November 29, 2014

Sensing The Lord's Movement Today

It is a good Saturday in warm and oh so sunny Phoenix. The temperature today is expected to hit the high 70s-low 80s. This is normal for us, well sort of normal. I think our highs in December are usually in the high 60s-low 70s, but we can get really chilly daytime and nighttime temperatures depending on the jet stream. We have a high-pressure area sitting over us so that means warm and sunny skies (no clouds) until the jet stream drops a little lower and brings us some variable weather. Until then, we are sitting pretty, as folks like to say, with our winter heaven temperatures and clear skies.

While I am thankful to live in such a beautiful place, there is part of me that wistfully remembers snow-filled Christmas' in IL. Yes, I remember the blizzards and the freezing cold temperatures. I remember slogging to school in wet boots and coats. I remember the ice-glazed windows and the frigid days when the air was so cold you couldn't catch your breath. I remember feeling cold, being cold, all the time (especially at night). Yes, I have those memories frozen into my mind, and for whatever reason, I don't look back on them with horror (like my parents do), but rather with a smile and happy thoughts. You see, I love variable weather. I love cloudy and gray skies. I love the change of seasons, and I love snow.

My friends from Chicago will tell me that there hasn't been that much snow recently. They recall the childhood winters (those that I shared with them) and how much snow we had each year. It seems that the winters in the past 20-30 years have mostly been cold and wet, with very little snow. Still, those thoughts of snow days and winter slush are sweet to me. I miss wearing sweaters and down coats. I miss wearing boots. And, yes, I miss shoveling snow -- though now I would probably invest in a good blower (no sense doing it the hard way).

I have prayed about opportunities for jobs, and the Lord has chosen to keep me settled in AZ. However, as I get closer to finishing my PhD, I have had to let go of my desire to remain in AZ. I understand that a full-time job may require a move to another state. I may not be able to find full-time work in AZ (for a myriad of reasons). Also, as a Professor, finding academic positions is tricky. There are oodles of jobs out there, but schools are picky about openings. In some disciplines, it is much easier to find a job, but with teaching, the job has to fit the educational background and the experience (teaching, publishing, etc.) This means that there is a difference in ranks and opportunities in academics. For example, I teach adjunct courses at two universities. Adjuncts are usually hired with a MA in a teaching field such as English. Normally, adjuncts will have a minimum of one-year teaching experience. They are paid by the class, so it is part-time work. Also adjuncts receive no benefits and there is no guarantee of employment from semester to semester. Contract positions, on the other hand, are offered to instructors with more experience. These may be one-year or multi-year contracts. Typically, the rank is lecturer and the education required is a MA or a terminal degree. Once you go up a rank to Assistant Professor, the school wants a PhD in hand and three-years of teaching experience. Some schools will hire you as ABD (all but dissertation), but only when necessary. Ranked and tenure positions are Assistant, Associate and Full professor titles. Each rank brings more money, more responsibility, and more requirements (for publication and years teaching). Moving up the food chain, therefore, is difficult and can take years. However, for someone like me, starting at a lecturer position before I get my PhD could give me a foot in the door. Once I am ABD (in 2016) perhaps I could move up to an Assistant Professor position.

Thus, with this in mind, the issue becomes finding a job that fits my experience. Plus, my MA is in English Literature and my PhD is in Communication. I have to decide what courses I want to teach -- because in most major Universities -- I will not be able to teach in both fields. If I choose to teach English, then I will start as a Lecturer and depending on the school may be able to move up even though my PhD will be in a different field (my research interest actually is Rhetoric so it should be OK). Still, there is such a big unknown out there and it is difficult to think or plan ahead. I don't know where I will end up or what I will do.

One thing I feel certain is that I will not remain in AZ. The Lord has placed a call on my heart and it seems that that call is leading me to another state. I have felt this was the case for almost 8 years now. I have investigated a number of locations, all at the pull of the Holy Spirit, but so far the Lord has kept me here. I think there is good reason of course. My parents are here and my son was still in high school at the time. Now my parents are to the point where they need my care (and soon better care). My son is a Junior in college at our local state school. He is active in ministry and he is contemplating a second bachelors degree in music at the school where I teach (concurrent enrollment if you can believe it). I feel certain that for the short time, I am to remain where I am until the Lord unveils His plan for me. However, I have focused on several places (narrowed them down) and I am now feeling the pull toward one of them in particular. I will not know for certain until the Lord opens the door, but I do feel Him telling me to "GO!" which means that He is giving me the authority to step out in faith in His Name.

Stepping out in faith is a huge deal to me. I have stepped out in faith many times before and the Lord has led me by the hand to the place of His choosing. It is always a scary thing to let go of what is comfortable and to trust the Lord for His leading, especially when it means leaving what you know for something you don't know. The first time I stepped out in faith was to enroll at Mercy College. I had know way of knowing if I would be accepted for a MA program. I had know way of knowing how I would pay for my education either. The Lord provided, and I graduated in 2012. The second time I stepped out in faith was to leave my shared home and move into a rented town home. This was the first time I had ever lived on my own. I went from living with my parents to living with my husband, and in 2011, I found myself signing a lease and moving into a home with my son. The Lord provided the home, provided the income to pay for it, and provided the peace and comfort I needed to live there (for 1.5 years). The third time I stepped out in faith was to apply at Regent University. I am now a second year doctoral student and I am well on my way to finishing my course work (next fall). I also took a step of faith to leave a well-paying job and start teaching adjunct at Grand Canyon University. It will be two-full years of teaching this April and the Lord has provided steady income and contracts for me during this transition time. In June of 2013, I left my town home to step out in faith again and move in with my parents so I could help care for them. It has been a challenge at times, but I see the Lord's hand print as He provided a home and comfort while I struggled through a very difficult transition as doctoral student and newbie college instructor.

