December 31, 2016

Happy New Year’s Eve!

It is New Year’s Eve day, and I am sitting here at home thinking about all the good that has happened to me in 2016. It seems like this year, in particular, has been given a bad rap. First of all, there was the election of Donald Trump and all the superstar deaths (most recently, Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds), but there was also this ugly tenor under the surface (violence, hate, injustice, etc.) that seemed to boil over at times. The violence in America along with the violence in Syria has been front-page news for the entire year. More so, the political pundit’s and their arguments about whether Hilary would do a better job than “the Donald” covered most of the major news cycles. And, of course, there was the hate and fear mongering that seemed to control social media feeds for days on end. People in America feared for their very lives once Trump was elected. In fact, certain megastar people were thinking of leaving the country should he be elected (as of today, not one has emigrated elsewhere).

More so, I read the sob stories, the horrible stories of how republicans and conservatives were haters, racists, homophobes, and misogynists. It seemed that people, and I am using this term as a mass generalization, were dying or afraid of dying simply because the political system in the U.S. changed hands. Of course, it was overkill. It was hyperbole. It was mass hysteria, perpetuated by mainstream media that lives to cause riots, ruckus, and real fear among the citizenry of America. Nothing of that sort came to pass. The riots ceased after a couple weeks, the sobbing has slowly stopped, and the fear, while I am sure was well-meant, has given way to uneasiness and a “wait and see” attitude and approach.

With all of this in mind, just yesterday on social media, I saw so many well-meaning and sincere individuals call for “2016” to end quickly, as if the YEAR 2016, was to blame for all the pain, sorrow, and suffering they experienced as well as what others experienced around the world. It seems so surreal because for me because as I look back over the year, I see so many wonderful things that happened, so many positives, so many blessings. Yes, I am not oblivious to the hurt I see as well, but there is no way I can consider 2016 as anything but a very good year. In truth, I see this year as being one of the most significant years in my life, and what is more, this year will be my second highest for blog posts in the 12 years that I have maintained my blog on Blogger.com. Therefore, this fact says to me that 2016 was truly a year of wonderful highs, amazing achievement, and incredible tribute to God, who is my strength.

A Year in Review

This morning, I am sitting at my computer and thinking about how wonderful this past year has been for me. I have been blessed — so well blessed — and through it all, I have overcome some incredibly difficult challenges. I have made amazing discoveries about myself, my wants, and my needs, and I have come to this place of settlement, of security, of feeling safe and sound. It has taken me a long time to process all the various details of my life — from my childhood to my early teens to my adult years and my marriage — and to deal with the sorrow and sadness that came as a result of unfortunate events and experiences. I made the decision about mid-year to let so much of the memory go, to no longer think about these past experiences, and to let them remain buried in the past.

Furthermore, as I made such huge strives forward in my program, passed my qualification exams and completed my proposal defense, I began to sense closure in many areas of my life. I began to see my former life drift away from me, and I began to see an end to my days as being transitory, as being in flux, and as never really feeling “set or settled.” It was near mid-fall when I started to see my life change drastically. I started to see my life as being something far more than what I thought possible. I started to see myself differently too, and in that way, I began to imagine a greater outcome than I had previously considered. You see, 2016 was a year of power posing, of power positioning, and of taking power over all the various aspects of my life that seemed to demand control. Instead of relenting, giving in, and accepting less, I reached my hand out and expected more. In doing so, I found that “more” was right at my finger tips, and with an outstretched hand, I began to experience growth, potential, and fundamental change as I considered options, opportunities, and other paths to walk on. Yes, I began to see myself differently, and in doing so, I realized that I didn’t have to settle for less, but rather, I could choose to settle for more. It was simply a matter of making my mind up and then choosing to do the work, the hard work, and to make the sacrifices necessary to achieve whatever goal was set before me.

Power. Position. Potential.

I learned in 2016 that some doors are closed permanently by the Lord. These doors are shut, bolted, and locked, and no matter how hard one tries to pull, push, or “pray them open," these doors will not give way. Then, I realized that there are a number of open doors, always open, that are easily available to us. These doors are often overlooked because they lead to paths that are not always attractively styled. These doors often lead to places where we really do not want to go, but the doors are never bolted, never shut, and never barred from us. Then there are doors with handles that appear closed, but in reality, they are closed and not locked. What is more is the fact that in order for these doors to open, one must simply turn the handle. Yes, in order to pass through these doors, one must choose to turn the handle and pull the door open.

In my review, I realized that a number of my “open doors” led to positions (jobs) that were easily found. I applied to several of these jobs mid-year, and I even had an interview for one during the summer. The door was easily accessed, and I simply walked through it, but the discovery on the other side was that the path was not very attractive, and the actual job itself was not something I wanted to do long-term. These open doors, thus, were easily accessed, but in the end, the path that flowed from them wasn’t something I wanted to do.

The doors that were shut to me, bolted and locked, were not an issue for me at all. I had already let so many of these doors be closed by the Lord, so these particular doors held no fascination for me. No, for me, the doors that were the most problematic were the ones that required my effort to open. You see, often as Christians, we believe that the only doors we are meant to walk through are the ones that are clearly marked “open.” Thus, we will take these easy doors, and we will assume that these doors are the Lord’s best for us. In some cases, these doors produce a good quality of life, and for many people, they find satisfaction in knowing they have followed a suitable path. But for some people, me in particular, the easy way never appeals to us. Instead, we choose the hard way, the difficult way, the challenging way. Let me explain…

I have always preferred the hard way, the difficult and challenging way, and I have always chosen to go the distance rather than to take the short cut. I don’t mean to say that I have always chosen the hard way over the easy as in disobedience to the Lord and His plans; no, not at all. Instead, what I am saying is that the hard way has always been the most attractive to me.

Consider it this way…

There are two paths that lead to the same destination. One is a smooth walkway that meanders next to a lovely river. The path is smooth, easy to walk, and generally requires little effort other than walking one step at a time.

The second path is a hike, a narrow and difficult path that requires great effort in order to remain on the path. The trail is strewn with rocks, and it weaves in and out of craggy passes. The trail doesn’t just meander peacefully along the river, rather it leads up to the mountain top, high above the river.


The scenery is breathtaking, but the effort to scale the mountain is challenging and even at times life-threatening and difficult. The two paths, however, lead to the same place. The one requires little to no effort while the other requires great skill and ability. The scenery along the way is vastly different as well. The peaceful walk passes by green meadows and pastures. The mountain hike includes glaciers and craggy bluffs where the sky meets the earth. There are mountain streams, and hidden lakes, and the trail never quite clearly flattens out. In fact, the mountain trail at times appears to end abruptly in the side of a hill or at the top of a cliff.

The two paths lead to the same place, but the choice of which to follow depends on personal preference. A casual walk or a mountain hike? Which do you prefer?

As I ponder my life, it is clear that I have chosen, consistently chosen, the mountain hike.

Therefore, as 2016 comes to a close, I realize that the path I am on is not an easy one. It is not a peaceful walk by the river, and no matter how nice that walk appears, I prefer the mountain hike. I desire challenge. I desire the hardship that comes with exertion (physical, mental, emotional) and I love the exhilaration of finally making it to the top, finally achieving the goal. To me, the pursuit of the goal is as exciting as the actual accomplishment, but the goal itself is what matters to me. The goal must be “mountain top” experience, and it must be significant, high enough, and worthy enough for me to sacrifice everything for, everything and everyone, in order to achieve it.

My PhD program was a mountain top experience. I never imagined how difficult it would be to accomplish this level of school. I never imagined how much sacrifice would be required in order to graduate with this degree. More so, I never considered the cost — the stress, the pain, the solitude — just to graduate and to be conferred as a doctor.

As I look back on 2016, I see the mountain path below me. I see where I am on the trail toward the top. I am not to the top yet, but I am close, so very close. I need to reach the top, but there are some challenges in my way. I have to work around some difficult corners, and unless I am careful, I may end up getting stalled. No, I must keep on moving, keep on reaching for the next handhold so that I don’t stop short, don’t stop so close to accomplishing my goal.

Consequently, my year in review includes so many wonderful experiences that have changed me, inside and out, and that have pushed me further and farther than I ever believed possible. I am in this wonderful place right now, and I am about to embark on the next leg of the journey. I am about to take a step forward, and in doing so, I will be propelled onto the next level, the next plateau where I can rest a while before resuming my mountain top experience. Yes, I need to rest, and the next plateau will afford me some down time, some rest time, but I will not stop, I will not sit there for long. No, I will pack up my things, and I will move on. I will keep on moving until I reach my final destination, my final stop on this journey called life.

Plans for 2017

It is considered appropriate to set out some resolutions for the New Year. My resolutions revolve around my PhD program, but also around my finding and securing a full-time teaching position. I have always believed, and I still do, that 2017 was my YEAR. I mean by this that 2017 would be the year I would graduate with my PhD, and it would be the last year I lived in Phoenix, Arizona. I have believed this was the case for close to 10 years, and today, on December 31, 2016, I can say I believe it even more strongly than ever before. And, in reflection, I can say that the past ten years have been significant for me, and that they have served as the catalyst that propelled me to this place where I am today.

