December 14, 2016

Christmas Break Begins Today!

It is Wednesday, my final day of class at GCU, and praise be to God, I made it through, I made it through this long and difficult semester. God has been so gracious to me. He has helped me navigate through the past 16 weeks of teaching, learn and administrate three different schools and learning management systems, and keep up with mountains of papers, tests, and quizzes -- just so I could teach 5-6 classes, and finally, earn a decent income. And, if that wasn't enough, He also helped me successfully defend my research proposal (in October), and begin my research (data collection and analysis) in order to finish my dissertation by the deadline for spring graduation. Yes, the Lord has done all of this, and today, I give Him all praise, all honor, and all glory. He alone is worthy to be praised. He alone is worthy to receive our adoration and our worship! Selah!

The Path to Progress

Moreover, the Lord has graciously helped me lay out a path to follow that has taken me from adjunct instructor to professor in just three short years of doctoral school. As I begin my spring 2017 semester, I will finish up my fourth year of teaching college English courses. This means, that come fall 2017, I will start my fifth year -- my fifth year of teaching! I cannot believe that this is the case, but I am excited to see what the Lord has in mind for me over the next 5-10 years. He is gracious to me, so very gracious, and praise be to God, I couldn't be where I am today without His help. I mean, I was so tentative back in December, 2013. I had just quit what was one of the most unpleasant jobs of my life -- boring, boring, boring -- and stepped out in faith to trust the Lord to provide for me as a professor. I have blogged about my 3-weeks of work as a business analyst for a large healthcare company, and how, while I liked the idea of the job, I found the actual work less than interesting, less than satisfying. I lasted 21 days before I confessed to the director that I had made a mistake. I knew it right away, I mean, and even though the money was good (very good), the job itself was such a poor fit for me. I simply sat at my desk, almost in tears, for lack of work, lack of companionship, and lack of interest. It was awful.

The good news, however, was that in my 3-week of trying something new, I figured out that running after the money was never going to satisfy me. It would get certain people "off my back," so to speak, and it would lessen the stress at bill paying time, but it wouldn't satisfy my soul or my deep need to be in a role where I could influence, impact, and affect the lives of others. No, my heart wanted to help people, students in particular, and working for a business wasn't going to cut it. I ran from that job back to the open door for me at GCU, and I have stayed since. I have taught every course offered, and while I have struggled, and at times, felt like such a failure, I have remained steady. I have learned humility, mostly, and I have learned how to teach effectively. I have come into my own, and now I can see myself doing no other work for the rest of my life. I am a teacher, through and through, and I believe that this path is God-ordained, God-inspired, and God-provided. I am set. I am settled. I am where I belong, praise be to God.

My spring semester looks just as heavy as my fall, but I will be at the end of my long doctoral road, and suffice to say, I am ready to graduate. I am ready to tackle a full-time teaching position, and work for one school from this point forward. My prayer is for the Lord to begin to open that door now, for the Lord to provide a way for me to settle into one job, rather than 3-4, and to be offered a full-time teaching contract early this spring. Secondly, my prayer right now is to be offered a full-time position where I can teach from home. I know this is a long shot, but with my Mom's memory issues, and my Dad's inability to care for her when I am not at home, I really think I need to be here full-time. Of course, I will have to take whatever job is offered, and if that means a campus-based position or even a job in another state, I will have to do it. My hope is that the Lord will provide for me so I can remain here in Phoenix until my parent's life situation is resolved. My son needs one more year to graduate from college, so for all intents and purposes, I am content to stay put until he finishes school and my parents life is set. Right now, they cannot live on their own. They are both functional, and by that I mean, they do not need physical care (bathing and the like). My Dad still drives, but Mom's memory is failing so sharply that she often doesn't remember what is happening from moment to moment. She can care for herself, but she cannot really take care of a home or make meals. My Dad worries about her constantly, and with her CLL (Leukemia) progressing, it is difficult to know what might come in the next couple months. The doctors are saying chemo is on the horizon since her white blood count is doubling every couple months. I honestly do not see how she would handle chemo, and without me being home to help, I really do not see this being a positive outcome. Nonetheless,  she is a trooper. I am praying for resolution in all these areas because they do cause me concern, and when I am concerned, I lose my peace and stress reigns.

Still, I am hopeful that the Lord will resolve these issues, and that He will bring me a safe way to go. My wish list for 2017 looks like this right now:

  • Finish my dissertation and defend it successfully (March)
  • Graduate from Regent (May)
  • Promote from adjunct to faculty (June)
  • Decide whether to stay in Phoenix for one more year or move elsewhere (June)
I need to purchase a new car for my son as well as a laptop for my own teaching use (mine is so slow and it doesn't keep its charge, even with the new battery). I also want to get in shape (finally), and lose 20 pounds (the 20 pounds I have added since 2010).  I want to be free from all the stress and strain, and begin to enjoy my life again. I want to travel, to enjoy my friendships, and mostly not feel guilty for taking some needed "me time" regularly (rather than every now and then). I want to put ME back into the lens, and start to focus on my needs and wants. I am always giving to others, spending my precious time taking care of others, and while I do it without regret, there are times when I am spent, so very spent, and then I realize that I have given so much of myself, that there is very little left for me.

