February 7, 2016

Super Bowl Sunday

Well, it is official. It is Super Bowl Sunday, February 7, 2016. I am not a fan of either team, but still I think the game should prove fun to watch. If anything, I plan to enjoy my last Sunday before my big test. Yes, today is my last Sunday...I am now down to four days until my exams, and I have to say, I think I am very close to being ready, if not READY!

God has done a marvelous work these past couple weeks as He has prepared me, trained me, and equipped me to be ready to take and pass my qualification exams for PhD candidacy. It has been a long, long road, but I am feeling confident today, and I know that the next couple days will simply fly by. Before I know it, I will be sitting down to answer the long-awaited "questions" and with God by my side, I will do my best, and past my test (LOL!) He is good, so very good to me.

So much has happened over the last three weeks. I mean, I went from being frazzled to dazzled, and in the midst, suffered a near fatal computer crash. I had health issues, financial issues, computer issues, and school-related issues. Yes, I have transitioned through a number of near misses, and I am still in the game swinging. I honestly do not know how I survived, other than to say, it was all His doing. The Lord provided for me, and as a result, I am here today, ready and willing to do this next thing, to finish strong, and to push on toward graduation from Regent University. God is AMAZING!

Today is a good day to give praise. Today is a great day to give all honor, all praise, and all glory to God above for He alone is worthy, He alone is worthy!

Recap of the Week

So today, I am giving praise for all that the Lord has done this past week. In truth, I was beaten down, depressed, and feeling the pressure of my exams. I was also feeling guilty for leaving my students in the lurch so often, not intentionally, but simply because I was overworked and my brain couldn't always remember everything I needed to do. My students, I felt, were getting the short end of the stick. The Lord was my steady companion, my ROCK. He made sure I survived, and while I let some things slide (like my grading), He has seen to it that I attended to all the important things so that I stayed focus on the task at hand. Now that I am at the end, really the end, I have to stay on this course and see the that the task is completed. I have to keep my head in the game, so to speak, and in doing so, I will experience great victory when I pass my exams and can proudly wear the designation of A.B.D. (all but dissertation). I pray today for the Lord's guidance, wisdom and strength to see me through to the end of my program. Selah!

Yesterday was my breakthrough day. I slept fitfully Friday night, woke up feeling ill in the morning, and had this sense of doom and gloom hanging over me. But somewhere mid-morning, the clouds lifted, and I began to feel better, like really better. The cold I thought I was getting turned into allergies (I still have some lingering stuffiness). The sinus pain and pressure finally abated last evening, and in all, I started to feel well again. It was such perfect timing because I had to write (or was scheduled to write) two essay exam answers as practice for my test. I reviewed my notes throughout the day, and finally sat down to begin the first essay on the Theology of Communication close to dinner time. I had to take a break from it to eat, but I tracked my time, and I finished this essay with 10 minutes to spare. After dinner, I tackled History of Communication, a much harder subject for me, and I completed it with 20 minutes to spare. In all, both practice essays are good. Not perfect, but good. The results pleased me because I wrote them mostly from memory. I cheated twice on history and theology, using a note card to get the wording of a difficult concept down and to check the name of a book, but the rest of the essays were almost 100% from memory. My plan today is to review the content again, adding in what I missed from sources (using my notes, books, etc.) so that I make sure I have everything cited. I will also tackle two more subjects today: historical-critical research methods and theory. Theory is the only essay I am concerned about, just in that I worry I will run out of time. However, I am going into today with great confidence that I can do this well.

I think the big A HA moment came to me when I read some sample answers from students who passed their exams in the fall. The quality of the answers was not what I expected. They were good, mind you, but they were not great. I read through several different student responses and once I realized that these efforts "passed," I relaxed some. I realized that my answers would never be perfect because they were coming from memory. Instead, they just had to be my best attempt. There is no "grade" for these exams. There is just pass or fail, and that means, that there are no shades of gray. You either pass or you don't. For someone who is used to getting A's on papers, this has been problematic for me. I have wanted to do my best, to get all A's, and while I have done well, I guess I was pressuring myself to keep to this same high level of expectation. Reading my peer's answers reminded me that we all see things differently, that we all remember different things about the books and the authors and the overall themes they present. In this way, I realized that my perspective will not match another student's perspective, and in that way, I don't have to be "like" them. I just need to be me.

With this in mind, I have plenty to do today. My task list is long. I have to clear up my participation grading at GCU, read some student essays, and then begin studying to write my next two essay answers. I hope to get all of this and some more grading done today. I also need to get my power points ready for this week (M-W). I need to have a good power point to share with my sub for Friday, but other than that, I will simply go and teach this week. I am glad we are on to the next essay. It is easier to teach, and my students enjoy it more.