In brief…

It was in 2007 when I made the difficult discovery that my marriage was not what I thought it had been previously (solid, safe, and secure after 23 years together). Instead, I learned the awful truth that my marriage was a sham, and that I was being lied to and fooled into thinking that fidelity, honor, loyalty, were shared ideals when in fact, they were not. It would be three years before my marriage came to an end, and even though the final divorce degree wouldn’t happen for seven years, the fact was that the preceding period was a time of great uncertainty along with incredible pain and sorrow.

With my marriage in crisis, I had several options open to me. One was to continue to stay put, to remain in a dead marriage. I was strongly encouraged by my Christian friends and family to remain in my marriage and to not think about leaving it, no matter how difficult, trying, or challenging it was to me. I was told that this was what it meant to “keep your vow,” and regardless of whether my husband wanted this or not, it was my choice to sacrifice my happiness, my well-being, my sanctity for the preservation of the vow.

The second option was to walk away, to simply trash the past years memories, and rush out and find a new “love” to fill the void. I was encouraged to follow “my heart” by many well-meaning and good-hearted people I knew from business. They felt I was justified, and that as a reward for being betrayed, I had every right to step out and play the field (regardless of whether I was divorced or not).

The third option was to remain where I was for a time, and to spend that time working toward developing a plan that would provide for my welfare as a single person as well as my physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. This option was not put forth by my Christian family or friends. It was not supported by my business associates and non-religious acquaintances. No, this option was revealed to me through prayer, through supplication, and through a deep and difficult dive into the Word of God. After much consideration, prayer, and yes, counseling, I chose the third option. I chose to remain in my marriage for a time (four years), and I took that time to create a way out, so to speak. I made a plan, set some goals, and began work toward creating a new life for myself. And, part of this new life included returning to school.

In 2010, I started a master’s program in Literature. This masters degree program was completed in 2012, and shortly thereafter, I found work as an adjunct instructor. In 2013, the year after I had graduated, I started a PhD program, and now four years later, I am getting ready to graduate again. What is more, since 2013, I have become a successful college instructor. I have learned how to teach on campus as well as online, and I have the blessing of teaching for several (count five) universities.

Moreover, in 2011, I moved into my very first home (on my own), and I lived there for almost two years. In 2013, in order to focus on my PhD, I made the difficult decision to move home, to live with my parents, so that I could teach part-time while I went to school full-time. I gave up a lot — mostly my freedom and my power — in order to live with my parents after some 30 years away. It has not been a wonderful experience, but it has been successful. I have been able to provide care for my parents as they struggle and come to terms with their end of life. Both of my parents are in failing health, and both struggle with day-to-day care issues. My place in this shared home has served all of us well. I have had to sacrifice my privacy, my personal style, and my preferences for just about everything in order to live here, but I have made those sacrifices all for the sake of my goal.

My future seems to hold untold possibilities. I have options now when before I had none. I am a published scholar. I am ABD and will be PhD in less than 3-4 months time. I have four solid years of teaching, and I have just been hired to teach online at a very prestigious school. I am still adjunct, but in time, this will be a way to earn secondary income (my plan for retirement). I believe that in 2017, I will have a full-time faculty, tenure-track, position. I believe that I will be offered full-time employment, and with that offer will come another round of sacrifices. Yes, I will have to sacrifice my life here in Phoenix as I move to this new location. I will have to leave my precious boy behind as he finishes his bachelors degree at ACU. I will leave the memories I have of Phoenix, and I will leave my connections — to church, to friends, to coworkers — and to everything I have held onto so tightly the past 20 years. I will be asked to let all of this go in order to take on the next leg of my journey. I will have to move by myself across the country. I will have to find a home, a place to live, and organize support services. I will have to manage my life without my parents help and security, and I will have to live alone, all alone, for a time while I engage in teaching, scholarship, and life in this new unknown place.

My future is bright, but it is scary for me to think about and ponder. I am facing a wall, a cliff really, that appears unscalable. Yet, the Lord is with me, and He is telling me that there is a way around this sheer cliff wall. He has said to me, “Trust me,” and I have said, “Yes, Lord, I will trust you.” In return, He has held out His hand, and He has offered to lift me up, to help me over this insurmountable obstacle that is directly in front of me. I trust Him with my life, with my future, with my heart, and He has said to me, “It is Okay — I’ve got you covered.” I relax, and I take a deep breath, and I say, “Yes, Lord, I believe you have me well-covered this good, good day.”

Moving on means letting go, and letting go is difficult to do. I am ready to let go, and I am eager to experience the next mountain. Yet, I am afraid of what the costs will be to me. How much more will I be asked to let go, to leave behind? I think of Lot and his wife, and the fact that the Lord commanded them to go and to not look back. I want to be ready to go and not look back, but I know that to do that means great hardship for me, great sadness, and even greater sorrow. Still, letting go is a good thing. It means that with open hands, I am available to receive more, to hold new things in my hands. I ask the Lord to show me how to do this work, how to do this business, and how to go where He is leading me to go. I ask the Lord to help me accept that which I cannot change, and to forget that which seems to be difficult to forget. I ask Him to show me how to be a professor, how to do this work, to engage in this work, and how to be “scholar-like” so that I can perform in this arena. I ask Him to help me mentor my son, to be an encouragement to him as he seeks God’s will for His life. I ask Him to care for my parents, to provide for their end of days because I see that I am not equipped or enabled to do so. I need His help. I need Him to provide a place for them.

In all of this review, reflection, and resolution, one thing becomes increasingly clear for me. I am in this place because of His choosing. I don’t believe the Lord ended my marriage, but what I do believe is that He provided a way out of it. I don’t believe that it was His intention for me to live alone, not after committing to a vow that says to love in “better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.” I do believe, however, that when that vow was broken, I was set free to choose a path, and I chose the path that He showed me. I chose to follow Him out of the brokenness of my life and into the blessedness of His life. I have followed that path for 7 years, and now, I am about to follow it again for another 7 years. In biblical terms, 7 is a blessed number. It represents Him, and I believe that my life has followed biblical terms — years — or times. For example, I started my PhD program in my Jubilee year. It was at this time that many things were restored to me (part of the biblical commandment), amongst them my personal liberty, my personal property, and the beginning of a simple life. More so, this new year will be a sabbatic year for me — a year of release. I know it sounds odd, but this is how I see it. I have believed, and I still firmly do believe, that every seven years, there is a rest, a sabbatic rest. My seventh year is coming up tomorrow, and this means that I will find rest in the year. This brings me great cheer and joy because I have worked very, very hard these past seven years. I am so ready for a sabbatic rest period.

In Closing

As I close out this blog post for today as well as for the year, I am reminded of His faithfulness to His people, and how the Lord has determined the days, the months, and the years of His provision. For me, 2017 is a big year. Not only will I graduate with my PhD, but I will also find that blessed rest as the Lord provides a full-time job for me. I will enter His sabbatic rest for a year, and in this way, I will find refreshment as I consider what plans He has for me for the next seven years of my life. My life is full and filled with great plans for His work, and in and through that work, I feel His blessing and favor upon my life. I am prospering in His way, and as He provides for me, I am finding His amazing protection and His peace rest upon me. I am safe. I am secure. I am settled. He is good to me, so very, very good to me! Selah!




December 30, 2016

Moving and More

Good bye, 2016 — Hello, 2017! Well, almost. It is December 30, 2016, and I am sitting here at my computer, puttering away, and thinking that in less than four months, I will be finished with my PhD program. What is more, I have this confidence, this exuberance that believes — I mean — BELIEVES that God is about to do something amazingly wonderful in my life. I cannot put my finger on it, but there is this part of me that believes that He is about to move BIG TIME in my life, and with that move, some wonderful things are going to happen to me.

I think this sense of wonderment began on Wednesday, when out of the blue, I received an email asking me if I was interested in teaching part-time for our local public university. In truth, I have had a “love/hate” relationship with this school. I don’t know why this is the case, other than the fact that it is a massive university, and almost every person I know has attended it. I guess it is like when I was growing up in San Jose. There was this stigma attached to San Jose State University. No one actually CHOSE SJSU for their college; rather, SJSU was the last-resort, the “go-to school” when all the other schools sent rejection letters.

Our local school is a well-known public research university, and it is considered “highly favorable” in and among academia. But, locals know the other side to the school, the seedy underside to the school — the drinking, the partying, the public policy part of the school — that sort of leaves this bad taste in one’s mouth. More so, this school is such a big part of Phoenix, and as a result, it has major influence on just about everything that goes on here. In my view, this school is just so big, so massive, and well, so public (with all that goes along with a public school) that I really never thought it would be a good fit for me. In addition, I have heard mixed reviews from colleagues who teach out there. I’ve heard the stories about the “grind,” and how the school simply chews up its faculty and spits them out (so it is said at many, many major schools). I guess you could say that I was never really interested, excited or felt positive about opportunities to work or teach there. That is, until recently.

