December 31, 2014

2014 is Almost Over

It is December 31st, and 2014 is almost over. It is hard to believe that the year has come to a close, but there you have has! God has been so good to me, so very good to me. I am in the most blessed season of my life, and I am feeling so very good about the possibilities for my future. Sure, there are struggles. Yes, I have numerous trials and challenges. My life is not always 100% rosy, and there are days (sometimes weeks) when I think I am not going to make it through in one piece. Yet, somehow, God be praised, I make it through, and I plod on. I think this is why God has given us so many encouraging words in Scripture to help us, to keep us faithful, to keep us moving forward, to keep us trusting in the Lord. Isaiah 41:10 says it this way,

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Our reminder is that the Lord God is the faithful One. Even when we feel as if we cannot go on, the Lord God is able to strengthen us, to encourage us, and to empower us to "keep on keeping on." We know that our God has planned and purposed a way for us to remain until the end. He has not created within us the desire to quit. Satan's ploy and his number one attack is to cause us so much pain, so much sorrow, and so much grief that we give in and we give up. The Word says "for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control" (2 Timothy 1:7), therefore, we take heart knowing that we can continue on even when we don't feel like it or that we can do it.

Paul writes to the believers at Corinth with this word of encouragement,

This is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are quite small and won’t last very long, but they will produce for us an immeasurably great glory that will last forever! So we don’t look at the trouble we can see right now; rather, we look forward to what we have not yet seen. For the troubles we see will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NLT)

Yes! The present discomfort of this time will last for a short while only. If our eyes are firmly fixed on Jesus, then we look away from the present and forward toward the future, a future filled with "joys to come [that] will last forever!"

As I look back over this past year, I think about all the times I felt so discouraged and overwhelmed. In truth, I probably could say that the majority of the year I felt this way, but there were peak moments when these feelings predominated my thoughts, and almost caused me to give up. In specific, I recall several instances where I felt pushed to the wall, so uncertain of the outcome, that I prayed, seriously prayed for the Lord to release me from the present trouble.
  • Spring 2014 - COM 702 was a good example of a time when I thought I was done in. This Regent University advanced statistics course was the most difficult class I had ever taken. I am not a math person, but I do enjoy some parts of math (Algebra, for example). However, I had never taken an advanced mathematics course nor had I taken a statistics class previously. My plan was to take two courses prior to this one (at UOPX) so that I would feel confident with the course content. I never did get the chance to do that (life and work intervened) and I found myself facing this class head-on, without any preparation, last January. During the semester, I was pushed to the limit, facing a difficult subject without little prior knowledge. Yet, the Lord was with me, and He provided excellent help and instruction. In the end, I passed this course with an "A," and I learned a valuable lesson in trusting the Lord. If the Lord is with you, no foe can stand against you (Romans 8:31).
  • Spring 2014 - ENG 356 was another good example of a time when I thought I had made a major mistake, and I was overwhelmed beyond measure. This was my first teaching assignment at GCU. I walked into a classroom full of eager students, and I felt my knees turn to jello and my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth. I was so certain my students would figure out that I was the worst teacher they could have asked for, and that I knew absolutely nothing about my subject matter. I spent the majority of the semester crying over my poor performance. I was filled with angst and with doubt the entire four months of the contract. However, by the end of the semester, I made it through, and my students actually gave me very high marks for my professionalism and educator ability. I learned that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phil. 4:13)!
  • Fall 2014 - As I headed into the fall semester, I felt certain that I was doomed considering I had accepted four teaching contracts, and I was set to complete two classes at Regent (one a core, and the other a very busy elective). To say I was overwhelmed this past semester is an understatement. I was beyond overwhelm. I honestly do not know how I made it through with my mind in tact. I had 120 students and I had one of the toughest courses, content-wise (COM 701) to complete. I did it, of course, and I managed to successfully pass my faculty evaluations with flying colors all the while maintaining at 4.0 GPA at Regent. I learned once again that God is faithful, and that He keeps His promises (Deut. 7:9)!
I say this not to boast in my own achievements, though I do take great pride in the accomplishment simply because I was stretched beyond what I thought was the breaking point, but rather to give testimony to the Lord, who graciously allowed me to "bend, without breaking!" Yes, the Lord sustained me even when I thought for certain I had taken on too  many responsibilities, too many tasks, and too many things. The Lord was my hope, my faith was firmly fixed upon Him, and while I did doubt His provision (numerous times), He proved to be faithful to me. Yes, the Lord saw me through all these difficulties, and He allowed me to learn great lessons in letting go, and in trusting Him.