God Has Me Well-Covered

In addition to exams and all that is involved with them, I have been thinking about my next job. Not that I need to worry about it, but rather, I have been thinking about the opportunities have I at present and whether or not they are the best fit for me. I completed my orientation at OCU, and hopefully, I passed. I won't know for a couple weeks, I am sure, but my prayer is that this job will come to pass since it is a good fit for me, subject wise. I struggled a bit with fitting into the dynamic of the school, and while I didn't necessarily feel like we meshed, I realized that I didn't need to "mesh" with these folks because they are in different departments at the school. I would have preferred to feel more cohesion between the course, the materials and the faculty, but perhaps I was hoping for more than what was expected. There was also an issue with the overall emphasis at the school, and I think that is simply because I am not from the Wesleyan tradition. Even though I identify with the main tenets of the Holiness movement, I sensed that while I was accepted as a faculty member, I wasn't accepted because 1) I didn't express this denomination as my home church and 2) I didn't have previous experience teaching or working within the denomination. It was weird to say the least, but praise God, I finished the requirements, and if this is His will, so be it.

Secondly, my interview with Regent was far from satisfying to me. I had such high hopes here as well, but in the end, I was left deflated. I am not sure if it was because I was overwhelmed the day I interviewed, tired, or both, but I sensed yet again that the fit wasn't going to be spot-on perfect.

Third, while I submitted my resume for consideration to two open positions at GCU, I do not believe this is the Lord's will for my life. Twice now I have felt the Lord asking me to browse through home listings in my area. I have used my Zillow app to check out available houses for purchase, and frankly, I am disappointed in what is available. The home I live in now and rent with my parents is a lovely place. Our rent is manageable because we split the costs. Yet, the homes that I previewed were close to $200k and in poor condition. They were no better than the home I owned and lost to foreclosure six years ago. In many ways, the realization that I cannot afford to live in Phoenix is dawning on me.

I have always believed or held out hope that perhaps the Lord would spare me from moving, and keep me here temporarily because this is where my parents live. But, today, I see that His insistence that I move is not just for a job, but also to provide a more moderate place to live. I have looked at homes in other parts of the country that are far nicer and for a similar cost. Furthermore, I have looked at homes that needed work, were priced reasonably, but the land they sat on was lovely. In short, if I am going to buy a fixer upper home, it needs to be in a location that attracts me to it. I don't want a fixer upper in a bad neighborhood in Phoenix. No, this is not worth my time or my effort or my money. I want a place to call home, and I want that place to be somewhere nice. I would like to live in the country or near woods, and I would like to live in a home that, when all is said and done, I can live in for the rest of my life without forking over a fortune to keep it and maintain it. Thus, I see that the reason the Lord is moving me is 1) to facilitate His will for my life (as in ministry), 2) to provide a place where I can live comfortably for the rest of my life, and 3) to establish me somewhere safe where I can put down roots and find my place in the world.

This says to me that the job the Lord has for me is not in Phoenix. It is also not at OCU and Regent, though I do believe I will be hired part-time at will to work for these schools. No, the job the Lord has will be a good fit, and will provide well for me. It is not in AZ. I do believe it will be online so that I can live anywhere He chooses for me to live, and I do believe the school will be a Christian one rather than a secular one. However, I don't know where this school will be, but I do believe that I will need to relocate near it (within a couple hours driving distance to attend meetings, special gatherings, trainings, etc.). For now, though, I need to focus on finishing my teaching contracts at GCU. I need to pass my exams, and I need to begin my dissertation. I believe the Lord may move me soon, like this summer, but I am not sure of that yet. I need resources to "go," and I know He will provide for me. It is just a matter of waiting and watching for Him to provide what is needed when it is needed.

Jehovah-Jireh - The Lord Will Provide

I stand amazed at His provision for my life. It was just last year, in December to be precise, that I stressed over what seemed like an unrelenting lack of resources. Granted, I am provided for when I teach. I have had enough income to cover expenses, yet I still struggled during non-work months (summer and long winter breaks). I worried about my bills, and how I would pay them, and I wondered how much longer I could rely on financial aid to see me through the short-fall. Then there was the pressure to have healthcare. I have wanted benefits for a long, long time (like years), and I have had them sporadically through UOPX and CVS. But, then in the lean years and when I wasn't working for a company that provided them, I went without. Obamacare forced my hand, and required that I sign up for benefits. I tried my best to comply last year, but was rejected by Obamacare and the state of AZ. I either made too little to qualify or too much. In the end, I went without.

This January, the noticed came in saying I would pay $695 for not being insured, and without benefits, that fine would jump to $1200 in 2017. I prayed about the need for benefits, and the Lord provided a plan for me. Yes, it costs me about $140 a month, but at the least, I am covered. The problem, of course, is how to pay for the monthly expense, and well it seems the Lord chose to rearrange some of my expenses to do it. I dropped my cable Internet and my DirecTV contract to save $200 per month. My iPhone died, and I had to replace it before the end of the year. This cost was higher than before, so my savings dwindled some to accommodate a new phone. I thought I was sunk until the Lord provided the opportunity for me to interview for two part-time jobs. The extra income will help me pay the changes in both benefits and the extra cost of a new phone. In all, the Lord provided for me.

