April 26, 2015

Moving Forward...Again!

It's been a really good day of rest. Friday was my "official" last day at GCU for Spring 2015. It has been a good semester, a really long and hard and challenging semester, but nonetheless, a good one. God has been so good to me. He has sustained me through some really tough times, but mostly this past semester, He has helped me stay focused when the details of life seemed to be too much for me to handle.

I am still struggling some with understanding His plans and with knowing His timing, but I do believe that His plans for my life are good. I believe that His timing is perfect. I rest in His provision and His security, yet I still wonder how all of this, this life right now, will work out. It is difficult for me to let go, to let live, and to be in the moment, but I know that this is what He is asking me to do. He wants me to be free to move, to get moving, and that means letting go of the things I hold most dear. It is a struggle, a trial, and a challenge, but in the end, I know that what He wants for my life is so significant, that to hold on to anything in the "here and now" simply says that I would rather have what I have today rather than to wait for the experience of blessing in my promised future. Sigh!

I started to think about this the other night -- about my life -- and about how I tend to hold on to things that clearly God is telling me to release. God knows me so well, and He knows my needs inside and out. He has me well-covered, and He knows exactly what I can and cannot do. Still, I resist when He tries to help me. I wrestle against Him when He asks me to move or when He wants to show me the way to go. Why do I do this? Why don't I just let go?

Three reasons I can think of include:
  1. Lack of faith in the Lord's abilities to do whatever it is that He is asking me to do
  2. Misunderstanding of the Lord's timing so that I think "now" is imminent when "now" could be in time (3, 6, 9 or more months)
  3. An unwillingness to rest, to rely on the Lord or to abide in Him so that He is the one leading, and not me
There are more reasons, of course, but these seem to be the ones that make the most sense to me today.

I think my biggest issue is that I do not trust the Lord to "handle what concerns me this day." Yes, I think He is able, for sure, but I don't believe that He will keep His word to me. In short, I doubt the veracity of His word. I don't believe what He is saying to me is true, and I think that my life as it is will not get any better without my intervention (example, getting a full-time job or taking the reins and running the show my way). The funny thing is that I know better, I really do. I have lived under my own hand, taking control and directing my own life, and frankly, I didn't do such a "hot" job of it. No, I want the Lord to guide my steps, to control my days, and to lead me to His promised destination. I want what the Lord is offering to me, and I am willing to follow Him to get there. It is just the events of this life, the course of my days, and the struggles and trials seem to keep me from remembering that fact. Sigh!

The second biggest issue I face is that I don't understand the Lord's timing, in general. I don't get what He means when He says to me to "go." Does He mean right now, like in 5 minutes? Or is He telling me to be prepared to go? What do you want me to do, Lord? Timing is a big deal because I don't want to run ahead of Him, but then I don't want to miss an opportunity either. Help me, Lord? Help me to know your timing on all things...

How do I navigate between the various "times," and come to understand what the Lord wants me to do and when?

I am struggling with this concept right now. I want to move where the Lord seems to be leading me to go, and I feel the Lord is calling me to move. I feel the Lord calling me toward a different location (moving out of state), and I feel the Lord calling me toward a new life, a new way of living. I feel that this is His will, however, I currently share a home with my parents, and I work part-time (adjunct) at two Universities. So while my life is good, it is settled somewhat, it is not perfect by any margin or do I feel that this is the life the Lord intends for me to live for the long haul. 

It is weird to be in this in between place AGAIN. I think some days it is easier to remain where I am, to think about just staying put. It certainly will be less work, I mean, I hate moving, I hate change, and I hate starting over. Just today, I spent about two hours watching HGTV programs about flipping houses. I used to watch these programs all the time especially when I had my own home. I would watch as the couples (mostly) would take a run-down home and fix it up. In the old days, way back in the 90s, most of these flips were really fixer uppers. The people who were doing the flips didn't put a ton of money into the homes to turn them around. They mostly cleaned them up, reused items, etc. Now they seem to be all about making them new, everything is renovated and redone to make an old home look brand new inside. This means that the fixing up runs in the tens of thousands of dollars. I do like most of the look when they are finished, but frankly, if I wanted a new house, I would buy a new house. I am not into "reno's" which is really what these programs show.

Still as I thought about fixing up a home, my heart started to think about moving because while I am content to be here now, I know that this is not my home. I would like to have my own  home again, with my own things, and designed to meet my style rather than someone else's. I really miss having a back yard to garden, and I miss painting, and fixing things up. I don't have time right now, mind you, so it is just nice to think about doing it -- making something over. Some day, though, I pray the Lord will grant me permission to have my own house and make it over to the way I would like it to be.

Until that time, I will stay put and do the work I have to do here in Phoenix. I have good work, and I am content to do it. I hope the Lord will make His plans clear to me, but until He does, I will rest in His timing -- whatever that timing may be -- in the near future or in the next 9-12 months. Either way, as long as the Lord leads me, I am good to go. God is good, so very good all the time! Praise be to God, for He is good, so very good to me!

April 24, 2015

The Semester is Over!

It is a glorious Friday is not-so-sunny Phoenix. I woke up to the sound of rain hitting my window. As I peered out the window, all I saw were clouds and a constant stream of rain drops. It was a nice change of pace from our normally sunny and warm late spring days, and the sound of the rain as it hit the surface of the glass was soothing to me. In some ways, the rain signaled a change of pace, a different approach, and a new way of thinking for me. Let me explain...

I have just finished one of the hardest semesters so far in my college teaching career and in my doctoral studies program. It was the combination, I think, of applied research and theory along with three English literature and composition courses. The combination was the killer simply because of the amount of time required to achieve in each discipline. Even though, I purposely chose classes that I had taught before, I still knew that the time required to complete class prep, teaching lessons, and grading would get the best of me. In truth, this is exactly what happened. I got behind on my grading, and I ended up having to push quite a bit of student work off a couple extra days. I don't like to do that, of course, but I couldn't give up sleep (not at 50 plus years of age). In the end, it all worked out well, but still I was disappointed that I chose that route this semester. Oh well.

