December 18, 2016

Progress Report


It is a blessed Sunday here in cool and sunny Phoenix. I took the garbage out this morning, and it was CHILL-Y! Of course, 38 is a far cry from my neighbors to the North who woke up to negative numbers this morning! LOL! Still, 38 degrees in the desert can be mighty chilly considering we are under high pressure (no storms), and that means really chilly nights and very chilly mornings. I am feeling blessed, though, simply because my house is warm and snug. My life is good. I have everything I need and want, and for the most part, I live in a very safe community, and my days and nights are filled with security, hope, and peace. Not so for many who are either homeless this good day or who live in war torn areas ravaged by hate and fighting. My prayers are for peace, blessed peace, and my cry to the Lord is to protect those who cannot protect themselves. May the God of peace rain down His marvelous grace on our poor, suffering, and conflict-ridden world this good, good day.

Progress Feels Good

As I woke up this day, I couldn’t help but think about where I am right now, and how just yesterday, I was panicked over my dissertation research and my overall progress on my research project. I was productive yesterday, for sure, but I didn’t get as far as I hoped I would until about late evening. I spent most of the day taking care of business around the house, doing things that needed “to be done” and working on the computer, assisting students and the like. In all, it was a restful day, and for that, I am thankful.

After dinner, however, I sat down to really begin my research project. I did spend the latter part of the afternoon reviewing the “process” and getting comfortable with my next steps. I laid out a plan, and then started my Phase One, or the recording of my “first impressions” of the websites I will be analyzing with more depth later this week. I was able to complete 10 of the 15 websites before I wore out and quit for the night. This means that today, I have 5 more to complete before I can move into Phase Two, which is inventorying of special features. I hope to begin this work later today and then complete it by Wednesday.

In all, my plan is to have the first two phases done by mid-week so that I can focus on Phase Three, which is the most time consuming of all six phases. My end goal is to complete the entire analysis of these 15 websites by the end of the month so I can begin to write my final two chapters in early January. I need to defend my research by mid-March, so that means writing and revisions must be completed by mid-February at the latest. Right now, I am trying not to think about timelines and such. Instead, I am working on completing each task well, paying attention to small details, and taking copious notes so that I have plenty to work with down the road. My hope and my prayer is to have this entire project finished so I can defend my research by the deadline for graduation. Only the Lord knows what will be come spring, so my prayer is for His timing and productivity to fill me and fuel me so I can complete my work and do it well.

Overall, I am pleased with my progress. Did I say that? If not, let me say it again — I am really pleased with my progress thus far. This whole process has been difficult, from start to finish, and frankly, I really didn’t think I would be able to even complete it in the remaining time. But, God be praised, He has this project planned out and purposed, so I can rest in His timing and in His promise to me. He has promised me that I would graduate in 2017, and by that I know I can trust in His word. I am on track to graduate on time, and really, unless something awful happens, I should be able to do it. With His help, of course. Only with His help. Selah!

My prayer this blessed day is to be productive and to complete all the tasks on my to-do list. On top of all of my research, I have major grading to deal with next week, and of course, there is Christmas to celebrate. Sadly, my Christmas looks sort of bleak due to all the rush and pressure and what-not. I have ordered our dinner, but I have yet to shop for any gifts. My Mom will want to go shopping next week, and I will need to take her because she cannot go on her own. Plus, my Dad wants to go shopping as well, and frankly, I am not sure how I will manage all of it. I am being pulled and stretched to the point of breaking, but I am trusting the Lord for His provision of care, and that everything that must be settled will be settled. I am trusting Him to make it possible for me to do everything — to meet the needs of those who rely on me — and everyone else (my students, mostly) without sacrificing any of my productivity and my oh-so limited timeframe. The blessing in all of this is that I know that He knows me well, and that He knows what I can and cannot do right now. More so, I know that He has me covered. Yes, of this, I am sure. I am well-covered by His marvelous grace and His amazing mercy. He is so good to me, so very good to me.

In all, my mind is fixed. I am determined. I am disciplined, and I am no longer distracted. I know what I need to do so I will simply settled down and do it. I can do this work. Yes, I do this work in His Name and with His power and by His authority — thus — I can do it, I know I can!

Moving and Thinking More

Well, it is almost 10 a.m., and so far, my morning has been busy. After I woke up and took care of my “fur” boys, I spend some of the early morning on my blog. Then once my parents were up and about, I took their car (my son has mine today), and drove over to Walmart to pick up two gift cards for the giving trees at church. I am now back at my desk and drinking my second cup of coffee. It is still pretty chilly outside (it was 41 when I went to Walmart). I am sitting here thinking more about my life, about the plans the Lord has for me, and about everything I need to do between now and when He moves me, relocates me (which I know He will soon).

