February 4, 2015

Positive Affirmation

I am home today because I am feeling sick. Yep, it looks like whatever the crud is that my students are passing around has hit home. My son started feeling unwell on Sunday, and since then he has spent the past three days in bed. He is finally feeling better today, but he is still not 100%. I am guessing we all have the "seasonal flu" virus. The problem with viruses is that they run their course in about 3-4 days, and there is nothing you can do about them except rest and drink plenty of fluids. Thank goodness we are both healthy. I have most of the same symptoms he had on Sunday (headache, stomach ache, eye pain, and generally feeling of hot/cold). My prayer is that I end up with mild symptoms instead of the full-on in bed kinda of yuck. I cannot afford to be sick nor can I miss any days with my school work/assignments. It is always a dicey proposition with sickness during the school year. Oh, how I miss the days of working from home -- illness was never a major issue!

In other news, I am feeling jubilant regarding the plans the Lord has for me. I have been stressed lately while trying to imagine the plans the Lord has regarding a new teaching position or a position in higher education administration. I have applied for both kinds of jobs, but I have felt stressed over remaining in teaching since the Lord prompted me to apply. At first, I was excited about the idea of applying for a full-time instructor position in my field of Communication. The more I thought about it, the more I started to feel that I was out of my league, out of my depth, and frankly, outnumbered in the "possibility" that the school might consider me for the position. Moreover, I started to consider the pay scale, the "intense" workload, and the course content, and I began to question why the Lord would even put it to me to apply for that job. I mean it is "so not me!"

Yesterday, while I was driving home, I was praying about these two jobs. I had asked the Lord for confirmation of His intention, of His purpose and plan for me. I wanted to hear His voice say to me "This is my will, Carol! This is the job I want you to have!!" Yeah, don't we always want to hear the Lord tell us exactly what to do? How much easier would it be in our life if we could go to the Lord, ask Him for direction, and receive His answer LOUD AND CLEAR!! Woohoo! Life would be grand, would be simple, and would be so less stressful!!

Often, instead of His voice, we hear silence. Instead of direction, we hear the whisper that says "trust me." Instead of that neon sign blaring words of affirmation, we get little hints, little breadcrumbs that require us to press on in faith. Yes, instead of the obvious answer we seek, we get enough light for the step we are on. This poem is from Stormie Omartian's devotional book...

Just Enough Light

Sometimes only the step I’m on,
or the very next one ahead,
is all that is illuminated for me.
God gives just the amount of light I need
for the exact moment I need it.
At those times I walk in surrender to faith,
unable to see the future
and not fully comprehending the past.
And because it is God who has given me
what light I have,
I know I must reject the fear and 
doubt that threaten to overtake me.
I must determine to be content where
I am, and allow God to get me where I
need to go.
I walk forward,
one step at a time,
fully trusting that
the light God sheds
is absolutely sufficient.

How I wish I could see everything in clear view. How I wish I could know for certain, 100% for sure and for positive, that I am walking in the right direction, following His guidance and leadership, and going where He intends me to go.

I want so much to know exactly what the Lord has in mind for me. I want to know for certain, for sure, and for positive, that I am to remain in teaching rather than to move into some other type of job. I struggle with knowing, with the need to know, and because I fear making a mistake, I wrestle with being patient in the now, with waiting for the "grand reveal" (as they say in those home shows). Yes, I want everything to be revealed to me NOW!

So back to last night...

I was driving home from work, and I was asking the Lord (again) to help me know the way to go. I wanted to know for sure whether I should be hopeful for Job A or B. I wanted to know that the Lord does intend for me to move from AZ to AL. I wanted to know for sure that this was the Lord's plan for me.

As I was praying about my situation, I felt the Holy Spirit pressing on me to ask for clarification. So I did...

Lord, please give me affirmation to know that I am doing the job of your choosing. Please let me know for certain that this is your preferred way to go.

I arrived home exhausted, thoroughly exhausted, and I slumped on into the house. I made myself a sandwich, and I sat down to watch NCIS with my Mom. I was tired, and I didn't want to get on the computer to start my school work. As I sat there, a friend nudged me via text. I responded and before I knew it, I was on the phone in the midst of a conversation. It was a pleasant diversion, and it felt good to just talk about things, you know, just chat.

As the conversation progressed, my situation came up. It wasn't really planned or anything like that -- it just came up in normal conversation. I shared my thoughts and feelings and frustration and before long I heard the answer to my prayer. I received the positive affirmation I needed, that I wanted, that said "You are right where I want you. You are doing the job of my choosing." I almost started to cry as I began to explain how I felt, how miserable and how glorious teaching made me feel. I so want to quit, to run away, to go back into a job that is easier (less work, less stress, less prep) and that makes more money. I want to go the way that is easiest for me. I had actually prayed about this the other day, whether I should take the easy road or the hard road. I always take the hard road, always. I blogged about this too -- how in the past -- I chose the way that was more difficult because it caused greater character growth and development and it caused me to be wholly dependent on the Lord. I was bound and determined to choose the easy way this time, the way of less stress, less pain, and less demand. Yes, I was choosing the easy way out.