The Back Story

It was last summer when the Lord pressed on me to reconsider this school, and after some prayerful time, my mind and my attitude changed a bit. I don’t really recall what happened, other than to say that last year, I just changed my mind about working there. I think a lot of my mindset change was due to the fact that  I was pretty well panicked about how I would make ends meet teaching part-time, and how I would help care for my Mom’s deteriorating mental/memory needs. In truth, I was really stressed over my plans for fall, and I was worried about the details — mostly about how I would work outside the home — and care for my Mom longterm.

As I recall, I had been praying for an opportunity to teach online for a long while, since mid-2015, but nothing had materialized on that front. I had looked for online jobs, even applied for a few, but I either never heard back or I was rejected out of hand. Then in January 2016, two of my applications had nibbles (OCU and Regent), and by early summer, I had two online teaching positions lined up for summer and fall. I had this boost of confidence, and I felt very sure that “online” was my next step — and that the Lord intended to open more doors for me — perhaps even to provide a full-time online teaching position for fall 2016.

I believed that the Lord wanted me to teach online, but finding online positions had proven difficult for me. Most of the online positions were not listed on the major search engines, so unless someone mentioned an opening, often the only way to learn about them was to actually go to each school website and look through their external jobs list. As I mentioned above, I had been applying for online positions from about mid-2015. In early January, I applied to Regent and Ohio Christian. Then in May, the Lord showed me some online positions at this school.

In truth, I didn’t think I had the experience or credentials to even be considered for the open roles. The job posts were pretty intimidating to me, yet, I felt that the Lord wanted me to apply, so I took a step of faith, and I submitted my application packets.  There was a part of me that doubted anything would come to pass, simply because over the course of 10 years or so, I had applied to this school on at least 10 different occasions, and never once was I called for an interview.

Furthermore, their entire application system, and the way they process paperwork is very difficult — time consuming, wonky — and the rejection percentage on applications is very, very high. More so, when they say they have a competitive application pool, they aren’t kidding. I was told that for most of the open positions, there are hundreds of well-qualified candidates. The process for review and interview is competitive, and as soon as I would submit the application, I would receive the rejection email. I never really believed I would ever be called for an interview, let alone be hired to teach there.

Until this past summer, that is.

It was around the beginning of August when I received a call for an interview for one of the positions I had applied to earlier in the spring (April-May). I was shocked to even hear back from the hiring department, but what really concerned me most was when I found out that the interview was scheduled so close to the start of the fall semester.  In all honesty, I thought that there would be no chance of being hired. I was stressed over the interview, but I was more worried about the fact that I already had teaching contracts in place. How would I exit out of my contracts my other schools — should I be hired at this school? I really felt that the timing of the job, the interest, the interview, etc., was not right for me. In the end, when it was all said and done, and I was rejected, I was relieved. The funny thing is that as time has passed, I have continued to wonder why the Lord had me apply for this job, and why He would let me interview for it if this position wasn’t meant to be. I would often ask Him about it, but then I would tell myself that there was a reason, a good reason, and that perhaps the reason was to prepare me for a full-time position down the road. Like after I graduate from Regent. Once I have my PhD in hand. You know…once I am ready to teach full-time.

So as time passed and the fall semester began, I put this school out of my mind, and I focused on my studies and my dissertation and my teaching contracts. Really, I never considered even looking at more jobs or even seeing if the position I had applied for was reopened. I just pushed it out of my mind as I viewed that school as a closed door. Then I receive this email on Wednesday, and well, now I am almost hired, and I have to wonder what is really going on. I mean — what is going on?
Change is Afloat

I sit here today and I blog. I think about what may be down the road, and I wonder what the Lord is doing in my life right now. I mean, I am slammed. I am beyond slammed. I have more work on my dissertation than is possible to complete. I need to graduate in three months, and frankly, I am no where near being ready. But some things have changed already, and those things seem to be preparatory for my next steps. Let me explain…

Yesterday, I spent the better part of the day taking care of school-related business. I had to complete my exit counseling with the federal government, and I had to call Regent to find out about my transcript hold and why I am missing my scholarship. As I completed the exit counseling, I was encouraged when I realized that my student loan payment will not be a mortgage (as in size), but rather something much smaller and more doable for me. I was pleased, to say the least, and I see hope or light at the end of that student loan tunnel (praise God).

I also worked on my resume, and as I was updating it, I realized that adding this school to my resume gives me an advantage that I didn’t have previously. Yes, I have four years of teaching, but to add a major public university to my list of schools, well, it just looks good. More so, I realized that the curriculum design of this program so closely meshes with my communication study and my own research interest that I was overjoyed and pleasantly surprised. In short, I started to see some really big stars in front of my eyes. I know, don’t go putting the cart before the horse, but I cannot help but think that working at this school is all part of HIS PLAN. Yes, I believe that adding this school to my resume is part of His plan to get me hired full-time. Not at ASU, mind you, but rather at another school that will see that experience and will like it. I believe this is the reason why the Lord permitted me to go through the interview, and the disappointment of not being hired initially, just so that I could have the pleasure and ease of being hired part-time down the road (right where I am now on this road, I mean).

So what am I saying…

Well, I believe that the school the Lord has in mind for me for my full-time placement will look at my resume, the totality of my resume, and they will like what they see. They will snap me up, so to speak, and in doing so, I will be offered a well-paying teaching job (benefits and retirement) at the school of His choosing. Yes, my next steps include placement at the school of the LORD’S CHOOSING. Selah!

I can sense that this change is about to take place. I can feel it inside of me, and as such, I can feel that the Lord has opened doors for me that will bring me to a wonderful school where I will set down roots and put down stakes and teach for my remaining years. I believe He has already moved to make this come to pass, and between now and then, I have one job to do, just one job to complete. I must finish my dissertation. I must graduate. I must be honorable to all my contracts, and in the end, the Lord is going to reward me with His favor and blessing. He is going to make my life change drastically, and as such, I will be blessed, honored, and highly favored as a result. I believe it. I can sense it. I feel it. He is good to me, so very good to me.

In Closing

As I close this blog post, I cannot help but say that I believe everything that has been working together to this point in my life is about to be revealed to me. All of the hidden parts are to be brought into the light, and all that has been unknown will be known. I feel it. I sense it. I believe it is true. God has a great plan for my life, and I am about to step into His marvelous light and experience His goodness in a new and even more greater way. I think the next three months are going to be life-changing, life altering, and in many ways, mind and heart shattering. I believe that as a result of this passing time, I will be changed. I will become a new person (again), and in this way, I will be made ready to accept the work He has planned and prepared for me to do. I will be ready to wear His mantle and His garment and to go where He has called me to go. I will go and do His work. I will go and live where He tells me to live. I will do everything He asks of me — all for His name, His praise, His honor, and His glory. He alone is worthy to be praised, and He alone is worthy to receive our adoration.

I am ready, Lord! Lead me. Push me. Mold me. Make me. Take me. Use me. For your Name. Always, for your Name. Amen.

December 29, 2016

So Ready to Go

Happy December 29, 2016! It is beautiful day in sunny and cool, Phoenix. I woke up after passing a good night. I am rested, thankfully, despite the fact that I had sciatica numbness in my outer thigh area, and a dull throbbing pain in the sacral region of my back. I finally drifted off to sleep around 2:30 a.m., but only after taking some Ibuprofen and using the heating pad (warm moist heat) to calm my tender spots on my backside. It worked, praise the Lord, and I slept in until about 9 a.m.

I do feel better, but I realize that my memory foam cushion is now slanted toward the hip that hurts. I really do need a new chair. I’ve looked around for one I like, but since I don’t know if I should invest in one now or wait, I have hesitated to purchase it. I’ve thought, “Let’s just wait and see what happens” — but unfortunately — my back pain and hip pain will not wait. I may have to break down and buy a chair now because I’ve got a lot of desk work ahead of me, and well, an aching back is not going to help me do “what needs’ doing,” know what I mean?

Today is a hard work day. I have rested the past two days due to my sciatica pain, so today is a major make up day. I am planning on “busting my buns” so to speak in order to catch up on my research work. Overall, I am not panicked. I am at peace with my progress, and I realize that I can only do what the Lord permits me to do each day. I can work hard some days, and on other days, I must rest. He knows my limits, and He knows what I can accomplish in any given period. Thus, while I like to control the pacing, really, it is best if He does it. He will make sure I am not overworked or in pain. He will care for me as I do the work He has assigned to me.