Last week, I completed my state and federal taxes, and praise God, I am expecting a good refund. I need this money to pay off my credit cards and to cover me for summer. I should be able to do both, if not completely, then partially -- at the least -- to reduce the pressure on me. Furthermore, my computer took a hit two weeks ago, and I thought I was sunk. I worried that my system would die (I was getting system errors). I prayed about it and felt the Lord was giving me permission to purchase a new computer. The last thing I wanted was to invest in another computer that wouldn't last. I have lost two machines since 2011 repeatedly, each time, cobbling together a work around to get me through graduate school. I asked if I could invest in a Mac instead of a cheaper PC, and the Lord said yes. I purchased a new iMac and so far I have been very pleased with it. I debated getting a Macbook and using it in a docking station, but in the end, I went with the desktop Mac since the majority of my work is done at my desk. Plus, if the Lord does provide an online position, a new desktop system with large screen will be necessary and will provide the help I need to reduce the strain to my poor vision. My tax refund will pay for my new computer -- I am relieved -- so I can rest in the knowledge that He has seen to it that I am provided for well.

Yesterday, as I was on my way to Walmart, I turned the AC on in my car. There was no cool air at all. I have suspected that something was wrong with my car for awhile but since it has been so cold lately, I haven't had to turn on the AC at all. Now, the weather is starting to warm up, so I know I need to go and get the freon checked. I need the money to cover this cost, which I am sure will not be too expensive, but Nissan may find other things that need fixing, and well, I want to be prepared. I have been thinking about trading in my car for another model, but without a full-time job, I simply couldn't imagine doing that soon. Now, I wonder if this is part of His will too. It seems that He has provided everything I need to facilitate a move -- save the job -- so I am open should He press upon me to trade in my car for a newer model. I am open to doing this so long as the payments are not any higher than what I currently pay. Should the Lord provide a good opportunity for me to trade in my 2011 Nissan for something newer, and I could afford to do it, then I will make the switch and follow the Lord's provision for me. He is good, so very good to me.

In addition, I will be traveling to Regent in three weeks, and I am ready to go there. I have my airline tickets and my reservation at the Founders Inn. I simply need the money to go, covering me for miscellaneous expenses. I know He will provide for me, and I am actually looking forward to going there and seeing my professors face-to-face. I know the Lord will cover me, so I rest in this need.

Lastly, I have asked for permission to go and see my love. I would really like to visit him in person soon. We have been in a relationship (long-distance) for almost two years now, and I think the timing is right for us to finally meet and get to know one another better. The Lord has not permitted me to travel there yet, and while I have wanted to go, and I have been willing to go, it seemed that the timing was never right. Now, I am asking the Lord to provide a trip to see my Aunt and Uncle in Florida, and then I will drive to see my good friend for a long weekend. I don't want to infringe on his schedule, but I would like for us to spend a couple days together so we can have the blessing of seeing each other and simply enjoying one another's company. The Lord will provide, if it is His will. I am trusting Him to open this door and to make it possible for us to spend some quality time together.

As I think about all the Lord has done for me thus far in 2016, I marvel at His provision for my life. I have needs, and while they may seem great to me, I know that there are many people out there who suffer in far more dire straits than I do. I am thankful for what I have been given and for the blessing of the Lord's provision in my life. I can do nothing of my own accord, and I rest in His provision and sufficiency. I would love to have a full-time job soon. I would love to relocate to the place of His choosing, to purchase the house He has in mind for me, and to begin to do the ministry work that He is calling me to do. I cannot up and do these things. I must wait for Him to provide. I may want to go live near my love, but I can only go where the Lord directs and He may be sending me someplace else. I want to work full-time so I can rest from the worry over income each month, but I don't want to take any job that may be offered to me. I want the job of His provision because I know it will be the best fit for me. Furthermore, I have to consider my parents and my son as well as the financial needs for moving across the country. I believe He is moving me east, and that means a change of seasons (hence a better car) along with a different mindset on lifestyle (not so cosmopolitan as it is here in Phoenix). Moreover, as I consider moving, I have to ready to go when He says to me, "Let's go!" He has been saying go for a time now, but I believe His go has been preparatory -- as in -- get yourself ready to go. These past years have been all about getting ready to go. I know this now. It makes sense to me. I have learned how to go by taking baby steps toward moving across the country. I am ready now. I am prepared. I am waiting for His provision, and then I will go. Praise God, I will go.

Dear Lord,

I get it now. I really see how all the ups and downs here in Phoenix were used to prepare my mind, my heart, and my spirit to go to where you were sending me. I needed time and I needed practice to feel comfortable in leaving my home and moving to an unknown place and setting down roots. I am ready now. I have done this before, and I can see myself doing it now. I am not afraid to go. Not anymore. I am excited about going. I want to go and get settled. I want to live and to do your work where you are calling me to go. I want to live in this place, to do this work, and to be happy in the process. Your hand has provided blessing upon blessing to me, and I believe and I trust that you will provide everything I need to do what you are asking me to do. I trust you now, and I rely upon you for your gift of mercy and grace as I wait patiently for you to move me to the place of your choosing. May your will be done this good, good day. I ask all this in Jesus' Name. Amen, so be it. Thy will be done. Selah!

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