December 31, 2015

It All Makes Sense Now

Yesterday, I blogged about my progress with my study materials and my approach to preparing for my program end qualification exams. The process of wrapping my head around three years of materials -- 8 semesters of doctoral classes with 50-60 or more books -- has been daunting, to say the least.

Now, I am almost ready to begin "the studying" part, and that feeling of panic is starting to settle in. My mind is racing with questions that ask me if I am ready, if I am prepared. I am thinking about tomorrow when really I should be thinking about today. I know this, I know this, but still I cannot help but to allow these questions to percolate up and sit in my mind...

Do I have enough material? Did I prepare thoroughly? Will I succeed or will I fail?

Pass or Fail

The whole idea of ending your doctoral program based on the passing or failing of comprehensive exams seems ridiculous to me, but this is how most programs are structured. No matter how well you do in the courses, if you cannot pull it out in that "clutch moment," well your hopes and dreams will be dashed to pieces just "like that" (with a snap of my fingers!) My heart is sinking right now. Oh no, may it not be this way!

As I think about what has come before and what lays ahead of me, one thing is for sure: I cannot continue this way without His help and guidance. In truth, every step I have taken has been ordered, planned, and prepared by Him. I am following after Him, and I am looking to Him for His help. I cannot do this, no way, in my own flesh. I cannot do this without His inspiration, and His absolute grace and mercy. I need Him today, badly, so very badly. Calm my nerves and my fears, O Lord! Give me your gracious help this good, good day. I pray now for your inspiration, guidance, and most of all, your boldness to go forward and keep on moving down this path. You alone are to receive all praise, all honor, and all glory. You alone, Lord, are my rock and my refuge. You are my strength and my strong tower. I love you, Lord, and I so desperately need you today. Amen, selah!

Today is a good day, then, a very good day. It is cold outside right now, and even in the house, the temperature is hovering at 71 degrees. I am sitting in my study area wrapped in my fleece robe, and feeling comfortable. But, I can feel the chilly air passing through my window and it reminds me that we are in winter (well, what you would call winter for Arizona). In many places in the Midwest and east, winter comes in harsh and brutal, with rains, sleet, ice, and snow. I am fortunate that where I live the most we get is frost, and even at that, the days tend to warm up nicely. Of course, we suffer with the brutal heat of the summer, so our summer contends with other people's winter woes. Still, I am blessed to live here and to be able to enjoy a good life in this pleasant place.

As I marvel at God's grace, I am reminded that in all things my chief aim is to worship the Lord and to give Him glory. I do this now because as I think about today, about what I have to do (left to do that is), I know that when it all comes down or out in the wash, as I like to say, my ultimate goal is always to see that He is glorified. I may fail, my flesh WILL fail, but the Lord is to receive all glory, praise and honor. Thus, no matter what happens today or tomorrow, I will do my best to see that He is honored. In my study, in my approach, in my conversation, and even in my thoughts, I will endeavor to give Him praise. I know that I will falter again, more than once, and yet, I will press on and remind myself that "this too shall pass." The Lord is the Lord of all, and in and through Him, all things were made. He holds me together with as much assurance as He holds the universe together. I can trust Him, I can rely on Him, and I can know for sure, for sure, that He has me well-covered this good, good day. The Lord be praised, the Lord be praised, the Lord be praised, for He is good, so very good. Selah!

Therefore, as I take the turn into 2016 (tonight), I lay to rest these fears, and I take on the boldness of Joshua. I will be bold, and I will take courage. But, not in my own strength or in my own efforts or faculties, but in Him alone. He is my God, my King, my Shepherd. I love the Lord with all my mind, with all my strength, and with all my soul for He alone is good to me. He has covered me with His grace, He has made a way for me to go, and He has set my feet (both of them) on the solid rock, the solid path. I know He will see me through this process, this mountain of grief, of great difficultly, and in and through it, I will be changed. I will be changed for the better.

Dear Lord,

You have changed me for the better. I have been remade, reborn, and now the work I do, all of it, school included, is dedicated to you for your Name and your praise. You have brought me this far, and I am trusting that you will see me through to the end. I don't know what you will do, but I know that you will not leave me nor will you forsake me. You will stick with me, stay the course, and see me through all because of your love, your will, and your word to me. You are my God, and today, I claim and I commit my way to you. I can do nothing in and of myself, and thus, I must release it all today and let your power flow through me. I ask now that you will do whatever is necessary to prepare me, train me, and equip me for what lays ahead of me. I will do what you ask, and I will let my own way go. You know best, and you have this all figured out. I let this go now, and I say Lord, I will follow you. I will follow you. I ask all of this in the matchless, merciful, and most majestic name of our Lord Jesus Christ, amen! So be it, thy will be done. Selah! (Pause and calmly think about it).

December 30, 2015

Good Days Ahead

It is a chilly morning here in sunny Phoenix. My phone is telling me that it is only 36 degrees outside, and well, I would have to agree. I took the garbage out, and wow! Talk about cold! Yes, it feels very nippy outside, and I am so glad I am tucked away inside my nice and warm home! Selah (Praise God!)

Feeling More Confident

I made good progress on my study notes yesterday. I should say, after much angst and frustration early on. I finally pushed through, had a breakthrough of sorts, and finished one set of book notes for my historical-critical methods class. This small achievement has helped clear a path for me, has made it possible for me to see the road ahead more clearly. I am still overwhelmed, and I am doubting whether what I am doing is good enough. But, I decided, thanks be to the Lord, that all I can do is the work tasked to me. He has to make sense of it all in order for me to pass my exams; the sense-making is all in His mighty hands for sure.

As I started my morning routine, I sat down to blog. I always begin my morning with some prayer of thanksgiving to the Lord. Generally, it is something like "Thank you, Lord for what you are doing this good day. Help me to see you in more and more intimate ways, and to come to know you and rely on you as I lean and I learn from you. You are God, and I give you all praise, all honor, and all glory this good, good day."

As I was praying in my heart this morning, the words of Isaiah 45:2-5 came to me. I am struggling (always) with processing some details in my life right now, with making good progress on my study plans, and with the future (just in general). As I read through this portion of Isaiah 45,

Thus says the LORD to Cyrus His anointed, Whom I have taken by the right hand, To subdue nations before him And to loose the loins of kings; To open doors before him so that gates will not be shut: "I will go before you and make the rough places smooth; I will shatter the doors of bronze and cut through their iron bars. "I will give you the treasures of darkness And hidden wealth of secret places, So that you may know that it is I, The LORD, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name. "For the sake of Jacob My servant, And Israel My chosen one, I have also called you by your name; I have given you a title of honor Though you have not known Me. "I am the LORD, and there is no other; Besides Me there is no God.

I was reminded that God often chooses to use people, anoint them for special tasks and purposes, even sometimes, people who do not know Him. In this case, the story is of Cyrus the Great, King of Persia, whom God called to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. I love these verses because you hear the strong testimony of the Lord speaking through the prophet, and these words provide confidence even to those of us who live thousands of years after this command was given. The Lord says that He has taken the great king by the hand, leading him to subdue nations. He says that He will go before the king, and that He will make the "rough places smooth." I love these words, "I will shatter the doors of bronze and cut through their iron bars" because it says to me that my God is a God of power and of strength. His might is like no other! Praise be to God, He is good!! Furthermore, Isaiah says that God has called Cyrus by name, given him the title of king, and that even though he has not known God (as in he wasn't an Israelite), God still chose him to do this particular work.

God of All Glory

As I think about what I am doing right now, the work that the Lord has laid on my heart, I feel so unwell, so unable to stand. At times, the work seems too heavy, too much, too daunting, yet when I get crushed beneath its weight, I remember that God is my strong tower, my refuge, and my rock. It is in His strength and ability that I move forward. It is with His power and authority that I do all things. He has called me by name, and He has chosen me to complete this work, these tasks, and in that, just like He did with Cyrus the Great, God has taken me by the hand, and He is leading me to the place of His work, the place where He needs me to go and to do the very tasks that I have been appointed and anointed to do. Selah! God is good.

This day, then, is a day that is marked by great hope. I am tired, burnt out really, from all the studying that I have done the past couple days. I have so much work left to do, so much work, and my mind is filled with details and data that makes no real sense to me. Yet, the Lord has purposed me for this work, and He has planned my days and given me His grace to accomplish everything necessary to do this THING, this very THING. I struggle today, just with the overload, the logistics, and the process itself. My God is in control, and I know this, yet I wonder how it will all work out. How will this come to pass, Lord, when I am so frail and so unable to even consider any one thing over another?

I look forward with hope, with expectancy, and with joy for I know that my God is like no other. Isaiah 45:5a says, "Besides Me there is no God." I rejoice in this knowledge. I take comfort in the fact that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the same God who reigns and rules over my life today. My Lord, Jehovah, is the same -- yesterday, today, and forever -- praise be to God, for He is great and good! Amen!

