June 24, 2016

Interview Today

Happy Friday! It is a good Friday here in sunny and warm, Phoenix. I slept fitfully last night. I do hate it when I cannot sleep right before a big day. Today is my interview with UHC. I am excited, of course, but I am also apprehensive and nervous. I know the Lord has me well-covered, and I am going to this interview with this thought in mind. It is His responsibility to provide for my needs. It is His hand that provides blessing, security and provision. I don't have to worry or fear about the outcome. I don't have to be concerned about whether or not I am accepted for this position. The Lord knows the position He has for me. He opens the doors of His choosing, and He leads, guides, and provides for me as I obey His command to go and walk through each opportunity He brings to me. Today is a good day to begin this next season of my life. It is a good day to start something new.

More Planned Changes

This is a short post today because I have to do a few things to "prep" for my interview, and I need to leave early enough to get to my destination, which is in downtown Phoenix. God is good to me, so very good, and I know He will help me be ready and prepared to do my best today.

I restarted my lifestyle program with Jillian Michael's "30 Day Shred" DVD yesterday. I was able to make my way through level 1 with minimal stops and starts, so kudo's on the fact that my cardio performance had only slumped slightly since I started the program back in May. I also was able to complete most of the strength moves without stopping -- even the pushups -- which amazed me.

I am mad at myself for not sticking with the program. I had such high hopes of losing 20 pounds (by now) and of being in better physical condition. I was doing so well. I was eating healthier, tracking my fitness and my diet, and I was drinking a lot of water. I took some photos of myself, and I was starting to look good again (less flab, definite tightness and some muscle). I let stress rule over me, and I gave in and up on sticking with the program. And, instead of losing the weight, I actually gained it. I added 5 pounds over the course of the past two months. UGH!

The good news is that I am determined to stick with Atkins low-carb diet and these DVDs for the next 90 days. I think part of my frustration was that I moved to level 2 and then tried a different DVD after 10 days. I burned myself out. My goal now is to complete this one program for 3 months. I am giving myself 30 days (actually 35 with Sunday's off) to maximize each level. This should make it better for me, at the least, it should help me form good habits, and that is the key to successful weight-loss.

My hope is to lose 10 pounds now, rather than 20, so I can be back to where I once was in 2015. My comprehensive exams took a toll on me physically. I was so stressed during that process that I gorged on food like it was going out of style. Now, I am suffering the ramifications of that behavior. Ten extra pounds is a lot to carry around on this petite 5' 6" frame.

I will blog more this afternoon after I return from my interview. Until then, I am praying for the Lord's will to be done in my life. I am asking Him to go before me, and to prepare a table before my enemies (figuratively speaking, of course). I am asking that He open the door and that He provide for me in a way that pleases Him. I trust Him to meet my needs. If this position is not the one for me, so be it. If this is the job He has chosen for my next steps, I am ready and I am able to do this good work. In all things, however, I give Him thanks for He is faithful. He keeps His word and His promises. He is good all the time, and all the time, He is good. Amen, so be it, thy will be done. Selah!

June 23, 2016

Less Stressed Today

Happy Thursday! It is a great Thursday here in sunny, and yes, very warm Phoenix. It is another “scorcher” though the forecast calls for temps just under 110 this whole week (praise God!) Still, I am so “over” this weather. I so want to have clouds, rain, and cooler temperatures! The earliest sign of a stray shower is next Friday. Perhaps the monsoon will arrive on time like it has most years? I sure do hope so.

Today is a good day even despite the heat. I am sitting here at my desk thinking how in just a couple weeks I may be working outside the home. Part of me is happy with that thought while part of me is already missing the slow mornings at home. I mean, I love the fact that I can get up, take it easy, and just do my normal “thing.” Still, I know when it is time to move on, and it is time. I am ready. I was talking with my good friend last night, and as I was explaining my motivation and feelings about leaving teaching to move back into full-time work, I couldn’t help but feel, “Tempered,” some. I had said that I didn’t want to make an emotional decision and leave due to personal reasons. Instead, I am making a logical and rational decision, and at the least, I feel good about my reasons. It is funny, really, but I teach my students to argue using evidence. I teach them to write claim statements that are supported by justifiable reasons. I also tell them that they must use evidence to support their contentions. You cannot make generalizations.

As I think about my reasons for leaving a profession I enjoy, I realize that I am not sad about it at all. I will miss the schedule. I will miss the students. But, I am not going to  miss the work. That, I think, is the biggest contributor to the way I feel today. I would not have said this is so just 3 or 6 months ago. In fact, I would not have even thought there would be any desire for me to return to corporate work again. Yet, here I am, feeling this contentment, this peace, and I simply know that this is the right way to go. I have asked the Lord to provide this sense of peace to me. I didn’t want to go into this job interview feeling anything but positive that this is the Lord’s will for my next season. My heart is hopeful, and I feel confident in this line of work. I guess what I am trying to say is that I feel ready to take these next steps. I feel ready to move on.

I am trusting the Lord today for His mercy. I am asking Him to cover me, not only with His favor and blessing, but also with His peace and goodness so that I can rest in this transition. I have a lot of work to do between now and when I am hired (if that is His will). I have revisions to make to my proposal, and I have contracts to cancel for fall. In all, I have work that needs to be completed. Yet, I am not panicked. In fact, I am not panicked at all — not about my finances, my next steps, my career progression — nothing at all. I am calm. I feel good. All I can say is that I think I have made the right decision, and that this path so far seems to agree with me.

I cannot undervalue the role of peace in my life. I was speaking with a friend today about her problems, and I know she has been under constant stress for the past couple years. She made a decision that helped her come out from under her situation and gave her peace. I am feeling this same sense of peace, but my way “out” is through work. I have known for a long time that the answer to my problem was work. For me, working is never the problem, but always the answer. I will work as hard as I can in order to make changes in my life. If I have to work multiple jobs, then I will do it. If I have to change jobs, so be it. I don’t like change. I don’t like having to work really hard either. I would prefer to work “smarter” and not harder, but sometimes the only way through a difficult situation is to push really hard. Other times, the answer is to relent, turn around, and try another way. In my case, I decided that the best solution was to not push harder, but rather to consider other options, another pathway. This is what I have done, and so far, I feel at peace, and I feel as if this is a better, easier path to follow.

Plans and Such

Thus, today is a good day. I am on a new path, and my prayer is that as the Lord leads me and guides me, He will also provide for me. I need some ready cash soon, but until the storehouses of Heaven open, I must make the best use of what He has given to me today. In my deep need, I see His hand of provision daily. Just today, I received confirmation on my financial aid package. I am not needing financial aid now, not since I am down to registering for one class (fall and spring). And, since I have a scholarship that covers everything, I really do not need to borrow more loan money. Yet, I do know that there are embedded fees that my scholarship will not cover, and these fees equal close to a $1K or so. I don’t have this money, so I will have to borrow a little bit to end my time at Regent. I started to think about this today, how I was certain that I wouldn’t have loans to count on again. Now, it appears that I will have some small amount, and this will provide for me, to once again, continue in my program. I am struggling now with the mounting debt of my education. It is crazy to think that I have borrowed so much money to get to where I am at today. Yet, this is the Lord’s will for me, and while many would argue that the Lord doesn’t use financial aid to support His call, I would say that in this case, He certainly has done so. I believe that where the Lord calls you to go, He also provides a way for you to go there. I am confident, absolutely confident, that He has a plan for me to pay my loans off in accordance with His will.

My financial aid is a blessing, it always has been. I see now that I could have remained in my role as an adjunct instructor for another year. I would have had some portion of student loan refund to help me with my income — but — the since the amount is unknown, there is no guarantee that it would have been “enough” to fill the gap in my contracted income. Plus, I wouldn’t have been able to pay down my credit cards or get myself in a better financial position. I would have continued in “status quo” mode for another year, all the while watching as my credit card debt maxed out and my stress level increased to a dangerous amount. No, with a full-time position in business, a good income, etc., I can take care of my debts and reduce my stress drastically. I can pay off my credit cards and put myself (through His provision, of course), back on the road to financial freedom. In short, while I am blessed to receive aid again, I also realize that it is a “stop gap” measure only. It served to lessen the burden each semester, so to speak, but not to solve the problem.

Solving the Problem - Moving Forward in His Provision

I am considering several options for fall right now. I am considering some plans that might make big changes for me down the road.

First, I need to purchase a car for my son soon. His Honda suffered a major defeat when one of the pistons lodged in the engine. Catastrophic failure they said. We junked the car and walked away. Now, though, he needs a car to get to school and work. He needs a small SUV to haul his music gear around. I don’t have the money to buy him a car right now. Yet, this is a great need and something has to come to pass in order to provide for him. I am trusting the Lord for the provision of a car for my son’s needs. School starts in mid-August, so the timing for finding a second car is soon, very soon.

