January 8, 2016

Getting Settled

It is a cold and cloudy day in Phoenix. I woke up feeling overtired, you know, that sloggy feeling you get when you either had too much sleep or not enough. I think for me it was the former and not the latter. It was my fault, really, as I chose to stay up after I finished all my work and watch a couple episodes of NCIS on Netflix.  My mind was not willing to shut down that early (at 10) so instead, I popped on the headphones and watched some mindless, but fun TV for two hours. I crashed right afterward, but I don't think I got that good restorative sleep like I needed. Oh well, live and learn!

Today is Friday, and I feel blessed in that fact. I cannot believe that it is the end of my first week back at school. I am pleased as punch, really. The week has gone so well. I really love my classes, my students, and this whole semester seems aimed to be a good one. God is so good to me, so very good to me. The scary fact is that this week has passed by so quickly, and that means that my timeline for my exams is drawing closer. Yes, one week down, and five more to go!

As I think about this week, and what lays ahead, part of me worries over the details. It is too late to worry, really, because I have to get going. I have to get moving forward. But also, part of me is settled, you know on this path and with this truth that this is right where I am meant to be. I love the fact that I can feel so settled, so completely comfortable with my next steps. I cannot believe that what I am feeling is somehow wrong or off. It just feels so right.

Digging In

It is a good day to be settled. I have been praying for this day for several years now. I have believed that I was stuck in transition because it always seemed like I was in this constant change mode. Nothing ever seemed to stay stationary. One day, I believed this and the next, I was thinking something different. It wasn't terrible to be in constant flux, but it was tiring. After a time, I felt like all I was doing was preparing for change. Now, I feel like I am in a good place and that this place seems to be my fit. By that I just mean, a really good fit. I am no longer straining to reach for something else. I am no longer thinking that the place I am in is not where I am meant to be. I hope that makes sense. I feel comfortable, confident, and completely ready to stay put. And that, folks, is such a good, good feeling.

Perhaps it is because I received an interview request last week. Perhaps it is because I made such good progress on my study materials this week. Or perhaps it is because I came to the point of resignation whereby I accepted the Lord's best for my life, realized that I am where He wants me, and then let go of the wheel (finally and completely) so that He could move me. I am not sure, but what I do know is that since early last week, I feel fine. I just feel fine.

What this means to me is unknown, other than to say that my emotions seem to be steadied now, and my path seems to be aligned to such an extent that I can "see" the next five or six weeks clearly. Furthermore, I can "see" around that bend, and what I see coming my way looks very, very good. My Lord has provided a good smooth path for me, and I am thankful for His provision. Furthermore, He has given me a hope now, a hope for a way to make some extra money, and in that, I am so grateful. I was feeling so depressed and I had come to believe that finding another job was simply not in the cards for me. Instead, here I am, waiting to interview for a part-time position online. Praise God! I am excited at that thought, and I am so excited to be given this chance to interview. You see, to me, it doesn't really matter the type of job I do (well, I will explain), but rather that I have another opportunity to teach.

I am particular about the job, and I should say that right up front, but not necessarily in the courses I teach or anything like that. I am pleased that this job interview is for online and it is part-time. I feel really confident that I can pass an interview like this one. I don't feel ready for the BIG interview, you know, for a full-time position, just yet. I think in time I will, but for now, I am content to interview at these smaller schools and to seek more adjunct work. I guess I am panicked a bit on taking on a full-time job right now. I am okay with an instructor position or even a lecturer position (usually a 10-month contract), but the thought of having to interview multiple go rounds for an Assistant Professor spot right now, right at my comprehensive exams and all, well, that seems like to much for me. The Lord knows my needs, so I am content to wait for His perfect job, His best next steps. Until then, I will readily take any job that is offered to me, no matter the school or the type of schedule (online or number of courses). I know He knows what is best for me, and I am trusting Him to provide enough income to keep my little ship afloat.

Accepting the Fact

This means that I am pushing on "full steam ahead" with my plan to become a full-time faculty member at the school of His choosing. I am not particular about seeking tenure track positions, per se, but I do envision that once I have my PhD in hand, I will be put into a titled position such as Assistant or Associate Professor. I do plan to conduct research (on-going) so for me, I would like to be someplace that doesn't mandate it, but appreciates it. This means that I don't believe the Lord intends for me to teach at highly structured and profiled universities. No, I have always believed that the Lord would place me in a safe school, a school whereby I would teach Christians or students who were open to Christianity. I have sought out secular positions before, and the only ones I ended up with were not in teaching roles, but in administrative support roles. This says to me that the Lord doesn't mind when I work in a secular organization in business, but in teaching, He prefers me to be in a Christian environment. I believe this is two-fold, really.

First off, secular business generally doesn't harass individuals who are of faith (any). They can't do it. I mean, they can try, but then the company opens themselves up to libel suits and discrimination, etc. so most employers do not go there (well, not the big ones any way). Second, in higher education, predominately you will find very liberal administration and teaching faculty. More to the point, you tend to find atheists, fascists, and socialists in most major secular institutions. Not all, of course, but there is a strong liberal leaning, and faculty of faith struggle to keep their positions. I know this is true because my professors have told me as such -- all of them -- worked in secular institutions (high profile ones) before coming to Regent. The Lord doesn't intend to place me in such a hostile work environment, I know this for sure. It isn't that to keep me from sharing my faith or confronting these individuals, but rather it is because it is not His will for me to engage at this level. I think the Lord picks and chooses those individuals to place in such schools. For me, He has preferred that I remain in places where I can use my gift of exhortation so that I can encourage, mentor, and disciple young students. For now, anyway, this is what I believe to be true. The Lord may change that down the road, but I feel pretty safe in saying that I believe He will place me in a good Christian school for the remainder of my career.

