March 19, 2016

Catching On

It is my favorite day of the week! It is Saturday, and it is a lovely day here in beautiful and warm Phoenix. I woke up at 8:30 this morning feeling rather well-rested (PTL!) I am feeling better today, just overall better, and I am thinking it is because I am on break for the entire week. I have been looking forward to spring break, and well, here it is and I am ready to PAR-TEE! Well, not really. I am ready to tackle chapter one of my dissertation. My week ahead consists of writing my first chapter outlining my proposed study. I am sure I can do it. I know I can, but I am apprehensive about the process. The Lord has me well-covered, and just this morning, I was praying that He would take the lead. I cannot do this on my own, and I am not even going to attempt to do it without His inspiration and provision. He alone is worthy, He alone is good, and He alone is the author and finisher of this race. To God be the glory forever amen!
Spring Reflections

As I mentioned above, I woke up this morning feeling really good about the course of events in my life. I spent some time reading through Facebook, just browsing through some friends pages, and I realized how much everyone I know has changed. I mean, not just physically, but in many different ways. Some have changed their physical appearance. Some have changed careers. Some have added to their education. Some have married and even started families. And, some have grown spiritually. In all, though, most of my Facebook friends seem to be moving on in their lives in very positive ways. Few, if any, are struggling with severe issues (death, divorce or disease). Of course, there are a few that I know of who have on-going health issues or who are struggling with emotional problems that are overwhelming their forward progress. Yet, still, I felt very comfortable with the changes I am seeing in most of my friend's lives. They seem to be doing well, and for that, I am thankful.

I thought about the changes I observed, and it made me smile, thinking that I too have changed. I mean my life has turned itself around in a mere six years. It was in 2010 that I made the decision to leave my marriage. This was after I asked for a final answer from my then-husband on whether he was willing to commit to our marriage vows. His response was no, so I decided rather than continue to stay with a man who didn't want to be married to me, I would seek solace in living solely and wholly devoted to the Lord. I took that first leap of faith, and I walked away from a shattered marriage. I wasn't sure what the Lord would do, but my initial leap of faith had enough gusto to carry me through that first scary year of living on my own.

In truth, I had a glimpse of the plans the Lord had for me, and I was committed to seeing these plans come to pass. Without some inspiration and a deep sense of purpose, I do not think I could have stepped out like I did. The Lord had been preparing me for this step of faith, and the previous 10 years were spent learning how to depend upon Him, lean upon Him, and rely upon Him. Yes, the Lord didn't ask me to step out in faith until I was well-prepared to do so. He is good that way, so very good.

A case in point -- just the other day I took some time to re-read my blog posts from 2010. I was feeling depressed and scared, so the Lord pressed upon me to take some time to go back in time and read a bit about my life. He always sends me back to my blog where I can read about my days, my weeks, and my months -- the decisions, the choices, and all the angst -- I was experiencing in those moments. As I read through the details of my life, I was surprised to see how confident I was in the plans the Lord had for me, namely, His plan for me to return to graduate school to become an English teacher. Here I am now, six years later, and I am an English teacher, and I am also ABD (almost finished with my PhD). The word of the Lord that came to me as a shattered and lonely woman was that the plans He had for my life -- well -- they were good. I had to trust Him, though. I had to believe He was who He said He was, and as such, He had the power to change my life, to turn it around, and to take me in a new and uncharted direction. I had to believe, really believe in His word, in His power, and in His abilities. I had to learn to trust His word to me, to believe His word, and then I had to rest (to be at peace) with what He wanted to do in and through my life.

It was a hard lesson to learn, and I made a lot of errors early on. I second-guessed myself all the time. I thought I was just making things up. I thought I was hearing voices in my head, and that those voices were leading me astray. I thought I was just giving in to my own fleshly desires. Yet, in and through all the doubts, there was this feeling deep down inside of me that said to me "You can trust me. I AM." My heart wanted so much to trust the Lord, to believe everything I was hearing, to accept everything I was feeling. In the end, I came to lean, to abide, and to believe in Him as my Lord and as my Savior. I say it often that the Lord is my Manager, you know, my Supervisor in this life. Yes, I have taken on jobs, roles, tasks all because He has asked me to trust Him. I have believed that He would provide resources, finances, and I even have stepped out in faith purchasing items that I needed, but didn't think I could afford. In the end, I found the money, somehow the item was paid for, and I was blessed through the purchase.

