April 1, 2016

Task Time - Dissertation!

It is Friday (woohoo!), and I am ready for the weekend to arrive! Yes, it is only 7:56 a.m., and I am already READY for the weekend!! What does this mean, other than, I am tired, beat, and done in from my week. No matter how I slice and dice it, this week has been one long progression toward REST. Praise to God for His provision of down-time, and all praise for His mercy and goodness this week. I am thankful, and I am grateful that today is the end of the week, a capstone of the work completed, and that for the most part, I can head into my weekend with very little left to "finish." Yes, I am in a very good place, all around, and that means that I am ready to tackle the BIG TASK that sits between me and my coveted PhD -- THE DISSERTATION!

Tomorrow, I plan to begin Phase 1 of my Dissertation. Phase 1 consists of the first three chapters, normally the introduction, the literature review, and the method section, which are then presented to your chair and committee for approval. I have most of chapter 1 completed, but I need to sit down and overhaul what is there and so I can move into my chapter 2 - literature review by next week. My goal is to have my first three chapters written by the end of this month. I have already outlined my chapter 2, so really, I just need to sit down and write, write, write. My chapter 3, method, should be short (as of now), but I haven't even started to think about it yet. Hopefully, if I stay on track, I will have all three chapters ready to go by the end of this month. My chair needs to read for consistency and quality, but if he finds minor revisions only, my prayer is that I can have everything done so I can present my proposal to committee by the first or second week of May.  Phase 2 - Research, would begin starting in May, and would cover my summer, at the least through to July. Once my research is completed, I should be able to write up the remaining chapters in August. Phase 3 is the formal defense, and for right now, my plan is to present my defense sometime in late September or early October.

It seems like a crazy timeline, but with my summer off, it is very doable. My friend, Heather, is defending her dissertation today. She took her exams in October, and presented her proposal before the semester was out. She did her research in December, and has been writing steadily since then. She sent her finished work for final review a couple weeks ago, and must have been given the "thumbs up." She is a great writer, a super scholar, so it doesn't surprise me that she is defending so soon after submitting her research. I have no doubt that later today I will see a photo of Dr. Stilwell posted to Facebook. If anyone can do it, she certainly can. She is an amazing woman, and she has worked so hard to achieve this degree. She will be the first in our cohort to graduate, and we are so very proud of her achievement.

The weird thing about being a candidate is that there is no real timeline to follow. I mean, the timeline belongs solely to the candidate so it is up to them to set goals and to keep to their plan of attack. I had high hopes that I would begin my proposal in March, but that month has come and gone, and I have done very little work. I guess I didn't factor in the degree of exhaustion I feel right now. I am so very tired. I have been such a slacker this whole month. I mean, every night, I have binged watched Netflix or I have turned in really early. I haven't slept well, but I have tried to get as many good hours of sleep as possible. I guess I didn't think how much my study program for my exams would wear me out. It absolutely zapped me of all energy and desire. I mean, I wouldn't do anything different. I wouldn't study less than I did, and I wouldn't treat the process any lighter than I did. No, I have 100% of my attention to my exams, and I passed (PTL!) I guess, I just didn't figure that I would be so wiped out afterward.

My timeline, thus, is fluid. I have a firm "must be done" date of May 2018 (per Regent University), but my "must" date is really in time to graduate and walk in the May 2017 ceremony. This means that I need to "defend" my dissertation in the fall. Really, anytime in the fall would work. If I have to push it back, I can defend by February, and I can still walk in the ceremony. Only the Lord knows what will be. Only He knows the actual timing of my finish. I am trusting Him to see me through this process, to help me focus, and to give me the inspiration I need to do this work, to finish strong, to graduate with my PhD. He alone is worthy! He alone is worthy!

Finishing Strong

Proverbs 18:10 NASB says, "The name of the LORD is a strong tower; The righteous runs into it and is safe." I am reminded of this verse today simply because it helps me remember that the Lord is my defense. He is the One who is seeing me through this process, from start to finish, from beginning to end. He has made this way possible, and He has prepared this finish for me. Thus, while I struggle with focus, with determination, and yes, with inspiration, the Lord is the One who is leading me on. I am to willingly follow and obey. I am to go through the trial, and to endure what must be to achieve His desired result. He has a great plan for my life, and that plan includes graduating from Regent University with my PhD in Communication. Therefore, I must remain on this path until He says "It is done." I must finish strong. I agree with Paul when he says, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Phil. 4:13 NASB). Yes, I can do this, but only through Christ as He imparts His strength, His diligence, and His resistance to temptation to me. I need His strength to remain focused on the finish line, and to run to win. He is my King, my Lord, and my Savior! I trust in Him, and in Him alone. Selah!

As I think about where I am today, part of me feels this sense of excitement, this exhilaration, that I am about to do something marvelous, wonderful, and amazing. Of course, I am not going to do it, but the Lord will do it through me. Still, I feel this sense of pride, of accomplishment that says "I did it! I did it!" Yes, I am starting to feel the way I should have felt when I passed my exams. I am starting to think in opportunities and possibilities rather than in thoughts fueled by depression and disappointment. I hate to admit it, but I was so deflated after my exams, so filled with emotions that ranged from dejection to major disillusionment. I should have been happy, overjoyed, but instead I was simply so downcast, so down on myself and my abilities, that the achievement passed by me without much thought.

