April 22, 2016

Last Day of School

It is Friday, and today is my last day at GCU. This semester has flown by, and when I stop and think about how much I have achieved -- in just five or six months -- I stand amazed at God's graciousness toward me. Last fall, I was finishing up my remaining classes at Regent. I was completing Theology and a teaching assistant position, both of which required a significant of my time. Plus, I was teaching at GCU and ACU. I was booked solid through early December, and I had the stress of impending doctoral exams on my mind as I submitted my final paper and completed all my teaching duties before the year ended. Then, in January, I started the new semester of teaching, all the while, studying for my exams that would begin in February. February came and went, and praise be to God, I passed my exams and advanced to candidacy. I am now a PhD Candidate in Communications, and I am working on my dissertation. I hope to finish by December and then graduate the following May, 2017.

My life has been a whirlwind of ups and downs, stresses and strains, yet through it all, the Lord has been my steady rock and my faithful companion. Now, I am about to head into the great unknown, and while that thought scares me, at the same time, it invigorates and recharges me. I mean, I am finished with one of the most difficult programs of my life, and I am ready to begin my "career" of choice. I have waited nearly 30 years to become a professor, and by all accounts, I am one. Of course, I am adjunct (part-time), but I am teaching college level courses. I am still considering doing other work, work that would provide more career advancement to me, but regardless of the direction I head, I am ready to BEGIN this new work.

It is weird to say it, to write it, but in less than six months I will be Dr. Carol Hepburn. Yes, I will be a "PhD" designated individual. WOW! God has been so faithful to me, so supportive, and so encouraging. He has made this possible -- all of it -- and today, I am ready to embark on the adventure He has planned for me. I still don't know what that will be. I don't know if I will be hired full-time as a professor or if I will work in corporate communications and teach part-time. Right now, I am open to whatever path He determines is best for me. He knows my needs, and He knows what I can and cannot do. He also knows what He wants to accomplish through me, and because He is able to do far more than I could imagine, basically He can do whatever He wants in me and through me. He is good, so very good to me.

Clearing the Path

Yesterday, I made some progress on my dissertation. In fact, I think I will be able to send off chapter 1 by the weekend. I am a bit behind on my schedule, but the Lord has assured me that we are "good." I think I can complete the next two chapters quickly. I simply need to "do the work," so to speak. I need to sit down, close my door, and just "do it," as Nike touts! I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me! Yes, I can!

One of the things I have been thinking about recently is the work He may provide for me to do next. I have reflected on my previous 5-6 years, and the jobs the Lord has provided for me to do. If I look at them chronologically, they really do not make any sense. I mean, I jumped from higher education to healthcare and then back again. I also moved from sales to communications. My roles were varied -- from enrolling students in healthcare programs to managing communication in a healthcare company. Then, I made the hard turn into teaching, which seemed like an abrupt change of pace and pattern. Yet, I learned how to create curriculum, how to teach, how to present lectures, and how to speak to large groups of people. I also learned more about communication and writing, and in many ways, I spent a great deal of time being a leader and a mentor to my students. As I consider the next move, I wonder where the Lord will lead me. Will I stay on in teaching or will He move me into a communications role in a company? Either is fine. However, I would like to know, and that is the part of this whole process that bothers me most. Please, Lord? May I please know what is coming up next?

I've thought about more school, more programs to complete, but for now, I think the best path is to rest and to clean up everything left behind by my two degrees (namely, loans). Yes, I feel pretty set that my next to-do is to get out of debt, completely. I have been praying for a way to pay my loans and clear my credit cards, but so far, I have remained in a holding pattern. Now, I feel like this is the next hurdle to overcome. I am pleased. I want to be debt-free. In fact, I want to owe no man anything. I am willing to hold a car loan along with a house mortgage, but everything else needs to be paid for or off in a very short amount of time. No long-term rolling credit. No out of control debt.