Today, I trust the Lord to show me, to guide me, and yes, to lead me by the hand this good day. Help me, Lord, to do this work, this high and mighty work. Help me to know what you are saying to me, so that I can have a clear mind, a cool head, and a calm inner spirit. I follow after you, I trust you, and I look to you for your wisdom and your guidance. I need you this day, Lord. I cannot do this work without you. Selah!

Last night, as I was drifting off to sleep, I heard the Lord speaking into my spirit. Yes, I heard Him speak words into my heart and my mind that made me stop and think that what He wanted was for me to pay attention to Him, to listen carefully, and to remain hopeful and expectant of His delivered promises to me. You see, I am ready to go, to go wherever the Lord has in mind for me. I am ready to do whatever work (as in a job) that the Lord has purposed and planned for me to do. I am not picky (ho, ho, ho -- I hear the Lord laughing right now!) per se, though I do have particular desires and sometimes, I do have wishes and intents that aren't always in my best interest (I think they are, but then the Lord shows me something better). Still, I know that in my heart, and with my mind yielded toward His thoughts, I know that what I really want is what He really wants for me. Yes, I am determined to be in alignment, to be of one accord with the Lord. I have learned over time and through experience, that it is in my best interest to always SIDE WITH THE LORD. Whenever I have chosen my own way, well let's just say...I have fallen flat on my face and I failed BIG TIME! But, when I have chosen to go His way, the path and the way has been smooth. The way has proven successful and good. I know this is truth, and because I have seen this same process play out time and time again, I know that this time, I will experience His goodness IF I GO HIS WAY.

I have been thinking about what the Lord said to me and I wonder how can it be. I mean, how can it be that the Lord would call me to pursue another line of work (job). I am done with all that thinking. I have made my commitment to the Lord to stick to this path, to stay put, to not look to the left or the right. I cannot even contemplate doing anything other than what I am doing now. I am content. I am good. I am comfortable (finally). 

Would the Lord move me into another line of work simply to create better opportunities for me? Would He ask me to do something different NOW after all the torment I went through to finally ascent to His will, His way, and His word? Oh, Lord, say it isn't so...

Yet, in my heart and in my mind, I know that I have said to Him that I would do whatever job He asked me to do. This meant that I would not seek my own way in choosing a line of work. Some Christians believe that the work you do (practically-speaking) is up to you. They believe that the Lord doesn't really care what you do so long as it is honorable and good work. They will cite the Apostles who often did the work they were trained to do to help earn income to cover their needs (fishing, for example, or tent-making in the case of Paul). Yet, other Christians believe as I do that sometimes the Lord places people in positions that are strategic (as He did with Cyrus the Great). Some people believe that God has a plan that is specific, and that as He orders the day, the steps, and the way in which they walk, the work they do (practical) is of vital importance.

I know that the work I do is important. It is not important to me, as in necessary to me, for more than provision. I am not driven by my status. I am, however, driven by good work, the need to produce good work, and the desire to be used in ever greater and expanding capacities. Yes, I desire to do good work, challenging work, and work that will produce the kind of character changes that honor the Lord. I want to be like Him, so that means that whatever work I do, the actual process of working should have some positive outcome. It should help to make me a representative or ambassador that "looks the part," on both the inside and the outside. My character, thus, should be constantly challenged so that I am becoming more progressively Christ-like, and my daily work, the job I do, has the greatest chance to do that simply because it is the thing I spend the most time each day doing (if that makes sense).

Thus, as I think about His words to me, I wonder what He intends to do. How this could possibly be, and why now, why now?

The Lord is Lord of all knowledge, for certain, and that means that if my days are really accounted for by Him, then He knows the timing of events and epochs in my life well. I can trust His judgment, and I can rest in His assurance that whatever He wants me to do, it will be for my good, to produce good results in my life, and to bring to pass His expressed will for me.

Heavenly Father,

I ask for clarification today. I ask that you would clearly and completely help me to understand your word today so that I can be assured that what I am hearing is testimony from you. Remove from me any traces of chatter that are purposed to pull me from the mark, from the path you have for me. Keep me steadfast and hold me accountable to your will, your work, and in your way, Lord, help me to see the truth, the truth and know the truth, so that I can follow after you -- wherever you lead me. I trust you this good day, and I rest in the knowledge that you are God, and that just as Isaiah prophesied so many years ago, that there is no other God besides you. I love you, Lord, and I rest my case. I take your word as word of testimony, and I accept your determination for my life. Have your way in me this good, good day. I pray this all in the matchless and mighty and majestic Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, amen. So be it. Thy will be done. Selah!

December 29, 2015

Making Good Progress Today

It is a blessed Tuesday, and I am home today (praise the Lord!) I am so thankful for my school schedule. I am enjoying the blessed rest of the holiday break. It has been good to rest, for sure, though I wish I would have relaxed more before Christmas. I was panicked over my exam preparation (more on that later) as well as the whole Christmas hub-bub, and sadly, I allowed all that negativity and stress to ruin my mid-year vacation.

Now, it is the end of the year, and my spring classes start next week at GCU.  This means that I have this week left to finish all my exam preparation before the new school semester begins. AGH! Yes, I need to get all my ducks in a row, so to speak because the next 16 weeks will be filled to the brim with teaching, grading, and mentoring students.

The good news is that I love my job. I love the fact that I get to teach at GCU, and I love this school, and I love the opportunity that the Lord has provided to me to be a college English instructor. My new semester is going to be full, for sure. I checked my rosters yesterday, and as of now, I have 166 students and three instructional assistants spread over three English Composition II courses. Whew! It is going to be a jam-packed semester, at the least, until I get through my comprehensive exams and move up into candidacy. Then, I will have sweet, blessed, rest! Sigh!

It has been a bumpy ride learning to be a "teacher," and the process has been challenging and difficult.  I have seen, and I have experienced great strides toward fluency in my subject area, and I finally feel more settled in this profession. God has been so good to me. He has taken me by the hand, led me through this difficult transition (from corporate worker to educator), and He has helped me learn the ropes, learn how to teach, to present, and to educate my students. He has done all of this, and while I have been the recipient of His training and preparation, I know that I wouldn't be where I am today if it weren't for His grace and His mercy in and through every area of my life (Selah!). Thus, today, I am giving all praise, honor, and thanks to the Lord. He is good! He is so very good to me!

Seeing Progress - Finally!

It is December 29, if you hadn't noticed, and that means that there are "technically" two more days left in 2015. I have made some progress on my study and preparation program for my qualification exams. This whole process, planning, organizing, and then preparing study materials has been difficult, to say the least. It would be easier if the examination was standardized, but it is not. Instead, while the exam itself follows certain conventions, it is customized for each doctoral student. This means that there is no "rule" to follow when preparing your study materials. As doctoral students we are responsible for the course content of each of the eight subject areas we are tested on for written and oral exams. This means that while the content for History is the same regardless of the semester it was taken, the content itself is only a starting point for study. There is so much more information available that as scholars we are supposed to know. Thus, the study approach has to include covering course content AND anything that might be useful to demonstrate subject matter knowledge. In short, anything is "fair game" when it comes to examination questions.

How do you prepare if you don't know what will be on the exam?

Good question. This has been my issue from the get-go. For example, in my Advanced Theory class, it is pretty much a given that we will be tested on Craig's Seven Traditions (Theory framework for Communication) as well as the main issue or argument within Communication (whether Communication is a field or a discipline). Furthermore, it is assumed that we will be asked to assess several theories from each of the traditions, describe them and identify strengths and weaknesses of each. With this in mind, the study for Theory is pretty straightforward. Study Craig's work, his theoretical framework and commit to memory several theories (2-3 each) that support each tradition.

The problem with this approach is that it works well for courses that are formatted more along the lines of a textbook because there is a logical order and sequence to the process. But, for other more, interpretive courses like History, for example, the course content is broad and very generalized. This means that you are attempting to synthesize 5-6 or more books along with a broad historical timeline of events. The questions asked may be subjective, but they require the ability to draw from multiple sources. Normally, this would not be difficult if the exam were open-book, but it is not. No, all of this information must be memorized and then must be recalled in a useful way to allow you the opportunity to write a 5 page essay (no notes).

Planning and Organizing

I've struggled with getting a plan together. Everything I have read has said that it doesn't really matter how you plan or what system you use, what matters most is that you are consistent in how you use it. I agree.

I was also told to plan ahead, to give yourself plenty of time to "prepare." I started my whole process of preparing for exams 16-weeks out. My examination date is February 11-12, 2016, so I started in early October, by creating an exam schedule. I had great hopes, high hopes, that my schedule would keep me on track. Every website I read said that your electronic date book is your good friend, keep it handy, stick to it, etc.

