January 31, 2017

New Day, New Way

I woke up this morning thinking to myself, “Oh, it is so nice to be home!” I am so thankful that I have my Tuesday and Thursdays off. My Mondays are a grind. I guess it is because I have the weekend with two days to rest that cause me such pain. I mean, I love the weekend. I love having those two days off, but lately, I am finding that come Monday, well, I just dread getting out of bed. It seems that my Mondays take such a huge toll on my body. I drag myself around campus, and by the time I come home, I am wiped out. Sigh!

Last night, I came home, and after eating a quick sandwich, I crashed so hard, and I slept for three hours. When I finally woke up, it was going on 11 p.m., so I got ready for bed, and turned in. I slept until almost 9 this morning. What does that mean? I think it simply means that my life of doctoral student/adjunct instructor has caught up to me. I can no longer teach at so many schools AND complete my dissertation. The good news is that I sent my chapter five off to my professor for review, and we are scheduled to meet to “discuss” my progress next Tuesday. Hopefully, I will hear that I can defend in March, and then praise be to God, I will be on track to graduate.

In all, my life of working part-time at multiple schools, taking full-time graduate/doctoral credit, and dealing with the various issues at home is coming to an end. My body is recoiling now, and it longs for rest — a long, peaceful, and well-deserved — rest. I am giving God all the praise, the glory, and the honor this good, good day. He has made this possible. He has made a way. He has shown me how to navigate these stormy waters, and with His grace, He has enabled me to overcome incredible odds, difficulty, and hardship to do so. I am in awe of His abilities, and I cannot praise Him enough this day for His goodness, His kindness, and His mercy toward me. Selah!
My Next Steps

I titled this blog post, “New Day, New Way” because I am about to step out into the big, wide unknown, and with my “big girl panties” on, I am ready to take on the world. Well, figuratively speaking. I am ready to tackle the next big hurdle, my dissertation defense, and then embrace the future God has in store for me. This future, partly unknown to me, has at its end, a full-time faculty position with a good University. Furthermore, this future holds a career that I have worked tirelessly for, sacrificed for, and committed my time, my resources, and most of all, my life, just so I could experience it and enjoy it. Now that I am at the end of the road, so to speak, and I am about to make a turn that will lead me to the next step, the next place on my travel itinerary, I realize how everything in my life, all the details, the events, the circumstances, have prepared me for this exact moment. My entire life, in review, has served to bring me to this place in time.

In many ways, I feel as Esther did, that my life was appointed for this time and this place. I am right where God wants me to be, and in the next month or so, I will cross the threshold, and I will enter into His new phase, His new plan, His new way — a new way — that will take me to even greater heights. Yes, I am about to cross over to this next level, and in this way, I will begin a second-level journey that will ask me, no — require of me — more work, more effort, and yes, even more talent, than I have previously considered. I will be asked to do things I have never done before. I will be asked to trust the Lord in new ways, and I will be tasked with activities and pursuits that are beyond my capabilities, and as such, I will have to rely on His ability to accomplish them.

My faith, previous to this point in time, has developed from infancy to maturity, but now that I am about to embrace my destiny, my faith will be further challenged, further stretched, and further developed so that I can do His work, in His way, and for His praise. I am excited, filled with anticipation, and I believe that the plan He has for my life is significant. It is something that I cannot do, yet it is something that I desire to do so much. I am filled with His momentum, and I am ready to be moved, to be pushed, to be sent off into this next step, this next level of ministry and work, with His blessing and His provision. He alone is worthy to be praised. He alone is so worthy to be praised!

Some details still to process…

Although I am excited to get going, I realized that I haven’t crossed that threshold yet. I still have to defend my dissertation, and I have to graduate so I have my PhD in hand. More so, I have to be hired by the right school — for the right position — so that I can be placed in the path of His choosing. He knows what He wants me to accomplish, and He has a great plan for my life. Thus, I have to finish strong. I have to complete these next few steps, preparing me for the big push, and then with His pleasure and goodness at my side, I will walk on through and take the gift God is offering to me. I will walk on, and with His provision, I will begin to live, to work, to play, and to enjoy God’s great gift and blessing as it is showered over me and in and throughout my life. I will experience great joy, incredible blessing, almighty favor, and of course, His grace — His grace, blessed grace — in order to do what He is asking me to do.

I make no bones about the fact that the Lord intends for me to do good work. I make no concession here because I have known for a long while that my PhD was the open door by which I would assume  a ministry position — a full-time — life long ministry role. My degree was not to be used for work, but was to be set aside for His work only. I have often confused my work with His work, and while I realize and I understand that in my work (teaching) I do minister to others, I do nothing special nor extraordinary outside of what any other Christians should do. I love my students as Christ loves them. I listen to them, I pray for them, and I encourage them. I do nothing special or out of the ordinary. Yet, my ministry, my real ministry exists for the benefit of His blessed Church, and my communication PhD was designed for this expressed purpose. Thus, while my degree helps me get a good faculty position, and it positions me for worldly work experience and promotion, it is the ministry work, the work of communication, that will bring my Father in heaven praise and honor. I do all of this for His name, and to bring Him praise and honor, so as I transition from student to full-time faculty, I remember that I am called for one purpose and that is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

God is my point of glory. He is my focus, my entire delight, and as such, I seek no other but God as my fulfillment and my joy. He gives me His peace. He helps me understand difficult and complex concepts, and He leads me along the way so that I am never alone. In all of this, He is my steady companion and my friend. He shelters me, provides for me, and protects me. I, in turn, adore Him. I honor Him, I worship Him, and I give Him my time, my attention, and my very best effort. Thus, all my work, practical, spiritual, and ministerial, are sacrificed for His praise. I give Him my life, and in return, He helps me. He gives me gifts, blessings, and provision that enable me to hang on, to overcome, to endure, and even to triumph over the challenges and circumstances in my life. There are times when I am overwhelmed, so undone that I cannot think or feel or even respond. Yet, He is with me, and He helps me process the details, make choices, and take turns whereby I am reprieved. Yes, He is my confidant, my defender, and the champion of my faith. It is my hearts desire to do work that honors the Lord, that brings Him praise so whether I am teaching English to students or working on my own research project, I am giving Him praise. I am honoring Him through my efforts, my attitude, and my willingness to sacrifice to do good and practical work. In the end, as He is lifted up, He lifts me up as well. I am lifted, built up, and given what I need each day to do this very thing — to bring Him praise. He is my King, My Redeemer, My High Priest, and My Father. He is my everything, and in Him, I find my life fulfilled and brought to fullness and satisfaction.
In Conclusion

As I wrap this post up, I cannot help but give my God praise. I look up, and I wait for His blessed signal before I go. I know that soon, very soon, a job will surface that will be His choice. Until then, I rest. I wait for His word, and then I go. I will submit my resume, my application materials, and with His favor, that door will open and no man will shut it. I will walk through the application, the interview, and into the position because God, my Father, and Jesus, my King, will ordain it to be so. I will be released to do good practical work, and He will guide me. He will help me transition to this work, to produce good quality scholarship, and I will find peace and rest in this work. Furthermore, where He plants me, I will bloom. I will bloom in the midst of a secular University, and I will mentor and encourage students, many of whom do not know Christ. I will preach in season and out of season, always giving reason for the hope I carry within me. In this way, I will lead others to Christ, through my words, but also through my deeds. I will love them as Christ loves them. I will listen to them, pray for them, and encourage them, whether they desire Christ or not. I will be His minister, hands, head, and feet, and I will simply live my life in a way that brings honor to His name.

And as a reward, He will champion my cause, open doors on my behalf, and He will guide me as I navigate difficult waters. I will rest in His security, in His sufficiency, and I will trust that He will carry me through all the days ahead of me. I will know Him more deeply, more intimately, and with His mandate and call, I will go into the Church and preach communication — teach communication — so that His people can understand how to ministry in this difficult and dark age of postmodern philosophy and spiritual apathy. I will do what He asks of me, and in this way, He will have freereign to move me, to settle me, and to equip me for the work He needs me to do. I set aside all hindrances, as the writer of Hebrews states, so I can run this race of faith. I run it, casting off family, friends, doubts, and insecurities — everything that seeks to hold me back, to confine me, to restrict my forward movement — and with His grace and sufficiency, I will boldly go where He sends me. I will go, I will do this work, and I will seek one thing only — His praise. He alone is worthy, and today, I lift up a sacrifice of praise as I surrender my life, my needs, my wants all for His glorious good name.

January 29, 2017

Making More Strides Forward

I woke up early this morning. It is a cold and clear morning in Phoenix. The sun is shining, but the air temperature is very crisp and cool. I am at home this morning, sitting at my computer, contemplating life and all its joys. My parents are getting ready to head to their church, and my son is working at the church where he controls the audio for a contemporary service. I miss my church, Scottsdale Bible Church, but I know that I need this last weekend to finish my major project. I have missed so many worship opportunities since I returned to graduate school. I know — not a good excuse — but with everything on my plate, and my issues with Chronic Fatigue, I accepted the fact that there would be times when I couldn’t attend church in order to recover from my overwhelming workload (the physical stress and strain) during the week.

