August 5, 2016

Rain, Finally!

Happy Friday! It is August 5th and guess what? It is raining. Yes, cats and dogs are pouring down all over my neighborhood. We have some thunder rumbling overhead, and it has been a nice steady downpour. Yes, we have heavy rain, but no real wind (that is always a blessing). It looks like there is more to come. The clouds are gray and dark to the south of me, and I just saw a bit of lightning to the west. It is such a nice change from our normally hot and very sunny weather. I am so loving this cloudy, raining, and stormy morning! PTL!

It is always nice to wake up to the sound of rain as it hits against your window. I slept pretty soundly last night, but earlier in the morning (around 5 or so), I did get up to use the bathroom. I fell right back to sleep, so the morning burst that brought the clanging rain was a gentle reminder to wake up. I thought it was Saturday, though! LOL! Yes, I just figured out that it is Friday and not Saturday (thank you, Apple!) It is crazy how my internal world seems to be out of sync with my outer world these days. I guess it is just those end of summer blues where the days all run into one another. VBG!

It is a good day, though, a very good day. I made some progress on my school prep yesterday, and I hope to spend a couple hours working on my research project. My prayer is to get something completed so I can send it off to my professor this weekend (it is my BIG prayer, oh my!) Right now, I am more consumed by teacher prep than anything else. I need to setup my classes at Regent, and I need to stay on top of my classes at OCU. In all, I think I am in a good place right now. I feel confident and comfortable. I feel like I am in a good place. I will be busy this fall, but generally speaking, I feel like I can handle what the Lord has provided for me to do this semester. I did get my contracts from Regent, PTL! It is official -- I will have two classes to teach at Regent this fall.

Oh, here comes the rain again! I am thanking the Lord for His generous provision of rain this good, good day!
Some Thoughts

Yesterday, I spent the majority of the day browsing through my Blackboard online classrooms. I attended a welcome chat webinar for new faculty, and then I played with my classroom to get the hang of the system. I am already familiar with the learning system since I am a student, but there are extra controls that faculty use to customize the classroom shell. Some of this is foreign to me, though the design and the way you use the tools is not difficult, especially since I was a website designer for nearly 15 years. The classroom, though, needs some touches to make it a bit more user-friendly, and right now, I don't have the time I need to do that yet. Hopefully, I can tackle the classroom setup more next week.

My big project, besides my research, is getting my syllabus in order for ACU. I am updating it some, but mostly, I am trying to plan for a really small class. I will only have 5 students (as of now), though I have been told to expect up to 9 total. I will need to build out my class sessions so that my students stay engaged. I am not quite sure how to do this, but I will do my best to figure it out (Lord, help me!)

Other than my syllabus, I am really feeling settled and content. It has been such a relief to know that I am settled on my profession, that I am right where God wants me to be, and that my future is secured. I mean, yes, my eternal future is secured in Christ Jesus, but my temporary (this world) future was so unknown for a long time. I simply didn't have the confidence to know that I am doing the THING He planned for me to do. Let me explain...

I think this "new" realization dawned on me yesterday. I was completing my welcome chat online via Blackboard Collaborate, and as the leaders were walking us through the resources available as faculty, I couldn't help but think how very lucky I am to be "faculty" at Regent University. I know, I've said it before, but Regent has always been on my heart as far as teaching there "some day." I just never thought it would happen. I never considered it a possibility? Why? Well, typically Regent only hires PhD's and they only hire well-qualified people (aka, those with a lot of experience). I figured it would not come to pass in my lifetime (LOL!)

Yesterday, however, I was sitting at my computer and the thought popped into my head -- "I am really doing this, I am really faculty at this school!" Yeah, I know, wow! MIND BLOWN. Well, not really. I guess it was the fact that as I was working my way through the online session, I was also poking around in the iTeach Community resources that Regent has for their faculty. I just was blown away by the thought, the care, and the resources that are offered to help new faculty get comfortable teaching. I mean, my other schools did provide some new faculty training. I had a nice seminar at ACU when I started. I have done some webinars at GCU too. But, this was just different. I felt different. I felt like I was not an instructor, a second-string player. No, I was a professor, and in that feeling, I realized that I had arrived at my destination. I am what God determined me to be. I have arrived.

What is more, as I was sharing my credentials with the group, I realized that with four years of teaching under my belt, I am not a new professor, per se. I am still new, when compared to those who have been teaching for 20-30 years, but I am not brand-spanking new anymore. That thought brought a laugh to me. I am not new. Yay! More so, I am not a novice instructor either. I came to this conclusion this week while I was grading my student's papers at OCU. I gave them solid feedback, more than I do at GCU (because of the sheer volume of students), and the comments I provided -- well -- they were significant. I felt like an English teacher -- FINALLY.

