January 29, 2016

Feeling Better

It is a blessed Friday. I am glad this week is over, even though I am beginning the turn into the final two week stretch leading up to my comprehensive exams. I am excited and panicked, all at once, but overall, I feel good about my progress, and I feel confident that the Lord is going to help me through it all. He is good, so very good to me! Selah!

I woke up this morning with such a hangover! Yes, I felt like I had a hangover, even though I don't drink (LOL!) I just had that feeling like my insides were hanging on the outside of me. I am not sure why, but between the headache and body aches, I thought "Ugh! Did a truck run over me last night?" I hope I am not getting sick. I don't think I am. I think it is stress and the fact that the past couple weeks I have had a number of not-so-restful nights. I am sleeping, it is just that my mind races, and I typically have one or more unpleasant dreams during the night. My prayer is that all of this goes away as soon as I complete my written exams. My prayer is that it will go away very, very soon. Sigh!

Today is a good day. No matter how I feel, today is a good day. It is Friday, as stated above, and that means that I am at the "weekend!" Hooray! I am ready to finish my study outlines (for my answers), and get to cramming (well, intensive review). The past four weeks have been more about book reviews and analyzing patterns, themes and overarching questions -- all in preparation for what my professors might ask me on the exam. This week and next (coming up), my process is to review my answer outlines and then to work through my shorter notes and note cards as I memorize what I need to know the most. My plan has been to start very broad and work to this point. I may not have done it correctly, but at the least, I did it my way (as the song goes). I tried to study the way others were doing it, and it never clicked for me. I found that at the mid-point, I needed a new plan, and I came up (well, the Lord placed it on my mind) this way where I reviewed my books (at about 6 weeks out), and then began analyzing the questions (at 4 weeks out). I have been working on building outlines that could be memorized because frankly, there is only so much that I can memorize and recall with proficiency.

Some of my colleagues processed volumes of data and then regurgitated it in what they affectionately called "a brain dump." I tried that a couple times, and I failed miserably at it. Instead, I am creating outlines of key areas that are "chunked" into memorable themes. This is allowing me to remember a "ticket" rather than the entire contents of the ticket (if that makes sense). Think of it like a coat check at a fancy hotel or even. You give your personal contents to the coat check person and they give you a claim ticket. They keep your goods safe while you enjoy the event. When you are ready to leave, you give them your ticket, and you reclaim your coat, hat and bag.

I am doing something similar. I am creating claim tickets so to speak, one page outlines of how I would approach the subject and the possible questions about it. I am organizing the outline around key themes so that I can recall a writer and their theme. I may not recall specific quotes, but I can recall what the writer emphasized. This way I can talk about either the writer or his/her theme with some measure of recall.

I knew early on that I wouldn't be able to recall enough "quoted" material to make a dent in this exam, so to try and force myself to do it made me worry about what I would actually have as a product. I mean, what is more important? Quotes or themes? To me, a perfect case would include both, but with limited time, a theme is a better, more robust, and practical. You can work with a theme, but a quote is very specific and it is tied to one piece of thread only (the book, the writer, or a narrow section of a text).

No, my process might not work well for anyone else, and who knows how well it will work for me either. I am trusting the Lord that this is what He wants me to do to, and I am following what I believe is the plan He placed in my little pea-brain. I mean, I didn't sit down and say "Okay, Carol, let's figure out how to do this thing!" Nope, not at all. I did pray. I asked the Lord to guide me and to show me a way that would work for me. Next thing I know, He has placed this idea in my head. I write it down on a piece of paper, and then I start to think about it, play with it, and in the end, create a mini-study system built around it. I give Him all the praise, the glory and the honor -- He has done this -- and in the end, He will receive all the glory for whatever I accomplish.

My process, the battle over the process, has been hard fought. I couldn't wrap my head around doing things this way, but once I gave in, relented, and trusted Him, I relaxed and I started to make really good progress. I started to see how I was able to piece together different books, theories, and themes to make some "whole" out of them. The Lord is good, He is so very good to me. I cannot tell you what it means to me to know that I am not doing this alone. He will be with me. When I go into my exams, He will be right there with me, sitting beside me and holding my hand. I know He will be helping me to recall these outlines and the bullet points so that I can have enough content to actually write an essay answer.