The blessing in all of this is that He is over me, and thankfully, He has given me the grace needed to do all my weekly work AND still make such good progress on my project. I know He has a great plan for my life, and soon, very soon, He will bring to me a regular 9-month contract with a salary so that I can have a “normal” life again. Until then, however, I will work as He provides, and I will manage my life as He helps me to manage it. I look to Him as my redeemer and my King. As such, I work heartily unto His name, and I do so for His praise and His honor.  So, despite my lack of overall free time, I am confident that I will finish the remaining portion of my chapter 5, the final chapter of my dissertation, today.

In all, as I sit here and think about my life, I am awestruck, really, at how smooth things have gone for me — especially over the past two months.  As I look back now, I see how stressed I was in December and early January. The blessing now, with my chapter 4 in review and my chapter 5 almost finished, is that I feel relaxed and as if the weight of the world has been lifted from my shoulders. What is more, I am content in my teaching responsibilities. Yes, I still am stressed a bit over my productivity in class, and whether or not my students are “getting” my instruction. But overall, I have this sense of peace about me, as if everything right now is EXACTLY as it is meant to be. Let me explain…

His Handiwork

Yesterday was a good day too. I accomplished all my tasks, and I ended up rolling into bed right around 11 p.m. Not too shabby for writing 11 pages of my final chapter and grading assignments at two different schools. I breezed through my writing yesterday as if I was the pen resting in some writer’s hand. I honestly do not even remember writing or struggling to write, I should say. I sat down at the computer and after a bit of a “fit and start,” I simply wrote out 11 pages. It took me about four hours total, and I have to say that what is there now, well, it is pretty good. I mean, it reads really, really well.

So for all intents and purposes, I am in this very “happy place” in my life right now. I hope to hear confirmation on when I can book my flight to VA this week or early next, and then I will be in ready mode. I will be ready to defend. I am so excited about finishing my project, about finishing my degree. I blogged yesterday how I want to start to rebuild my library, to begin reading classics again, and well, even today, I feel so settled, so at peace, about this plan. I cannot really understand how this has all happened, but frankly, I see His handprints, His finger-marks, all over these recent accomplishments. I also see His provision for my long-term success as well as the arrangements He is making for my future life.

I guess all this settlement came about a week or so ago. My son decided to do something with his room, and well, I was pretty well-shocked about it. He has been struggling to find his “sweet spot,” you know, that place where he feels like he is his own person, in control of his life, and that his future looks bright and hopeful. I remember those days well, and I was about his age when I, too, felt lost, confused, and really as if I had no real future plan. I guess it is part-and-parcel to being a young 20-something. You are no longer a child, but not quite an adult, and in the middle, there is this big sense of “unknown.” It can be even more difficult if you aren’t really sure what you are good at doing, and whether you will ever really figure out your life’s passion, not to mention, God’s will for your life. Add to all that angst, this past semester was a challenge for us both, and the fact that we had to ride-share, well, that didn’t help matters. More so, his classes at school were not to his liking, and everything seemed to be a push and shove just to get through each day. However, as the semester drew to a close, the Lord blessed him with a number of opportunities that helped (I think) him to see God’s will, and to help him come to terms with the plans the Lord has for his life.

Some of this “stuff” I blogged about previously, like how he had to make the difficult decision to stay in school for one more year. When he told me this news (in early November), I wasn’t too shocked, but I also wasn’t really thinking that it would actually happen. More so, I think he was worried that I would be disappointed or upset when he told me that he really felt he needed to stay one more year. However, after listening to his argument on why he should take another year, I agreed with him. Then later on in the month, he had some travel opportunities that opened up new avenues and doors for him, and then these opportunities seemed to correspond with other opportunities at school to help him take on more responsibilities and even some pretty cool work choices (which have since happened in January). Furthermore, as the new year turned, he seemed far more settled, more agreeable, and even more content to be where he is at present. He was offered a teaching assistant role at school, and now he is teaching a lab class to students. In all, the Lord helped him to find a niche, and I think all of this has really worked together to get him ready for the “next big steps” the Lord has in mind for him.

Back to my story…so two weeks ago, he made the decision to take a part his loft bed and remove it from his room. He has been thinking about doing this for a while, but he never really made any headway toward it. He also cleaned his room (well, started). He needed a new desk so I took him down to Ikea last week to buy a desk and a chair. He has since spent time fixing up his room, and while it is not finished yet, he has made great strides toward paring down, clearing out, and generally, making his room more functional for school, work, and life.

In addition, I applied to two jobs, one at Regent and one at the University of Wisconsin (the latter is online). I received confirmation on both jobs, with the Regent one asking me to submit to a different position, and the UW one asking me to submit more required documents. In all, in just two weeks, I have seen movement toward moving — toward relocating — and with that sense has come excitement and anticipation. More so, as my son prepares his room, he is also talking about moving in with some friends (pretty typical of most 23 year old men), and that thought cheers me. I want him to experience some freedom, to explore grown up ways, and to come to terms with his life, to be responsible for his life. He is almost grown, and while I am sure he likes having his Mom around, it is time for him to test his wings.

I was praying about this the other day, and I asked the Lord if I was supposed to “kick him out of the nest.” The Lord responded, “No, you are supposed to take the nest someplace new!” I thought it was funny because I can see how that would seem like the same thing, but what I believe the Lord was saying to me is that I am to go someplace new, and while my son will be “out of the nest” for a while, I am not kicking him out or asking him to leave. I am simply keeping a place for him, but letting him be free for a while (at school, while he finishes school). In this way, his home is always his home, but he needs to feel free to come and go. He needs to feel like he can call his own shots, and that he doesn’t have to ask permission from his Mom for everything he wants to do.

As I think about what might be, I can only imagine that all of this movement, recent movement is for one purpose — to move me to this place — to the place of the Lord’s choosing. In this way, I am feeling this sense of peace. I feel content that what the Lord is doing is one, providing a good job for me, and two, opening a door to a new place where He intends to settle me, to plant me for work, for ministry, and for life. More so, I feel content that my progress on my dissertation is moving at His pace. I will meet with my professor on Tuesday, and Lord willing, he will have some good news. I am sure I will need to rewrite my chapter, but hopefully, I won’t have to rewrite that much of it. My prayer is that I will make some changes, but that these changes will be to improve the quality of the work, and not to correct mistakes within the work. The Lord knows my life, and His timing is perfect. He has always said that I had to have my PhD in hand this spring, which is why 2017 has been fixed in my mind as my graduation date. I believe that in order for me to move, to take this new position, I have to have my conferred degree before school begins in the fall. I have to graduate in May.

In Closing

As I close this post today, I am reminded that the Lord promises to go before us, to make our way sure and smooth. I see His hand marks, and I see how carefully He orchestrates my steps. He has kept my feet from slipping, and while I don’t always know where I am going or how I am to get there, He has always provided for me. I trust Him that today, I will finish my project, and that today, I will complete all my “to-do” tasks. In this way, I will do everything that He requires of me. I will rest as He prepares the path for me. I will rest as He makes my life run according to His will, His way, and then I will take comfort in knowing that He has made my entire life new. He has taken the broken shards and made my life into something beautiful, new, and wonderful. He has done this for me. He has made this happen. He has provided for me, and today, I give Him all the praise, the honor, and the glory. He alone is worthy to be praised! Selah!

January 28, 2017

Some New Plans

It is a blessed Saturday in Phoenix, Arizona. I woke up after sleeping almost 10 hours again. I am really exhausted, but the good news is that I feel well today. I think I am mentally done-in, sort of like “burnt toast,” and that all my semesters of hard work, the cramming for exams, and now the writing of my dissertation, have simply caught up with me. I am bone weary, brain tired, and just plain worn out. However, I am good, though, overall, I mean, and I feel pretty well (inside and outside) to boot.

This past week was hectic, and I didn’t think I was going to make it through in one-piece. I was at odds with myself throughout the week, and when Friday came, I didn’t even want to get out of bed. I put my “big girl pants on,” though, and I did the work. Praise be to God, despite my less than enthusiastic attitude, my week ended on such a good note. The Lord gave me an easy day yesterday, and even with my feelings of being unwell (sore throat/cough), the Lord helped me make it through with grace and gusto! Yes, the Lord was my defender and my champion yesterday, and praise be to God and to His glorious name, I survived. I survived, and I am doing well. I am so well.
Work Heartily Unto the Lord

As such, today is a low-key day for me.  I do have to work on my chapter 5 and finish my weekly grading (always grading). I have come to accept the fact that teaching six classes is a lot of work, but thanks be to God, He has helped me to learn how to manage the workload. With His grace, I am on track to complete the entire week’s worth of grading, check off all the tasks, etc., and finish strong. Each week, it is getting easier to grade and teach all these classes. I mean, I have over 200 students all toll, and frankly, that is a heck of a lot of paperwork and assignments to manage. When I stop and think about it, I realize that I can do this amount of work because of His grace and goodness. He has enabled me to handle this level and amount of work, and for that, I am thankful, so very thankful!

