June 16, 2015

It is Tuesday, so what does that mean?

Yes, it is Tuesday. The second day of the week. The 16th of June. The middle of the year. So what does that mean to me?

Well, not much really. It is a good day here in Phoenix. It is going to be another scorcher. The weather forecast called for highs around 109 yesterday, but today, it appears that the temps are inching up ever so slightly. It looks like now we are heading for 111-113 degree range. We have an excessive heat warming (LOL!), which just means that it is going to be hotter than it has been. No one in Phoenix considers the warning because it is always HOT like this during June-July. Of course, we do understand what it means, and we do take precautions. Still, it is kinda silly in a way to tell Phoenicians that it is going to be hot when we already know it and it is a "normal" thing for us. Oh well...

It is a good day today. In truth, it is a very good day. I woke up feeling refreshed (yeah!) and I feel good, just plain good. I still have a few aches and pains, and my knee is still quite sore (from my fall up the jet way in DC). Overall, I am feeling better (emotionally), and I am starting to see things clearly again. I do believe that my time in VA was productive, but there was part of me that felt so overwhelmed by the whole experience, that I simply shut down and gave up. Yes, I admit it. I gave up after the 3rd day in class. Let me explain...

Accepting the Lord's Will for my Life

I have been struggling with accepting the Lord's will for my life lately. I have had a lot on my plate, what with my parents ill-health, and my son's upset at school (changing programs/schools). I have been worried about my career path too, and all of this plus my school work, has taken a toll on me mentally and physically. I am worn out, and I am feeling that I am sinking under the weight of the pressure of performance. I feel at times like I have to be "perfect," that I must perform well in order to succeed. Of course, I know that everything I do is of the Lord, and that all my performance, my achievement, and my excellence is because of His influence, inspiration, and investment in my life. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phil. 4:13).

Still, there are days (and lately months) where I feel as though I am slipping backward, falling behind, and where I cannot make any progress forward. I feel like I am walking in shifting sand, and for every step I move forward, I slide two steps backward. I am tired, so tired, and I am trying my best to do what I believe is good work. I am working to keep my chin up, stay afloat, and to do everything the Lord has called me to do. Yes, I am attempting all this in my own strength, and because I am doing it or, at the least, cognizant that I am doing it, I feel the crush of failure all around me. Thankfully, the Lord has sustained me, helped me, and is holding me up. Without His support, I wouldn't be where I am today. I am striving, I know I am, and I think this is why I am so worn out.

There are days like today when I wish I was self-employed, you know, back to working for myself, doing website design work, and living in the calm rather than the storm. Of course, I never was content in that line of work, but I do look back through rose-colored glasses some days and wistfully remember that there were good times, good days, and good results. Perhaps I am panicked over my upcoming work load combination -- teaching -- and Regent. Perhaps it is the impending QUALS that is freaking me out. Or just maybe it is the big unknown of what will be next year. I mean, I am struggling to put everything in order, to understand the path to progress that I am on. Where am I going? How am I going to get there? When will it all happen?

These questions run through my head and they terrify me at times. Some days I just push them away, trying very hard to not think about them, not address them, and not give them any room to roam. Other days, my mind is full of them, so much so, that I cannot get away from them. Nagging questions. Nagging doubts. Nagging feelings of dread. Ugh!

God is Good.

Of course, He is. I know it. I believe it. I rattle it off every day. God is good, so very good to me. I stand on the goodness of God, on His providential care for me and for my family. I trust Him to provide for my needs, to open doors, to show me the way. I believe He is -- HE IS IAM! I believe it, I trust it, I rely on it, and I rest because of it. God is good. He is so very good.

As I consider my life this day, one thing comes to mind. I am where I am because of a choice I made some two years ago. I am in this exact spot because I asked the Lord to let me "try out" teaching. I gave up a good job, a good future, a lucrative path in corporate business to test teaching, to see if I would like it, if I could be good at it, if I could make a life for myself as a professor. I asked for it, and the Lord granted me my request. No matter how much I struggle against teaching as a profession, no matter how many times I cry out to the Lord out of fear (no provision, not enough income, no solid job), the Lord keeps me here, in this place, to do my "time." I do feel like I am imprisoned in some ways. It is not a bad prison, mind you, it is more like I am contained and constrained to be on this path, and there is no movement to the left or the right. I am on the path, for good or for bad, and it is what it is. I should be glad. I should be satisfied. I should be happy. But in truth, I am not. I am not happy, not happy at all. And, here is why...

