleep until 8. By the time I finally dragged myself out of bed, I found that I was tired and rather grumpy. Yes, that is what happens to me so often when my sleep is disrupted early in the morning. Still it is a good day, even if it started with a fright!

I have been having dreams again, and this morning, I had a series of tornado dreams. I hate tornado dreams. Of all the dreams I have regularly, these are the ones that I detest most. The good news is that I rarely panic when I have them now. I used to wake up in one of those "cold sweats" where I was shaken up as if I had actually lived through the moment. Now, I am in the dream, looking out the window, seeing the debris fly around, and watching as the tornado approaches my house, but I am not afraid. I am calm, and I take cover as I wait it out, as I wait for the storm to pass over me. I think the reason this is so is because I have the peace of Christ ruling in my heart and in my mind. So while the dream world seems in chaos, the inside world of my heart and mind is at peace. I am not afraid. I am not scared or worried about the outcome of the dream.

Tornado dreams typically represent the fact that things, events or circumstances are outside of one's control. In short, when you dream about tornados, it is almost always linked to personal situations where you feel like you have either lost complete control or you are at the brink of losing control. They are called "control dreams" because the desire subconsciously is to regain control of whatever even or circumstance is ongoing in your life. In my case, I can point to a couple situations where I feel as though I have lost control. I may not really feel that I have lost control, but there is a sense of chaos and that is causing my mind to worry, to fear, and to stress over it.

Today is a good day to examine the events in my life that are out of control or close to being out of control. I think the number one issue or event is my parent's health needs. This weekend, my brothers (two of the three) came to Phoenix to celebrate my Mom's early birthday. It was nice that they came, and it was good to see them. However, the other reason they came was to see my Mom who is having health challenges and memory problems. Her short-term memory is failing quickly, and as a result, it is starting to cause us (my parents and myself) to change the way we do things on a daily basis. For example, Mom is no longer driving on her own. Second, she is often getting confused on dates, so we are having to make sure that all appointments go through my Dad or me. Third, she is not able to do much cooking anymore, so I am having to pick up that slack and take on more of the cooking/cleaning duties. It is a challenge, for sure, and with my current schedule of teaching and online studies, it is difficult at times to maintain control.

My brothers wanted to get a feel for what might be coming down the road. I appreciate that fact, and I understand what they were thinking. However, the way things worked out, well, it wasn't really for the best. It turned out fine, but nothing was settled, and no real discussion took place. I am still in the exact same position I was in previously -- not really knowing what I will have to do next week, month or year.

All of this is to say that while I am struggling with my own life, I am functioning as a caregiver for my parents, and that is a burden that is getting heavier and heavier each day. Still, I am blessed to help, and I am trusting the Lord for His provision -- but I am feeling the pinch and the bite -- of a tightening belt, and it scares me. Yes, it scares me.

A case in point -- I took my brother to lunch today. Well, my parents wanted to take him to lunch before he heads back to CA (his home). My son went along too, and it was nice for the five of us to have time together this way. I offered to pay for my brother's lunch since I owed him for his purchasing of dinner on Saturday. I didn't mind really, it was just that when the bill came, I was reminded of my "out go and my income" being out of sync with one another. My reserves are dwindling down and even with my refund check (coming any day now), I just don't see how I am going to make ends meet this summer. God has me covered, I know this, still the out go is significant, and as I continue to support my parents (filling in the gaps), I am spending far more money than I make. End of story.

I need another job. I need a part-time job or some better paying job just to keep my head above water. I am not sunk yet, but I can see the water line rising, and I don't want to be dog paddling to keep myself afloat. I want to earn a good income, to be settled, and to have enough to cover my base needs AND put some away for a rainy day (and my retirement). I know that day is coming -- retirement -- and I know that I need to start saving now. However, I don't make enough to save, and that causes me worry. I trust the Lord, really I do, but the writing is on the wall, and frankly, I am being hopefully optimistic to think that I can be sustained like this long-term. I cannot, I just cannot. God provides, and I thank Him for His provision, but I need to see this resolved now, and I think this is the underlying issue that is keeping me from sleeping well at night.