Last night, my good friend mentioned something to me that reminded me of this very fact. He said that he didn’t know how I handled so much work, but that I always finished everything, and I always finished well. I started to think about his words, and before I could take any credit for my efforts, I gave a shout of praise to God. In truth, the only reason I can do what I do each week is because of His grace and mercy. He has made all of this work possible, and He has enabled me to be able to do this work. I couldn’t do it without His help, and I cannot take any credit for it now.

It is sort of funny how all this comes together, but earlier in the day, as I was walking to class, I thought to myself, “Lord, why do I have so much work to do?” I was out of sorts, feeling a bit overwhelmed, and as I mentioned, I wasn’t feeling well yesterday. My attitude wasn’t the best, and yes, I was a little bit whiny. Still, as I was talking with the Lord, I was thinking also of how I have gotten used to working so hard, and that to always be working is now common for me. (As an aside - I worry some about not resting well, but in truth, I do rest. I mean, I do lay down in the evenings, often with my iPad next to me, and I listen (mostly) to a movie or TV show. I sort of “veg” out, and after a time, I tend to crash and fall asleep. I find that this activity works well for me. I don’t have to talk to anyone, and I don’t have to engage in any thinking. I just rest. I just shut down. I relax, and yes, I fall asleep.)

So as I was walking to class, thinking about working so hard, I asked the Lord why this was so. In His usual casual way, He said to me, “You simply like to work, Carol.” I thought it was funny, really, and I even giggled some because He is right, 100% right. I have always been a hard worker. I have always been the one who would dig up the entire back yard just to plant a tomato plant. I never have done things the easy way. I like to work. I like to rest. But, I don’t play very much. I don’t really do “vacay” well. I know many people who live for vacation, but I really don’t like vacations that much. I like to work at home, to build projects, to do things, but not really leave my home. I am willing to work hard every day, from the time I get up until I go to bed. I guess it is the way I am wired.

The other day, as another case in point, I heard my Dad say to my Mom, “Oh, there she is! She’s hard at work at the computer already!” He always says this to me. He thinks I work too hard, but I cannot really help it. I have a lot of work to do, and if I don’t do it, well, no one else will. Earlier today, he said that I needed to let my brain rest some. Sigh! I know that I am a workaholic, but I don’t work this hard for the glory and praise of my employer or even for my own benefit. I just like to work. I like to discover, to learn, and to complete tasks. I am task-oriented, for certain.

Plans for the Next Season

My life lately has been wrapped up in one thing, and that is to finish my PhD. Once I am done with school, and after I get a full-time job, I will have free time again. Oh, the blessed thought of free time! Woohoo! I haven’t really made any plans on what to do with my free time, but knowing my workaholic self, I am bound and determined to do something — I mean — I have to do something with my free time. I don’t like to veg all the time, so I will need some projects, some activities that will fill my mind, keep me occupied, and will give me things to do.

With that in mind, as I laid in bed this morning, I asked the Lord if it would be okay to start rebuilding my library. I am not sure why all of a sudden library books came to mind, but nonetheless, I was thinking about books, bookcases, and the fact that I need some more books! LOL! As I was thinking about books, I really began to think about how much I miss my library. Before I was divorced, I had a wonderful library in my home. I had hundred of books, mostly used and old editions, but a very eclectic library. I was always going to the shelf to grab a book, and whenever I wanted to rest, really rest, I would pull the old magazines off or some wonderful study book, and curl up on the sofa with a cat and the afghan to simply read. When I was divorced, and I had to move out of my house, of course, my books couldn’t really come with me. I never felt good about giving away all my books when I moved, but I had little to no room for them. Even now, my teaching/PhD books are overflowing in my little space. The hard part in all of this has been the fact that I have needed some of those books for teaching. Sigh! Therefore, the thought of rebuilding my teaching library soon, well that would be wonderful (so wonderful).

So I was praying over the idea this morning, I felt the Lord was inching me toward an idea that I hadn’t considered previously. I was thinking about buying used books when this thought popped into my head, “Why don’t you use the AO book lists?” I thought, “Why, yes! Of course! AO!” You see, many years ago, I used Ambleside Online for my son’s home school curriculum. It is a classical/Charlotte Mason curriculum that is centered on the idea of reading living books/good books, and as such, you never use textbooks (unless you cannot help it). The whole idea is to read good books, novels, and such rather than books filled with facts or snippets of information. I used AO for six years, and during that time, I amassed most of the library books I had to eventually give away.

The funny thing is that most of those books (Years 7-12) are the books I teach now as a professor of literature in college, so using these book lists would help me to rebuild my library fairly quickly. Furthermore, as soon as I started to think this way, another thought popped into my head. I heard myself say to the Lord, “Would it be possible for me to read through those years again?” I don’t know why that idea came to me, but it did. I am not really a reader, per se, even though I teach literature. I felt the Lord was saying to me, “Yes! Of course, you can!” I laid there and thought about it more, and the more I thought about it, the more excited I became because it would mean that after I am done with my dissertation, graduation, etc., I would have the opportunity to read through Ancient, Medieval, Renaissance/Reformation, and Modern era classics again. And, because I would have free time, I could spend as much time as I wanted reading through literature, history, natural history, biography, and devotional works for my own edification as well as for preparation for the courses I would possibly teach. My heart began to leap with the thought of reading, even when reading is not really my favorite thing to do. What is more, as I started to think how fun it would be to read and study classics again — this time, though — for pure enjoyment and not for a degree or grade, I felt this sense of peace as if this was indeed a desire of His heart and not just mine.

As of today, what I am thinking is that once I graduate, finish this degree, I will setup a reading schedule for fall where by I will begin with Medieval Studies (Y7) and collect all the required books for this year (used, of course). This will give me plenty of new books, and then I will plan out a reading schedule, similar to what I used to do for my son. I will read through the curriculum starting with Bible and devotional books and finishing up with language study. The only subjects I intend to skip will be science and math, as neither are applicable to me. The humanities, though, as well as music, art, hymns, and folk study will enhance my ability to interact with the period, and will provide additional cultural influence to integrate in my curriculum design for online literature courses.

I am excited to think about this as a next step for me. It will not be an end game since there is no degree at the end of it, but rather it will simply be to broaden and enhance my love of all things historical, cultural, and humanistic. In truth, I think it will be a blessing to my life as much as it will to others — should the Lord choose to use it that way. My prayer is that He will help me to collect the books and materials I need, and then to provide a teaching opportunity that aligns with this desire, this very, very, very passionate heart desire of mine.
In Closing

In closing today, I am thanking the Lord for a possible “next step” in His plan for my life. I still am not sure where I will end up or what I will do (teach composition, literature, combination, etc.) or if I will move (to another state). But what I do know is that after my degree ends, I will have good practical work to do (teach) as well as plenty of “tasks” to do that will enrich my life. I plan to get my cello out and begin practicing it again. I plan to learn French as well as some German and Italian. I plan to indulge in art, maybe even get some brushes and paint so I can practice watercolor painting. I might even put together a kiln so I can sculpt and do ceramics. I have put so much of my life on hold — not just for school — but in my marriage as well. I stopped all art shortly after I married. I continued with classical studies, in undergraduate classes and then home schooling, but I let go of the personal arts (foreign language, music, and art) simply because my ex-husband didn’t like for me to study them (unless it was Spanish or the type of music he liked to listen to on the radio).

No, now that I will be free from all hindrances, and I will have the room I need to study, to immerse myself in culture, I can see a life of form, substance, and balance come into focus. I can see my life as being full of wonder, excitement, and enjoyment of art again. This pleases me greatly, and it comforts me to know that the Lord desires that I pursue these things.

January 27, 2017

On the Right Track

Happy Friday! Yes, it is FRI-YAY! I am rejoicing in the goodness of the Lord today. It has been a long week, and frankly, I am so very tired. I struggled to fall asleep last night, and then I tossed and turned throughout the night, before finally waking up around 9:30 this morning. It is now 10:30, and well, I haven’t done much of anything except check email, drink my coffee, and down a bagel. Sigh!

My whole little world is kicking into high gear. I am struggling with doubt, with fear, and with the thought of what the Lord might really ask me to do when He finally says, “Let’s go!” I blogged about my willingness to go yesterday, and in one short day, I have applied to two different positions — one at Regent (for COM) and one at the University of Wisconsin-Superior (for Literature). The COM position is a long shot, but the recruiter felt I should apply for it rather than for the English position I had applied for two weeks ago. I really doubt the Lord intends to move me to VA, but I stepped out in faith, and I applied nonetheless.

The second position was one that I had seen for a couple weeks, but I had overlooked it because it wasn’t really in my field. Yesterday, while browsing Higheredjobs.com, I decided to actually look at the job with my attention to detail, and I realized that it would be a good fit so long as it is online and not a campus-based job. Some job listings do not clearly state that they are online. They may say the instructor will teach online, but there is an assumption that the candidate will live in the area. I googled Superior, and well, let’s just say “Frozen Tundra!” Yes, Superior, WI is located right across the river from Duluth, MN. Oh my goodness! Furthermore, it is so far away from life, really life as I know it, but if the position was truly online, and they would hire me, well, I would be overjoyed with the opportunity.