Second, if I am to drive back and forth to Phoenix, even for a time, I need some repairs to my Nissan. I just spent $700 to have my car repaired. I need new tires and brakes (I think) along with some minor things. I am strongly considering trading my car in for a newer model. If I can get a newer car and keep my payments the same, then this will be good, so very good.

Third, I’ve been thinking about moving (preparing to move) so I am starting to collect ideas for what I would like to have in my own home. I love decorating, so this has been fun for me. It takes my mind off of things, and I enjoy collecting pictures of room design, colors, furniture, etc., that I would like someday. I am using Pinterest to collect all my ideas, and hopefully soon I will be able to start replacing some of my current things with some of the things I would like to have for my own home. But more so, I am considering my needs when the time comes for me to move out permanently. I need to be ready to do this and that means that I need to have income and savings so I can sign leases or even qualify for a home loan. Right now, I am tapped out. But with a good paying job, it should be easier for me to save up a down payment and plan and prepare for moving within the year.

Last, as I think about finishing my dissertation, I know that I must spend time working on my project. I will be engaged M-F in business work, income producing work, so I will have to spend my evenings and weekends working on my project. I can do this, but I will need time set aside each week to ensure I am moving forward. I need some buffering between my work and my home, and that means some time when I can physically devote myself to study. My good friend and colleague spent several weekends at a hotel where she wrote in silence. I am thinking this is what I will need to do. I will need to purchase a MacBook Air so that my work can be seamless between my desktop machine and my laptop. Furthermore, I will need to find a hotel close by that has good rates. It will be good for me to get away from my family for a weekend and just relax. Plus, I can get a lot of work done in two solid days of writing or research. I think this is very doable.

In all, the Lord has me well-covered. I am excited to think that over the course of the next few months I will be in a better position to resolve some of the tension I have carried in my life, my home. I feel exactly the same way I felt when I was interviewing at UOPX. I was so relieved to finally be considered for a position. I had been working part-time at Macy’s for over a year. My body ached, my feet hurt, and I was working so hard and making such a small pittance each month. My Uncle was helping me with my costs during this time, and the combination of my part-time work and his small stipend made it possible for me to transition from my old life (married) to my new life (single). I couldn’t have done it without his help. Now, I am in a similar place. I have been working part-time for three years and my financial aid has helped me make ends meet. But I am ready to move on, to take on full-responsibility for my life again. I have an opportunity to do that with this new job possibility, and I am sensing the Lord’s provision for my life in a real and mighty way. I remember what it felt like to be paid a decent income. That first paycheck was such a blessing to me. Furthermore, as the months went on, I started to see how quickly my savings increased. Before I knew it, I was ready to move out on my own. I had enough money to pay my own way, and that feeling was amazingly good. I rented the townhouse we moved into, and I purchased some new things for my home — for the first time — in years. I started to make a life for myself, and I started to see my life as its own entity. I was not longer married. I was calling the shots, making decisions, and living according to the Lord’s will for my life. I was free, set free, and I was empowered to begin the transformation process. I began to embrace me — to discover myself — and that process was illuminating.

I am at the same place, just further down the road, and I am about to begin a new season of life. I just thought about the timing of it all, and I realized that God has always provided for me, jobs wise, in mid-year. I started working at Macy’s, UOPX, and GCU all toward the end of July. I moved physically in November and in May. I am looking to be hired at UHC in July. I am planning to move in May 2017. The timing of everything seems to align with what God has done previously in my life. Will it happen again or is this just a coincidence? I don’t know, but what I do know is that God is not a God of coincidence. He is a God of miracles and He is able to bring to pass changes and deliverables according to His schedule and timing. I love the fact that the Lord has this all figured out. I love the fact that I can trust Him completely for His deliverance. I must simply wait and be patient. I must do the “due diligence” of the work. I must show up, do the work, and trust Him for the outcomes. Today, I am trusting Him completely. I am looking to His hand of blessing and of restoration — a promise from Scripture —as a sign of His faithfulness and my obedience. I believe when I am obedient, I receive blessings from the Lord. When I am faithful and I wait for Him, then He gives to me what I seek most — His provision, His security — and yes, His abiding presence. I desire nothing else, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. He is my Lord, my Savior, and my King.

In Conclusion

In closing, I think today is a turning point of sorts. I realize that the moment I turned around and started to walk this way, something within me changed. It was not like I wanted to leave teaching or stop looking for full-time work, it was more that the longer I remained on this path, the harder and more difficult it became to feel positive, hopeful, and upbeat about my future. It was like I was walking down a long, long, long dark hallway with no end in sight. I turned to my right, walked through an open door, and immediately exited and found myself standing in the light again. I don’t mean to allegorize my story in this way, but this is exactly how I felt. I felt as though the way I was going wasn’t going to end any time soon. Instead, I took the first exit and now I am experiencing hope again. I think I realized that while I am a “teacher at heart” (always have been), I am not supposed to be professional teacher, per se. It is like the Lord gave me the skill or gift of teaching, but He didn’t call me specifically to “BE” a teacher as a career choice. I think I got the two things mixed up for a time. Teaching as a skill or gift is non-specific, meaning that I can use this skill or gift in many, many ways. Furthermore, I can teach the Bible or other types of classes at schools, church, or even work. I have the ability to teach, and I am good at it. It is just that teaching as a career or profession appears to be a closed door for me. I did not find good success pursuing a full-time position. I found partial, mediocre success, and while I was thankful for what I did find, I knew that in time, I would have to either be hired full-time as faculty OR I would have to look elsewhere. I decided to end the pursuit sooner rather than later. Now, I am on this new path, and my prayer is that I find good success in my efforts as I seek His will for work. I am trusting Him for His provision. I believe in His goodness, and I am resting in the knowledge that He has me well-covered.

June 22, 2016

God Moves

It is a beautiful, albeit very warm Wednesday morning here in sunny Phoenix. The air temperature outside right now (at 9 a.m.) is 97. Our high today is expected to be near 113. I am hoping the monsoon arrives quickly. Our normal monsoonal pattern typically starts to generate storms closer to the beginning of July, but the weather service has officially declared the monsoon start as June 15. I think they do this to cover their forecasts (LOL!) I haven't heard the Cicada's yet, which is always a good indicator that the dew point is rising and storms are on their way. Soon, perhaps, soon.

I slept pretty well last night. I watched two episodes of Masterpiece Mystery's, "Endeavor" before heading to bed. I had missed Sunday's third season premiere because I was not feeling well. I started to watch it on PBS but couldn't remember the ending to season two so I watched that episode on Amazon Instant Video to catch up. In good form, season three's first episode was worth the wait. I do like Shaun Evans as Morse, and I loved Roger Allam as the disagreeable but loyal DI Thursday. I am looking forward to watching the next episodes as they air on PBS each week.

So I slept well, thankfully, and I woke up at 8:30 a.m. thinking to myself that if I get this new job at UHC, I will have to start and end my day much earlier than what I am used to now. UGH! I couldn't help but think about my post the other day on the compromises or trade-offs we make, you know, when choices are considered. Sigh! I do have some good news, however. Yesterday, I received an email from the hiring manager asking me to interview for this position. I thought it was interesting that I didn't interview with the recruiter, and that I went straight to the hiring manager. I guess I will speak with the recruiter at some point or perhaps I will just go from hiring manager to HR. Anyway, I am pleased with this report. I am a bit hesitant to have to make the drive again (I commuted when I was at UOPX and it wasn't my favorite thing to do). My Dad suggested taking the light rail, but I am not comfortable doing that especially if I ever have to work longer hours or in the winter time. No, I am trusting the Lord to provide a way for me. He knows me best, and while commuting and early arrivals are minor issues, He understands my needs right now so I am letting this go. I need the job, and this is the first bite I have had on my resume. I know people will say, "don't take the first bite -- wait for more opportunities." The problem is that in this climate of unemployment, waiting is not always the best course to take. No, if this is the door the Lord wants me to walk through, and this is His provision, He will orchestrate the details to make this a good fit, a good choice, and a good job for my next career position. Selah!

Power and Ability

As I think about my next steps, I cannot help but stand in awe of the One who has moved the obstacles out of my way. I mean, I am in this position today because the Lord God, Jehovah, decided to clear the road up ahead by removing the things that were blocking my forward progression. I believe, no I am convinced, that the Lord has moved many things out of my way in order to get me to this place today. Granted, I don't have this job in hand, but I am farther along this road than I was before and it seems that this path has produced good results in a very short amount of time. Let me explain...