Update

I didn't finish this post completely this afternoon, so I am wrapping it up now. The good news is that I survived the weekend with my family in town. Not much has changed for me since that time, other than to say that the "status quo" is still in effect. Yes, everything is pretty much as it was before the weekend. Still, I am glad to have spent time with my family, and for them to see what is going on in our life. So often, we are isolated from the truth of such matters, and for family that live far away, they rarely get to see what we experience (those of us in the trenches). Yet, the Lord was good to allow us to be together, and I am confident that He will make the most of the situation as time proceeds on.

In other news, I am really struggling with back pain. I am not sure what I have done, but I have had intensive back pain the past couple days. Yesterday was by far the worst day for me, and today is getting more painful as the hours wear on. I thought it might be my bed or my desk chair. I am not sure right now, but the pain is coming from my sacroiliac joint and it is referring pain to my right hip. The combination is getting me down, but the Lord has me covered and I am thankful that I can rest today as I need to do so.

Overall, I am blessed, so very blessed to be alive, and to be in the condition I am. I am praying and trusting the Lord for His provision over every area of my life. I know He is good, and that as God, nothing is outside His power. I can rest in this knowledge, and I can take hope that He has be so very well covered this day.


May 16, 2015

May Weather and Other Things

It is May 16th, and the temperature outside is a balmy 70 degrees! We had a solid heavy rain for most of the day yesterday, and today the skies are partly sunny with lingering clouds. I sure hope it rains more today because I am loving this cool spring weather!

It is a good Saturday, and I am waiting for my family to arrive from out of town. My brothers (two of the three) are either in town or arriving this afternoon for a pre-birthday party for my Mom. Her birthday is next week, and she will be turing 82. Mom is starting to slow down a bit, and she is having some memory issues that are proving challenging. It will be good for the family to get together to enjoy this time of celebration.

News and Notes

Regent - I am struggling with my dissertation research topic. I had a good conversation with one of my new professors, but after hanging up the phone, I felt deflated by his response to my ideas. I will be meeting with my advisor next week, and I am hoping that he is able to help me clarify my way a little more directly. It is very difficult when you get down to the bottom of your coursework, and to know that you have to start thinking about the BIG paper. I so want to follow the Lord's leading in this, and I believe that I am. I have to believe that whatever I end up doing, the Lord will give me favor, and He will bless me in my research. Furthermore, I believe that my professors will like my research, and that they will be gracious to my ideas. Perhaps this is the Lord's doing, to help me refine my topic and to see that I am not quite where He wants me to be. Oh well...there is still plenty of time, but suffice it to say, I felt a bit let down yesterday.

Regent - My summer courses seem to be off to a good start. My Leadership Theory class has 39 students in it, most graduate level. I think there are 5-6 doctoral students including myself, but the rest are Masters level. It should make for a really interesting mixture of students, ideas, and content. So far, the reading and the activities (discussion board posts) have been pretty easy. This is an 8-week class, so the pace is rather quick. Still, I am glad I decided to take this class. I feel that I will learn a lot about leadership quality, which in turn, I will be able to use to help church's in crisis.

Summer Plans - So my parents tossed me a curve ball yesterday. Apparently my Dad wants to travel back to Indiana for his sisters 85th birthday in July. Well, Mom said that he couldn't go alone, and that she would have to travel with him. In truth, I don't think either can make this trip, so that means I would have to go with them. My son will want to go as well, and that means a big expense for me. I not sure what the Lord has in mind for us, but if He wants us to go to Indiana, then we will go to Indiana. Of course, He has to pay our way, but I am willing to go to make sure my Dad gets to see his sister.

I will be going to Regent in June, but I had hoped to be able to take a side trip to see my love in AL. The Lord didn't open that door for me, and I was thinking that perhaps this was why. My Dad will be 82 this year, and his sister is turing 85. Perhaps the Lord sees the need for my Dad to spend time with his sister. It doesn't mean that the Lord won't facilitate a trip to AL soon, but I am thinking that He may feel this is more critical than my desire at this time. I trust the Lord, and I believe the Lord will cover me and provide for me in His time.

Teaching

I am still waiting to hear on my fourth teaching contract. I have accepted three contracts from GCU already, and hopefully, I will receive the fourth contract from ACU in the coming weeks. I have applied to a couple local positions, but so far nothing concrete has materialized. This doesn't mean I won't get these jobs, it just means that I am in this "holding pattern" that seems to be the pattern of my life recently. Yes, I am on hold.

