December 1, 2014

Feeling Stress and Pressure Today

According to my friend, LaVonna Davis-Stephenson, we have 24 days left to shop before Christmas. ACK! I think that fact dawned on me this morning as I sat in the family room, sipping my coffee, reading my iPhone, and watching FoxNews. Yes, it is December 1, and Christmas is only 24 days (a little over 3 weeks away). What has happened to this year? Where has the time gone?

It seems like it was just the start of the fall semester. I cannot believe that my teaching contracts will end in a week, and that I will be officially "done" with my work for the year. Yes, I am looking forward to my semester ending at Regent (this one was a bear for me), and for the blessed three-week break in between semesters before the whole process repeats. Still, I am finding it hard to come to terms with the ending of 2014. So much has happened this year, so much change, so much upset, so much stress.

As I think about the remaining 30 days of 2014, my heart is troubled. I am struggling to deal with my life right now, with what the Lord seems to be doing (or not doing), and with the plans that He has for me. I am doing my very best to remain faithful, to be still, to be calm and to be in control (of the little He has given to me). I don't feel as if I am successful right now. I feel like my world is sinking beneath the weight of increased strain and pressure. I am sinking, and I don't like this feeling of trying to keep my head above water.

The Lord has promised good to me. He has been faithful to me, and He has seen to my care. I know this, I have borne testimony to this fact, yet today, I am questioning if His provision will continue on through 2015 or if I have run out of "luck" so to speak. I realize luck has nothing to do with it, nothing at all to do with anything of the Lord, but I feel like perhaps my time at the grace-wheel is up, and I am being asked to step aside and let some other person experience the goodness of God. I know, heresy! Yet, that is how I FEEL today. I feel as though my luck has run out, and I am now at the mercy of my own hand. I feel as though the Lord has left me to my own device, and I feel so very alone right now.

I know this is not true, and I know that I am not alone, but these feelings of loneliness and despair are intense right now. I feel as though I have walked into a way that is not of His design, and I am cast off adrift on a float going down the wrong river.

How did I get here, and what do I do to turn myself around? Can I turn myself around or am I doomed to follow this path for a time? Is this the Lord's will for me, to suffer this way for a time, so that I will come to learn to trust Him, to rely on Him, to rest in Him?


It seems like every so often I will find myself in this position, this place, where my life is turned completely upside down and inside out. I do not like it when this happens, but always, always, it seems that it is a temporary status and not a permanent destination. I cannot remember the details of the last time I was stuck in this place, but I remember the feelings well.  I remember feeling as though my life was ending, my head and my heart were about to explode, and panic and fear were overwhelming my soul. Yes, I remember now!

It was last November when I felt this exact same panic, this exact same fear. I remember now...

I had been working at CVS Caremark for a year (from 2012-2013) and because of several factors (one being my doctoral program), I had resigned and taken a job as an Instructional Assistant at Grand Canyon. I remember the months leading up to that decision, the decision to leave a well-paying, but highly stressful job, in order to transition into teaching college English. I can remember how much I loathed my job at CVS. It was a good job, a very good job, but the company, the department, and the management decisions were so intolerable that I began to hate going into work every day. On top of this, my colleagues, all of whom I enjoyed working with were jumping ship, either moving to another company or moving with CVS to other positions. I saw a very good job turn into a nightmare before my eyes, and I knew that I would not be happy remaining there for long. Then I had my doctoral coursework and the fear that I would not be able to do the work required AND keep up with the welcome season responsibilities (mostly all the overtime).

I had been praying for another job for a while. I had been applying to positions within CVS and outside the company for a couple months (since March of 2013). It wasn't until July, however, that a door opened for me to start at GCU, and after much prayer and consideration, I felt the Lord leading me to step out in faith and take the position offered. At the same time, I had the opportunity to work for Northcentral University in Scottsdale. I had interviewed for an academic advisor position, and I liked the company. It would have been a good job, less money, but better benefits. However, that job was a step backward, a step back toward the phone work I did at UOPX. In the end, I took the GCU job, even though it was an hourly position, contracted for one semester at a time. I felt that the Lord was saying "trust me, Carol" so I listened and followed Him.

In hindsight, the job was a blessing in that it was easy work. The downside of course was that the job didn't pay a living wage and with my expenses there was no way I could live on the little bit I received each month. In October of 2013, I panicked over needs and caring for my parents, and I jumped ship and took a job working for a nursing company. I went for the security of the big bucks and benefits and I left behind GCU in order to be responsible and a good daughter. My parents needed me. My son needed me. I needed the money. The work, it turned out, was not a good fit. The job was boring. The drive was long, and in the end, I knew I had taken the wrong turn, the wrong path, and I was in the wrong place.