Making Good Headway and Getting Ready for Next Steps

So in all, I feel really good about the path I am on. I am also feeling better about the job opportunities that have recently come my way. I was stressed yesterday regarding the offer at GCU. Well, it isn't an offer, just a heads up to say that there may be an opening in the department. I thought about it all day, and in the end, I decided that should the Lord choose this for me, so be it. However, I do not feel any peace or calm in the idea of remaining here in AZ. No, I feel calm and peace when I think about moving, and I feel less stress over the idea of moving elsewhere. I just believe that while this would be a great thing if it was His will, that in truth, it is not His will for me. Not now, not now, anyway.

I believe that the Lord is calling me to ministry and that ministry is not in Phoenix. I cannot be swayed by the thought of a full-time position if that position will not facilitate His ministry calling. Keep in mind that while I do believe I am called to teach (now for sure), I am also called to do a very specific task and that is to teach the church how to communicate more effectively. This is the ministry that the Lord has laid on my heart for the past 10-12 years, and at this point, I know and I am convinced that this is the specific work I will do for the rest of my life. It is not tied to teaching students English or communications. It is tied to teaching the Church, and that requires a global focus and work that will develop materials and other resources to be used by churches around the world. I know this, I feel it in my bones, so to speak, and this is my MINISTRY. So while teaching is a fulfillment of His call too, my life is not to be about the job. The Lord has been so specific on this point. He will provide a good job for me, but my life is to be about this specific ministry work. I am to GO AND TO DO THIS WORK. Thus, it is really easy to see how a full-time job here could seem like His will for me. It would solve the income problem, provide a way to care for my parents and keep a roof over my son's head. It seems like a good fit. But, it doesn't do the MINISTRY part that I know, I feel deep down inside, is not here in Phoenix. It doesn't meet His specific calling on my life. I know that I am to go and do this specific work in another state. I am to go and do it. Phoenix is where I am at present, but it is not where the Lord intends to keep me. I am certain of this fact.

I know this doesn't make sense, but to me, it does. I mean, I get the fact that for many people, being called to teach is a calling in and of itself. I get this from well-meaning friends and family all the time. Teaching is a noble profession, so being called to teach is the MINISTRY. I have no issue with this point, and while I agree that I am called to mentor, to encourage, and to equip, I see how God is using my job as a teacher to give me plenty of opportunity to experience this gift first hand. But, God has a plan for my life that is bigger than teaching college. My PhD was not to teach college. It was for ministry, for communication, and for me to be prepared to train and equip leaders in the church. This is why He called me to Regent University. If He had wanted me to get a PhD for teaching, I could have gone to ASU or another local school and studied English. I could have completed my doctorate locally if that was His plan. But, no. The Lord put Regent on my heart, and Communications, in specific, because this was the course of study I needed to know so I could do this very specific work. The job will benefit from that degree, don't get me wrong, but it is a side benefit, and not the "whole enchilada" as they say. I am to use my studies for His work only. I am to use what I have learned to benefit the Church, and that means, while I do overlap some, I do teach Communication courses some times, the Lord has given me a job teaching English Composition and a Ministry teaching Communication. Two different things, two different audiences, and two different outcomes.

My life then is predicated on His will first and foremost. I am to go and do this work first. The teaching, the job, comes second. I have always known that the Lord intended to meet my practical needs with a teaching job. My spiritual and ministry needs would be met in a different way, through different means, and through a different plan completely. Therefore, where I go is 100% directed by His plan for ministry, and not for teaching. I am to focus on His way, and that means that my number one priority now is my exams, my proposal defense and my dissertation (and later the defense for it). I still have a year to go, so I must remain focused and fixed on this task at hand. I believe now that the job the Lord has for me will come in time, but not until I am ABD and ready to take on more work. So for now, I continue to trust Him to provide and meet my needs. I continue to look for His open door, and I wait patiently for the door that leads me to the place of His choosing. I look forward to His going before me, making a way for me, and then leading me to that place of wonderful safety, ministry, and calling. He has this all in His good, good hand, and I simply need to rest and to trust Him to provide for me. In His time, that is, in His good, good time. Selah!