My Hope for The Next...

I am hopeful that the Lord will provide me with a permanent position. I have needs, financial, but in the light of eternity, they are minimal. I mean, I am able to make ends meet, and God provides for the shortfall consistently. I need to let go of the worry, the fear that I will not make a payment or miss an important event. No, I have to trust in the Lord to provide, and I am doing that, but it is just that I don't like the feeling of getting squeezed so much. I would prefer to live with a bit more affluence. Until the Lord does that, if He should do that for me, I have to rest and rely on Him, on His judgment for my next 3-6-9 and 12 months. The Lord does know what He is doing...and I have to let this go...

May 15, 2015

It is Raining...

Yes, I am trying to remain calm. It is raining outside, and I am in HOG HEAVEN! I get excited (as do almost all Phoenicians) when it rains at any time prior to the Monsoon or winter season. We normally get most of our rain in January and then in the hot and humid summer months we call our Monsoon season. Today it is raining, and it is blissfully wonderful outside. There is such a nice steady rain beating down on my window, and the outside air temp is just above 59 degrees. Whod'a think that we'd have cool temps (under 80) and rain in mid-May? No one. No one, at the least, who called Phoenix their home.

Loving this change of pace, change of season, and change of temperature!

I heard on the news today that we are in a once-every-ten-year pattern where we get a lot of rain during the spring, summer and fall seasons. I am down for that, I am game...

I wonder about cycles sometimes, and now that I consider myself to be a social scientist, I do think about patterns often. Today, I started to think about how much my life has changed over the last 10 years. I mean, in May 2005, I was a SAHM. I was home schooling my son, having just completed his 6th grade year. He was 11 going on 12 then, and my life was wrapped up in home schooling, AWANA, and website design. I worked about 35 hours a week from home, and I volunteered as Commander of SBC's Awana program for another 20 hours each week. I loved, loved, loved Awana, and I loved working from home, teaching my son at home, and generally being a SAHM.

My marriage was in a funk, but then it had been for a number of years. I was a devoted wife and mother, and I tried my best to make a happy home for the three of us. I also spent a lot of time helping to take care of my parents and my in-laws. I was in many ways "busy" with life, and truthfully, I put my marriage on the back-burner. It wasn't intentional to start, but this pattern of busyness just happened over time. I guess I used busyness to help me deal with the loss of intimacy in the relationship, with the lack of affection and attention I received daily. I loved my husband, don't get me wrong, and I defended him to friends and family all the time. I never spoke bad about him, and I believed that our marriage was just "different" than my friends marriage. It was all business with very little passion, intimacy or affection. We were cordial to one another, nice, and we always were pleasant. We didn't yell, scream or hit. We just lived in this very quiet and very restrained home, without much passion, excitement or joy.

I thought this was how our marriage was going to be, and I was thankful to be married. My friends had these fun relationships where their husband was their best friend. They loved each other clearly, dearly, and with such intention. I assumed that my husband loved me and he loved our son. He just didn't show it much, and I cut him slack for that, and I made excuses to my family when asked why he never showed any overt affection toward us. I would say "that is not his way" or "he is just not demonstrative." I told myself that my husband loved us, but that he didn't show affection. I accepted the fact that there was no affection in our relationship, and I believed it was "normal."

Of course, I came to learn later on that it wasn't normal at all. In fact, it was abnormal. I spent 26 years in a non-affectionate relationship, all the while believing that the reason my husband wasn't affectionate toward me was simply because it was "his way." I learned through study, counseling, etc., that while it was his way, how he related to individuals, it wasn't a normal way at all. It was dysfunctional, and the fact that I was made to feel inferior or the cause of the lack of emotional attachment, just put the onus on me as the cause of the martial problem.

My mother-in-law believed we lacked communication skill. In some ways, she was right of course. In some ways, she was wrong - dead wrong. My ex didn't communicate with his parents, and he didn't show affection to them so they had accepted it as "his way" too. In the long run, I spent many years believing that I was to blame for the lack of intimacy in the relationship. I was to blame for our marital problems, and the reason why my husband didn't want to fulfill his role as husband to me. I took the blame, and after many years of trying to make things better, I just chose to keep myself busy. It was easier than feeling guilty, and it kept my mind off the issues that were at the core of our marriage troubles. In short, I stuck my head in the sand, ignored the more flagrant problems, and I worked hard to keep up a false front. As far as the world was concerned, we were happy. On the inside, however, we were a very fractured and dysfunctional family unit.

