May 14, 2015

Clarity of Focus

It is a great and awesome day here in sunny and warm Phoenix. Today is going to be SPECTACULAR and I am excited at the possibilities, endless possibilities that come with having a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. My life is open-ended, all opportunities are fair game so long as the Lord leads me in them and through them. I feel confident that the plans He has for my life are wonderful, good, and blessed. God is moving in my life, and I feel His movement as He leads me on step by step. As I move from today into tomorrow, I remember that I am called to be faithful, faithful to follow the Lord in obedience. I am to follow this one course until I find success -- and for me -- that success ends with my entrance into eternal peace and rest. God is good, so very good to me!

Plans and Purposes

One of the things I wonder about is how my life, all the little details of my life, add up. I mean, it seems like just yesterday I was crying in my soup, feeling low and lonely, and thinking that my life was not turning out as I had planned it to do. Yet, in one moment, I find that there is light at the end of the dark tunnel, and with focus and determination, I can make out the path I am to follow. It is funny how that seems to be, how you can go from being utterly miserable and depressed and then in an instant, with the right words, right affirmation, and right notice, you can feel your spirit lift up and soar free! Yes, God is good to me, and He is good to bring me people, friends and family, who take the time to affirm me, to encourage me, and to help me see my value. I try to do the same thing for them, to tell them I am praying or thinking about them, and to encourage them as they pursue the plans the Lord has in mind for their lives. In this way, we mutually build up and encourage one another. God is great to provide a circle of friends to us, to keep us in relationship with other people so that we can be encouraged. The Word calls us to encourage and to equip one another, to build one another up, and this is exactly why we are to do it. Life is hard, and at times, it can be so challenging that it is easy to lose hope. But God knows we need fellowship, and that is why He has commanded us to not forsake gathering together, at least once during the week, for the purpose of building one another up. We have our families, our peers, and our friends -- but we need the Body of Christ -- to confirm our calling, our ministry, and our gifts.

Today I feel uniquely called and equipped for the work the Lord has in mind for me to do. I don't know what happened between yesterday and today, but suffice to say, I feel more confident that I am on the right path, doing the right thing, and living in the right way. Let me explain...

Yesterday, I woke up in a disagreeable mood. I woke up and I felt so annoyed with life. I was generally not a happy camper, and my poor attitude spilled over to most of my morning. I did the best I could, and that was to protect my family from my "mood." I spent the morning at my computer, focusing on school work and web work (my website, blog, social media channels, etc.) All of this intense focus kept my mind off of my mood, and gave me the opportunity to produce quality work. I always feel better when I produce work, so the Lord isolated me for a time to allow me to focus on one thing only. In doing so, I came out of my funk, and I felt better because I had made good progress, good headway, and I could see the fruits of my labor or my good work.

I received some affirmation from my Regent professors too, and that helped me zone in on the work I need to do this summer. I felt good that my work is being noticed, and that I am producing quality papers. I may not be a solid writer yet, but I am getting better each and every day as I write more and more papers for my doctoral coursework.

Later in the day, I worked on my own website, redesigned it to better highlight my scholarship, and I felt so good with my product. It looks so good! God knows how much I need to produce, and without it, I struggle, I feel so unworthy. I am such an achievement-oriented person, and while that can be a bad thing, it is also a fact of my personality and my wiring. I am what I am, and while I do try to not allow my need to achieve to overtake my life, and cause me to lose focus, I do recognize that it is one of my gifts and abilities. The Lord knows this is the case, and as such, He provides opportunities for me to excel and succeed through my achievement in school.

As I recreated my website, I started to look at all my accomplishments over the past 10-15 years. To say I am "prolific" is an understatement because I am a zealous producer of works. I always have been, I mean, I produce volumes of work in any given subject for any given reason. I simply love to produce. I create, I edit, I develop -- I do all these things -- and often I learn best when I experiment with outcomes. I guess this is why I am enjoying studying social science. I love outcomes, and social science gives me the opportunity to "play with ideas and concepts" and learn through the experience. Yes, I think I am morphing from a Humanities and Arts person into a true Social Scientist!