It all started on day 3 of my COM 730 residency at Regent University. My first day in class was great. I learned so much, and it was such a joy to be hanging out with my colleagues (all from my 2013 cohort). Moreover, I had the blessing of seeing some of my classmates from 2014 cohort who were taking the required COM 703 residency course. It was a happy time for us all, and I was feeling so content, so good. My professor, a new hire, gave us all great feedback on our papers (for journal submission), and my paper was one of three that needed minor revision. I was blessed, so blessed. On top of that news, I received some good insight into my probable dissertation topic, some new way to consider the approach, that inspired me toward that direction. In all, Monday was a good day.

Tuesday started off well too. I left that evening feeling confident, so settled on my path, and so assured that I was pursuing the right topic for my dissertation. Day 3, however, turned sour. Ever so slowly it became difficult. And by difficult, I mean, I became distracted, discouraged, and depressed. Yes, I felt that the turn in the course left me feeling overwhelmed and completely out of my league as a scholar, a student, and a successful professor. First off, the tenor of the class changed from how to write for publication to what is required to be published. I was okay with the change because frankly it is important to know the ins and outs of journal publication. I think what set me off was the emphasis on why "I must" publish. The entire tone of the day, and the following two days, revolved around tenure and tenure reviews. In short, the emphasis turned from how to be a solid academic writer to how to pass a tenure review. Now, I understand what that means for tenure professors, really I do, but no one in our room was a tenure professor. Not one. Of the eight students, two were non-instructors. Six were either instructors or adjuncts. In higher education lingo that means, non-tenure track. Yep, the six instructors were not on a tenure track nor would they every be likely to be on a tenure track. Thus as the week wore on, the emphasis spiraled down into the entrenched system of higher education that rewards certain individuals from prestigious schools with "tenure." Those of us from Podunk U, while having a solid academic PhD from Regent University, will not likely ever see the offer of a tenure track position in our life-time. I felt that the over-emphasis on this aspect was depressing, and for the most part, served only to remind me that I am "not good enough" for the good-ol-boys system found in most major research universities.

I know I should have treated it as 'water of a duck's back,' but I didn't. No, I listened, I took notes, and I felt the pinch and the squeeze of reality sinking in. My bubble was burst right there on day 3, and I retreated to my hotel feeling miserable, so miserable. My life's work, the hard work I had put into my education, from the first class in my Masters program to my last class at Regent, would be for naught. I simply would never be good enough to publish journal articles (the required amount) nor would I be bright enough to secure a tenure-track position that would guarantee me the right to work as an Associate Professor through retirement. The hard light of truth shone brightly, and I was convinced that the best I could ever hope for was to continue working adjunct, or Lord willing, be hired for an instructor position teaching undergraduate 100-level courses.

As I began to think about this truth, and yes it is truth, I started to question whether (once again) I am on the right path (career-wise). I mean, am I content to teach undergraduate English and Communication courses for the rest of my work life? Is this what I want to do? Moreover, am I okay with the fact that I might not be hired full-time ever. I mean, I know I can work at GCU or ACU for the rest of my life, but only as adjunct. Neither school will offer me a full-time position so what I have is what I will have down the road. I cannot live on adjunct pay, as I have blogged over and over again, so why am I staying on this course? Why am I continuing down a path that seems hopeless?

My head has not been able to wrap itself around this thought -- why would the Lord have me do work that wouldn't prove productive, useful, or result in good success? It is purely academic (no pun intended) that I learn the "trade" of teaching? What is my purpose? I mean, if I were married and my husband had a good paying job, then I could comfortably think about teaching because the income would be secondary, you know, just extra income to help the family. However, I am head of household, and for the near term, it appears I will remain head of household. It doesn't make sense to me that I would be spending time learning how to do something that would have no profit to it. The Lord doesn't do anything in vain. I believe this is true. He doesn't make mistakes. He doesn't waste time. Yet, I am spinning my wheels, barely eking a living out, and for what purpose?

All of these questions have been rumbling around in my head since last week. I left VA feeling more miserable, dejected and confused then when I arrived. Instead of finding clarity, seeing a way through the confusion, I ended up all the more clueless as to why I am where I am. I feel so lost right now. I feel so undone. I feel as though nothing in my life makes sense. I hate this feeling. I hate feeling this way. I want to know the truth, to see the path, and to understand why I am doing what I am doing, and where all this is leading.