The fascinating thing about all this reflection is the fact that over the last 10 years, I have become a vastly different person. My life has changed completely from a quiet person into quite a strong-willed and dynamic communicator. I am living the dream, Baby! I am living out my dream of becoming a professor, getting my PhD, and being free to go where I want, when I want to do it. In truth, I have complete freedom to go wherever the Lord leads me. He may choose to keep me here in Phoenix for a time or He may choose to send me to another place. In either case, I am free to go where He leads me. This excites me because it means that the whole world is open to me. My life is an open book now, and I can go and do whatever I feel the Lord wants me to do.

Right now, that looks a lot like becoming a full-time professor. It also looks a lot like I will be moving sometime in the near future, and it means that my life has so many possibilities. I am so stoked to be able to even consider a different outcome. Frankly, I was very content to remain here in Phoenix, and to live out my retirement years in Northeast Phoenix. Yes, it is true. Most people come here to retire, but for me, I am not ready to retire. I am just getting started, and I want to spend the next 30-40 years living life to the fullest. I don't want to coast through these years. I want to go and do work, good practical work, good ministry work, and I want to live my life blessed, richly blessed, and highly favored. God knows the plans He has for me, and I am excited by the plans He has for my life. I want so much to go, go, go...and do, do, do. I just need His release to go, and then baby, I am gone, gone, gone!

As I think about today, and I consider my future, one thing seems to be certain...the path that I am on today, is the path of His choosing. Ten years ago, I was languishing in a dead marriage. I was finding joy in whatever little way I could, but I was the unloved woman in a relationship that was built on a business like contract. I did what I had to do (negotiated) to get what I needed. He did what he had to do to get what he needed. We never gave what the other person needed, and we never approached the marriage as one of give-and-take. It seemed I was always the giver, and he was always the taker. In truth, he said the same thing of me.  I think we both learned how to negotiate in marriage, and whenever you start down that path, what you end up with is a business relationship and not a marriage.

I would love to be married again, to be in a relationship that is based on God's design, God's covenant. I would love to be able to give myself 100% to a man without fear that he will take advantage of me, of my kindness or generosity. I don't want to get sucked dry again, but I am willing to sacrifice my self in order to bring joy, happiness, and contentment to another person. I believe so strongly in the covenant of marriage, in the sanctity of marriage, and in the blessing of marriage. I believe that what God joins together can be fruitful, blessed, and so wonderful. The key is that God must do the joining, and not two people legally joining themselves together. I believe that God puts two people together and joins them spiritually. When they complete the marriage civil ceremony they are legally bound together. Then when they consummate the marriage on the wedding night, they are physically bound together. The important part that is often missing from marriage, even Christian marriage, is the first part. God must join the hearts together as companions, friends, and lovers. He does this by building a relationship that is not sexually based, but rather is built on the Word. Once this is established, then the relationship can proceed toward its expected end -- the wedding ceremony and night. I think many young couples (and old ones too), forget to let God do the joining of the hearts. They are physically attracted to the other person, emotionally interested in them. They may share similar spiritual beliefs, but there is no binding of the hearts. Then they commit to marriage, get married, and they pray God will bless the union. I am sure that He does bless the union many times, but there are times when people marry for physical, sexual or emotional reasons. Some marry out of convenience. I think many of these relationships succeed, but not without hard work and effort. I believe though, and perhaps this is just wishful thinking, but if the relationship is started by God, there is every good chance that it will succeed so long as the two individuals remain committed to God and to each other. It just makes sense...

What God has joined together...let no man separate.