In all, I have simply felt content to pull on this mantle, to wear my education and my experience with pride. I was speaking with my good friend last night about resumes and profiles (online) and such, and I remarked how good it is to finally have consistent employment in one field. You know, previously, my experience was hit-or-miss. I worked for this company for a year, then this company for 15 months, then switched to higher education. The jumping through career hoops and such simply looked choppy on my resume. Now, though, I have four years of consistent experience. Four years of teaching listed -- right in order -- one after another. As such, there is no confusion when it comes to what I do for a living. I am a teacher, plain and simple. This is my profession.

I think all of this came together this week in order to help me find my spot, you know, my place on the grid of life. It all started with confirmation on my article being published, and then it ended with my training at Regent. It was like, "Ok, this is what you are, what you do, and this is your life from this point on." I could finally put all the questions to rest, all those queries about my education, my work, my job. I could say to whomever asks, "Yes, I teach English." I can finally say, "I am an English professor" (Praise be to God!)

It feels good to arrive, to finally be at your destination, and to finally know your path in life is fixed. I see where I am going, I see the road ahead of me. There is no more "chance" of changing paths. There is no more option to go another way. This is it. I am on the right path now.

This realization has given me such comfort, such confidence. I realize that I am settled now. This means that no matter where the Lord moves me, my job, my career choice, etc. -- my profession is set. I will never do another type of "work" for a living. I will only teach, and as such, I will work at schools of the Lord's choosing. I am so relieved. I mean, it is now not a process of "finding the right job," but rather it is one of letting the Lord lead, guide and provide the right job for me. I can rest now. I can rest and be secure in the knowledge that God has provided the opportunity, the provision, the material goods to cover me now. Furthermore, and this is the BIG REVEAL, I have full faith and confidence that He will continue to do so into my future.

Future is Set

My next consideration is the location of His work. Really, for the time being, I am set here in Phoenix. I am content to remain where I am for a time. I have blogged about looking for a new place to live now on 10 years. The problem has been that I have felt the Lord moving me away from Phoenix, but my family, those who mattered most to me, weren't on the same page or wave length as I was when it came to interpreting the Lord's will. So for all intents and purposes, I felt trapped here. I felt as though I couldn't move away, follow the Lord's leading, until something changed, until the blockage was lifted. That blockage lifted in 2010 when I found my life upended. I was single for the first time in nearly 30 years, and I had to begin to plan and strategize how I would move forward on my own. First things first, I knew I needed a career path to follow. I needed steady work, good work, practical work. I needed a job. I also felt the call to pursue teaching, and that meant getting a Masters degree. I was driven toward getting a PhD shortly after enrolling in graduate school, and well, here I am now almost finished with my second advanced degree.

I also needed to be released from my house (owning, I mean), and I needed to be set free to move as the Lord was leading me. This came in 2011 when our home was foreclosed and auctioned off. I walked away scot-free (PTL!) from home ownership and into a season of renting. More so, the Lord provided everything I needed to be established from bank accounts to credit cards to car loans. In short, I went from having zero credit to having good credit. I bought two cars, upgraded my computer systems, purchased other household goods and services. I also got comfortable with traveling on my own, renting cars and hotels, etc. I pretty much got to the place where I could go without thinking about it, worrying over the details, stressing over the costs, etc.

The past six years have been transformational for me. I started out working in higher education administration and now I am working as faculty at several lovely schools across the US. I have my education completed. I have my credentials, my experience, and I am in such a good, good place. I have my finances in order, and I am positioned to go as soon as the Lord says, "Okay, let's go."

I have looked over many places, researched the good and the bad about them, and in the end, I have come to the conclusion that wherever the Lord decides to plant me, it will be good. He has a really good place in mind for me. I know it will not be here in Phoenix. I am so ready to leave the desert. In fact, I need to leave the desert for my health, but I cannot do that right now. I have to stay put for a short while longer, and then He will let me go. Until then, I remain contented in His provision of a place to live, a place to stay, a place to work. He is good, so very good to me.

Recently, I blogged about my heart's desire to own a farm. I wrote a long post about it, and talked about how my love for farm life has been with me since childhood. Now, I am about to say something different, and while it may seem like I am flip-flopping, I'm not. Really, I am not.

My heart loves farms and farm life. I had wanted to grow up on a farm as a child, and I think deep inside of me there is this appreciation of that lifestyle. Yet, at this time in my life, at 53 almost 54, I realize that while I have a strong affinity for that life, I am simply not cut out for it. I am a creature of comfort, for sure. I am someone who tends to be quite lazy when it comes to her downtime. For example, I prefer to binge-watch Netflix rather than be outside working in the yard. I love to garden, of course, but I want to do it part-time and not all the time. I also love to fix things up. I do, I really do. But other than painting and hiring a contractor, I really don't want to do the work myself. Furthermore, I have realized that I am not well-enough, strong enough, or stable enough to engage in this kind of work. I can't lift heavy things anymore. My back aches just getting out of bed most days. So as I think about my dream and what is really possible, I have decided that it is best for me to live modestly, comfortably, in a town or city whereby I can garden but not engage in a bigger business pursuit.

