November 23, 2013

Interesting Turn of Events

I haven't posted anything in a while, partly due to my new job, and partly because I didn't have anything at all to say (weird as that may seem, it is the truth!) I am a writer, a scholar, and a would-be educator who normally is able to write a three-page essay in under an hour. Yet, lately, my desire to write has waned, and I have suffered through a writers block that seemed to be unending. Now, though, I feel the insistence to write (to blog), and I believe it is because of a prompting by the Holy Spirit. Not that anything I write will be inspired, so to speak. Anything that comes out will certainly benefit me because I find writing to be cathartic and helpful to my understanding. I write when I am confused or confounded or when I need clarification. I write to help me process details so that I can grasp the significance of my words and feelings and then make a decision or take some action. Often, I write to convince myself, to convict my heart, or to commend Scripture -- to remind me of something from the Word of God. Usually, writing helps me figure out my life, and understand whether I am going the right direction, and if I am following after God's will for my life. It is a good thing, and I am blessed by the process and action of it.

As I sit here today, I think about the past three weeks of my life. My last significant blog post dealt with my leaving GCU for a "real" business position. I was frustrated at the infrastructure issues at GCU, and I was overwhelmed with the extra grading work I took on (and should have not). I left GCU, hoping that I would transition back into business and pick up where I had left off when I quit my job at CVS Caremark. I had such high hopes, and such visions of prosperity and performance.

A lot has happened over the past three weeks. I have changed my mind, I have retracted my actions and decisions, and I have turned around and headed back to where I was at GCU. I made the decision to follow my heart and not my head, and to choose a path that is laced with uncertainty. I decided to follow the Lord, and to trust Him to provide for me (everything - income and benefits as well as good productive work). I admitted my error and my arrogance, and I humbled myself before the Lord, and I asked Him to fix whatever was wrong with my life. God is good -- all the time -- and He loves us so much. He inclined His ear to me, and He heard my prayer. He reached His hand down and He rescued me, He rescued me. I am turned around, and I am walking in a different direction, and God be praised, I am relieved. I am happy. I am content. God is so blessedly Good to me, so very Good to me!

Let me explain...

Three weeks ago, I began a new job with a small healthcare services company in Tempe, AZ (about 18 miles from my home in North Phoenix). The position offered to me, Product Development Analyst, was a good one. It came with a good salary and benefits package as well as with the potential for growth within the company. In all, it was a good opportunity, and I took the job for a number of reasons (salary and benefits being priority one).

I had interviewed back in October. At that time, I was employed by GCU as an Instructional Assistant. This was a part-time, contract position (term by term). I took this position because I was told that after a semester of working as an IA, I would be eligible to teach adjunct (again, contract and term by term). It was an offering to help me become a teacher, and I saw the hand of God upon this position. There were great negatives to the work. The pay was typical for a grad student ($13 per hour), and it was boring work (grading papers, helping students in glass). For a grad student, it was easy work, very easy work. For a person used to running her own business, working in a high profile position, and always controlling outcomes, it was a silent killer (boredom mostly). However, it was what it was advertised to me, and I took the role willingly, knowing that I would be paid next to nothing, have no benefits, but I would be working towards a teaching career.

It took me all of two weeks to realize that I took a bum steer of a position, and that I was over-qualified and ridiculously bored with the work. However, I liked the teachers I helped, and I enjoyed working with the students, helping them with their writing skills. In general, I liked parts of the job, with other parts (mostly the extra grading) being less than exciting and agreeable to me. I stuck the job out for two months until I believed I had been saddled with extra grading (in truth, I had been given extra work, but I didn't handle the situation well).

I started looking for outside work, believing that teaching was not for me, and that I was too old to assume the role of adjunct instructor (it was good for part-time work, women with full-time salaried/benefitted husbands, or newly graduated students). I told myself that the time for teaching was past. I had that job opportunity 20 years ago before I became pregnant with my son, and while the desire has remained within me, the timing was off. I told myself to get on with my life, to go after the "big bucks" of business, and to forget the past, and move on to the glorious future of working in Corporate America. I relieved my days at CVS, and while I was mindful of the out of balance work/life, I told myself that I was worth more than $13 and hour, and that I was wasting my time teaching at a college.

I grumbled and complained about GCU. I fretted every day that I drove the 13 miles to campus and back. I listened to well wishers and naysayers who advised me to "stick it out" and "chuck it in." In all, I listened to everyone EXCEPT the Holy Spirit of God who kept telling me to REST.