My hope over the next year is to finish my PhD program, and to be recruited by a college or university to teach Communication. I wanted to teach English for a long time (well, I currently do), and I often regretted not taking a PhD in English for that reason. Yet, every time I come back around to Communication, I find that I love it all the more. Now, I see that the Lord has been pulling me gently away from English studies and leading more and more into the field of Communication. I am still not 100% sure of what He wants me to teach, but for now, I am confident that He desires for me to begin teaching more Communication courses. Perhaps He will open a door for me to teach some introductory courses here in Phoenix or perhaps He will allow me to teach online. I don't know. I just know that while I am content to continue to teach English at GCU, a part of me wants to be hired to teach Comm classes at another school. Hmmm....Lord, what are you doing?

Teaching as a Life

Right now, I have contracts set for GCU. I am still waiting to receive a contract to teach at ACU, but I believe it will be forthcoming later this month. I have applied for a full-time instructor position at Phoenix College teaching a 4/4 load in Communication. This is a good opportunity and would provide excellent income, benefits, and other perks to me. It is near me (about 25 minutes by freeway), and it is a good community college. I am not sure if I have the correct credentials, but I believe that if this is the Lord's will, then He will open the door for me. The main issue I am having when I apply to schools is that I don't have any letters of recommendation. I hate to bug my professors for one each time I need to apply, so I am thinking of asking for generic letters that I could reuse so they don't always have to submit them for every application. I am not sure how to go about doing that, but praise be to God, I know the Lord has a plan for me. I am trusting that He will lead me to the job of His choosing, and that He will make it possible for me to be considered without these letters (perhaps just references).

So far this year, I have applied for several teaching positions. I applied at Auburn University (AL), University of Alabama (AL), Auburn at Montgomery (AL), Liberty University (VA - online), University of Charleston (WVA - online), Northwestern State (LA - online), Paradise Valley Community College (AZ), Western Governors University (AZ - online) and Phoenix College (AZ). The schools in AL all responded with letters declining my application. The online schools never replied to my applications at all, and the local schools are still in process. I find the whole application process annoying. I mean, you go through all these hoops to apply, and then you rarely hear anything back. It is as if these schools simply do not care about your time or your effort. I know they get oodles of applications (U of A said they had over 100 applications) and they cannot respond to each person, yet some schools do, and to these schools, I say "thank you!" There is nothing so awful as not hearing back from a possible job. You never know if you were not chosen or if the HR department didn't receive all your materials. I know the Lord has His hand on my job/career. He will guide me to the right job, in His perfect timing, and then everything will sync up and work together for my good. So far, I believe that none of these jobs were the "right one" for me. Not yet, just not yet...

By the end of this summer, I will have completed 40 credits of my required 44. This means that I will be close to finishing all the required course work for my PhD. I will not be "ABD" until next February, but I will have all my classes completed by the end of the year. This means that I will have, in effect, enough credits to satisfy any job seeking a Master of Arts degree in Communication. I already have a Master of Arts degree in English Literature, so technically I have what is needed to teach English or Communication. It is just that for some schools (the HR departments), they want to see a MA in COMM listed on the degree. I think this is a shame because my doctoral courses were far more intensive that any Master classes. Plus, I have 12 credits of Master COMM work completed along with the remaining 28 of Doctoral work. Still, many schools will not accept a MA degree outside the field, and for those that will not, it is difficult to broach the HR barrier without being ABD or having the PhD in hand.

My goal, though, until I am ABD is to keep on teaching as many classes as possible. I need to get more experience as an instructor and to finish my course work. I have to remain focused on the end-goal, the prize at the end of the process, which is my PhD. God knows that I need to stay the course now, and I think in many ways, this is why He has not provided a full-time position for me yet. I am content to teach at GCU and ACU for another year, should that be His will. I know that I will find that perfect fit at some point in time, and until then, I have to remain focused, fixed, and faithful to His calling. I will do this, Lord willing, and with His grace, He will provide!