Thus today, I look up. I wait, and I watch, and I rest. I know He will do this, He will see me through to the end of every task, every test, and every high mountain. I am holding on to His hand, tightly, and without fear of being let go. I am holding on to Him, and He has me right where He wants me to be -- 100% wholly dependent on Him for His provision, His comfort, and His will. He is good, so very good to me.

The End is Near

As I consider my life today, I realize just how close I am to seeing the end of all things. In less than one year, I will walk in my graduation ceremony at Regent University. I will enjoy the blessing of graduating with some of my colleagues, and I will be finished with this major and mighty task. I am excited to be finished. I am excited to see the end. I am also feeling excited about what lays ahead for me. I am excited about what the Lord wants for me as far as those next steps. I mean wherever He leads me, there is a whole lot of work to be done. And, this excites me. I am filled with eager anticipation about it. I mean, I want to go so badly, to go to where I think He is leading me, and I want to start this important work. I want to see His glory unveiled so I can bask in His brightness, His luminescence, His warmth and His shine. Yes, I want to be hid in that cleft, and to see His glory pass by me. I want to see Him fulfill the promises He has made to me, and I want to cheer as He does it. I want to experience that amazing moment when I see, really SEE Him do all the things He has spoken to me, told me that He would do through me. I want all this to come to pass because 1) I would then be able to bear great testimony to His ability and not mine; 2) I could experience His power and His authority as it is active in and through my life; and 3) I would know that this process, learning how to walk with Him, learning from Him, etc., was practical and fruitful. Yes, I want to see the end of all of these things come to pass so I can say, "Yes, Lord, You did as you said you would do!" In this way, my praises are not out of relief, which is how they are so often, but rather, they will be out of exclamation bearing testimony to His goodness, His way, and His will in and through my life! Selah!

With this in mind, I say that I am good. I am so very good. I may not have everything I need today, but I have a lot of what I need. I may not fully understand what the Lord intends to do through me, but I know that He will do His work. I am so ready to do His work. I am so ready to take these next steps. I am so ready to follow Him wherever He leads me. I want to go, I want to do this thing that He has laid on my heart and placed into my mind. I know His plan is good, and I know that I can trust Him to bring it to pass. I think now what I struggle with the most is His timing. I get impatient still, far too often, and that works to pull me off track at times. I have to stay fixed, firmly fixed on these three things:
  1. My studies at Regent
  2. My job as a teacher
  3. My hope for a future in ministry
These are the three things I am most certain of in my life. I am to finish my PhD and graduate. I am to continue on this path as a teacher for the rest of my working days (until 70). I am to look to the future for a life of full-time ministry (starting soon and lasting well until my elder years). This is what I know. This is what I am confident will come to pass. This is what I look forward to and what I am waiting for Him to provide to me. Until they come to pass, I will remain on the path I am on. Never deviating, never looking to the left or the right. I am focused -- dead on -- until He brings these things to pass in my life. 

Dear Lord,

I ask today that you clear my mind from all the extraneous clutter that is causing me to be confused over your way and your will for my life. Remove any thoughts that are not aligned with your will, and confirm to me my way. Let me see that what I am doing and thinking is your WILL. I want to know for sure, for certain that the way I am walking is 100% your WAY. I ask now that you will remove all people, all passions, and all poisons from my life -- everything that is not working together to bring your good into my life. I ask Lord that you will provide for every need, and that you will keep your promises to me. I know Lord that I must remain constant, not change my affections for anyone or any thing, so I ask that you will reorient my heart, my mind, and my will so that it matches your will. I want to walk in your way, keep your will, and abide in your word. I want to go where you send me, do the work you have prepared for me to do, and live in the place of your choosing. I want to be 100% wholly devoted to you, and to you alone, and in doing so, I want to experience your goodness in every area of my life. I love you, Lord, and I adore you, and I worship you this good, good day. Amen, so be it. Selah!

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