My courses are Regent were excellent, and I found that I enjoyed the content and the assignments. I didn't like the stress that arrives at the end of each advanced writing assignment, but overall, I felt that I learn many new things, all of which, will help me prepare for my upcoming exams. I feel good going into the summer 2015, and I look forward to my summer course schedule.

I found this quote by Nelson Mandela today. The words ring so true, and they remind me that every time I am in the midst of a major project, I always feel overwhelmed and believe (yes, I do) that the task at hand is impossible. However, once the project is completed, there is this amazing sense of relief. On reflection, it becomes clear that the task wasn't so insurmountable because in the end, the job was completed on time and with good effort and results.

This is exactly how I feel this morning -- relieved, relaxed, and rested. I have that sweet sense of satisfaction that says to me "I'm done! I did it all!" I love the feeling of completion, of finishing strong, and of making great strides toward the completion of my PhD program.

This past week was a bear for me. I completed two major papers, one in Applied Communication, and one that focused on Mega church Mediated Communication. The first was a theory paper for my COM theory class. The second was a combined effort of original research conducted through a content analysis of mega church websites. It was a great effort by two of my colleagues, and we are so hopeful that it will be well-received. The theory paper is to be submitted to a conference or journal, and I am hopeful that it is good enough (aka, the instructor likes it) to be submitted.

On top of my scholarly work, I also had three classes to teach and bring to a close. I learned a lot in my courses at GCU this semester, mostly once again, what not to do. I have some new ideas for content, and for how to teach product writing (yes, I figured out my composition pedagogy, whoohoo!) I hope to spend part of my summer getting myself ready for my courses in the fall. God is good, so very good to provide me with the summer off. In all, I am relieved and ready for my summer break!

I slept like a rock last night. I had stayed up quite late to have a conversation with my friend, and well, that always seems to mean that we talk until the wee hours of the morning. I haven't done that since high school! LOL! In some ways, it is fun to behave like a teenager again. It has been such a long time since I enjoyed such a wonderful and warm friendship. I digress...

I had one of those weird dreams, you know, the ones where I dream about my old house in San Jose. I think I tend to go back to my childhood home whenever I need something or want something that is "safe." I was in that home for about 6 years. Not really a long time, in comparison to my previous homes, but still it was the place where I retreat because of the memories and attachments I formed while living there. In truth, I think it was the first home where I felt safe, as in SAFE from harm, so I have a special fondness for the house. Moreover, I loved that home, and I can remember when we first found it (my Mom and I). We had been tasked with finding a home while my Dad completed his work in IL. My Dad was being transferred with his company, but he was in the middle of a project and wasn't able to go house shopping. He sent me and my Mom out to CA to look for houses. Our job was to find a couple good options, and then Dad would fly out and make the decision. In the end, we only found one suitable house (the one we bought), but the process of looking for houses took us two weeks of absolute despair and disappointment.

Of course, this is a more recent picture. My folks sold this house back in 2000. Still it looks similar to when we lived in it. It was a great home, perfect for me and my folks.

Back to my dream...so I was in my house (the one pictured above), and I was in my old room. It looked similar to my old room, but it wasn't exactly like it. Plus my son was there (grown), and my parents (as now). Plus there was a young black man, like a high school or college age young man, and he was there too. I remember waking up in my room, and pulling the blind up. The sun was shining, and I thought it was pretty outside. Then this young man walked into my room and started to have a conversation with me. He helped me make my bed (weird, I know), and then I saw my son walk past in the hallway toward the hall bath. Next thing I remember is seeing my cat, Snowball, and then my parents in the kitchen/family room area. I can remember thinking that all this was strange, sort of out of order or not normal. I mean, I don't know who the young man was at all, but in my dream, I did seem to know him. I had a conversation with him as though he was a friend or a family member. I do remember that he was an athlete because he was dressed wearing basketball clothing (like those long shorts and a tank). Anyway, for a moment, I thought about the light coming into my room, and the way the room was situated. It was my room, but it was different. The bed was different, the walls and window coverings, and the furniture. It was like I was there, but in the wrong time and place.

I love to analyze dreams. I know that dreams are just random images that appear in our minds, mostly when we are under stress or facing anxiety about some particular situation. I find that thinking about them sometimes, though, does cast a bit of light on what might be causes the worry, the stress or the anxiety. On reflection, often the truth comes through, and with some careful consideration, it is possible to pinpoint the cause, and then determine a path to resolve the tension.

In my dream, several things seem clear to me:

  1. Location - San Jose
  2. Home - structure 
  3. People - family
This tells me that I am concerned about three things, namely where I live, what house I will live in, and whom will live with me. This aligns with my stress of recent months, specifically living with my parents here in Phoenix. I have blogged about moving lately, about seeking full-time work, and about changes to my current situation (single versus married, etc.) I guess these thoughts are on mind even when I am focused on other more important tasks like finishing my papers. I know this is true because even though I push these thoughts away, they are still there, still in the back of my mind, and still a part of my desire to know or my need to know what will be down the road.

Today, I am beat, really exhausted. I have had a long hard semester, and I am tired. In fact, I am sitting here blogging when I feel the need to lay down. I haven't even gotten myself dressed yet, and I already want to lay down and take a nap. I am thinking that right now, perhaps that is what I will do. I am thinking that I will get dressed (in sweats and a tee), brush my teeth, and then lay down for a rest. I feel like I need it, my brain needs it, and I want it. I don't have anything that I have to do today, so I think this is exactly what I will do.

My window is opened right now. The air is moist from the rain today, and the sky looks overcast and gray. My cat, Ike, is lounging in the open window, and something about the window being opened is making me want to fall asleep. Perhaps this is what I am meant to do today...

April 21, 2015

It is Tuesday and I am Spent

I wanted to post a positive picture, but this one just spoke to me this morning. Yes, it sums up how I am feeling on this last Tuesday of the semester. I am exhausted, absolutely spent, and I am trying my best to keep everything together. My head is fuzzy, and I feel just awful. It is a combination of being worn out and being overworked. I know I will be okay, and thank the Lord, there are only four more days to go before I can rest, really rest. God is good, so very good, and I know He has me so well covered.  Selah!