Will I marry again? I hope so. I believe the Lord has factored that into my plan or the plans He has for my life. I believe that if this is His will, He will do things His way. My job is to let Him have His way. I need to let Him join my heart to another, build the kind of relationship that He desires, and then in His time, bring those two hearts together for the civil ceremony and all the blessed fix'ins (the wedding night). I believe that the Lord knows my heart well, and He is concerned about what I do on a daily basis. He manages every detail of my life, and because He is intimately involved in what I do, I have no worry about the relationships He chooses for me to be involved in. In truth, the Lord governs my every thought, emotion, and way. He makes a way for me, and it includes any potential love relationships. I am not out seeking a man nor am I "testing" relationships out. This would be spiritually wrong, and I would not dishonor the Lord in this way. No, I am letting Him bind my heart to another of His choosing, and I am trusting in Him, trusting that He is really good at putting two people together for a life-long commitment and the covenant of marriage.

May 14, 2015

Clarity of Focus

It is a great and awesome day here in sunny and warm Phoenix. Today is going to be SPECTACULAR and I am excited at the possibilities, endless possibilities that come with having a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. My life is open-ended, all opportunities are fair game so long as the Lord leads me in them and through them. I feel confident that the plans He has for my life are wonderful, good, and blessed. God is moving in my life, and I feel His movement as He leads me on step by step. As I move from today into tomorrow, I remember that I am called to be faithful, faithful to follow the Lord in obedience. I am to follow this one course until I find success -- and for me -- that success ends with my entrance into eternal peace and rest. God is good, so very good to me!

Plans and Purposes

One of the things I wonder about is how my life, all the little details of my life, add up. I mean, it seems like just yesterday I was crying in my soup, feeling low and lonely, and thinking that my life was not turning out as I had planned it to do. Yet, in one moment, I find that there is light at the end of the dark tunnel, and with focus and determination, I can make out the path I am to follow. It is funny how that seems to be, how you can go from being utterly miserable and depressed and then in an instant, with the right words, right affirmation, and right notice, you can feel your spirit lift up and soar free! Yes, God is good to me, and He is good to bring me people, friends and family, who take the time to affirm me, to encourage me, and to help me see my value. I try to do the same thing for them, to tell them I am praying or thinking about them, and to encourage them as they pursue the plans the Lord has in mind for their lives. In this way, we mutually build up and encourage one another. God is great to provide a circle of friends to us, to keep us in relationship with other people so that we can be encouraged. The Word calls us to encourage and to equip one another, to build one another up, and this is exactly why we are to do it. Life is hard, and at times, it can be so challenging that it is easy to lose hope. But God knows we need fellowship, and that is why He has commanded us to not forsake gathering together, at least once during the week, for the purpose of building one another up. We have our families, our peers, and our friends -- but we need the Body of Christ -- to confirm our calling, our ministry, and our gifts.

Today I feel uniquely called and equipped for the work the Lord has in mind for me to do. I don't know what happened between yesterday and today, but suffice to say, I feel more confident that I am on the right path, doing the right thing, and living in the right way. Let me explain...

Yesterday, I woke up in a disagreeable mood. I woke up and I felt so annoyed with life. I was generally not a happy camper, and my poor attitude spilled over to most of my morning. I did the best I could, and that was to protect my family from my "mood." I spent the morning at my computer, focusing on school work and web work (my website, blog, social media channels, etc.) All of this intense focus kept my mind off of my mood, and gave me the opportunity to produce quality work. I always feel better when I produce work, so the Lord isolated me for a time to allow me to focus on one thing only. In doing so, I came out of my funk, and I felt better because I had made good progress, good headway, and I could see the fruits of my labor or my good work.

I received some affirmation from my Regent professors too, and that helped me zone in on the work I need to do this summer. I felt good that my work is being noticed, and that I am producing quality papers. I may not be a solid writer yet, but I am getting better each and every day as I write more and more papers for my doctoral coursework.

Later in the day, I worked on my own website, redesigned it to better highlight my scholarship, and I felt so good with my product. It looks so good! God knows how much I need to produce, and without it, I struggle, I feel so unworthy. I am such an achievement-oriented person, and while that can be a bad thing, it is also a fact of my personality and my wiring. I am what I am, and while I do try to not allow my need to achieve to overtake my life, and cause me to lose focus, I do recognize that it is one of my gifts and abilities. The Lord knows this is the case, and as such, He provides opportunities for me to excel and succeed through my achievement in school.

