October 31, 2015

Getting Ready to Go

It is a good Saturday, and I am blessed, so very blessed. I had a semi-decent night last night. I went to bed early, around 9:30 p.m., and even though I didn't sleep soundly or sleep in (my hope), I feel pretty well rested this morning. I got up, did my normal routine which includes cleaning the litter box and making my first cup of coffee (love my Keurig!), before heading back into my office to settle down to write. It is now 9:00 a.m. and I am sitting here at the computer -- thinking -- about all that I have to do today. In truth, I am in good shape. I need to finish my critical review of Flannery O'Connor's book, "Mystery and Manners," and then make some needed progress on my annotated bibliography for my theology paper. I feel a bit stressed about the latter, but I am going to work on some power posing right before I sit down to tackle that job later this afternoon.

It is October 31, 2015, and that means it is Halloween. I am not sure how I feel about Halloween anymore. I used to enjoy it a lot. I never got into the scary side of the festivities like some people, well most people, do. I enjoyed the pumpkin carving and treat-or-treating part, but not the emphasis on ghouls and demonic iconography. It seems that the holiday has become more and more about the evilness of imagination than about celebrating a day to dress up and have fun.

More and more, my heart and mind is considering my relationship to these events, and whether my participation in them is sending the wrong message regarding my faith in God. You see, as a communications scholar, I have come to learn all about the message we transmit to others. Furthermore, I have come to think a lot about how we communicate our message, and how the process of communication matters -- really matters -- because our process influences the way others respond to our message. And, that folks, is significant especially when you consider that as Christians we carry the most awesome message in the world -- the message of life and death -- and in our process of communicating that message, and how others respond to it, is critically important.

When I think about why I am studying communication, sometimes I just scratch my head. I mean, this is not my field. I am an English person who likes to play with communication theory and scholarship (yes!) In fact, when I think about how this all came to pass, how I ended up in this field, I would say that my initial desire, the one I first had way back in undergraduate school, centered on messaging, and it was all about transmitting information (scholarly) and interpreting meaning through the process. Yes, I wanted to know about meaning, know how we know things, and then know how we communicate or understand what it is we say we know. I didn't really understand communication as a field when I first started my graduated program, but I do know, well I know it better than I did previously. I am no expert, mind you, but I do know a thing or two about communication. As I think about all that I have studied, I am trying to put it into perspective, to create a framework from which I can build theory, understand how things go together, fit really, and then how I can argue cogently (my favorite word) on various topics. I never thought I would end up in the rhetoric end of communication nor did I believe that my interest would be in argumentation, yet here I sit, squarely positioned within both camps of the English and Communication fields.

The Lord has done this to me. I mean, He has set about a plan to take what was a minor interest of mine, rhetoric, and align it with a major interest of His, apologetics. I don't identity as an apologist at all, but rather, I simply find the whole apologetics movement fascinating. My good friend desires to be an apologist. He is very, very good at apologetics, and he runs rings around me when it comes to debates on faith and reason, evolution and creation, and so forth. He just "knows" the details, the data, and with that, the Lord has gifted him to present a very rational explanation for why he believes what he believes. I admire him in that this is what he does well. He seems to do it effortlessly, and I love it when he gets to defending his faith because I find his process and delivery so interesting and engaging. Now, that I am almost finished with my doctoral coursework, there is part of me that wonders what as well as how the Lord intends to use all this knowledge. In my case, I don't think I have a lot of knowledge because I barely care remember anything I have learned. I know that I have learned quite a bit, but I don't learn facts and figures like most people do, I learn "impressions," and impressions are different to classify.

For me, impressions last, they linger, and I draw inference from them. It is how my brain works, and as such, I remember how I feel more so than particular facts or data. These feelings often are tied to my senses, so I recall seeing or hearing things as part of the whole process. I see things in their entirety, and that means, that my brain takes snapshots of the experience, and then with that snapshot, my sensation at the time is linked. I guess this is why I can remember dreams so well. I will get images that come back to me, and these images are pictures from dreams I may have had 10-20-30 or even 40 years ago. I remember those images, and I can remember where I was when I imagined it, and how I felt about it at the time.

I guess this is why as a visual learner, I need to "see" things in order to remember them. I don't do well with audition (hearing), and I don't do well with lists, even though technically a list is a visual aid. I prefer pictures, charts, and other "wholes" that give me plenty to study. In doing so, I capture bits and pieces, parts, and then even though I may not remember the whole picture, I can remember enough to reconstruct it. My ability to reconstruct information that is stored is keen. I have always been able to do this, and I have come to rely on my ability throughout my life. I find now that it is harder for me to do, but I think it is a factor with age, but also it is partly because of the way information is taught at my level in education. Learning comes through reading, almost exclusively, and while I am a good reader, I don't enjoy reading. This is my least favorite mode of information gathering. I would much prefer to study imagery, to visually analyze it, and to create a picture analysis. I can't always do that, but I prefer to whenever I can.

Today, I am thinking about my study plans for my final exams. I need to get moving on these plans soon, since the days are slowly ticking away. I know I will be fine, and I know what to do, it is just more about finding time to do it. God has such a good plan for my life, and I know that part of that plan includes passing my final exams and completing my dissertation research. He knows me, and He understand me, and He has this all figured out (what a relief!)

As I move forward today, several things are on my mind:
  1. Completing this semester - finishing my last course, Theology, and turning in all my assignments on time (and with best effort)
  2. Studying for my final exams - getting started and then putting a routine in place to ensure I am ready for February 11-12, 2016
  3. Continuing to pray over my final destination, my choice for work (teaching), and the plans the Lord has for moving me from AZ closer to where my love lives (AL) as well as where the Lord intends to plant me for life, work, and ministry
  4. The on-going care of my Mom, which is becoming more clearly an issue (her dementia) and the plans for how to move them (either with me or into some other place long-term)
  5. My son's continued support while he finishes his BS degree in Music and begins whatever plans the Lord has for his life
  6. Closing out my life in AZ, finishing up everything that needs to be finished, so I can move without any regret or apprehension to this new wonderful place
  7. What the Lord intends to do with me once I finish my PhD, and whether He will give me time to rest before He sends me through to another type degree program
I am ready to get moving, for sure, but until some of these things are completed, I know I must remain focused, steady, and be disciplined. I must do this, I must remain firmly fixed, and in control of all that the Lord has given to me. I know I can do it, I know I can, it is just that with so many heavy details looming over me, I sometimes find that I feel overwhelmed by the process, the actual "doing" part.

So today is good. It is good because the Lord has made it so. I love the Lord, and I love the plans the Lord has for my life. I struggle at times, but today, I am choosing to be bold, to be confident, and to trust the Lord for His mercy and grace. He will do it, He will see me through it, and in the end, He will receive all praise and honor. I desire nothing but His approval. I desire that He receive the praise, the honor, and all attribution. I desire His grace so that He may be glorified, but I know that in the end, whatever comes to pass, must be submitted, yielded, and placed at His feet. He alone is worthy to be praised. He alone is worthy of our worship. May the Lord be praised this good day, and may the work I do bring Him honor and glory. Amen, so be it, thy will be done!

October 30, 2015

It is Done!

It is Friday, and my week as drawn to a close. Yes, Week 10/11 has all but finished. I have two more classes to lead this afternoon, and then I will be off for the weekend. I am so blessed to have finished strong! I mean, I have accomplished what I set out to accomplish this week, and as a result, I have finished everything (well, almost everything).

Today, I showed Amy Cuddy's TED Talk to my COM 100 students. Amy Cuddy is a social psychologist and instructor at Harvard Business School, and her TED Talk from 2012 is an inspirational and motivational speech that highlights her social science research, but also encourages the "fake it until you make it" or as she likes to say, "fake it until you become it" approach to overcoming challenges and obstacles in life. Her life story is shared briefly in this 20 minute presentation, and she shares how she lost her identity when she suffered a traumatic brain injury after a serious car crash when she was 19 years old. It took a great deal of hard work and effort for her to recover, and she was told by many people, that she would never be able to return to college, graduate or do anything that she had planned and hope to do prior to her accident. In a moment, her life was changed, and she lost the thing that matter most to her, which was her intelligence. She didn't give up, and while her story is not one of faith in God, but rather faith her own will, her story is still an inspiration for many who struggle with lack of confidence or self-esteem issues.

I chose to show this TED Talk because my students are studying public speaking and will be asked to give a speech to the class via video. Although they will not have to do this in public, per se, they will still feel that sense of insecurity and anxiety that accompanies public speaking. Most people consider their fear of public speaking to be second only to their fear of death. Cuddy speech provides her research study, but also highlights what she (and the media) have called "power posing," or body language that seems to be able to shape the way we feel about our selves as well as how others see us.