Making Peace with Failure

So where does that leave me today, you ask? Well, I am thinking that I need a good old fashioned heart-to-heart chat with the Lord. I mean, really, if I believe that the Lord knows what is best for me, then can I complain about what He has given to me? Is not my portion and my cup of His provision? I would have to say, 'yea and amen' to that because I do believe that He is Sovereign over everything, and even when I make choices and decisions, I do so with prayer and intention so as to remain within His expressed will for my life. I don't want to walk outside His will, and I don't want to go anywhere or do anything that would not align with the plans and purposes He has for me. Thus, I must believe that I am where I am because He has decided that it is good for me to do so. I may feel imprisoned within these walls of higher education, but for now, this is where He has me so I must be content to remain. I must let go, and I must make peace with my failure to succeed, to promote, to produce results. I must rest.

I know that may seem weird, but to an INTJ personality profile, not succeeding, not producing results, and not achieving is tantamount to FAILURE. I am a results-driven, outcome-oriented, and producing individual that NEEDS to achieve. I must see results or else I feel as though I am not good enough, not doing a good job, and not overcoming obstacles. I must succeed -- no matter how small or insignificant it is to others -- to me it is my world.

Thus with all this said, this is what I think and feel today (for what it is worth!) The Lord has caused me to be on this path for a reason. I believe the reason is two-fold:
  • To learn how to speak in front of groups and to feel comfortable doing it
  • To learn how to develop curriculum for courses and to produce curriculum for His Name
Teaching on campus has provided the outlet that allowed me to learn how to speak in front of groups of people, mostly students, to the point where I can get up and present information using Power Point and feel confident and comfortable in my approach. Furthermore, I have learned how to create curriculum for my courses, how to develop interesting activities for my classes, and how to use media to engage students in the course of study. I have learned these two things, and I am comfortable doing them. More so, I feel that as an added bonus, I am less shy when it comes to being in control, being a leader, which is something most INTJs do not enjoy doing. I would prefer to be a producer and not a leader, but I have had to learn how to take control of large groups of people, and do so with ease and confidence. I am more confident in presenting my ideas, and in sharing my knowledge. So all in all, teaching has benefitted me by preparing me, training me, and equipping me with the skill needed to be a facilitator, a presenter, a leader, a teacher, and a mentor.

Teaching has also made it possible for me to complete my studies at Regent. My courses have been challenging, requiring a lot of papers, and a lot of effort to process the material we are reading. I have needed time to produce these papers, and teaching has given me a flexible schedule, allowed me some freedom to focus on school work while I was doing my actual "paid work" or job.

Lastly, teaching has aligned my studies at Regent with a career. Granted, I may never be a full-on professor now, and I am okay with that possibility. I mean, with God all things are possible (Luke 1:34), so in truth, if He wants me to be a professor, He will open that door. I am content to teach undergraduate courses for the rest of my life. I am content to do my best to be a good teacher, and to mentor the students I have each semester. I may not be the best teacher, but I am a good teacher. I may not be as thorough as I could in many ways, but I do my best each day, and God blesses my efforts. I am okay to fail in this area, to not produce results, to not succeed (monetarily) because I believe the Lord sees a different outcome than the world does. For example, my professor clearly showed us the "worlds" approach to higher education. He drilled into us the rules and regulations of tenure. Is this God's way? No, it is not. Even in Christian higher-education, this is not the Lord's will, but suffice it to say, many Christian schools still follow worldly processes and procedures. I understand that while the world may say "produce, produce, produce," God says "be still, my Child." I will not go by the way of the world, no matter how loud they chatter at me. I will listen to the still small voice of my Savior, so that in the end, I hear His words...

"Well done, my good and faithful servant."

Yes, Lord. I will accept your will today. I will go where you send me. I will do the work you have prepared for me to do. I will live where you tell me to live. And, in all things, I will surrender to your will, your way, and your Word. 

Dear Lord,

I confess to you that I have struggled with understanding my path, with all the challenges I face, and with the feelings that overwhelm me daily. I wonder often if I am doing the right thing because the world seems to say that I am off the mark, off the track, and heading in the wrong direction. Yet, I know you, and I know your voice. Thus, while I struggle to comprehend, I realize that what I am doing right now is part-and-parcel with your will for my life. I am doing the "thing" you have called me to do, and until you move me elsewhere, I will remain and I will choose to be content in all things. I ask now for further clarification so that I can rest in your way, and I can grasp the challenges that lay ahead for me. Prepare me for your work, Lord. Teach me your way, and show me how to go so that I walk in a manner worthy of your calling. Thank you for each challenge, each step that seems more difficult then the previous one, and for the days and months and years ahead where I will learn from you. May your way be done now in my life, and forever more. I love you, Lord. In you, I find my rest. Selah! Amen, so be it. Thy will be done.

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