July 7, 2015

Great is the Lord

Great is the Lord! And worthy of all our praise!

Today is a great day. I am celebrating the completion of my leadership class. This class ended on June 29, but I have been waiting on my final grade. I knew going into the last week that I had a solid "A", but I still needed a grade on my last paper (on Joyce Meyer), and a short presentation. I received those grades yesterday, and unless something changes, I should finish this class with 101%. I really enjoyed this class, which I guess, makes this grade all the better. I love all my courses and even though some require more work than others, I find completing them to be such sweet relief. This course required a lot of weekly work outside of the course readings. The papers were short, and a challenge for me because I tend to do well with longer papers where I can expound on my ideas. The content was interesting, and I feel that I learned so much through this course. I am far better prepared now to lead -- in any capacity -- than I was before, and I am more cognizant of my leadership style. In all, it was a good choice for a summer course (7-weeks was rushed, but still a good learning experience).

I still have several other assignments that need completing, but generally speaking, I feel good about the rest of my summer. I will need to spend some time devoting to class prep (for fall), and I will need to start thinking about my exam prep (for spring). Overall, I am confident that the Lord has these smaller details planned out, and that in time, He will draw my attention to them. For now, I am resting each day, enjoying the blessing of summer vacation, and finding that I am having no trouble passing the days. I spend most of my day keeping up with household chores, going to the store for my Mom, and working on the computer. I am also taking naps, when I feel the need, and that freedom is sweet for me. I have always had issues with leftover PTSD symptoms, especially sleep disruption, and that struggle coupled with Chronic Fatigue, has made me aware of my need for rest (physical). I know that during the school year, I am not able to rest during the day, so my holidays and breaks are used mostly for recovery. I think the Lord determined this path for me to help me in this way. I mean, what other job can you do where you get nice chunks of time off without having to take vacation or sick leave. No, I have come to understand the blessing of teaching, and while I struggle with it, I realize that it is a perfect fit for me in this regard. I may desire other work because of the way it challenges me intellectually, but I do comprehend that the "schedule" is what attracts me most to teaching. Yes, I need this schedule in particular. The Lord has been patient with me, despite the many times I have grumbled about the low pay and lack of challenge (intellectual). Through it all, the Lord has waited for me to come round to His way of thinking.

I have spent hours and hours writing about my teaching struggles, and the desire I have had to do "other work," other "more profitable" work. I have wanted to leave teaching to return to something more challenging to me. I knew that the 'schedule' was important, and at the core, it would be the 'schedule' that would drive me to this way of work. I left good prosperous work for this schedule, and I did it with full comprehension that it was to facilitate my studies at Regent. Somehow this made good sense to me, but after two years of the income drain, teacher overload, and general feelings of failure, I wanted to chuck it all in for a good steady paycheck and a regular 40-hour work week.

The Lord prevailed, and He did not relent. He didn't change His mind, even though I begged Him to do so. I promised, I pleaded, and I prayed without ceasing for the Lord to provide a different way for me. In all, He was steady, He was faithful, all without changing His plans.

The interesting thing is that once I agreed with Him, once I said "Yes, Lord. You are correct," I found that I stopped feeling so pressured and started to relax about this way. I didn't understand what He was doing or why, I assumed that His only interest was to provide me with a job, a means for earning income. This was lack of foresight on my part, especially considering that this job didn't pay well enough nor provided the security that would bring me steady comfort. How could this be, Lord? How could you provide a job that wasn't your best? Wasn't "good enough" for me?

In truth, adjunct teaching is not a good way to make a living. It is a struggle, and for many who do this kind of work, it serves its purpose because usually it is a part-time job only. Most of my colleagues who teach adjunct are either retired from full-time teaching or they are part-time teachers supplementing their husband's income. The rest are new to the field, young graduates who are trying to get into full-time positions. Like me, these younger teachers, struggle with the income, but most often they are used to living as "starving students," so they take it all in stride. Few have responsibilities of rent, utilities, etc. Most still live at home or have it good so that they can survive a while until a regular teaching job opens up.