Last night, I was able to finish my theory paper. I don't have a lot of confidence in my work, it seems a good effort, but not 100% great. However, I have felt that way before about big papers, and in the end, I do well on them. I believe and trust in the Lord, and if He feels it is a good solid paper, then I accept His testimony on it. I really do not enjoy writing long papers (25 pages). I have learned to crank out the short 3-7 pagers in about 3-4 hours, and I like doing that a lot. These long research papers are the worst, and I feel like I need another 20 pages to really do the subject justice. Of course, I don't have the luxury of time or do I have the interest. Sigh! I am glad to be close to done on it (just remaining edits), and I will be relieved when I send it off for grading tomorrow.

In the mean time, I am trying to pull myself together to make my commitment to GCU today. I have two classes back to back, but they are presentations only. I hope I don't fall asleep in them! Oh my! I am worried now about taking on the extra credits for fall. Perhaps I should drop that class, and stick with my two original classes? Sigh!

As I sit here today, I cannot help but think that my life is about to crash. Yes, it is how I feel. I have this sense of "something big is going to happen" and I just want to run and hide under the covers. I really do want to stay in bed today. I don't want to deal with anything more. Please Lord, no more!

I know He is my King, and as such, He manages my life well. I can rest in His security and in His trust. I don't need to worry about anything, and I know He has me provided for -- every need checked, every option planned. I just need to let go, and let Him be God.

Okay. I will let God be God today and because I am not able to be myself, I am asking Him to take care of everything that concerns me this good day. Selah!

April 20, 2015

Wishing it was Funday!

Happy Monday, everyone! Yeah, my feelings exactly! I woke up this morning thinking that a MAC truck had run over me. I am too old to be pulling the "all nighter" in class. Unfortunately, I was up until 2 AM, and while not "technically" an all-nighter, it was late enough to cause me to wake up with that "hung over" feeling. 

I have a couple colleagues who regularly write their papers late or should I say early, into the wee hours. I just cannot do that anymore. Well, in truth, I don't think I ever did it very well when I was younger. My brain shuts off sometime after midnight, and there is just no way to get it to engage again.

Still, sometimes you have to do what you have to do, and for me, that was working into the early morning hours in order to complete as much of my theory paper as possible. It is not that I waited until the last minute to complete it either. It is just that as I push on into the remaining courses of my program, the quality of writing ramps up a notch as does the expected quantity of writing. The combination times '2' is what is killing me this semester (I have two classes).

I woke up thinking of this song...oh to be young again...irresponsible and free!

It's just another manic Monday
I wish it were Sunday
'Cause that's my fun day
My I don't have to run day
It's just another manic Monday

Yeah, I know how it feels for sure. Except that instead of wishing it were Sunday, I am thinking that there needs to be a new day in between Sunday and Monday. Let's just call it FUNDAY! 

It's just another manic Monday
I wish it were Funday
'Cause that's my fun day
My I don't have to run day
It's just another manic Monday

I am sure the Bangles won't care that I changed their lyrics. I just need some F-U-N right now, and I could so use a "do over" day! Sigh!

T-Minus Five Days

The good news, if there is any good news, is that I am on the countdown to the end of the semester. This brings great joy and glad tidings to my little soul, but it also reminds me of the long summer (a blessing and a curse for teachers) where there is very little water (if you get my drift?) Still, I am blessed to be able to teach college, and to have my summers free for rest (oh, the blessed rest) and to recover (from all the hard work!)

I was telling my Mom today how I am looking forward to Friday. I so need to be done with this semester. My parents will say "Carol has no life. All she does is write on the computer." Yep, so goes the life of a doctoral student. I wish I had a life, a real life, you know, with fun days and Sundays and other days with lots of relaxing things to do. My life revolves around school. I get up in the morning thinking about school (my classes I teach), and I come home at the end of the day thinking about my school (the classes I am taking for my program). In between I write papers, I grade papers, and I think about papers! UGH!

My good friend mentioned to me that he didn't think he would want to do a PhD in Communication because of all the work required (reading, writing, etc.) I laughed and said I agree! In truth, I was thinking that I didn't want to do a PhD in Communication either. I didn't want to do this program, but I felt so strongly that the Lord wanted me to study at Regent. Regent didn't have a PhD in English and while I vacillated between Regent University and Old Dominion University (in Norfolk, VA), in the end, I felt certain that Regent was the place for me. Of course, I am pleased as punch to be at Regent. I love my program, my colleagues, my courses, and my professors. It was the best decision for me, and I absolutely see why the Lord chose for me to attend this school over all the others I had considered.

Still, PhD coursework is not easy. I know a lot of people joke about PhD's and the people who have them. They like to say that people who study for PhDs are unable to do 'real work.' Often, PhDs (as in the people who have them) are unemployed. Advanced study is considered a waste of time by most working people, and unless you are studying to be a medical doctor or dentist, they feel that a degree in philosophy is worthless and a huge waste of time. The truth of the matter is that the PhD, as opposed to an applied degree such as a medical or law degree, prepares the learner for teaching and scholarship rather than for practice. Don't get me wrong, applied doctorates are just as challenging and difficult as academic degrees. It is just that the application of the degree curriculum is different. In applied degrees, the student is learning how to perform a particular skill, vitally necessary for success in their field. The work is grueling and requires a lot of effort to memorize material and to demonstrate proficiency in the field. PhDs also memorize, but generally we are called to write about our experience rather than physically demonstrate practical skill. We produce scholarship instead of applied experience. We do learn how to teach and we do learn how to write for publication, but generally speaking, the bulk of the work is mental rather than physical. We spend hours and hours studying works in our field, and then through synthesis, we produce some type of evidence of scholarly achievement, normally through the publication or presentation of a paper.

I will be glad when this year is over, that is for certain. I have loved my courses, all of them, but I am feeling the grind as I turn into this summer and then look forward to the last semester at Regent. I have major obstacles still ahead, including my qualification exams and dissertation, but I am feeling better, stronger, and more capable as I get closer to the finish line. I am excited for my summer and fall courses, even though I don't know how I will finish them AND teach at GCU and ACU. Still, I feel the Lord has equipped me for this work, and He knows what I can and cannot do.