I stand amazed at all the Lord has accomplished in my life. I mean, I am in the middle of this major research project and right now I am so close, “This close,” to being finished with my graduate studies. I have wanted a PhD since I was first in college. I can remember the day, the exact moment when I first started to think about getting this degree. I was standing in my college professor’s office at SJSU, and it was right about this time of the year (December, 1992). My professor was reading one of my papers and talking with me about my plans after I graduated. She said to me, “Carol, you should really think about getting your PhD. You are a good writer and you have really interesting ideas.” I remember thinking to myself, “Who? Me?” I was absolutely shocked that she would say that to me. At first, I thought she was joking. Then, I thought, “Perhaps she is just being nice to me.” Later, though, after I really learned what it takes to get a PhD, I knew she meant it sincerely, genuinely. More so, I know she wasn’t just saying, “Oh, you should get a PhD” as if it was like buying a hat or something. I know what it takes to do this level of work, and frankly, I would never encourage any of my students toward this goal unless I felt they could do it (as in they had the talent, skill, and drive for it) or I believed it was something the Lord desired for them to do. No, in thinking back on that moment, I believe in my heart that her encouragement was sincere and it was meant for me to consider, to ponder, to meditate on.

Of course, her words were wonderful to hear, but in truth, I took her words to heart, and I pondered them for a long, long time. Furthermore, as I thought about the path to a graduate degree, I wondered if it was really possible for me to do such a thing. I mean, I loved school. I loved my Humanities program, and I loved studying classical works. I was a good student, too, but I never really thought of myself as a scholar. In fact, I never considered becoming a professor — or rather — that I could become one. I thought I could be a teacher someday, but that I was meant to be a 4th grade teacher and not a college instructor. Honestly, I never really thought I was smart enough or good enough to do that high-level academic work. And, then, there was the cost of graduate school and the fact that my grades weren’t very good at that point. Yet, her insistence, however, stuck with me. She believed in me. She believed I could do it.

It wasn’t long after that meeting that I started to pray about becoming a professor.  I remember asking the Lord if this was possible, if I really could attempt something like graduate school. Could I really do something that grand? I felt that the Lord said, “Yes” to me, but that the timing for it seemed uncertain. I had this very strong desire to check out schools, and I did. I looked at the big schools in my area: Stanford, Berkeley, Santa Cruz. I didn’t see any way to attend these schools. They were too competitive for me, and the programs offered didn’t really match with what I wanted to study at that time. The requirements were strict, and frankly, I didn’t know two foreign languages. I really saw the pathway as blocked, and I had no idea how I would ever accomplish such a feat. My professor would say to me, “There will be a way, Carol. Just trust the process.”

Of course, I tried my best to force graduate school right after I finished my bachelor’s degree. I enrolled at SJSU, and despite the fact that I had a small child, an unwilling and unsupportive husband, I was bound and determined to give it a “go.” Unfortunately, the timing wasn’t right, and I ended up withdrawing from school. I thought the idea was dead, dead and buried, and I believed that the “idea” of being a professor was just that — an idea. Until, that is, my life changed radically, drastically, and I found myself at the short end of the stick, so to speak. My marriage came to an end in 2009, and shortly thereafter, I had to decide what I wanted to do with my life — the rest of my life. Did I want to simply work as a website designer or did I want to do something else?

I started to pray about my options, and little by little the Lord put that dream of graduate school back into focus. At first, I started to think about it, but only as a regret. I was sorry that I never did it, that I didn’t stand my ground back when I had the chance and simply force my way on my ex-husband. I was sorry that I had let life intervene and that my situation and circumstances kept me from achieving my dream. But, then I realized that what happened in between my graduation from SJSU in 1993 and the then-current predicament (in 2009) had purpose and value, and I realized that while my dream sat idly by for all those years, it never really went away completely. It just simmered on the back burner until a time when I was ready — made ready — for the work, for His work.

In January of 2010, I felt the Lord was opening a new door for me. My marriage was still in crisis, and without much hope for restoration, I followed the Lord through that door. Now, here I am today, in December of 2016, and I am just about ready to graduate with my PhD from Regent University. Yes, my graduation from college will be 25 years after that first suggestion of the degree, and praise be to God, by May of 2017, I will have accomplished my dream-goal of graduating with an advanced degree.