Of course, not everything I have heard has come to pass. There were many, many missteps and miscues, and in my effort to discern the word of the Lord, I often would make assumptions or leaps that, well, didn't take me where I had hoped to go. There were many "plans" related to going here or there that never materialized. There were many options for schooling, graduate studies, and many options for practical good work. In the end, though, I settled on Regent because I believed it was the Lord's will for me (and I was so right!), and I settled on teaching because I believed it was the one job that would keep me 100% dependent upon Him for my performance, for my evaluation, and for my success. Again, this leap has proved valuable and spot-on. I am in the perfect job, doing something that brings me such peace, such joy, and such sweet reward. My step of faith has not been faulty -- it has been liberating, freeing, and emancipating -- it has given me life, and that life is abundantly blessed.

Catching the Next Wave

I am now at that jumping off point again. I am ready to take another leap of faith. I am ready to step outside the comforts of my present life and begin to move towards what I believe is the Lord's next steps for me. These next steps include several things:

  • Finishing my PhD (dissertation and defense, early fall 2016)
  • Accepting a full-time teaching position as Assistant Professor (spring 2016)
  • Making plans to move to a new place, a new city and begin a new life (late 2016/early 2017)
  • Closing out my life in Phoenix so I can begin my new life elsewhere
As I consider my next steps, several things are at the forefront of my mind. First, I must focus on my dissertation research and my writing. My dissertation must be completed by the end of the summer so that I can defend it early enough in the fall to be accepted before the semester ends. I will still walk in the graduation ceremony in May, 2017, but for all intents and purposes, as soon as I defend my dissertation, I will be PhD.

Second, I must let the Lord guide me to the position of His choosing. I have been actively applying, but so far nothing has really said to me "this is it!" He may surprise me, but I have a feeling that the job He has for me has already been put into place. I just wasn't aware of it. 

Third, I have to remain disciplined to see this through and to not lose hope. My life here is complex, and while I love my parents and love living with them, I do know that some changes are in the future. I need to accept that these changes must come to pass, and that the Lord has this all in His good, good hand. 

Last, as I struggle to figure out how the Lord intends to resettle me, I must realize that His will for my life is much bigger than houses and cars and trees (LOL!) Yes, the Lord has a plan that is for ministry, and that plan is predicated on me going and living in a place where that ministry is to be started. It is like the missionary who is called to missions but who isn't really ready to begin until the Lord places them on the mission field. Sure, they can engage in ministry right where they are, and that does work for many people. But, I believe that some people are destined to serve in specific places such as Africa or in New York City, and until the Lord moves them to these places, these people simply feel they are not doing the Lord's work. This is how I feel. I know I can be involved in ministry right here in Phoenix, but I also sense that my main focus for ministry is situated someplace else, in another town, in another state. Yes, I believe that perhaps it is within a small body of believers, a small rural church some where in rural America. I believe it is in a city or town that I haven't even considered yet, a a place the Lord has yet to reveal to me. I know I need to go there, to be settled there before all these other things come to pass, so my heart is intent on thinking this way. I am thinking now that the Lord may be sending me ahead of my family, sending me first in order to get things settled. I am ready to go, but I need clarification on where that will be. So until then, I remain steady, waiting and watching for His sign so I know what I am to do next.
Choosing Wisely as the Days are Evil

The Lord brought Ephesians 5:16-21 NIV to my mind this morning, and I think it aligns well with how I am feeling today. Paul exhorts,
Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.
His words are for encouragement to remind us that we must be wise, always making the most of our time because the days are evil. My good friend and I were talking about this last night, how we sense that we are in the end times. Of course, we don't know when the end will be, and whether the end will be in a year or one hundred years, but what we do know is that the time, the culture, and the events that are happening all around us allude to the Biblical end of times.

