June 20, 2016

Next Steps

It is a good Monday here in sunny and hot, Phoenix. Our high today is going to be another scorcher! Yesterday we hit 119, not quite the record heat predicted (122 is the official high), but sure as close enough to it. It was 118 near my house, and frankly, that was too hot for comfort. This entire week is forecast to be above 110. UGH!

Normally, the heat seems to help my sinuses, but lately, I have really struggled with asthma (catching a deep breath) and with breathing freely through my nose. Last night, I thought I was going to have to go to the ER. Thankfully, I used Flo-nase to open up my nose, and then with my ceiling fan on, I was able to relax and breath without effort. I am guessing it is allergies. I mean, I have seasonal rhinitis, always have since moving to the desert, but lately it has gotten worse. I have been sneezing and suffering from a runny nose for now on weeks. I am sure it is all related, but I have to say that I am getting really tired of it. I so want to move to another place where my allergies will not be so bad. I just don't know where that "place" is -- or -- if any such place really exists.

I did sleep well last night, however. I went to bed around midnight, after suffering most of the afternoon and evening with food poisoning. I think I ate bad carrots. I know that sounds weird, but I had some baby carrots (raw) with ranch dressing mid-afternoon. Shortly afterward, I got nauseous, and then had diarrhea like you wouldn't believe. I didn't get the headache that normally accompanies food poisoning or vomit, but I felt like the latter several times before my body chose to eliminate the toxins the other direction. Needless to say, I was wiped out (no pun intended). I watched the rest of the New Zealand series, "Brokenwood Mysteries," Season Two, before turning in for the night.

Preparing Myself for a Move

I gave my video interview on Friday. I am hoping to hear a positive report from the recruiter this week. It would be good to interview by phone, and I am looking forward to speaking with a live person soon. However, I know that big companies are like big ships; they move really slowly. I am prepared to wait this out, should this be the Lord's will. Right now, I feel confident that I am moving in the right direction. I guess I should clarify when I say "right" direction. There is no right direction within the Lord's will for your life. Every direction, every path is "right." Some are better choices, value-wise, than others. Some choices are more prosperous or offer a better advantage over other choices. Usually, there is some kind of trade-off involved. It is like when you have to evaluate two options and neither is a clear favorite. In some ways, option A appears better than option B. But in both cases, there are aspects that are both "good and bad." It all comes down to compromise and the degree to which one is willing to sacrifice.

For example, I can stay in teaching and enjoy the blessing of having my summers off (which I love). Or I can move into business, and work 40 hours a week with 2-3 weeks off each year. The trade-off with a business job is that I work consistently all year long and take one short break versus working as a teacher for nine months and taking 3 months off. On face value, the choice seems easy -- take the summer break! But when you align the two and look deeper, you see a number of other choices embedded in each option. Teaching pays low compared to business work. Sacrificing income to have a long summer only produces drought, stress, and worry. Instead, I could work all year, have steady income and take my short break knowing that I have income in the bank. For some, the summer break is worth the shortfall of income. For others, the income is more important. I fall into the latter case because I need income, regular and steady income, to support myself and my son. If I were married, if my husband had a good job, then the choices would be considered differently. But since I am unmarried, I have to focus on meeting the needs at hand. I need work because I am single and I rely on my own paycheck to make ends meet.

As I prepare myself to take this next step, I realize that I have to come to terms with several minor aspects of working full-time again (in a non-teaching capacity). First, this job (the one I am in process for now) is a local office position. I will have to work in the local Phoenix office. This is okay with me, but I had hoped to be offered a telecommuter role. It may end up being possible to work from home at some point, but more than likely I will need to work 8-5, M-F, for awhile. Second, as far as career planning is concerned, UnitedHealth Group offers many positions that are located all across the USA. In fact, as of last week, there were over 3,000 positions open. Of course, not all would be a fit for me, but this just demonstrates that as a Fortune 500 company (number 6 on the list), they are stable in their industry and they are growing as a major employer. So, I should be able to relocate like my cousin did (she moved from Phoenix to Tampa). The compromise is on where I can move to since the jobs are tied to one of their corporate offices. I cannot live "anywhere," but rather I would have to live within an hour of one of their offices. Third, the options for relocating limit me somewhat in that I could relocate to Minnesota (corporate), Texas, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, or Connecticut, to name a few places. Last, job progression or career advancement is important to me so I need to be willing to move wherever the position suits me or wherever the company desires me to go.