As I think about the path to this point in time, I understand that had I started graduate school back in 1993, I would have followed a different course in my life. I would have studied classics, and while that would have been exciting and interesting, it wouldn’t have prepared me for His work and His ministry as my degree in Communication has done so. The work I do now is very different from the work I would have done all those years ago. Sure, I would still be teaching English, but I wouldn’t have the knowledge, the experience, and the understanding of the importance and value of communication in this postmodern era. Moreover, I wouldn’t be ready to do full-time ministry work had I taken my PhD in English or classics. No, I am where I am today simply because this was His plan all along. He wanted me to do this degree, this program, but He knew I would have to wait until now to do it. The timing, the combination of events, worked together to prepare me, to train me, and to equip me for His good work and His good service.

Therefore, as I think about this now, this fact, how I am right where I belong, I cannot help but think that my next steps are also planned out as well. You see, if the Lord knew that His desire for me to go to graduate school wouldn’t be fulfilled until 2017, then this means that He also knows where He intends for me to work full-time and where He intends for me to live. I no longer believe in coincidence or happenstance, not when it comes to the Lord, I mean. I believe now — I am sure of it — that my next steps are planned, carefully planned — and that they are just as vital and purposed as the preceding 25 years of plans have been.

Coming to This Place

I realized today that everything in my life has had value and purpose. I can no longer live with any regrets or with the sense of failure as I have in the past. No, my life, all of my life, has formed this beautiful tapestry. I can accept the fact that there has been no mistake, no misstep, and no failure. I see it now so clearly, how all the choices and decisions I made simply worked together to create in me purpose and power. I am strong because of my past. I am disciplined and focused because I have learned through hard work and effort to be disciplined and focused. I am able to accomplish whatever the Lord desires because I have learned through experience that His plans always succeed, and that whatever He places before me, He empowers me and equips me for that precise work. Thus, as I complete my dissertation, I take comfort in the knowledge that this, too, has been planned. He knows the work. He knows the outcome, and when He tells me to rest, to let Him lead, I can trust His words to me. He is able to do what He has planned. I don’t have to force it, to try to make it come to pass. It is already done simply because He has created it, managed it, and brought it through to fruition. I can rest knowing that truly my God has me so well-covered this good, good day.

There is peace in this place. I mean, just knowing that my tomorrows are all accounted for and that I don’t have to worry about anything anymore brings me comfort and peace. I can simply let Him move me as He desires because in moving me, I will go where He sends me. I will go and live where He makes a place for me, and in this place, my life will be good. Whether it is in cold and snowy Chicago or hot and steamy Atlanta, the Lord has my life well in hand, and as such, the outcome is assured. I will go and do His work. I will go and live my life as I honor Him, praise Him, and bring Him glory. He will be glorified, and in return, I will experience the blessing, the privilege and the goodness of the Lord, God, Most High, as He reigns and overshadows my life.

Some Closing Thoughts

I am comforted in this knowledge because it means now that I no longer have to worry about where I will end up in 6-9 months time. I mean, I really no longer have to worry. My life is not up to me anymore. I no longer make these life decisions. I simply agree with His choice. I let Him lead me — lead me. I let Him guide me, and in doing so, He will suggest this place or that as it pertains to His will and His plan for me. I will be willing, and that means, that I am “ready, eager, or prepared to do something” (Dictionary.com), something, e.g., whatever He wants me to do. Yes, I am ready. I am eager. I am prepared to do this good, good work.

Does this mean that I know where He is sending me? At this time, I have an inkling, a feeling, but no firm thoughts. I simply know that He will be moving me away from Phoenix in the coming year. I have felt this is the case for more than 10 years, but like with my graduate degree, the timing was never right. I’ve wanted to leave Phoenix for a long, long time. I’ve thought about it and even tried to plan to do it, but until now, I have never once felt that the time was ready for it. I see that this, too, is part of His plan. My final destination on this earth will not be in the desert, praise be to God. I know that the next stop on this whirlwind tour will probably take me someplace cold and snowy. Why? I just have a feeling it is so.

What matters more than the destination is simply the fact that the Lord has a place in mind for me. This place is specific, it is well considered, chosen, and that means that there is good work for me to do. The place is settled, and for me, I am eager and excited about going there because I will doing the very thing He has called me to do. This thought excites me and gives me such encouragement to know that my degree, my hard work, and all my effort will be put to good use in this place. Until I know for certain, I am content to remain still and to wait for the Lord to open those specific doors. The plans, the preparedness, is all in process right now. And, I am ready to go. I just need His hand to walk me over that threshold and into this glorious and wonderful new place.

My prayer today is to remain fixed on His plan, and to know that no matter what comes next for me, it will be all part of His provision for my life. The job, the contracts, the opportunities, and everything associated with my life and status as an instructor, is in full swing, and as such, the Lord will cause all things to work together for His praise, His honor, and His glory.

Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
Don't try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
He's the one who will keep you on track.
(Proverbs 3:5-6, The Message)

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