Therefore, on this very good day, I am letting the whole project go. I am relenting, I am relaxing my grip, and I am understanding that this work I am doing is significant and it is good — it is really good work. I am trusting in His abilities this good, good day, and as such, I am lifting up my eyes to the hills, and I am accepting His hand of grace as He reaches down to me and covers me with His blessing and His favor. He is good, so very good to me. Day in and day out, He is my comfort, my care, and my concern. I look to Him for every blessing under heaven, and for every opportunity, every move, and every option that He shows me. I know that what He desires is always for my good. It is for my good.
Ready to Get Going

As I sit here today, I rest in His abilities, and I let go of my need to drive this research project. I simply cannot accomplish the work in the time that remains without His divine intervention. Consequently, I lift up my eyes to His throne, and I ask Him to come down and do this work through me, to finish this work, and to bring to close this long and this difficult PhD program. I need to finish strong, and I need to graduate in order to move to the next step, which is to be offered a full-time faculty position. I know that my “next step” is graduation, and as a result, I can only get there once I pass through this final “trial by fire.” I must finish my research. I must present my study for review, and I must pass the review of my panel. I must do this work. I must complete these last steps. I must do this, and I am willing and agreeable to it. I must put aside all hindrances that hold me back, and I must run the final leg without stopping. I must not give up nor give in. I must run this race of faith with the knowledge that I have already won — I have already achieved victory — and I have already graduated (completed my program since it is His will).

My plans for today include research work and spending some time preparing my resume for submission to open posts. I mentioned yesterday that I have been offered a Faculty Associate position at our local public research university. The more I read about this program, the more excited I am about it. The more I think of how the Lord orchestrated this option for me, the more I come to expect that His next gift to me will be an offer for full-time work. I know that to get that offer, I must have my PhD in hand. I must have it in hand — so I need to complete the work in front me — and patiently wait to receive confirmation of it. It will come, and in time, I will be promoted to faculty — to an Assistant Professor position — at some university. I know this is the case, and I believe that He has already decided where I will work. I am willing and agreeable to go wherever He leads, and that means, that I will go to whatever school He directs me to for this amazing work. He knows what He is doing, and I am resting in this fact. He has me well-covered — all the details, the options, the ideas — are so well covered by His merciful and majestic hand of grace!

In closing, I look to His provision this good, good day. I know that what He has provided to me (in extra part-time work) has financially blessed me. I know that I will be busy — really busy — this spring, but at the end of this next term, I will have the final piece of the puzzle. I will have my PhD, and I will have an appointment and a destination for the rest of my working days. I know that He will open that door, usher me through it, and provide a position that will fit me, suit me, grow me, and challenge me. I will be “faculty” at a good school, a good university, where I can settle down, put roots into the ground, and develop as a professor, a scholar, a teacher. Yes, He will show me where to go, and He will provide the reason for the “going.” I have prayed that the Lord would provide a reason for me to go, to leave Phoenix, and that reason has always been tied to a job offer. I want to receive a job offer that will move me — take me to a new place — rather than just “up and go” and hope for the best. No, I want to have all my ducks in a row, and I want to go with the offer in hand, “Signed, sealed and delivered” as they say. In this way, I can leave Phoenix with the confidence to know that where I am going is planned, purposed, and perfected by His magnificent hand of grace.

I am unwilling to settle for less than His best. I will not go where I desire or think or hope things will work out. No, I will only go where He leads, and that means that no matter the outcome, the circumstance, I will go knowing full well that He has made the way possible for me. I want no other way than His way, and I want to be 100% confident in it. He is good, and I believe that He will do what needs done according to His will for my life. He will take care of me, and in this fact alone, I rest this good, good day.

December 28, 2016

Life Satisfaction


It is Wednesday, December 28, 2016. It is a good day in chilly and cloudy, Phoenix. It is gray outside, and for the most part, it looks a bit like “rain.” I am not sure if our weather forecast calls for rain today or not, but from my brief stint outside (to take the garbage out), I would say it sure looks like it could rain. Here’s hoping we see some wet stuff this good, good day!

I passed a good night last night, despite the fact that I didn’t fall asleep until well after 12:30 a.m. I had sciatica pain all day yesterday, and needless to say, I lost productivity because it was so uncomfortable to sit at the computer. Still, I did get some work done during the day, but most of my evening was spent laying on the bed. Finally, I did some stretching, and that seemed to help relieve the pain and pressure on my nerve. I think I drifted off to sleep in the early morning hours, and well, I eventually woke around 8:30 this morning. I feel better today, less pain, less strain, but still not as if I can go 10-rounds with my desk chair today.

I am praying the Lord covers my research progress this good day. I am asking for His intervention in order to make progress today. I need His help, and I am trusting Him to provide it to me. I cannot do this work on my own, and frankly, I cannot do it in the time I have left — so the Lord MUST — help me! He must help me or else I don’t know what I will do. Sigh!

Choosing This Day

I woke up this morning thinking about my life, about where I am and about where I hope to be in 2017. You know, New Years, is right around the corner, and for many of us, this fact means that it is time to write down goals or resolutions for the upcoming year. I don’t really have any goals or resolutions outside my “normal” ones. I have my school, of course, and then there is the search for full-time work; but other than these two goals, everything else — my focus and my attention — is centered on the business of living (paying bills, making ends meet, caring for the ins and outs of my daily life).

This morning, however, as I was reading social media, I came across a Ted Talk where the presenter discussed finding your “calling,” and suggested that to do so wasn’t a matter of falling into it, but rather “fighting for it.” I thought the approach was novel, interesting, and yes, even in some ways, spot on. What surprised me more than the good talk itself was the negative comments posted about the talk, and the sheer number of people who blamed privileged white folks for keeping them from “finding their calling.” In many ways, the threads were filled with an overwhelming number of people who said they were “too poor,” “too X color,” or “too late” to do anything but focus on making money. A few people posted that they had sacrificed money, prestige, and other “musts” in order to find their calling, and these people shared that they were deeply satisfied in their work. What struck me most was that the majority of people dissed the presentation for failing to include material satisfaction as part of a “calling” and that, “helping people or serving others,” had nothing whatsoever to do with life satisfaction.

I thought the whole thread, the whole discussion, was fascinating from a religious, spiritual, and sociocultural perspective simply because there is research, and I mean, RESEARCH out there that clearly shows that material satisfaction plays little role in complete life satisfaction. Study after study has shown that helping others is a sure-fire way to increase life satisfaction as well as happiness. Furthermore, study after study has shown that people who seek material wealth, who are interested only in how much a job pays, have by far the least satisfaction in life. It didn’t take me long to realize that the majority of people posting negative comments on this Ted Talk thread were dissatisfied with life because they didn’t make enough money (or what they think is enough) to be happy. Yes, clearly, these people had placed the pursuit of money as a goal, and in doing so, were feeling the rub of dissatisfaction as they realized that they will never have enough money to change their life circumstances or even make their life better. In short, money or the pursuit of it, had let them down, and rather than name the responsible party correctly (choosing a better goal), they blamed everyone and everything else. The truth is that their aim missed the target (money), and as a result, they did not have what they hoped for, and as such, they are disappointed in life. Life sucks.

As I thought about how disappointed these people were in their life, I realized that the reason they were unhappy was simply because they had chosen their life goals poorly. Yes, these people had set goals that were impossible to achieve, set priorities that required sacrifice beyond what they were able to give, and decided to pursue ideas and dreams rather than concrete reality. Please understand that I am not saying that pursuing ideas or dreams is a bad thing because I am not. I am simply suggesting that if you pursue a dream of becoming a doctor but you can’t pass basic science and math courses, well, the dream is not likely to come to pass. You can, of course, overcome these setbacks, study harder, get help, etc., but in the end, if you cannot pass the required courses necessary to even be accepted to medical school, the likelihood that you will become a doctor is slim to nil. Reality, rationality, and realistic goal setting is vitally important when it comes to choosing a career or any significant or important achievement in life.

I can tell you that less than 6% of all people (all people) today hold PhD’s. Yes, this is true. There are fewer PhD’s in the world than any other degreed equivalent. Why? Well, some might say that it is because only privileged white people can become a PhD (false) or that only the upper class have the resources to become a PhD (false). Some might argue that only those with time on their hands or those who can give up eight years of their life, who do not have families, jobs, or other commitments can become a PhD (all false). There are oodles of reasons why so few people attempt a PhD, but the real reason is that it takes hard work, A LOT OF HARD WORK and it takes SACRIFICE (a lot of it), and most people simply are not interested or willing to put forth the effort. On top of the hard work and sacrifice, it also takes intelligence, and not just book smarts, but real intelligence, critical thinking ability, and the desire to create ideas, to create new ways of seeing the world. The majority of PhDs are involved in research, and through their research, they are creating new information. This process of creating new information is difficult, and at times, all-consuming. For many people, the desire for a PhD fails to motivate them to take the steps necessary to actually pursue one.