I worked at NurseWise for all of 3-weeks. It took 21 days of suffering, of misery, of feeling so awful before I turned myself around and walked back to where the Lord had placed me. Yes, I humbled myself before a boss and I left that job with my tail between my legs. It was humiliating to confess that I had made such an error in judgment and to know that I had caused others to believe I was sincere in my desire to do that work.

I knew the moment I left the job, however, that I had made the right choice. I walked out of that company and back into the bright sunshine of the day, and I knew I was free. The job had been a ball and chain to me, it was miserable day in and out, to sit and have nothing to do. I couldn't see myself happy in the environment and for all the perks (money, travel, opportunity), I hated the job, hated the work, and hated the way I felt.

I was fortunate that GCU took me back, and that there was a teaching contract available for me for Spring 2014. Of course, there was just one teaching position available, and that meant I would be making even less than what I made as an Instructional Assistant. Had I stayed the course at GCU, there was a good chance, I would have had more than one contract, but because I panicked and took another path, I lost out on that opportunity.


So it is one year later, and what is happening to me? The exact same thing. Life is repeating itself, and I am being tempted to jump ship and run to the nearest full-time position. Why?

First, my parents are in ill-health. They are living on a fixed income, and they are not able to meet their expenses. Of course, they cannot earn more income so they are having to live within their means. Unfortunately, my Mom is struggling to do that and my Dad is always at her about spending money. Now, granted this is not my problem, but because we share a home, it has become my problem. I am not earning my share of the expenses so there is stress here as I get asked for more and more money. I see my account dwindle and I know that next semester's contracts will not cover my part of our arrangement. I need more money to live with my parents, to make sure that all my bills are paid.

Second, I am teaching two classes instead of three and that means I will be making less money overall. Moreover, I am taking two very difficult core classes at Regent and I feel pinched to even consider working more hours. I cannot do it. I barely made it through this semester so to add more hours to cover costs will take its toll on me physically, mentally, and emotionally. I will not be able to manage my life, my schooling, my teaching...I will not be able to do it.

Third, there is this big unknown about next year, and how I will survive over the summer. I have borrowed a lot of money to cover my expenses, and I am now at the point where I can no longer do that anymore. This means that without a teaching job for summer, I will have no income at all. I will have four months with no income and I will have no savings to see me through. Next summer will be famine time for me. How do I deal with that? How do I plan for my living arrangements when there will be no work for me to do?

Fourth, I have to think about another summer residency at Regent, and that means borrowing or using my credit card to put another $1500 on it. I still haven't paid off this past summer -- so it is more debt -- just to meet the requirements of my doctoral program.

Last, as I consider my options, I see the following two choices ONLY:
  1. Apply for full-time teaching positions outside the state of AZ
  2. Apply for full-time non-teaching positions within the state of AZ
If I am going to be a professor, and that is the path I am on (and have been on for a year now), I have to start looking for full-time teaching positions now. I took a look online last night, and most schools are starting to request vitaes for fall 2015. This means I have to begin now. I cannot wait until next Spring because the jobs will be filled. There are NO full-time teaching positions in AZ at this time. Moreover, with the exception of GCU and ACU and the community colleges, the state schools will not hire me without a conferred PhD. The private schools and community colleges are hiring adjunct only so the likelihood of finding a full-time position in AZ is slim (not impossible with the Lord, but highly unlikely unless He makes a job appear out of the air). Therefore, working out of state seems the only option for teaching. Many other states accept MAs for full-time positions. Most major universities still want a PhD or at the least an ABD to full tenure-track openings. However, some will accept your MA because they are desperate to get candidates to come to their location (KS, OK, NY for example -- all those very cold places where no one wants to move to or live).

If I am going to back into corporate work, then I have to wait until I finish my contracts in spring. I have already signed two contracts at GCU so I am committed to them. Of course, I could forfeit them, but then I would be closing that door (to teaching) forever.

My fear is reasonable. My concern is legitimate. My options are limited.

Do I leave teaching for some other position and say that my experiment with being a professor was a temporary indulgence? Do I find some other work, some other thing to do where I will be satisfied with the job in order to make ends meet?

How do you decide if you should give up a career choice? When do you throw in the towel and give in and admit you made a mistake in judgment?

These questions are running through my head this morning. I don't have answers to them, I just don't know what to do.

Pray.

Yes, the answer is always to pray and to seek the Lord's guidance and wisdom on the matter.

I have placed my entire life into the Lord's hand based on this verse in Scripture. Lately, I have heard some people say that the Lord doesn't do what this Psalm says -- that He doesn't give a person the desires of their heart. I have heard testimony that has said that it is false-hope to believe that the Lord opens doors like this for people SIMPLY because they are seeking Him as their delight.