I was thinking about this yesterday, how I was on the "fast track" working my way through business at both UOPX and CVS Caremark. The Lord had opened doors for me quickly once I made my mind up to trust Him for the position, the role and the title of His choosing. You see, for a long while, I tried to find work doing what I already knew how to do. Many people would say that working in your knowledge base is a good thing. I mean, isn't that the point of the job hunt, to find a better paying job, a more challenging position, all within your present field and your current set of work skills? I would say that this attitude or mindset is pretty much the standard when it comes to job hunting. The advice I received was to "do what you already know," and back in 2010, that meant that I was to find a job as a website designer or content manager. My first steps, then, were to apply for jobs that seemed like an easy fit for me. I applied 50 times to jobs that seemed like they were aligned with my skill set only to get rejected out of hand. I interviewed twice, and each time, I left feeling more uncertain of my path, my way, or even the plans the Lord had for my life. It was like I was pushing a rock up a hill -- and slipping downward due to the heavy burden I was carrying with me. Then the Lord asked me to trust Him to find me a job, and with that ascent, I started to apply for jobs that I wasn't qualified (in my mind) to hold. I debated with the Lord, I worried and disagreed on His assessment. The jobs didn't produce interviews so I took the "see, I told you so" attitude with Him.

In time, no work appeared on the horizon and I started to get very frustrated. Then when I was at my lowest point, feeling worthless, helpless, and clueless as to making a way out of my situation (which by the way, was deepening and becoming more crisis-like), I gave in and I relented. I said, "Lord, you provide the job of your choosing. I will do the work EVEN if I don't think I can handle it." Doors started to open, and within two weeks, I was hired at UOPX. The funny thing was that the job was not a good fit for me, technically speaking. It was difficult, and the skills needed were not in my area of strength. But, I persevered, and in the end, I learned how to have a really good conversation. I learned how to encourage, mentor, and depend on the Lord for my performance, my abilities, and the power to do good, practical work.

After fifteen months in that role, the Lord moved me to another job where my skills were honed. This time, the job was a better fit for my analytical brain. It wasn't a good fit when it came to work/life balance, but it was a good next step. I trusted Him again when He directed me to apply. I didn't think I could do the work, I didn't think I had the experience. Yet, He put me in a job that challenged me and helped me develop quality business abilities that prepared me for study, for research, and for analysis in my doctoral program.

Then in fall 2013, He moved me to the role of business analyst, a role I was clearly not prepared to take. In the end, I panicked and I ran away (like Jonah) and hid in the comfort of what I could do or thought I could do better. My decision to not trust the Lord sent me to a place of great sacrifice, difficulty, trial, and physical pain. I stayed there for three long years, learning skills (of course), and coming to this place of humility and acceptance. I always blog here and say:

I will go where He sends me
I will live where He tells me to live

Yet, in truth, I was not willing to do the work He prepared me to do. Not, initially, that is. I didn't want to do certain types of work. I didn't want to work in environments that were not as friendly or accepting as I thought they should be. No, I was "particular" about certain things, and often my particular attitude got me into trouble.

I am a Jonah in so many ways. I am a prophet who often questions the logic and decision-making process of the Lord. I think I am better than He is at choosing, at deciding what is best and what is not, and I tend to argue (debate) with the Lord over minor points. He is patient with me, good with me, and He rarely relents. Sometimes He gives me what I ask, and rarely what I asked for IS the THING I wanted or expected. Yes, my judgement is often impaired, is short-sighted, and at times, even less-than-best for my good, my welfare, and sufficient to meet my needs.

So today, I am thinking how the Lord doesn't put me in places where I will be sedentary or comfortable. No, He puts me in places, in jobs, and in career paths that cause me to grow, to change, to adapt, and to learn. He is preparing me for His work, and to do this specific work, I must have certain skills and abilities. These skills and abilities exist outside of education. I am well-educated. I am smart, and I possess plenty of useful "knowledge," but I lack practical skill. I need to develop skills as a people-manager, a program or project manager. I cannot learn how to do this in school, so I must work in business to learn how to do this type of work. Does this mean that I am to be a business analyst for the rest of my working career? No, not at all. Rather, the Lord uses companies to develop His people, to prepare them for work. Thus, today I may be in the running for this role, but in a year, I may be doing something related, yet completely different.

His Work, His Way

I am committed to doing His work. Yes, my commitment to the Lord is to follow Him, to serve Him in whatever capacity He asks of me, and to go and to do the WORK He has in mind for me. I know some of this work is in communications. I know some of this work is in teaching and/or preaching to groups of people. I know that some of this work is in preparing, writing, and publishing curriculum (books, tapes, DVDs, etc.), and I know that some of this work is in leading, mentoring, and equipping (making disciples) of others. My skills, therefore, are honed in several of these areas already. I am a communications scholar. I am a really good teacher. I am comfortable presenting to large groups. I am adept at creating curriculum, and I understand the process involved with publication. I am strong when it comes to mentoring and to shepherding people, but I am weak in leading others. I need to develop people-building skill. I need to develop my leadership ability, and to do that means that I must function in a leadership role. I see now that the Lord desired to move me into a leadership role back at UOPX and at CVS Caremark, but at that time, I was unwilling to take on that responsibility.

Truthfully, I didn't think I was good enough, smart enough or knew enough to do it. Since that time, I have come through an incredible and difficult PhD program. I think I can learn just about anything now -- considering what I had to process to pass my exams. Oh yes! I can excel at any course of study and do well in it. I am confident, bold, and able to do this type of work. Thus, I need to be in a role that will give me opportunity for leadership. I need to learn how to manage people, and to be a good program or project manager. This is my next step, and the Lord had this in mind when He moved me into the role of semi-project manager at CVS, and then to the business analyst role at Centene. I simply didn't trust Him. I didn't believe He knew what He was doing, and I disregarded His advice to me. Now, I am backtracking a bit in the role department, but I am moving forward in the skills and abilities department. In all, while I have lost some forward momentum, I am making up for lost time. He is good, He is gracious, and He forgives when we do not trust Him, obey Him, or listen to Him.

Now I am ready. I am far better prepared, and for the most part, I am humbled because I have learned through the "school of hard knocks" that His way is so much better than my way. Now, I must follow. I must go where He sends me, and that means to this company, to this job, to this role. Even if I don't think I can do it (now, with my skills and abilities), He knows I can do it with a bit a training and practice.

Furthermore, I must let Him lead me in this process. He must speak through me, guide me, and place me with the people He wants to oversee my training and my development. I don't have to like these people. I don't have to get along with them as "buddy-buddy," but I do need help to get me from where I am today to where He wants me to be tomorrow.

Moreover, as He leads me, He is moving me physically. I know I am to leave Arizona soon. Yet, the job I have applied for is local. On face value, this seems impossible, implausible, and not clearly the right way to go. It would make better sense to apply for a position in the place of His choosing and then be done with the matter. But, my efforts to do that have returned void. No, He has to move me within, and that means to get me into a company that will provide a way to move me. You see, I realized this when I was at CVS Caremark. For a long time before I worked there, like a year before, I had this sense that one of the places I was permitted to live was Northbrook, IL. I spent about 6-8 months studying Northbrook, IL, learning everything I could about it, preparing for a possible move there some day. I had no knowledge of how I would get there, and I even applied for jobs that were in the area (within higher education companies). No jobs were offered, so I put the idea out of my mind. Then in 2012, when I started to work at CVS, I found out that the other half of my team was located in Chicago. When I asked for specifics, I was told they worked in the "Northbrook office." I didn't stay at CVS, but clearly the Lord was keeping His promise to me. If He wanted me to go to this place, He would have made it possible for me to relocate there with company provision.

The same is true with this company, UHC. Although I don't have the job yet, still this company has office locations all over the USA. One of those places is Tennessee. I have always known that Tennessee is a place of the Lord's choosing for me, but I never could figure out a way to get there on my own. I thought about moving there many years ago (like 10), but was prevented from doing so because at that time, my ex-husband was unwilling to consider the Lord's call to go there. Then life intervened, as I like to say, and I was separated and divorced. The thought of moving out of state began to scare me because as a single person, I didn't think I could do a move like this on my own. Also, I didn't want to go to a place where I knew no one, had no family, or was far from family. Despite my fears, the Lord asked me to trust Him. I tried hard to trust Him, but in the end, I have remained where I am and not moved to any of the places the Lord has permitted me to consider.

I have tried very hard understand why I will not trust the Lord in this way. I am not saying that the Lord might fulfill His word to me now and move me to TN, rather what I am saying is that sometimes the Lord puts something on your heart and it doesn't make sense to you. The dream, the idea, the concept doesn't leave you so you pursue it, trying to understand it, figure it out. You may even try to manipulate the matter, to make it happen, but no matter how hard you try, no matter what you do, you simply cannot make the pieces fit together. This is exactly how it is with me today.