I think what changed my mind was simply the understanding that I was running toward a dream, a dream that would bring me peace of mind. I realized that my peace comes from the Lord, and that no dream is going to bring me any special comfort. It might be a good life, for sure. But, my heart, my mind, and my desire are to do the Lord's work, to do His will, and regardless of where I live, I am to do this in His strength, and with His abilities alone. The place -- the house, the location -- are all immaterial to me.

As I appreciate what the Lord has done for me, I realize that He has always provided a lovely home for me to live in. Never once did He give me a poor quality home, a run-down rodent or insect-infested home to live in. Furthermore, He has provided excellent cars -- good, newer cars -- for me to drive. He has provided quality things, even though I haven't sought them out. He has given me a flat-screen TV, an Apple iMac, an Apple iPhone 6s, etc. instead of just poorly manufactured substitutes. I didn't ask for them, per se. I asked if I could have them, but only if they were His will. He provided them to me. The same is true for clothing. I have bought quality clothing, quality furniture items, etc. rather than used, second-hand. Now, I am not saying that I look down on used or second-hand things because that is not the case at all. The majority of my life has been bound up in second-hand. In fact, for 30 years, my entire home was made up of used and hand-me-down items. I had very few new things over the course of my marriage. I mostly had cast offs from family. I made due of course, and I was really thankful for what I received, but I never had my own things, my own style or my own interests.

The Lord has seen to provide good to me, and that means quality good, time in and time out. I seriously do not see this pattern stopping, not now, not ever. I mean, I am not asking for a home that is a quarter of a million dollars -- nope -- not at all. In fact, I am not asking for even a $100K home. But, I have a feeling, a strong feeling that the Lord desires that I have one just the same. Perhaps it is for His work. Perhaps it is because He has need of it. Or perhaps He needs me to minister to the people who live in middle-class suburbia more so than those that live in upper class crusty gated communities or urban poor neighborhoods. I just don't know. But, I believe that the Lord desires that I stay put in middle class areas. I look at rural locations, and I see much that I like. I look at middle class areas and I think, "Oh, so boring!" Yet, the Lord seems to be saying to me, "This is a good place for you. It is safe. It is modest, it is comfortable."

In this way, I think I have been wanting my way over His way. I have been unwilling to accept His gift to me because somehow I thought it was wrong to have middle-class means. I have looked down at His hand of blessing because I felt I didn't deserve anything so nice. I realize that this is foolishness on my part. Whatever the Lord gives to me, He gives graciously -- which means -- without regard to my abilities or worth. He gives what He gives based 100% on His nature. He is generous, kind, and good. Who am I to discount the Lord's provision for my life?

I guess what I am trying to say is that now that I am content in my future, I understand that I must be content in all things, all areas, and in all ways. This means that whatever the Lord chooses to provide to me, He already knows that it is for my best. But more so, He knows that it suits His purposes, His will. His will trumps my desires. His will is all that matters.

Looking Forward

As I look forward to the next 3-6 and 9 months, one thing is for sure, the Lord has a definite plan for my life. Enough time has passed for me to learn to trust in my experiences. I mean, trust in what has come from my experiences, and to know that these experiences were designed by a loving God in order to prepare, to train, and to equip me for a life of service. Now, I see that everything has been working together for my good just as it says in Romans 8:28 (NLT):

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

Everything that has happened to me has been designed, planned and purposed for one outcome, and that is to enable me to fulfill my life's purpose. He has had a plan, and that plan has caused many things to occur in my life. Some of the hardship and heartache have been of my own design. Yet, the Lord permitted it, and through those experiences, He allowed me to be shaped, molded, and yes, tested (tried) so that I would learn to trust Him, to seek Him, to desire Him -- first and foremost. Now, I am in this wonderful place whereby my life seems to be chugging along, full-steam ahead, and everything seems to be working together like a well-oiled machine. All that is missing is the destination (temporal). I still don't know where I am going, but I know that He will reveal it in time. It will be good, so very good, and I will know and I will understand that it is for my best, and for His work as it is produced in and through me. I am certain of this -- He has a place in mind -- and this place is not just for me to live comfortably, but rather it is for me to live and to work in a way that serves others. There is a need in this place, the place of His choosing, and for whatever reason, the Lord desires that I go there to minister to the people who live there.

My life is now 100% in His hand. As such, I am no longer seeking any way that is outside His will, and this includes my own way. I want to experience His goodness as it flows from His hand right down to every area of my life. Whatever needs to be changed, so be it. Wherever I need to go, let's go there. However I am to get there, Lord please provide for me. Until He releases me to go, I will stay here, fixed and focused on the work He has assigned to me this good, good day.

Praise the LORD! 
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good! 
His faithful love endures forever.
(Psalm 106:1 NLT)

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