I watched Cuddy's speech on Sunday, and I have to tell you that I was moved by her personal story. As far as the science is concerned, I do agree with what she is saying. I have witnessed this effect before in my own life, and I have found that there is some truth to her findings. Does power posing work in every instance? No, not really. But it can have an effect on the way we view ourselves, and it can help us overcome anxiety and panic attacks that lead to stress-related performance issues. I know that I have used "power thinking" before interviews or important meetings, and I have noticed I am much more calm and in control than when I don't practice it. Power posing is similar. It is postering, or taking a stance that creates a hormonal increase in the dominance hormone (testosterone). Cuddy's study found that as testosterone increases in power leaders, the stress hormone, cortisol, decreases. This makes powerful leaders confidence without being prone to stress or anxiety. It doesn't mean that they are not prone to stress like the rest of us, but it simply states that they control the stress better than the rest of us.

Today my students were shown how to pose before they take an important exam, and how that posing might help them overcome stressful situations. I encouraged them to try posing as we head into the final weeks of the semester, just to see, if they noticed any difference. Will they feel more powerful, more confident, more in control? Or will they feel the same, powerless, unable to perform well? I don't know the outcome, but I am curious about it.

For my own part, I have been practicing posing this week, and I have to say that I feel better, in general, about everything I am going through right now. My life circumstances and the events that are most stressful to me have not changed, but my attitude toward them has changed. This change has brought about a new level of confidence in my abilities, and a deeper appreciation for how reliant I am on self-confirming messages. In communication study, we look at how the messages we speak to ourselves and others are either confirming or disconfirming in their content. A confirming message sends a signal of approval, acceptance, and affirmation. While a disconfirming message sends the opposite intent. Our internal messaging system is part of our self-esteem and concept, and how we see ourselves influences greatly how others see and respond to us. It is not just about being confident on the outside, but rather it is about feeling confident on this inside. We need to start thinking with confidence, and then we will find that our feelings and our attitudes change to align with that thinking. We know from years of research and study, that when we put ourselves down, talk critically about ourselves, we feel depressed, and we begin to believe what we think.

Cuddy says that our beliefs are partly shaped by what we think and feel about ourselves, and I agree. Our worldview, how we frame our world, is predicated on our belief system. Our external world and what we believe about it is formed from our internalization of truth, how we see truth, and how we respond to truth. Thus, when we accept our beliefs as being true, we validate who we are and why we exist. In this way, our thought processes stem from this view, and if our view is negative and self-deprecating, then we tend to exude this same sense of negativism. Conversely, if we are positive because our view is hopeful, we will present an optimistic approach to life.

As Christian's our identity at its core is shaped by our relationship to Christ Jesus. As such, our belief system is predicated on His valuation of us (He died for us even though we were not worthy to be saved because of our sin). Thus, our valuation and worth stem directly from His approval of us. The problem for many Christians is that they do not believe they are worth anything at all. Too many years of hearing the Gospel presented not from love but from sin has made a mark that is difficult to erase. Yes, we were sinful, fallen creatures, but we must always remember that it was God's great love that motivated Him to save us.

Lately, I have been convicted to share God's love with my students in different ways. I encourage and confirm them for sure, but I have also been working toward building confidence in them. I am not sure why the Lord has placed this on my heart, this specific thing, other than I believe it is so important and necessary for young people to feel validated, affirmed and encouraged. Yes, they need to know that God has a plan for their lives, but it is more about sending them into the world with confidence, assurance, and the ability to live out their faith against the increasing harshness of a world bent on destroying everything God-centered and Christ-focused.

As a teacher at a Christian college, I have a responsibility to help my students learn the subject matter I teach. But as a Christian, I also have the responsibility to help them discover God's purpose for their life, and then build them up so that they can imagine the possibilities that come with knowing God intimately, personally, and in ever-increasing measure. All of this will help equip them to live vital lives as contributing members of society, but will also help them to see that they have an important role to play in the transformation of culture. Though this world is dying from the effects of sin, and we know that Jesus' return is imminent, until He returns we are supposed to be about the business of making our world a better place for all people. This means that we must be active on two fronts -- one is reaching the lost, those who need to hear the message of Salvation -- but we must also be about the business of making our world a better place for those who are suffering physically. The Lord calls us to care for the poor, the orphan and the widow, and to do that, we must be aware of the social justice needs as well as the practical needs affecting many individuals and families in our world today. Christians carry the light of Christ with them wherever they go and it is time we start living out what we believe, doing what is right and honorable, and seeking to make a difference in the world around us. It is not about hitting people who don't believe as we do with the Word of God, but rather it is loving them with the Word of God, and in doing so, showing them a better way to live. Unfortunately, many Christians are just as disagreeable as their non-Christian counterparts, and as such, there is practically no difference at all.

I want to be apart of the slim minority that is seeking to make a difference in the world, to be active when the Lord returns, and to be doing something good every day, every day that God gives me breath and life to do good. I know this may seem Pollyanna-ish and perhaps it is. It is just that I know there are two choices: do nothing and continue to suffer the effects of a world that is dead and sinful or do something and try to make a difference, to make a little light shine and bring hope where there is only darkness. To me, a little light and hope is far better than sitting in the darkness and feeling depressed, dejected, and demoralized. I choose life, just as Joshua said. I choose to live my life fully, completely, and wholly as He leads and guides me.

So today, as I sit here and think about my life, all I can say is that I am determined to finish strong. I want to finish my semester at Regent well. I want to close my classes out this next month with a good feeling that I made a difference in my student's lives. I want to go into the new year with hopeful optimism and with a fresh perspective that says "I can do this!" I hope and I pray for the Lord's wisdom as I make the necessary changes in my life, as I consider what must be done today and what can be put off until tomorrow. For now, I am content. For now, I am happy. I trust the Lord, and I am looking UP, looking to Him as He leads me onward into the great big unknown of my future.

October 29, 2015

Rethinking the Past and Moving Forward

It is hard to believe that it was 20 years ago when we were first introduced to Buzz, Woody, and the gang. Yep, on November 22, 1995, right at Thanksgiving, Pixar Animation Studios and Disney brought us "Toy Story." My son was only 2 at the time, so I went to see the movie with my nieces and nephews who were grade school age. Still, over time, my son wanted a Woody doll, and then asked for a Buzz Lightyear doll. In fact, it was Buzz who flew through our Scottsdale, AZ condo window after we had just moved into it (in November of 1996). Sigh! It seems like a life-time ago, yet the catchy phrase that Buzz uttered still lingers in my memory. "To infinity and beyond!" he would shout, and while that saying makes no sense at all (it was intended to be a joke), still whenever I think about my future, I want to shout it out as well. In truth, I am going beyond infinity -- my eternal resting place -- is clearly somewhere beyond the finite, and Scripture tells us that it will last forever (with no end in sight, hence "infinity").

I sit here today, sipping my coffee and getting myself ready to tackle the day. I had a small class this morning, only 11 of my 19 students came, which is odd since at ACU student attendance is tracked (the short of it -- they know better than to miss class). I did my best to present my lesson on intercultural communication, and as is usual, my efforts were met with blank stares and noses into laptops and phones. It really bothers me, but I try very hard to let this go mostly because I know that this is a symptom of the youth culture of today. Just like my generation was into disco and roller skating (and wearing clingy shirts and platform shoes) and the previous one wore bell bottom jeans and tye-dyed shirts -- our customs, language, and behavioral norms are represented by the social, ethnic, and age cultural groups we form. Yes, I teach Communication, so we study this sort of thing.

Nonetheless, there is a part of me that takes offense at it. I have talked with my students at GCU, and recently, I have noticed a big difference in their attitude in class. I didn't preach a sermon or anything, it just came up naturally in our curriculum. I stressed how I feel as a public speaker when my audience checks out -- what that signal says to me -- and how I react to it. They will be speaking in public soon (in my class and in others), and so it was a perfect opportunity to pull them into the "see how it feels" game. Since that time, my students regularly look at me, and they also show interest by taking notes. I have tried similarly with my ACU students, but something there isn't gelling (jelling) and so I always leave a little let down. Yet, I know, this too shall pass, so I let it go, I let it ride.

To Infinity and Beyond!

I titled this post "Rethinking the Past and Moving Forward" because I feel like I am at the cross roads right now, I am squarely positioned between the past and the future, and in this present space, I am able to look backward and forward, all without making any strides. In this way, I am able to see the past, almost as if I am looking down a country road, watching it as it gently curves out of view. The future looks similar as I strain my neck forward to see beyond the distant hills. I cannot see, of course, but still I try to catch a glimpse of the future, and in doing so, I hope to gain a sense of what "might be" someday.

Today, as I walked out of Walmart (after class shopping trip), I was talking with the Lord. I have blogged about the two paths I have before me, one keeps me firmly in teaching and the other leads me back into communications in business. The teaching path is clearly unknown because after April 2016, I don't know what will be at all. I have work contracted through April, and then comes that long hot and very dry (economically speaking) summer with no work and no income. I also will be ABD and a doctoral candidate so my tuition costs are covered by Regent. This is GREAT news but it simply means that I will not have financial aid funds to live on -- to get me through the summer with some ease. Furthermore, my plan is to finish my dissertation and present it in October, so after that time, I will be done, graduated, and finished.