The Lord knows my heart on this matter. He knows that I am ready to move on, but that I worry about my student loans and my credit cards. He knows that I want to be solvent, to be strong, and to be a steadfast and sober financial manager and planner. Yes, He knows how hard it was to live without enough to cover my needs for all the years of my marriage and to incur debt that was never paid. I promised myself that I would never willingly rack up debt, that I would never live without money coming in, and that I would work in whatever job I had to do, just to be responsible and faithful. I want to be the good servant who is found faithful when the Master returns.

Yes, Lord, please provide a way for me to be responsible for what you have given to me, to be faithful in how I handle my business affairs, and to develop a system that will provide for me and my family as I move toward my retirement years.

One of the things I want to do first, once I am graduated, is to repay all my debt for my education. I have a lot in student loans, so I need a way to earn significant income so I can faithfully pay back what I have borrowed. I feel confident that this is the Lord's intention for me, and that He has a way for me to do this readily. Second, I had to use my credit cards throughout these past three years, and as a result, I have some rolling debt that needs to be reduced, then paid off completely. My hope is to have a full-time job very soon so I can take care of this card debt and have a clean slate moving forward. Furthermore, the Lord has graciously allowed me to build credit, and for that, I am thankful. I had little credit to my own name, and what I did share in with my ex-husband, was very poor. Now, I have re-established my credit, and I am in the "fair to good" category. I want to move into the good category so that I can qualify for a home mortgage some day soon. I want to also trade in my car (at some point), so I need a little better credit score in order to get a lower rate of interest. I don't need a lot of credit, but it is good to have it freely on hand so I can travel. The Lord has always placed travel on my heart, so I want, no I need, to be able to travel as He leads me and opens doors.

I need several other things to accomplish what I believe is His will on this matter. These include:

  • A passport
  • Foreign language (conversational)
  • New suitcases
  • A slimmer, lighter laptop (a MacBook Air, for example)
  • Travel clothing that is packable and easy to care for (no ironing)
  • Good shoes for walking
Right now, my only plans include traveling to the South to visit my friend, and taking my final defense at Regent in mid-fall 2016 or early January 2017. I will also need to walk in my graduation ceremony, so that will be a second trip to Regent for May 2017 commencement. Other than these excursions, I don't plan to travel until the Lord moves me to a new home (place). Until then, I need to focus on getting a job (this month), finishing my dissertation (September), and then defending in October-November, and finally, graduating next May. I can do it, I know I can!!

Taking Steps to Move

I've been talking about moving for so long now that I feel winded at times. I think, "Lord, let's just get going and get this over with now!" But, I know that He has all this in His hand, and His timing is perfect. Instead, I stress over it, worry about it, and putter around murmuring whether it will or will not come to pass. I should be faithful in this matter, after all, it is not like all of this is new NEWS to me. No, I have known that His timing on moving would be right about now -- 2016 to 2017 -- and not anytime sooner. I have also known that until I was ABD, I would teach adjunct classes to facilitate my PhD. I have known that working part-time would take a real bite out of my finances, and that I would have "enough" to cover my needs, but I would not be "flush" at anytime during this phase of the project. I accepted these parameters when the Lord opened the door for me to move to GCU. I accepted the fact that I would be "slim" on income over my summers so long as I was teaching part-time. Yes, the Lord told me clearly, and I had the option of following this path or staying in business and trusting that He would provide a job that would not conflict with Regent. I wanted to teach. I wanted to try it out, and the Lord permitted me to do it. I am thankful for the experience -- it has been wonderful -- but now I realize that I have to be open to doing other work if it will provide for me and my family. I cannot stand my ground and refuse to move. No way! I have to be flexible, adaptable, and let the Lord move me as He sees fit. This means that He may move me to a place that is not of my choosing. He may move me to a position that scares me, challenges me, and makes me stress about my abilities. He may open a door to a path that takes me to new heights, and to places I never thought possible. He has full-control and authority over my life -- I have placed my trust in Him -- and now I am resting in what He thinks is best for me. I am ready to go, to get going, and I am ready to do whatever He asks of me.

