July 14, 2015

Making Choices

It is a blessed day here in hot and sunny Phoenix. Yes, it seems our Monsoon has fizzled out, and the hot and dry summer pattern has returned to the desert. It is early on in our wet season, but still, it seems odd that we are not seeing more summer storms pop up in the afternoons. The weather forecasters predicted that this summer would be wetter than usual, but it seems that they were wrong on all accounts. Instead of our wet and soggy midsummer days, we are experiencing more of our typical May/June days -- days dominated by bright sunshine and very hot temperatures. Good news, though...our next chance for storms is Saturday...so here's praying we get some relief...soon!!

Decisions, decisions, decisions...

I am sitting here this morning and thinking about the process I use to make decisions. I am typing on my PC (Windows 8.1) rather than on my Mac Mini (OS 10.8). I have two computers that share my HP 2511x Monitor, and I vacillate between using them semi-weekly (so it seems). I am not sure why I do this, why I get frustrated using one computer and feel the need to switch to the other, but I do it often. Today, when I sat down to start my day, I asked the Lord about this "feeling" I get when I NEED to make a change to my routine or to the way I do something. I was feeling this burning "itch" to switch computers, so I did. I wonder if the reason why I do this has more to do with the way my brain is wired than with any dissatisfaction in my computer or with the "things" in my life. Hmmm...

So today is Tuesday, and this blog post has been in process since Sunday, I think. I just haven't had the will or the desire to write, and that is something different for sure. Normally, I wake up, move through my morning routine, and then sit down and write a blog post. I spend about 45-60 minutes each day writing, and typically, I can write a fairly significant post (about 3-5 pages) in that time. However, lately, my mind has been wandering, and I have been struggling to focus. I have some papers due this week, and I have not been able to concentrate on them. What's more frustrating is that I have been feeling so off, not just this past week, but for the past couple weeks. I am not sure what is causing these feelings, but as a result of the way I feel, I have had to work extra hard just to pull myself up and out of the funk I am in. Oh, Lord, please help me to focus and to get my work done this week!

I have blogged about decision-making before, and in my case, I normally am quite decisive about things. For example, I can make a decision fairly quickly, and for the most part, feel confident that the choice I made was a good one. Lately, however, I have struggled with the confidence part, with feeling like the choice I made was good. It is not that I have suffered negative repercussions, it is just that I have been second-guessing myself more than normal. This is worrisome because it means that perhaps I have made a wrong choice, followed faulty logic, or listened to ill-advice from a friend or family member. I am not sure; I just know that I feel like lately I have been put under the microscope and that I have felt like the pressure is ramping up in intensity. It is like sitting under the hot light of the inquisition -- you know -- when you feel like the eyes of the world are on you and every move you make is being watched. This is how I feel, well, how I have been feeling these past few weeks. Frankly, I am worn out, and I don't like being overly analyzed or scrutinized. Sigh!

Some Decisions I Question

I guess the best way to push through this mental quagmire is to analyze what is going on to see if I can discover the "root cause" of all the fuss. I have my students conduct root cause analysis of major events in order to understand what it means when we assign a first cause or establish correlation. I want them to see that "correlation does not always equal causation." Sometimes we think events are related because they occurred simultaneously or close in sequence. On closer examination, we find that they are not related at all. I digress...

Some decisions I have made recently are under scrutiny (by myself and others). I wonder why this is so, but to figure out or to put them to rest, I need to review them in detail. This process of review helps me to see where I may be off the mark or where I am taking a wrong tack, so to speak. Thus, here is my list of recent decisions for review and analysis...

  • Fall courses at Regent (Theology, Philosophy and Doctoral Pedagogy)
  • Fall teaching schedule at ACU (Communications 203)
  • Relocating for a full-time teaching position (still not sure of the time line)
  • Plans for fall/spring (trip to Regent for Quals as well as a trip East to see my friend or my family in Florida or both)
Fall Course Load

I am down to my last three classes at Regent University. Truthfully, I only need two of the three classes, but I worried about credits (I need 6 to be full-time) and my scholarship (full-time=full scholarship) so I added the Philosophy course to bump me over my required 44 credits (I will have 47 by December). The truth is that I have wanted to take Philosophy since I started at Regent. It used to be a required course, but then the program changed and made it a recommended elective. Philosophy is a personal choice, an interest area for me, but I knew that it would be a challenging course no matter when or if I took it. The new Associate Dean is teaching a section of the class, and I liked his book choices, so I asked the Lord if I could take this class. Not really thinking things through well, I felt like He said "yes," so I added it to my schedule. The combination of Theology and Philosophy is what worries me most. Theology has 13 books and a short paper due each week. Philosophy will be interesting, less reading, but this professor is a tough grader, so I am assuming the work will be challenging for me. Part of me wants to drop the class, and stick with 5 credits rather than 8. I would feel so more confident in taking 6 credits (I would have to make some changes to my pedagogy class, bumping it from 2 credits to 3, but I think I can do that still). The main issues I face are time and the ability to complete all the assignments and course requirements. Can I do this heavy a schedule and work full-time? I am not sure I can.