You see, I have tried to figure a way to move from AZ. I have been looking for ways out for now on 10 years. I have looked at so many communities around the USA, mostly in the SE or Midwest. Yet, the Lord hasn't permitted me to move just yet. I have only looked at them, scoped them out, considered them. He has not moved me. The jobs He has provided, though, have offered me a way to get there, but so far I have remained where I am. I know this is in part to my own refusal to go. I simply haven't been willing to go where He wants to send me. I have consented to the idea of going, but not to actually going. Each time I am offered a job, there seems to be a connection to one of the places the Lord has placed in my heart and on my mind. He sends me. He commands me to go. Yet, I do not go. Why?

I believe the "long and short of it" is because I have been afraid to go where He is sending me. I have been afraid to uproot my family and move across the country to a place that is unknown to me. More so, with my parents in ill-health, I have been unwilling to go while they are still alive. I have heard His command to go, but I have not relented, I have not yielded or listened. I have NOT gone. This is why I tarry here in Phoenix, this is why I am here today and not living somewhere in the SE or Midwest USA. As if I am peering through the looking glass, I see my Jonah-like behavior, and I see my own stubborn refusal to go where and when the Lord has instructed. In my arrogance and pride, I have chosen to think that I know what is best, when in truth, He knows what is best for me.

It has been a long process of learning what it means to humble oneself before the Lord. Micah 6:8 says,

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

I am to walk HUMBLY with my God, and that means to not be arrogant or assertive (Dictionary.com). Humble also means "ranking low in a hierarchy or scale" and to think of one as insignificant or unpretentious. If God asks me to do something, I am not to question Him, to assert my personality in order to "test" Him. I am to accept His words to me as commands as if I was a lower ranking officer. I am not in charge of God, yet often I behave as if I think I am.

I have learned lessons in humility throughout my career and personal life. In truth, I struggle with pride. I can be arrogant at times. I can be difficult, particular, and act as if "I know" more than other people. I must not be this way, and while my personality is inclined toward headship, I must remember who is my Head. He is my Head. He is my Leader. He is my Authority. I struggle with this, but mostly I am not good at listening and obeying. I want to obey, mind you. I want to be a good listener, and I want to follow the Lord's commands. Yet, I don't always do what I know I should do, and sometimes that willful stubbornness gets me into trouble. I know it as does He.

The Plan Today

So the plan today is to rest in this new reminder that as the Lord leads, He provides. If it is His desire to move me into a position that will strengthen my skills areas, develop weaker skills, and provide a path for a leadership role, then I must allow Him to do it. I must let go of my need to question His integrity and His authority. I must trust Him, and say to Him, "Lord, I believe You know what is best for my life." I must let Him lead me.

Proverbs 16:9 NLT says, "We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps." This is a good reminder that while we make our plans for today, the Lord is the One who is choosing the way for us to go. If we lean on our own understanding then we run the risk of missing out on God's best for us (Prov. 3:5-6). Instead, it is better to let the Lord lead and guide us, so that He is able to provide for our every need. I think this is why the New Testament says to us to not worry about our days or what will happen to us. The Word says it this way,

Matthew 6:25 - "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?"

Luke 12:11 - "When you are brought before the synagogues, rulers, and authorities, do not worry about how to defend yourselves or what to say."

Today, therefore, I rest in His sufficiency, in His abilities to do what He determines is best for me. I must let Him lead me, and in doing so, He will provide the best solution to meet my very need. I know that in the past, He has gone before me to prepare a way for me. He has been with me throughout this process, and today as I make plans for tomorrow, I know that He will be with me to help me make good choices, to do the things that matter most to Him. So whether I stay or I go, I do everything unto the Lord. It is up to Him to move me, to make the pieces fit together. It is my job to listen, to obey, and then to follow Him as He commands me, guides me, leads me, and provides for me. He is good to me, so very good to me.

June 21, 2016

Forward, Ho!

Happy Tuesday! Yes, it is a good Tuesday. I am sitting here in my office thinking about my future. I am also giving the Lord praise because I received a good report back from my dissertation chair regarding my proposal. It has been over a month, and frankly, I was worried I had totally blown my first three chapters. But, God be praised, my chair thought it was a good start. Now to make revisions, and then to continue working toward presenting it in August. God is good, so very good to me!

My goal for today is to REST! Yes, I need to rest (as in let things go), and I need to stop worrying about my financial needs. I haven't heard back on my interview, so my prayer is that my responses were well-received. I don't think I did very well, but then the Lord has me covered. I am praying His will be done, nonetheless, and that means that whatever He has for me, He will bring it to pass. I need to trust Him, abide in Him, and then let all the rest just REST! So be it, thy will be done. Selah!

Simplify My Life

As I think about my life today, one thing is for certain. The Lord is guiding me, encouraging me, and yes, leading me to consider simplifying my life right now. How so you say? Well, the Lord has not provided a new job to me yet. This means that this summer, I have three months (counting from May-August) with nothing on my radar, nothing on my schedule. I am sitting here at home with little to do, so this says to me that I need to create things to do in order to keep myself busy. I need to come up with ideas that will help me produce some results, and not just spend my days sleeping them away. I have been physically resting, and even today, I am feeling tired, sort of sleepy-tired. I am not sure why, but I am not at my best today. Perhaps I didn't sleep well last night, I am not sure. What I do know, though, is that the Lord intends to do something spectacular in my life soon, and I am to be ready, to make myself ready to receive it.

The dictionary defines "simplify" as meaning to "make (something) simpler or easier to do or understand." When I think of "simplify" I normally think of clearing away the clutter, organizing or paring down. However, according to dictionary.com, the root word in Medieval Latin is simplific─üre, which means to make simple. The idea is to take something complex and make it clearer, easier to understand. Perhaps what the Lord is pressing on me is a need for understanding rather than a need to be better organized. I am pretty organized normally, but I do not always understand what I am to do or where He intends for me to go. So perhaps He is saying to me "Carol, you need some simplification to help you understand what I am doing, what I am asking you to do for me." If that is so, then my prayer today is "Lord, please simplify my understanding so I can know what it is that I need to know this good, good day!" Selah!

When I am confused, I will often hear the Lord guide me and tell me to ask for clarification. Clarification means "to make (an idea, statement, etc.) clear or intelligible" or to explain something so that it is "free from ambiguity." How quickly we can become confused, especially by our enemy who seeks to confound us, confuse us daily. We must persevere so that we can learn the truth of God's word, and so we can see the truth of His love as it is demonstrated to us through the Cross of Jesus Christ. We must always strive to be clear in our directives for others as well as when we are given directives from our superiors. Clarity is a good thing. It helps us to understand the complexities of life with more assurance, with more affinity, and with more ability to make wise decisions and follow up with good plans.

Today, I seek simplicity in my life. Simplicity is "the state, quality, or an instance of being simple," but it can also refer to the following:
  1. freedom from complexity, intricacy, or division into parts
  2. absence of luxury, pretentiousness, ornament, etc.; plainness
  3. freedom from deceit or guile; sincerity; artlessness; naturalness
In this way, when we consider a simple life or style, we are really talking about a way of life that is the opposite of what the world values. Instead of luxury or pretentiousness, we are called to a life of sincerity, plainness, and naturalness. We are to throw off all that is ornate or showy (or worldly), and instead take on humility, lowliness, and meekness (like our Savior). 

In my life, I am far from showy when it comes to my manner of dress or the style in my home. I simply do not like these kinds of artificial presentations. I much prefer natural comfort to that of high-style or art. However, I also realize that in the world, many people judge based on these things. Many people make assessments based upon the way a person dresses, speaks or even carries their body in public.

My prayer today is to be simple, clear, and direct. To live my life in a way that is natural, humble, and without pride or arrogance. This means that I must watch my words, my language, my style as I engage with others on a daily basis. I must not appear to be "better" than another, for I am not. I am judged with the same impartiality by God as everyone of His creatures. I am no better than any other.

Moving Forward with Boldness

It is funny how when one door opens, another closes. I love this saying, and while I didn't know it was originally attributed to Alexander Graham Bell, I always remembered it from one of my all-time favorite movies, "The Sound of Music." If you recall, these are the words spoken by the Mother Abbess as she tries to help Maria understand her calling (vocation). She says something along the lines of how God may have another plan for her life than becoming a nun. This scene in the movie speaks to my heart every time I see it. I feel such an affinity for Maria, specifically in her desire to serve God, to do God's work. Yet, the movie so wonderfully demonstrates how God often opens and closes doors to help us know His will. He shows us in viable ways what He wants us to know.