I wish I had about three weeks off between my spring and summer courses. I will have a whole week, which is a blessing, nonetheless, but it is not enough for me to rest and recover from the stress of these two courses.  I know the Lord has me well-covered, and I am praying to finish strong, really strong this semester. I have worked the hardest in these two classes. Personally, I didn't think I could work any harder than when I completed my Quantitative research methods course last Spring. Well, that was  until I completed Advanced Communication Theory and Applied Research Methods. The combination of these two classes was good, and the workload was manageable. It was just the level of work seemed much higher than in previous courses. I am surviving, of course, but I still cannot recall a more difficult semester. Oh Lord, what will I do when I get to fall?

My course load for summer and fall includes the following classes (my last, Praise God!):

  • Leadership in Communication
  • Writing for Publication
  • Dissertation Research
  • Philosophy of Communication
  • Theology of Communication
  • Doctoral Pedagogy
My spring includes one course only, and that is (ta dum!) Qualification Exams or Quals as we like to call them. I will sit my exams sometime in March 2016, and Lord willing, I will pass these exams, and then defend my proposal so that I can begin my dissertation. If all goes well, and I am praying that it does, I will successfully defend my proposal and begin research and writing of my final project, a major paper or book that sums up my learning at Regent University. My plan as of now is to graduate in May 2017 (to walk, so to speak).

Once I graduate, I am taking a super long break from school. My hope is to find a full-time teaching position at that point, and to be hired as an Assistant Professor. It will be the fulfillment of a life-long dream to finally achieve a ranked position at a University. The road has been difficult leading up to this point in time, and I am not close to finishing (closer than I was last year, but still along way off). I can see the end result, however, and I can imagine tasting the sweet victory of a conferred PhD. God be praised, because without His help, I would not be here today. God is good, so very good to me!

Turning Toward Him

The Lord covers me, and He shelters me from the worries, the fears, and the doubts that run through my head and tell me that I cannot do the work that He has clearly equipped me to do. I know the truth, and I know that these feelings of dread, of overwhelm and such, are simply lies of the devil. Satan doesn't want me to complete this degree. He doesn't want me to succeed and to begin the work the Lord has in mind for me to do. I know the Lord, and I know that He is victorious. He has overcome the power of sin and death, and in His right Hand, He holds the keys to life! I am thankful that I am His, and that I belong to Him. He has given me a fantastic life, albeit a bit stressed right now, and a future filled with such amazing hope. I love the Lord, and I love everything He is doing in me and through me. I cannot imagine a better life than the one that He has given to me. It hasn't always been easy, and it hasn't always been filled with joy, with happiness or with prosperity. But, this life has been precious, bought with His precious blood, and because I am cleansed in the fountain of His blood, I too have victory over the enemy. I can triumph where and when I feel most vulnerable. I can overcome any and all obstacles through my faith in Jesus Christ. There is no mountain high enough (to quote Diana Ross) that is impossible to scale with the Lord's help. Regent, and my courses at Regent, along with all the papers and projects I have to write and complete, are not impossible for Him. He has this all figured out, all planned out, and completely worked out to the finest, tiniest, and most minute detail. I am blessed, doubly-triply, and superbly blessed by His presence, His love, and His great mercy. He is good, so very good. All the time, He is good. Praise be to God, He is good to me!

April 18, 2015

Preparing for the End...of the Semester!

I look so forward to the end of the semester, but when it comes down to the final week, I find that I can barely keep my focus on anything important. My to-do task list is chock full of items that have deadlines, my strength is wavering, and my mind is a discombobulated mess! But somehow, praise be to God, I am able to pull through and finish strong. My prayer is for another miracle breakthrough this weekend so that I can finish all my assignments without the normal overload of stress. However, knowing myself well, I feel that I will do what I always do, and that is to wait until the last minute to finish my papers (sigh!) God is good, so very good, and I am relying on Him to inspire me and encourage me to tackle each task with due diligence. In fact, today in particular, I am in need of the Lord's wisdom and guidance as I am struggling with a major paper, and not feeling very confident that I know what I am doing with it. But as I said previously, God is good, and I know He has me so well covered!!

On my to-do list today, I have a number of "must complete" items. They are ranked in order of importance (well, based on time needed to complete)...

  1. Major Theory Paper - this is a critical paper that needs to be submitted to a conference or journal. I have struggled with the second part of the assignment (must be submitted for publication), and that requirement has caused me great concern. Had the assignment been to write a theory paper that "could be" submitted, I would have not had any issues or concerns. But because the professor mandates that we must include a call for papers with our submission, it simply ramps up the stress over doing a good job.
  2. Theory Paper Responses - this is a discussion board assignment, and while I have until Monday to complete, I would like to get them out of the way so that I can focus on my remaining tasks. I need to write to critical responses to peer papers, which is not a huge task, but because it requires outside research, I have to include additional sources in my replies. Time consuming to say the least...
  3. Major Research Paper - I am writing the findings section of our team research paper. I haven't even started this work, which concerns me, but I feel confident that the Lord will lead me through it. I am not sure how long this section has to be, but from previous quantitative research papers, it seems to be a couple paragraphs only. I hope this is enough...we will see!
  4. Grading and Such - this is the last item on my to-do list. I have class essays and quizzes that need to be graded. I need to complete these by EOD Sunday.
So on tap for today is Theory Paper 1. I had started this paper last weekend, written about 4 pages, but struggled through it because it simply didn't make sense to me. I realized  mid-week that the reason why I was not making progress was because I was tackling a subject that proved I didn't have enough information to do the topic justice. It was a good topic, needed and important, but I am not a subject matter expert, and as such, I couldn't do a good enough paper without major, major work. So instead I am going to write a critical review of a theory, and give it my best go at this late stage in the game. I believe the Lord knows what He is doing, and I trust Him for help, guidance and inspiration. The Lord is good to me, so very good to me.