Reality Check #1: I found that my dates and my schedule were excellent, but that my life simply didn't cooperate fully to ensure I met my own high expectations.

My first plan of attack was going to be to spend 8-weeks organizing my materials. This included:
  • Course overviews
  • Course notes
  • Chapter outlines
  • Book reviews
  • Written discussion board responses
  • Papers and assignments
  • Journal articles
  • Flash cards with keywords, definitions, theories, etc.
I thought my plan for what to "gather" seemed reasonable, logical, and very doable. After all, I had all that material at hand (in various places), so really I just needed a good system to corral it all.

In early November (October didn't pan out), I started using what I affectionately called the "dump" method. By this I mean, I collected everything related to the subject (see the list above) along with information I found on the Internet. My plan was to print all this material off, and place it in a three-ring binder with tabs. This method seemed good to me, and I thought it would provide a manual of sorts for me to review content. 

Reality Check #2: As I started to print, I quickly realized that each binder would contain hundreds of pages of information, some of it irrelevant to my study.

I knew I needed a new plan, a new method, so I thought I would synthesize the information I already had, taking only the important bits and tossing the rest. After all, I reasoned, there is only so much that can be remembered about a subject. So, I started to pare down my research to 20 or so pages of bullet items. My mind reasoned that this would make it easier to review. In my effort to pare down, I found I was plagued with "information overload." The decision process of what to keep and what to let go haunted me. I worried, I stressed, I feared...what if? What if I didn't study the best material to pass the exam?

Reality Check #3: Less may be more, but less is not always the best approach to take unless you are already a subject matter expert.

Then, I thought that rather than printing and carrying around paper copies (in 3-pronged folders), I would create a blog on line and simply post the material where I could read through it. I liked that idea because it seemed environmentally friendly and it was a heck of a lot cheaper for me to produce (no printing toner and paper costs). Plus, I would always have access to all my materials -- on phone, iPad or computer -- I could review wherever I was and for however long I had available.

This was my go-to method for this past week. It made good sense to me and I thought it would work. Until, that is, I started to put everything online and I realized that there was so much work involved AND the format (reading online) simply isn't my preferred way to digest information (for example, I do not like to read e-books, but prefer paper copies).

Reality Check #4: Sometimes a good idea is a good idea, but it is not the most practical given the time constraints of the project.

Last night, I was about to give in and state emphatically that I would simply NOT sit these exams -- ever! Yes, my frustration got the best of me, and I really was about to give up on the whole process, when I started to look through one of my saved folders (on my hard drive). My former Theory professor had provided us with 37 power point presentations that accompanied our primary textbook. These were resources provided to her as instructor, and she made them available to us for use for our assignments. I started to browse through them again (I had looked at them a couple semesters ago), when I got this idea that perhaps what was causing me all the problem was not just the massive amount of content, but also it was the way the content was being presented.

Reality Check #5: Use a method of organization that works best for your learning style.

I am a visual-learner, and by visual, I simply mean that I learn best through presentation. I do read, but it is not my prefer mode for taking in new material. I am not a reader, even though I teach English (I know, weird, right?) I will read when I have to do it for a class, but I simply do not enjoy reading. Thus, for me, reading must be presented visually, with format and style. So for example, if I have to study a textbook that is mostly text, my eyes will glaze over. But, if I can study a textbook that has charts, graphs, pictures, and nice "chunked" content, well then I am able to follow along. I need lists, tables, and other content holders to help me sort and organize. I think this is why I enjoyed web design so much. I loved being able to organize data, to categorize it, and present it visually so that it made sense to others who might be reading the web pages.

The power points I viewed contained anywhere from 8-13 slides. They were set up in a series that allowed you to progress through the book systematically. This made the content easy to digest. I liked the way the authors chose to do this, and of course, I understood their rationale. These slides would be used by teachers in the classroom so the content had to be chunked and bullet pointed for ease of recall.

This got me thinking that perhaps I should do the same thing. If I made power points for each of my courses, I could in essence, recap the class and cover the most important information in chunky-style. Furthermore, rather than write out flash cards (which I had planned to do), I would simply watch the presentation on the computer screen. I could review each course and with a push of a button, the content would be large enough for me to see it clearly and to remember the details.

I started last night by creating my first class, History of Communication. I have five power points so far, and I am thinking I need about 3-4 more before I will be done with this course. Most of my other courses are already completed or 3/4 completed (in a Word doc), so the process of creating power points for them should be relatively easy. I am pretty content with this approach though I still wonder if I need a paper review sheet to help fill in the gaps (thinking on this approach a bit more).

Now that I understand what works best for me, for my preferred style of learning, I feel content to proceed with this approach. I have six-weeks (beginning January 1) to cover eight courses well enough to handle both written and oral comprehensive exams. I am sure I will miss some important information, but at the least, I will feel that I have covered most everything expected. My goal now is to review these power points each week for five weeks (a tentative schedule is listed below):

Monday - History and Theology
Tuesday - Leadership and Organizational Communication
Wednesday - Family and Crisis Communication
Thursday - Advanced Theory and Research Methods (Historical/Critical)
Friday - rest my weary brain!

In addition, I plan to devote each weekend to writing answers to practice exam questions.

Week 1 - Theory
Week 2 - History
Week 3 - Historical/Critical
Week 4 - Theology
Week 5 - Family

My applied learning courses, Leadership, Organizational and Crisis Communication, along with Social Media will more than likely cover projects, proposals or syllabus creation. I plan to create samples to review throughout the period.

Week 6 will be for final review, and I hope to practice what are commonly called "brain dumps" (timed sessions where you dump what you know). My colleagues who have already passed recommend this approach as it helps to free you up so you can concentrate on writing a well-formatted essay.

I have been warned about over preparing for exams, and how that can lead you to freeze up as you begin the test. I am concerned about losing all the content I have studied, so for now, I am working on the assumption that between weeks 3-6, I will pare down the content to a streamlined folder with 8 tabs and only 5 pages of reference points.

Moving Forward and Pressing On

So that is my plan of attack. I am trusting my plans to the Lord, and if He needs me to change things up, so be it. I am letting the "planning part" go, and moving on to the "doing part." The time has come to start the work, and in that sense, I am committing to sitting and passing both parts of my exams. I am not coming back to repeat any missed sections, that is for certain (Lord, willing). He is good, so very good to me! Selah!

Dear Lord,

I ask that you bless my approach, my method, and my abilities to prepare for these exams. I have struggled to figure out what would work for me, and I thank you for helping me find a way that will satisfy my needs and my learning style. I ask now that you cover me as I complete this work. Help me to know what to study, what to let go, and then "do" the work. The time is nigh, and I must be busy. Help me to stay focused and fixed on the Lord's will for my life, which includes, passing these exams. I ask now for your mercy and your sweet grace as I do this good practical work today. Give me peace, help me focus, and keep me steady. I ask this all in Jesus' matchless, marvelous, and most majestic Name, amen. So be it, thy will be done! Selah!

December 28, 2015

Reflections of 2015

It is Monday, and that means that it is December 28, 2015. Yes, there are only three more days left in this month and in this year. In some ways, that thought excites me and in other ways, it scares the daylights out of me! So much has happened this past year -- so much change -- yet, in and through it all, the Lord has been good to me. Today, then, is a day of reflection, a time to think back on all that the Lord has done for me, and to remember His goodness and His blessing on my life. Selah!

This year, 2015, has been a significant year for me in many ways:

First, I made it through my doctoral program, completing all my required courses, both cores and electives, and I kept my solid 4.0 GPA.  This is a huge achievement, and it is something I take no credit for at all. The Lord has been my ROCK and my STEADY companion, and through all the trials and stresses of doctoral coursework (the papers, the discussion board posts, etc.), I have come to learn of His goodness, to rely upon His steadfastness, and to expect His faithfulness in every detail of my life. He is good, He is so very good to me! Selah (pause, and think about that!)

Second, as I moved into my new profession as a teacher, I realized that the more time I spend actually "teaching," the more comfortable I become at it. I have learned that "practice does make perfect," and that to become polished in presenting in the classroom requires three things: preparation, presentation, and practice. It is all a matter of being prepared, knowing your material well enough so that your confidence shines through, and then practicing the application of teaching (speaking, guiding, mentoring, etc.) in and out each day. The Lord has shown me that I can be an effective teacher in the classroom, and that I can learn how to guide my students in their studies using my personality, my passion, and my persuasion to do it.