I am like Maria in so many ways. And while not an orphan who runs to the Abbey to find sanctuary, solace, and security, I have run to God for similar needs. Maria was hopeless at being a nun because no matter how hard she tried to live the life of postulate, she simply couldn't do it. She failed every single time. She gave her heart, but in the end, she wasn't cut out to be a nun.

In the movie (play version too), the Mother Abbess recognizes this weakness in Maria. But rather than scold her or tell her what to do, in her wisdom, she gives Maria the time she needs to come to figure this truth out on her own. In order to help her discover her purpose, Mother Abbess sends her to be a governess at the home of Captain Von Trapp, knowing full well that his needs (for a wife) could be satisfied should a relationship develop between him and Maria. Of course, in good story fashion, this arrangement also was designed to be the venue chosen to test Maria's will and her determination to be a nun. As the story closes, Maria and Captain Von Trapp fall in love and she decides to leave the cloister. She chooses marriage and motherhood, both honorable estates before God. In doing so, she comes to accept her calling, but sees that her calling is to be fulfilled through another avenue rather than through life in the nunnery. The story of the Von Trapp Family is well romanticized and even contrived in some ways, yet despite the Hollywood treatment, it still echoes truth. Sometimes God does use people, places, and positions in order to get His children to see that the plans He has for their life are bigger than the plans they think they know or can easily hold in the palms of their hands.

In my case, I think this is true as well. I received confirmation today of another door closing. I had applied for several full-time teaching positions here in Phoenix. I was invited to apply in early Spring so I did. I never heard back on these positions, and even after following up on them, I never received any confirmation that they were interested in me, in particular. Yet, today, the second door closed. The email came thanking me for applying but saying that they (the school) was pursuing other candidates. The curious thing is that for both of these jobs, I was highly qualified. I had the experience, the relationship with the schools, and I had the education. Furthermore, as a published author (now in press), I pretty much was a good candidate for the department. Yet, for whatever reason, the dean moved forward with other people. I wasn't surprised by the email at all. It was more like a confirmation that said to me, "This door is closed. Move on."

I feel like I am standing at the closed door right now. I wanted so much to see doors open for me, to not give up or in on teaching full-time. In fact, my chair said today that I shouldn't give up just yet. I appreciated his views, but I am not so sure that hanging on is in my best interest. He is very dear, and I value His advice, but I also know that he is not aware of my situation here. He isn't aware of what I am doing each day, how I am getting by. Still, I thanked him for his concern, and I thought a bit about what he said as I got lunch together for my family. I asked the Lord, "Lord, has this door closed yet?" And, then the email came. I think the answer is "yes." The door to teaching has closed, and the door that is open, is the one I am waiting on now. I am moving forward, crossing the threshold, and waiting to see what new things the Lord intends to bring my way. Will this job pan out? Will I get called to interview this week? I honestly do not know, but I will not look back upon the closed door. I will not look back when I should be looking forward, looking to the greater plans, the bigger proposals, and the gigantic adventures the Lord has in mind for me today.

June 20, 2016

Next Steps

It is a good Monday here in sunny and hot, Phoenix. Our high today is going to be another scorcher! Yesterday we hit 119, not quite the record heat predicted (122 is the official high), but sure as close enough to it. It was 118 near my house, and frankly, that was too hot for comfort. This entire week is forecast to be above 110. UGH!

Normally, the heat seems to help my sinuses, but lately, I have really struggled with asthma (catching a deep breath) and with breathing freely through my nose. Last night, I thought I was going to have to go to the ER. Thankfully, I used Flo-nase to open up my nose, and then with my ceiling fan on, I was able to relax and breath without effort. I am guessing it is allergies. I mean, I have seasonal rhinitis, always have since moving to the desert, but lately it has gotten worse. I have been sneezing and suffering from a runny nose for now on weeks. I am sure it is all related, but I have to say that I am getting really tired of it. I so want to move to another place where my allergies will not be so bad. I just don't know where that "place" is -- or -- if any such place really exists.

I did sleep well last night, however. I went to bed around midnight, after suffering most of the afternoon and evening with food poisoning. I think I ate bad carrots. I know that sounds weird, but I had some baby carrots (raw) with ranch dressing mid-afternoon. Shortly afterward, I got nauseous, and then had diarrhea like you wouldn't believe. I didn't get the headache that normally accompanies food poisoning or vomit, but I felt like the latter several times before my body chose to eliminate the toxins the other direction. Needless to say, I was wiped out (no pun intended). I watched the rest of the New Zealand series, "Brokenwood Mysteries," Season Two, before turning in for the night.

Preparing Myself for a Move

I gave my video interview on Friday. I am hoping to hear a positive report from the recruiter this week. It would be good to interview by phone, and I am looking forward to speaking with a live person soon. However, I know that big companies are like big ships; they move really slowly. I am prepared to wait this out, should this be the Lord's will. Right now, I feel confident that I am moving in the right direction. I guess I should clarify when I say "right" direction. There is no right direction within the Lord's will for your life. Every direction, every path is "right." Some are better choices, value-wise, than others. Some choices are more prosperous or offer a better advantage over other choices. Usually, there is some kind of trade-off involved. It is like when you have to evaluate two options and neither is a clear favorite. In some ways, option A appears better than option B. But in both cases, there are aspects that are both "good and bad." It all comes down to compromise and the degree to which one is willing to sacrifice.

For example, I can stay in teaching and enjoy the blessing of having my summers off (which I love). Or I can move into business, and work 40 hours a week with 2-3 weeks off each year. The trade-off with a business job is that I work consistently all year long and take one short break versus working as a teacher for nine months and taking 3 months off. On face value, the choice seems easy -- take the summer break! But when you align the two and look deeper, you see a number of other choices embedded in each option. Teaching pays low compared to business work. Sacrificing income to have a long summer only produces drought, stress, and worry. Instead, I could work all year, have steady income and take my short break knowing that I have income in the bank. For some, the summer break is worth the shortfall of income. For others, the income is more important. I fall into the latter case because I need income, regular and steady income, to support myself and my son. If I were married, if my husband had a good job, then the choices would be considered differently. But since I am unmarried, I have to focus on meeting the needs at hand. I need work because I am single and I rely on my own paycheck to make ends meet.

As I prepare myself to take this next step, I realize that I have to come to terms with several minor aspects of working full-time again (in a non-teaching capacity). First, this job (the one I am in process for now) is a local office position. I will have to work in the local Phoenix office. This is okay with me, but I had hoped to be offered a telecommuter role. It may end up being possible to work from home at some point, but more than likely I will need to work 8-5, M-F, for awhile. Second, as far as career planning is concerned, UnitedHealth Group offers many positions that are located all across the USA. In fact, as of last week, there were over 3,000 positions open. Of course, not all would be a fit for me, but this just demonstrates that as a Fortune 500 company (number 6 on the list), they are stable in their industry and they are growing as a major employer. So, I should be able to relocate like my cousin did (she moved from Phoenix to Tampa). The compromise is on where I can move to since the jobs are tied to one of their corporate offices. I cannot live "anywhere," but rather I would have to live within an hour of one of their offices. Third, the options for relocating limit me somewhat in that I could relocate to Minnesota (corporate), Texas, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, or Connecticut, to name a few places. Last, job progression or career advancement is important to me so I need to be willing to move wherever the position suits me or wherever the company desires me to go.

Moving is among several things I have to keep in mind when thinking about taking a corporate position like this one. My parents are not up to moving at all, so my concern is moving away from them without a care plan laid out. My son will be graduating in a year, and then he will be looking for work. At this point, his career aspirations are in music or the music industry (recording). He needs to be near where music is happening or where there is potential for music to happen. This would open up three places that would work for us: Texas (Austin or thereabouts), Tennessee (Nashville), or Georgia (Atlanta). These are three places where the music business is growing. Los Angeles is also a music haven, but I have no intention of moving back to California due to the high cost of living. Of the places I would go, if I had to choose, I would go to Tennessee first before Atlanta or Texas. I am open to all three, but I would rather not be in Georgia or Texas (personal preference).

My parents will not want to move at all, and while I understand their desire, the truth is that I have to go wherever the job leads me. I may not like it, but it is what it is. I am okay with moving as part of the job. Frankly, it solves a lot of my worries. If my employer says "go," I can simply obey. I don't really have to make the decision other than to agree or disagree (and then find another job! LOL!) No, at this point in time, I need to settle down, be fixed on a path, and then just ride it out. I don't want to be unemployed again (I said that back in 2011). I want to be gainfully employed, and I want to have a career plan that will grow, challenge, and develop me as I mature. My parents, especially my Dad, would understand this as required for steady employment. Thus, while he doesn't want to move because of the hassles involved, he would move if I had to go for a good job or promotion in my career. Furthermore, in moving to a less expensive place to live, for example, the options for palliative care or long-term care may be more in line with my parents resources or with my ability to help care for them. In this way, while my family may not want to go where my employer moves me, moving from AZ to this other place might actually bless us all.