I think this is why I have struggled to move forward, to start this next big step of faithful and productive work. I didn't feel like I could do it. I didn't think my idea was that great. I didn't think the quality of my work would be significant enough to warrant the effort. Yes, my countenance was so low that I didn't think it was even worth trying to do the rest of my program. I know, outrageous thinking! I believe that my enemy wanted me to give up, to give in, and to drop out of the race at that point. He wanted me to simply fold up my tent and go home. I almost did, really. I almost just tossed in the towel and walked away from the final work.

In the end, the Lord sustained me. He helped me recover, and I think the past couple weeks of rest helped me greatly. I needed to rest, to recharge my batteries, and to rekindle my desire for scholarship. I needed a fresh infusion of hope to help me see where I was going and why I was on the path I was on. I mean, so much of the past three years has been focused on finishing classes, doing well in them, getting the grades, etc. I did that -- I passed my classes with a 4.0 GPA -- and I passed my comprehensive exams. Therefore, there should have been no reason for me to feel so let down, so defeated.

I tried to put my finger on it for several weeks, but finally, I had to let it go. I had to accept my lot, accept where I am today, and realize that I wasn't going to get to tomorrow (to graduation) without a mind-check. I needed to get my head back in the game and do this DEED. I mean, there is no quitting so close to the finish line. There is no reason to give up when the goal line, the finish line, is in sight! Selah!

In all, this process has been difficult, challenging, and overwhelming to me. At times, I thought I couldn't do it. Other times, I felt invigorated to push through, and I did achieve the outcome I desired. My heart nearly fainted this past February when I took my exams. My heart nearly gave out when I had to defend. Yet, the Lord saw me through it, and I did indeed pass. Now, I am standing at the next hurdle, the next obstacle in my way, and rather than shirk back in fear or in the thought that the size is too big, too high, to monumental to scale, I realize that this boulder WILL move. It will move...
I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, 'May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,' and it will happen. But you must really believe it will happen and have no doubt in your heart (Mark 11:23 NLT).
Yes, I will say to the mountain (dissertation), move, and it will be moved! Why? Because the Lord says it is possible, and since His word is true (always true), then I can exercise my faith and command this obstacle to be removed from my way.

As I think about the power of faith, and the ability He has given to us to exercise our faith, I realize that the obstacles, the challenges, and the difficulties in my life are simply opportunities for me to demonstrate my trust, my faith in God. I must command them to move -- speak to them -- and believe in my heart (without any doubt). This is what our Lord says to us, to speak into our problems rather than to speak about them. We are to speak words of power, of authority, of control INTO our situation and then watch as the Lord does what He does best. We are to stop complaining about our lack of provision or our lack of health, security, vitality (whatever it may be), and instead, we are to take up our mantle of faith and start living the victorious life He has given to us. Selah!

Speaking with Authority

The Lord has given us, His children, the authority to speak life into every situation. Matthew 10:8 NASB records Jesus' words to the disciples as He sent them out to minister. He said, "Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give." The power and authority to do miracles, to heal, to raise, to cleanse, to cast out, etc. was given by the Lord in order to perform His ministry of service. Thus, whatever task the Lord has assigned to me this good, good day, He has given me the power and the authority to do it. Therefore, there is nothing that has been assigned to me that I cannot do, so long as I recognize in whose power and authority I do it. Yes, I can do all things through CHRIST who strengthens me. I am able to do this work today because of His finished work. I can do whatever He asks of me in His strength, in His ability, and with His power and might. I can do this task, I can overcome this challenge, and I can move this obstacle out of my way because my Lord has said that it is so. So be it, selah!

I may not be in the best shape of my life nor have the sharpest wit, but I do have the power and the authority to command success over every area of my life. I can take His control and exercise it in and through my life -- removing these challenges, calling forth goodness and blessing -- in order to demonstrate His faithfulness and His mercy to others. I can live as a testimony to others, speaking words of life into them so that they too can come to experience His goodness, His mercy, and His blessing. But, I must remember that with this power and authority comes challenge. My enemy doesn't want me to speak life. Rather, he wants me to speak death, disappointment, disillusionment so that others do not follow me, do not seek the Lord because of my testimony. Yes, the enemy wants me to feel trapped and isolated, unable to do this work, so that my ministry fails. I will not give him any way. I will not move from the position and the place the Lord has given to me. I will stand here, with my shield of faith and my sword of the Spirit, and I will not give ground. I will not be moved.

Psalm 62:6 KJV says, "He only is my rock and my salvation: he is my defense; I shall not be moved." Thus, as I stand here today, I realize that it is up to me to stand, to not be moved. I take this ground, and I command with authority and with power that the obstacles, the challenges in front of me be moved. I command that these barriers be lifted, and that the way ahead (to the end) be made smooth. It is in Jesus' Name, and with His power and His authority that I speak into this situation, and I rest in the knowledge and the security that it is done. Amen, so be it. Selah!

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