Last, as I think about my future, the plans the Lord has for my life, I realize that nothing I do or even consider is every outside the scope of His authority and His will for me. I have considered a number of options this year including moving to Alabama and Tennessee, taking on teaching jobs at Christian and Secular schools as well as even moving back into corporate communications in order to facilitate a faster return to financial stability. In all, I have considered options that would provide a solid career position for me and that would open doors for further advancement in my professional life as well as in my personal life. Yet, in the end, I chose to stay put, to remain in higher education, not because it was the most lucrative, but rather because it provided the means to enable me to do the Lord's work, His ministry work, and it would keep me focused, dependent, and wholly reliant on the Lord for my every need. I chose this line of work because it requires that I remain fixed to my Lord, 100% dependent on Him for everything, and in that place of yielding and submission, I find that I am most content, most satisfied, and most at peace. It is a good thing, a very good thing.

Reflecting on Key Events

As I think back on this year, several key events stand out as critical to my spiritual and emotional well-being. Of these, two are especially important, namely my completion of my coursework and my acceptance of my role as teacher. I know it seems like obvious to most people, considering I am a doctoral student and a teacher, but to me, coming to terms with these two concepts caused me the most concern, and consumed most of my thought-processes and my time throughout the year.

On Being an Educator

I struggled most with the fact that to remain in teaching, in higher education, I had to let go of the other path I was on, and I had to fully embrace this way as His way. It was difficult for me because the decision process wasn't clear cut. I had to consider two options for my life, and once I had made my decision, I couldn't turn back. No, the decision had to be final, and that meant that once I started walking down this path, there would be no change of heart or mind. The path of teaching was heading in one direction, and the path for corporate work was heading in another. I knew that there would be no other time when a crossroads, so to speak, would appear again; these two paths would never cross for me.

I stood at that crossroads, it seemed for months, wrestling with the decision to choose one way over the other. The process was agonizing for me. However, once I made the choice, and I started to walk forward, I realized that I had made a good decision, a good choice for my life. Granted, I didn't choose the easiest way to go, the way that would provide amply for me, and that would keep me in good financial position. Financially speaking, I chose a less desirable way to go. I think this was the part that was most difficult for me because I was in a position where my financial well-being was perilously close to crashing down on me. In logical terms, choosing a financial option made good sense. I would have taken a job that would have provided well for me, made sure that I was well-cared for money-wise, and would have helped me build retirement. I would have been well-set, so to speak. Yet, my heart struggled to go after the money, to follow that road because I worried whether I would be satisfied in other ways, in more important ways (long-term). Thus, with heart-wrenching and gut-turning agony, I finally I chose a way of life that would meet my spiritual and emotional needs first and foremost. I chose the way that would provide the maximum amount of spiritual well-being and emotional happiness, albeit along with the minimum amount of financially success.

On Finishing Doctoral Studies

As I turned toward the end of the year, the realization that my doctoral studies were ending caught me by such surprise. I had been so fixed, so fervent in my application and my intensity that I didn't realize just how important the routine was to my life. You see, as a doctoral student, everything you do is predicated on one goal -- finishing your dissertation research and graduating with your PhD. My advisor likes to say, "the only good dissertation is a done dissertation" and he is right! Too many students quit before they finish their research simply because it is the research that requires the most effort. The classes often are brutally difficult, but there is routine in them. Each semester, you look forward to the next two classes. You look forward to getting your books, to seeing your syllabus, and to starting your assignments. There is anticipation and excitement, and often, you are joined by familiar faces, colleagues whom you have come to know and rely upon. In many ways, doctoral programs are like families, and through them, you become part of a family of scholars, and that family connection makes the whole process worth while. As a family, you cry with your peers, hug them when you see them, and complain and whine over the hardships you each face. There is a kinship that develops in strong and cohesive doctoral programs, so when the time come to exit out, there is a feeling of isolation, of loneliness, and of exposure. It is hard to explain really but I would guess it would be like a person who leaves the military after a long run or retires from a company after so many years. It is not like you won't ever see your peers again, but the situation will be different, the experience will never be the same.

I didn't see that letdown coming because I was consumed by the work I had to do. This last semester, in particular, was grueling for me. I completed two major courses, and I taught four classes locally. The combination along with family commitments was difficult for me. I survived, praise be to God, and in the end, I finished strong. It was a wonderful, life-changing, and exhilarating process, but now it is over, and I have to look to the next goal: exams and dissertation. I am in the final stretch, winding my way around to home plate, but there is still work to be done, work that must be done. The whole thought that I am almost ABD (in March, Lord willing) scares me. I am apprehensive of passing my exams, but I know that the Lord will see me through just as He has through each course, each paper, and each term. He will guide me, mentor me, and help me to finish this last stretch, this last part with grace and with enthusiasm.

My heart longs to be finished, to finally be graduated. Yet, there is a part of me that is already missing the camaraderie of classroom, the community that was created as part of my cohort. I know my colleagues who are in the same place feel this way too. I also know that these people will be life-long friends of mine, forever friends, because we shared in such an important and awesome journey together. The Lord knew what He was doing when He placed Regent on my heart way back in 2012. He knew that I needed this program, and that this program would change my life for the better. He knew that the work He had for me would begin here and would be built upon this foundation of knowledge. He knew that the faculty would encourage me, pray for me, and guide me, and in the end, I would learn exactly what I needed to know to be: a scholar, a teacher, and a communicator. God knew this was the "best" path for me, and through this experience, He understood how well I would be shaped, molded, and conformed to His will for my life. Selah!

With all this in mind, I turn my attention toward 2016 and the new plans the Lord has for my life. Some of what is in process will continue on through this next year and even into 2017. Somethings will change, of course, and some things will end. But through it all, I know that the Lord has me well-covered, He has me in His steadfast care, and I can rest in the knowledge that He indeed is Lord of all.

Plans for 2016

My plans for 2016 are for the most part set and fixed. In this way, I simply mean that the plans I have in place now are pretty much settled. I don't expect any real change. I always keep an open mind because the Lord could choose to do something that might cause me to be moved, altered or shifted. For now, though, I believe this is what the Lord intends for me to accomplish this coming year.

Regent University

I am scheduled to "sit" my comprehensive exams in February and March. Examinations are a two-part process with the written portion taking place on February 11-12, and the oral defense portion taking place the first to second week of March (typically 2-3 weeks after the written portion is completed). As of right now, I plan to sit the written portion here in Phoenix (at ACU). The oral portion can be done over the phone or in person, but it is best to visit campus and take it locally. I am planning on travelling to VA on Sunday, defend on Monday, and fly home on Tuesday during the second week of March. Once I complete my exams, pass them, I will no longer be a student, but I will be classified as a candidate. This is the official start of my dissertation research, and Lord willing, I hope to have everything completed so I can defend it some time before the end of 2016. My graduation date remains the same -- May 2017 -- and I plan to walk in the ceremony on campus to celebrate my final achievement!

As I consider these next steps, I have several hurdles to overcome, namely studying for my exams (the next 6 weeks), and then taking and passing the written portion. I am confident in the Lord, so while I am apprehensive about the exam process, I know He will go before me (Deut. 31:8), and He will give me good success. My research has faltered somewhat, but I hope to get back on track with it before the end of this month. My goal is to be able to present my proposal to my panel before May 2016 (again, Lord willing).

Grand Canyon University

My teaching contracts are set for spring 2016. I will be teaching three composition courses only so as to facilitate my study program for exams. I am relying on the Lord for His provision of financial support, and I am praying that the Lord will open doors for another teaching position, possibly online, to help me recover some of the lost income. However, I know that He has me well-covered, so I let this be, and I focus on my exams.

I have some opportunity at GCU for fall, but mostly, it will be the same as what I have been doing -- teaching part-time adjunct (3 classes maximum). I also have an open opportunity at ACU to repeat the Communications class I have taught twice now, but I really do not want to teach it a third time. I simply do not care for the class, the format, or the content. However, Lord willing, if I must do it to supplement my income, so be it. I am okay so long as the Lord provides and calls me to take that position again.

I have applied for a couple online teaching positions, but so far, nothing has materialized. This leads me to believe that it is the Lord's will, for now, that I teach my three classes and let the idea of teaching full-time slide. He knows my needs, and He has a great plan in mind for me.

Auburn University

I have considered Auburn University for a time now, well for about a year and a half. At first, I thought the Lord wanted me to apply to this school for full-time teaching work. However, as time has passed, I have come to the conclusion that for now, Auburn is not the choice the Lord has for me for my professional career. I was distracted for a long while with the thought of teaching at this very prominent school, and I think my desire to move there because of my good friend, well that colored my idea and confused my thinking processes (in a good way, I should say). Now, though, I think the desire that I have to go to Auburn is more for study than for teaching. I have prayed about this feeling, and while I am not 100% sure of it, I do feel that the Lord may be calling me to post-doctoral study at this school.

I have thought about this quite a bit, and for a time, I was unable to see how the Lord would or could choose to send me here. I mean, I need or will need full-time work just to support myself and my family. Furthermore, the thought of taking on more post-doctoral work seemed like too much for me. Could I even imagine doing more work like this? As I think about it, my mind says yes, I could. I know that seems really crazy and so impractical, but I have this desire to study Rhetoric and Composition, and I believe that this desire is of the Lord (so be it). I am trusting the Lord to provide for this desire, should it be His next move for me, and that means that if He wants me to study Rhetoric, well then He has to provide a way for me to do it. Selah!