Looking Forward to Change

I have to admit that I am excited about this possible change in the direction of my future. I mean, I was so settled on teaching, so content just a couple months ago, and now I am ready to walk away from it, to follow this new path. Why? Why is this so?

My good friend and I were talking about this the other night. He asked me why I feel this way, and I told him that I just had a sense of peace about it. In truth, I think it is a combination of relief (there is another way out there), and the desperate straits I am in (or close to being in). I mean, I need work. I have been looking for full-time work since last year. I started applying for jobs back in 2014, but didn't really start "looking" seriously until 2015. I realized that the path I was on (teaching) was the path I had to stay on until I finished my courses at Regent. There was no reason to change gears right in the middle of my program. So while I didn't like the low income, it was a trade-off for me. I used the flexible schedule to help me do well in school and to pass my exams. Last winter, I started to feel the push to apply for full-time work. I was open to being hired shortly after the new year, but then I panicked and chose to wait until this summer. I knew that summer 2016 was my "drop-dead" date. Working part-time after summer would put me at a severe disadvantage financially, but I assumed I would use the summer for research. Again, it was a compromise. I had hoped to have a full-time teaching position to start in the fall. This "job" hasn't materialized, so I felt the push to start looking in other places, in other industries. Now, I am being considered (hooray), and that gives me confidence to know that this is a viable path to follow.

Why then do I feel this way? I honestly think it is because it is the better option. I mean, Option A (teaching) was a good choice for me while I was in graduate school. It hasn't proven financially stable nor has there been opportunities for full-time work. It seems like the door is closed to this pathway, longterm, I mean. Option B is business/industry and this path is viable, financially secure, and the door appears to be open. I am moving now, so I have to believe I am heading in a good direction.

Moreover, I am ready to try something new. I have enjoyed teaching, but I am ready to do something different. You see, learning how to teach was difficult. There was a long learning curve, and I had to learn how to be comfortable presenting, lecturing, and assessing student performance. In truth, teaching was taxing physically. I always suffered greatly when I started each semester. My feet, my back, ached and I was wiped out for weeks. I enjoyed the process of learning, but now that I have that under my belt, the idea of teaching the same content semester-after-semester is not enticing to me. I am ready for change, for challenge, and for opportunities to create positive growth in my life. Yes, I am ready to move on.

Furthermore, I am no longer emotionally invested in my students. I had some reservations last fall about leaving before spring was over. Now that is done. I am free to move on -- with no students planning on taking my courses this fall. This means I have no connections to any of the schools I am contracted at now. It is a good time to part-ways.

Last, I really must consider my future needs. I have put my needs aside for three years while I focused on my PhD. Now, I am almost finished, and my financial needs are critical. I must address the shortfall, and I must logically and reasonably map out a way to go forward. It is reality, folks. I cannot hope for a job that doesn't exist. I cannot wish it would come to pass when there is little chance of that happening. I cannot pretend my debt doesn't exist, because it does, and it is up to me (with the Lord's provision) to resolve it.

As I think about these next steps, I cannot move from this one thought. I am where I am today because I followed what I believed was the will of God for my life. I listened to what I believed was the Holy Spirit, as He guided me in my decisions, as He showed me options for my life. I am where I am today, because I obeyed His voice, and that means that my life, my situation, and yes even my debt, are all part of the plan the Lord has for me. Does this mean He purposely placed me into debt? No, but the Lord did provide for my education using federally available student loans. I believe that He has a plan to help me to pay them back, and that plan involves a job that will afford me enough income to do that very thing.

I read this poem online, and I think it sums up the way I feel today. The writer is unknown, but the sentiment does resonate with me.

The Will of God

The will of God will never take you,
Where the grace of God cannot keep you.
Where the arms of God cannot support you,
Where the riches of God cannot supply your needs,
Where the power of God cannot endow you.

The will of God will never take you,
Where the spirit of God cannot work through you,
Where the wisdom of God cannot teach you,
Where the army of God cannot protect you,
Where the hands of God cannot mold you.

The will of God will never take you,
Where the love of God cannot enfold you,
Where the mercies of God cannot sustain you,
Where the peace of God cannot calm your fears,
Where the authority of God cannot overrule for you.

The will of God will never take you,
Where the comfort of God cannot dry your tears,
Where the Word of God cannot feed you,
Where the miracles of God cannot be done for you,
Where the omnipresence of God cannot find you.

I am where I am today because the Lord asked me to trust Him and follow after Him. The Lord asked me to follow Him to Regent University, to pursue communication, and to graduate with a PhD. Why? To get a job? No, not at all. Rather, it was to study communications in order to help His people, the Church, communicate their faith more effectively, especially in this postmodern world. I accomplished this goal, this major endeavor, and now I am ready to move on to the next challenge He has in mind for me. I believe that challenge is to become a leader, a people-builder, and to develop my skills as a mentor, exhorter, and manager of people, of programs and of resources. I have long felt that this was His expressed will for me, but somewhere in between my Masters program and my PhD, I got panicked, I felt unable to pursue a PhD and work full-time. Thus, I asked the Lord for a way for me to work part-time, and His provision was teaching.

The funny thing is that teaching provided a good opportunity for me to develop new skills, skills that would help me become the person He desired for me to be. I mean, I was literally scared to death to speak publicly, and even though I did it when I was leading Awana, I panicked to the point of sickness whenever I had to present to adults. I also didn't feel that I knew enough about teaching, in general, and I wanted to explore curriculum development, the process of creating lessons, etc. so that I would be familiar and able to do this down the road. In all, teaching college for the past three years has provided for me in these specific ways. I have developed skills that I might not have developed elsewhere.

Two Paths: Two Different Outcomes

The rub, though, was that leaving the path I was on meant that I was leaving the blessing that was mine as a producer of outcomes. Let me explain...

When I stepped out in faith and began to work full-time at UOPX, the Lord began to bless my performance. I worked very hard in this role as an advisor, but I was functioning in a weak area (conversation, extroversion). I needed the Lord to help me meet my goals, to make my "quota," and to do my job well. He blessed me with achievement, acknowledgement, performance evaluations, etc., and while I didn't necessarily receive promotions or pay raises, I did receive a lot of recognition. It was nice. It felt really good, and as I left this job and moved to the next, this path of recognition and blessing followed me. The same type of response happened at the second job. In short, I knew that my path through business was being blessed by God. I mean, blessed; I cannot explain it but I experienced great blessing through my business activities. God used me, as a producer of work, a performer, and a high-achiever, in order to bless me, to give me favor, and to get me noticed.

Since I followed the path that led me through higher education, I have not had that same result. There has been an overall blessing, of course, but not the same way. I didn't receive the same type of blessing, the overt blessing, that had been steady in my life during the previous three years. It seems that all the blessing, the recognition, and the achievement came through my Regent studies and not through my work or my performance. I did receive high student evaluations, and I consistently "met expectations" when it came to faculty development, but I didn't produce results in the same way. Why? Why was there such a stark difference between teaching students and working in business? I think that answer is simple. I chose to go a different way whereby I would no longer be responsible for the results. In teaching, no matter how hard you try as teacher, the results are determined by your student's efforts. You cannot control the outcomes. But as an individual contributor, you are firmly in control. You work hard, you achieve results. The Lord blessed me when I was the contributor, but not necessarily when my students were active agents in the results. It took me a long while to accept that one of the things I had to let go of was my need to perform, to achieve, and to control outcomes. I relinquished those needs, embraced teaching, and while content, I always felt that I wasn't functioning in my strength, in my strongest area. It was a difficult trade-off for me to make because by nature, I am a performer, a goal-oriented, task-driven, high-achieving individual.

Now, I am back on this path, and I am beginning to sense that I am where I belong. Does this mean I made an error when I decided to follow the path to becoming a professor? Yes and no. It was more a compromise. I gave up some things in order to receive other things. I received His goodness throughout my time, but I didn't receive the blessing the way I had when I was working full-time in business.  I know this may sound strange, but honestly, I believe that there are many ways to live in the Lord's will. Some of these "ways" produce more results than others. They always come with a cost (there is always a cost to following the Lord). I paid a heavy price to try out teaching, and while I received some benefit, in reality, I didn't receive as much benefit (tangible, real, and valuable) as if I would have trusted the Lord and remained where He had placed me. Now, I am back on track, moving forward, and I sense that I am about to experience great change, change that will produce very good results for me again. The blessing, the freedom that comes from His provision as Jehovah-Jireh, is about to be delivered, and I think this is why I feel so very excited, so very eager, and why I wait with anticipation for His promises to come to pass.