Now as I look forward to 2015, I see the same number of obstacles, the same number of tasks and to-dos, and the same number of responsibilities. I have learned that the Lord is faithful -- He is true to His word, and He never gives up on us.  The Lord is good, always good, and His mercy is ever new. I have learned to rely on Him, to rest in His sufficiency, and to allow Him to provide for my security (whether in health, in finances, or in work/life balance). Yes, the Lord meets my needs with sufficiency, and He is my all in all.

I am on the countdown to graduation at Regent University. I have half my program to complete, and I will be technically finished next December. I know it seems like a lot to complete 20 credits, but in reality that works out to be six, eight, and six credits or spring, summer and fall. One more year, and I will be ABD (all but dissertation), and I will be ready to take my qualification exams and begin the final stretch through to graduation (expected in May 2017). God be praised, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I still must focus on the task at hand. I cannot lose my focus now, and I must continue to rest in His provision for my grades, my scholarship, and my daily work. I cannot give up nor can I give in -- not now -- as I can see the end so clearly.

The Lord knows that this last year of classes will be the toughest for me yet. It is not that the content will be more challenging in previous years, but that it will simply mean that I will find my time stretched as I take on more teaching contracts (potentially a full-time job). My career is swinging up while my education is swinging down. And, yes, that is really good news for me. I love the thought of being a full-time faculty member, but at the same time, it is a scary prospect. I believe the Lord is moving me to another state, to a job at another school, and that whole process (applying, interviewing, and the meet/greet) is nerve-wracking for me. I know He will go before me, He always does. Still, my flesh fails, and my spirit is weak. I feel so inadequate and under equipped for the challenge that lays ahead. God is good, so very good to me. I know He has me well-covered, yet I still have lingering doubts as to His faithfulness. Oh, Lord, help me to believe, to rest, and to trust you this day!

Plans for 2015

As a planner, I have my next year sketched out. It is not fixed in stone, per se, but rather it is laid out with bullet points of strong possible tasks/goals. I know I must be flexible, that I must keep my hand open and not grip any one thing too tightly. I have to be fluid, to allow the Lord to move me into the tasks, responsibilities, and opportunities that He chooses. Thus, my next year (tentatively) looks like this:
  • Spring 2015 - I will be teaching three classes at GCU starting next week. I have two sections of English 106, and one section of English 356. I have taught these courses before so I am pleased that the preparation time will be minimal each week. In addition to teaching, I am taking COM 704 Applied Methods and COM 705 Advanced Theory at Regent. I am actually excited for the theory course and for the projects that will be produced through that content.
  • Summer 2015 - I have another summer at Regent planned (first week in June) and I will be taking 8 credits in order to finish by December. I have planned on COM 730 Writing for Publication along with COM 628 Communication in Leadership and COM 795 Dissertation Research. I am a little concerned about finances over the summer as I won't have any contracts or work to do. The Lord has told me not to worry so I am not worrying (well, trying not to worry!)
  • Fall 2015 - My last semester at Regent should be a good one. I have COM 709 Theology in Communication and COM 791 Doctoral Pedagogy. The latter is a course where I get credit for being a TA for the professor. The actual course I will TA for is History of Communication (one of my favorites). It should be a fun class since most of the students will be first year only (newbies!) I am uncertain what the fall will bring as far as teaching goes. Right now, I have applied for one position locally, but I feel confident that the Lord intends on moving me next year, so I am thinking that if what I am feeling is correct, then I should find myself teaching at a different school for the 2015-2016 school year.
Other than school and teaching, my primary responsibilities are to mentor my son (who will be 22 next year), and continue to care for my parents. These two responsibilities create difficulty for me, but only from the standpoint that I have to do mom and parent things in addition to teaching and student things. I wear a lot of hats, and sometimes it gets to be a bit too much when I find that I am wearing more than one hat at a time. But Lord willing and God be praised -- somehow -- it all works out. God is a very good multitasker! Nehemiah 9:6 states,

"You are the LORD, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you."

Yes, Lord - help me to remember that you are CREATOR over all things. Thus there is nothing that is too high for you, too difficult, or too challenging for you. I rest in YOU, in your ABILITY, and in your CHARACTER. You are ALL SUFFICIENT, and you are able to handle what concerns me this day.

Psalm 138:8 - The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.

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