Lastly, as I think about the remaining week and all that is on my plate, I look to the Lord's hand of provision. I am officially done teaching for the summer, and that means that I have no income to receive between now and September. I have savings of course, but these will dwindle. I am not focusing on the lack, but rather on the provision of good practical work come September. It is a struggle for me, however, to make ends meet, and I wonder how much longer I can keep this pattern up. I know the Lord has me well covered, and I know the plans He has for my life are good. Still, I worry about paying bills and all that I need to do. I know He is Good, and that He will provide, but I find that the outgo exceeds the income and that simply worries me something fierce. I pray to the Lord of Hosts that He provide exactly what I need to cover my expenses for Regent, to provide for my family this summer, and to ensure that I have "enough" to cover any and all unexpected needs as they arise. May the Lord be blessed, may the mighty and merciful Name of the Lord be praised. Amen, so be it, thy will be done! Selah!!

April 16, 2015

Finding Clarity amidst Confusion

Lucidity is defined as "clearness of thought or style; a presumed capacity to perceive the truth directly and instantaneously" (Merriam-Webster). I am lucid today or at the least, I feel lucid. I experienced a breakthrough of sorts the other day (as the Pentacostals like to say) and that led to this moment of clear capacity to perceive (understand) the truth in my life. It is always curious how I can be in the midst of confusion and then BAM a light bulb flashes and in an instant, I am clearheaded, understanding, and in full possession of all my mental faculties -- I am in control and I KNOW what I need to do. I love it when that happens because it reminds me that there is always a light at the end of every dark tunnel. The tunnel may be long, but there will be light, there will be an end, and in that moment, that glorious moment, there is peace, rest, and comfort in knowing "it is over, it is done." Let me explain...

The last six or seven months have been a roller coaster ride of knowing and not knowing. I have tried my best to figure out my next steps, but it seemed like the more I tried to figure it all out, the more confused I would become. In the end, I melted down into a puddle of mush, confused and confounded mush. Now the Word tells us "For God is not a God of confusion but of peace" (1 Cor. 14:33a). Therefore, the confusion I felt was not from God, but from the other guy, my enemy the devil. The Word tells us that the enemy prowls around like a lion waiting to devour any and all in his path (1 Peter 5:8). My confusion, my feelings of being confused, stemmed from the enemy seeking to knock me off balance, to push me out of sorts, and to keep me from knowing the truth about my next steps. Why? Well, why not?

In truth, the enemy seeks to divert our attention away from all things "God-centered." He doesn't want us to pursue any path that leads us closer to God. Nope, not at all. He would rather keep us confused, confounded, and generally miserable, while we "attempt" to seek God or follow after Him because he knows that in doing so we will be ineffectual in whatever we end up doing. In short, if he cannot keep us from our appointed task, he will simply cause us to be less effective in the doing of it. Ta-dum!

Ineffectual means "not producing the desired effect" or when speaking of a person, it refers to someone who is "lacking the ability or qualities to cope with a role or situation" (Merriam-Webster). WOW! So this is the plan of the enemy -- to cause us to become ineffectual for the Kingdom of God through means of trickery (confusion and doubt). 2 Peter 1:5-8 says this,

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Notice the last sentence. If we fail to produce these characteristics (fruit of the Holy Spirit), then we will become ineffective and unproductive in our knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. And, what might be the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ? Well, simply put in our knowledge of His deity, His sacrifice, and His future glory. In essence, the more we strive to become like Him, the more we will understand His will for our lives, and His kingdom plan (His imminent return). Peter also reminds us that if we do not have these characteristics of a Godly life, then we need to confirm our calling and election (i.e., check our salvation). The key point is that the Christian life is a life predicated on an ever increasing knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. This deepening knowledge produces Godly behavior (inward), and enables us to produce good work (outward - fruit).

As I consider my former state of utter confusion, I am reminded of the fact that since God is not the One ordering the confusion, it is therefore a ploy of the enemy. When we think of the word confound, the first thing that comes to mind is strategy. The Lord does confound His enemies, make no mistake. If you read in the Old Testament, this word is used many times when describing the works of God in order to defeat the enemy. In fact, to confound means "to rout or defeat" as in an enemy. It also means to mix up or thwart as in the plans one might have about a particular thing. Therefore, you can see that the enemy (the devil) desires to thwart the plans of God by confounding the saints. He is using strategy to rout us, to defeat us. The Word says it this way in Ephesians 6:12, "For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places." Make no mistake, we are fighting against a real enemy, one that is deceitful, dishonest, and dangerous. We are foolish to think that we are immune to the plots of the enemy, when his only desire is to keep us from achieving the specific plans and purposes of God. We are called to be on guard, to take heed, and to be aware of the tactics the devil uses to cause us to be ineffective and unproductive workers for the cause of Christ.

So what does this mean for me?

Well, at the basic level, it simply means that I know what I need to do now. I figured it out, and it makes sense to me. I am no longer confused about what the Lord intends for me to do. It is a relief, of course, and it is not to say that I am not without any little moments of doubt (can you ever be without any doubt?), because I am. However, the doubts are fleeting. They are just momentary flecks of thought where I hear myself say "are you sure?" But then, I am reminded that often the enemy worms his way into our thoughts through these tiny glimmers of doubt. He puts tiny seeds into our minds that are filled with the kernel of doubt. If we water these seeds, if we give them a place to root, then we find that we are watering an entire patch of doubt. Rather, it is to our advantage to not give any time or attention to the seeds of doubt, and in doing so, they will slowly die out having never taken hold in the fertile soil of our minds. I know it seems rather "new ageist" to say it this way, but it is a good word picture. Our minds are fertile ground where we either plant the Word of God or we allow the weeds of Satan to take root. It is our choice, and thanks be to God who through the power of the Holy Spirit, cultivates our minds to bear good fruit, we have the power to choose which type of seed to plant. Plant good seeds that will bear Godly fruit OR plant worldly seed that will produce weeds only.

