April 20, 2016

Sign of the Times

Happy Wednesday! Yes, it is a good day here in sunny and warm, Phoenix. It is mid-week, the second to the last day of the semester, and whew!, I am looking for the weekend (already!) I am so ready for this semester to end. I still have work to do, but frankly, I am already in summer-mode (just like my students). My hope is that we will all finish strong.

Yesterday, was a bust for me. I have had on my to-do list these past three weeks "complete proposal," as in DISSERTATION PROPOSAL (chapters 1-3). I am no further along than when I wrote that first to-do list many weeks ago. It seems I have been unable to focus, and even when I have sat down to do the work, something else has taken priority. I feel guilty about my lack of progress. I feel behind the "eight ball" right now. Perhaps it is just the way it is meant to me. I have always worked better on a tight deadline. Lord, help me finish strong!

Thoughts and More Thoughts

I had a rough day yesterday, even though I didn't get much accomplished. I was spiritually oppressed most of the day, just bombarded with thoughts of guilt, shame, and inability. Yes, my enemy had me pegged-to-rights and I suffered most of the day with these debilitating thoughts. I did finally overcome, but it wasn't until later in the evening. I struggled all day long with feelings of insecurity, with thinking I was on the wrong path or I had made a wrong turn recently.

In fact, I blogged about it a couple days ago, how I had felt like I didn't want to give up teaching for just any job. I had blogged how I applied for an entry-level position as a content writer at a major healthcare provider. I did it on a whim, a push really, from the Lord, but I never felt "right" about it. I wondered all day yesterday if it was a test. You know, was this my prophesied "bold step of faith?"

The Lord spoke to me last week and encouraged me to step out in faith. All I remember from the conversation was waking up with this "sense" of needing to be bold that day. Nothing happened to me that required any measure of boldness (unless you call getting out of bed, bold, well then I was VERY BOLD THAT DAY!!) Still, the thought of boldness has stuck with me, and since that day, I have not had any chance to practice boldness at all. Until Sunday, that is. Sunday, I applied for a job that is in my field (my old and new field), and that would provide a decent income for me. I have applied to this particular company since 2011, and never once have I been called for an interview. I consider it a long-shot. Yet, the Lord gave me approval to apply, so I did.

Then all week, I have vacillated back and forth. I felt on Monday that I had made such a terrible mistake. I asked the Lord if I should withdraw my application, but He said no. I felt convicted, condemned, and then oppressed about my life. As if I was running from the Lord's provision to my own way. In the end, I confessed everything I could think of confessing -- but nothing relieved the pressure -- until I stood up in faith, and then the feeling washed away.

This morning, I woke up to the news that United Healthcare is pulling out of all the Obamacare exchanges nationwide. It was on the news, so my Dad gave me the lecture about "getting a full-time job" again. I have medical insurance now, I mean, I gave in to the mandate and I have had insurance since the first of the year. I rely on those government subsidies, so without them, I won't be able to remain insured. My Dad was saying how I had better find a good job soon -- his warning to me -- or else suffer the consequences of being uninsured or having to pay exorbitant fees for medical insurance.

I was praying over our conversation as I took out the morning trash, and I said to the Lord, "Lord, you have me covered. You are my sufficiency." It was as I spoke those words that this thought came over me -- sort of a word really -- that bubbled up in my mind. I thought, "Is it really that big of a deal to give up one job for another?" I thought about my conversation on Monday, how I said to the Lord that I didn't want to do another type of job besides teaching. I just didn't want to give it up -- not now -- not after three years of learning how to do it well. Then I realized -- yes -- right while I was emptying the garbage, that the days are growing shorter and colder. Life may not always be this simple, this easy, this nice.

My brother lost his job after 10 or 15 years with the same company. He is 60 and looking for work. He hasn't found anything yet, and he is worried about losing their home. I thought to myself, "Lord, am I that stubborn to refuse what might be your hand of blessing on my life?" I mean, what if this job, as an entry-level content writer, paid me well and gave me the freedom I seek to work from home, What if this job was His provision for practical work and benefits? What if this job would provide a way for me to get from AZ to a place near my love in AL? What if this was the Lord's provision for me?

You see, I have been fixed on this path, on teaching for a long while. I love what I do. I love my job. I love the freedom and the flexibility of my job. What I don't love is the low pay, the lack of full-time status, and the uncertainty that comes with this line of work. I cannot live on adjunct forever. I cannot live this way, make a good life for myself, plan for retirement as an adjunct. I have to do something else, and that something else will be teaching or another job that pays me well.

I am struggling to process this now. I am struggling to deal with the people who will question my status as a PhD. In fact, I didn't even put my graduate education on my application. I left it off. I thought -- they don't need to see that at all. I don't want to appear over educated or over qualified.

Now I am thinking to myself that with all the changes on the horizon -- good or bad -- there is great uncertainty in America. If we end up with Clinton or Sanders, all hell could break loose and there are no guarantees that things will get better. With Trump or Cruz, we may see a benefit to lessen Obamacare's mandate, but again, it is hard to know for sure. Either way, it would be to my benefit to have a solid job with good pay.