Life Satisfaction

What is life satisfaction? According to Positive Psychology (2015), life satisfaction is a, “Complex term and is sometimes used interchangeably with the emotion of happiness, but they are indeed two separate concepts. Life satisfaction is defined as one’s evaluation of life as a whole, rather then the feelings and emotions that are experienced in the moment” (para. 1). More over, the Life Satisfaction Index, which rates how people evaluate their life states, “Life satisfaction measures how people evaluate their life as a whole rather than their current feelings.” (para. 1). According to their studies, people in the United States rate their life satisfaction at 6.9 (on a scale of 0-10). The higher the number on the scale, the greater the overall evaluation, which suggests that people consider their life as satisfying more than they consider it unsatisfying. Furthermore, since life satisfaction rates overall experience, it considers many different factors.
The OECD Better Life Index for the U.S. ranked higher income and education as number one priority for American women, aged 45-55. Number three priorities included jobs, safety, health, housing, environment and life satisfaction. Interestingly, civic engagement and community were ranked number 10 and l1, respectively. In comparison, women, aged 35-44 in the United Kingdom ranked life satisfaction as number 1 along with education, health, safety, and work-life balance. Income and jobs were ranked 7. While not a spot on match, what this shows is where people, women in particular, place priorities in life. And, if life satisfaction is an evaluation of everything necessary to live — then where you live greatly can influence your choices, goals, and aspirations. More so, how you think about your life has a direct impact on your attitude and your evaluation of satisfaction. Chompoo (2015) writes, "Our past experiences undoubtedly effect the way we think about our lives in terms of satisfaction. Establishing a satisfying life for yourself is not decided only by circumstances; it is also influenced by the way you think about and relate to the environment around you” (p. 1).

I will give way to the naysayers who place income and education as number one priorities because, frankly, this is overarching theme or drive of the world we live in. However, we cannot always control these two aspects of life, thus to base one’s life satisfaction on how much money they earn or the level of education they achieve, seems to negate the other positive influences that can directly improve the overall evaluation of life. Building relationships with the one’s you love, for example, can improve your sense of well-being. Writing your life story, and sharing it with others, is another way to increase your satisfaction. And, most importantly, realizing that satisfaction in life is controllable, and that while some situations cannot be changed easily, our attitude about them and even our willingness to accept them, can have great impact on how we feel about our life (Chompoo, 2015).

In my view, the latter is what is most important. How we think about our life can directly relate to satisfaction or a sense of happiness, wellness, and general satisfaction. Thus, when we focus on what we can change, we are moving toward happiness and satisfaction. When we focus on what we cannot change, we remain stagnated in negative experiences and in thoughts that tell us our life is not what we wanted. In truth, while I will not say that we control all our choices in life, the fact remains that we control many of our choices. How well we choose can also directly influence our life satisfaction. For example, choosing to remain in a negative work environment simply because one believes there is no other option for them cannot only be depressing, but it can negatively impact their health. The same is true for relationships that are toxic. Choosing to stick with a relationship in order to preserve family ties or with the hope of changing the other person, not only will not result in happiness, but it can cause increased harm to one’s self-esteem, self-worth, and self-valuation. In short, we can control many things that impact our daily life, and often, we choose not to change our life because we are afraid of what the outcome might bring.

Making Good Decisions

How then can we make good decisions when we are stuck in bad situations?

One of the most difficult aspects of decision-making is having to make choices in the midst of turmoil, pain or sorrow. It is a fact that our judgment is most clouded when we are emotionally invested in a relationship or in some situation whereby we feel obligated to remain. For example, I worked in a job many years ago where I held a very important position in a high-tech company. I was relied on, looked to, and generally favored by my peers, my supervisors, and my subordinates. I loved my job, but the work-life balance and environment were toxic to me. Over time, I began to feel the ill effects of working in this place, and as the environment became more and more unstable, my role in the company began to flux. I lost my position, my power, and my praise simply as the tide of leadership changed. My love for the job turned into hate, and in a very short amount of time, I came to see the reality of my position. I was a work horse for the company, and what was more, I realized that my bosses knew it. I saw how they had used me, abused me, and under the guise of praise, had told me how much I was “needed,” valued and wanted. Yet, all of this praise was not genuine. It didn’t happen over night, but once I started to think outside the box, to desire more than my present circumstance, and begin to look for other opportunities, I realized just how worn down I had become the longer I stayed in this toxic place. Furthermore, I realized that as I listened to the lies of those in power over me, I began to lose all sense of reality, of fairness, of justice, and of truth. Consequently, I knew that if I did not make a sharp change — change environments — I would succumb to either a physical or a mental breakdown.

What was so difficult for me was processing the fact that I had worked for this company for almost six years. During this time, I had devoted my life to the company, and I had made such sacrifices because I believed they were worth making. Moreover, I had good friends in the company, and the pay, the location, everything about it, seemed so good for me. But, I was miserable inside, and I was ill from the stress of the work place. Day in and day out, I was miserable. I was the go-to person, the one on call, and even with sick leave and vacation leave, my time off never made up for the daily toxic cocktail that was brewing inside this place. I was sick, and I was becoming more ill as the days wore on.

In 1991, I made the difficult decision to leave this coveted job, when I stepped out in faith and returned to school. I had returned to school, part-time, in 1990, with the hope of completing my bachelor’s degree. I thought my BA degree would help me land a better position in the company or that it might simply open doors for me in another company. But, after returning to class, my eyes opened for the first time, and I began to see the world as being much larger than my corporate job, much larger than my little worldview. It was after a couple semesters when my advisor took me aside and said that I would not be able to finish my degree unless I went to school “full-time.” Back then, this meant to commit to campus classes, M-F, for several semesters. The decision to leave my job, a job where I believed I was needed, and where I made decent money was very difficult. However, the more I began to develop my perspective outside this company, the more I realized that my future was within my control; I realized that I could direct my future simply by choosing a different or alternate path in life.

In hindsight, I look back on that decision, and I realize that it was the best choice I could have made. I saved myself (well, the Lord did) from physical depletion, and the next one-half years were beyond blessing to me. I loved school! I loved everything about school, and as such, I threw myself into my studies, committing to excellent grades, and to exploring new ideas, opportunities, and possibilities. I also recovered physically, mentally, and emotionally from the strain of working 60-70 hours a week, and even though I didn’t get to finish graduate school once I completed my BA, I did grow as a person. I learned so much about myself, my ideals, my visions, and my desires simply by changing my path, by choosing to do something different with my life. More so, as I came to know myself better, I began also to believe in myself. I found new power, and I became empowered by the pursuit of knowledge, of ideas, of theories, and through my increased cognitive abilities, I realized that hard work and effort could work together to radically change the outcome of my life.

For me, making the decision to leave a job I hated and return to school was my “tipping point.” It was the point “a series of small changes or incidents becomes significant enough to cause a larger, more important change” (Dictionary.com). In a larger context, a tipping point is where change can no longer be stopped. The moment I made the decision to quit my job and return to school full-time, I put into motion a series of events that directly influenced and impacted my life for the greater good. Yes, I didn’t complete my goal as I had planned (to get my PhD), but over the ensuing years, the goal has still been a part of my hopes and dreams for my future life. And, today, I sit here blogging as I think that in just 3-4 months, my goal of a PhD will become a reality.  Thus, I can say that this was one of the best decisions I made in my life.

Making Choices for 2017

Now, I am thinking more about the choices I will need to make for 2017 and beyond. With my PhD in hand, I have a number of options, but no real potential offers yet. I know that I will be ready to work full-time, and that means that I will be open to relocating for a job as soon as the option is available for me. One thing is for sure — I cannot keep on working adjunct in perpetuity. I need full-time, salaried, benefitted and retirement-invested work. Yes, I need one position only — one position, one school — and not all these piecemeal positions. I am thankful for them, don’t get me wrong, but I cannot sustain this work-life balance for much longer. My life needs some steadiness, and that means steady employment. Furthermore, without a full-time position, I really cannot be settled — as in set — on where to live or even where to go to live. I remain in flux, in stasis, in transition, and that is not a place where I am comfortable living longterm. 

My hope and my prayer is that the Lord will bring me opportunities that will help get me to that next level, that next position. I am eager and excited for my future, but right now, my future seems so tentative, so uncertain. I know the Lord has a great plan for me, but it is so hard to stay focused, to stay committed to this way when there is such open-endedness around me.

Thankfully, the Lord knows my needs. He has me well-covered, and He knows that I panic over uncertainty, over this whole “unknown.” Just this morning, I was praying to the Lord, and His Spirit put thoughts into my head to ask for confirmation on my path, confirmation on the way I am to go. I wasn’t sure what I was even saying, but I went with His inspiration, and I asked the Lord to provide confirmation to me regarding my career (teaching), the place He intends to settle me (relocation), and the provision He intends to use to help me manage my daily life (resources, jobs, etc.). After I finished praying, I sat back down at the computer and checked my email. I noticed an email from the Faculty Head of the Writer’s Studio where I had applied this past summer. This is a major public university in my town, and while I didn’t get that position (online), I was surprised to see an email asking me if I would be interested in more part-time work. My first inclination was to say, “No, thanks!” I mean, I am already overworked. I have more work than I can handle, and frankly, more adjunct just isn’t what I want, need, or desire right now. However, as I thought about my response, I couldn’t help but remember that just 30 minutes before I had prayed to the Lord and asked for confirmation on my career/calling. I had asked for full-time work, one job, and for some confirming activity that would help me know that I was walking in the right direction. So, this option isn’t the best thing for me, but still it is confirmation. I have a call with this person in 10 minutes, just to learn more about it, and to see if it is online or campus. I am in a confident position, but I cannot take on more on-campus work this spring. I can possibly take on some online teaching, but in small doses. “We will just have to wait and see” as the saying goes.