Moving is among several things I have to keep in mind when thinking about taking a corporate position like this one. My parents are not up to moving at all, so my concern is moving away from them without a care plan laid out. My son will be graduating in a year, and then he will be looking for work. At this point, his career aspirations are in music or the music industry (recording). He needs to be near where music is happening or where there is potential for music to happen. This would open up three places that would work for us: Texas (Austin or thereabouts), Tennessee (Nashville), or Georgia (Atlanta). These are three places where the music business is growing. Los Angeles is also a music haven, but I have no intention of moving back to California due to the high cost of living. Of the places I would go, if I had to choose, I would go to Tennessee first before Atlanta or Texas. I am open to all three, but I would rather not be in Georgia or Texas (personal preference).

My parents will not want to move at all, and while I understand their desire, the truth is that I have to go wherever the job leads me. I may not like it, but it is what it is. I am okay with moving as part of the job. Frankly, it solves a lot of my worries. If my employer says "go," I can simply obey. I don't really have to make the decision other than to agree or disagree (and then find another job! LOL!) No, at this point in time, I need to settle down, be fixed on a path, and then just ride it out. I don't want to be unemployed again (I said that back in 2011). I want to be gainfully employed, and I want to have a career plan that will grow, challenge, and develop me as I mature. My parents, especially my Dad, would understand this as required for steady employment. Thus, while he doesn't want to move because of the hassles involved, he would move if I had to go for a good job or promotion in my career. Furthermore, in moving to a less expensive place to live, for example, the options for palliative care or long-term care may be more in line with my parents resources or with my ability to help care for them. In this way, while my family may not want to go where my employer moves me, moving from AZ to this other place might actually bless us all.

Looking Forward to Change

I have to admit that I am excited about this possible change in the direction of my future. I mean, I was so settled on teaching, so content just a couple months ago, and now I am ready to walk away from it, to follow this new path. Why? Why is this so?

My good friend and I were talking about this the other night. He asked me why I feel this way, and I told him that I just had a sense of peace about it. In truth, I think it is a combination of relief (there is another way out there), and the desperate straits I am in (or close to being in). I mean, I need work. I have been looking for full-time work since last year. I started applying for jobs back in 2014, but didn't really start "looking" seriously until 2015. I realized that the path I was on (teaching) was the path I had to stay on until I finished my courses at Regent. There was no reason to change gears right in the middle of my program. So while I didn't like the low income, it was a trade-off for me. I used the flexible schedule to help me do well in school and to pass my exams. Last winter, I started to feel the push to apply for full-time work. I was open to being hired shortly after the new year, but then I panicked and chose to wait until this summer. I knew that summer 2016 was my "drop-dead" date. Working part-time after summer would put me at a severe disadvantage financially, but I assumed I would use the summer for research. Again, it was a compromise. I had hoped to have a full-time teaching position to start in the fall. This "job" hasn't materialized, so I felt the push to start looking in other places, in other industries. Now, I am being considered (hooray), and that gives me confidence to know that this is a viable path to follow.

Why then do I feel this way? I honestly think it is because it is the better option. I mean, Option A (teaching) was a good choice for me while I was in graduate school. It hasn't proven financially stable nor has there been opportunities for full-time work. It seems like the door is closed to this pathway, longterm, I mean. Option B is business/industry and this path is viable, financially secure, and the door appears to be open. I am moving now, so I have to believe I am heading in a good direction.