Now, I am ready to step out in faith again and begin looking for a full-time teaching position some place else, in another state, and at the Lord's leading. The idea of moving excites me more than it scares me. I think this was the Lord's plan for me. He has led me along the way through baby steps. As I learned to trust Him, He moved and I grew stronger in my faith. It was one step at a time whereby I would learn to let go, to go from panic stricken to peace overtime as I came to lean on and abide in Him. Yes, there were many days when I was panicked and afraid. However as the Lord has provided, I have rested and learned to let him drive the bus, so to speak. He drives me where He wants me to be, and I am a passenger on that bus. I go where He goes and I have been made safe and secure all along the way.

As the Lord reveals His plan to me, I am confident to know that the next stop will also be for my benefit. Yes, I am praying for a full-time job at a good University so I can settle a while. I really would like to find a job where I can stay until I retire. I would like to live someplace where I could feel comfortable about living out my life. Of course, should the Lord choose to up and move me, I will go, but I do sense that the place He is leading me to will be my final destination. I am OK with moving, but being the homebody that I am, I would really love to live in an older home where I could put down roots and live out my days. The Lord seems to be giving me peace about that so I don't think it is wrong to pray for it. The Word says that so long as it is possible we should seek to be a peace with all our neighbors. I think finding a place where it is peaceful falls in line with His word. Sure, it is up to me to bring that peace, but I have never sensed that the Lord was leading me into dark waters or stormy seas. Some people feel this way, that this is what the Lord intends for all His servants, but I have never gotten that sense from Him. I do believe that He calls some to live in the edge, in the inner city, to minister in difficult places (I know several missionary families who are in scary parts of the world -- the Lord called and equipped them for this work). I see my life as pretty comfortable because my calling is inward toward the people of God. I am called to reach and to teach within the church so I see my life as being fairly safe as far as ministry goes. I will go wherever He decides for me, but I have always felt that it would be someplace modest and generally safe.

Interestingly, of the three places the Lord has placed on my heart, IL is one of them. For a long time after I moved from IL (as a 16 year old), I didn't want to return. I was glad to leave because of the environment and peer pressure. I struggled in school in IL and I felt very inadequate at everything. I never realized how difficult it would be to move though. I left my very best friends (my only friends) and ended up in posh San Jose, living in a very safe place, but with no friends. I met nice people in school and at church, but I never developed any close friendships there. I met my husband and I settled into life in San Jose. Even though I liked living in Northern CA, I always had a very soft spot in my heart for my home in IL. In fact, I regularly dream about IL. I have for years, always my home in Hazel Crest, and my life that I had there as a child. I feel most at home there, and I long for life there.

I have been fortunate over the past couple years to visit the Chicago area again (for business). I have friends there and extended family (through marriage). I have enjoyed my visits and I love the area. I don't care for the politics of the state of course nor do I like the high tax rate. But some of the nicest people I have ever met are from IL. I learned early on that there are good and bad things about every place, but it is important to remember that people matter to God. People are His ministry and therefore it is vital not to turn away from a place because of politics. I digress.

I have felt the pull toward IL very strongly of late, really for the past couple years. I was pretty set on moving to Northbrook about five years ago. My son was thinking of attending Wheaton College and then Northpark University so I considered where I could find a good job (before teaching) and where it would be a good place to live (sort of in between college choices). A job never materialized, but I did spend time in Northbrook (when I worked for CVS).

Now that I am a teacher/instructor, I am open to teaching wherever the Lord opens a door. My son is planning on a Masters degree and PhD and more than likely will be heading to a Midwestern school for his next steps. I have always believed that I was to go where my son could attend college. I think it is simply because of the cost of attendance, residency tuition and all. My life and my son's life are intertwined as far as ministry goes. I know that sounds weird, but I have always believed that while his ministry would be different than mine, somehow we would work together in some capacity. Therefore, where the Lord sends me has a direct connection to where the Lord sends my son for school. I see us being connected together throughout the course of my life, and I pray that this is the Lord's will and not simply a mother's wish to remain close to her son. I think it is both, really, if I am honest with myself. Although, I have let my son go, so to speak, to follow after the Lord, there is a part of me that believes that the Lord desires this connection through ministry to remain. So be it, thy will be done.

So as I think about the next 6-9-12 months one thing is certain. I feel the Lord calling me to be prepared to move. I feel Him moving ahead of me to prepare the way. I hear Him telling me to GO, and I am becoming excited (with anticipation) as He works out the details of my life.

Today, I pray for the Lord's guidance and wisdom. I ask Him to confirm the plans He has for me. I ask Him to clarify my path so that I can be prepared to move, to go, to work, to live, and to minister in His Name. I believe in His word, and I rest in His ability to move me where He chooses. I go where He sends me. I live where He tells me to live. I do the work He has prepared for me to do. God be praised forevermore, I will GO. I will GO, and I will GO forth in His Name, and I will bear Him testimony for He is good to me. He is so very good to me! Selah!

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