Right now, however, I am thinking that perhaps the Lord is simply “priming the pump” so to speak. He is asking me to prove my faith, and with that, I am submitting resumes for places that seem at odds with His will — not in that they are far from my experience — but that they are places we haven’t really discussed as “potential” relocation spots. For example, while I love VA, I have never really felt a call to teach on campus. I love to visit the school — and every time I am there — I say, “Lord, I love this place!” I mean to say that I love the vibe I get on campus, and of course, I love the school. I just never have felt that the Lord wanted me to relocate to VA.

This small school in northern WI is another case in point. I have never felt the call to northern WI, well not until recently. I have been feeling that the Lord may want me to go and teach in Green Bay, but I thought that was more because of my son’s recent experience there and his desire to move there after graduation. Still, I think to myself, “Lord, I don’t know what you are doing, but if you ask me to apply, I will apply.” The school sent me an auto-reply yesterday, and then today, I received an email asking me to submit letters of recommendation and a syllabi sample. These were on the application, but I didn’t have a chance to upload them. I will put together the rest of what they want and send it over later tonight or tomorrow. Personally, I still cannot imagine that this would be the door the Lord intends to open for me. Why?

Well, for one, the location. Two, it is teaching online literature courses and not composition courses. I have always felt that He wanted me to settle in composition, but this job is specifically literature oriented. Third, it is not an Assistant Professor/tenure-track job; it is for a Sr. Lecturer position, but only for one year. Last, the job requires evidence of teaching and curriculum development. I have the teaching experience, but I am just now beginning to develop curriculum (at GCU). Still, all things considered, I have the requisite experience and education.

My desire is not so much for the position or title, rather it is for an opportunity to grow in my field and to develop my skills and abilities as both an instructor and an academic. My desire is for leadership someday, and I feel that I have two options — move toward academics (teaching and research) — or move toward administration. This position would help me toward the latter, I think. Perhaps the Lord feels it would be a good stepping stone for me. Perhaps He thinks the one-year contract would simply address my needs. I don’t know, I just don’t know.

What I do know is that He does have a plan for my life, and that plan seems to be coming to pass. Interesting, the quote I attached at the top of this post suggests that if you really want to try something new, you have to actually “try” something new. I like the idea because I think a lot of people dream about doing something different in their life, but then never take any steps toward making that happen. They simply wait for the “thing” to drop in their lap or for someone to hand the “thing” to them. I have found that if I want to do something, I am better off doing it myself than waiting around for another person, who may or may not think my timing is critical or that I “need” the thing at all.

Lately, I have been sensing this movement from God. When He moves in my life, things typically begin to change. I have had this pattern repeat itself so many times that I am pretty well used to it by now. But, the change still causes some upset, and the change still brings me a bit of confusion. Take these positions, for example. I have been praying for a full-time job for a while. I know that I must graduate in May for that job to materialize. I must complete my work, be prepared to go, and take care of everything on my plate to ensure that I am ready when He says, “Let’s go!” I am overwhelmed most days, and I am filled with doubts about my abilities, my skills, etc. Can I really do this level of work? Am I really qualified to do it?

I see my colleagues receiving appointments for Assistant or Associate Professor roles, and I think they are so much more prepared, better able, more skilled than I am. Yet, I have similar credentials to them, so I know I am ready for this next step. Still, I wonder if being a Lecturer is the right step for me. In the progression of academic hierarchy, the roles begin with adjunct and move to Professor. In between there are steps that one must move through based on experience and education. So for example, an adjunct instructor can be part-time or full-time, but they are not tenure (ranked) positions (they can be terminated at will). The next position is Lecturer and Sr. Lecturer, which generally is a full-time position. These roles are not tenure ranked, but they typically are contracted for one or more years, and while they can be terminated at will, they usually are not terminated unless funding is cut short or the person totally messes up and needs to be fired. The education required for adjunct instructors and lecturers in most states is a Master’s degree in the field. The first step on the tenure track or ranked scale is Assistant Professor and this position requires a PhD. Usually, recent grads are hired as Assistant Professors whereas Associate and full professors require years of experience, examples of publication, leadership, etc. So for me to move to a lecturer position is a next step, but it doesn’t get me ranked. Some might say that with my PhD, I should only go for Assistant roles. I am not sure. I feel like it depends on the job. If I want to learn a new skill, add to my resume, a lecturer role might suit me well.

My prayer right now is for an open door to a position that will move me to where the Lord desires that I should go. This means a couple of things:

  1. A stepping stone to tenure track
  2. A convenient job that fits my skills and abilities
  3. A decent pay check that will afford me a comfortable life
  4. A challenge that will help me develop leadership skill
  5. A willingness by the hiring department to give me a shot
I feel that there is no reasonable hope that a job will open up in Phoenix. I really feel the Lord is calling me to move elsewhere, but that elsewhere is dependent on a job offer. So the next step is a job offer. I cannot get an offer without applying, thus it follows that I must apply to a job first. I have taken two big leaps of faith this week, and now I am resting and waiting to see what the Lord intends to do. I figure the following can come to pass…
  1. No request for interview (my application is turned down)
  2. Request for interview (I am in the running)
  3. Verification of intent and background (I have the job)
  4. Official offer letter (I am hired)
Until, step one or two comes to pass, I have to be patient and wait. The Lord has me well covered, and I know that He will close the doors that are not a good fit, and He will open those that are. I must trust Him in this process, and I must let the rest wait. I must let this go, give it to Him, and take from Him my leave, my rest, and my willingness to let Him work the process as He determines it is best.
In Closing

As I close this blog post, I realize that I am actually okay with what might come to pass. Even if I had to move to Superior, WI, I would go so long as the job is the Lord’s provision for me. If the job turns out to be truly online (hooray), but if it is a local/online position, well, should these folks offer it to me, I would have to go, I would have to accept it as part of the Lord’s provision for me. Yes, frozen tundra aside, I would simply need to purchase very warm woolies and a good hat. Like the good folks from Scandinavia say, “There is no bad weather, just inappropriate clothing.” Sigh. Lord, I will go; yes,  I will go.

January 26, 2017

Preparing for Next Steps

It is a good Thursday morning, and I am sitting in my home office, thinking about my next steps. I had a really long day yesterday, and I crashed hard last night after I got home from work. My days at GCU are taking a toll on me physically. Though I love this school, and I love teaching on campus, my body, my voice, and my mind are really running out of steam. These large courses are really causing me to think twice about my future here, and while I can certainly teach smaller courses, the truth is that the money in these big classes is the draw for me. I need to make more money, so I pick these big courses. In future, though, I am considering whether the offset -- money versus health -- is worth it. I mean, is the extra cash worth the stress and toll on my body? I am not so sure.

Then, there is my teaching at ASU. I really like this curriculum, but the workload is so heavy, that I am feeling the brunt of carrying just one class here. I like the pay, but the grind is going to be a challenge for me. I had heard this before, from other faculty, and well, I am experiencing it first hand. Of course, it is a blessing that it is online, and for that very reason, I will hang in and do my best.

My preferred school, of all the schools where I teach, is Regent University. I love this school! I love everything about it, and I love the very fact that this school has a heart for God and a love for students. I love, love, love everything about Regent -- from the curriculum to the faculty to the ministry effort. It is my favorite school, and Lord willing, I hope to be able to teach there until I can no longer teach (retirement, I mean).

So, here I sit in the quiet of my home, and I think to myself, "I could really get used to working from home full-time." I like the fact that I was able to sleep in today. My body was exhausted from my day yesterday, and so I loved the fact that I slept until I woke up. I am now here with my "boys" and they are resting beside me. My home is quiet, peaceful, and for the most part, I feel at ease here. There is nothing happening outside my little cocoon to worry me. At the least, I do not think there is anything to be concerned over today.
Thinking About Tomorrow

I think about my future. I wonder about the Lord's will for my life, His plan, and where He intends for me to go next. I blogged this week about blooming here in Phoenix, about staying put and just enjoying the blessing of every day life right here in the desert. I tried that "bloom mentality" on yesterday, and well, it just didn't fit. I don't get it. I mean, I do understand what I should be doing, but whenever I try to be "settled" here, like let everything go, stop thinking (note -- not worrying, but just thinking, considering or pondering) about moving, I get this feeling like something is not right with my little world. Why is this so? Why do I feel this sense of "wrongness" whenever I stop thinking about moving? But, when I think about moving, then I start to panic, fear, and feel all worried about the logistics of moving. Sigh! Am I a hopeless case?

This morning I woke up and thought to myself, "Carol, something is wrong." Okay, I really thought, "I feel like something is wrong," but I haven't been able to put my finger on it. My first thought was that I had done something wrong, like sin behavior, but then I know I am not condemned, and that I have confessed my sinful thoughts and actions to the Lord. I don't believe this is a matter of sin. Then, I thought perhaps I am being oppressed, and well, I took care of that right off. I confessed the Word over my life, and I stood my ground against my enemy. I don't think this is the case either. So what could it be?