Over the course of my life, I have wanted to do so many things, to go places and live places, but I always end up saying "No, I cannot do this or that" simply because of my commitments to other people. I would like to start living my life, doing as I please, rather than continuing to serve others. I mean, I will always serve others. We are commanded in Scripture to serve others, but not to the extent that we lose ourself, our identity or our purpose (God's will and design) in life. I have come so very close lately by letting myself be taken advantage of by my students, my peers, and my family. Of course, I was overwhelmed with my own to-do-list, and as such, I had to let things slide. I wasn't able to stand my ground simply because my focus was on my studies, my research, and my teaching. I had to overlook a lot of things that I would normally not stand for, and my prayer now is to stop doing this, stop sticking my head in the sand, but rather, to address what needs to be addressed when it happens, and not after the fact. 

Until I am free from school, I know my life will remain complicated. Until my parents situation is settled, my life is not my own. Until I have that full time position, I cannot consider moving, relocating, or even starting my own life elsewhere. I am stuck where I am for many reasons -- many good reasons -- and while I may not like this fact, the truth is that there is nothing I can do about it. Not now. Not yet. I must be patient and wait until the Lord releases me to go. Until then, I trust Him, and I wait upon Him. I rest in Him completely, and I let all my worry, my doubt, my fear, and my stress go. I let it go. I let it go.

Letting it Go

This weekend, my Mom and I watched, "Frozen." It is one of my favorite Disney movies, despite some of the storyline being anti-marriage. I still enjoy the movie, and of course, I love Idina Menzel, and I love her singing voice. I started thinking about this movie, and the fact that I often control myself to the extent that I rarely let anything go. I mean, I let stress go, worries go, and yes, even at times, issue and concerns, go. But, I do not let myself go. I cut no slack when it comes to the ME department. I hold myself to very high standards, and as such, I tend to lead a very rigorous and strict life. I have certain ways, and these ways dictate what I do each day. I live by routine, by my schedule, by my to-list, and in this way, I am able to maintain a "semblance of control" over my life. But, with all this "control," comes a down side. I wear myself out trying to balance a fragile life. I work myself to the nub just to keep everything running smoothly. I never stop working. I never stop doing work. I work, work, work, and in this way, I rarely take time to stop and "smell the roses." I miss the days of casual life. I miss the days when I was a SAHM. I miss the days when I played with my son, walked to the park, and simply sat in the breeze and enjoyed life.

Lately, I feel the crush of pressure to perform, the rush and the hustle of trying to succeed. I am working hard for one reason -- to please and to honor the Lord. Scripture tells us that whatever we do, we are to do it for God's glory. So, I work long hours. I sweat over the details, and I stress over outcomes simply because my Manager is the Lord, and I do not want to fail Him or displease Him. I realize that I will fail Him and I will displease Him, yet, I also know that Scripture says we are to put on the righteousness of Christ, to walk and to live in holiness, and to demonstrate love, compassion, goodness, and mercy to those we meet. We are to be at peace — with everyone — as much as it is possible to do so. These commands of scripture do not negate the fact that as a sinful creature, I cannot live up to the holy and righteous standard of God. However, through the inner workings of the Holy Spirit, and the power of His grace gifts, I can walk in these things. I can actively pursue them. This is what the scriptures advocate — a willingness and eagerness — to walk (to put them on, display them or live) in them.

My prayer today is that as the Lord leads, guides and provides for me, He will give me the gifts I need to walk in the Spirit, to live daily in a way that pleases Him, and that brings Him honor and praise. This is my desire, my heart and my mind’s most inner desire. I desire nothing but to bring God glory.

As I contemplate this truth, I realize that when God is my soul’s desire, my all my energy is directed toward His praise, my life has focus. I can be determined, dedicated, and disciplined because my end-goal is His honor. My life becomes infused with one pursuit, a holy pursuit, and in the way, nothing else matters. My attitude, my mindset, and my intentions all coalesce to fuel my passion — my intense passion, my inner drive, and my intense need for achievement — simply as an outwork or outgrowth of His love, His compassion, and  His mercy as provided to me. He becomes my Source, my Sufficiency, and my Soul Satisfaction. I become His tool, His workmanship, to be used as the Creative Craftsman desires. He shapes me, molds me, and perfects me — all for His praise and honor. I simply allow Him to have His way in my life, to make the changes He requires of me, and then through the process of identification with Christ, those changes are transferred, deposited, so to speak, into my account. I become what He desires, not through efforts or affect, but through Christ and as a result of His completed and finished work on the Cross. I truly can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Selah! This means that if the Lord needs me to focus more on my studies, my research, I can through, Christ, focus more. If He needs me to go live in a new place, and despite my hesitation or concerns, I can go and live in this new place through Christ who gives me strength, faith, hope, and the confidence to obey the Father’s command. Likewise, if the Lord chooses for me to work 3 jobs instead of 1, I can with His determination, administration, and ability to focus, work in all these jobs. I cannot do it in my own strength, but through the gifting of the Holy Spirit, I can administrate, manage, teach, organized, disseminate information to be effective in the role, but also to bring Him honor and praise. I can do it through Christ and HIS ABILITIES. There is nothing I cannot do so long as I allow the Lord to do it through me.

In Closing

I am invigorated today, and not just because it is my last day on campus, but because it is the beginning of the NEW ME. I am about to take a great leap of faith, to depend on the Lord for something new and wonderful, and in this way, I am about to be stretch further than I ever thought possible. I am about to receive a promotion (I feel it), and this promotion is going to resolve some of the lingering tension here at home. I am about to move to a new place, a wonderful and wild place, where the Lord intends to plant me, to settle me, and to put down roots for me. I am about to graduate — praise be to God — with a quality dissertation and defense. I am about to take on the role of my life, and with that belief, I realize that where I am today is the place of His choosing. I am surrendered, fully surrendered, before the mighty, merciful, and majestic feet of my Lord and my Savior, King Jesus, the Christ.

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