March 8, 2017

Moving Forward with Confidence

It is Wednesday, March 8, 2017, and I am thinking about my upcoming defense date. Yes, Monday will be here before I know it, and everything I have worked toward, push so hard for, will come to high point. I will go into that small conference room and present my findings to my committee. I will then discuss my research for two hours, and after that discussion period, I will find out if I pass, and if I am addressed as “Dr. Hepburn” (title conferred).

I am confident in my research and in my work, but I am anxious about the whole ordeal. I simply do not like being put on “trial,” so to speak, but this is what happens to those of us who desire to become researchers and scholars. We are put on trial before we can actually graduate with our PhD. The whole process, from start to finish has taken me four years beyond my master’s degree. In toto, that means I have worked since 2010 to get to this point in time. Yes, seven years of hard, crushing, and difficult work to get to this point in time.

Of course, my heart skips some today as I think about what is to come. Yet, I know that this is all in the Lord’s hand, and this morning, in particular, I hear His word come to me:
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand”  — Isaiah 41:10 
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”  —Philippians 4:6-7 
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” — 2 Timothy 1:7

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be
discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” — Joshua 1:9
I am reminded of the word of the Lord that there is no need to be afraid. My enemy wants me to be panicked, stricken down with fear, and unable to focus so that I can be distracted by my emotions. My Lord says to me, “Don’t be concerned. I have you. I will see you through this trial.” In whom do I place my trust? Do I trust the Lord and what His word says to me or do I put my trust in my feelings, my emotions, and my whirling thoughts?

I know the answer — for certain! My faith is in the Lord. Psalm 28:7 NLT says, “The LORD is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.” I trust the Lord with all my heart, and yes, He helps me. He fills me with joy, and I know that I am surrounded by His strength and His shield.

Confidence is Hope

My hope, therefore, rests in the Lord. In Psalm 38:15 we read, “For I hope in You, O LORD; You will answer, O Lord my God.” And, again in Psalm 71:5, it says, “For You are my hope; O Lord GOD, You are my confidence from my youth.” My hope is in the Lord, and as such, I am placing the outcome of this next step in His hands. Either He wants me to pass or He will allow me to fail, but either way, the outcome is His to determine. I simply rest in His sufficiency, His ability, and in His determination as to what He has in mind for me. 

In truth, I believe that I have been called to a path where a PhD would be required, and as such, He orchestrated a way for me to return to school to finally obtain one. This degree, as a consequence, is not mine — it belongs to the Lord. I go in His name. I do this work to bring Him praise. I have in many ways fought this fight for Him, and now, He is my victor and my champion. It is up to Him to win the battle.

As I go forward today, I am choosing (yet again) to place my complete trust, my faith, my hope in the Lord. He has surrounded me, and He goes before me. I am completely in His care. His outcome is sure, and His plans for my life are good. I place my hope, my very confidence in the Lord, for I know His will WILL be done. Amen, selah!
More Thoughts on Moving On

So I am thinking about my next steps a lot these days. Mostly, it is just that waiting game, waiting for clearance so I can know more about this new job. I haven’t heard a thing since I sent my paperwork into the school. I know my transcripts were sent, but there has been no confirmation to their receipt. I am sitting here wondering about it. The really funny part is that I just took a look at my transcript from Evergreen Valley College (1980-1984). Oh, my! It is so awful — all B’s and C’s — with some D’s and F’s in the mix. Of course, I also had a couple A’s, but not very many, even in the courses I really loved. My mind zooms back to those early days of college, and frankly, it is a miracle that I even made it through school, let alone college. I hated school, really I did. I wanted nothing but to stay at home and rest. I was so very tired all the time, mostly due to post-traumatic stress and my car accident (my senior year in high school). I was always in pain, and I lived in this fuzzy/foggy place. I did graduate from EVC in 1984, and my GPA was 2.5. Really, it is a miracle that I made it through and did well enough to be able to go on to SJSU for my Bachelor’s degree.  

Thankfully, I had some time in between EVC and SJSU — six years of hard work — so I was able to grow up, focus, develop better work skills, that helped me to attend to my successful studies. I did better the second-time around, getting mostly As with some Bs in my remaining 2.5 years of undergraduate school. I did really well in my program. My GPA was 3.8, but those earlier grades at EVC did a number on my overall GPA. I think I graduated with a 3.2 overall (sigh!) Still, not too shabby considering how far I had to recover. I worked hard at SJSU, and in the end, I was very proud of my efforts.

So, in 2010, when I went back to get my Masters’ degree, I was bent on doing my best. I believed I could do well, but I wasn’t sure if I could produce A-level work again, but I did. I graduated with distinction (3.9) in 2012. Thus, when I started my PhD, I was determined to continue that successful approach. Yet, I remember one of the older students saying, “Don’t expect to get A’s” in this program. You are lucky to pass with a “C” in some of the courses.” I was scared to death at his words, but I was ready to do my best, and I was trusting the Lord for the outcome.  I did expect all As, but I was willing to accept whatever grade I could earn since I didn’t have a clue how hard the coursework would be. In the end, I completed three years of courses with a 4.0 average. All A’s, praise be to God. This is why when I think, “I cannot do this! I am going to fail!” I have to remind myself…So NOT going to happen!

My enemy knows one of my weaknesses is the fact that I do not believe in myself, that I lack self-esteem in the area of my schooling. Yes, he knows that I still do not trust in my abilities. I still discount my intelligence, and my ability to argue persuasively. The funny part, again — funny — is that when I look back on my old transcript, I noticed that I got a B in my Introduction to Argument class. LOL! I never remembered that class. Nor did I recall that I took an African-American history class and passed it with a B too. I guess there is a reason why I love African American history today. More so, I got a B and an A in my English classes. I thought I had not done that well in English I. English II was a literature course, and that course is the one that changed my life (back then, I mean). Still, a B for that awful course with that awful teacher was pretty good. What surprised me most was that I only got C’s in my art courses. I was planning on studying art, and I had gotten all As in high school, yet at the CC, I was barely passing my art classes. Weird, stuff. I guess it took such a long while for me to see that my strength was in writing, even though I didn’t think so at the time, LOL!

Now, I teach writing and communication, and I have great empathy for students who struggle in school. I feel their “pain,” so to speak. I remember how I didn’t like college until I got into my Humanities program. I didn’t like English until I started to take Literature courses and pass them with As. I realized that I did have some special ability to interpret literature, to analyze it, and to discuss it. I really did love to write about these complex, deeply difficult and abstract concepts.

As I have matured, grown up, I have come to learn my skills, to assess my performance, and I have experienced enough positive outcome to know that I can accomplish whatever I put my mind to do. I can overcome whatever obstacle in my own strength, but with His strength, in truth, nothing is impossible. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me! Selah!

Now, I face an uncertain future, though I know my path is in teaching, clearly in teaching. Furthermore, I am able to move forward with confidence because my confidence doesn’t rest in my own worth or my own capabilities. I rest in Him, and in that way, I have His peace which says to me, “I’ve got you covered, Carol. I will do this for my Name, and for my Praise!” Yes, Lord, always for your name and your praise!

Therefore, as I close this blog post today, I am in this place of security — complete and utter security. Whatever He desires will come to pass, and since I am resting — trusting and leaning on — Him for everything, if He says, “It is done,” then He means IT IS DONE!
Let the word of Christ richly dwell 
within you as you teach 
and admonish one another with all wisdom, 
and as you sing psalms, hymns, 
and spiritual songs with gratitude 
in your hearts to God. 

And whatever you do, in word or deed, 
do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, 
giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
Colossians 3:16-17 BSB

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