Possibilities and Options

My options are limited right now. I have applied at most of the local schools in Phoenix. I haven't applied at ASU yet, but only because they are seeking adjuncts (40% time), and I don't see how I could do that and meet the demands of my current contracts. Now, if they had a 100% position, that might be different. For now, though, I am content to teach where I am until the Lord moves me elsewhere.

I am free to move, of course, and I have been thinking and leaning this way for a while. My parents are not well, and I cannot imagine moving without their care being settled. I don't know what they would do if I were to move away, and I don't see how I can do that now since I have such limited resources. My son is mid-way through his college courses, and may be switching schools (Lord willing) for fall. He is uncertain of what he wants to do, and whether or not he will even continue on in school right now. This means that my present life in Phoenix, with the exception of my adjunct work, is tentative at best.

The Lord could choose to move me today. He could point out a job, direct me to apply, facilitate the application and interview process, and BAM get me hired. He could move me to another city and state, and He could provide every penny I would need to move my things, my cats, and my life. However, do I think He will do this now? I am not sure. I know He can do these things, but is He going to do them? I just don't know.

The bigger question is if I want Him to move me. I mean, do I want to move across the country and settle in a place where I am all alone, no family, no friends, and no familiar things? How important is it for me to go to another place without any assurance that it is "the place" of His choosing. What if I get there and I don't like it? I mean, what if things don't work out for me there?

I am willing, and I am agreeable to go wherever the Lord leads me. Yet, my fear of the unknown is something I cannot hide. It would be different if I were married, you know. Then my husband would be with me, and he would say to me "we are going here or there because of the job." Yes, I could let go of my family and the familiarity I have here in Phoenix because I would be moving to a new place with my own family, my husband. As a single woman, though, it is a different matter. It takes a lot of guts to pick up and move across the country. I have never done this before, though I have imagined it many times. I have thought that it would have been good for me to move away from home, just to be my own person. I never did it, and now I live with my parents as a 52 year old. What is wrong with that picture?

I know I am here for a reason, and I am content to remain here as long as the Lord determines it is good for me to do so. But, should He say to me "Go here -->" then I would choose to obey Him and go where He was leading me to go. So will the Lord move me? Or will He choose to settle me in Phoenix, to provide the job at Phoenix College (with pay and benefits), and ask me to remain here while my parents lives end, and my son moves out on his own? I just don't know. My heart longs to move to AL because this is where I want to be, but what if the Lord chooses to keep me here in Phoenix, to not move me to this place? What will I do then? Will I go ahead without His blessing? My heart tells me that I must only go where the Lord leads, and my faith in the Lord reminds me that He would not bring blessings into my life to take them away from me (yes, Job was the exception). I believe that the Lord has brought a very special person into my life for a reason, and it is not a temporary reason, but a permanent one. However, coordinating two adult lives takes time, and I believe this is where the Lord is at work now. He has to settle my life, and the life of my love, to make it possible for us to be together. Until He does that work, there is nothing I can do but patiently wait. I will wait, of course, I will wait.

My life is in flux right now, yet I feel the Lord moving me. I feel Him arranging details that will better me, make my availability and applicability more attractive to potential schools. I may not get moved yet, but I feel that the Lord is 'puffing up my resume,' so to speak. He is drawing attention to my name, helping me get noticed, and providing opportunities to highlight my skill. I need the right combination of efforts to succeed, and even with my hard work and my diligence, I will not succeed without the Lord's hand on my life. I am blessed, and I am favored, but now the Lord must do His work to make me noticed. How can I stand out amongst the crowd of competent applicants? If one school received over 100 applications for a teaching job, then how can I look best on paper? How do I stand out so much that I get called for an interview? Well, I believe that the Sovereignty of God trumps all other things, and that means, that the Lord's will cannot be stopped. His way will come to pass, and He will move me to the top of the pile -- but only when He chooses to do so. Until then, I must remain focused, and I must patiently complete my studies. I must continue to produce good work, and in the right time, He will promote me to the position, the job, and the location of His choosing. He is good, so very good to me!


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