Resting Now

I just receive an email from UnitedHealth Group declining me for one of the positions I applied to earlier in the month. The job was as a Web Content Manager, which is pretty funny really, considering I spent almost 15 years in this role. Perhaps they had someone locally (Minnesota) already in mind. I am okay with this turn of events. I realize that whatever the position the Lord has for me, He will make it happen. Even if I mess up on the interview. I did when I was at CVS -- I felt like I had blown those interviews twice. In the end, I was offered both jobs (two positions in two groups). I believe the Lord is my Jehovah-Jireh, and as such, He has me well-covered. He will provide, He will lead, and He will guide as it suits His will. For today, I let this be. I let go of my need, and I trust in His way. He has this all figured out. I simply must abide in Him, and I must allow Him to provide whatever work He determines is best for me.

June 18, 2016

Closure and Moving On

It is a blessed Saturday here in sunny and HOT Phoenix. The high today is expected to be in the mid-110s, so everyone is "battening down the hatches" in preparation for the day -- and -- the week ahead.

I have to admit that I do not like the summer time in Phoenix. I never minded it as much as when my parents had their pool. It was the highlight of the day to go over to their house for a late afternoon swim. We always had a lot of fun playing games in the pool and spending time with them (dinner, cards afterwards). Now, though, we live in a lovely rented home, but there is no pool for us to use on these awfully hot days. Still, God has provided a good place for us, and for that, I am thankful.

News and Notes

My interview went well yesterday, but I have no knowledge of whether or not I "passed" this first round. If the recruiter liked my answers (they were on video), then I will receive a phone invitation. I am not sure of the process, but I am guessing that once I interview with the recruiter, I would then pass to the next phase, which would be an in-person interview with the department manager or the team. I am feeling confident in some ways, and not-so confident in other ways. Yesterday, I had a great sense of peace about this decision. Today, doubts are starting to creep in, and I am second-guessing my decision to apply. The curious thing is that this is the first action I have received on an application for a full-time position. Most of the jobs I have applied for have not produced any results at all (nada, nothing). In some ways, I feel confident that this is what the Lord wants for me to do. But in other ways, I am wrestling with my decision to leave teaching, even though I see that path as non-viable now (for permanent, I mean). I simply feel that the door to teaching has closed on me, and while I am accepted at a couple schools, none of these schools will hire me for a full-time position. Perhaps in time, I mean, perhaps in several years -- but for now -- the best I can do is continue to work adjunct, and that is not going to provide enough income to cover my daily needs. Yes, the writing is on the wall; the obvious truth is evident. I just have to recognize it as such and then move on.

I hope to hear some positive news in the next couple days. I hope to be called for a phone interview, and then proceed through the process in ready fashion. I would like to have a "plan" in place by the end of the month (if possible), just so I can let the schools know I will not be able to teach for them. Common courtesy dictates that I need to give notice, and for schools, that means as much notice as possible so they can make other arrangements for staff. My prayer is that the Lord will cover me. He will provide a quick way out for me, and then make a smooth transition from one job to another. I need to know that I can wrap up this phase of my life and move on with the least amount of upset. I have my own worries, but I also do want to be considerate to the schools that were gracious to hire me to teach for them. I know the Lord knows my heart, and my prayer today is for His covering as I close out this way, and begin to travel on this uncharted path that leads to new adventures and exciting opportunities in my future.

In more sad news, I learned yesterday that my father-in-law was failing in health. This dear man has been a part of my life for now on 34 years. He was a big part of my young adult years, and he was an ardent supporter of my son, especially his music interest. I love this man, but over the course of the past few years, we have been separated by distance. It has been a difficult change to process, but because of my separation and subsequent divorce, our relationship ended. Today, I received the email saying that he was moved to hospice care. I anticipate that I will receive word soon that he has passed.

The funny thing is that my FIL has been near death for so long. It was back in 1993, when he suffered a massive stroke that left him paralyzed and disabled for life. He was a trooper, always a trooper. He lived a good long life, in less than ideal conditions, and always had such a beautiful outlook. I loved him, I still do, but as my life took such a difficult path, I found that the only way I could deal with the stress and strain of a broken marriage was to distance myself from my former in-laws. I did my best to remain connected, via email and cards, and an occasional phone call. My in-laws wanted me to visit, but it was awkward to do that considering that my ex-husband had other relationships. It was just difficult for me to continue to function in the role of daughter-in-law when there was no hope of my marriage ever being restored.

I think they finally understood that I need to break free from them, but it took time. I tried very hard to move on, and the only way I could do it was to create a barrier, to choose to disconnect myself from their family. My prayer today is that my FIL doesn't last long. He is ready to go home. He wants to go home, and it is time for him to be released. As my former uncle-in-law likes to say, "he is waiting to be promoted to glory." I pray it comes soon. He has tarried on this earth for 23 years in a disabled and difficult way, yet through it all, he never lost hope or his faith in his blessed Savior.

His death, signals for me, the first of many closed doors. It is the ending of a relationship, a strained and stressful relationship. My MIL is in very poor health too, and I would expect that she would pass soon after her husband. They have been married for 65 years and they always said they wanted to go to heaven together. My hope is that this is so. I pray for their release to come soon.

More Change Ahead

As I prepare for this new adventure, I realize that I have some emotional work to do so that I can close out my experience as a teacher, an instructor, a professor. This is an important step for me to take because in many ways, it is the ending of a long-awaited and deeply loved relationship. Yes, for me, the desire to be a professor has been something that has resonated inside me for 23 years. I can stretch that back further and say that I have had this desire to teach since I was a child. I was blessed to finally engage in the profession recently, and for the past three years, I have worked as an adjunct instructor at several schools in the Phoenix area. I have enjoyed my time as a teacher, loved my students, and valued the experience of learning how to create curriculum, present lectures, and affirm and encourage (mentor) students in academic writing. However, the downside of the profession has simply been the viability of the work. I think it is a sign of the times more than anything else. Colleges and universities are no longer hiring full-time faculty and are choosing to hire associate faculty (part-time) to fill gaps. This is a cost saving measure, and it is easier on the schools to manage part-time employees (no benefits to pay out, no long-term contracts, etc.). The rub is that right now there are hundreds, if not thousands of unemployed teachers out there. There are more applicants than jobs available, so the opportunities are limited. I found myself at the bottom of the pool, and that meant that without the requisite experience, I was often looked over quickly. My skills, my previous work history didn't matter at all. I simply didn't meet the needs -- specific, demanding, and required -- to be considered for employment.

I could wait things out, which has been my MO for the past three years. I knew I would need 3-5 years of experience before I would get hired to teach full-time. As I moved through my PhD program, however, it became more clear to me when I took a class on academic writing for publication. My professor, the associate dean of our school, taught the course and basically gave us the "inside track" on tenure positions. The truth was difficult to hear, and while not dashing our hopes completely, he was honest (he is a Godly man) with us. I appreciated his honesty, and I learned from him that perseverance and persistence does pay off.  But, I also learned that there is a point when a writer or scholar must cut their losses, when it is time to move on. He was blunt about it, and I think if anything, I realized that in the business of higher education, the process is often impersonal. It is important to remain objective, and not become emotionally invested in the work we produce. This means that it is important to realize that just because you may be emotionally attached to a particular thing, doesn't necessarily mean that a prospective employer or journal will have the same "value" attachment as you do. In short, it hurts to be criticized, to be looked over, to be left unrecognized, but it is part of the business of academic life.

Now that I have received interest (finally) regarding my resume and application, I am thinking about this process of leaving the past behind. I am thinking about moving on, moving into new places, new by-ways, and new experiences. I am thinking about change and how I don't really like change. I don't like closing doors. I don't like moving on, but sometimes you have to let go of your grip on old things so you can be free to receive new things. You can only hold onto so many things at once, and sometimes, you just have to let some things go.

Closure is Good, but Hard at Times

This line of thinking brings me to the topic of closure. In my view, closure is a good thing. Closure can bring healing when a relationship ends. In romantic relationships, closure typically is the first step taken after the break up. It involves an honest and open assessment -- by both parties -- as to why the relationship ended. It requires two people, who still care enough about each other to be direct, honest, and compassionate, in order to allow the process of closure and of healing to complete itself.