It is funny really how things can become so clear. I happened to be on a blog today, not a Christian blog, but a secular one where the writer posted a good article about confusion. The woman was speaking about how sometimes she over analyzes things, decisions really, and how that process of constant jockeying back and forth doesn't produce clarity for her. Instead, it just causes her to be confused and to doubt all the more. I read with interest because she was speaking directly of a decision she had to make, a good decision really (not life or death), and how even after she had made her pro/con list, she simply couldn't come to a decision on which way to go. She kept saying how confused she was when in reality, she knew exactly what she needed to do. The truth, the answer, was right in front of her face, but she was unwilling to accept it. She had worked herself into such a frame, a state of mind, that she became immobile -- unable to move, to choose, to take any action at all.

I have been there, so there, more than once in my life. In fact, I was there last week or this past week (it is Thursday after all), and I know that feeling. I know what it feels like to be twisted up inside, unable to move, all because of the decision that needed to be made, and the confusion surrounding it. I cried, I blogged, and I sought advice from family and friends. I prayed, prayed, and prayed over my situation. I sought the Lord, studied the Word, and trusted in my own judgement about whether I should go here or there. In the end, I found that I had spent months, literally months, worrying about something that I couldn't control, fearing something that may or may not come to pass, and eventually succumbing to the feelings of defeat and depression that are synonymous with the works of the devil. Yep, I was routed good.

The blessed news is that our earthly defeat is temporary only. He has overcome this world, and holds the power of life and death in His hand. Therefore, while we may be defeated in this world, our victory is secured through the finished work of Jesus Christ. Thus, although we will fail, fall, and lose the fight at various times in our life, we will not be defeated permanently. No, we will win, we will overcome, and we will be victorious because of our relationship with Christ Jesus (Selah!).

Now, that I am in full control of my faculties again, I see the plan the Lord has for me, and I realize that I am OK. I am in a good place, with a good future, and with a good hope. I am steadily inching my way on this path, and Lord willing, I will achieve the desire result He has purposed for me. I have made some errors along the way, but I am not lost. I am OK, and that is such a Godly blessing. God is good, all the time, He is so very good to me! Praise be to God for His Mercy endures forever!!

Calm and Peace Reign

As I sit here today, I reflect on all that has happened to me over the past year or so. So much change has taken place in my life. I am in a different place on this path, and the landscape is fresh and new with each passing day. I am not at my destination yet, but I am steadily moving on, moving forward, and I know that soon I will be at the next big change in my life. Until then, I hear the word of my Commander call out to me "steady on!" I am to keep on keeping on -- moving straight on -- until He tells me to rest, to stop, to cease my striving. Granted, He tells me to rest all the time, but this is temporary rest only, short rests where I can recharge my batteries, so to speak. No, the rest I speak of, the rest He has for me is future rest, the future rest that is eternal. I am to keep on moving toward my final destination, and until that time, I am to not stop, to not lose heart, to not grow faint. He keeps me moving forward, and He reminds me of what lays ahead -- future glory, future reward, and future rest. I keep on this path until such a time that He returns for me or I arrive at my earthly passing. Until then...I keep on moving forward.

Some minor decisions made...

So in keeping with the tenor of this post, I have made some minor decisions. These are all "issues" that affect my timeline for the next 6-9-12 months of life. I would say they are short-term goals or tasks and now they are set down and fixed. I am relieved, really, because some of these things also caused me great frustration, and that in turn, led to more stress.

Regent University - I made my trip arrangements the other day, and after a small goof (one that cost me an extra $150), my plans are set. I am flying in like normal (June 6) and staying until the following Saturday (June 13). I had hoped to make a side trip to Jacksonville and to see my friend in AL, but after crunching the numbers, I realized that there was no way logistically I could afford to do that right now. It is not just the money, but the actual logistics of the flights and availability. So while I am sad that I will not be able to visit my friend (especially), I don't see it as a "forever never," but rather a temporary "not possible." It is not about the timing, but rather the destination (VA Beach). It just doesn't work out logistically speaking. I have another opportunity for a visit this summer (in July), and now I am wondering if this is what the Lord has in mind for me. It seems like a better fit, and it is an easier route to plan from Phoenix. I will continue to pray for the Lord's guidance and timing (and provision, of course) to see if I can swing a second trip to the eastern half of the US this summer!

Teaching - I am still open to moving for a teaching position, and I have a couple applications in play. None of the big ones have come to pass yet, so this leads me to believe that the timing is not right on them (or perhaps the position is not best). I took my friends advice last night and considered that perhaps the application process was the goal rather than securing the job. It is possible that the process of applying was God's plan and not so much providing a new position just yet. I have set contracts for fall that are here in AZ. In all practicality, I am set for 2015-16. I will remain as adjunct for another year, and in doing so, I am letting go of the idea of moving this year. This is a decision that has been difficult for me to make, but when I remove myself from the equation and simply look at the choice on face-value, it becomes a no-brainer. It is not about lack of faith or not believing the Lord can do this (you know, faith of a mustard seed and all), but rather it is whether or not, the timing is best for Him to do it. When I consider the needs of my family, I see that next year is a better year (for many reasons). By the end of 2015-2016, 
  1. I will have three years of teaching experience.
  2. I will be considered ABD (all but dissertation) which is the minimum status required for most full-time teaching positions (as Assistant Professor)
  3. I will have time to get my finances in order so I can be ready to move 
  4. I will have more time to plan to move, to scope out where to go, and to get a feel for what will be needed (planning is always a good thing)
  5. I will be ready in all aspects to move
  6. My son will be graduated or either close to graduating (hopefully the former)
  7. My parents needs will be cared for and hopefully a plan for their next steps will be developed 
  8. I will have passed my exams (yea!) and I will no longer be in class, but just working on my dissertation (so I will have more time to relax and enjoy moving!)
These are all the reasons I can think of off the top of my head, but generally, there are probably a dozen more that I am not thinking about right now. 

