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.

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