As I recreated my website, I started to look at all my accomplishments over the past 10-15 years. To say I am "prolific" is an understatement because I am a zealous producer of works. I always have been, I mean, I produce volumes of work in any given subject for any given reason. I simply love to produce. I create, I edit, I develop -- I do all these things -- and often I learn best when I experiment with outcomes. I guess this is why I am enjoying studying social science. I love outcomes, and social science gives me the opportunity to "play with ideas and concepts" and learn through the experience. Yes, I think I am morphing from a Humanities and Arts person into a true Social Scientist!

My hope over the next year is to finish my PhD program, and to be recruited by a college or university to teach Communication. I wanted to teach English for a long time (well, I currently do), and I often regretted not taking a PhD in English for that reason. Yet, every time I come back around to Communication, I find that I love it all the more. Now, I see that the Lord has been pulling me gently away from English studies and leading more and more into the field of Communication. I am still not 100% sure of what He wants me to teach, but for now, I am confident that He desires for me to begin teaching more Communication courses. Perhaps He will open a door for me to teach some introductory courses here in Phoenix or perhaps He will allow me to teach online. I don't know. I just know that while I am content to continue to teach English at GCU, a part of me wants to be hired to teach Comm classes at another school. Hmmm....Lord, what are you doing?

Teaching as a Life

Right now, I have contracts set for GCU. I am still waiting to receive a contract to teach at ACU, but I believe it will be forthcoming later this month. I have applied for a full-time instructor position at Phoenix College teaching a 4/4 load in Communication. This is a good opportunity and would provide excellent income, benefits, and other perks to me. It is near me (about 25 minutes by freeway), and it is a good community college. I am not sure if I have the correct credentials, but I believe that if this is the Lord's will, then He will open the door for me. The main issue I am having when I apply to schools is that I don't have any letters of recommendation. I hate to bug my professors for one each time I need to apply, so I am thinking of asking for generic letters that I could reuse so they don't always have to submit them for every application. I am not sure how to go about doing that, but praise be to God, I know the Lord has a plan for me. I am trusting that He will lead me to the job of His choosing, and that He will make it possible for me to be considered without these letters (perhaps just references).

So far this year, I have applied for several teaching positions. I applied at Auburn University (AL), University of Alabama (AL), Auburn at Montgomery (AL), Liberty University (VA - online), University of Charleston (WVA - online), Northwestern State (LA - online), Paradise Valley Community College (AZ), Western Governors University (AZ - online) and Phoenix College (AZ). The schools in AL all responded with letters declining my application. The online schools never replied to my applications at all, and the local schools are still in process. I find the whole application process annoying. I mean, you go through all these hoops to apply, and then you rarely hear anything back. It is as if these schools simply do not care about your time or your effort. I know they get oodles of applications (U of A said they had over 100 applications) and they cannot respond to each person, yet some schools do, and to these schools, I say "thank you!" There is nothing so awful as not hearing back from a possible job. You never know if you were not chosen or if the HR department didn't receive all your materials. I know the Lord has His hand on my job/career. He will guide me to the right job, in His perfect timing, and then everything will sync up and work together for my good. So far, I believe that none of these jobs were the "right one" for me. Not yet, just not yet...

By the end of this summer, I will have completed 40 credits of my required 44. This means that I will be close to finishing all the required course work for my PhD. I will not be "ABD" until next February, but I will have all my classes completed by the end of the year. This means that I will have, in effect, enough credits to satisfy any job seeking a Master of Arts degree in Communication. I already have a Master of Arts degree in English Literature, so technically I have what is needed to teach English or Communication. It is just that for some schools (the HR departments), they want to see a MA in COMM listed on the degree. I think this is a shame because my doctoral courses were far more intensive that any Master classes. Plus, I have 12 credits of Master COMM work completed along with the remaining 28 of Doctoral work. Still, many schools will not accept a MA degree outside the field, and for those that will not, it is difficult to broach the HR barrier without being ABD or having the PhD in hand.

My goal, though, until I am ABD is to keep on teaching as many classes as possible. I need to get more experience as an instructor and to finish my course work. I have to remain focused on the end-goal, the prize at the end of the process, which is my PhD. God knows that I need to stay the course now, and I think in many ways, this is why He has not provided a full-time position for me yet. I am content to teach at GCU and ACU for another year, should that be His will. I know that I will find that perfect fit at some point in time, and until then, I have to remain focused, fixed, and faithful to His calling. I will do this, Lord willing, and with His grace, He will provide!