I can certainly stay put at GCU, and I could potentially pick up extra courses at ACU, but that seems highly unlikely for me at this point in time. So my efforts have been to look elsewhere, to look for full-time positions at schools nearby as well as far away. Even with a perfect case CV, I doubt seriously I will be hired. It will be 100% a God-thing to find a full-time teaching position. Why? Well, because of the nature of the business, the competition for faculty jobs, and my lack of experience (teaching, publication, presenting, etc.) Yes, the path that leads further into teaching has many holes in it. My faith in God says that it is a good path, and that it is the place He wants me to be. I don't see any support, any provision outside of that miracle, but then I don't have to see it. That is what FAITH is all about -- resting, trusting, abiding -- believing that God will meet and supply all my needs.

If I choose the other way, the other path, then I see a number of job opportunities. Some of these I have already applied for and I am waiting to hear back, yea or nay (on next steps). There is uncertainty in this path too, mostly in that I have to find a job and get hired. Same issues, but not as difficult because I do have experience, oodles of it, and I am willing to do just about any job so long as the pay is good. I believe that if the Lord wants me to consider this path, then He will open that door, and make it obvious to me. However, so far, I haven't seen any movement toward confirmation that way. I have seen confirmation in my being needed as a teacher, and in my performance as a teacher, but not as far as the other path is concerned.

Vision and Clarity

So here I stand once again, looking backward and forward, but feeling as though I must stand still for a time. I cannot move forward until I know which path to take, and then I must start waking on it before I will see any change, any improvement in my situation. Thus, I consider these paths carefully, and I still feel this sense of uncertainty and a lack of comfort. It is more so that I feel a lack of peace either way, almost as if the path is not important, but rather the choice of "which" path is what matters.

In my effort to find vision and clarity, I have labeled path 1 as the path of faith and path 2 as the path of work. I am not sure why I see these two roads this way, but so be it. Both are "work," as in jobs that require performance, have expectations, and pay a wage. It is just that path 1, teaching, requires far more faith than path 2, business. Thus, I see path 1 as the more difficult, more challenging path simply because I must rely on the Lord 100% for everything that I do. Path 2 is the easier way, clearly it is easier, and it is more viable in the sense that there are a number of positions I am qualified to do. The fact that I could find good practical work on this path is clearly more obvious as is the salary/benefits aspect and the opportunities for advancement. Path 2 is the better way, it appears better from the outset and while I don't know what is around that bend, I can see the way clearly, and I can determine a possible outcome by following it.

So how do you choose which way to go? If you had to make a choice between two paths, which would you choose?

I made a decision earlier in the week and I chose to follow path 2, the easier and more clearly define path. I then experienced a huge sense of relief as if the burden was lifted and I was set free to begin to move in that direction. It wasn't but one day later when I started to receive confirmation from my students that made me reconsider whether path 1 was the better choice. Better, not in material provision, but in spiritual provision, in using my gifts and talents, and in exercising my faith in God. So in natural fashion, I made the decision to stay on path 1 and wait it out, to take the break offered to me (at Christmas), and to teach the low semester so I could focus on my exams and dissertation. There is no way to know what will be past April, but at the least, I know what this path looks like between here and there, between November and April. I have no knowledge of what path 2 looks like at all.

I guess my concerns with switching from path 1 to 2 at this time are centered on my doctoral exams. The job I take, should I be hired, must in no way conflict with my exam schedule and my dissertation. I have come to far to stop now, so I must continue on and finish my program. The other issue is really that I would need to let GCU know I won't be back, and the longer it takes and the more I push towards Christmas, the more I am unable to take new work. It simply places a burden on GCU, and I don't want to do that to them, not after everything they have done for me to help me become an instructor there. I know they would understand, but I want to do the honorable thing, and that means that I must be considerate of their staffing needs and requirements.

Lastly, I do think about my students feeling let down, but that is just a small thing. I love my students, and I love having them in class, but when to comes down to it, I have to work, and that means putting me and my family first.

It is so hard to choose, but I know I have to make a decision here pretty soon. So as I look forward, this is what I know about Path 1:

  • Path 1 is the harder way, but it also produces good results in the faith that ministry is activated and students are reached for the gospel of Christ.
  • Path 1 keeps me 100% dependent upon the Lord for everything, every morsel I eat, every step I take, and every need I have.

Similarly, I know this about Path 2:

  • Path 2 is the easier way all around. It has no ministry influence outside of my desire to pray for and reach out to my colleagues. 
  • Path 2 allows me opportunity to be responsible, to use my skills and abilities as I can, and it affords me room to grow as a leader, director, and possibly even to a greater extent, as a people builder, influencer and manager.
As I think about things in this way, this thought just popped into my head. The Lord's will for my life (overarching, all consuming, and always present) is to be made into the image and likeness of God. Yes, I am to become a mature woman of God, and that means that I must grow up into my faith, to become a leader so that others may follow after me. I follow Him, others follow me, and together we build God's Kingdom.

Paul said this is 1 Corinthians 3:2 NIV, and as I think about my situation, I wonder if this is not the case with me as well. Let me explain...
And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly.
I started to think about how as babies we are fed milk. Our mother's carry us around, and they watch over us to make sure we are kept safe. As we grow though they begin to wean us from milk and give us solid food. They also allow us to walk away from them in order to test our legs, so to speak. They teach us what is expected of us as we grow up, and as we get older, we are given more responsibility, more opportunity to test out our faith, our maturity, and our good judgment.

Sometimes I wonder if in my case, remaining 100% dependent on the Lord is the best thing for me long term. I don't mean to say that it isn't a good thing because surely it is. I am just saying that at some point the Lord may ask me to use what He has given to me, to demonstrate my abilities and to become a mature woman who is capable of leading others. When I first came to this place of deeper intimacy with the Lord, I found myself wholly dependent on Him. In fact, as my life took a turn through the darkest valley, I found that I couldn't make a move without Him. In many ways, I was a baby again, and the Lord, as my Good Father, took me by the hand and led me through the most difficult decisions, the most trying times. I am where I am today because He didn't let go of me, didn't say "do it yourself, Carol," but rather He said, "Let me show you how to do it," and He did. I came to learn how to do many things, most of all, to trust and rely on Him, and to understand that He had such a good plan for my life.

Thus, I wonder if why He has given me this chance to choose is to allow me the opportunity to test my faith, to spread my wings, and use my good judgment. I wonder if this is all about me growing up in the Lord, learning now how to go and do the work He has called me to do. I know the plan He has for me requires a lot of skill, and I am about finished with my training program (Regent). Now, I must use my skill, my abilities, and go where He is sending me. There is a part of me that wants to remain connected to Him, to still have Him make all the decisions for me. I love that, but then there is a part of me that is the rebellious teenager who wants to take some authority and make choices on their own. My Father has graciously allowed me to mature to this point, and now He is giving me room to spread my wings and try them out. He is not saying "You must do this or that" as perhaps an authoritarian parent (or helicopter parent) might do. No, He has said that path 1 or 2 -- they are both good in His estimation -- and He has given me approval to walk down either path.

Lord, which way do I choose? Which way do I go?

Heavenly Father, you are a good Father to me, and you have given me the opportunity to choose, but I am struggling with making this decision because I don't know what will be, I don't know which path is the better one. You have told me that either path is fine, but still I struggle to determine one way over the other. I don't know what to do, and I have rested for a while now, choosing the default (teaching). I don't know if that is right or not, so I ask now that you clarify my way, make it obvious for me. I ask this now in Jesus' Name, Amen.

October 28, 2015

The Power of "REST"

It is a blessed Wednesday, and once again, I am sitting here at the 3rd floor computers in the GCU library. It has been a good day so far, considering I had about 4.5 hours of sleep last night. Yes, I finally turned in around midnight, but I struggled to fall asleep, and with that I spent a good hour and half tossing and turning. When my alarm sounded at 5:30 a.m., and I opened my eyes to see that it was pitch black outside, well, the only thing I wanted to do was stay in bed. Regardless of my feelings, I pulled myself together, and headed out the door as the sun was rising in the East. It is daylights savings time again, and even though Arizona doesn't change their clocks, we still feel the effects of the time change. The sun was just breaking over the horizon and it was such a beautiful start to the morning. As I sit here today, I am reminded that every day is a gift from the Lord. Every day we have the opportunity to choose whether to embrace or reject the day the Lord has made for us. We can allow our circumstances to dictate our attitudes and behaviors or we can reflect on the glory of the Lord that is all around us, and we can remember that He is Lord of all. Yes, He is Lord of all, and His creation shouts out His praise!