Teaching at ACU

Each fall, I am offered a contract to teach one communications course at ACU. I really do not like teaching over there because of the way they do things (just administratively), but I am thankful for the work, the money, and the opportunity to teach in my field. I said yes to this contract before I made the decision to take Philosophy at Regent. I really do not want to teach this course, but I hate to turn down $2400, which is money I need, in order to lighten my load. I have three courses set at GCU, all on MWF, and in truth, I would prefer to teach 3 days a week. This would have made my schedule so much better, so more manageable. But, I am contracted to the school, and I know that there isn't anyone else to teach this class.

Full-Time Teaching and Relocation

It seems my desire to move from AZ is on hold for now. I think about this, wonder about it, and stress over it a little bit, but I know there is nothing I can do to change my situation. At the least, not now or anytime soon. The Lord has seen fit to keep me where I am, and while I am content in this (am I content?), I do wonder about it. I mean, He has been pushing me, prodding me, and promising me a life elsewhere for almost 10 years now. It seems I am closer to moving, to really "going" where He is leading me than ever before, and just when I am ready or I think I am ready, the brakes halt, and I am asked to wait, to stand down, to be still. Ugh! I know the Lord has all this in His hand, and He has all the details worked out, but still I wonder about it. I mean, am I to go or not?

Some Visiting Back East

I have to fly to VA Beach in March (or thereabouts) for my exams. I already know this, and I will plan on taking this trip to the east coast as soon as I get my exam date this fall. I really, really, really want to take a trip to visit my friend in the South, but I worry about whether this would be problematic. I know he has work to think about, his family, and other commitments, so my going there to visit could be complicated. Then there is my Uncle in FL, who would like me to come again to see my Aunt in the nursing home. I wanted to do this on my way home from Regent this summer, but money and time didn't work out, so I ended up flying to Regent and back without any side trips at all. I find that I cannot do what I want to do (come and go as I please) because of a lack of funds and that bothers me greatly. I know that my life right now is in transition, in flux, and that I have a lot on my plate what with school, work, my Mom's health, etc. Still, part of me wants to be selfish and just be able to go -- to visit and to enjoy the blessed gift the Lord has given to me. Yet, because of my situation, I must wait. I must wait until He provides, I must wait until He says "go" and then releases me to go.

How do I make sense of it all, of all the goings and stayings and the waitings in between. How do I rest in between all the flux?

I know the Lord has a good plan in mind for me. I know the Lord has certain things for me to do, ministry wise, and I know that my work at Regent is significant. The Lord knows what He is doing, and I know that I must trust Him completely. I cannot try to figure things out on my own, and I must rest in His sufficiency. He is good, always good, and the plans He has for my life are good.

Analysis

Perhaps the problem is me. Perhaps it boils down to my way or His way, and the desire I have for doing things my way is causing me to lose my contentment. Yes, more than likely this is the case. I want my way, and even though I say to Him, "Lord, I want your way," He knows this is not the case. So let's just put it out there and see what comes of it...
  • I want to take Philosophy because of the course content, the intellectual challenge and stimulation. Furthermore, I believe that Philosophy will prepare me for Quals, and in conjunction with my review of history and the readings in theology, this course will give me an edge for passing these difficult sections of the exam. Note: I believe this is the Lord's will.
  • I want to teach at GCU because I like teaching English more than I like teaching Communication. This is true regardless -- I prefer teaching English composition and literature courses to teaching any other discipline. I don't care for the way ACU does things, and I don't really like this class content (the book, the focus, the way it is designed). Thus, the idea of teaching it is not appealing to me, and coupled with the fact that the class is offered on TR this fall, really makes it unpleasant. I don't want to teach 5 days a week, plan and simple. Note: I know this is the Lord's will for me.
  • I want to move from AZ, but not until everything is settled here. My son is changing schools this fall, and will be at ACU for at least 3 semesters. My parents are not able to live on their own due to their financial situation so they need me to share the cost of living in this home. However, they could live elsewhere on their own, but they are unwilling to move. I want a full-time teaching position so that I don't have to take contracts from semester to semester. Furthermore, I want benefits so I can go to the dentist, the doctor, etc. I want to be settled in my life, to have a plan that is no longer in flux, in transition, and where I can begin to plan for my future (like 1, 3, and 5 years down the road).
  • I want to meet my friend in person, to see him face-to-face because I think it is time to do so. I know this is what he wants as well (I think it is so), but due to my limitations (work, school, money, etc.), it makes it difficult to do that without some major maneuvering of the schedule. Sigh. Note: I believe this is the Lord's will for me.
So my wants are hitting up against the Lord's will for my life, and while I do think there is overlap here, in that these wants do not fall outside the Lord's will, the problem seems to be one of timing and resource/provision. Yes, I think the root cause of all my anxiety, worry, stress, and mental jockeying is plain old fashioned IMPATIENCE. I want these things, and I want them now, rather than in the Lord's timing and with the Lord's provision. Sigh.

So what do I do? How do I move past this place of discontent and return to the place of joyful and expectant waiting?