So what does this mean for me? I think it simply means that the Lord is definitely moving behind the scenes for me. He is moving to make my life come into focus, and all my prayers have been heard. Yes, He has me covered, and that means that everything I have heard Him say to me is true. He has a place for me (as in job), and He has a plan as to where I will live (relocate), and that in time (in His time), He will make everything clear. I simply need to be patient and wait for His lead, to wait for Him to open the next door.

In Closing

As I close out this blog post, I am reminded of His faithfulness. The Lord is not slow when it comes to His promises. Often, we see His slowness (as it appears to us), and we think He is not actively working our case. Of course, this is not true, but from our perspective, it certainly can appear as such. Yet, the Lord is actively working our case, so to speak, but from His perspective, He is also working the cases of individuals with whom we interact. He is moving hearts and minds and lives of people, many people, in a masterful way that incorporates not just our lives, but the lives of everyone involved. It is like a grand game of chess, and in order to be successful, every piece on the board must be sequenced and activated toward the end game. This is what He is doing in and through our lives, and we must be patient and wait for our turn to move. We cannot simply move on our own, because if we do, we run the risk of changing the game plan, upending the board, or worse yet, losing the game entirely.

I am thinking today that the Lord has this game all figured out. I am simply His knight, His rook, His Queen, and as such, He moves the pieces and counteracts His opponents charges with one aim in mind — Kingdom win. Yes, He is focused on bringing His kingdom to victory, and to bring His people home.

Update — December 28, 2016

Well, it looks like I will be adding another school to my roster this spring. Baring my reference checks not panning out, I should begin teaching at our local public university as part of the pool of associate faculty for their Writer’s Studio. I cannot believe that it is true, and frankly, I am a little bit stunned by it all, but the Lord has this figured out. For now, that makes five schools — three online — and all with different accents on compositional studies. How did I get here, you might ask? Well, the Lord has seen to it to provide a way for me, and that way is clearly through English. I am blessed, overly blessed, ashamed of my foolishness and my unwillingness to believe Him and to take Him at His word, but there you have it. My confirmation, affirmation, and provision has been made manifest in one-fell swoop. He is good. He is faithful. He is my King, my Lord, and my Shepherd. Amen! So be it, thy will be done!

December 26, 2016

Post Holiday Blues

I don’t know why I always feel so let down the day after Christmas. Perhaps it is all the hype, the rush-rush of the season, and then it is like — “OVER!” in a day! Whew! I think I have the “post holiday blues.” Yes, it is a real phenomenon (I googled it)! The Post-Holiday Blues or post-vacation blues effect many people all around the world. According to Wikipedia (2016), “Post-vacation blues (Canada and US), Post-holiday blues (Ireland and some Commonwealth countries) or just vacation/holiday blues or less commonly, post-travel depression (PTD) is a type of mood that persons returning home from a long trip (usually a vacation) may experience” (para. 1).

PHD, is a mood disorder rather than a clinical diagnosis, but it still can cause interruptions in daily life for people who struggle with depression. Weaver (2016) writes that PHD can begin right after Christmas is over or right after New Years. Often we think of depression around the holidays as occurring sometime prior to Thanksgiving, and for many people, this is when they begin to feel lonely or depressed. In fact, Weaver, (2016), says, “Though some people dread having to see their family around the winter holidays and don’t enjoy Christmas shopping and the colder weather, others feel more depressed after the holidays are over, since they have to go back to the same routine, among other haunting realities. This is known as post-holiday depression. This can start after Christmas or similar holidays and/or after New Year’s Day, depending on when a person celebrates” (p. 1). The causes for PHD are many, but according to Weaver, who cites an article from PychCentral, the three main causes of this mood disorder are “unmet expectations, unrealistic resolutions, and a return of loneliness and guilt about overindulgence” (p. 1).


Feelings of Unmet Expectations

WOW! I can say that I am in agreement here. I think my feelings of depression are tied to all three of these things, but unmet expectations surely is at the top. Let me explain…

Lately, I have thought a lot about unmet expectations, and as a result, I have come to the conclusion that I struggle most with the thought that my own expectations of performance, that my own high standards are unable to be being met. When I mean unmet expectations, I don’t mean with other people. I mean, I don’t have an issue with other people and their behavior or performance. It is just my own issue, my own problem. In truth, I have an issue with my own standard not being met, and as such, I am easily disappointed by my own behavior and actions and my inability to live up to my expectations of achievement. Yes, it is my own perceived failure that has the most direct impact on my ability to function well and to feel well. When I feel as if I have failed in any area of my life, I become so distressed and distracted that often I lose sight of the big picture or the end goal. This fatal distraction as I call it, often is my very downfall. My failure to live up to my own standard is the one thing, more than another other, that causes me to feel less than worthy, less than able, and less than perfected. Sigh!

More so, now that I am so close to the end of my PhD work, and I am so close to finishing my program, I am noticing the effects of the cumulative stress more clearly. I am tired — fatigued, for sure — but I am suffering from a more pronounced weariness that seems to be setting in and not giving way. This weariness, coupled with the pressure to produce results, is having a strong and adverse affect on my ability to focus and to stay in control. Weaver (2016) says that another significant cause for PHD can be “disappointments during the preceding months compounded by the excess fatigue and stress” (p. 2). Again, I absolutely agree with this statement. In reviewing my life over the past 36-months, I can see how I have passed through one incredibly difficult and crazy cycle after another, with all the highs and lows, and of course, with an immeasurable amount of stress. The good news, if there is one, is that Post-Holiday Blues is a temporary condition. It is generally a short-term disorder, one that can easily be overcome through some simple strategies.

Banishing the Post-Holiday Blues

WebMD suggests some good strategies for combating PHD. The most obvious as well as the easiest strategy is to think about something positive instead of dwelling on the negative. Dr. Andrew J. DuBrin suggests that many people struggle to overcome PHD simply because they fail to plan their New Year.  In this way, they look at the New Year with fear and trepidation, rather than with hopeful optimism. Thus, instead of viewing their New Year as one filled with open-ended possibilities, they instead only a blank calendar — a year without anything planned. As such, they panic, and the fear and depression sets in. He says, “A blank calendar means, literally, a clean slate,” which implies that anything is possible. In my view, a blank slate is akin to a “do-over,” and as such, it can be an open door to new possibilities and wonderful opportunities for growth and for success.

Dr. Susan Battley suggests that one of the best ways to beat PHD is to create goals to help channel positive energies toward positive outcomes. In her estimation, thinking positively toward accomplishment can be motivating and uplifting and can combat the negative behavior of a continual review of past experiences (often, failed experiences). Battley calls these strategic goals, BAG, or Big Audacious Goals. She suggests that creating BIG goals can help alleviate some of the stress and depression associated with any major life change. Some ideas for BAG’s include: learning a new language, changing careers, volunteering, start a new relationship, or simply declutter your life (and home). The key here is to set some goals, write them down, and plan them out. Once you make goals, it becomes easier to focus on the steps involved as you move from one task to the next to the next and eventually to the completion of your goal.

In my experience, I can tell you that a lot of my depression the past couple years has stemmed from my uncertainty in regard to my future. I have so many major unknowns in my life and these unknowns have caused me to stress, to panic, and to fear the future. One thing that has helped me is my course work at Regent. My studies — three years of study in fact — has been the glue that has held everything together for me. I credit the Lord with providing me a framework to help me deal with the loss of my marriage, the upheaval of my home life, and the fact that I didn’t really have a career in mind or anything to fall back on once I became single. The Lord knew that while I was at Regent University, and my life was in flux, having a steady THING to focus on would help me feel in control of my future, my life. My future was on temporary hold, so to speak, but while I completed my research, courses, and eventually, my dissertation, I held in the back of mind the assurance that there would be an outcome at the very end of the hard work and effort. Yes, I knew that at the end of this BAG, I had hope and assurance that I would be hired full-time to teach, and that I would move to the place of His choosing to do that work. I knew — I BELIEVED — that the uncertainty in my life would come to a close, and I would arrive at my next destination.

Now, as I get closer to that goal and its completion, I find that I am struggling with what I call the “what’s next” syndrome. I mean, what happens AFTER a BAG is completed?  Well, according to Drs. Battley and DuPrin, I simply need more BAGs. Yes, the key for me is not to rest once the BAG is finished, but rather to move on to another BAG, just waiting to take its place. 