Moreover, I am ready to try something new. I have enjoyed teaching, but I am ready to do something different. You see, learning how to teach was difficult. There was a long learning curve, and I had to learn how to be comfortable presenting, lecturing, and assessing student performance. In truth, teaching was taxing physically. I always suffered greatly when I started each semester. My feet, my back, ached and I was wiped out for weeks. I enjoyed the process of learning, but now that I have that under my belt, the idea of teaching the same content semester-after-semester is not enticing to me. I am ready for change, for challenge, and for opportunities to create positive growth in my life. Yes, I am ready to move on.

Furthermore, I am no longer emotionally invested in my students. I had some reservations last fall about leaving before spring was over. Now that is done. I am free to move on -- with no students planning on taking my courses this fall. This means I have no connections to any of the schools I am contracted at now. It is a good time to part-ways.

Last, I really must consider my future needs. I have put my needs aside for three years while I focused on my PhD. Now, I am almost finished, and my financial needs are critical. I must address the shortfall, and I must logically and reasonably map out a way to go forward. It is reality, folks. I cannot hope for a job that doesn't exist. I cannot wish it would come to pass when there is little chance of that happening. I cannot pretend my debt doesn't exist, because it does, and it is up to me (with the Lord's provision) to resolve it.

As I think about these next steps, I cannot move from this one thought. I am where I am today because I followed what I believed was the will of God for my life. I listened to what I believed was the Holy Spirit, as He guided me in my decisions, as He showed me options for my life. I am where I am today, because I obeyed His voice, and that means that my life, my situation, and yes even my debt, are all part of the plan the Lord has for me. Does this mean He purposely placed me into debt? No, but the Lord did provide for my education using federally available student loans. I believe that He has a plan to help me to pay them back, and that plan involves a job that will afford me enough income to do that very thing.

I read this poem online, and I think it sums up the way I feel today. The writer is unknown, but the sentiment does resonate with me.

The Will of God

The will of God will never take you,
Where the grace of God cannot keep you.
Where the arms of God cannot support you,
Where the riches of God cannot supply your needs,
Where the power of God cannot endow you.

The will of God will never take you,
Where the spirit of God cannot work through you,
Where the wisdom of God cannot teach you,
Where the army of God cannot protect you,
Where the hands of God cannot mold you.

The will of God will never take you,
Where the love of God cannot enfold you,
Where the mercies of God cannot sustain you,
Where the peace of God cannot calm your fears,
Where the authority of God cannot overrule for you.

The will of God will never take you,
Where the comfort of God cannot dry your tears,
Where the Word of God cannot feed you,
Where the miracles of God cannot be done for you,
Where the omnipresence of God cannot find you.

I am where I am today because the Lord asked me to trust Him and follow after Him. The Lord asked me to follow Him to Regent University, to pursue communication, and to graduate with a PhD. Why? To get a job? No, not at all. Rather, it was to study communications in order to help His people, the Church, communicate their faith more effectively, especially in this postmodern world. I accomplished this goal, this major endeavor, and now I am ready to move on to the next challenge He has in mind for me. I believe that challenge is to become a leader, a people-builder, and to develop my skills as a mentor, exhorter, and manager of people, of programs and of resources. I have long felt that this was His expressed will for me, but somewhere in between my Masters program and my PhD, I got panicked, I felt unable to pursue a PhD and work full-time. Thus, I asked the Lord for a way for me to work part-time, and His provision was teaching.

The funny thing is that teaching provided a good opportunity for me to develop new skills, skills that would help me become the person He desired for me to be. I mean, I was literally scared to death to speak publicly, and even though I did it when I was leading Awana, I panicked to the point of sickness whenever I had to present to adults. I also didn't feel that I knew enough about teaching, in general, and I wanted to explore curriculum development, the process of creating lessons, etc. so that I would be familiar and able to do this down the road. In all, teaching college for the past three years has provided for me in these specific ways. I have developed skills that I might not have developed elsewhere.