Simple. I let go of my wants, and I embrace the Lord's wants for my life. 

This means that for me today, I rest in the following choices, the following decisions, knowing that the timing, the provision, and the outcome are securely in His hand of grace. Thus, with this in mind, I make these pronouncements today...
  • I will take this heavy course load in the fall, and I will pass these courses with excellence just like I have done so in all the prior classes. I will trust the Lord to do miraculous work through me, to engage me, and to write scholarship that will be well-received. I let go of the fear knowing that I cannot do this work. This is the Lord's work, and He will show up to do it for His name, His praise, and His honor. Selah!
  • I will rest in the Lord's provision for my teaching schedule this fall. Right now, I have four classes to teach, three of which are at GCU. I will trust the Lord to work out the details of my schedule, to facilitate my days and my weeks, and in the end, He will provide for me. I will let go the worry about money, about making enough, and instead, I take what He gives to me as "manna" designed to supply my daily needs. I need nothing more than His provision, and therefore, I will stop looking to the job, the contract, the assignment, and instead I will rest in what He has graciously provided to me. It is enough because He says it is enough. Selah!
  • I will move when the time is right. I do believe that it is the Lord's will for me to move from AZ, but the timing of the move is in His hand alone. I have said I am willing to go anywhere He leads me, and that I am trusting He will provide the call, the job, the home, etc. I believe this is the case, and while I get frustrated at the lack of motion, I know that the Lord has all these details in process. I must be patient, therefore, I will wait for Him to release me, I will wait for the details to unfold, and for each step in the process to come to pass. I cannot jump ahead of the process, but I must allow the timing to be as He decides and determines it to be so. I will wait, I will patiently wait. Selah!
  • I will let go my desire to travel east, for now, knowing that the Lord is well aware of His intentions regarding my relationship, my exams, and my desire to see family. The Lord knows me, and He knows what I long for relationship-wise, but ultimately, it is the fact that He knows what is best as far as all these details are concerned. Thus, rather than impatiently waiting and feeling helpless, I will choose to rest in His knowledge, and I will trust that He will make all things work out in the most delightful way. I must be patient, and while this is difficult at times, I know I can be patient because I want His best in every area of my life. I want what is best for me, for my friend, for my family, and for all those I love. Selah!
When it comes down to it, the reason I feel so discontent is because what I want now cannot be. I want my life to be "fixed," to be reset, so that I can live comfortably instead of always feeling like I am behind the "eight ball." Yes, I want my life to be magically imagined -- PhD in hand, teaching position at a lovely eastern school, new home, new love, new way in everything. Yes, I want everything to be perfected, to be made new, and while that is a fantasy for sure, it is a desire of my heart, nonetheless. I guess what it comes down to is this: my life has been difficult for so long, and the Lord has provided such blessing, abundance, hope, joy, and contentment to me. He has shown me the way to go, and He has given me His grace to accomplish mighty and wonderful things. I have gotten used to His way, to His provision, to His goodness. The rubber is meeting the road, and the path I am on, while straight and narrow, is not easy. Nope, I walk on a hard path, I travel a long way, and I carry a heavy burden. I am weary as I walk on, and I think that this is the root of the problem, the root of my discontentment. It is simply a matter of fact, a truth of Scripture, for we read...

I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you] (John 16:33 AMP).

and again,

Consider it wholly joyful, my brethren, whenever you are enveloped in or encounter trials of any sort or fall into various temptations. Be assured and understand that the trial and proving of your faith bring out endurance and steadfastness and patience. But let endurance and steadfastness and patience have full play and do a thorough work, so that you may be [people] perfectly and fully developed [with no defects], lacking in nothing (James 1:2-4 AMP).

Yes, I am in the middle of a long journey, and I am tired, I am weary, and I am discontent with my lot in life. The Word reminds me that this is "normal" for those that follow Jesus Christ. Life is not always filled with sweetness and light and honey -- no -- the life of the believer is difficult, challenging, and at times, discouraging. Yet, we are promised the blessed Savior, and we know that no matter what we endure, He will always be with us, even unto the end of the age.

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand (Isaiah 41:10 NLT).


Dear Lord,

Thank you for your promised help. Thank you for being patient with me even when I am so impatient with you. Thank you for providing my needs, "manna" for each day. May I be truly thankful for the gift of grace, your daily provision that meets all my needs, and keeps me in your tender mercy and care. May I release my discontentment today, realizing that what I am feeling is simply a matter of weariness in the long journey home. I have a long way to go, but you have promised me that you will be with me, so I can carry on. I ask now that you will remove anything from my life that is causing me to lose focus. Help me to do the work you ask of me, and to do it with cheerfulness and sobriety. I ask now, Lord, that you will show me the way to go, and that this day, you will do the work in me that needs to be completed. May everything I do be a reflection of your glory. May every word, every relationship, every moment of my day be surrendered to your purpose, your plan, and your promised path so that I can see your glory, see your praise, and see your excellent goodness in every detail of my life. I ask this now in the matchless, merciful, and most majestic Name of Jesus, my King, my Lord, and my Savior, Amen. So be it, thy will be done. Selah!

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