I am okay with this plan. In truth, the past couple weeks, I have asked the Lord to open doors at schools where I would be safe and comfortable. I wanted to teach some place where I could freely pray for my students, share my faith with them, and encourage them in their faith. I wanted to be in a good environment where the faculty are treated with Christian love and affection. I find this is the case at Grand Canyon, and I wanted to find other schools where the environment would be similar. I think this is the Lord's will for me, at the least, for teaching. I am content in His provision of a school, and I know that whatever doors He opens, they will be good ones. He is good, and He provides such good things to me. Selah!

Moving On

The great thing about the Lord's will is that I can take comfort in knowing that it is precise, perfect, and provisional. By this I mean, that the Lord doesn't do anything half-way. He is "all in" as they like to say. Everything He does is calculated for risk, and He has assessed the needs and the particulars so that the decisions He makes are always in the best interest of His child. In my case, I know that the Lord has carefully selected schools across the USA that will work for me, in particular. This means that these schools will hire me. He knows which ones will and which ones won't, and of the ones that will, He has already assessed their potential alignment with His will. Therefore, the place He sends me isn't happenstance. It isn't my choice. I simply agree with His choice, and then the doors open, and I go. I follow His leading.

It is weird, really, now that I think about it. I mean, I stressed over "finding" a job. Even though I knew that the Lord would lead me to the right position, I still felt that it was up to me to figure it all out. Instead, I am now of the opinion that it is not up to me at all. I must be willing and agreeable to go where He opens the door, but the decision making factors are all in His care and keeping. As I consider the options, I realize that there are only a handful of schools out there, of the hundreds, that will work for His will. You see, I know that the plans He has for my life are unique and specific. Thus, the schools that will work for me are situated in places where I can do this specialized ministry. Furthermore, the school that will hire me will have need for a full-time English instructor, someone who is not overly seasoned or who has a strong record of publication. This means that the school must be interested in the kind of faculty that I represent -- honest, earnest, and hard working -- but not the kind who will bring in big research dollars to the school. Lastly, the school will have to accept my PhD in Communication in lieu of a degree in English. Some schools will and some won't. The Lord knows that the school of His choosing will accept me with the credentials I have, and that they will like what they see. I am confident that this is so. But, I must be patient and wait for the school to recognize the need, request applicants, and so forth. Until that time, I continue where I am and I wait. I will patiently wait. He is good, He will provide.

As I consider my next steps, so much of my life seems to be fixed now. By fixed I mean, that some of the things in my life are unchangeable. The details, the events, the history -- these are the things that are fixed and immovable. Thus, my situation, where I am today, is a combination of things that are set and fixed (unchangeable) and things that are set but not fixed (still in flux). In this way, I am able to grasp what is possible and what is not. The possible things are those that the Lord is continuing to work to make fixed for me (permanent). The things that are fixed already, well those are things that I must accept as is and let go of because their status will not change. For example, the fact that my parents need me to be close to them is something that is set and fixed. However, the fact that I live with my parents is set but not fixed. My parents are nearing the end of their lives, and only the Lord knows their days. Yet, for now, I am to care for them, and in caring for them, that means help them live comfortably. I do this by sharing a home with them, be supportive of them, and helping in their daily needs. At some point, though, they may require more significant care, and they may need to move into assisted living or some other type of housing. So my living arrangements today is fluid. It appears to be fixed, but it is not. It is set in the sense that God has given this responsibility to me, but it is not fixed to the point where there will be no other change in their lives or in mine. I hope that makes sense.

The same thing is true for my occupation as a teacher. This path is set and fixed now. I will not waver, and I will not consider any other line of work. The path is settled and we will not change from it. However, the place where I teach at now will change at some point. GCU, no matter how much I like working there, is not my permanent home for teaching. I know this, and I know that the Lord has another school in mind for me. So, while I am set and fixed on teaching, where I teach at is still in flux. In time, this too will be set and fixed. The Lord will provide a long-term teaching position at the school where He desires for me to work until I retire.

What this means to me today is that I can let go of the worry about things that are settled and unchangeable. I don't have to worry over my occupation any more. I don't have to worry over the responsibilities that the Lord has given to me. These are things He has decided upon, and worrying and stressing over them will not change the facts. I must accept them. I must accept them and move on.

Finding that Sweet Spot of Contentment

It is a challenge to find contentment when your life seems to be influx all the time. I have struggled to be content, especially when I was faced with the BIG UNKNOWN. Today, I realized that contentment stems from resting in the Lord. To be content, to be filled with His joy, simply requires a measure of trust, reliance, and acceptance that the Lord knows what He is doing. Contentment will flow once the mind rests, once the heart settles, and once the body stops striving for control. As I process this today, I realize that much of my unrest has come from constant worry over things that have already been decided. I had to acknowledge them and then let them go, let them be. In doing so, I began to accept that what God has done in my life, well, it is for my good. He knows best, and thus, my life experience, my life and its ups and downs, all worked together to bring me to this place in time. Moreover, as I let my body stop striving (reaching and grabbing), I realize that He is in control, and as such, I can let my fear subside. I can expand my lungs, breathing in the fresh air of reliance, and in doing so, I can begin to walk unencumbered along side of my Lord.

Today my prayer is to rest in Him completely. To let go of any remaining doubts about my future, and to embrace what He is doing now. I look up, I wait patiently, and I enjoy the blessed process that is in place now. This makes it possible for me to see all the goodness He is pouring out into my life and it allows me to give Him praise, honor, and glory through it. I give Him praise today, and I let all these things go. He is good, He is God, and I adore Him this good, good day. Amen, selah!

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