So this weekend, I came face to face with my greatest fear — not graduating in May. I am not sure why I have made this May my “do or die” date, but truthfully, I am of the opinion that I have made it into more than it needed to be. For example, in order to finish my dissertation and graduate, I would have to have five completed chapters, proofed and reviewed by my committee before mid-March. This is a hard-and-fixed date, and frankly, I have been pushed to the limits to make the deadline. However, lately, I have had this feeling that it would be better to rest and to take it slowly, so I started thinking that perhaps I could finish my work over the summer. You know, delay graduation until fall. I hated that idea, that I would miss walking with my peers, but in truth, now I am thinking, “What is the big deal?” I mean I am teaching so many classes, writing myself silly, and in many ways, I would really like to do my dissertation defense when I am calm and really ready to do it.
My mind has been fixed on graduating by May 2017. I felt positive that I had to graduate by this May, and that if I didn’t, well, something would or wouldn’t happen. Right now, I am saying to myself, “What is the worse thing that could happen to me?” I am adjunct, but I know that with my PhD in hand, I would have a better chance to be hired full-time. However, the Lord is my Manager, and as such, He determines when I am promoted and when I am to remain as I am. In this way, I know that if He determines that I must have my PhD in hand by May, then it will be so. If He determines that it is fine to wait until fall, then it will be so. I have made this whole mess — this whole finish line thing — into something it was not meant to be. Instead of resting and trusting the Lord for His timing, I simply let the pressure ramp up so high that I literally thought I would explode. In this way, I have made a mountain — out of a mountain — for sure!
My heart is content today to wait. I feel confident that what I have done thus far is good, but perhaps it is not quite good enough. I don’t want to do shoddy work, so I am ready to see this through in the way and fashion that honors the Lord. I am ready to work and to finish, but not in haste. I am ready to settle down and finish this degree with all the provision of the Lord.
So this morning is February 20th, and I am thinking about how last year at this time, I was preparing to fly to VA for my Oral exams. I was pressured then too, but throughout that whole process, I felt the Lord pushing me forward. I knew in my head and in my heart that it was His intention for me to pass my exams. Thus, I went into the defense feeling nervous, anxious, but praise be to God, I was able to pass and move to the next phase, candidacy. I am sitting here today thinking that I would not be where I am without His help, His grace, His word in and through my life. I am sitting here today and I am thanking the Lord for His constant presence in my life. I honestly would not be this close to being done had the Lord not permitted it, permitted me to do this degree. Thus, whether I finish now or later, it will be as He has determined it. I simply want to do good honorable and practical work. I want to do what He wants me to do, and therefore, I have to acknowledge that perhaps I have been rushed and pressured of my own accord and not of His prod.
In thinking about plans, I must accept the fact that the Lord determines my beginning and my end. Proverbs 16:9 NIV says, “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps,” which simply means that while I may make plans, the Lord is the One who is behind everything, behind all the tasks and the accomplishments. I plan, but He leads, guides, and provides for me. The Lord has this all planned out — my graduation — I mean. He has this planned, purposed, and there is an end in sight. It might just not be this May. It might not be in two months. It might be in three or four or even five months.
As I consider putting off my graduation, I remember that it is the Lord who has laid the timeline before me. In hindsight, I remember how I was so disappointed when my graduation from Mercy College didn’t happen as I had planned. I had completed my Masters thesis, but because I didn’t finish the exam (missed it), I ended up having to miss graduating in the spring. It wasn’t the end of anything, really, but it did mess up my plans for beginning my PhD at Regent University. Yes, I had hoped to begin my PhD program in May of 2012, which would have put me on track to graduate in May of 2016. This was the plan. This was my timeline, and I believed it was the timeline of the Lord. But through no fault of my own, and due to a missed requirement at Mercy College, I ended up being pushed back for graduation until August 2012. I mean, I finished my thesis, but my degree wasn’t conferred on time, so that meant that I had to wait another year before beginning the next program. So, in May of 2013, I entered Regent, and Praise God, what a blessing it was for me to wait.
The Lord knew it was best for me to begin in 2013 and not 2012. I love my cohort, and I love the people I have met along the way. So while a couple of my colleagues have finished ahead of me (two in 2016), the majority of my colleagues are on track to finish in 2018. I am in the middle with a small group, but we are all struggling to finish by this May. It seems like I am in the same place I was with Mercy, where I am rushing to finish, but finding some hiccups along the way.
My prayer is to finish still. I would like to go into the summer with the knowledge that I am done, finished, graduated. But there is this lingering thought that perhaps it would be nice to finish with my group, with the majority of my group, I mean. It would be so lovely to walk in the ceremony with everyone I know. How special! How wonderful! Yet, the Lord has this timeline, and as such, I let those thoughts go and concentrate on the here-and-the-now. He is my King, thus, I must do as He says.
Options Ahead of Me
I feel that I have several options ahead of me at this point in time.
Option 1: Push Hard to Finish by May
Option 1 is what I have been working toward since last October, and that is to graduate on time this May, 2017. This is the plan I am on, have been on, and for all intents and purposes, this is the plan He has said I am to stay on.
Option 2: Work Steadily to Finish by October
Option 2 is to delay graduation for one year, which simply means to complete my final defense in the fall. This would allow me to graduate by December, 2017. I would walk in the May ceremony following, but I would finish my dissertation in December and not in April.
I haven’t spoken with my chair about changing the timeline simply because I assumed my only option was number 1. But lately, and after conversations with others, I am feeling that perhaps pushing this research and write up out is not that bad of a choice — at the least, not now. I mean, I would have far more time to plan for a flight back east, and I would be able to purchase my airfare and my hotel when I am not so slammed. The blessing would be that I could take the summer to finish, to finalize my research, to really do a good job. I would like to feel confident that the work I am doing is good, and not just half-way, not just thrown together.
Which option will I choose? Well, for now, I am sticking with Option 1 until I hear otherwise. I sent my chapter four off again this morning, compressing that puppy as small as I can get it so my professor would be able to read through it. I appreciate his time, and I pray that it is better than version 1 — well — more complete than version 1, to be exact.
My plan for today, beside resting, is to finish chapter 5. I haven’t even looked at it, and really, I don’t want to do so. I want to rest. I want to let this all go, but I have to stick with the plan — His plan — and that includes being faithful, finishing strong.
As I close out this blog post, I am sitting here thinking how blessed my life is at this very moment. I have everything I need to be happy and content. I have the blessedness of my Lord at my side, and I have my family close by to support me as well. I have a lovely home, warm and safe. I have a good job (multiple) where I get to do the best work ever. I have enough money in the bank to cover my needs, and I am feeling well (physically). I have some future needs, of course, but for today, I have enough. I have enough work to satisfy me. I have my education to challenge me. I have so much to be thankful for so today, I simply rest. I say, “It is good enough,” and I let everything else go.