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you (Isaiah 60:1 NIV)

The Word tells us that all of creation bears witness and testimony to the glory of the Lord. If you read through the Psalms, you constantly find the psalmist reminding himself and others how the glory of the Lord is seen through the heavens, through the material created world. Therefore, when we rise with the sun, we are reminded that the Lord has made the day, and He said it was good. Let us remember, then, to approach each new day with a thankful heart, a grateful attitude, and with behavior that bears tribute to all that the Lord has done in our life. He is good, forever and always, He is good!

Today as I sit here, I cannot help but think how good God is toward me. I mean, in all my ways, I fail Him. I try very hard to do the right thing, to be pleasing, to think and to choose wisely; yet, still I fail. I falter, and I fall on the ground humbly professing my inadequacy, my inability to perform, and my inconstancy in remaining faithful to His Word, His will, and His way. Still, I know I am forgiven, praise be to God, and still I know that His grace abounds. I humbly consider all that He has provided, and I know that at times, I cry out that it is not enough, not good enough; in truth, however, I am fully aware that what He has provided is enough, indeed it is enough. I want so much to know that I am improving, you know, working my way through this life with fear and trembling, for my God is so good, so very good to me. In the rush and hustle of this modern world, I feel so often as if I am running hard just to stay with the pack (so to speak). I feel that the crush of the "to-do's" and the pressure to succeed, to perform, and to achieve is driving me to an early grave. I know it is a good thing to aspire, to want to do good work, but at the same time, I think there is great wisdom in resting, in relaxing, and in enjoying the blessings that God has given to us.

God-Given Rest

When we read the creation story from Genesis, we are reminded that God created the seventh day as a day of rest. He rested from all His works, and likewise, we are to have periodic rest. This means that we are to work a set number of hours each day so that we can have rest at night. It also means that we are to work a set number of hours each week, again, to afford us weekly rest. Throughout the course of our weeks and months, there are times when we are to stop our work and rest. Yes, and when the time comes for us to retire, we are to rest during our latter years. This is the Lord's plan for our life, and it is good. We often become so busy with life, with things, with being this way or that way that we forget to stop and rest. No wonder adrenal fatigue is such a major issue for people today. Adrenal fatigue occurs when the adrenal system is exposed to prolonged periods of stress. The adrenal glands secret hormones, mostly Cortisol, the hormone responsible for generating that "flight or fight" response. When we live in constant stress-mode, our adrenal glands are working overtime in order to keep us in tip-top shape so we can flee from our enemies. The problem, of course, is that this stress-induced state produces all types of problems for us health wise. Many, many people suffer from some measure of adrenal overload, and they experience symptoms that range from mild to severe. Most of these people do not even know that they are causing great harm to their bodies. Most are unaware that prolonged states such as adrenal overload can cause damaging effects to the body that will not be reversed after a time. 

According to Dr. Wilson's book, "Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome," it is estimated that up to 16% of the population suffers severe adrenal fatigue. There are no authoritative statistics to confirm this number, but physicians report that the real number is more likely closer to 66% of all people suffer some measure of adrenal fatigue. What are the chances you are suffering from this condition? If you experience these symptoms two or more times per week, then more than likely you could be in "stress overload:"
  • You feel tired for no reason.
  • You have trouble getting up in the morning, even when you go to bed at a reasonable hour.
  • You are feeling rundown or overwhelmed.
  • You have difficulty bouncing back from stress or illness.
  • You crave salty and sweet snacks.
  • You feel more awake, alert and energetic after 6PM than you do all day.
If you are not sure whether you are suffering from adrenal fatigue, consider taking this simple quiz to find out: https://www.adrenalfatigue.org/take-the-adrenal-fatigue-quiz. Keep in mind that there are many other health conditions that have similar symptoms, so make sure to talk with your doctor about your concerns. I know that I am a perfect case example of a person in stress overload. In fact, I have been tested (a number of years ago), and it was concluded that my heightened state of stress was leading to physical effects related to adrenal fatigue. 

All of this is to say that one of the best treatments for adrenal fatigue or suspected adrenal fatigue is to check your diet, and to make sure you are treating underlying issues concerning emotional stress (such as depression from grief or loss). 

Recovering from adrenal fatigue is a challenge, and without some medication intervention, it can be difficult, if not impossible. But still, there is a lot you can do to improve your overall health and condition. I know that I am stressed right now, and that a lot of my stress is related to my heavy work schedule with Regent and teaching. However, I also know that the work I do, studying and teaching, is not outside the realm of what is considered normal. Therefore, most of my physical condition and issues relating to my condition stem from three things:
  1. Poor diet
  2. Adrenal fatigue (chronic)
  3. Lack of moderate exercise
I have tried to lose weight recently, and I struggle to overcome that set point in my weight loss program. I have used Weight Watchers and Atkins in the past, and frankly, both have worked equally as well. I lost 35 pounds on Weight Watchers in 2001, and I lost about 15 pounds with Atkins last year. My weight has plateaued again, and it seems that nothing I do can shift that final 15 pounds. So after thinking about it some more, I have decided that I am going to concentrate on these three things over the course of the next 5-6 months. Truthfully, what do I have to lose? Nothing, but weight! LOL! What do I have to gain? Weight loss, better health and vitality, more energy! Yes, all of the above. My goal now is to regulate my work schedule so that I have the time I need to accomplish my tasks (assignments) and still get a solid 8 hours of sleep each night. It is certainly doable, so I believe that if I attack my diet first, I should see some results fairly quickly. When I talk about diet, I am not really talking about crash dieting, but rather about changing my approach to eating. You see, I tend to crave both salty and sweet things, and as a result, I overeat for emotional support. I know that when I reduced my sweets and carbs, the weight dropped off me. So this is my approach for now. I plan to reduce my carb consumption by forgoing the forbidden fruits of my passion:
  • Pasta, pastries, and party goods
  • Bakery, buns, and bread
  • Chocolate
Yes, I am cutting carbs by removing breads, cereals, grains, and all those other foods that mess with your glycemic tolerance. I am not cutting 100% carbs, but I am reducing them from my diet naturally. This means salads instead of sandwiches, dinners without rolls, no dessert (no pie, cakes, cookies, ice cream). I know that seems horrible, but frankly, these are easy calories to cut without sacrificing nutrition. 

After a time, I will allow special foods into my diet, especially with the Holidays coming up so quickly. But for the next couple weeks as we work our way toward Thanksgiving and Christmas, I am going to restrict my food choices to healthy alternatives just to see if I can budge the scale downward a bit. I hope so, I really do hope so.

My goal for the new year (yes, I am planning already), is to lose this stubborn 15 pounds before I travel to Regent for my Oral defense. You see, it is always good to have a fixed target date, so March 4-11, 2016 (my week) is my goal. I want to be down 15 pounds, and to be feeling much better by then. I have given myself four months to lose 15 pounds. I have plenty of time, and if I cut carbs and watch what I eat, realistically, I could lose 1-2 pounds a week (a safe amount) in 7 to 15 weeks. That is about the time I have set aside for myself. It is possible that with careful control, I could lose most of the weight by January 1, but knowing myself well, I think the slow and steady approach is better.

I also know that beside my poor diet and lack of regular exercise, I have to deal with the stress in my life. I have to tackle what is the BIG ISSUE that causes me stress. For now, it is my preoccupation with my work. I have decided therefore to give it a rest. Yes, I am giving my work concerns a big break. I am simply accepting my life as it is right now, and letting the future rest in His hands. This means that for all intents and purposes, I have chosen to remain in my present career for as long as the Lord chooses for me to do it. I did apply for business positions recently, but my prayer now is that the Lord will allow or disallow them based on His will. I am content to choose to remain as I am, and for the most part, I feel that this is His will for me now. I cannot really say what has happened other than to state that over the past couple days, He has given me enough testimony to show me that where I am right now is good. It may not be perfect yet, but it is good, and He has provided it, so I am choosing to accept it as a gift from His hand.

I have three contracts set for spring, and teaching these three classes should provide plenty of time for me to prepare for my oral exams. This is a good thing, really. In addition, my schedule will be flexible, mornings at home on MWF, and all day TTR free. It should work well. Does it provide enough for me? It will be tight, but so far the Lord has seen to it that I have enough to cover my expenses each day. I can only trust Him for His provision, and that means, that He has to know what is needed in the next 3-6 or 9 months of my life. I am looking to His hand for this gift, this blessing, and rather than trying to take on more work or make my life more difficult than it already is, I am choosing instead to REST, to take the rest He has provided, and to use this time to get my health back in good shape.

In all, I am happy. I am relieved, even though in the back of my mind, I have to remember to not worry about tomorrow. I have to let this pass, and to trust Him to care for me today, tomorrow and every day going forward. I am tired, so very tired, and I need prolonged rest to recover from this adrenal fatigue. Until the Lord provides that to me, I will continue to look to His hand, I will trust Him to provide doors of opportunity, and ways for me to earn extra income, and I will rest in His sufficiency, His grace, and His tender care. He is good, so very good to me.