As I think about my life, today especially, and I focus on what I believe the Lord intends for me to do, I am reminded that His plans are specific, they are determined, and they are meant for a purpose. The Lord didn't choose to send me to Regent simply to get a PhD. I could have done that at any number of schools, but instead, He sent me to this school in particular because of the faculty and the course of study. Furthermore, the Lord didn't choose for me to work at GCU just because they were in need of more faculty. No, the Lord put me at GCU because their system enabled me to learn how to be a teacher in the classroom. The structured curriculum, the support services, etc. all made it easy for me to learn how to teach college courses. Moreover, the Lord didn't choose for me to live with my parents simply to facilitate my return to school. No, He allowed me to live with my parents in order to help support them, and to give me the time to enjoy this time in their lives.

Therefore, the plans the Lord has for my life are specific. They are unique, and they are predicated on specific boxes that must be checked off in a specific order. Consider it this way; when you have a to-do list, often you make check boxes to track your progress. Each item is ticked off, and in doing so, you can easily see what is left to be done. Additionally, as you tick of certain items, other related items come into focus. This is how it is for me and for my life. As I have completed certain items, other items have appeared on my master to-do list. Each time I complete an item, and it gets checked off, the Lord provides something else for me to do. In this way, my progress through His plan for my life is successive. I am moving forward through each phase, each section of His master plan, and in doing so, I am see the forward momentum. I also get to reflect on all the boxes that have been checked off, and this reflection allows me to see just how far I have come and just how faithful He has been to me.

My master to-do list includes a number of items that are yet to be revealed to me. Some of these will not come into focus until I have attained the PhD. Why? I believe it is because for these items to be activated, I must have my earned doctorate in Communications. My PhD is a necessary prerequisite for these next steps. The same could be said for teaching adjunct. I needed to have three years of teaching experience before I could "see" the bigger position sitting out there. Until I had that three years of experience, the next step of becoming an Assistant Professor wouldn't be available to me. In short, I couldn't become an Assistant Professor without a minimum of three years of teaching and a completed PhD. I am at this place now. I have my three years of teaching and I am ABD. I can start to apply for positions that seek these qualifications, and I believe that the "job" the Lord has for me will appear soon. I will be faithful to apply to all the jobs of His leading, and I know that one of them will come to pass. He knows which one that will be but I must be willing and agreeable to applying -- even if -- the job doesn't seem to fit me or appears to be too difficult, too high, or even outside my field of specialty.

Thus, as I consider my life this way, as a process of checking off boxes, I realize that I cannot check off boxes that are nested under other boxes. I have to do things in His order, and that means that I have to attend to "first things first." I cannot do number 56 without completing number 55. Now, in truth, there are items that can be completed out of sequence, and I have done this on numerous occasions. But the big ticket items, well, these are the ones that have prerequisites and I cannot jump ahead. No, I have to be systematic, disciplined, and focused. I have to attend to one thing at a time. The rest will happen as I complete each box. Of this, I am confident.

Some Closing Thoughts

Today, I am busy attending to those first things. I have many student essays to grade, and I cannot complete them without the Lord's help. My plan is to attack them systematically, to do my best, and to let the rest go. The Lord will protect me and will help me do the right thing today. Additionally, I need to focus on what matters most, the things that matter most to the Lord. I do have responsibilities here at home, and I have other things that He desires I attend to this weekend. As He leads and guides, I let go of the non-essentials, in thought and in action, in order to focus on the things that He considers most important in my life. I know His word, and I know His will for my life, thus I must be wise (as Paul encourages), and make the most of this good day. I must choose wisely because the days are indeed evil. I must do the work He has appointed for me to do, specifically for me to do. I must make His work my priority, and I must seek His way in accomplishing -- in checking off -- all those boxes on His master list for my life. I know that He will guide me, help me, and continue to reveal to me the new steps, the new action items, that He desires I complete. May the Lord have full reign, full authority, and full dominion over every area of my life this good, good day!

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