At the point of breaking from all the contention and conflict, I applied to NurseWise. They called me to interview and I went and met with the lovely Director who was looking for someone to help her with Product Development. I liked her right away. She was nice, and oh so very competent. I thought the job was far away (a long drive), and the office was very quiet (too quiet). I downplayed the significance of the fact that I would be one of two people working in this office (the rest are call center employees, with whom I would have contact but not a working relationship). I thought the quiet would suit me, and that I wouldn't mind being on my own all day long. I also downplayed the role which was clearly marketed as a business analyst. I told myself that I wanted to be a business analyst without really checking into what business analysts do all day long (workflows and charts). I told myself that the money and benefits were what mattered and that the work would be interesting/different for me. I sold myself on this job opportunity, and when offered the role, I took it. I left GCU quickly, glad to be out of the conundrum I was in, and happy to be going back to a normal life and paycheck.

Zoom forward three weeks...

The job turned out to be exactly what was offered to me. I am a business analyst. I sit in a cubicle all day long. I interface with the Director whenever she is not busy or on the phone. I have no work to do because the job is so new and there is no real "work" developed for me to handle. I wait for work to come to me, I spend hours looking on the Internet and through internal systems in order to "get updated and informed." I am a savvy tech learner so what might take someone non-savvy a while to process and learn has taken me one week at most. I spend 8 hours trying to keep myself busy and occupied without much success (there is no Internet use outside of work, so I cannot do my schoolwork or other work). I am stuck in a cubicle and stuck in a job that is boring and has very little prospect for improvement (perhaps in 6 months, but not now).

It took me about a week to analyze the company and the needs of the department. The Director is savvy, and well-intentioned. She is plugged in and connected and a vital part of the upper management structure. She is tasked with things that are outside her job, and while she is clearly over-worked, she also likes what she does (people who do this often like being in the center of everything and they choose to remain in the mix). I see her work, and I listen to her explain what she wants to accomplish. She can do it on her own. She doesn't need me.

I expressed my frustration to family and friends and the advice I received back was to "hang in there because it will get better." Unfortunately, I don't see this happening. When I share my analysis of the situation, I am cautioned that I am being negative and that I don't know what will happen (right and true). I am reminded, however, that I am an analyst and that my number one skill is to research and identify problems, propose solutions, and project outcomes -- this is what I do -- this is my skilled area. Friends and family who tell me that I am being impatient with the job or that I should wait this out are not skilled in this way. I accept their good intentions, but in truth, they do not know what they are talking about.

I spent nearly 15 years working in web design and development. During that time, I met with a lot of clients who wanted to hire me, but clearly didn't need my skill or experience. I learned how to sum up a situation quickly, to propose solutions to help a prospect, and to develop complex plans that would meet a client's needs. I am a pro when it comes to analysis, so when I say that there is little prospect for work to develop, I do know what I am saying.

Yet, I trust friend and family advice. I need supportive encouragement and I am not perfect. I make mistakes. I misjudge situations all the time, and I often overlook issues and concerns when I focus on the bigger picture. My ability to laser in on certain criteria stands me well, after all, it is key component to being a researcher (part of my PhD program). It is also good to understand the big picture, and to see the outcome of events. I can do both well, but there are times when I become impatient and I forget to balance my needs. I forget to consider both ends of the spectrum.

The Decision to Turn Around

Clearly, I took this job because I believed the Lord opened the door for me to do so. He facilitated this role, and He gave me great favor (I got hired after all). Interestingly enough, I believed the exact same thing when I interviewed at GCU. The hand of God was all over that position, and it was obvious that He opened the door there as well. How could I find myself in two God-given positions and yet feel so out of sorts over both? I was confused as to what was happening to me, and I was confounded about where to go next. I didn't want to make another mistake (as in GCU was a mistake; NurseWise was a mistake). I was afraid I was stuck in a series of bad decisions, going nowhere, and feeling the stress of being in a bad place.

The entire week I prayed, I cried, I lamented my decision to take this job. Everyday I cried out to the Lord, all the way to work, and all the way back home. I begged, I pleaded. I wanted to know what I had done, and why I felt the way I did. I was miserable for certain, and I was not seeing any improvement in my attitude nor my circumstances.

Mid-week, I humbled myself before the Lord, and I confessed my arrogance at wanting my own way and in my insistence that I follow my own lead. Granted God opened the door for me, but I wanted out of GCU. I wanted to be free, and I wanted work that would pay well, and provide opportunity for me. Truthfully, what I wanted was what many people want. I wasn't asking to sin nor was I asking for a million dollar salary. I wanted a good job, with good income, and good benefits. I wanted to be safe and secure, and well provided for so that I could live well, and take care of my parents (and son). I wanted a normal life, a good life, and as far as I know, there is nothing in the Bible that says this is wrong to desire or seek.