October 26, 2015


It is Monday, and I am sitting on campus working at the library computers. I am thankful that I have the opportunity to work on my studies during the morning. I don't always get to use this time to do Regent work, but when I do, it works to my advantage and helps keep my evenings free from anxiety of pending deadlines and such. Plus, I get to focus on my assignments without any distraction from pets and family members. God is good to have provided this opportunity to me. I know I complain a lot about my current situation -- everything from work to schedules to family drama -- but the truth is that I know my life is blessed, so very blessed. I am grateful to the Lord for His tender mercy and care. I am thankful that He has chosen this life for me, planned and prepared it, and now is in the process of providing a way for me to go that will not only align with His will for me, but will also enable me to live a comfortable life (as much as is possible). God knows my strengths and my weaknesses, and He knows what I can and cannot do. I am thankful that He has full control over these details, and while I often struggle to understand why things happen, I know that I can trust my life into His hands. He is my Shepherd, and as such, He covers me with His care, His love, and His great affection. I am good, so very good, and God has made it possible for me to experience His goodness in this way.

It is a good Monday, then, and I am feeling blessed. My shoulders hurt a bit today, and my neck is stiff (always these days). I think it is a combination of how I sleep at night as well as the fact that I carry my briefcase on my shoulder each day. I have tried to just lug it around, but that doesn't work well. I find that my neck muscles are always tense, and that one of the reasons I suffer from migraines is because of this fact. I am looking forward to other opportunities for work where I might now have to do this anymore. Hopefully, the Lord will open a door for me soon. Until then, I will patiently wait for His grace to provide a way for me to go.

The Way to Go

So I made the decision this past week to change directions with my career, and frankly, I have felt so relieved since then. I cannot tell you how much better I feel, like I mean FEEL. I feel as if the weight of the world has been lifted off my shoulders just because I made the decision to turn around and head a different direction. I had been fixed on this path for sometime now, and while it would be wrong to say I am dissatisfied with the outcome thus far, I am not 100% confident that this is the way I should continue to walk. Let me explain...

I have known for a long time that there were three viable options for me concerning the type of work I could do at this point in my life. I had three paths to follow, and each had its own set of positives and negatives, you know, pros and cons. All three were viable -- meaning that they were open to me and that they would align with the Lord's will for my life. The Lord's will for my life is specific, and I knew this going into career exploration (as I call it). I knew that the Lord intended for me to complete graduate school, and that His work would involve missions, global outreach, and possibly travel (lots). I also knew that I was going to need to learn foreign languages (French, German, and perhaps Italian) at some point. I also knew that I was to use my communication study to help me in this work. With all this in mind, I proceeded to find full-time work while I completed two levels of graduate study. I have blogged about my career progression as I explored working at UOPX, CVS Health, and now Grand Canyon University. In all, I have followed each path for a time to see which one "fit" me best. By fit, I simply mean which path was the most enjoyable to me, offered me a comfortable life, and aligned well with my skills and abilities. I wasn't bent on career advancement per se, rather it was more about finding good practical work that would provide well for me and for my son.

Of the three paths, only two have seemed a good fit for me. I started working in retail, and while I wasn't happy with the pay or the physical demands, I thought that I might find good work in corporate retail. This avenue never panned out for me, so after a year of retail sales at Macy's and trying to find full-time work in other corporate retail businesses (like Target and Apple), I change directions and started working in administration in higher education. I liked this type of work, but the environment at UOPX wasn't suited toward my skills, so after 15 months, I moved to corporate work in communications at CVS Health. Of the these positions, this one fit me best. I worked in analysis and problem solving, and I enjoyed the challenge of figuring out why things didn't work they way they were supposed to work. Plus I loved the environment, work/life, and my team mates. Unfortunately, the environment turn deadly toxic and the company wasn't willing to do anything to resolve the tension. With my colleagues leaving the company, I chose to exit as well. I still regret leaving the company, but I felt stuck in a bad situation with no hope for resolution. My last change of direction was to go back into higher education, but this time, to teach courses. I moved to GCU in 2013, and I have stayed this path for almost three years. It has been the most difficult for me, in many ways, but mostly mentally and physically. It also has not provided well for me, financially, so while there are positives to teaching college, the negatives outweigh them and I am constantly worried about my financial situation.

I am not sure why the Lord has allowed me to move around like this but He has. It doesn't look great on my resume, but for the time that I was in school, it seemed okay to do it. I mean, I have focused on Regent more than anything else so in truth this change of direction has simply given me time to figure out what I want out of a career.

My Career List

I have thought about this long and hard, and since I never was very career minded early on, this whole process of figuring out what you want to be when you grow up has taken me by storm. In some ways, I laugh at this process because I am like the young teens I counsel at school. You see, my life started over in 2010, and while the process of learning to be independent has been hard for me, I have had to learn a lot in a very short amount of time. So while young people, college aged students, have plenty of time to figure out their life's work, I had to come to a decision rather quickly. What's more, since I never had responsibility for my life (I went from my parents home to my husband's home), I had to learn how to do everything on my own. It was a challenge to take the reigns of my life, and while I have made some mistakes, I think I have done a fairly good job of it (so far, that is).

Making a decision on a course to follow was difficult for me. It was probably the most difficult decision I have had to make in my whole life. The reason it has been difficult is because I am choosing a path to follow knowing that I have such a short time left to work (only 17-18 years). It seems all the more important to choose wisely considering the limited time I am able to work. Thus, my challenge has been to figure out the best "fit" for me, and then find a job that aligns with that fit. In short, to find a job that supports my style, my abilities, and my preferences rather than a job that goes against the grain or stream. I would say that for some of the work I've done recently, a lot of it rub against the grain, stressed weaker parts of me, and didn't support my strengths as well as they should. I have learned through trial and error what I like and don't like, and now I am ready to make a final determination and choose a path to follow.

I know myself well, and I know what I like and don't like. I think I got lost a bit during this whole process as I completed my Regent studies and worked towards my degree. It has taken a toll on me emotionally, mentally, and physically, and frankly, I am tired,so very tired. Yet, I press on, and I continue to work, to perform, and to improve my skills and my abilities in order to produce good results. Thus, my career preferences are formed around this one specific attribution -- production of good results. It took me a long time to accept the fact that I am an achievement oriented and driven person and I thrive in environments where achievement is rewarded. I need freedom, flexibility, and some fluidity, but generally, what I need most is challenge and stimulation that is supported by rewards. Therefore, this is my must-needs list for the perfect career for me:

  1. Challenge and stimulation (intellectual)
  2. Focus on problem-solving and analysis
  3. Rewards or incentive based approach to progression
  4. Freedom, autonomy and flexibility in schedules
  5. Independence with some collaboration
  6. Compensation commensurate with my skills and abilities
  7. Work/life balance and company support
  8. Perks and benefits as provided
  9. Opportunity for growth and advancement
  10. Stability and long-term placement
As an achievement oriented person, it is vital that the work I do provide some measure of reward. It can be in accomplishment, recognition or monetary reward, it doesn't really matter, but there needs to be some measure of notice. This is vital to me, and as such, it is the thing that drives me to succeed. Without it, I often feel like my efforts are wasted. I am seeking a position that will provide positive rewards for my efforts, even if it is just getting noticed at my company. I also want a job that challenges me, provided intellectual stimulation, and allows me to use my excellent problem-solving skill to its best effect. I love to solve problems -- they are like puzzles to me. I love to analyze details and data, and I enjoy the whole process of playing with it, manipulating it, and seeing what "shakes free." I am looking for a job that will fit my personality as well, and that means a job where I can "fit" into a group and be allowed a great deal of freedom to explore, to create, to innovate. I don't want to be micromanaged, and in fact, that will kill me quicker than anything. No, I don't have an issue with supervision, it is just not going to work if someone wants to tell me when to "pee" (know what I mean?)

Looking for Good Work

I've taken the plunge, dipped my resume in the big pool of jobs, and casting my net on the other side of the boat -- all -- in the hope that the Lord will open up a door for me. Right now, I am looking at United Healthcare because they are local here in Phoenix (with a hub), but they are located all over the US, and they offer telecommuting positions from most locations. My cousin works for them, and has enjoyed her experience thus far. She is an RN, so her work is different from what I do, but she has been able to transfer from Phoenix to Tampa, and she gets to work from home. I know she works long hours, but she has a lot of flexibility, and she gets paid really, really well. I have also applied at CVS Health, but I am not sure I want to go back there just yet. I still have some bad feelings about the way things were handled, so my preference would not be this place as a first choice. Other than these two places, I still have a couple applications out there for full-time teaching positions, but as of now, I just don't see these are viable nor as a good fit for me. The more I focus on teaching, the more stressed I feel. I really think that working in industry is my best fit overall, and while no job is perfect, at this point in the game, I need the following now:
  • Flexible hours, schedule, work from home
  • Excellent pay and benefits
  • Opportunity for advancement as well as transferring/moving to another part of the US as the Lord leads me
I feel stuck where I am, and while I like aspects of working at GCU, I already know this is a closed door to me for anything other than adjunct. Moreover, my parents are struggling, and I see the viability of working from home as a good solution. I don't want to be a full-time caregiver, and I know this isn't the Lord's desire for me, but for the time being, it would help, and it would give me the rest I need. I am not adverse to working in an office either, really. I just need the pay and benefits, the stability of a good job/good company, and the chance to move up in the company. My desire is to do good work, good work that aligns with my skills so that I can work smarter and not harder, you know. I am beat, worn out, and I need to do something different.