Studying at Auburn has challenges, many challenges. The first and most significant is acceptance into the program. Auburn's English program is highly competitive and that means that the Lord would have to move me there, open the door to acceptance, and provide a way for me to live/work/study at this school. It all seems impossible, yet the Lord is known for doing the impossible, so I am letting the details ride, so to speak. If this is His will, it will come to pass. I have seen enough to know that He does mighty and miraculous works still today, and that if you believe in His abilities, and rest in them, well -- anything is possible (Selah!)

So for now, I leave this as an open possibility for 2016. I wouldn't be able to begin this study until 2017, but it would be in my best interest to be settled in Alabama so that I could achieve residency (save some $$). Furthermore, I believe that it would benefit me to be settled and to get to know the area before I have to commute to work/school. Again, these are details that the Lord has in His hand, so I let them be. I trust Him to provide, to meet my every need, and to open the right doors for my life.

Family and Other Commitments

Lastly, as I look forward into 2016, I am convinced that whatever the Lord intends to do, He has my family in mind. The other day, my Mom mentioned something about moving, and my Dad said, "Moving would kill us." I know what he meant by that statement, that moving (the process of it) would be too much for them to handle, but there is part of me that sees this as a real possibility in 2016 (Auburn aside). My parents health is in decline. They are not in-firmed yet, but they are in such a place where they will need more care in the coming year, especially my Mom. My Dad is able to handle most things, but his memory is failing too, and he is struggling to take care of my Mom's health and her memory issues (Alzheimers/dementia). Mostly, Mom's memory is the biggest concern. Her CLL is steady, and she seems less fatigued now. Furthermore, her cancer is gone, and while she is still suffering with some lingering issues (her incision is still draining -- after 6 months), overall, she is doing okay. She will need more care in time, but for now, I see her condition as stabilized.

My son, on the other hand, seems content where he is at presently. He is a Senior at Arizona Christian University, and while he has three semesters before he graduates, he seems to be happy at school (and doing well, finally). Furthermore, he is in a good place with his work and he has found himself a nice girlfriend (yea!) He seems to be maturing into a strong young man, and for that, I am so happy. He is coming into his own, and I feel confident that he will be just fine on his own (again, finally!) This relieves me because I worried about leaving him behind, and I worried whether my actions to relocate would impact his studies or his life. Now, I see that the Lord has provided a strong support group of friends and mentors, and He has opened some doors for him to move into positions of ministry as well as into avenues of work (doing audio/visual engineering). I think he will do just fine in whatever the Lord calls him to do, so my prayer for now is for my son to continue to grow up in the Lord, to develop a strong relationship with Him, and to come to see the power and presence of God's hand upon his life (selah!)

With my parents consideration and needs in mind, and my son's present situation, this leaves my personal life hanging in the balance. The Lord has brought me a wonderful companion and friend whom I have grown very fond of and with whom I have become intimately involved. I have begun to see my life beyond Regent and Grand Canyon and even Phoenix -- all because of this special relationship. We have discussed a future together, but for now, we have not taken the next step to relocate near one another. We both are waiting for the Lord's timing, and His will, of course, but there is clear indicators that this is the "next step." This means that I would be the one to go, simply because I do not believe that the Lord intends for me to stay in Phoenix long-term. Thus, the idea has been in my head for a long time (some 7 years) that I would relocate to the southeast sometime before or near 2017. Now, I am thinking that this is the Lord's plan for my life, to move to the southeast for school (rather than work) and to be settled near my good friend so that we can enjoy the blessing of a stronger and more supportive relationship.

Once again, the thought of moving scares me. Not only are there logistics involved, but the very fact that human emotions and intentions are at the forefront causes me the greatest concern. I have four people to think about, myself not included. I have my parents, my son, and my special friend -- all who are important to me. I want what is best for all four of these people, and my feelings aside, I know that the next step I take has to be ordained and provided for by the Lord. I cannot do this, even think about it, without His grace, His mercy, and His provision. I am 100% beholden to the Lord to give me direction, guidance, and clearance to "go." Until then, I stay put, and I focus on the tasks at hand, which are significant and mighty.

Therefore, as I look forward into 2016, I see great hope and promise. I see a lot of work, hard work, but I also see great achievement and reward. I am determined to remain faithful to the Lord, and to stay fixed on the path I am on. I am open to relocating in 2016, should the Lord provide a way for me to go, and I am strongly feeling that the Lord does intend for me to engage in some post-doctoral study.  My heart is open, my head is ready, and my body, well frail as it is, is willing to follow after the Lord in this way. He has been faithful to me. He has been my steady ROCK, and as such, I have learned to depend on Him for meeting and supplying my every need. Should the Lord open a door that leads me to Auburn in 2016, I am willing to go. Should the Lord provide a way for me to go, then I know that He will provide a way for my parents to be cared for (either by me or another means) and a place for my son to remain while he completes his education here in Phoenix. I have full-faith and confidence that the Lord knows what is best for me, and just as with Regent University, if He chooses Auburn as the next place for me to study, well then, He will provide and He will see me through it. Of this, I am certain. God is good, so very good! Selah!

My life is in His hand. I am letting go of all the plans, the thoughts, and the ideas for now because I have other more important tasks that need my attention. I am praying today for the Lord to move through my life, resort and reorganize, and in doing so, He will clear away the clutter and the refuse. I am asking Him today to reaffirm His call on my life, to help me reconnoiter myself so that I can see where I have been and where I am going. In this way, I will get a better feeling for the direction He intends for my life.

Furthermore, I am asking that as He provides a way for me, He will convince me, really convince me that this is His will. I don't want to lose focus or lose hope, but I also need to know this truth so that I can set it aside (sort of see it, then let it be) so I can concentrate on the work that must be finished first. It is like I need to know enough so that I can say "Amen, Lord. So be it" and then move on. I am asking for His grace and mercy today as I complete my study notes, and prepare for my exams. I am also asking that over the course of the next weeks, the Lord would move in my parents heart and convince them of the need to downsize (perhaps). This would make my life easier in some ways (more challenging in others) because it would mean that I would need to consider options for their care. I don't want to be the one to say to them "Hey, I am moving out!" Rather, I would prefer for them to say to me, "We need to come up with a better plan, a better care solution for our needs." This would relieve me of the burden, and I would be able to assist them in making whatever transition would work in their best interest. In addition, I would like to see my parents understand that my relationship with my special friend is good, and that there is a future for me in it. Right now, they consider it a friendship because we are apart, so I would like for them to see the progression of this relationship as a good thing for me, personally. I am asking the Lord to place on their heart the desires that I have for marriage and longevity so that they will see me less as their single daughter and more as a woman who needs, wants and desires marriage. It would be a good thing, a very good thing.

In closing, 2016 appears to be a pivotal year for me. I don't know what will be, but I have strong feelings that the year will prove to be successful for me, and that I will move one step closer to achieving the plans and the will the Lord has for my life. I believe that all things do work together for our good, and that the Lord has orchestrated these details, these events, to make His good will come to pass in my life. I am resting in His provision, in His security, and in doing so, I am letting all the "unknown" go for now so I can focus on all that is ready and at hand. God is good, so very good to me. Selah!

December 27, 2015

Getting Ready to Go!

It is a good Sunday here in sunny and very cool Phoenix. I woke up stiff, beyond stiff, so I am sitting here today and working at the computer rather than in church. I know, I know...slacker! I made the decision this morning to stay at home one more day so that I could be ready for my afternoon call with my colleague (to begin going over our notes).

Next Sunday, however, starts the new year, and I plan to attend church every Sunday, Lord willing. I am at the point where I can have a normal life again, Praise God! No more Sunday's spent writing papers or grading papers. My schedule is low-key going into January, and with the exception of my study time, I should be able to handle everything without giving up my Sunday worship and praise time. I am blessed, so blessed!

Making Plans and Getting Ready to "Go!"

I am starting to think about the week ahead, and the fact that I am counting down to my start date: my study date of January 1, 2016. I have planned out my exam preparation to be six-week's exactly from January 1st to February 10th. I started my prepping about 16 week's out, and though I didn't get as much done as I had hoped, I did make good progress throughout the busy months of November and December. I worked in "fits and starts" mostly, but I did get a game plan created, collected most of my materials, and started to prepare my study guides/notes, which will be required for January's intensive study sessions. So in short, I am almost ready. I have one more week, and I should be good to "go" by my target date. Praise God! He is good, so very good to me.