“Time doesn't heal all wounds, only distance can lessen the sting of them.” ― Shannon L. Alder

The saying, "time heals all wounds," is partly correct. Sometimes, time is not the healer at all, but rather it is the emotional unpacking of baggage, the distancing of the hurt, and the final "good bye" that allows the relationship to end. Sometimes relationships end, though, and there is no closure involved. This might be the case with a spouse who leaves, a boss who fires you, or a company that has laid you off. You are stuck not really knowing what you did wrong and why the relationship ended so badly. In other cases, you might be the one who hasn't experienced closure, and the reason may simply be an unwillingness on your part to let the relationship go.

Closure, no matter how it happens, is painful. It requires emotional work that for many of us, is often, neglected. The blessing of closure is that it can bring in healing, emotional healing faster, than if there is no closure at all. I read a quote by Ellen Goodman that I think offers good food for thought when it comes to this issue of closing doors and moving on. In many ways, her thoughts echo my own feelings of how closure should resolve itself. She alludes to the importance of validating the past experience, all the while, embracing future opportunities. Goodman says it this way when she writes,
“There’s a trick to the 'graceful exit.' It begins with the vision to recognize when a job, a life stage, or a relationship is over — and let it go. It means leaving what’s over without denying its validity or its past importance to our lives. It involves a sense of future, a belief that every exit line is an entry, that we are moving up, rather than out.”
In this way, she is stressing that closure is part of growth, and that there is a push-and-a-pull aspect to it. In growth situations, there is always a component of pain. If you remember when you were 10 or 12, you may have experienced growth pains. I sure did. My legs would absolutely ache at night. I would cry out as I would have these sharp shooting pains in my calf and thigh areas. The doctor said to my parents that they should expect a "growth spurt." Sure enough, over the next few months, I sprouted up a couple inches. Growing is hard work, and there is always pain involved in the process.

The same is true for most life lessons. In my classes, my students will always tell me how hard their core subjects are for them. These classes are so much more difficult than the classes they took in high school. In order to pass these classes, these students must really study hard, process detailed information, and then retain it so they can move on to the next level class. It is a process of learning growth, and there is pain involved in moving from one level, say freshman to sophomore. The same can be said for the entire undergraduate experience. There is a big difference between that first freshman class and the last senior class. For most of us, the time in between was a time of refining, of learning, of growing, of changing. We matured between ages 18 and 22. Those four years were foundational to helping us grow up, to move from teenage to young adulthood.

So, closure, the ending of one relationship so another can begin, is a good thing. But for some people, closure never comes. Some people simply are not given the opportunity to experience closure. The relationship ended without any conclusion, without any sense of finality, without any words that say "it is over."

My Response

I've thought a lot about my response to this change in my life. In many ways, I think I have been in a state of change for the past six-seven years. In truth, my life began this massive swing toward change close to ten years ago. I have blogged about my life back then, how I was dealing with some trials in my marriage, and how out of the blue, my ex-husband suffered a heart attack and then a brain hemorrhage.  These two events triggered a cascade failure in my life. The medical emergency that started the process eventually created the crisis that undermined the integrity of my marriage. In causal analysis, the actual breaking point was a weakness, a structural weakness that when pressed hard, resulted in a catastrophic failure. In short, there was weakness in the structure, the foundation of my marriage. Although, my husband and I were both Christians and we were united in Christian marriage, structurally, our foundation was not unilaterally positioned in Christ. We were like a two-legged stool. One of us was seeking Christ, while the other was seeking the world. This push-and-pull resulted in tension and strain on the marriage, and when severe trial came against it, the weakness of the foundation gave way. It is like the Bible story of the man who built his house upon the sand. When the wind and the waves crashed against it, the foundation gave out, and the house was destroyed. Matthew 7:24-27 records the words of Jesus as He strongly taught on this precept:

“So everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, will be like a wise man [a far-sighted, practical, and sensible man] who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods and torrents came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not do them, will be like a foolish (stupid) man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods and torrents came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great and complete was its fall.”

The wise man in this story is described as being far-sighted (future-oriented), practical, and sensible. The foolish man is called stupid (or ignorant). Jesus clearly instructs His followers to be like the wise man, and encourages them to build their faith on the ROCK rather than on the sand.

Likewise, in my own life, I witnessed first-hand the destruction of a house (a marriage) because the foundation was not set deeply on the rock, but rather was set on the shifting nature of the sand. The foundation gave way, and the house (the marriage) was destroyed.

Letting go of my marriage was difficult. I held onto it for a long time afterward, even when my ex-husband asked me for a divorce. I wanted to hold onto the past, despite the difficult aspects of it. It was my life, and I was unwilling to let it go. In the end, of course, I relented. I agreed to the divorce, and I processed the paperwork so I could move on. I closed the relationship at that time. I had a frank and honest conversation with my ex-husband. I didn't point fingers, accuse, or even strip him of his dignity. I simply accepted the fact that our relationship was valid, it produced results (a child), and as such there were good times mixed in with the bad times. I admitted my role in the failure, the ending of the relationship, and while he didn't come out to admit specifics, he did admit to the failure as well. In all, our frank, open, and honest conversation about the events provided the opportunity for us to move on. 

As I think about closure in this way, I realize that I have not always had closure in other areas of my life. In my work-life, I have walked away from jobs because of emotional issues -- hurt, pain, or even contention -- rather than leaving based on facts or rational decision-making. For example, I chose to leave University of Phoenix for physical reasons. I was not able to continue to do the work as required. It was physically taxing, difficult, so I looked for a less stressful job. The choice to leave UOPX was a good one since it was built on solid, rational reasons for doing so. Conversely, when I left CVS, I did so for emotional reasons. I was upset at the way the company handled the crisis we were in and the way they treated the people in my group. I left a good job because I was angry at the company for its perceived lack of justice.

This time around, my goal is to leave teaching as a profession for non-emotional reasons. I am not leaving because I don't enjoy the work. I am not leaving because I am upset at the lack of opportunities or for being passed over when I applied for work. Rather, I am leaving for rational reasons. There is a lack of job, lack of pay, lack of viability for advancement. I am leaving for good reasons that are valid. Furthermore, as I leave, I am validating the past, exploring the relationships that I formed with students, the blessing of learning how to teach and speak publicly, and the opportunities I experienced to participate in academic life. In all, the past three years were great in this regard. The only thing missing was regular, steady employment and a good solid paycheck.

Embracing Adventure

I blogged yesterday about how I saw my future, not as a easy downhill trek, but rather as a series of majestic climbs over difficult, rocky, and distant peaks. My future will not be easy for me. It will not be a cake-walk. It is going to be filled with challenging assignments, difficult tasks, and yes, even dark moments that will test and prove my faith. But, this is the case with all followers of Christ. Our walk, our faith journey, is not easy. While the Lord eases our burden, helps to carry our load, we are never promised an easy, carefree life. Instead, we are told from Scripture,

John 16:33 (NIV) "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

James 1:12 (NIV) "Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the victor's crown, the life God has promised to those who love him."

1 Pet 4:12-13 (NIV) "Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed."

Rev 2:10 (NIV) "Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life."

Thus, it is up to us to determine how we will view these trials, tests, and yes, even persecutions. Will we shirk back in fear, fade away or choose to turn and follow Him no more? Or will we press on, moving forward, eagerly waiting for the prize, the reward of our faith?

In my view, I have two choices right now. I can choose to see the closure of my time as a teacher in a negative way, as a bad decision or a poor choice. Or, I can see it as a learning lesson, an experience that helped make me into the person I am today. I can see it as a good thing, a blessed thing, and while I didn't earn nearly as much income as I would had I stayed in business, I certainly did gain valuable insight and developed relationships that were just as important, nay even as critical, to my development as a mentor and an exhorter for the Kingdom of Christ.

The next adventure is open-ended. I don't know how long the Lord intends for me to walk on this path. I have made the decision, though, that I would stay put simply because at this point in my life, I cannot keep changing jobs. I need to remain steady, and work at one job (emphasis, I mean) or one company. It is in my best interest to develop a longevity strategy that will provide for me long-term. Therefore, I am committed to following this path because it will provide well for my life. I have let go my emotional attachment needs, my desire for position, title, etc., if the motivation is to bolster my identity. My identity is founded in Christ, my foundation is set upon the bedrock of my faith in Jesus. I do not need a hat, a title, a placard to say "I am approved." He has approved me. He has called me a daughter of the King, thus I am already given the best title in the world. I am His child, a princess, and a joint-heir with Jesus. I need no worldly measures or means to say to me that I am well, I am good, or I am smart, educated, etc.

I am already all these things. I am well-educated. I am smart. I am good. I am well. But, not because of any achievement on my part, but only because of His abilities, His gifts, and His strength as it has been given to me. It is all of grace, and thus, I give Him all the praise, the honor, and the adoration this good, good day.