I have other things to consider as well, most namely, my relationship with my friend. It is hard to think about making plans to move closer to be with him when his life is in flux. I wonder if this is the Lord will and if His timing is to give us both time to get settled or at the least to complete some specific plans that the Lord has for our individual lives. When I think about it this way, it makes so much sense. I mean, I know the Lord is directing my steps, ordering my tasks, and providing for me. He is doing the same thing for my friend, and if it is the Lord's desire for us to eventually be together, well then those plans have to be coordinated and aligned. One cannot go here, and another there -- but rather -- the two have to be brought together and set on the same timeline so that both individuals start working and walking together. Yes, this sounds like a God plan to me. The enemy's idea was to create total havoc for me and for him, and I can see that now. God's way seems smooth. The plans are always good, and are always set up for our best. The Lord does know what is best for us, always best, and it is in our best interest to heed His will, His way, and especially His timing on everything. I am in 100% full agreement and accord right now. He way ALWAYS!

I believe that this is the Lord's will, and in fact, I am convinced of it. There is no rush, no reason ever to do anything in haste. I felt as though I was rushing, as though I was panicked into making a decision that was not in my best interest. I felt that I was doing the right thing, and in truth, I think I am doing the right thing. I am supposed to go to AL, and I believe that in time, the Lord will move me there. I believe that my feelings (and I know we are not to put great trust in our feelings) toward my friend are growing, and not diminishing or dissipating. No, I feel confident that I am meant to be there, it is just a matter of when I am meant to go.

My friend said something to me the other night, and it has stuck with me. He said that we are not young adults, just starting out, but rather we are mature in our faith and secure in our future. God has a plan for each of us. I started to think about that and I realized that he is correct (he is so wise). I mean, God has a definite plan for my life, and I know God has a definite plan for his too. It is up to God to coordinate and align those plans. Anything we attempt to do could thwart God's best for us. It is best for us to be patient and wait for the Lord to move us together, for the Lord to continue to grow our hearts together and to prepare us for marriage and ministry (if that is the Lord's will).

There is no rush because it needs to be done with the best of care, and only through the power of the Holy Spirit. Until that time, each of us needs to attend to the business at hand, our own lives (complicated as they are), and we must remain faithful and committed to seeing the Lord's plan come to pass. We must trust that the Lord knows what He is doing, and that He is working behind the scenes to bring all this to fruition. God is able to do it, of this I am sure, and I don't think it is a matter of whether He will or not. I really believe that it is His will, but that there are factors and issues that must be resolved before it can be done.

These are complicated matters, and when you consider them this way, it makes perfect sense for the Lord to take His time to carefully handle each need. I wouldn't want it any other way. I wouldn't want anyone, my family or his, to be hurt. I wouldn't want there to be any question about "less than best" in moving. I want the best situation, the best scenario, the best job for me and for him, and the best plan to be made. I want only the best for my friend's life, for my parent's lives, and for my son's life. I want the best that God has to offer, and thus, waiting for His best means being patient and letting Him do what He does best.

Dear Lord,

I will wait patiently for you to fulfill your will. I will wait for your way to be fulfilled in my life, and I will choose to be patient while you continue to prepare me for these next steps, the next BIG CHANGE in my life. You are good, and nothing you do is less than your perfect best. I want your best in everything, so I let go of my need now, and I rest in your process and in your provision. You are God, and you will do what needs to be done in my life today. Amen, so be it, thy will be done! Selah!!

April 14, 2015

I'm in that weird place...

in between the spaces or pages of life. I think of this "place" as my transition phase, the time in between being married and being single, between being an analyst and a professor, between being a Masters student and a Doctoral student. It is that place where I "live" in a state of change, moving from one thing to the next, but not really making any major headway. There is change of course, lots of little change, but nothing major happens. It all seems to be contained with the space in between.

In literature, we call these places, liminal spaces. Liminality is simply the "in between" place, like the space between an open door. There is this empty place whereby the person must pass through a threshold to reach the other side. In communication study, we call it hybridity or the space between cultures. It is the same thing, and it suggests a place of transition.

I am living in such a place today. I am in between what once was and what will be. It it not always a comfortable place to be because there is no real steadiness in this position. There is change, constant and unending change, and there is a great sense of "unknown" so apprehension becomes a factor. In truth, we live in these spaces all the time for we are never stationary in life. From the moment we are born to the time we die, we are transitioning from one place to another, from one moment to another, from one space to another space. We live in transition for most of our days, and our experiences are bound up in those tiny moments that make up these little spaces. How we live in these moments can often influence our greater understanding of life, but for most of us, we tend to despise these places, hoping only to 'get on with it' and 'get on over' to the real show, the big show, the final event. We want to arrive, to finally make it to wherever we think we will be most happiest. You know, the grass is always greener over on the other side of the threshold, the other side of the city, the state or the country. In truth, the grass is no more greener over there than it is here, but in our minds, our perception, we think it is so. This is why so many of us strive to achieve some measure of success, some amount of wealth or possessions in order to demonstrate that we have successfully passed through the liminal spaces and arrived in the "promised land."

The problem with this line of thinking is that it presumes a finality of sorts, it presumes that the moments that make up today count for nothing but waste because all that matters is tomorrow. Yes, we put on the mindset that "tomorrow" will be better. Tomorrow holds all our promises, our hopes for a good future, and all our dreams of a new, grander, more significant life.

This is a lie. It is a lie of Satan who wants us to focus so much on our tomorrows that we forget to live today. Scripture says it this way...
Matthew 6:34 - "So don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today's trouble is enough for today. "
Proverbs 27:1 - "Don't brag about tomorrow, since you don't know what the day will bring." 
Hebrews 4:7 - "So God set another time for entering his rest, and that time is today. God announced this through David much later in the words already quoted: "Today when you hear his voice, don't harden your hearts."
Romans 12:2 - "Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect."
Scripture reminds us that there is a time to plant and a time to reap (Eccl. 3:2). There is a season, and a reason, for everything that happens under heaven. God has ordained times when there is plenty of work to be done, and then when there is plenty of time for rest. In our lives, likewise, the Lord has provided six days for work, and one day for rest. The time given to us by God is to be used fully and for His purposes, and even in the "down time" there is reason.

