December 1, 2015

Turning Towards the Finish Line

Today is a blessed day. I am home from my morning class at ACU, and I am sitting at my desk blogging before I start to work on several school-related (PhD) projects. I have two conference calls scheduled, so my time is pinched today. Still, I am confident that I can get finished the two "must haves" on my to-do list today. I also hope to get out to the grocery store at some point and attempt to put the Christmas lights up on the house. I may not make it to the last item (lights), but I will give it a good "go" nonetheless.


Commitment. Today, I am thinking about the commitment I made to finish my PhD. I am thinking about all the hard work I have put into this degree program, the pain, the suffering (academic), and the expense required to complete it. I am almost finished, and I am turning toward the home stretch. It is exciting to be at this place in the game, so to speak, and to be able to see the end, the finish line, so close at hand. Of course, there are still some pretty big hurdles out there, but I can see over them, and I realize that truly ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE WITH GOD.

Commitment is such a fickle thing. I mean, for some people, they are committed so long as they remain "in the mood" to do a thing. Once the mood sours, they are off and running toward another "mistress." In my case, I made the decision to seek graduate school after a very long period of waiting, almost 20 years, before I took the big bold step and enrolled in a Masters program. Now, I am almost finished with the advanced degree, and part of me is so excited about my future. I am excited to see where the Lord intends to use my knowledge and skill, and to see where He is going to place me (teaching-wise). I am excited to think about my life, my future life, and the prospects I have in the very near future.

I have been committed to getting this PhD since 1992, so it has been almost 23 years since I first thought about graduate school. I remember the semester, in fact. It was 1992, December, and I was finishing up what was one of the hardest semesters of my then college career. As I recall, I was enrolled in five classes, three English, one History, and my senior seminar in Humanities. This was a difficult combination of courses, heavy reading and writing, and in general, the content was challenging. I passed that semester with four As and one A- (thanks to the awful Lit professor I had who should have retired 30 years prior). I can remember how aggravated I was at his grading and lack of attention to student work. I mean, I took two harder English classes, one from the Dean of the department, and one from an awesome professor, and both gave me As. The Dean, I was told, never gave out As, only A- so I knew I had really worked hard and it had paid off in his class. Still, this was a challenging semester for me, and as I was getting ready to prepare for graduation, I was thinking about my "next steps." Would I go on to graduate school? For most of that semester, I prayed, I wondered, and I questioned whether I had the "chops" to cut graduate school. I was being strongly encouraged to go by my professors, but still, I wasn't sure if I could do it. I felt called to do it, but I was still unsure of myself as a student, as a scholar, and the thought of getting my Masters, well it just scared me.

Now, here I am, ready to head out into the world, to be settled on this role as a professor, and I think I am finally ready to admit that I can do this level of work. In fact, I would say (and I do it with humbleness and gratitude to the Lord, for this is His doing) that I think I could attempt any graduate level coursework and succeed. I cannot believe that I am actually saying this, but I think I have finally accepted the fact that I am able to do this type of work, to be a scholar, a student, and a professor. It has been a life-time of hard work, of achievement, and yes, of failure to bring me to this place in time. My childhood scaring, those awful memories of early education, of the many bad teachers, mean-spirited individuals who only wanted to hold me back and keep me down, well, those memories are now replaced by positive experiences of academic success and great achievement. I can say that I am no longer defined by what my 4-6th grade teachers said to me or how my middle school teachers attempted to categorize me. No, I am no longer that scared and lost little girl, longing to learn, but never allowed the opportunity to do it. I am, instead, a strong, definite, and committed woman who has tackled incredibly challenging material, programs of study, and deep scholarly works to come to this place in her life. I have overcome. I have achieved. I have succeeded.

I give all the praise, the honor, and the testimony to God alone for He is faithful. This was His work from start to finish, and He has seen to my delight. He has made it possible for me to accomplish all these good things, and for that, I am so grateful. He is good, so very good to me!

Achievement. It is such a powerful thing. I mean, not only does it feel good to achieve a dream, a desire, and delight -- but it provides such a boost to one's self-esteem -- and it adds to their overall belief in their abilities, gifts, and talents. I love to achieve success. I have blogged about this before, so it is no secret that I am driven to achieve, that I am an achievement-oriented individuals. For me, having a plan and then working to see that plan come to pass is glorious madness. I love it when I can strategize, plan, organize, and then participate to bring that plan to fruition. In teaching, as an instructor, I have struggled most with the lack of achievement, with the lack of ready success. I mean, my students achieve in the classroom, but I don't experience that boost of exhilaration like I do when I am working on my own coursework. I struggled with the lack of power, perceived power, in the classroom, with the way I felt as I facilitated learning. I wanted to experienced overcoming obstacles, accomplishing success in my work, through my efforts, and well, I just didn't see how that would happen. It seemed like I had taken a wrong turn because I put myself in this secondary position of helping others achieve. And, for an achievement oriented person, this was the death-knell, the swinging rope that said "hang it up, it is over now."

It has taken me a while to see how I can find "achievement" in teaching students English and Communication. I had to sit with this career a while before I could see how I might find that success I desire, and while I haven't quite figured it all out, I do feel better about what I am doing as well as I am starting to see ways to incorporate ideas and strategy into my teaching ability. God is good. He knows how much I need to feel like I am improving, learning, overcoming challenging and difficult things, and I thank the Lord for keeping me in line, for showing me the way to go, and for providing a good plan for my life.

I am turning toward that finish line and the end looks so good to me. I am no longer dreading the end. I am no longer feeling like I will collapse as I walk over it. No, I am feeling empowered to finish strong, and for that, I am thankful. The Lord is my strong tower. He is my righteousness, my hope, and my glory. I give all the praise, the honor, and the testimony to Him alone for He is good, so very good to me! Selah!

Hebrews 12:1-2 New American Standard

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us,
let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin
which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance
the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus,
the author and perfecter of faith,
who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame,
and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

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