Today is a good day for making plans. Yes, I have a to-do list that seems like it is a mile long, but I am going to be steady and disciplined so that I can focus on what matters most to me. I need to finish my study notes for my exams (due by 1/1/16). I also need to prepare for my new semester courses (1/3/16). Other than these two major items, I have some smaller tasks that will need some of my time. Mostly, I have to un-decorate the house (inside and out) as well as update my professor on my dissertation research (a leftover from December). He is kind to me, so I know that he will not have an issue that I am so far behind on that task. In truth, I made a change to my proposal, and well, that sort of caused a minor setback. I am back on task, on target, so I really just need to update him and let him know to disregard what I was saying and that I am content to remain fixed on this path. He will be pleased, I am sure of it.

It is such a weird feeling today, I mean, to be sitting here thinking that Christmas is over and that the new year is just around the corner. I was so pathetic this past week -- whining in my soup, so to speak -- feeling all depressed and unsettled when in truth, I am in a very good place, a very good place. The Lord is gracious to me, and while I whine, He is rock-steady. He is so good, so very good. I am glad that the Lord is not moved by out actions. I am so glad that He is my rock and my redeemer (Selah!)

This morning, I am thinking about the Lord as my rock, my steadfast partner who is making this process, this program, and this plan come to pass. I can do nothing in my own strength, yet, He is able, no more than able, to do everything He purposes and plans to do. Selah!

Psalm 144, verses 2-3 say remind us of this fact,

Blessed be the LORD, my rock, Who trains my hands for war, And my fingers for battle; My lovingkindness and my fortress, My stronghold and my deliverer, My shield and He in whom I take refuge, Who subdues my people under me. LORD, what is man, that You take knowledge of him? Or the son of man, that You think of him?

I cannot help by respond as David does in verse 9,

I will sing a new song to You, O God; Upon a harp of ten strings I will sing praises to You!

As I consider the plans the Lord has for my life, I know this for sure: I can do nothing toward making His plan come to pass. I am absolutely unable to tackle this next phase in my own strength, through my own efforts, or even with my own mind (thinking processes). I can do nothing at all toward this end because it is His work, His product, and it will be for His Name and His Praise, and ultimately, for His Glory. Selah (pause and calmly think about it!)

This past week has been rough on me, really rough. I cannot really explain it any other way than to say that I was hard pressed and with that pressure, came a downward spiral into dissatisfaction and depression. I think it all started two weeks ago, well before Christmas, when I started to consider taking a different way through my study and exams and even my dissertation. The Lord has been steady with me, as in keen to keep my ship afloat and moving in the same direction. I took a tack that I thought was of the Lord when in reality it wasn't. I knew it, I felt it, and rather than immediately recalculating to get me back on point, I let this ship float perilously close to rough waters. I knew better, of course I did, but with the pressure, the exhaustion, and all the fuss around the house, well, I just let the current take me where it wanted. In the end, I felt miserable, depressed, and really downcast. I believed that what was happening, while it was the Lord's will, wasn't as rosy or cheery as I had once hoped. I began to think in darker terms, more difficult lines, and through that process of dark thinking, my mind became very foggy, very unclear. 

As a result, I lost steam, momentum, and I started to feel my feet slipping and sliding off the solid rock. I knew I had to do something, and do something quick, but instead of standing firm against the enemy, I let myself sink back, to slide down from where I was to this place where I am now. I lost my forward progression, and in a moment's time, I felt as though everything I had worked for, everything I was working for, was slowly idling and dying like a flame being extinguished. In short, I was miserable. 

I tried to blog my way out of the funk. I tried to pray my way through it. I even tried to argue, to be defensive, but nothing was working. Nothing was making a difference, and I kept feeling so awful, so awful. Finally, I started to wake up, to rouse myself from the bitter thoughts, and yesterday, praise be to God, I found some clarity, some hope. I prayed over my situation, and I asked the Lord for His help (again). This time, I confessed my error, my fault, and my wayward thinking, and with His grace and mercy, the fog lifted, and the clarity returned. I realize now what I did, the mistake I made, and how one small diversion gave the enemy a stronghold, a foothold. As my enemy gained strength in his attack against me, I felt myself being sucked under, pulled out and away from my destined path, from God's plan for my life. I felt myself being dragged away, farther and farther from where I knew I was to remain, where I was to stay, to stand, to be steady. I could see it happening right before my eyes, but the enemy has subtle tactics and his ways are crafty and cunning. And, yes, just like Eve in the garden, I was tempted with clever lies that caused me to think, to think if the Lord's word to me was true, if the testimony I received from the Lord was accurate. In one small moment, I went from the heights of expectancy and anticipation down to the depths of despair. In a tiny instant, I found myself lost, confused, and questioning what I had only believed as truth the day before. How could this be? How did I allow this to happen?

Turning Around and Heading Back Home

As I found myself so lost, so confused, and so feeling as if I was unable to do anything of good value, I made the turn around. I turned my proverbial ship around, and I started back to the place of safe water where I had once sailed so easily by. I remembered the word of the Lord, I heard His call to come back, to return, and so I did. I turned my ship around, and I sailed back to where I once was, to that place where I was safe, comfortable, and cared for so keenly. Yes, the Lord graciously waited for my return, and once I was safely back in the harbor of His will, I began to see the clear blue sky again. It took some time to sail back because I had allowed the current to pull me quite far away. In the end, however, the journey back took far less time than it did when I sailed out. I am thankful that the Lord chose for me to explore this territory because it showed me so very clearly the difference between the calm waters of His blessed will, and the raging sea that lays beyond it. He is good, so very good to me!

The truth be told, and all metaphors aside, I found that I had made a decision to pursue a course of study that while under the Lord's overarching will for my life, wasn't the choice He had made for me. I chose, instead, to consider doing something different, something that was aligned, but not exactly His will for me. Furthermore, as I considered this path, I started to think about ways that it could produce results that seemed like better choices than what I thought previously had been the Lord's determination for me. I started to think about His will for my life, and about my current situation (what with my parents, my son, etc.) and I started to make plans that I thought would solve all these current issues. I felt that these plans were good, made good sense, and that in thinking about them, well, they just seemed like a natural conclusion, a natural way out of my troubles. In hindsight, I realize that what I was doing was trying to create solutions that were "good in my own eyes," but not the solutions that the Lord intended to provide to me. I was using my own mind, my own strength, my own logic, so to speak, to make changes to my life in order to bring to pass what I believed was the Lord's will. I guess you could say that I was trying to make a "silk purse out of a sow's ear" (as the axiom says). I was trying to create my own way, just like Cain did with his sacrifice to God. Instead of obeying the Lord, and offering what was approved by Him, I tried to get Him to accept my less than perfect gift. 

I thought to myself, "It makes such good human sense, and well, it seems so practical, so available, so ready and at hand. Why wouldn't it be acceptable to you, Lord?"


Thus, after a time in the wilderness of rough waters, I realized my error, and I returned. I offered to Him the sacrifice He desires:

Hosea 6:6 NLT - I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know me more than I want burnt offerings.

Psalm 51:17 NLT - The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.

And finally, 

Romans 12:1 NASB - Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.

I made the sacrifice many years ago when I laid my life down and said that I was willing to follow after Him, to obey, to honor, and to adore Him. I chose then to willingly become a wholly devoted follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. I have made attestation to that fact time and time again, and yet, with such ease, I was pulled away to attempt to create something that was made with human hands, rather than the living sacrifice the Lord desires. Yes, I attempted to offer to Him something of my own hand rather than my very life, which was bought with a price that can never be repaid (Selah!)

Therefore, today, I sit here humbly in this position as I try, no I attempt to do this work, this amazing, this wonderful, and this impossible work that He has called me to do. I sit here amazed at His power, His presence, and His provision. I am awe-struck and I am undone at the thought that the Lord desires to use me in this way, to see me through this journey, and to provide, no to give to me such honor, such praise, and yes, even such glory. I deserve it not, and while I am thankful that He has chosen this ministry, this program for me to be involved in, I stand in such awe of His grace. He is everything, and I am nothing. He is amazing, and I am flawed and failed human flesh. God is good, so very good. I am in awe of Him this good, good day. Praise be to God, He is good, so very good! Selah!

Dear Lord,

I confess to you today that I have strayed from your perfect course for my life. I don't understand fully what I did or how I did it, but I know today that I walked after temptation and in doing so, I found myself utterly alone and defenseless in a place where I clearly did not belong. I ask now, Lord, that you will reveal this to me so that I will understand how this happened and why, and then I will know how not to allow it to happen again (should my enemy attempt the same or a similar maneuver in the future). I ask today, Lord, that you would bless my efforts, however futile they are, and that your word and your will be made evident in my life. I ask for your mercy and your goodness to prevail, for my thoughts to be kept pure, and my heart and my mind to be fixed, no transformed by your glorious praise so that I desire nothing but the work you have set before me. May I no longer look to the left or the right, but may I only look toward you, Lord Jesus, and toward your perfect path, your plan and your provision for every need, every wish, and every desire in my life. I pray this now in your matchless, merciful and majestic Name, Amen. Selah!