Perhaps it is my thinking, my intent to remain put that has caused me to feel uncomfortable this morning. Perhaps it is just tiredness, oh the tiredness that has caused me to feel so unwell. Or perhaps it is just the fact that the Lord is trying to tell me something, to show me something, and I have not been willing to accept His determination, His will, His way, and I think that there must be some minor conflict within my soul that is causing me to feel sort of "pricked."  I am not sure, but I know this, whatever is at root, the Lord will show me. He is good about helping me to see the truth, to know the truth, so I am trusting Him today to show me the truth so I can accept it and then move on.
Options and More Options

As of right now, I sense that I have three options to choose from regarding my future life. Option 1 is to do nothing, stay where I am, to hunker down and do the work provided to me. This is the "practical" option that accepts my "lot in life," and understands that for now, this is the life the Lord has provided to me. Option 2 is a faith-option, one that places hope and trust in the Lord for His best outcome. This option asks me to trust Him, to rely on Him, and to seek Him in finding the truth, in knowing which way to go, and then in actually "going" or "following" after Him. Option 3 is trickier because this option is the "wait and see" option. I wait and see what the Lord intends to do, and until that time of revelation, I attend to 1 but I hope for 2. I think for the longest time, I have been focused on Option 3. This has been my "go to mentality," and I have used it to good effect. I have been busy, very busy with my current work, all the while, I have patiently waited for some sign that would tell me what to do next.

In my current predicament, I think the reason I feel the way I do today is because I switched from the "wait and see" mode to the "hunker on down" mode. I changed my focus, and while there is nothing wrong with attending to basic needs, if I no longer believe the Lord has a greater plan for my life than to teach part-time at five schools, well, then I start to feel depressed and anxious about the future. But, if I remain in the "wait and see" mode or I switch to the "faith mode" then I feel optimistic about what might be next for me. I begin to see possibility where there seemed to be empty walls and closed doors.

As such, I think whenever I start to take the "well, this is it" approach, as in "this is the reality of my situation, so accept it, bub!," I really begin to lose my countenance, and I start to feel a sense of hopelessness that simply undermines my faith in God. My heart seems to delight in thinking about possible change, and whenever I do, I find great encouragement, and I feel better, happier, lighter, so to speak. I am of the mind now that the reason I feel the way I do is because I made the decision to settle here in Phoenix, and in all honesty, I don't think this is the Lord's intention for me. He may desire I settle temporarily here, until a job opens up, for example, but I don't think He intends to keep me here. No, no matter how much it makes sense to stay put, I simply do not see my life here as a permanent destination, rather it is just a "passing through" destination on the way to another new horizon, another new place to learn, to love, and to let Him use me for His name and His praise.

What's Next?

Now that I have my senses back to where they need to be, I am ready to consider Option 2 as my next "go to mindset." You see, I have been in the wait and see mode for so long, that in truth, I am ready to try something different. I am ready to trust the Lord, to step out in faith, and really try something new.

It is a good day today. I am in such a good place today, and praise be to God, I am starting to see how this whole "faith plan" works. God doesn't just give you the desires of your heart (Ps. 37:4-5); rather, He causes you to desire the things that He wants to give you. And, once you grasp that the desire He gives to you are His, then you begin this process of actually wanting these things. The time between grasping and wanting can range from immediate to many months or even years. But, once everything clicks and you "get it," then the Lord begins to deliver on His desires for your life. I have borne testimony to this fact. He has given me desires that were in my heart, but not always on the forefront of my mind. Now, these desires are all I think about, day in and day out, and without wavering much, they are simply deep wants and needs that I feel like I "must have" in order to live my life. As weird as that may sound, I feel so confident that the desires I have in my heart are really His desires that I am willing to go wherever He leads just to have these desires released to me and brought to life. This means that when I feel this desire to "go" or to "move" someplace else, I struggle at times with thinking that it is just wishful thinking or my own preference. I try to downplay the significance of the desire, and in doing so, I end up feeling ill over it. I wonder, "Is this just me, Lord?" Or, is this a desire the Lord has for me? In the end, I normally, usually, typically, relent. I give in to His desire, and I let Him has His way.

This is how I feel today. I feel like all my wishful thinking, all my wanting to move, especially to the place of my childhood memory, is not really my desire at all; rather, it is His desire for my life. Let me explain...

This past week, I have been so intensely focused on my dissertation. On top of that work, I have also been focused on my teaching contracts. In all, I have been on crazy-busy girl. Yet, despite the busyness of my life, I have also felt strongly that the time was coming for me to go. I panicked some at the thought of "going" ahead of my family, of leaving my comfortable life to really up and move on my own. My son is settled, I would say. My parents need my help and care, I would remind myself. I have a good home here. My jobs are here. I would repeat these "truths," and then in the end, I would agree that the most practical decision is to simply stay here, put down roots, and bloom, as they say, where the Lord has planted you.

But...my heart would not rest. I would still feel like something was wrong with me, that something wasn't quite right. Then I would recant, and I would confess my dependency on Him, and in doing so,  I would reaffirm His right over my life. His right to choose, to decide, and yes, to move me wherever He desired me to move.

The more I struggle to understand this simple concept, the more I find that I am no longer at rest. The Lord has given to me certain desires, and these desires are non-negotiable. I cannot rest if I am not 100% aligned with His will for my life, and while I know that certain things fall well within His overarching and supreme will for me, clearly He has some more localized desires that He wants me to embrace, to accept, and yes, to trust Him for in faith.

Today, therefore, I am ready to get back on track, and to rest in the fact that the desires I have in my heart are His desires just as much as they are my desires. Thus, I am letting go of my need to control the choice. Instead, I am embracing faith option 2, which simply says, "Yes, Lord, where you lead, I will follow." I am no longer going to try to fit His will into my timeline or even to the place where I happen to be at present. Instead, I am going to agree that His will is so significant, that this temporary place holder simply is not big enough to hold all His good will toward me. I must go to the place of His choosing, and in this way, I must walk out my faith, walk in it, so that He can do this marvelous work through me. He is good to me. He is so very good to me.
In Closing

The short of it is this: I believe the Lord has a great plan for my life, and it is not so much tied to a "place," as it is tied to my willingness to go where He leads. While Phoenix is my home now, I seriously do not see it as my home long-term. This has always been the case, and nothing in my recent past has changed my line of thinking. However, because I don't see potential jobs out there, it is really easy to simply believe that this is what the Lord desires now. Often, the problem with this way of rationalizing the situation is simply that we accept the inevitable without really keeping possibilities as an option. In short, we lose our hope.

The Lord does have a plan for your life and for my life, but sometimes where we are is of our own making. We made the decision to live in a certain place, to set down roots, to make the best of our own life, and when things are not going well or as we had hoped, we tend to say that it is somehow the Lord's will for us. The problem with this line of thinking is that we are saying that the Lord wills for us to be in a particular situation that could have been the result of a bad choice. We will say, "Well, if He wanted it differently, He would make it so" but that just reinforces our own rational belief. We made the mistake, and since the Lord isn't moving to help us, He must want us to suffer with our choice. The truth is that He may indeed use our bad choice as a life lesson, but like with all lessons, once you learn the value of it, you are ready to move on. If you continue to re-do the lesson, like a child would do with a pencil and eraser, eventually you will rip and tear the paper to shreds. Sometimes, you have to turn the paper in to the Master and say, I am done. I completed the work, and I am ready to take on more new life lessons.

I am guilty of doing this very thing, of repeating lessons that the Lord never intended me to repeat. I learned the value and truth of the lesson, but instead of moving on, I sat there, head held down in shame as if I was a poor student, unable to grasp the significance of my actions. After many repeat episodes, I finally understood what I was doing wrong. The next time an opportunity came around, I said, "Okay, I am ready. I am done with this lesson. Let's go."

My great-take away today is simply this...when you say you are ready to go, the Lord takes you at your word. You are making a confession of faith, and when you go back on your word, you are being double-minded, unsteady and unstable. This wavering bears testimony to your faith, your level of faith, and your willingness to step out in faith. I am a good one to talk about wavering, but today, I am saying to the Lord, "Yes, Lord, I have wavered. I have been double-minded in the past. Now, though, I am done with this life lesson, and I am ready for more work, more challenging work." I am ready to step out in faith and to go where He sends me. I am ready to do His work, for His name, and to follow after Him wherever He leads me. I will go, Lord. I will go.

January 24, 2017

More and More Thinking

It is a lovely day here in Phoenix. The skies are clear, and the air is cool and crisp. It has been a crazy couple of days as we have had intense storms that brought a lot of rain to the area. Yesterday, while on my way to GCU, I literally thought I was going to drown. It was raining so hard, my windshield wipers barely could keep up with the downpour. Later, while I was over at campus, we actually had hail pass through. I was glad I was in class at the time. Still, the whole day was a soggy mess, but it was such a lovely change from our normal, sunny and mild days.