Then something happened. Well, really nothing happened. I mean that I felt nothing -- no sense of relief, no sigh of "it is done," and no welcome feeling that I had made the right choice. I just felt the same as before, muddled and confused, and frustrated while I tried to figure it out.

Last night, after I hung up the phone, I thought to myself: "Lord, you just did something wonderful for me. I might not know for sure, for certain and for positive that Job B is preferred over Job A, but I can clearly say that you are listening to me, that you are hearing my prayers, and that you are attending to my needs." Yes, the Lord listened to me, and He answered my prayer by prompting my friend to give me wise words of encouragement and affirmation. In short, the Lord told me what to do, where to go, and which job to look forward to as His provision for my life.

Did I receive a sign that said --> Go Here?

No, not really.

Did I hear the Lord speak and say to me --> This is my will and you are to do this one thing?

Nope.

So why do I feel jubilant today?

I would say it this way. Often, what we want from the Lord is what we would give to ourselves or another human being. We would encourage and affirm a friend or family member with words that served to build up their confidence and expectancy of a positive outcome.

Affirmation means the act of affirming. Affirming means to validate. And to validate means...

to support or corroborate on a sound or authoritative basis; to recognize, establish, or illustrate the worthiness or legitimacy of some thing

Yes, we all want and need to be validated. Humans desire to be validated, to be affirmed, to be encouraged, and to be told (and shown) that they matter personally, that they contribute to the greater good, and that they are worthy (or worthwhile) and important.

We need validation all the time. We seek validation in our families, our friendships, and in our faith. We need to know that we matter to God, to our family, to our friends, to our peers and coworkers. We need to know that we are important in the grand scheme of things, and that the work that we do, whether as a SAHM, a corporate executive, a missionary, or a tradesman or manual laborer is appreciated, it considered significant, and is valued.

I have believed that I wasn't an effective teacher. I believed that teaching was not my calling. No, I know my calling, and I am called to exhort and to encourage. My gift is to build up the church, to help individuals recognize their worth to God and to His Body. Thus, I seek ways to encourage and to affirm, to validate and to appreciate. I do this every day, all day long, and I do it without thinking about it. I just do it!

When I work (like earn an income), I rely on other skills such as my organization, my analytical mind, my problem-solving capability. I use these skills to demonstrate my abilities, and I receive affirmation and validation from my peers and my supervisors. I get kudo's and a "job well done" to tell me that my work matters, contributes to the betterment of the company, etc.

In teaching, I don't get affirmation. I don't get validation. I might get reviewed and told that I am doing a good job (once a semester or a year). I don't get high fives from students or the note of thanks to remind me that my work counts, that it matters, and that I am doing something important. No, most often, I stare into the faces of students who are half asleep and act put out that they need to be in class.

I have struggled with feeling validated since I started teaching in 2013. I have come to accept my role, to deal with the ups and downs of the classroom, the major fails that happen often, etc. But generally, I have never felt confident or positive that I was doing the right thing, in the right place, and that this job was some how a good fit for me personally.

That is -- until last night. Yes, after I hung up from talking with my friend, I realized what a blessing it is to have someone in my life who is sensitive to the Holy Spirit. God used my friend to tell me wonderful things, wonderful positive affirmations of my ability and skill. I listened, and I received these words of validation. I knew they were from the Lord because what was being shared was so on point, so perfect to my need, and so very "in the moment."

As a result, I am confident of the following:

The Lord is directing my steps because...
  1. He is actively listening to my prayers
  2. He has told me where to go before, and He has not relented (changed His mind)
  3. He has shown me a job to apply for (and I have obeyed) in the location of His choosing
  4. He has told me to wait and to be patient (timing is everything)
  5. He has given me clarification on the timeline (summer 2015)
  6. He has provided enough income to cover me all these months and years
  7. He has shown me grace and mercy as I let go of so many things in my life
  8. He has promised good to me
  9. He has shown me what I can and cannot do
  10. He has made a way for me, a path, and He is illuminating each step.
So, what does this mean?

I feel confident that it means that I am to remain in teaching as a profession. I think this is the Lord's desire for me, not because it is easy for me to do, but because it delights Him to teach through me. Teaching is not a natural thing for me. I am not a gifted teacher. I am a gifted encourager, affirmer, exhorter, and as such, the Lord is able to use my spiritual gifts in the classroom. There is much for me to learn still -- how to present better information, how to be more interactive, more engaged, etc. These are all techniques that can be learned over time. What I already have is a willingness to do my work unto the Lord. I am naturally using my spiritual gift to build up my students, but the Lord needs to "teach" them through me. In this way, I remain wholly dependent upon Him, and I am desperately in need of His provision for everything in my life. I can take no glory, no praise, no honor without first submitting it to the Lord. In short, teaching requires a dedicated to the Lord, a way of life that is reliant upon Him for meeting every need, every standard, and every provision. I cannot do it on my own, and I need Him to do it through me.

God knows that this is the best place for me because it keeps me right where He wants me to be. He may move me elsewhere in time, but I believe that this is His will for me, and I am content to remain on this step, for this duration of time, and until the Lord determines it to be different.

He is good, so very good to me.

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