Seasons of Change

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

The Word of the Lord reminds us that time is given to us for a purpose and for a reason. Nothing is given in haste or in waste, therefore, for those that trust in and belong to the Lord, there is comfort in the passing of time.

I see this clearly now as I have been "stuck" in liminal spaces, the in between pages of a book. I am between this and that, and I struggle to turn the pages in order to get to the next chapter of my life. Sometimes, though, God creates blank pages, filler pages, in order to give us rest. These white spaces seem to be a waste, but they are there for a purpose. They give us time to come to terms with what has passed by before us, and allow us to prepare for what lays ahead. I see this now, and I realize that the "transition" phase of my life has been for this exact purpose. I needed time to get my life in order, to leave behind one way of living, of doing, of being, and to put on a new way. I needed to learn how to do somethings on my own. I needed to understand why I behaved certain ways and believed certain things. I have spent the past five years learning about my past life, what I did, why I did it, what I learned from it, and then why I needed to learn how to do things differently. In truth, I needed to go to school to learn about the choices I made in my life, my desires and dreams, and why I am where I am as the result of those choices. I needed an education, so to speak, so that I would understand the importance of my behavior, my choices, and my actions over the course of the past 40-50 years of my life. This transition phase has been for my edification, to help me understand myself better, and to come to the place of submission, to earnestly seek the Lord and His will and work. I am there now, in this new place, this place of submission, and I am ready to move forward, to start a new chapter of my life. Yet, the Lord holds me here, and doesn't allow me to move on. Why is this so?

I think it is like any major change in your life -- sometimes -- you just need time to settle. I am reminded of my weight loss efforts and how I was able to lose 10 pounds a couple years ago. I followed Atkins religiously, and as a result, I lost 10 pounds. I have since kept that 10 pounds off. My weight has stayed at this stationary mark for two years. I would like for it to move -- to shift downward by another 10 pounds -- but so far it seems to be stuck on this number. While I may not like that I haven't been able to lose the next 10 pounds, I realize that I am happy where I am at because I haven't gained the 10 back. No, I am at a set point, a place of rest, and my metabolism is holding my weight steady.

The Lord does this with us as well in order to give us time to reclaim our sense of well-being. If we constantly moved around, never stopping, never resting, we wouldn't be able to process the changes that have occurred. We'd be on a moving train, never stopping to engage with the changes, to learn from them or to examine them more closely. Instead, the Lord allows us rest periods in between the movement. We move, then we rest. We move again, then we rest. In this way, we catch our breath, survey the sights, and relax in the process as we transition through this season and on into the next. God is good that way, so very good to allow us time to rest.

So what does this mean for me?

As I sit here today and blog, I am reminded that I am where I am for a reason. I may not like the fact that I am standing still, that I am still in this place of transition, but I realize that I am resting before another big move. The next move is going to be significant for me. It will mean moving to another state, starting a different job, and generally beginning a new chapter of my life. It is a big deal, a very big deal. Until that time, though, I am to rest, to let go of the worry, the fear, the doubt, and simply rest in the sufficiency of the Lord's plan. I know to do this, I know it well, yet I still wonder why the Lord takes so long to move. I mean, I feel that He is preparing to move, and I sense this change happening in my life. He moves often in my life, and I feel the uproar that goes along with it. I guess perhaps He is saying to me that the moves He has made previously were "small" compared to what is coming ahead. He wants me to be fully rested, to be ready to handle what is coming, and He knows that it is significant and will cause me to cling to Him. I think I am ready. He tells me I am ready, but then I wonder if I am really, really ready? I mean, am I ready to leave my life behind here in Phoenix? Am I ready to move to a place I have never been before, leave everything and everyone I know, and move to a new life? I am not sure, I am not sure.

I want to experience this new life, but I am not sure I am ready to do it. There are aspects of it that I look forward to like being in a new relationship, experiencing a new job, finding a new place to live. All of this is exciting for me, but then I think how different it will be, how I will not have the comfort of family, of friends, of routine. I am such a creature of habit, such a creature of habit. I need routine to make me feel good each day. I do the same things every single day, and I follow the same pattern. Will my life be the same over there? Will I still do the same things or will I be so sad, so lonely, and so miserable that I will become depressed? I just don't know, I just don't know.

I know this life well. And, while I may not like it completely, I know and I understand it well. It makes sense to me, and I feel comfortable even in the stress and strain. I am comfortable in this place. Perhaps I have stayed too long at the mountain? Perhaps I have waited too long, tarried in this place too long? I don't know. I feel like there are days when this is the case, when I have overstayed my welcome, so to speak. Then there are days like today when I am "itching" to go, but the Lord is clearly telling me to wait. I don't know, I just don't know.

As I think about all of this, and I wonder what will be in 3-6 or 9 months, one thing is for sure. The Word of the Lord will stand true. The Word of the Lord will guide my decisions, my choices, and my options. I will not step out anywhere that is outside the guidelines of Scripture. I will not consider any way that is not bathed in peace. I know His voice, and I will wait until He says "go" and then I will go. I am preparing to go, getting myself ready to go, but I don't have everything I need right now, so until my bags are packed, I will remain in this "standby" state. I will remain in transition until the Lord gives me the green boarding light.

Dear Lord,

I feel so ready to go at times, and then at other times, I worry so much about leaving Phoenix behind. I want this new life so badly, to experience your will, your work, and to live your way. Yet, I am timid, fearful, and afraid at times. I want to hold on to what I know, to remain here because it is easier than picking up and moving over there. Still, I know that you do have my best in mind, and that your will is to be done in my life. I ask today that you help me rest while I can rest, and prepare for moving as you lead and guide me. I trust you to provide everything I need, to open the right door and close all the others, and give me the guidance I need to know that what I am feeling, sensing really, is your desire and movement encouraging me to go. I ask that you provide confirmation on jobs, on housing, on timing of everything so that I don't panic, but that I can be ready when you give that green light to me. Take care of all the necessities so that I can be confident in what is coming my way. I believe your Word, and I rest in your Name. I love you, Lord, and I look to  your hand of provision this good day. I ask all this in Jesus' Name, Amen. So be it, thy will be done. Selah!