I am at home today, bound and determined to start my chapter 5. I sent my results chapter over to my professor on Sunday, and now I need to wrap up my project so that I can graduate this coming May. I am stoked, as they say, because I can see this project finally close, and I feel good about my progress. I feel that my study was significant, and that I have contributed to the on-going tradition of producing quality scholarship.
Happy Times in Phoenix

Today is a low-key day for me. I have a lot of “busy work” and at some point, I hope to work on my dissertation (probably evening). In all, I am thinking more realistically about my situation, and I am coming around to the idea of staying put in Phoenix for a while, just to see what the Lord has in mind for me. Let me explain…

I’ve been considering what might happen if the Lord chooses to move me to another state. I have long held the belief that come 2017 it was “anything goes” as far as moving out of state. I have had this date firmly fixed in my mind since at least 2013. I guess it coincided with my PhD program. You see, originally I had planned to enroll in my PhD coursework in August of 2012. My “graduation date” was set for May 2016 -- four years from the date of my Master's program graduation. I had this perfect timeline in mind, but as things would turn out, I ended up not graduating from Mercy until August, and unbeknownst to me, I thought I couldn’t begin my doctoral degree until I had the “slip of paper in hand.” In truth, I could have started in 2012, but I am so glad that I waited. The Lord placed me in the best cohort ever, and I have developed life-long friendships because of His choice to “wait a year.”

The delay in starting just meant that "2017" would be my final graduation date, and as such, this date has been burnt into my mind since I began my classes at Regent. Now, I am almost there, ready to graduate, and I am thinking more seriously about what it means to “move” away. Frankly, I spent some time today listing pros and cons of moving, and I came down to this short list:
  1. Must have a full-time job
You see, I have no reason to leave my parents or my son at this point in time unless there is a job offer that would take me some place else. For all intents and purposes, I can remain where I am, living in this home with my parents for a while (any way). I am now making enough money to survive without financial aid. This means that unless the Lord opens a door for me to “go,” I am settled that I must stay put.

I guess for so long now I have wanted to leave Phoenix for personal reasons. First, I wanted to go to get out of the heat (I do miss the green and trees). Then, I wanted to go in the hopes of deepening a friendship. Later, I thought about the job opportunities that might exist at other major universities. But, no matter how I slice it up, the fact remains that the Lord has not made any movement toward me 1) leaving Phoenix, 2) moving to where my friend lives, or 3) putting me in contention for positions at other schools. Instead, He has simply blessed me where I am planted, so to speak.

As I was walking through Walmart this afternoon, I had this very thought. I mean, I now work at two Christian schools in Phoenix, and I teach online at the major public university in town. So out of three public schools in AZ, I teach at one (the other two are north and south of me -- too far to drive). Out of the two private universities in town, I teach at both. What does that mean? I think it simply means that the Lord has blessed me here, and that He has enlarged my borders right where I am. He certainly can move me elsewhere, and He can plant me deeply in a new place, but I wonder if this is His plan?

I was thinking about this on and off the day, I mean, what does it mean to be in the middle of the Lord's will? Some days, I think I have it all figured out. Some days, everything makes such sense. And, then other days, I am so lost, so confused. Like today, I mean.

My son is well-settled here, and I know that he is doing well. He likes school. He is teaching a class even, and he is really doing well in his job and in his preferred venue -- music. He has many opportunities for success here as well, and when it comes down to it, I think he is finally feeling better. Like, really better.

My parents are in need of my continual care. They are able to do things still, so it is not like they need substantial care, but day-to-day, things change, and without my help, they would not be able to live long in this home or be able to really care of their health/food/personal care.

I have wanted to leave Phoenix, but now that I am being more pragmatic about it, I think the main reason was to get away from my ex-husband. It is not that we are at odds or anything, but he is here, and he attends the same church as I do, and well, it is just difficult. Everywhere I drive, I am reminded of our former life. I see things that make me think about our life 7-10-20-30 years ago. All of this makes me very sad. I realize that life is what it is right now, but it is hard some days to remember that not too long ago, my life was very different from what it is today.

Then there is my need for work. I am well-set right now, but I don't have a solid job yet. I have a lot of jobs, just nothing settled. I don't own my own house, but after thinking about what I spend to live where I do, I realized that I am pretty well-off in this place. I could by a house here, and I could settle here. I need some things to change for me, eventually, I mean. For now, I feel like this is where the Lord intends to keep me.

Praying for Rain

In 1 Kings 19, we read about how Elijah prayed for the rain to stop, and no rain fell in the land for several years. When Elijah prayed for the rain to fall again, the word tells us that the skies broke free and the rain fell to the ground. In some ways, I feel like I have been living in a dry and weary land (Psalm 63). It is as if the rains have started to fall in my life, and the ground is starting to sprout blessing. I am receiving positions, power, and prosperity just as if the rain was to fall from Heaven. I am not sure why, but I am giving God all the praise, the honor, and the glory for it. Right now, I think to myself, "Lord, please continue to water the land where I live. Continue to let the rains fall, and to grow me in this place." I still would like to move away, to experience something new, but for now, I simply feel like I am to let the rain fall down around me. I am to enjoy the blessing of the rain, the prosperity of the rain, and the goodness of the rain. He is good to me, and apparently, He has chosen to water me deeply, to let my roots grow down, and to give to me a place of my own, a home of my own, right where I am living now.
In Closing

I have decided to pray for the Lord's manna to fall from Heaven, and to feed me where I am at today. This means that I am asking the Lord to open a full-time teaching position at ASU, with the Writer's Studio. I am asking that the Lord open a door for me, to move me into this position over the next few weeks, and provide to me one full-time job where I can teach online from home. This, I believed, was the solution to the problem of my Mom's care, but now, I am convinced that as long as I live here in Phoenix, this is the answer to my prayer.

I will continue to teach at Regent University (online), and on campus at GCU, in order to rebuild my portfolio and to start to get out of student loan debt. Until He opens the heavens and lets more rain fall, I will simply look up and say, "Yes, Lord, let the rain fall on me. Let it water me deeply. Let my roots grow down, and let me take firm hold of the land you have given to me this good, good day."

Jehovah-Shalom! He is my God, and my Peace.

January 21, 2017

Experiencing Freedom

It is a good day here in cloudy and cold, Phoenix. Yes, the skies are gray, and for the most part, there is a sense of more impending rain. The weather forecast has called for stormy weather through Sunday, but I think most of the storm is now either north or south of us. Still, the weather is a lovely change from our almost constant “warm and sunny.”

It is 1:00 p.m., and I haven’t really gotten much done today. I did work on my finances some, and I even started my tax return. Mostly, I have been preoccupied with thoughts of what might be for my future. In truth, I am well-set, blessed, and I feel so very confident that the Lord has a wonderful plan for my life. I am busy, so very busy, but I believe the busyness of this first half of the semester will give way to a settled peace when the second half arrives. I will, for example, be finished with my PhD, and that will bring in such rejoicing for me. I will be so glad to finish strong, and I will be excited for the new adventures the Lord has in store for me.

One of the things I am excited about is the opportunity to begin a new life as an assistant professor. I love my work as adjunct, and if I could make a good living as adjunct, it really could be the “perfect” life for me. I love the fact that I get to show up for work, but that I don’t have to do anything extra. I simply do the work and then leave. It is great part-time work. Furthermore, I like the flexible schedule, the working from home two days per week. I wish I could work from home every day, sigh! It would be my preference right about now. But, praise be to God, I work as much as I can, and the days I am on campus, are special. I really enjoy my students, and I love to work with them in a FTF environment. God is so good to me, and He loves me deeply. He knows what is best for me. If He decides to see me hired full-time as online faculty, praise His glorious name. If, however, He chooses for me to work in a campus environment, well, God be praised just the same. I am content to teach online or FTF as it pleases the Lord. I am content to work one job or six, for I know it is my Lord who enables me to do plenty. He keeps me organized, and He keeps me focused. He covers my assignments, my work, and in this way, I am able to do more than I could ever imagine.

In so many ways, the Lord has blessed me, and as it says in His word, He has enlarged my borders and territory. I am receiving the answered prayer of Jabez, who cried out to the God is Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain” (1 Chron. 4:10 NIV). I love the very last words of this verse. Ezra writes, “And God granted him his request.” The Lord, God of Israel, has granted my request for prosperous good work. He has opened doors, and He has made it possible for me to work for schools where I cannot only learn additional skill, but where I can fit comfortably in as faculty. Yes, I am blessed to work at several schools, and in doing so, the Lord has seen to it that I have enough income to not only cover my monthly needs during the school year, but to have sufficient income to cover my long and dry summer. I am blessed and highly favored by His merciful and mighty hand. 

My continued prayer is for this blessing to not cease. I am surrendered fully, walking in obedience to His name and His word, and as such, I am seeking to honor Him in everything I do. My words, my actions, my thoughts, are all turned toward Him. I am in this special place where the word of the Lord is coming to pass, and I am the recipient of His good and gracious favor. Selah!

Making Headway on my Project

So this morning has passed as a purely administrative effort. I reconciled my accounts, and with my two refunds (financial aid and Federal tax), I should be able to pay off my credit cards completely. This is a fulfillment of the Lord’s word to me. I have had a long-term plan to be debt-free, and while my student loan debt will not magically disappear anytime soon, I will have cancelled all credit card and car loan debt by June. This means that my credit score should jump about 50 points higher, and with that improved score, should the Lord choose for me to purchase my own home, I would be in qualifying position. More so, my plans for relocating are set. I have prayed over remaining here, and while it makes sense to do so, I cannot feel any peace in remaining put. I know I must stay for a short time, but in truth, I believe the job the Lord has for me (that full-time one) is not in AZ; rather it is in another state.