I am waiting on the Lord to provide His best to me. I hope to hear something soon, but until I do, I will stay the course, and finish this semester strong. The Lord knows my needs. He knows what is best for my parents, and He knows how much stress and strain I can take. He knows how close I am to that breaking point now (physically), so perhaps that opportunity will come to me sooner rather than later. The Lord is good. I know He will provide for my every need.


After I posted this essay, I went about my day as is usual for my MWF schedule. For the most part, the morning went by without a hitch. I took a drive over to Paradise Bakery mid-morning, and bought an early lunch, and sat inside and read my "Flannery O'Connor: Mystery and Manners" book (for this weeks Theology class). It was a nice diversion for me, and after a time of reading, I drove back to GCU to start my afternoon session.

I was feeling hopeful regarding my decision, and I was thinking about how the Lord might choose to move me out of my current line of work and open this door (should that be His will). I was confident as I strode into my ENG class, and took command of the hour. Everything went well, my students did their work, and I supervised as I normally do during Peer Review week. I felt good as I left the class, and even was pleased that I had the opportunity to minister to some students who are struggling with college, in general.

As I walked over to my next class, another section of ENG, I couldn't help but think that I was lucky to be teaching on this campus. It isn't perfect by any means, but it is a nice school to work for, and the students are generally sweet and accommodating to your teaching style. I made my way upstairs to my last class of the day, what I call my "goof off" class, simply because it is the last class of the day, and my students tend to be rowdy and a bit out of control. We have lots of laughs, and mostly good times, so I try to maintain a low-key approach.

I already know that at least 6 of my 46 students are enrolled in my spring 106 classes. I think it is sweet that they want to be with me again. This is the rub in leaving GCU for a non-teaching role. I don't want to let my students down, to surprise them by not showing up for the first day of class. Moreover, I know for many of these students, they tell me how much they like my class, and how they don't want to have a different teacher for second semester English. I appreciate their vote of confidence, and like I said, there is a part of me that feels bad that I am not hanging around to teach them again.

Just as I wrapped up class, finished it out, three students came up to me to speak with me about their assignment. One had a problem and thanked me for helping her (not with my class, but another). The second was worried about my lack of feedback on her essay, but I told her she was "good to go," and she smiled at me. I had to assure her that her essay was GOOD, and finally she left smiling. The third student has been difficult, not in anything in particular, but just in that I think she worries about her grades. In many ways, she reminds me of me when I was that age. I have tried to encourage her as much as I can because I think she needs it. Today, we talked a little bit about her essay, and I told her how good I thought it was. She was very surprised at my remark, and I could tell that I had shocked her a bit with my comment. We spent about 10 minutes talking about life, and making choices on education, etc. She left with a smile on her face, and I left thinking that I made a difference in her life today.

As I walked back to my car, this feeling rose up in me and made me think "what in the world am I doing?" I mean, I am content now to leave teaching forever, to do the practical, good thing, and then I experience this kind of day, a day where I am blessed by students who clearly think I matter to them -- matter -- a whole lot. That thought shook me to my core. After all, I am bent on taking the assured route that will pay me a lot of money, guarantee almost for sure promotion, and a very comfortable life. I am ready to go, to leave teaching right now, just so I can pay off my debts, live in a nice home, and have a safe and secure future. Then, wham! I am broadsided by the underbelly of teaching, that rub, that says "Hey, see what is going on here? There is more to teaching than making money!"

So I think about this thought all the way home, how teaching doesn't align with my skills, doesn't work well for me, and doesn't use my strengths. No, it does nothing of the sort. I rely on the Lord 100% for everything I do at GCU, and every single day I come home exhausted, mentally and physically drained, and I feel just awful. Furthermore, I have no guaranteed salary, no benefits, no long term security. No, I have nothing that seems good to me. But then, I have this, this little nugget of gold, a gem, really whereby I see a student smile at me (not a fake smile, but a real smile), and I see my efforts to encourage rewarded. Yes, I am all about rewards, but these rewards are not monetary, no, they are relational, special, and maybe even eternal, I don't know. They are relational, and they have no worth outside of the human connection that exists between two people. Someone once asked if you could put a value on teaching, could you assign a number to validate all the effort, time, and manpower needed to teach others well. In the end, the answer was "no," because there is no value that takes the place of human relationships, the building up, the encouraging, and the enfolding of God honoring relationships. There is no value whatsoever in this outside of pleasing the Lord, and perhaps, creating kingdom opportunities.

As I drove home, I asked the Lord for clarification, for help in understanding why this is happening to me -- why now -- why when I have just made a grand proclamation saying "I am choosing the safe route, the easy route, the well-paying route" for my career. I received an email the other day from Lee University (this is just an aside) that said they had received my materials for an online teaching position. I emailed those materials to them in June. They just received the email and responded to me. What does this mean? I mean, if they weren't even interested or the position no longer existed, wouldn't they just trash my email after 4 months of sitting idle? Sheesh!

I am dumbfounded right now. I am content to become an analyst and make $80K per year. I am content to do this work from now on, except for this little nagging sensation that says to me "but what about my students, those who have signed up for you, who are looking to you to teach them next semester?" I know I should just say "It's not practical to stay on another semester. I need the money, so I need to go," but I cannot help think about my students, about their needs and wants.

I thought about this today as I walked in the door:

In teaching, I function in my weakness, but I operate in my spiritual gift.
In analysis, I function in my strength, and I operate in my strength.

In short, when I teach, I must rely 100% on the Lord, and His strength is perfected through my weakness. I cannot teach without His help, and I need Him to see me, really carry me through each day. I operate in my spiritual gift of encouragement daily, and I find that I naturally bless those around me. It just happens without much effort on my part. In all, when I teach, He receives the glory, the praise, and the honor. I am used up, depleted, and left empty, but He shines brightly through me, and my students are blessed, so very blessed.

Conversely, when I work in business, I am able to command my strengths, my abilities, and my efforts to control outcomes. I produce good work. I achieve good things. Yes, I rely on the Lord for His blessing, for His favor, but I do what comes very naturally to me, and it is easy for me to do. I do try to bless others, but I work in a non-Christian environment whereby I have to be careful with my words. In such a way, I find that my abilities are heightened, and while I give the Lord credit, and thanks, the truth be told, I am able to do this work through my own efforts.

Which is the better way? Which is the preferred way?

I am reminded of the story of Mary and Martha. Mary sought the better way, and in doing so, she was blessed. Martha was a good producer, she loved the Lord too, but she wanted to 'do rather than be.' The Lord corrected her gently and told her that her sister had chosen wisely, she had chosen the right way because she had chosen to devote her life to the Lord, and to forsake "doing" for the privilege of "being" in His presence. I cannot help but think that perhaps this is the life lesson I am learning. There is more to life than money, position and comfort. The Lord knows, I need money, of course, but perhaps He is trying to show me that when it comes right down to it, people count more than results. Human relationship trumps productivity. The better way is not the way that is easy or lucrative, but rather it is the way that places you 100% dependent on Him so that you experience what Paul called as the emptying out of himself so that Jesus could shine brightly through Him. Perhaps this is what the Lord wants me to see. It is not that He doesn't care about my income, lack of benefits, and sore feet and legs. It is just that He cares more for the students in my classes, and that He wants to use me as a vessel to reach them, to teach them, and to draw them to Himself. Perhaps this is what He is saying to me. There is nothing wrong with following the easy, practical path. It is wise, it is good. But there is something about sacrificing a life for that which is better, the better portion, and in doing so, the Lord receives all praise, all honor, and all glory.

Perhaps this is the lesson I was supposed to learn today.

October 25, 2015

Making the Turn

I'm not sure why the lyrics to the song, "Turn, Turn, Turn," by the Byrds has popped into my head right now, but it has, and my thoughts are running toward Ecclesiastes 3:1. Yes, "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens!" I guess it is because it is fall, and I am longing for the cooler temperatures, the changing colors, and the coming days of winter. I am one of those weird people who actually loves winter. I think Autumn is by far my favorite season, but Winter is second, and just the thought that we are about to greet November, gets me all giddy inside. Yes, I am all giddy over the change of the seasons.

