March 1, 2016

Relief and Praise

It is a beautiful Tuesday in sunny and warm Phoenix. I woke up after sleeping close to 12 hours last night. I think all the stress of the previous semester has started to melt away -- finally! I am starting to relax, and for that, I am so thankful. Yes, I am starting to decompress from all the stress that has built up over the last two semesters at Regent University. I am still not ready to admit that I passed my exams (LOL!) I mean, I know I did pass them, but I cannot remember doing it. I remember one of my professors congratulating me, and the other saying I did a good job with my written answers, but other than that, the whole experience is just a blur. I am home, so I must have passed! I guess that realization will continue to sink in soon. Until then, I will give Him all the praise for the marvelous, mighty, and most merciful work He has completed in me and through me. He is good, so very good to me! Selah!

Looking Forward to Good Times Ahead

Now that I have my qualification exams behind me (LOL!), I am ready to start planning for my next steps. I have to scope out, really sketch out a plan for my dissertation, and then get approval from my chair on it. I am sure he will provide his input, but I would like to have a plan of attack ready to go so that I can move forward toward that end. Graduating is my next BIG step, and that means, writing a dissertation that can be approved (defended). I am excited to be in this phase of the process, and I cannot wait to see what the Lord has in mind for me as I contemplate my research. He is good, so very good to me, and I know He has an amazing and wonderful plan for my life! Selah!

This morning, I was praying over my life. You know, just covering all the "what if's and unknowns" that make up my life. I have so many unknowns right now, and the more I try to figure them out, the more I feel the Lord covers them up. Perhaps this is His way. Perhaps He simply wants me to follow Him without "knowing," in order to test my faith, to try me. I get it, really I do. The problem, of course, is that I need to know. I just do. I struggle with unknown details, with not knowing what will be tomorrow or the next day. I need to know, Lord, honestly I do.

The good news is that He does know my needs. He understands how difficult it is for me to wrestle with the unknown in my life. He knows that for most people, the unknown is less threatening because they have their basic needs covered. For example, most of my friends have good jobs, a nice house, working car, and general plans for their future and retirement. Most of my friends work in jobs that provide decent salary, benefits and 401K plans. In all, they pretty much run on the expectations that the job they have will continue to provide for them until they decide to make a change (change jobs, be promoted, or retire). In my life, though, I have nothing that is certain. I live with my parents in order to help care for them during this difficult time in their life. I make very little income, contract pay only, and I purchase my own benefits out of the little I do have each month. I have a good car, praise God, and I do have a good work place (GCU and ACU). But, I don't have stability. I don't own a home, and I don't have any retirement benefits or income set aside. I also have debt, lots of it, and I have worries about health (mine and my son's) to contend with. Still, the Lord provides for me, and He makes sure I am well-covered. It is just that I don't have that "stability" that most of my middle-class friends have and that bothers me.

I guess it is because I have lived this way for so long that I have become used to it. I mean, I have never had a regular long-term job. I have worked for many people, many places, in short bursts. The longest I ever worked in one job was when I worked from home as a designer. I did that work for almost 13 years. Previously, I worked in the high tech industry for 6 years. Other than these two stints, I have worked in various jobs, doing various things, for 1-3 years at most.

I will start my fourth year as a teacher in the fall, and praise be to God, that means that if I stay on this path, I could potentially retire after teaching college for 20 years. Yes, teaching could be my long-term job, should the Lord determine it. I've vacillated between teaching and business for the past three years, and now that I am almost finished with my PhD, I think it is pretty obvious that the Lord intends to keep me on this path. I am okay with it, but there is part of me that thinks that this path is not going to provide for me nor help me get to that place of comfort when I retire.

Yet, I don't feel any pull toward business, or at the least, returning to business. No, I feel very content to remain where I am and to continue to pursue this line of work. Thus, I wait on the Lord to provide a full-time position that will fit me. By fit, I simply mean that will accommodate my style. I am not like most teachers out there. I tend to use cultural references, media, and other issues to spur my students toward debate. I want them to think critically about life, to make valuations and to discuss what matters to them. I want them to be active in life, and not just passive bystanders. As such, I tend to encourage discussion in class, and to get them to do independent work rather than group work. I run counter to the stream in classroom strategy that suggests students must work cooperatively in groups because this is what business wants from them. I found that in most of my jobs, while there was a measure of cooperative projects, most of the time, I was tasked with work alone.

My process through teaching is to get my students to work on their own, to learn on their own, and to develop skills that will make them a solid contender when they graduate and enter the workforce. I need to find a school that values this approach, that will allow me to do what I want to do (within reason), and will encourage my abilities to teach my way. I hope that the job the Lord has for me will do this or allow me to be this way. I also would like to teach students who want to learn rather than students who are just there because Mom and Dad said they "had to go to college." I prefer adult learners to teens, mostly because adult learners care about their education, are passionate about learning, and see the value in their coursework. Teens often want to screw off, to play, and will not put forth the effort in class. Yes, adult learners are a good fit for me, but as the Lord leads, so be it. So be it.

I have a couple applications in process now, one at GCU, and one at Herzing University (a non-profit school). I also have an adjunct application at Regent University, and I hope to teach online part-time, Lord willing. Still, right now, I am thankful for whatever combination the Lord provides. Part of me thinks that I could just teach adjunct at multiple places and make as much income as I could working full-time. But then, the title is important. You know, adjunct versus Assistant Professor. It could mean a difference down the road. Therefore, I think it is practical to still hope for that full-time job with the title. At the least, I will hope for it as the Lord leads me.

Right now, I feel pretty confident that the Lord intends to provide an online teaching position for me. In truth, I am fine with this type of work. I love teaching in person, but I also know that my skills and abilities lend well to online formats. I enjoy working with adult learners, and I like the idea of teaching from home. Yes, I would welcome an online teaching position where I could teach from home full-time. Second, an online position would give me the freedom to move about the country, to relocate when the Lord leads, and would provide steady income and benefits so that I could move at anytime during the year. Last, a full-time position like this would afford me opportunity to continue my studies, my research, and even ministry work without conflicting with my schedule or week. I think it would be a good fit, should the Lord provide.

My three greatest needs are: a full-time teaching position, completion of my dissertation so I can graduate, and the care and comfort of my parents as they deal with ongoing health issues.

I think about my needs, and how the Lord has brought me to this place of comfort. I mean, I don't have what I need now, but what I do have seems to be "enough." I feel peace about the path He has me on, and I feel good about what He has in mind for me. I don't know the details at all, but I know Him, and I know that He loves me and cares for me (1 Peter 1:7). I know that He has a good plan for my life (Jer. 29:11), and that He is guiding me through these days, providing just enough light to illuminate the step I am on now. He has me well covered, for sure, and while I stress a bit, and I struggle with the big unknown, I am confident that He has all these details under cover, under His merciful and mighty wings. He is good, so very good to me! Selah!

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