My revised goals for 2017 are as follows:
  • Pay off all credit card debt (save one card) by June 2017
  • Pay off Nissan by June 2017
  • Prepare to relocate as the Lord opens that door (with cleared cards, I can actually contemplate moving — air fare or simply by car/truck)
  • Downsize my home, reduce the clutter and give away/sell anything not needed or used
These goals are in addition to graduating from Regent, getting a real-time offer, etc. I am finally seeing relocation as a possibility whereas before it seemed unrealistic for me when I was carrying around so much credit card debt. It is exciting to see how the Lord is providing for me to meet these existing needs.

Now, I feel ready. I feel confident, and I feel excited that what He intends to do will actually come to pass. I can see His hand moving in my life, and as such, I can see opportunity on the horizon. The Lord has dealt bountifully with me (Psalm 13:6), and I hold high expectations that His favor and blessing will only increase the longer I seek to serve Him and others, seek to abide in His will, and seek to submit and yield to His authority in and through my life. He is my King, my Kinsman-redeemer, and He is the One with whom I am aligned. And, though I do my best to be at peace with all men (and women), it is the Lord who is my Counselor, my Physician, and my Ruler and the author of my manifest destiny. He calls the shots, He makes the rules, and I abide, obey, and follow. He is good to me, so very good to me.

With this in mind, I rest now and I relinquish control over my days. I know He has me well covered, and today and tomorrow, while busy and overwhelming at points, will be completed according to His most merciful plan. He will see to this work, and He will perform mighty miracles while I stand and watch. It will be like the Red Sea parting, and my God, who is infinitely more able to do all that I ask and need (Eph. 3:20), will perform for His Name and His glory. I will give Him all the praise for He alone is worthy to be praised this good, good day.

In Closing

As I close this blog post, I am reminded that I serve a mighty God. He is called a Mighty Fortress (Psalm 46), and as such, He is amazingly able to do work that is beyond our abilities, our expectations, and even our imagination. I, for one, could not imagine that I would be sitting here today, finishing my dissertation, teaching at multiple schools, and making myself ready for a full-time assistant professorship at a major school. I could not see this as a possibility 10 years ago. Even four years ago, I thought potentially I could do it, but not to the extent that I have actually experienced it. No, never. Yet, here I am, and God has moved in amazing ways, and He has blessed me beyond blessing. I am favored, I am set apart, and I am being made ready for His special work in and through my life. Now, I can say — MY GOD IS ABLE — and I bear witness to His abilities, His capabilities, and His consistent application of those abilities. He is good. He is worthy. He is able. He is I AM.

January 19, 2017

Thankful Thursday

It is a cloudy and rainy Thursday here in not-so-sunny, Phoenix. It is such a lovely change of weather, and I am enjoying it immensely. I am home today, and I am supposed to be working on teaching and dissertation tasks, but instead, I am working on my financial plans. It is quiet here at home. My son is at school, and my parents are over at their Bible study. I am here with the "boys," and for the most part, it is such a blissful morning.

I slept pretty well, though these hot flashes are really getting to me. My prayer is that I transition through menopause quickly. I can handle them during the day time, but the night time "sweats," are a killer interruption to peaceful sleep. Still, I am thankful that all that awful peri-menopausal stuff has passed. I spent a good four years dealing with heavy periods, flooding as they call it, and the panic-dread sensation of never knowing how to handle life without a bathroom near by. Thank goodness, and thank the good Lord, all of that is behind me now. I will put up with the hot flashes, night sweats, and other symptoms that happen in menopause, and I will try not to complain about their inconvenience. Selah!

It is Thursday, as I mentioned at the top of this post, and right now I am thinking about all that I have to be thankful for and thinking how much I am enjoying my "everyday life" (Meyer, 2016). Yes, I am thinking that it is good to purposefully give thanks to the Lord, and to express joy in the very life He has given to me. Selah! I am the recipient of His good favor, and as such, I am called to respond to that good favor with expressions of joy, peace, harmony, contentment, and goodwill (toward others). Yes, my natural response should be one of great joy, shouts of praise, laughter, and a deep seated love for God and for His amazing creation (including the natural world and all that is in it). Yet, there are times when I don't feel like praising Him or thanking Him for the work He has done in my life (and is doing). I don't always stop to lift my voice in thanks, to honor Him with song or with prayer, and as a result, I often feel deflated, let down, and yes, even depressed as I consider the world (the nasty, sinful parts of it and of human creation). Still, He is God, and He is my creator, sustainer, and the joy of my life -- thus today -- I stop for a moment, and I consider His gracious goodness, His marvelous patience, and He loving provision. He is good to me, always so very good to me. I give Him thanks this good, good day, and I CHOOSE TO BE JOYFUL!
Processing and Making Plans

This week has been low-key for me, but at the same time, it has been very high stress. I had the MLK holiday off, which was such a blessing, and with that day off, I had four days to work on my research project and get a handle on my courses at Regent, ASU and GCU. In all, I was very productive. Now, I am the end of this week, and I have several to-do tasks that need to be done today and tomorrow. I feel a bit of panic, but that is only because I haven't fully processed the details and considered the time needed to complete them. I always think it will take longer than it really does, so right now, I am pressed for time, but in truth, I probably have plenty of time to simply do what I am doing, which is REST, relax, and enjoy this blissful day.

Yesterday, while I was at work (GCU), I was praying over my day, my student's needs, and of course, the challenges I face with graduating. I had blogged about my Mom's illness, and praise be to God, she is doing so much better. Today, she is more like herself, and for that I am thankful. Still, there is this worry in the back of my mind about tomorrow -- like TOMORROW -- and what type of care she will need long term. I had heard some sad news about a family friend who passed away on the January 12th, and that got me thinking that my parents may not live much longer. No one knows the days, the times, or the years of our life (save the Lord), so we really do need to live each life with a thankful heart. Still, the thought that this family friend passed (from a massive stroke) just a few days ago was distressing to  me. I thought about how I would endure that trial in my own family. Right now, I am reliant on my parents for their share of this home. I am reliant on them for many things -- like using their car to get to the dentist today. What would happen should they pass quickly? I mean, could I handle all the details of our life at this point in time?

I was praying over these thoughts as I was driving home, and I realized how much I need stability in my life. I am still in this transition, still finishing graduate school, still working multiple part-time jobs. I know I could handle our needs easily with a full-time job, but that job is somewhere --> out there --> still hidden in the mist. If my parents passed suddenly, could I pay all our utilities, for example? Would I have to leave this home right away because I couldn't afford to remain here? I've been thinking more and more about moving, about whether moving is more about my preference than His will. I believe that it is both, really. I have had this desire to move for many years, but the Lord has not chosen to move me. I blamed myself for that lack of movement, in that I felt I wasn't ready to be obedient, to step out in faith, and to really go when He said, "Go!" Lately, I have felt the desire to move, but when push came to shove, as in the possibility of moving, I recanted and said, "Oh, Lord, I am not ready to go!"

I felt so disobedient in that moment. I felt like Peter, who denied Jesus three times. I have said time and time again that I would go, and then when the moment came to apply for a job, and I say the "must start date" next summer, I simply panicked. I cannot go. It is too soon. I am not ready. I am not prepared. I don't have the funds. I cannot go. I simply cannot go.

Of course, the Lord was gracious to me. He helped me see that where I am right now is a good place. I work very hard at my schools, but I have no hope of a full-time position at this time. Perhaps in a year or two. Perhaps in five or six. Who knows? I started to see that I could be content here, I could be happy here, but even with that assessment, there is this part of me that says, "Yes, but is this your will. Do you want me to remain here or do you want me to go there -->?

The more I prayed about it, the more I convinced myself that it was best to just stay put. I mean, I have a nice house here. I have good work. I can be sustained -- not for ever -- but for another year. I went to bed last night, resolved to stay put. Then this morning, after I woke up and started my day, I thought "once again" how difficult it is to work at four-five different schools and managed all the responsibilities. I thought about what might happen this summer if any of these schools dropped out of my "plan" for fall. As with adjunct, contracts are always "at will," which simply means my schools could say "we don't have anything for you" and I would be SOL, as they say.

I kept thinking how easy it would be to just stay here. I mean, my cats are happy here. My parents need me. My son has one more year of school. Surely, staying put is better than uprooting the family and going to an UNKNOWN place and living in an UNKNOWN way. Then, my heart started to doubt this logic. It does make sense to me. But...is this the Lord's will for me. Is this His provision?

I keep coming back around to this fact. I do want to move based on personal preference. I long to live in the country, to have an old-fashioned home. I also long to live someplace where I can enjoy a more moderate climate (with trees, greenery, things to do outside). I have certain things I like, certain ideas, but I also realized that I am content now, right where I am, and that this house, while modern and very Phoenix-like, is not really my style, I am comfortable in it. I guess throughout all this thinking process, I came to see that while I prefer certain styles, certain things, I can be content here and now simply by acknowledging that the Lord is my contentment. He is the reason I am happy, filled with joy, and at peace. The house, the location has nothing at all to do with it. The reason I will go is because the Lord asks me to go. The reason I will stay is because He says it is good for me to stay.