December 25, 2015

The Savior is Born!

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:11 ESV

Today is Christmas. It is a day to remember the Savior, Christ our Lord. It is a day to enjoy the blessing of family and friendships. It is a day like any other, but still it is a day reserved for His praise. I thank the Lord today for what I do have instead of what I lack. I turn my thoughts toward what is to come rather than what has passed. I wait with hopeful expectancy, with cheerful anticipation, and with the joy of the Lord knowing that my Savior lives. He reigns, and some day very soon, He will come again. Come, Lord Jesus, come! Do not tarry, but come quickly! Amen. Selah!

Joy to the world! The Lord has come
Let earth receive her King!
Let every heart prepare Him room

And heaven and nature sing
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven, and heaven and nature sing

Joy to the world! the Savior reigns
Let men their songs employ
While fields and floods
Rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy
Repeat the sounding joy
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy

December 24, 2015

Christmas Eve

It is Christmas Eve day, so that means that this is the LAST shopping day before Christmas 2015! I can't believe it, but there you go...the year is almost over, and today signals that we have only seven more days until we ring in the New Year.

I don't know why I am not happier, more festive, and more excited about that fact. I guess I am feeling somewhat deflated this year. I have noticed a pattern lately, and I think it is all the negativity surrounding Christmas (is it Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas?). Furthermore, the whole atmosphere of Christmas has changed. People are grumpier, more Scrooge-like, and frankly, it seems that everywhere you go there is either no "sign" of Christmas or what is on display is a toned-down "no offense" version of the Christmas theme.

Christmas has always been my favorite time of the year. As a child, I loved the fall holidays -- all of them -- from Labor Day right on through to New Year's Eve. I look forward to each holiday at school, and yes, back then, we actually made craft items that celebrated each special day. We didn't shy away from Columbus Day. We celebrated the Pilgrims and the INDIANS on Thanksgiving. And we made Christmas decorations that were not religious (snowman, candles that looked like candy canes, and holly wreaths) while we sang traditional Christmas carols in the classroom. No one took offense. No one minded. It was fun. It was joyful. It was festive.

Now, it is all about not putting anyone out, not causing anyone offense. People are afraid to utter any type of greeting for fear of retribution. Jews and Christians are under attack mostly because this time of the year is symbolic of two major festivals celebrating their history. Traditionally, Christmas was reserved to celebrate the birth of the Savior, Jesus Christ. If you didn't celebrate Christmas or at the least be kind about not celebrating it, you were not considered a Scrooge. It was accepted that some people celebrate while others did not. No one was hurt. There was no offense taken. You were wished a Merry Christmas or a Happy Hanukkah and you smiled. You waved and thanked those bell-ringers outside the stores. You gave a reply wish to everyone who wished you the best. And, the truth was that most people, even those who were not religious still celebrated the commercial aspects of the holiday. Your non-religious neighbors still did the tree, the lights, the gift-giving -- all parts of the celebration that had nothing what so ever to do with Christ coming into the world.

Now, though, it seems that anyone who celebrates Christmas is being told to stop -- and urged to not celebrate at all.  Why? Well, because it is offensive to people who choose to believe other things. The hatred of all things God-centered has made Christmas an anathema.  If  you worship the Christ child or celebrate the honored festival of lights, you face criticism and even hatred. Our world is slowly sinking into the muck and the mire of secular humanism and along with it comes the appeal toward atheism.

Even Commercialism is Affected

Yesterday, I was over at Walmart. I had to do some last minute shopping so I went to our big box superstore. It wasn't very crowded, and I was surprised at the low volume of Christmas items that normally greet you at the front of the store. I have been thinking lately that this is due to the down turned economy, but now I am thinking it is simply because retailers are fighting to stay in business when the whole "holiday" mess is under the microscope. As I wander through the store, I ended up over in groceries. I wanted some small stocking stuffers, you know, candy and such. I was shocked to see that the aisle that had all the Christmas themed gift items had been moved, well, replaced by hearts. Yes, it was December 23rd, and Walmart had removed every single "Christmas" item and put up Valentines items.

I wasn't the only one who was disappointed. Several other shoppers all commented about it too. Where did they go? Why switch the season before the holiday even arrived? I guess it is never too early to start the next holiday, right?

The same thing was noted at the mall. I shopped with my brother on Tuesday, and noticed among other things, the low volume of product. For example, the display cases used to be full of items, various sizes, etc. There were some items, but many of the cases were empty. It appeared that the offering was so limited. I noticed also that a lot of the stores weren't even decorated for Christmas. There were no "Holiday" signs in the windows nor were there any special lights or other decor to show that the holiday was approaching.

Christmas, it seems, is dead. The holiday, the spirit, the joy, and the festivity is gone.

My heart is feeling sad today. I think it is because I see that this is the New Age of Atheism. Yes, our country, like many others, is beginning to look eerily similar to the countries under the Iron Curtain. Religion is forbidden to be practiced outside the home. All displays of religious significance are restricted. People are reduced to living in a way that every word they utter is censored. No wishing your neighbor happy holidays. Not acceptable. Not permitted.

We are heading into dark days and dark times. I can see it, I can sense it. I am praying today for the Lord's mighty and quick return. Come, Lord Jesus, Come!

In other news, well perhaps more joyous news, it is Christmas Eve day. Yes, it is the day before Christmas, and at the least, all through this house not everyone is stirring. I slept late, almost to 11 a.m. this morning. My son is still in bed, though I hear murmurs of him moving about. My Mom and Dad are up and doing what they normally do. I am sitting here blogging and thinking dreary thoughts. Help me, Lord Jesus, help me think about the good things you do for us. Help me to focus on your goodness this very good, good day!

My boys are sleeping next to me, and for now, I am content to know that while my world is slowing spinning out of existence (as we know it), one thing is for sure: the Lord lives, and He reigns! No matter what the outside world looks like, no matter what is going on out there -- in here -- in my heart and in my home, He lives! Yes, He lives, and He reigns as sovereign Lord over every detail of my life.

I am content to remember this fact. I am content to know that tomorrow will come and we will celebrate the Lord's birth. Then in a few short months, we will celebrate His Resurrection from the dead. Furthermore, the day is coming soon when all people will know the truth about Christmas and about Easter. They will know the truth, see it, and for many, that realization will be too late. They will have missed the opportunity to come to know Him personally, to experience His great love, His great affection, and His great mercy. They will only experience His wrath as He comes to destroy the wickedness in the world.

It is the hard sword that follows the joyous news of the Christ Child's birth, and for many, this fact is disturbing. Yes, the very thought that God would come again to destroy is particularly difficult for them to accept -- it is the bitter pill that they must swallow. Furthermore, because they refused to accept Him when He came two-thousand years ago as a loving Savior, they now attempt to stamp out every vestige of his His memory and His mission.

As I close out this post, I am reminded of these words recorded by John:

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

Christmas is all about gift giving and sacrifice, but not about the commercialization, the holiday greetings, the signs, and the celebration of the season. No, it is about God sending His only Son as a ransom for the world. Jesus is the reason for the season -- Jesus is the reason we celebrate Christmas. Selah!

December 23, 2015

Happy Wednesday!

It is a good day in Phoenix. The clouds are still with us and the weather forecast is calling for showers on and off today. I am loving this cool and wet winter weather!

I cannot believe that it is December 23rd already. There are only two more days until Christmas and only eight more days until the end of the year. It seems surreal to watch another year slip by and to know that soon it will be 2016. The New Year looks good by all accounts, and I have great plans purposed to help me accomplish everything the Lord desires for my life. I am confident, of course; yet, without fail there is a small part of me that is apprehensive about making the turn into the New Year (just a bit fearful). Though, my choice today is to give praise to God, and to choose to be patient and to wait on Him for His leading, His guidance, and His provision. Selah!.

This morning, I am reminded of Psalm 27:14, which says, 

"Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord." 

My plan, therefore, this good day is to be patient and to remain courageous as I wait for the Lord to deliver to me the blessed promises of His word! Selah!

New Plans and Other Ideas to Ponder

So I already blogged about the potential adjunct work I applied for through my Alma mater (well, my current school, but soon to be Alma mater). I am excited to think about this opportunity, and I am excited to consider what it might mean to me, financially, to have another job that pays a regular or even 9-month contracted salary. I like the "idea" of 9-months of work. I know that sounds crazy, but I really like the idea of working for 9-months of the year, and even though I will have no summer income, the fact that my summers are free, well, that thought is just so enticing. I can manage my summers IF I have steady income that is significant enough during the rest of the year. I can save the extra income to cover my summer months, and then I can, in effect, have my summers for holidays or vacation time to travel. I love this "idea," and I am praying for this type of job. I've thought a lot about it, and I have decided, Lord willing, that 9-month positions are better than 12-month ones are for me. I like the freedom that comes from teaching two semesters and then having the long break over the summer. Yep, this is what I am hoping the Lord provides to me. It will fit me to a tee, and it will give me a good long rest right when I need it most.