Two Paths: Two Different Outcomes

The rub, though, was that leaving the path I was on meant that I was leaving the blessing that was mine as a producer of outcomes. Let me explain...

When I stepped out in faith and began to work full-time at UOPX, the Lord began to bless my performance. I worked very hard in this role as an advisor, but I was functioning in a weak area (conversation, extroversion). I needed the Lord to help me meet my goals, to make my "quota," and to do my job well. He blessed me with achievement, acknowledgement, performance evaluations, etc., and while I didn't necessarily receive promotions or pay raises, I did receive a lot of recognition. It was nice. It felt really good, and as I left this job and moved to the next, this path of recognition and blessing followed me. The same type of response happened at the second job. In short, I knew that my path through business was being blessed by God. I mean, blessed; I cannot explain it but I experienced great blessing through my business activities. God used me, as a producer of work, a performer, and a high-achiever, in order to bless me, to give me favor, and to get me noticed.

Since I followed the path that led me through higher education, I have not had that same result. There has been an overall blessing, of course, but not the same way. I didn't receive the same type of blessing, the overt blessing, that had been steady in my life during the previous three years. It seems that all the blessing, the recognition, and the achievement came through my Regent studies and not through my work or my performance. I did receive high student evaluations, and I consistently "met expectations" when it came to faculty development, but I didn't produce results in the same way. Why? Why was there such a stark difference between teaching students and working in business? I think that answer is simple. I chose to go a different way whereby I would no longer be responsible for the results. In teaching, no matter how hard you try as teacher, the results are determined by your student's efforts. You cannot control the outcomes. But as an individual contributor, you are firmly in control. You work hard, you achieve results. The Lord blessed me when I was the contributor, but not necessarily when my students were active agents in the results. It took me a long while to accept that one of the things I had to let go of was my need to perform, to achieve, and to control outcomes. I relinquished those needs, embraced teaching, and while content, I always felt that I wasn't functioning in my strength, in my strongest area. It was a difficult trade-off for me to make because by nature, I am a performer, a goal-oriented, task-driven, high-achieving individual.

Now, I am back on this path, and I am beginning to sense that I am where I belong. Does this mean I made an error when I decided to follow the path to becoming a professor? Yes and no. It was more a compromise. I gave up some things in order to receive other things. I received His goodness throughout my time, but I didn't receive the blessing the way I had when I was working full-time in business.  I know this may sound strange, but honestly, I believe that there are many ways to live in the Lord's will. Some of these "ways" produce more results than others. They always come with a cost (there is always a cost to following the Lord). I paid a heavy price to try out teaching, and while I received some benefit, in reality, I didn't receive as much benefit (tangible, real, and valuable) as if I would have trusted the Lord and remained where He had placed me. Now, I am back on track, moving forward, and I sense that I am about to experience great change, change that will produce very good results for me again. The blessing, the freedom that comes from His provision as Jehovah-Jireh, is about to be delivered, and I think this is why I feel so very excited, so very eager, and why I wait with anticipation for His promises to come to pass.

Resting Now

I just receive an email from UnitedHealth Group declining me for one of the positions I applied to earlier in the month. The job was as a Web Content Manager, which is pretty funny really, considering I spent almost 15 years in this role. Perhaps they had someone locally (Minnesota) already in mind. I am okay with this turn of events. I realize that whatever the position the Lord has for me, He will make it happen. Even if I mess up on the interview. I did when I was at CVS -- I felt like I had blown those interviews twice. In the end, I was offered both jobs (two positions in two groups). I believe the Lord is my Jehovah-Jireh, and as such, He has me well-covered. He will provide, He will lead, and He will guide as it suits His will. For today, I let this be. I let go of my need, and I trust in His way. He has this all figured out. I simply must abide in Him, and I must allow Him to provide whatever work He determines is best for me.

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