Understanding my depression and where it has come from has been a life-long process. I have learned that much of my depression has come from my high anxiety childhood. Moreover, my depression of late has stemmed from a lack of positive achievement in my life. I came to this conclusion this weekend as I struggled to make progress on my research. I realized that as I am about to complete the biggest and baddest BAG ever, I will have to have something to do AFTERWARD or I will cycle into major depression. I have to have more goals, more achievements, more things to work toward, strive for, and desire to achieve. I realized that the one thing that keeps me “sane” and healthy is a lot of hard work. Yes, I am driven by hard work and hard effort.

In many ways, my goals are not for self-promotion or even to demonstrate my skill or intelligence (as in performance orientation). My drive is to improve, to always improve, and that means to become the very best person I can be given the limitations and difficulties in my life at present. My achievement serves one purpose, and that is to keep my mind busy and active and to bring order and routine to my life. It is truth — I need order — and I need routine. I need check sheets, sticky notes, and task lists to keep me moving forward. I need the drum roll, the “taking it to the hoops” move, the pressure to keep me from spiraling down into feelings of loathing and self-deprecation (worthlessness). I know that my depression now is tied so intimately to my achievement, and that the only way to keep it at bay is to continue to have more tasks, more things, more desires and dreams for me to consider, to contemplate, and to control (eventually). Yes, in many ways, the Lord knows that I need things to keep me busy, and by things, I mean a lot of BIG, BOLD, BOULDERS for me to shift, move, and scale. He knows that little things, easy things, will not cut it for me. No, He knows that I need mountains to climb, obstacles to overcome, and difficult and dark (at times) pathways to follow. He knows me best, and He knows that I will not be satisfied with small, simple, or even superficial outcomes in my life.

Understanding My Achievement Orientation

It is funny, really, but for most of my life, I was a dreamer, an idealist, and someone who mostly “thought” about doing things in life. I never felt that I really accomplished anything of high value in life. For most of the past 40 years, I lived a modest and rather plain life, a very small life in so many ways, and throughout that time, I thought that my feelings of depression, worthlessness, and dissatisfaction were the result my inner inabilities to handle change and stress. More so, I believed that I wasn’t very good at anything, and I listened to people who told me that I was always a “quitter,” really just a “no-good,” or who said that I should be happy to settle for less than best because it was all I was “cut out” to achieve. In short, I deserved less because I didn’t measure up to an unbelievably high standard, and as such, I should be happy to accept my “lot” in life. I listened naively for so many years to what people told me to believe, to think, to accept, and even despite the fact that I had this raging desire inside of me to do the opposite, I often gave in and up before trying anything on my own. 

It wasn’t until I came to faith, really to faith, as a mature adult that my life turned around for me. I was 46 at the time, and I had been a Christ-follower for almost four decades, but it was in a particularly low point in my life when I heard the Lord speak words to me that confirmed this truth. I had long believed that I had missed the boat, so to speak, and that I had missed out on whatever opportunities and endless possibilities were “out there” for me. I had made so many mistakes, some really disastrous mistakes, and for all intents and purposes, my life was pretty much set in stone. I was in the bed I had made for myself, and there was no way out, no way out of it. I was miserable, of course. I was depressed beyond depressed. I felt all alone, and I was so deeply saddened at the outcome of my life that I believed I was beyond hope for recovery. The blessed came, however, when the Lord said to me that He had a plan for my life. Furthermore, He told me that my life had value, purpose, and that He wanted me to dream big, to take bold steps of faith, and to accomplish much in my life. Of course, I didn’t believe I could do anything, but He said He would do it through me, and that all I had to do was trust Him.

I believed He was telling me the truth, and I trusted Him to keep His word to me. And, in good fashion, the Lord did just what He promised He would do. He showed me a way out of the misery, the sorrow, the sadness, and it wasn’t through a miracle sprinkling of magic fairy dust, but rather, it was through hard work, perseverance, and discipline. It was through hard work and hard achievement, and as a result, I learned the blessing of what it feels like to overcome. I learned how great it can feel to stand the giant down, to become victorious in His name and strength, and to do the impossible (with His help, His guidance, and His provision, of course)!

As I think about this fact, I realize now that in and through the seasons of my life, the Lord had already given to me a way to overcome, but that I just didn’t understand how significant it was to me or how important it was that I achieve goals. I simply didn’t connect the dots and put it all together, to really grasp that my high level of productivity, performance, and achievement was all part of His blessing and gift to me. I never knew that I needed this type of motivation, and I never realized that without it, I would feel so awful, so horrible, and so worthless. The Lord showed me that as an achievement-oriented person, I am driven by the need to complete projects, to finish tasks, to scale and strive and struggle in order to overcome difficulties. He showed me that my need drives me to overcome, and as such, I derive great satisfaction through the process as much as through the final accomplishment. In short, He revealed to me that my character, my wiring, my chemistry — whatever term you would use to describe internal motivating features — was all part of His plan for my life. Yes, He created me to be an achievement oriented person, and as such, I am most comfortable, most in control, when I am working on BAG that transform, transcend, and translate meaning in and through my life.

I am This Way

Maurice Kerrigan (2013) says, "Achievement orientation is a drive to accomplish one's goals and to meet or exceed a high standard of success. Achievement-oriented people often want to do things better or more efficiently than they have been done in the past” (para. 1). Most achievement-oriented people are leaders. Kerrigan asserts that these types of people tend to be strategic in how they think and act, and since they are focused on improving their abilities over the course of their careers or lives rather than to produce a short-term result, they are resilient to failure. More so, Kerrigan says, “They are proud individuals who acknowledge their own hard work and effort, yet still keep moving forward towards bigger goals and objectives” (para. 4). And, in regard to emotional well-being, Kerrigan states, "Achievement oriented people understand that their emotions have a dramatic impact on their daily life decisions, behaviours and actions. As a result they have learned to take control of their emotions and direct them in proactive ways that support their daily goals and objectives” (para. 6).

All of this is to say that for people like me, people who are achievement oriented, working without goals is akin to working in a deep black hole, a place where there is no light and no way out. We need to plan, to budget, to strategize, and to work hard in order to see our goals, our dreams, our visions, and our ambitions come to pass. It is our internal motivation, our drive, that helps to give purpose to our lives. Kerrigan writes, "For this reason, achievement oriented people focus only on what they want and desire to do and achieve in life. They always take into consideration their short and long-term objectives, and focus their mind on these accordingly” (para. 8). This reminds me that when my objectives become clouded or when I lose focus on my end-goal, I find that I begin to struggle with depressive thoughts, with feelings of inadequacy. I need to feel empowered, to feel as if I can achieve my goal, as if I can overcome, in order for the anxiety, the stress, and the emotions to subside. It is such an interesting phenomenon to think that my inner drive and motivation is turned on at the thought of achieving some goal or purpose in life.



Moving On, Accepting This Fact

Today is December 26, 2016. I have survived Christmas and the close of the semester. I am now facing the Biggest and Baddest BAG of my life. I have shrunk in fear the past couple weeks, afraid of really tackling this baddy project, but now I am to the wire, and that means that I have one goal in mind — finishing this bad boy — and getting on with the NEXT set of goals leading to my future ambitions.

I am ready to do this work. I am ready. I have put everything else to bed, and now I must focus 100% on the work the Lord has for me. I will do my best, and I will trust that He will do the rest. In the end, no matter what comes of it, I will give Him the praise, the honor, and the glory due His glorious and honorable good name. He alone is worthy to be praised! He alone is worthy to be honored! Selah!

——————
I’m glad in God, far happier than you would ever guess—happy that you’re again showing such strong concern for me. Not that you ever quit praying and thinking about me. You just had no chance to show it. Actually, I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. I don’t mean that your help didn’t mean a lot to me—it did. It was a beautiful thing that you came alongside me in my troubles (Philippians 4:13-14 Message).

——————

References

Kerrigan, M. (2013). What is achievement orientation and why is it important? | The MK Blog. Retrieved from http://www.mauricekerrigan.com/blog/what-is-achievement-orientation-and-why-is-it-important/

Lawrence, S. (2016). Blow Off Post-Holiday Blues. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/balance/features/blow-off-post-holiday-blues

Weaver, R. (2016). Ever Have After Christmas Blues? It Could Be the Realities of Post-Holiday Depression | EmpowHER - Women's Health Online. Retrieved from http://www.empowher.com/depression/content/post-holiday-depression-why-are-you-feeling-so-low-after-best-time-year?page=0,1

December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas Eve!

Well, I have made it to December 24th, and it is a good morning here in cloudy, chilly, and rainy, Phoenix. Yes, the "weather outside is frightful," but inside it is so delightful. I am sitting here at my computer, thinking, pondering, and wondering about the next two weeks, and whether or not I will get my work finished! I had hoped to work all day yesterday on my dissertation (so goes the "best laid plans"), and instead, I ended up taking my Mom out shopping and then wrapping all our family gifts. By last evening, I was spent, literally spent. I ended up crashed out on the bed for the remainder of the evening. I tried my best to get up and to work on my project, but my back ached, and my body simply wanted nothing to do with sitting at my desk for hours on end.