Normally, I would toss off those comments as being ill-informed. Not trustworthy. Lies of the enemy. Surely, the Word of the Lord is true, surely the Lord delivers on His promises, does He not?

I have spent the past several years under the assumption that I was following the Lord's leading and direction in my life. I stood by my convictions (Oh, that is a story for another day), and I walked away from a disintegrating marriage because I couldn't tolerate being second-best (playing second fiddle to another love interest). I had grounds of course but nonetheless I walked away from 25 years of marriage and into the big UNKNOWN believing in the words of this Psalm.

Trust in the Lord and do good.
    Then you will live safely in the land and prosper. 
Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you your heart’s desires.
Commit everything you do to the Lord.
    Trust him, and he will help you.

I took the words of the Psalmist as truth, and I did what this Psalm says to do. I placed my trust in the Lord, I took delight in Him, and I committed everything to Him. In return, I have believed (and experienced testimony) that the Lord enabled me to live safely and to prosper. He gave me the desires of my heart (to return to school, get a PhD, and become a professor), and He helped me to navigate through very difficult waters and dark places.

I have walked in faith believing that the Lord of the Old Testament and the New Testament is the same: yesterday, today and forever. I have believed the Lord, His word to me (in Scripture and through prayer), and I have followed after Him, trusting in Him as God, as Lord, and as my King.

Now, I am feeling as though what I have done, where I have gone, the path I have chosen has some how been a mistake. How can this be? How can I lose my faith so easily, so quickly?

Has the Lord been moved or shifted from His throne? Has the Lord turned aside from me and cast me out to suffer, to walk alone, to figure this out on my own?

May it never be. May my mouth be shut tight and may words never proceed from it again should I confess that the Lord has been false to me. No, never.

Yet, as I struggle, there is part of me that is doubting the sincerity of the Lord. I am doubting His provision, His wisdom, and His way. I am saying to Him --> "Lord, I don't trust you anymore. You are not doing a good enough job to see me through, and I am going to handle this on my own from here on out." Why in the world would I want to do this? Why in the world would I think that I am capable of doing anything on my own?

My mind has been captured, and my thoughts are not my own. Clearly, I have listened to the enemy, and his very tricky speech. I have bought a boatload of lies that said to me "God doesn't care about you. Look at your life. Look at your misery. Look at the needs!" Yes, and I have listened to the crafty serpent as he has tempted me with doubt. I have acknowledged the truth of the matter. I see what he is saying, that in part, it is true. I do look at my needs. I do see my empty hands. I do feel that misery as it is mounting, and I am sinking under the weight of despair.

Yet, in whom do I place my trust? In whom, shall I settle my hope?

Psalm 25:1-10

O Lord, I give my life to you.
    I trust in you, my God!
Do not let me be disgraced,
    or let my enemies rejoice in my defeat.
No one who trusts in you will ever be disgraced,
    but disgrace comes to those who try to deceive others.
Show me the right path, O Lord;
    point out the road for me to follow.
Lead me by your truth and teach me,
    for you are the God who saves me.
    All day long I put my hope in you.
Remember, O Lord, your compassion and unfailing love,
    which you have shown from long ages past.
Do not remember the rebellious sins of my youth.
    Remember me in the light of your unfailing love,
    for you are merciful, O Lord.
The Lord is good and does what is right;
    he shows the proper path to those who go astray.
He leads the humble in doing right,
    teaching them his way.
10 The Lord leads with unfailing love and faithfulness
    all who keep his covenant and obey his demands.

Yes, my hope rests in the Lord today. Even though I feel the pounding of the enemy, I see the threat of the troops as they line up against me, and I feel the battle beginning to rage -- I rest in my Lord, my God, and my Savior. The ONE in whom I put my unfailing trust.

My hope is in the Lord. My faith is in His ability to fight this battle, to wage war against the enemy, and to overcome with victory. He is my shield, my buckler, and my sword. He is my champion, my victor, and my strong tower. I run to Him, and I find safety, I find security, and I find rest. The Lord is my banner, and His mercy reigns over me. I place my trust in Him, and in Him alone. Selah, so be it, thy will be done. 

Update Today

I am home for a quick bite to each before I drive over to GCU to start my second-half of my day. I am feeling better, unusually better, and I am thinking clearly again. I am not sure what has happened or why, but heavy stress and pressure I felt this morning has lifted. It is not as though anything has changed per se, it is more so that whatever was causing the oppression has ceased functioning. The peace I had earlier on has returned (that is always a good thing), and I feel confident again that everything will work together for my good. Selah!

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