Packing Up to Go

My students started packing to leave for summer last week. Some have already left, and others, will exit the dorms today. It is always sad to see them leave campus, but I know they will be back next fall, and for that, I am happy and hopeful. My packing experience, my desire to pack up and go, has not been rewarded yet. I need a job, a good paying job, so I can actually get moving. I need to purchase things, some small things, and then I need to arrange for moving across the country. Before I can pack and go, I need to have a plan. I need to know where I am going. I need to scope out the area, and then I need to figure a timeline of moving. Once I have the details down, I can actually start scheduling the move. Right now, I am thinking of moving next May-June. This gives me one whole year to develop a plan, create a timeline and checklist, and then make the move. First on my list is a full-time job that pays well. Yes, I have been thinking about this more and more, and I realize that my best and most obvious option is to go back into business and find a job that will pay me a decent salary. Here is my logic on the matter...

I was looking a couple instructor positions today and I saw the salary range listed for them. I was shocked at what the pay range was for a full-time instructor role. Frankly, it was not enough to live on comfortably AND pay back my student loans. I couldn't manage it at all. And, I certainly couldn't afford to move to the place of the job or even rent a house or apartment. I realized in that moment that the likelihood of earning a decent income as a teacher is slim right now. It is not that the Lord cannot do it, but it is as if I am asking Him to create a well-paying job out of thin air just so I can remain in this profession. It goes against all material things. The Lord certainly can do it, and I am sure there have been people who have experienced miracles in this way, but for most of the people I know, the Lord seems to use traditional channels such worldly systems, jobs, people, etc. to do His work. If I am practical about matters, I realize that I can do almost any job the Lord desires, but if I am not open to doing that work, well then, I limit His reach. It isn't that He cannot do this work -- it is more that -- I am not permitting Him to do it. Shame on me!

I need to earn a certain amount every month, and the last thing I want to do is downplay that significance. I have done this before -- solved the problem of income to expense ratio -- by reducing my living needs to a minimum. This is one way to handle this problem, but it isn't always the best approach. Downsizing can benefit in a pinch, but if the ability exists for expansion, the correct approach is to enlarge and not constrain. Let me explain...

If I were unable to secure a job due to lack of education or experience, then downsizing is a solid bet. Reduce your monthly needs so you can live comfortably on the income you receive. However, if I have the education and experience to earn more money, but I have to relocate or change careers to do it, then the better approach is to expand the territory and move where the job fits the needs. Yes, one still should be living within their means, but when you have reduced to the breaking point, you must seek other options. I can remember getting this advice when I was in a financial planning class many years ago. The advisor was working with individuals who were in debt, but who had double-incomes. These people had racked up credit card debt for miscellaneous purchases. They were living above their means. The advisor put them on a restricted spending budget to help them get out of debt. However, I remember saying to him that our problem (at the time, I was married) was a lack of income. His answer was simple. Get a second job or another job that pays more money. I remember thinking that his response to us was rude. But, what he was saying was this -- if the business or job you are in cannot pay the bills -- then you are foolish to remain in it. Get out of that job and move to a position that pays a living wage. At that time, my ex-husband was unwilling to give up his business, even though it was never producing a quality income. He was unwilling to work for someone else. The advisor was echoing solid business practices -- your bottom line cannot be in the red -- if you expect to ever be solvent.

Now that I am on my own and making my own way (with the Lord's help and provision), I see that this time in the "red" is coming to an end. It would be foolish for me to choose to remain in the "red" out of pride. If the Lord is providing a way for me to get "back into the black," then I have to take it. No matter what the job is or where it is located, I must do the right thing. I have to move and do the work that will solve my financial lack. Now, I am not saying that I can do whatever it takes or that I should move without the Lord's blessing, no way, no how. No, I am saying that all things considered, my life is about more than the job. I am to do the Lord's work wherever He calls me and wherever He provides. This means that I cannot hold onto any job that doesn't provide for me. I must always be looking to expand, to enlarge, and to grow. I am trusting that the Lord will open a door for me to move into work that will start to pay a living wage in the coming month or so. I will be faithful to do what He has called me to do now, but I must move to the place of His choosing, to go where He is sending me, and to do that, I have to be out of the "red" and into the "black" in quick order.

He is able to do it. I believe He will perform it. I am trusting in Him now.

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