This morning as I walked through this house, as I sat here reflecting a bit on my life and what the Lord has done for me, I remembered that I am no longer able to call my own shots. I don't say "I will" or "I won't," rather I can only say, "Yes, Lord, thy will be done." I have to do what He asks me to do, and if that means picking up stakes and moving elsewhere, so be it. I will go, Lord. I will go.
In Closing

I give Him thanks today because He is good, and as such, He is worthy of our praise. He is gracious to us. He gives us good gifts. He makes our way sure, secure, and He directs our steps as He leads us through this life and into the next. I either trust Him completely with all the details of my life or I don't. Today was a wake up call of sorts. I realized that I was trusting Him 90%, but that last little 10% was reserved for my own way, my own wants, my own wishes. I made the decision to let that last 10% go, and no matter how hard it will be to say "good bye," I will do it, if He asks me to do it. I will go, Lord, where you lead. I will follow you. I will trust that you will cover me. I will be, do, and live in your way, as you lead, guide and provide for me. You are God, and as such, I place my life in your hands this good, good day.

January 18, 2017

Do Not Be Afraid

It is a good Wednesday. It is “hump day,” as the saying goes, and for all intents and purposes, this middle day seems to be starting off with a big bang. I will admit that I had planned to sleep in some this morning. I arranged for my son to take my car to school, and I asked my Dad to take me over to  pick it up around 1-1:15 so I could drive to campus. I was all snug in my bed when I heard the garbage truck roll on by my window. Yes, I forgot to set the cans out again! This is the second time in two weeks, and frankly, I am persuaded it is due to my stress level and my overload at work.

Still, God be praised, I made it out to the street (sans slippers) and was able to set the can out by my neighbor’s bin. The truck rolled back around, and ta-dum, collected our garbage. I came back inside and tried to go back to sleep, and even though I did sleep for another hour or so, I ended up with that “hungover” feeling. Sigh. Nonetheless, I am determined to make this into a great day!

On Tap For Today

It is now mid-morning, and I have done nothing at all. I have checked email and Facebook, responded to some student emails, but other than that, I have dealt with issues here at home. The good news is that my Mom is on the mend. We (me and my Dad) were very worried about her yesterday. She has a virus, and has been not well the past couple days. Yesterday, she acted as if she was lost, and well, that really concerned us. More so, she had pretty intense stomach pains, and for a time, we thought we would have to call 9-1-1. Then, she fell off the bench while trying to put her pants on, and well, that was a nightmare. She was so out of it, couldn’t roll to her knees, and again, we thought we needed to call the paramedics to come help us get her standing again. All said, we got her dressed and in bed, and this morning, she woke up her cheery, albeit still slightly sick self.

All worries aside, this behavior is a concern to me and to my Dad. Mom’s condition has been getting worse, and she struggles some days with simply getting up and moving around. On other days, she is doing well, clear and alert, and even willing to go out to the store. Most of the in-between days it is rather hit or miss. Dad doesn’t want to leave her alone, and I cannot do as much for them due to my work schedule as I would normally do. The time is coming soon to make a decision on their next level of care, but until I am settled with a job (full-time), I honestly do not know what to do.

I blogged yesterday about the fact that I made progress on my research. In truth, I had a very productive day. I quit around 10 p.m. last night after completing the following to-do tasks:

  • Prep for week 2 at GCU (review PPTs and create new ones)
  • Read assignments for week 2 at GCU
  • Grade ice-breaker discussion at ASU
  • Grade Free Write assignment at ASU
  • Work on chapter 4 (dissertation)
  • Meet with my chair (Regent)
  • Answer emails
  • Do house chores
I know that this list does not seem like a lot of work, but the online tasks and creative tasks take several hours to complete, and I actually reviewed, edited and added new content to my chapter 4. In truth — I did A LOT OF WORK. Right now, I have 21 pages completed of my results chapter, with perhaps 20 more to go before the weekend. I had hope to send all 40 to my chair yesterday, but that didn’t happen. Now, I am scheduled to send it this weekend, and I feel confident that I can send him chapter 5 by the following week. If all goes as planned, I should be able to send him chapters 4-5 by the end of the month. This would leave us about 1.5 months to revise and defend. My chair told me that I am one of the students he expects to finish this spring, so that was very encouraging news. I am praying that I can do it — and Lord willing — I will do it. If it is His will, then it will be done! Selah!

Oh yes, I also applied for full-time work at Regent. Like I posted yesterday, it is a long shot. Plus, I am not sure I want to teach on campus. I love online, and well, I guess I would love to work there full-time. It is more so that I am not sure I could live in VA Beach, what with the cost of housing there. Still, I felt a prompting by the Lord to do it, and so in obedience, I did. If nothing comes of it, at the least, I followed what I thought was His desire for me to walk in faith. I did it, and I am content in that fact.

Now my day is full with on campus teaching. I have my three classes at GCU, and frankly, I am relieved. My time on campus is relaxed, for the most part. I like my courses, even though I get stressed over the American Lit course.  I am getting the hang of it, and my students are working with me. I think they are nervous about the way I teach — perhaps they don’t know what to expect yet. Anyway, my 106 classes (English II) are in process, just as they normally are, and for the most part, I just show up and do my stuff.

I am happy, I guess you could say, that my life seems to be running smoothly right now. I am busy, beyond busy, but I have a feeling that everything is going to be OK. Yes, I am confident in His control, in His care, and in His consistent provision of good to my life.

Do Not Be Afraid

This morning, as I was somewhere between deep sleep and waking up, I had a conversation with the Lord. I know, strange as that may seem, it was like a conversation. I was sitting next to the Lord, in His garden (my favorite place to sit and contemplate), and He asked me why I was afraid. I remember responding with the usual answers:
  • Fear of change
  • Fear of the unknown
  • Fear of failure
  • Fear of not pleasing those I love
He listened to me recount my fears, and then took each one aside and asked me to really think about the fear and to determine whether or not I was actually afraid or just anxious about a particular outcome. As I started to run through each fear, I quickly realized that I wasn’t afraid at all — I was just a bit anxious (worried or filled with uncertainty or anticipation). My “fear” was more like how one gets when they are called to the principal’s office for some unknown reason. Your first thought is, “Oh no! What have I done now?” We tend to run toward the negative rather than the positive, and in truth, getting called to the principal’s office doesn’t always equate to punishment — sometimes there is reward for good behavior.

As I started to think more about my so-called fear, I realized that my anxiety was a mixture of anticipation of good news and not knowing what was to be next. I mean, I don’t have an oracle to consult, so really, I don’t know what to expect. But, I have confidence in the Lord, and as I realized this truth, I began to exert my confidence, my faith, and I began to see that I am not really afraid at all. Yes, my fear has been replaced by faith, and my faith is strong!

With all this in mind, my conversation continued with the Lord, and He asked me what it was about moving to VA that bothered me most. I remember this specifically because I thought about it, and again, I realized that it was personal preference more than anything else. I really love my school, and I would consider it a great privilege to teach for them full-time. At the same time, I came to the conclusion that moving there would have to be His will for my life, and that He would have to open doors, provide a way, etc., in order for me to do it. As I thought more on it, I accepted this fact — God is going to move me where He wants me to go — and I am going to obey Him regardless of personal preference.

I fell asleep sometime in mid conversation, but I remember thinking that He has this whole thing well-in-hand. I was obedient, and in that there is no shame. I was trusting, faithful, and I followed what I thought was the Holy Spirit’s prompting. In the end, what will be, will be, and I will accept His will on this matter.

Anyway, when I finally woke up and started my day, I had this sense of peace about the past couple days. I am working so diligently, and I am sensing His good pleasure as I trust Him, rely on Him, and wait for Him. In all, I feel good about my future. I still don’t know what job will be, but for now, I am good. I have enough manna to cover me for this good day, and I have the assurance that my God, Jehovah-Jireh, is faithful. He is always so very faithful!

In Closing

As I close this blog post, and I made myself ready for the day, I realize that my life is no longer in my own hand. I mean, sure — I can call the shots if I want to do so — but since I have laid my life down at His feet, He is now the One who makes those calls. I find this thought empowering, exhilarating, and freeing. In this way, I don’t have to worry about tomorrow because tomorrow is already covered by His blessed care and concern. He has EVERYTHING well in hand.

My life has taken on new proportions, and I realize now that all I am asked to do is obey. I am to be  obedient to the Word of God, the written and the spoken WORD, and in this way, if I attend to what He has said in the Bible and revealed to me through His Holy Spirit, then I am doing well. He will care for me, He will cover me, He will provide for me. I don’t have to be involved in the details or logistics anymore. I can simply let go, and in doing so, I will let God lead. 

There is peace in this way. This is the way to find REST, to really REST. I have worked so long and so hard to get to where I am, but I know that I am here for His reason more so than my own ideas or plans. I am right where I am because He determined it to be so. I was faithful to follow, and He was faithful to provide what I need, right when I needed it most. Now, I can sit here, in His blessed garden, breathing deeply and enjoying the beauty and the bliss that accompanies a soul at its rest. I am at rest. I am at peace. I have joy, and in this way, I am no longer controlled by fear, motivated by it, driven by it, or harassed by it. Instead, I am free to go and do my Father’s business because I KNOW, and I mean I KNOW, He has me so well-covered. Selah!