The problem was, of course, that what I wanted while not wrong, was not what the Lord wanted for me. I came to understand that there are times when the Lord's will covers a myriad of situations and circumstances, and that often He blesses us in a general non-specific way. What this means is that we function under the banner of His will, and in that place, there is blessing overflowing, and we are free to choose direction and path so long as it remains within this bubble of His will. Sometimes though there are choices that are less than best for us. They are still within His will, but they are a 5 instead of a 10 (on a scale of 1-10). I believe that God gives us free will for a reason, and that our best choice is to align with Him on all things. He knows best for us, and He is available to guide us in our decision-making process. He wants us to grow up and trust Him, to depend on Him, and to live in a relationship of mutual respect. However, He also wants us to learn how to rely on Him for our judgment and to hone our skills so that we can consistently make good choices for our lives. I believe that this is God's way of educating us and training us up for ministry. We must willingly choose to abide in Him, and to REST in His provision, even if it seems to be "less than perfect" to our human eyes and understanding. We must say "God knows best" and mean it.

In my experience, I said one thing but I did another. I said I believed that God knew best for me, but in truth, I believed that I knew better. I didn't see what God was doing at GCU. I believed His word to me, and I trusted in Him (in general) to provide. But when the pressure mounted, and the work increased, I doubted His provision and His security for my life. I said "No, Lord -- this is not what you promised me, and I want a real job where I don't have to worry about money, where I can be in control, and where I can direct the outcome."

In God-like fashion, He listened to me, and He gave me what I asked for -- a job that met my criteria for success and prosperity. I was sunk, and I knew it. I got wind of it within the first couple days of the new job, and I knew I had made a mistake. In fact, I felt uneasy from day one, and no matter how hard I tried to adjust my attitude, nothing I did, worked. I did try, honestly, I did. I smiled, I propped myself up, and I gave myself pep talks to encourage a new way of thinking, an excitement about the work, and the path I was on. Nothing I did mattered, nothing changed for me, and I was miserable from the get-go. Clearly, I was somewhere within His will, but not where He intended me to be.

I think the hardest part for me was accepting the reality of the situation, and acknowledging that I had asked for something "good" when God had already given me His "best."

Lesson Learned

As I reflect on the past two days, I am convinced that this experience has been profitable for me. I have learned a valuable lesson and while this lesson may not be universal (not for you), it was definitely marked out for me. I learned that God gives us REST from the worries of this world, and that He provides what we need. Sometimes He provides ample food, clothing, and shelter. Sometimes He provides opportunity, that for the short-term seems limited, but in the long-term will be significant. Sometimes He asks us to Trust Him in and through the difficult time so that we can learn to rely on Him, not to look to human hands or ways, and not to trust in our own understanding (Prov. 3:5-6).

Thursday afternoon was the turning point for me, the pinnacle of the lesson, so to speak. I had spent the entire day on my own, with little to no work to do. I read, I surfed the Internet, and I engaged myself in the limited work provided (all with good attitude). In the afternoon, my boss came out of her office, and said that she would like me to work on two projects while she was out of the office (Friday and Monday). I was thankful for the work, and I took down the notes related to the tasks. I realized that the tasks would take me all of an hour to complete, and that before the day ended, I would have completed them both. Still, I smiled and thanked her for thinking about me, and for providing something for me to do. Then she said that she wanted me to attend a conference on project management. As the words settled into my head, my heart leaped up and I felt this sinking feeling, a feeling like I was being pulled under the water. I am a good swimmer, mind you, but this was a feeling like something had my leg and I was being pulled down further and further. I smiled weakly, and said "OK." In my heart, I was saying "no" and in my head the words were forming, "Lord, please no..."

After our brief meeting, I got up and I took a walk. I had already taken two walks that day, and one in particular (over to the University of Phoenix next door) produced a new thought. I found myself thinking that perhaps I could go back to GCU and either work as an IA again or teach.  I remember saying "Kristi will help me, I know she will help me." Kristi was one of the professors I worked for at GCU. She was a big supporter, and she was an awesome teacher to work with and to observe. I learned so much from her, and I respect her as a teacher/mentor. I asked the Lord -- "should I do this? Should I email her to ask about coming back to GCU?" Silence. Nothing. I walked on.

I should backtrack slightly to say that on Wednesday, I had a big to-do with my family over my frustration at the new job. I had complained at dinner, and I was shut down by a remark made by my Dad. He was frustrated as well -- tired of my complaining -- and he let me have it. He asked me in a harsh and judgmental tone "why did you take this job in the first place?" I held my tongue even though my head was screaming back at him "to take care of you and mom!" I gave him the silent treatment all night long and well into the next day. I was mad at him, and I was mad at myself. He was right of course. He had a right to ask me why I had taken this job if I really didn't want to do the work. As an aside, my Dad is 80, and he worked for 50 plus years before a stroke forced him to retire. My Dad was a good provider for our family, and he never was without work (once I think, but for a short time). He retired as a Director of Engineering Services, and he spent the majority of his life in work that he loved, and work that was profitable for his company.