My shortsightedness regarding this God-provided way centered on the following key points:
  1. I knew that I needed to gain experience teaching and that adjunct was the only way for me to satisfy that requirement
  2. I knew that until I graduated from Regent, part-time work was going to be the best "fit" for my studies, and that it would provide for me without overwhelming me with other duties
  3. I knew that I needed to learn how to teach, how to be comfortable with presenting information, not just to be a better educator, but to be ready for ministry (as the Lord leads)
  4. I knew that for now, while I lived in AZ with my parents, adjunct would provide me with the flexible schedule necessary to accommodate their needs (around the house, chores, food prep, etc.)
Thus, I agreed with the Lord that adjunct teaching was a good choice because of these four points. What I didn't grasp in its entirety was the fact that physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, the Lord was moving in my life to promote me, to prepare me, and to purpose me for a very special work. I didn't understand that to be made "ready" would require that have downtime, significant downtime, and that there would be no other work that would provide that to me. Yes, I needed time off, quite a bit of time off, and teaching was the only career short of being self-employed that would allow me the freedom to stay home, and to do so without feeling guilty for it. Let me explain...

I worked for many years from home. As a website designer, I spent 12 years working out of a home office. I designed 8-12 hours a day, and most of the time, I was not free to come and go as I pleased. In fact, I would say that I found the requirement of work to be so significant that anytime I needed to leave home, I was overcome with guilt. I came to resent the work, to feel chained to my desk, and to always need an 'excuse' to sleep in or rest mid-afternoon. Even when my body was tired or sick, I often pulled myself into the "office" to complete projects. The reason why was simple -- when you work for yourself -- you don't get paid until the job is done. This means you work round-the-clock, if that is what it takes, to complete the project and pick up the paycheck. You are at the mercy of clients who may or may not pay on time. You have little recourse unless you choose to hold their project hostage, and typically, that doesn't engender them to pay you sooner. I had one client refuse to finish the project within the normal 4-6 week timeline. This client took 22 months, and throughout the 22 months, they were a constant source of struggle to me. In the end, I never wanted to work from home, never wanted to be reliant upon clients for pay. No, I wanted a regular pay-check where I could depend on the income, budget and live comfortably so that I had boundaries on what I could and couldn't do each month (as in spending).

It is interesting really because my ex-husband has never stopped trying to encourage me to return to this line of work. No matter how many times I tell him that I am satisfied with teaching, he always assumes that I want the "money" and that I am willing to do contract jobs. He will text me or email me with "opportunities" as he calls them. I refuse for a number of reasons, mostly in that I do not want to work with him, pay him a "finders fee," and return to this path. Furthermore, and more importantly, that path is a path leading back to Sodom (figuratively speaking). I cannot look back, I cannot go back to where I once lived. No, I must go forward, and that means that I must follow the Lord to where He leads me now. 

All of this is to say that as I think about why the Lord has allowed me to teach, I must admit that I missed His big point, His major blessing due to my own unwillingness to see things His way. You see, while points 1-4 were all true and necessary components, the most important reason why the Lord chose this path for me was to give me rest, complete and sustained rest.  The Lord knows my needs, and while He understands how I struggle with income (the need and the want of it), He sees that my greater need is to rest -- physically, mentally and emotionally -- rest.

I have blogged about this before because it took me years to understand my needs well enough to articulate them. In communication study, one of the things we accept is that to comprehend something, one must be able to explain it or articulate it well enough so that another person can understand it as well. This is true with literacy studies, which is why teachers make students "tell back" what they have just learned. If they can tell you something well enough so you understand it, then you can assess them as comprehending a new idea, truth, or concept.

Thus, since I was a child my three core needs have been: security, provision, and rest. Of these three, my greatest and my pressing need is for security (or stability). My second greatest need is for protection (feeling safe and secure). And, my third greatest need is for rest (sleep, physical rest, downtime, relaxation, etc.). These three things work together, and they are so important to me, that if any one is missing, I am unable to rest (to physically recover). Thus, for me to rest, I must first feel secure in all things, and then I must feel safe and protected. The trauma I suffered as a child and teen reinforced these needs so significantly that I spent most of those formative years living without any sense of true peace.

As I think about these things, I have come to understand that my Father in Heaven has addressed my needs. He has provided me with everything I need for security, provision, and rest. My issue was with my lack of trust and faith in Him, and my stubborn refusal to see things His way. For example, while adjunct teaching doesn't look like a stable or secure (financially) job on the outside, it actually is a stepping stone toward what will be an incredibly secure job once I finish my PhD. Temporarily, it appears to be "less than best," when in reality, it fits the criteria of my need well. It will be (future) a good fit to provide stable income to me until I retire.