So here I am today, thinking now that I "wasted" a whole day, when in truth, I really didn't waste anything. I chose a different option for the day, that is all. I hate it when my mind begins to play games with me, suggesting to me that I am a "loser or a failure" when the opposite is true. You see, this is my enemy, my enemy the ravenous lion that prowls about seeking lives to devour. While I am not entangled in sinful behavior or pursuits, he desires that I not make progress on this project because it is  God's work and not my own. My enemy is seeking to sabotage me at every turn, and since I am so tired, so worn out, I fall prey far more easily that I would normally do so.

I know what I must do, of course. I know that I must show up for battle in "battle dress" (Eph. 6). And, I know that I must have my head in the game, so to speak, and I must be ready to stand against his libelous and factious charges. I must stand in defense, and frankly, at this point in time, I am simply too tired to do that so I end up taking "one on the chin." Well, it is D-Day almost, and that means I must get down to business. It is Christmas eve, and I still have some shopping to do. What is more, I have to get our dinner from the store for tonight AND tomorrow, and I have little time to do much of anything. In all, this day, at 9:00 a.m. is already shot.


Bits and Pieces

It is a good day, therefore, to focus on the things above since the things below (the here and now) seem completely out of my control. I am struggling to maintain a semblance of control, but frankly, I feel this is such a losing battle. Thus, today, I am committed to faithfully resting in His abilities alone, and to seeking His solution to my mounting problem with time and progress. I know this is all part of His plan, so I must trust the process, and I must let Him drive this proverbial "bus." Lately, I have wanted to set the timeline, the calendar, and in doing so, I have tried very hard to tell Him what to do, when to do it, and even how to do it. As a result, I have suffered greatly. It is not that the Lord has caused me to suffer; rather, it is that He has allowed me to do so. And, His reasoning has been to teach me a life lesson -- always a life lesson -- and that is that I can either do things my way or His way. His way is always best, always best -- I know this is true -- yet, I still refuse to let Him have His way whenever I get slammed, pushed or shoved against the wall.

Today, however, since I am at my breaking point, I have decided to relent -- in everything -- so that I can experience His blessed peace and rest in and through my life. This means that I am giving up control of my dissertation to Him, and I am accepting my failure as leader to that of shortsightedness and inexperience. Yes, I am accepting the fact that I am not able nor ready to be in charge of such a major research project, and that I need help -- His help -- and I need His help now. I know what hangs in the balance, what is at stake, but I also know that in order to meet the deadline, to keep to the timeline, I must let go of this project now. I must let it go, and let the Lord have full control and authority over every single detail. He alone is able to pull this off, and when it does come to pass, all of it, I mean, then He will receive the glory and He will share it with no one else (myself, included). This is what I have asked for, prayed for, assented to, and now I must let Him do what He does best -- show up BIG TIME -- and pull that white rabbit out of the big black magic hat!

I don't mean to sound crass or insincere because this is not my intent. No, I recognize that what I need right now is some pretty pricey "fairy dust" and a whole lot of "happy thoughts" to get me through the next 24-48 hours. I need His truth to reach into the inner recesses of my soul and to set me free. I am held captive by my thoughts, my lingering doubts, and my unwillingness to let things be, and I need to be set free in order to do this work, to simply follow His lead, and to be faithful to His calling in and through my life. He has this all figured out, and I must relent.

Dear Lord Jesus --

I relent this good, good day. I let this go, all of it, the details, the process, the procedure, and the timeline, and I ask you now to take control, take lead, and bring this project through to fulfillment. May this project honor you, and make you receive the praise as a result. I let go now, and I rest in your capabilities and timing. I let all of my worry, fear, and doubt go as well, and I place my full faith and confidence in you and you alone! I ask all this in your matchless, merciful, and mighty name, amen. So be it, thy will be done! Selah!

In Closing

As I close this short blog post, I thank the Lord for His goodness toward me. He alone is worthy, and as such, I can do nothing in my own strength to please Him or to even meet His standard. I must submit my frail and fragile hands, body, mind, and ideas to His glorious plan, and I must accept what He offers me in return -- His peace, His goodness, His grace, and His merciful kindness. He is good to me, so very good to me.

December 23, 2016

Thinking and Making Plans


It is a foggy day here in Phoenix. Yesterday, it rained most of the day, and today, well, we have plenty of ground fog. It is such a nice change from our normal sunny weather. I am loving the gray skies, the clouds, and the chilly temperatures. It really is beginning to feel a lot like Christmas around here!

I don’t know why I always think about Victorian England right about now, but I do. My Mom was watching “A Christmas Carol” with George C. Scott (one of my favorite versions) last night on TV, and my mind took a bit of a time warp back to the early 1800s. Yes, I have such a love for this period of time (1837-1901). My second favorite period is Edwardian, which only lasted until about 1910. Then, of course, came the First and Second Great Wars, and well, the rest is modern history.

The Victorian era, though, represents much of my interest in literature. Some of my favorite authors wrote during the period, and it was during this time that architecture and design changed to reflect what we now come to know as Victorian style. In all, this is a time in our recent past that fascinates me. I am thankful to live now, though. I mean, I cannot imagine my life as a Victorian spinster! Oh my goodness, no!

The Lord has graciously placed me in this time and place for a reason. I believe, firmly believe, that my life has value. It has meaning, and as such, there is purpose to every day. This means that despite my feelings, which tend to ebb and flow, my life in all its glorious nuts and bolts, is planned, designed, and purposed for such a time as this (Esther 4:4). Yes, the Lord has graciously placed me in the “here and now,” and my job — no, my calling — is to do the work He has chosen for me to do. This work is significant in the sense that it has been set out as something specific for me to do. In the grand scheme of things, my work might not actually be significant when compared to other people’s productions, but in my life, it has purpose. I am thankful that the Lord has chosen to give me this work, to make this work special to me. I am grateful that today, December 23rd, 2016, I know what that work is, and I know how to go about attending to it. He is good to me, so very, very good to me! Selah!


Good News Report

In my good news section for the day, I am happy to report that I have completed all my grading, and that I posted final grades last evening! Woohoo! I was able to grade the last of my essays before 8 p.m., post to the registrar, and still have some time to work on my research project before I turned in to bed. In all, I am well-pleased. I am not as far as I had hoped to be on my research project, but I have three and a half churches visually coded (only 11 more to go). This means that I can work on my church list today through Sunday, and if all works out as planned, I should have all 15 churches visually coded by 12/26. My prayer is to begin the textual coding next Tuesday, and then complete that coding by 12/31. I think it is possible, but it will mean 8-10 hours days for the next week and a half. Still, to code 15 websites is a big task, and praise be to God, I am feeling more confident now that I have some of the other “time takers” (grading, shopping, and the like) off my plate.

My schedule looks like this as of now:
  • Code churches 1-5 by end of today
  • Code churches 6-10 by end of tomorrow/Sunday
  • Code churches 11-15 by end of Monday
  • Textual collection and coding of 1-5 on Tuesday
  • Textual collection and coding of 6-10 on Wednesday
  • Textual collection and coding of 11-15 on Thursday
  • Descriptive statistics on visual coding by Friday, 12/30
  • Other statistics on visual coding by Saturday, 12/31
If this plan holds together, it would enable me to begin writing chapter 4, results of data analysis, the week of 1/1-1/8. In all honesty, I think I can write this chapter during this week AND still prep for school, which will begin on 1/9. Most of my classes are repeats, and despite the fact that my lessons are set, I still have a bit of preparation work to do to get them ready for the first week of the Spring 2017 semester.

The blessing, since my first week back is so low-key, is that I think I can write my chapter 5, discussion of findings, during the week of 1/9-1/16. This means that I could send my drafts to my Professor sometime after 1/17. He would have two weeks for feedback, and then by the first part of February, I could begin revisions. My goal is to have polished chapters for my committee sometime around mid-February. The professors will be busy with spring comps, so in truth, I can push my revisions in this month out a bit and still get in for a March defense. I don’t know, but I feel more free to say that I will be able to do this work, to complete it, in time for graduation. Right now, the key is to push on through the next two weeks and to finish this data coding. It is a bug-bear, but it has to be done, and there is no time to waste.

My prayer today is to stay focused and to not lose track of what must be completed. I have to remain fixed — firmly focused — and if I can do it, then I know I will be able to see this project through to completion in no time at all.


In Closing

Today is a good day here in gray and cloudy, Phoenix. I am thankful for my life — my current and my future life — and all the good gifts the Lord has graciously provided to me. I am praying that my response to His grace is one of humble gratitude, thankfulness, and a genuine awe that comes from knowing that the Lord has me so well-covered. I lack nothing this good, good day, and for that reason alone, I give Him praise, honor, and glory. He is worthy! He is so worthy to be praised!