My Mom, on the other hand, was sympathetic to me. In fact, she started prompting me to look for another job as early as the previous weekend. She wanted me to go back to CVS Caremark. She encouraged me to write to the manager of my old team to ask if there was a job for me. I didn't want to go back there, and I felt that it was the wrong way to go. I prayed about it, and with the Lord's approval, I sent an email to the manager.

Thursday morning I received an email back from her saying "thanks for asking, but we have hired everyone we need right now. I hope you are well." The email was her way of saying to me, "Not interested" and while I was hurt initially, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that this was God showing me that the door there was closed (permanently). I wrote back and thanked her for the information. I silently wept, thinking all the more that I was stuck in this place, stuck in this awful job. Then I walked over to UOPX (my former, former job), and I started to think about my life, and where I was meant to go. I started to ask myself what I wanted, what kind of work I wanted to do, what made me happy, etc. As I began to ask myself these kinds of questions, I heard myself saying that Regent made me happy, that ministry work was what I wanted to do, and that I wanted to do work where I could help people (directly with hands on, not through products or service development). Then GCU popped into my mind, and out came that question about Kristi and whether she would help me.

Later that afternoon, I looked at the GCU website and I saw that not only where they hiring adjunct to teach English, but they also wanted adjunct to teach Communication (my field!) I felt a rise in my heart as I thought about teaching classes, and I thought "perhaps this is the way to go." I asked the Lord if I should email Kristi, and with His permission, I sent off an email to her. I got a lovely response back with encouragement to me to email the Assistant Dean and ask about positions. I took her advice and emailed with my resume. I felt hope once again, a door opening up for me, and the light streaming in.

Friday arrived, and I drove to work in the rain. I knew I would have no work to do, and I came prepared to read my Regent school work (which I did). I prayed on the way in to work, asking the Lord to open a door for me at GCU -- but only if it was His will for me. I was ready to go His way, and to follow His plan. I wanted out of NurseWise, but I wanted to go to the place of His choosing. 

I took two walks to help break up my morning. As I walked around UOPX and Western International University, I felt at ease. I remember why I wanted to work in higher education. I wanted to work with students and help them make decisions about their education. I wanted to teach and/or be an academic advisor. I took the position at UOPX thinking that I would be advising students, when in reality I was enrolling students only (sales). Still, I made a difference in the student's lives that I worked with, and in all, I did feel as though my work was useful. I didn't like the sales aspect, and I was thankful to leave, but walking around those buildings reminded me of my path, my path through Regent and why I am getting my PhD.

My PhD is not to boost my career or to give me job opportunities. I am studying Communication at Regent so that I can be prepared to do the Lord's work. I am learning about media and how communication is changing -- I see a direct correlation in this study and how the church needs this information. In short, I know my path. I know what I am doing, and why I am doing it. I never could quite fit the job into that picture, and I have struggled with this miscue for a long while.

I came back to my office with new insight, and with a new opportunity (or hopeful opportunity). I knew that this time, the Lord was going to have to move me. He was going to have to make a way where there seemed to be no way (as the song goes). And, around 1 p.m. He did.

I got a call from someone over at GCU asking me to come into interview with the Dean on Monday. I said yes, of course! I will meet with the Dean to talk about me teaching adjunct classes starting in January. I don't know if this is His will, but it certainly appears to be so. It is a direct answer to prayer, that is for certain. Now it is up to God to open that door, and to prepare the heart of the Dean to say yes to me (God did it before, and I believe He will do it again).

I am joyously happy today. I am overwhelmed by God's provision (time and time again), and with the fact that no matter how much I mess up, He is right there to rescue me. He is good, so very good to me. I am blessed, and I am in awe of Him. I know this time that I will follow, without hesitation and without fear. I may falter, and I may still doubt, but lesson learned -- I am trusting God, and I am RESTING in His Provision and Sufficiency. Amen, so be it, thy will be done. Selah!

Dear Lord,

I look to you this day to provide for me and my family. I rest in your provision knowing that you know my needs well, and that your will is perfect. There is nothing for me to be concerned about, nothing at all. I know that you have my entire life, from beginning to end, covered. I am covered, and that means that there is nothing that will happen to me this day that will overtake or surprise you. You know what will be tomorrow, and what my future holds. I ask now that you will provide for me through your presence and your provision so that I can remain at rest, perpetually resting in your care and in your command. You are God, and I am flesh, created flesh. I thank you for your grace and your mercy which is new every single day. Thank you for forgiving me today, and thank you for making a new way for me to go. I trust you now to provide for me, and I let go of the worry and the doubt because I know that I am trusting in You, the One who is above all things, through all things, and in all things. You alone are worthy to be praised this day. Amen, amen, amen.

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