Now, I must wait for the Lord to provide this job to me. He must open the door, provide the favor and blessing needed to appear qualified, and He must move within the organization to cause my resume and credentials to be appealing to the faculty recruiter. Furthermore, I must trust Him to negotiate the details, the contracts, so that I can accept whatever is offered to me. I believe He knows my exact need -- as in -- my exact monthly need for January, February, and so forth. My monthly budget is tight, but I can survive through the summer if I manage my outflow well. I have already made some changes to my expenses. I dropped DIRECTV and my own Cox Communication account, thus saving me $200 per month. I changed my cellphone plan, adding a new phone this past week. Overall, I anticipate saving about $140 total once it is all said and done. I also am hoping to pay off my smaller credit cards in January, thus reducing my out of pocket costs by zeroing out those pesky minimum payments each month. This along with some savvy saving should make it possible for me to live more comfortably and have much less worry going forward.

My hope, as I consider 2016, is that I will start to move into a position of more financial security soon. I have planned out my life in such a way that my progress to financial security has been measured. I didn't anticipate the sharp decrease in salary when I switched from corporate work to higher education. I have still not recovered from that hard shift that took me from a solid income producing path to a mediocre income producing path. The positives of the move have outweighed the negatives, of course, but I still feel a twinge whenever my income doesn't match my outflow well.

Now that I am settled in this path, however, my plan is to work toward comfort. I have given up the thought of making a lot of money. Instead, I have embraced the positives of being an educator -- noting that I love my students, my job, and my work -- which in my view, outweighs the downside of having a lower income producing career. My goal, then, is to continue to work toward a full-time salaried and benefited position, with the hope that I will find something soon. Until that time, I am content to continue to accept part-time and adjunct work as the Lord provides. I will teach whatever courses He chooses, and I will teach at the schools He provides to me. I am no longer worried or concerned about teaching more than three or four classes per semester. I need to earn as much as I can, so my prayer is for the Lord to open the floodgates of financial blessing and provide a way for me to earn what He thinks, considers, and knows I need to live on each month. He knows my needs well, and I trust Him completely to provide for me. God is good, so very good to me.
The LORD will make you abound in prosperity, in the offspring of your body and in the offspring of your beast and in the produce of your ground, in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers to give you. The LORD will open for you His good storehouse, the heavens, to give rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hand; and you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow. The LORD will make you the head and not the tail, and you only will be above, and you will not be underneath, if you listen to the commandments of the LORD your God, which I charge you today, to observe them carefully, and do not turn aside from any of the words which I command you today, to the right or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them. -Deuteronomy 28:11-14 NIV
The Word of the Lord is secure. I am trusting the Lord to provide for me and my family, to give me a good future that is filled with success and prosperity. I am not holding out for monetary wealth, please know that, but rather I am asking the Lord for His "success" in every area of my life. By "success," I simply am advocating that the Lord produce the results He desires in and through me, so be it financial stability or some other God honoring character trait. I am mindful of the fact that being a good steward financially is also a God honoring trait, so I do ask that the Lord provide and meet my needs, and then I ask that He show me how to be a good steward with the bountiful blessings He gives to me. I need His help so I can learn how to manage and to make money.

In this day and age, I must consider the immediate needs of my family, but also, I must consider the future needs of myself and those I love, in order to live comfortably on into old age. The Lord knows this, and He has made a way for me to go. I am trusting Him to show me, to teach me, and to gift me in this way -- with the knowledge, the understanding, and the aptitude -- to be wise enough to handle whatever resources He provides to me and to build financial security through honest means. He is good, and I know the plans He has for my life are also good (Jer. 29:11).

Turning Toward The Goodness of God

I have made a commitment to the Lord this good day, and that is to turn toward His goodness. You see, so often we want the Lord to shower His goodness on us, for Him to turn toward us. In truth, the Lord waits for us to turn toward Him. It is always about our turning and not His, yet so often, we believe the Lord lives to serve us rather than the fact that we live to serve Him (Selah!) I am committed to serving the Lord with gladness (Psalm 100:2), and that means to accept whatever position He desires for me.

Furthermore, I am committed to doing His will, to walking in His way, and to obeying His word (the Scriptures) in the same way as the Bible records the Old Testament commandment given to the Israelite's in the book of Deuteronomy. Yes, the Lord desires my full obedience, and I have made an accord, an agreement with Him. He is to provide for my every need, and I am to serve, honor, and obey Him with a pure heart and with sincere intention. Yes, my life is predicated on serving God and serving others, on loving Him with my whole being (Matt. 22:37), and to ministering to the poor, the neglected, and the hurting as He leads and guides me.

In return, the Lord has promised good to me, a good life, a whole and happy life, and the security and protection I need to live comfortably. I am taking Him at His word to me, and that means that I am resting in faith, knowing that as God, as the great I AM, He is able to keep His word to me. He is faithful. He is good. He is God. Amen, so be it, thy will be done! Selah!

My turning toward God signals a change in heart and in mind. I have made the decision that today and every day that follows after will be patterned according to His desire for my life. That means that today I am seeking His will above all else. I am choosing to do and to think, to work and to pray, all in His name, and for His authority and presence to dominate my life. I want nothing else but Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2). In doing so, I am saying this:

My life as of today is formulated for one purpose, one pursuit, and that is to see the Lord glorified through my efforts, my endeavors, and all my energies as I seek to serve Him with a full heart. 

He is Lord of all, over every area of my life, and today, I know that His will and His word are trustworthy. I can rest in the very knowledge that He is God. He is God, and because He is so, I can let go and allow Him to do whatever He determines is best for me. He is good, so very good to me!

Moving On with Purpose

Today, therefore, I move on with purpose. I make the conscience decision to align my every thought (2 Cor. 10:15) and to hold it captive so that my mind is ready and willing to do His work. I ask Him to release His power and His blessing into my life so that I can do this work. I cannot do it without Him, and I must rely on Him as my only source of all Power and Authority. He alone is God, and thus, the work I do cannot be accomplished through any human endeavor. No, all work that seeks to honor and to glorify His majestic name must be empowered by the inner working of the Holy Spirit, and it must be made manifest through Him, through His way, and not through any human achievement or human consideration.

My life is good, so very good. I am happy. I am content. I live to see Him praised and to be honored and lifted up this good day. I trust Him completely, and while I know that I will fail, I will falter, and at times, I will lose my faith, I will take comfort in the fact that He alone is faithful. He is faithful to me. Praise be to God, He is faithful and He is good. Selah!

As I think about the plans the Lord has for my life, one thing is for certain: the Lord knows what He is doing. He knows what is best for me.

It has taken me a long time to come to this conclusion, to really accept this truth, and to hold it as fact. The Lord knew that it was best for me to leave my prosperous position at CVS and to start teaching at GCU. The Lord knew that it would be best for me to leave my lovely town home and move into this shared home with my parents (who need my help). The Lord knew that it was best for me to study at Regent, first and foremost, and to learn all about communication before I even considered studying any other discipline. The Lord knew that while I was heartbroken at the loss of my marriage, destroyed personally, and left feeling abandoned, someday He would heal me and restore to me the joy of living in His love and in His presence. Moreover, He knew that someday my broken heart would be ready to consider a new relationship, a different kind of relationship, and that in time, that relationship would develop into a sincere love and devotion that is founded on His word, His work and His will. Yes, the Lord knew that what was best for me, while at times painful and debilitating to me, would in the end prove to be for my good. My life has been changed from utter hopelessness to complete and joyful expectation, eagerness, and anticipation of His future delivered promises. My life is filled with hope, with expectant hope, and today I give Him all the praise, the honor, and the testimony because He has done this for me. He has changed me from what I once was, a shell of a person, and made me into this beautiful thing, this beautiful person who desires only to serve and to love the Lord, her God. Yes, this is my testimony, this is my story, and God alone is the author and finisher of it. Praise be to God, He alone is worthy of our praise! Amen!

To God be the glory, great things He has done;
So loved He the world that He gave us His Son,
Who yielded His life an atonement for sin,
And opened the life gate that all may go in.

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,
Let the earth hear His voice!
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,
Let the people rejoice!
O come to the Father, through Jesus the Son,
And give Him the glory, great things He has done.

O perfect redemption, the purchase of blood,
To every believer the promise of God;
The vilest offender who truly believes,
That moment from Jesus a pardon receives.

Great things He has taught us, great things He has done,
And great our rejoicing through Jesus the Son;
But purer, and higher, and greater will be
Our wonder, our transport, when Jesus we see.