Practical Work versus Professional Work

I feel like I did back in 2010 when I begged the Lord for a job to do, some practical work, and He provided Macy's to me. It wasn't a good fit. It wasn't a perfect job. He used it, however, and it moved me from unemployed to full-time status in time. I then begged Him for a better job, one that wasn't so physically demanding, and He opened the door to UOPX. Again, it wasn't a good fit. It wasn't a perfect job, but it provided a home and a stable life for me. Then when it got really bad at UOPX, I begged him to provide a better job, one that was closer to home and less boring, monotonous, and He provided CVS Caremark. Of all the work I did, this one fit me best. It used my analytical brain and my ability to think and strategize. I loved my job. I loved the work. I just didn't like the environment -- all the back biting, the arguments, and the stress. Then the Lord opened GCU and I moved to teaching. The move was a good one. It made it possible for me to complete my education, to do well in school, and to get to where I am today. It came at a great cost, however. I really great cost. I gave up money, stability, benefits, everything to do this work. I didn't like it at first. I didn't like the feeling of lack of control, outcomes, and production. But, after a while, I settled in and I came round to the idea of being a professor. Now, I love this work. I love the job. But, like with CVS, I am struggling to find full-time work. There is no way I can live on this income -- unless I teach 6-7 classes -- and work very hard to make ends meet. Still, there is no certainty, no assurance of income or contracts. It is dicey, but I am willing to do it, if this is His will.

Then I remember how just three or four weeks ago, I asked Him to open a door to ANY JOB. I said to Him that it made sense for me to find good practical work that would provide steady income. I told Him that I am ready to work full-time. I admitted that while I don't want to give up my summers -- or my holidays -- I understand that there is sacrifice with every job. No, I said that I would do whatever work He provided. Yes, I said, "Lord, I will do whatever work you provide WITHOUT GRUMBLING OR COMPLAINING." ACK!

Well, I have been grumbling, complaining, murmuring something fierce these past couple weeks. Furthermore, I have not been able to focus on my dissertation, and here I sit thinking to myself how the days have just slipped right by. What am I to do now?

The answer to that question seems silly, really. The answer is simple. I am to do the work He provides regardless of the nature, the pay, the scope, etc. I am to take from His blessed hand whatever work He deems suitable for me as a next step in the process of developing my character. I am to do His work always and that means that I must be willing to do lowly work as well as work of a high stature or position. In fact, I must be willing to clean toilets, if He provides it.

Proverbs 3:34 AMP says, "He has no use for conceited people, but shows favor to those who are humble." Oh, how I must remember my words to the Lord. I said to Him last week, "Lord, please do not humble me. I will bow before you." I told Him that I would willingly bow my knee and humble myself rather than wait for Him to do it for me. I said I would willingly give up power, position or pay in order to give Him all glory, all praise and all honor. Yes, Lord. I will do whatever work you ask me to do. You only have my BEST in mind, and in this experience, I can see how this might be both BEST and HUMBLING for me to do.

I said to my good friend that I wanted to be able to stand with Paul and say aloud, "I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little" (Phil. 4:12 NLT). I have lived this way before, and while I didn't like it, I survived thanks to His hand of blessing. I want to be able to live humbly before God regardless of the position. If He lifts me up, so be it. If He places me low, so be it. I want to live contented, full and satisfied, regardless of the circumstance.

Making a Difficult Choice Today

Now that I realize what has happened, I can see that I must make a difficult choice today. I must choose to follow the Lord's leading regardless of whether or not it makes sense to me. I mean, I said this to the Lord on Monday. I said, "Lord, I will go where you send me. I will do whatever work you provide EVEN IF IT DOESN'T MAKE SENSE TO ME." Yes, I must keep my word to Him. I must repay my vow. Ecclesiastes 5:4 NLT says, "When you make a promise to God, don't delay in following through, for God takes no pleasure in fools. Keep all the promises you make to him." I made a promise to the Lord. I said I would do whatever He provided, whatever type of good work He provided, and I would do it without grumbling or complaining. I have not kept my word to Him. I have not done the thing I promised to Him.

Thus, there is just one recourse for me today. I must keep my vow. I must keep my word to the Lord. I must do the thing I have promised.

What Does This Mean for Me?

Pretty much it means that I will do whatever type of work the Lord provides. This means that if He opens the door to the content writer position, so be it. I will do it cheerfully and with a glad heart. I will walk away from teaching now, and I will embrace a certain future (within limits, of course). I will learn this work, and I will be faithful to do it. I will work hard, putting all my effort into the job so I can do well. If, however, He chooses instead to bring me a job teaching college full-time, then I will do that work as well. I will be a happy and contented teacher -- at the school of His choosing -- until He determines otherwise. In all things, I am choosing to be content. I am choosing to rest in His sufficiency. I am choosing to accept His blessing in whatever measure it is. I am choosing to believe that the position He has for me is good. I am choosing today to follow after the Lord EVEN IF IT DOESN'T SEEM BEST, RIGHT, OR THE WAY I THOUGHT IT WOULD BE. Yes, I am not going to lean on my own understanding (Prov. 3:5-6), but instead, I am going to look to Him and to Him alone for His grace, His mercy, and His ever-loving care. He is good, so very good to me.

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