I am thinking about how I loved this time of year as a child. I loved the crush of the leaves, the smell of wood burning in fire places, and the damp days as the sun seemed to stay up only "so long" each day. Before long, the pang of cold would hit, and then the snow would fall, and well, Christmas would be upon us. I so loved Christmas as a child. I looked forward to it with excitement and anticipation, and not just because we exchanged gifts, but rather it was the way my Mom always made Christmas special for us. It was just a special time of the year when we would decorate, listen to songs, and enjoy family time. The holidays were special for me, and as such I loved all the prep and time spent getting ready for their arrival. In some ways, I feel that my life has become rushed and pressured, so much so, that I no longer have time to enjoy the season. There is a part of me that wants to rest now and just enjoy the blessing and the beauty of God's glorious season!

As I sit here today, I cannot help but marvel at the majesty of God's intervention in my life recently. I know I have blogged about my depression, and how badly I have felt the past couple weeks (er, months) as I became accustomed to my schedule this semester. This is my last semester at Regent (as a student), and the transition from doctoral student to candidate has taken a huge toll on me. Furthermore, as I struggled to deal with my feet and legs due to my teaching schedule, and the difficult time I am having making it to class at 7 am, my preoccupation with whether or not I was doing "the best" thing (aka, a career) has surged to the forefront of my thoughts. Yes, I have been preoccupied, and as such, I have worried, fretted, and anxiously debated if I am doing the "right thing" with my life. I confessed my situation to the Lord last weekend, and then throughout this week, I continued to seek Him daily for confirmation. Should I go or should I stay?

This weekend has been rough, well, yesterday was rough. I woke up feeling the worst I have in months, and I thought to myself that I couldn't go on, I couldn't face another week or the mounting to-do list that faces me as I turn into the final weeks of this grueling semester. For the first time since I began my doctoral program, I felt like giving up, really giving up. What's more, as I struggled with my list, trying to stay on top of it, I also felt as though I needed to give up on my work. I kept thinking "this too shall pass," but the more I would say that aloud, the more I felt like I was sinking under the weight and certainly the only thing that would pass, would be me (as in pass out!)

Yesterday, was a turning point for me. I came to terms with my situation. I finished my analysis after a long, long two years of study, and I came to the conclusion that the reason I am where I am is because I refused to "go" where the Lord was clearly telling me to go. For some readers, this may seem outlandish, and quite a leap from stress to disobedience, as if somehow I just willy-nilly decided that my life was filled with stress because I was disobedient to the Lord. I know, for many people, stress is just a part of life, and for some people (like me), stress is simply a killer. Between my chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia as well as my other structural issues (back/hip alignment, for example), well, stress is something I have been told to avoid (er, manage). My life, thus, is all about managing stress. It always has been, and I know better. I know what to do and not to do, and I know when things get out of whack that often it is because I have made a decision to do something and that decision has impacted my work/life balance. In short, I tip the scales one way or another, and my life slides out of balance. This balancing act, therefore, is something I manage through prayer, obedience to the Word, and careful application just to make sure that I don't willingly do anything that would cause my well-being to be put in jeopardy (so much as I can control).

So despite what others may think, for me, stress is a key indicator that something is not right with my life, something is out of whack, and something is clearing tipping the scales one way more than the other. Stress is "a reaction to a stimulus that disturbs our physical or mental equilibrium. In other words, it's an omnipresent part of life. A stressful event can trigger the “fight-or-flight” response, causing hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol to surge through the body" (Psychology Today, 2015). For me, stress triggers that adrenaline rush, and since my adrenal system is already on overload (from a life of stress triggers), I have to manage my stress level to keep from going overboard. I came very close to being depleted this time around. I came so close that I thought I wasn't going to recover. But, praise be to God, I was able to short-circuit the meltdown before I ended up needing a major rest.

People react to stressors in different ways. Not everyone experiences stress similarly, and not everyone uses the same skill mechanisms to deal with the stressors in their lives. The problem with stress is that it is a part of life, and there is little we can do to avoid it. We can learn to manage the triggers, which is what I have done, so that I can avoid the most harmful stressors. I have learned to manage my life to such an extent that I am able to be fairly productive even when under a great deal of stress. But, and this is key, I know my breaking point. I've been there before, so I know what triggers will send me past it. I don't want to break down ever again, and I have the Lord to thank for that blessing. He has brought me back from the brink of severe depression to the point where I am able to live productively and engage in rather heady pursuits. Yet, I know that without His direct influence and intervention in my life, truthfully, I wouldn't be here today. He has saved me time and time again, and for that, I am truly thankful.

Today, I woke up refreshed, like really refreshed. I haven't felt this way in months, well not since last summer when I had no pressure at all. I slept well, and I woke up feeling good. I has some slight aches and pains, but nothing like the previous 2-4 weeks where I could barely get out of bed and walk to the bathroom. I took my time this morning, but I made it to church, and enjoyed a wonderful message on evangelism and discipleship. After church, I came home and I rested some more. I spent time with my Mom, and then I took a short nap, just to relax a bit before working on my projects and papers. It is now 7:39 p.m. and I am about to wrap up my work for the evening (after this blog post). I plan to enjoy my evening, rest some more before turning in early tonight. It has been a good day, a very good day, and in short, I am feeling better about my life, my path, and the plans the Lord has for me.

The Turning Point 

As I was driving over to church today, I was praying in the car, and the Lord spoke truth into my life. I realized that I had been lax in obeying His call to go, and in doing so, I have been 'stuck' in this place, sort of a "whalish experience" that I liken to the biblical narrative of Jonah and his refusal (at first) to go to Ninevah. While the Lord wasn't sending me out to a specific place (as I had once thought), I came to terms with the fact that the Lord did clearly tell me to go, and I said I would, but in the end, I didn't actually go. I remained where I was, and in doing so, I have suffered a slow degree of burn, sort of that burn that slowly depletes you, almost to the point of extinction. Once I realized that I had actually disobeyed the Lord, I confessed it, and I asked the Lord if I may still go where He is sending me. I believed His answer to me was "yes," so as I made it to church, and settled in to the service, I felt relaxed and confident that the Lord would help me get turned around, and would provide a way for me to get back to my "Ninevah."

It was right as the service started that I received that word of testimony from the Lord. Our new Missions pastor was introduced to the congregation today, and as I listened to him, I couldn't help but hear myself saying aloud, "Lord, this is what I want to do." In a rush of a moment, I realized what I had said, and how the Lord had told me some 4-5 years ago what He intended me to do for ministry (down the road). It was all part of the plan for my life, and it was the "thing" that started me on the journey toward becoming a PhD candidate. In just one small story, I saw my life, and the part of my life that motivated me turn back on. It was light a little light bulb moment, you know, when you get that "A Ha!" feeling and you just "get it."

Well, for me it was something the new pastor said. He was remarking how in the past 200 years the mission field has been Asia, Africa, and Latin America, and that now all these folks are embracing Matthew 28:19 -- the great commission -- to "go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit." With this verse, the pastor said something that jarred me from my seat, something that made me sit up and take notice. He said that all these people have this verse underlined in their Bibles and they are ready to go and do this work, but that someone has to teach them how to do it, how to go, how to make disciples. I know it seems really silly, but in my ethnocentric worldview, there is a part of me that assumes that Western Europe, of which America was a part, was the catalyst that changed the world through embracing Jesus' command. It is weird to think that people from the countries that have been evangelized will now be the ones the Lord sends out. I cannot explain what it meant to me, but in that moment, I realized that this is what the Lord has been calling me, preparing me, and equipping me to do. I have always known that my role was to be part of that education process, to use my communication study and skill to help equip people for ministry. I just didn't put two and two together until I heard this pastor say it. I still don't have it all figured out, but what I do know is this: my path is to be a part of this work, and that means that I am to go and do this work, this global work to equip ministers to preach the good news.

I left the service today feeling convinced that this is the Lord's will for my life. I prayed all the way home, and I knew that this is what I have been trained to do. All my study at Regent has prepared me to work in organizational communication, to engage in interpersonal and intercultural communication, and to use technology (mediated content) as a means for sharing the message of Christ. I see it now, I get it, and I realize that this is why the Lord chose to send me to Regent, and why I have been studying so diligently these past three years. Now, I am ready, I am ready to go, and guess what? I have refused to go. My Ninevah was waiting for me, but out of fear of the unknown, I simply chose to do things my own way.

It if funny, really sad, I mean, but so often, I would pray to the Lord, asking Him, no begging Him to tell me why I was stuck, why I felt so awful, so like a failure, and why I wasn't able to experience the blessing, the favor, the amazing goodness that I first felt when I embraced this path. I mean, I rationalized it as stress, hard work, school, etc., almost anything that made some iota of sense to me. But deep inside, I always felt that there was some other unresolved tension. I knew that I was contending with the Lord, striving, struggling against Him, and throughout this time, I would relent, and let go. But then the pattern seemed to repeat itself, and I would find myself stuck again, stuck and feeling so depleted, so awful, overwhelmed, anxious, and uncomfortable. So I would pray, and then I would hear His voice say to me, "You cannot have what you want," and I would sit and try to figure that out. What did I want, Lord? What was it that I wanted that was not meant to be? I would ask Him, praying, crying, and begging Him to help me understand, and I would hear His voice say "What you want, you cannot have." It was like a merry-go-round ride. I would strive, struggle, and stress, and He would calmly remind me that I couldn't have what I wanted. I would walk away thinking, "I don't get it. What do I want, what do I really want, Lord?"