Likewise, my need for protection is an all-consuming need. I would say that my need for protection often surfaces more when I am stressed than when I am at rest. In moments of stress, I become overwhelmed, and I find that I lose my precious sleep because of other concerns. More so, I need to feel safe especially when I sleep -- this has been a major need ever since I was a child -- and even today, I will often not rest well because my sleep was disturbed by a sense of fear. The Lord is good to me, and He provides protection to me.  He comforts me when I lay down to sleep, and He helps me to rest deeply. The Lord knows that for me to really rest, however, I must have a measure of comfort so that I do not feel rushed, pressured, or guilty. I need permission to rest as odd as that may seem, but it is true and so very unfortunate. This permission to rest is something that was taken away from me during my former marriage, and it was a major point of contention between my ex-husband and myself. My ex-husband controlled my day and my night. It was something he did, and I do not know why, but it was something that he started doing before we even married. I should have known better, seen this control as a 'red flag,' but I thought only the best of him. I thought that he was trying to help me overcome some of the psychological issues I had back then, and his offer to help me "schedule" my life was seen as a good thing. I never realized that his hyper scheduling would result in years of suffering whereby I was denied basic rights to sleep, to rest, to relaxation. In the 26 years we lived together as man and wife, I never was able to rest fully -- neither at night or during the day -- because my ex controlled my daily schedule, my life. The after affects of living with a controlling spouse caused me to continue to regulate my days to such an extent that even after we separated, I would often ask the Lord for permission to rest. I mean, I would say "Lord, is it okay for me to take a nap right now?" This control over my minutes and days caused me, even after I moved out on my own, to second-guess how I felt each day. Was I really "sick enough" to stay at home? Was I really so tired that a rest was needed? Perhaps I could push through this exhaustion and find the strength to do my duty yet again.

As a side note, I was concerned about my parents reaction to my need to rest when I moved in with them. After all, my Mother forbade us to sleep in, and we were always made to get up early to do chores and other tasks. I often would sleep for 1-2 hours per night, and no matter how tired I appeared, my Mother would rap on my door and tell me to get out of bed, and that I was not to "waste the day away." This is one of the reasons why I have never made my son do this, even though I would prefer he choose a more normal schedule and not work through the night. But, I have given him freedom to sleep when he chooses, and that means that if he chooses to work from midnight to 6, and sleep from then on, so be it. My parents think I am letting him be lazy, but they do not hear him in the middle of the night. Often, I hear him playing drums or piano or guitar. I know he is composing music, and that this is when he is most active and engaged. I digress...

Rest, therefore, is paramount to my well-being. The Lord knows this, and for the past two years, it is the one constant thing I hear Him say to me in my spirit. I hear Him say to me, "Rest, Carol, rest." Sometimes, He is telling me to lay down and rest, to physically take a nap or go to bed early. Other times, He is telling me that I must let go and cease striving against Him. I must agree with Him on some matter, and that in doing so, I will find rest in the decision, in the path, in the way. Resting to me is the most important thing in my life, and I think the reason I struggle so with teaching, with the path the Lord has put me on, is because it seems to contradict with my desire to produce, to achieve, and to accomplish things. You see, part of me is driven to excel, and that part of me often directs my attention, my time, and my pursuits. Resting is counterproductive to my mind, and it says to me, that I am choosing to stop producing in favor of sleep. Producing is what I do best, and it is what motivates me, invigorates me, and challenges me most. Yet, I cannot produce without adequate rest, and the more I produce, the more I must rest to recover. Work and rest are twin sons, and often, they go hand in hand with one another. We get into trouble when we pay more attention to the one and forsake the other. In my case, I must never forsake rest because of my physical and emotional needs. The Lord has healed me greatly over the course of the past five-six years. I am in far better condition than I have ever been, and many people see me as this extremely capable person, as someone who can produce a lot of work. While I can produce a lot of work, there is always a cost associated with it, and this cost can be life-threatening to me. Thus, I must listen carefully to the Lord, and I must obey Him when He says I need to rest -- either physically or in other ways.

Today, I have come to the understanding that the path the Lord has chosen for me is the only one that will provide a way for me to rest, really rest. So while I may struggle a bit now, I must remember that in time, this job (teaching) will provide a good solution to all my needs. It will give me stability of income, safety in the sense that I will not fear the work I do, and plenty of rest through the downtime that comes each year in holidays, days off, and summer vacation. Yes, God is so very good to me. He is so very good to me.

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