Possibilities and Options

My options are limited right now. I have applied at most of the local schools in Phoenix. I haven't applied at ASU yet, but only because they are seeking adjuncts (40% time), and I don't see how I could do that and meet the demands of my current contracts. Now, if they had a 100% position, that might be different. For now, though, I am content to teach where I am until the Lord moves me elsewhere.

I am free to move, of course, and I have been thinking and leaning this way for a while. My parents are not well, and I cannot imagine moving without their care being settled. I don't know what they would do if I were to move away, and I don't see how I can do that now since I have such limited resources. My son is mid-way through his college courses, and may be switching schools (Lord willing) for fall. He is uncertain of what he wants to do, and whether or not he will even continue on in school right now. This means that my present life in Phoenix, with the exception of my adjunct work, is tentative at best.

The Lord could choose to move me today. He could point out a job, direct me to apply, facilitate the application and interview process, and BAM get me hired. He could move me to another city and state, and He could provide every penny I would need to move my things, my cats, and my life. However, do I think He will do this now? I am not sure. I know He can do these things, but is He going to do them? I just don't know.

The bigger question is if I want Him to move me. I mean, do I want to move across the country and settle in a place where I am all alone, no family, no friends, and no familiar things? How important is it for me to go to another place without any assurance that it is "the place" of His choosing. What if I get there and I don't like it? I mean, what if things don't work out for me there?

I am willing, and I am agreeable to go wherever the Lord leads me. Yet, my fear of the unknown is something I cannot hide. It would be different if I were married, you know. Then my husband would be with me, and he would say to me "we are going here or there because of the job." Yes, I could let go of my family and the familiarity I have here in Phoenix because I would be moving to a new place with my own family, my husband. As a single woman, though, it is a different matter. It takes a lot of guts to pick up and move across the country. I have never done this before, though I have imagined it many times. I have thought that it would have been good for me to move away from home, just to be my own person. I never did it, and now I live with my parents as a 52 year old. What is wrong with that picture?

I know I am here for a reason, and I am content to remain here as long as the Lord determines it is good for me to do so. But, should He say to me "Go here -->" then I would choose to obey Him and go where He was leading me to go. So will the Lord move me? Or will He choose to settle me in Phoenix, to provide the job at Phoenix College (with pay and benefits), and ask me to remain here while my parents lives end, and my son moves out on his own? I just don't know. My heart longs to move to AL because this is where I want to be, but what if the Lord chooses to keep me here in Phoenix, to not move me to this place? What will I do then? Will I go ahead without His blessing? My heart tells me that I must only go where the Lord leads, and my faith in the Lord reminds me that He would not bring blessings into my life to take them away from me (yes, Job was the exception). I believe that the Lord has brought a very special person into my life for a reason, and it is not a temporary reason, but a permanent one. However, coordinating two adult lives takes time, and I believe this is where the Lord is at work now. He has to settle my life, and the life of my love, to make it possible for us to be together. Until He does that work, there is nothing I can do but patiently wait. I will wait, of course, I will wait.

My life is in flux right now, yet I feel the Lord moving me. I feel Him arranging details that will better me, make my availability and applicability more attractive to potential schools. I may not get moved yet, but I feel that the Lord is 'puffing up my resume,' so to speak. He is drawing attention to my name, helping me get noticed, and providing opportunities to highlight my skill. I need the right combination of efforts to succeed, and even with my hard work and my diligence, I will not succeed without the Lord's hand on my life. I am blessed, and I am favored, but now the Lord must do His work to make me noticed. How can I stand out amongst the crowd of competent applicants? If one school received over 100 applications for a teaching job, then how can I look best on paper? How do I stand out so much that I get called for an interview? Well, I believe that the Sovereignty of God trumps all other things, and that means, that the Lord's will cannot be stopped. His way will come to pass, and He will move me to the top of the pile -- but only when He chooses to do so. Until then, I must remain focused, and I must patiently complete my studies. I must continue to produce good work, and in the right time, He will promote me to the position, the job, and the location of His choosing. He is good, so very good to me!