Yesterday, after feeling so horrible and all, I finally figured it out. I got it, I mean, I really I got it. I finally figured out that what I wanted was my way, as in wanting to do things my way, when all along He had a plan for me. He was telling me that at this point in my faith walk, I could no longer have my own way. I had to lay down my wants, desires, and feelings in order to embrace His way. That meant that my way was to be submitted to His, and in doing so, He would give me the desires of my heart (fill me with His desires) so that I could do the things He wanted me to do. As I started to think more and more about this truth, I realized that yes, I have wanted my way in so many things. More and more, I have been determined to go my own way. I often would think that somehow I could do it my way, and that this would please Him. Perhaps my way would work?

Turning Around and Heading Back to Ninevah

The Lord is the Lord of All, and therefore, there is only one way, and it is His. I struggled and contended with Him for months, now on two years, and in the end, I had to relinquish my way to Him. I had to say "Yes, Lord" and mean it. I had to say "I will go," and then really, really go. I had to trust Him to provide, to open doors, to make ways for me, and in doing so, I would exercise my faith, and He would lead me on to where He wanted me to be planted, to serve, and to do His work.

I gave in this weekend, and as a result, I began to experience the freedom of breathing, of resting, of relaxing so that I could do what He was asking me to do. It has been a long, hard battle, and He has won. He has won the day, and I am glad because now I know that I am no longer battling the impossible One, but instead I am listening, abiding, and relying on the Possible, the One who holds all possibilities in His hand. I am glad to be done, to be free, to be able to be what He wants me to be, and not what I think I should be. I am so glad, so very glad that today I am His, and He is mine. I am so glad that my life has purpose, it has a plan, and there is indeed a path for me to follow. Get that --> FOLLOW --> not lead. I am glad that I am following after Him, knowing that He knows where we are going and why, and that He will provide for me today, tomorrow and every single day forward. I am so glad, so very, very glad we are done. We are done, and it is over.

Praise be to God.

Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

October 24, 2015

I Will Magnify the Lord

Saturday Morning

This morning I woke up feeling ill, like really ill. I can't pinpoint any direct cause other than to say that I feel unwell, generally, unwell. The word that comes to mind is malaise. The dictionary defines malaise as "a general feeling of discomfort, illness, or uneasiness whose exact cause is difficult to identify."

In medical literature, malaise is often indicative of some larger problem, and oncoming illness or disease. I looked up the diseases listed, and I don't have any of those symptoms so the only thing I can contribute this feeling to is anemia. I know I am probably anemic from all the months I had my period (in perimenopause). I suffered very heavy bleeding, and now that my period is over (hopefully, forever now), I am still feeling run down. But even in that thought, I don't feel better. I mean, I feel worse now then I did then, and that makes me wonder if this feeling is tied to depression, one of the illnesses listed, and so what I am experiencing is really a combination of things (depression, anemia, and excessive fatigue).

I am sitting here drinking my coffee, and thinking about this problem. I mean every problem should have a solution, so it is up to me and the Lord to figure this one out. If this is just physical, aka, my teaching schedule, my chronic fatigue, and my anemia, well then, I know what to do about it. I mean, I have 6-weeks of teaching left, and then I will have a three week break. I need to change my sleep schedule so that the only thing I am doing is sleeping -- just meaning that I need to cut back on everything else except for work, school, and sleep. Lastly, I need to be more consistent eating iron-rich foods, and with taking my supplements. This should help me feel better -- if -- this is the only thing in play. The best defense is a good offense as they say, and with chronic fatigue the offense best used is to keep yourself from getting to that point, that point of total and utter depletion. I know my boundaries, I know where the line is, that line that says "don't cross me," and yet, often when I get really stressed, really pushed to the wall, I either get close to it or I step on it. In doing so, feel the effects in my body, and then shortly thereafter, I begin to crash. I literally crash.

I know that I have allowed myself to get to that line already once. The last time I did that was 1991. I was working at Teradata, in a highly toxic environment, and I was pushed, literally pushed to perform long hours of work, unrelenting in fact, and without so much as an ounce of support from management. In truth, my boss wanted me out, and I felt that there was a conspiracy a-foot. I was enrolled in school, doing good work, but the drain on me was powerful, and before long, I started to make mistakes. I don't blame them really, it was just a matter of time before I was going to implode. You cannot work 70 plus hours of work and maintain a healthy work/life balance.

Furthermore, I was suffering from depression then too. I was in a difficult marriage, my ex-husband at that time, was pressuring me to leave school (I had gone back to get my BA). I was bound and determined to not give in, and the stress from work and school was getting to be too much for me. Furthermore, I was feeling pressure from his parents to start a family, and well, all of that was just making me sick, really sick. In the end, I quit my job, finished school, and then shortly thereafter, found myself pregnant (don't you love that phrase -- found myself -- like it was another immaculate conception, LOL!) Yes, I had my son in 1993, and for all intents and purposes, I let go of all my desires for graduate school, career, and future control (success) in one-fell swoop.

Since that time, I have suffered bouts of depression regularly. Sometimes they have been serious bouts, and other times, they have just been nagging bouts (the kind that come and go). I have realized most often that my depression is tied to an unwillingness to go or do something that someone else wants me to do. In short, whenever I feel that I am no longer in control, and that someone is forcing me to do something against my will, well then, I begin to feel depressed. I feel the cage door close, and I feel that sensation that I am stuck, forever stuck. It is so important to me to feel independent and to feel free. I understand authority, and I have a great respect for authority. But, sometimes people who are not in authority over you try to demand that you do this or that, and in doing so, you find that that pressure causes you to 1) either give in, 2) flee or run away, or 3) stand your ground. When you give in, then you find that you allow that person to rule over you, and while you may do this for a short time or a long time -- eventually -- you come to resent the power they hold over you. The kicker is, of course, that the power they hold over you is YOUR POWER. You simply gave your power to someone else for a time, and in doing so, you allowed another person to call the shots, to make the decisions, and to determine the best course of action.  I know that I have done number 1 and 2 too many times to count. I rarely (in the past) stood my ground, but when I did, I was liberated in short order. Yes, standing your ground against a boundary buster (to quote Townsend) is difficult, really difficult, but it is the first step in establishing a healthy boundary line, and thus, working towards a healthy life.

In sum, I know that the causes of my feeling unwell stem from one of three things: work, school, or home/life. I have blogged about these three things for years, so I know my own situation well. The problem is that often we are so close to the issue, that we step right over it. We don't see "the forest because of the trees!"

As I think about this today, I know that my work is a big factor in my feeling so poorly. I know it, I have known it since 2013 simply because the work I do is physically demanding to me. I have known that I cannot stand on my feet all day long since I worked at Macy's in 2010. I left that job and worked at UOPX, and I can remember how happy I was to finally spend my days sitting at a desk. Of course, I learned in that job that being tied to the phone didn't work well either. As an INTJ, talking to students, emoting all day long, is emotionally draining to me. No, I have known what kind of work suits me best, but I made the decision to try teaching, and since then, I have suffered in this path. I have suffered, and yet, I have made excuses, justified it, and in the end, accepted it simply because I felt that what I was doing was worthy, "a good thing," and that it would benefit me in the long run. Sigh. My work, my choice of work, is a big issue, a major contributor to my physical, emotional, and mental well-being. I know it, I know it, I know it.

Saturday Afternoon

With all this on my mind, I spent most of the morning struggling to "do" the tasks on my list. Finally, I gave up and got into the shower to sulk and to soak. The shower helped me feel better physically, but I couldn't shake the mental fog I was in. I mean, I did feel better, but I still wasn't free from the heaviness I felt, from that oppressive hand that seemed to be holding me down. So after pulling myself together, I decided it was best to get outside so I drove over to Target to pick up some items for dinner and to buy some office supplies for my exam prep plans. I'm glad I did. I don't know if it was the change of scenery or just getting out in the bright sunshine, but whatever it was, it helped. I started to feel better as soon as I left the house. Sometime, while shopping at Target, I felt that depression lift. What a relief! I knew I had so much on my to-list, and that there was no way I could handle everything with this black cloud hanging over me so long as I was feeling so utterly depressed.

The good news is that I completed all my student grading and I even worked on my research paper outline. In all, by dinner time, I was feeling better, and I had taken care of everything on my list for Saturday. I am so relieved to know that this evening I am caught up, and that I am prepared for my assignment due-dates in the coming week!

I am giving God all the praise because in between the morning and the late afternoon, He gave me the grace and fortitude to complete my studies, and to finish all my student grading. Oh, God is so good, so very good.